About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pacific Poets #3 Jully Makini

Jully Makini
Jully Makini is a poet from the Solomon Islands, also known by her maiden name Jully Sipolo. Her first collection Civilized Girl was published in 1981 and her second, Praying Parents in 1986. Her more recent collection Flotsam and Jetsam was published in 2007.
   The poem 'Civilized Girl' is a terrific one for PSSC students to memorise and use in the English exam. The six stanzas are short, compact and punchy. The images are clear and the narrator's confusion and loss of identity is obvious. I particularly like the tactile image of the girl's straightened hair ...Now soft as coconut husk/ held by a dozen clips...
   'Civilized Girl is an ideal poem to compare with Konai Helu Thaman's 'Island Fire.'

Monday, July 23, 2012

When the Kehua Calls by Kingi McKinnon

When the Kehua Calls (Scholastic, 2002)
This short novel was written by the late Maori author Kingi McKinnon and tells of a youth called Rewi relocating from the city to the country with his family. The young city-slicker forms a close bond with his cousin who explains many Maori customs and tells Rewi about ghosts, or kehua that can haunt places for many years. Rewi has a form of second sight, where he can sense an evil kehua around his new country home. But Rewi doubts his own visions. Eventually he finds he must trust his Maori instincts in order to save the life of his little sister.
   For such a short book, McKinnon did well to create a sinister feel early on and to ratchet up the tension quickly.
   I learnt a lot about Maori customs from this story, which from the author's notes was his main intention of writing the story.
   When the Kehua Calls has a glossary in the back to help readers with the Maori words. I recommend this well crafted book to middle school readers as it's short and sweet and not too challenging a read.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Board the Boussole by Christine Edwards

This week I had the pleasure of working at a Secondary School alongside another Australian author. Christine Edwards, also known as Chrissie Michaels has like me, written both novels and teacher resources. I have decided to review her historical novel On Board the Boussole as much of it is a sea-faring tale and Laperouse's voyage came to a mysterious end in the Solomon Islands in the late 1700s. 
On Board the Boussole
(2002, Scholastic)
   Commander Laperouse was a famous French navigator who set sail on board the Boussole when France was in a state of unrest, with revolution brewing. This novel, set out as a diary, tells the story of a young stowaway Julienne Fulbert who hides her gender and becomes a cabin boy for the officers on one of Laperouse's ships, the Boussole. The journal documents Laperouse's journey to the Americas, through the Pacific and finally his time at Botany Bay, observing the first fleet and its cargo of convicts.
   This book is one of a series entitled 'My Story' which aimed to showcase historical moments from the perspective of teenagers of the time. The hope being that contemporary teens would develop an interest in history. The prose is straightforward but to catch Julienne's voice, Edwards has had to use stilted and semi-formal dialogue. It takes a few pages to get used to, but then the story takes over and it's not so noticable.
   On Board the Boussole is a good book for junior Secondary School readers interested in history.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ship Kings: The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan

The Coming of the Whirlpool was the one book I took to NZ to read while I was away. Written by award-winning Australian author Andrew McGahan, who usually writes for adults, I thought it would be a terrific book. The story was original and interesting but I felt the start was too tame which meant that the story lacked pace at the beginning.

The Coming of the Whirlpool
(Allen and Unwin, 2011)
   So what was the story? A young lad discovers that he doesn't want to be a wood-cutter, he wants to go to sea and his family are troubled by this. Eventually he gets his wish and joins an old fisherman who has lost his son and grandson to a whirlpool. Their relationship is prickly and the hero Dow Amber feels as if he has been cheated of his ambition, slugging it out each day in the bay fishing instead of voyaging the high seas. And then when the Ship kings come to the bay everything starts to get worse for Dow and the whirlpool comes again. 
   The setting is a fictional island but it's hard to tell when the story was set. It has a timeless quality, the ship kings have distinctly Spanish names and the characters have almost medieval voices. Some of the characters were terrific. I particularly liked the cranky old man Nathaniel and the innkeeper Boiler Swan.
   I would recommend this book for stronger readers and those interested in adventure, sea stories and even pirates. I think that many boys would be annoyed with the lack of pace in the beginning though and ditch what ultimately becomes a fascinating read.

Friday, July 13, 2012


With Maori performers in Rotorua (source: B Montgomery)
I've just arrived home from twelve days in New Zealand with my family. What a picturesque country! The locals were friendly and the sights were breath-taking. It was great to finally get to see Rotorua which has been an ambition of mine since childhood. I also bought lots of kiwi fiction, many by my favourite Maori authorWiti Ihimaera.  One highlight of the trip was visiting 'Hobbiton' in Matamata, one of the film locations of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. Here are a few shots of our holiday.

Exploring a hobbit hole, Matamata. (Source: B Montgomery)

At Green Lake with my daughter Jez. (Source: B Montgomery)