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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Island by John Heffernan and Peter Sheehan

Islands are great literary devices because they can show a culture as a singular unit, untouched by outside influences. John Heffernan's picture book The Island portrays a tribe of people who are always miserable because they work so hard and fail to notice the beauty all around them. Only one member of the tribe, a blind boy, experiences beauty in the things around him: the sounds, the smells and tactile experiences he has.
The Island (Scholastic, 2005)
One day the boy encounters a sea creature and plays with it. His laughter attracts the rest of the tribe who also eventually join in with the frivolity in the sea. But their happiness is short lived and they want to keep the sea creature so they can always be happy. They capture the sea creature and keep it on the island where it begins to sicken.

The blurb on the back of the book asks, "How do we find happiness? And once we find it, how can we hold on to it?"
Posing these basic philosophical questions, the illustrator Peter Sheehan has created a fabulous sea creature which is rubbery, colourful, comical and sweet. The blind boy has a whimsical, soft look in contrast to the rest of the tribe who are rigid and monochomed.

This picture book leaves a lasting impression and generates a lot of discussion with kids about perceptions, values and the pusuit of happiness.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mutuwhenua by Patricia Grace

Mutuwhenua (Penguin, 1978)
Mutuwhenua is a Maori word that refers to the new moon or when the moon is sleeping. This novel is a kiwi classic because it was the first ever published novel by a Maori woman way back in 1978. It tells the story of Maori woman Ripeka who leaves her extended family to marry Graeme, a Pakeha schoolteacher. Central to the book is the belonging Ripeka feels for the land where she grew up and the sense that she can't be torn from it.
   Mutuwhenua is a thin volume but the writing packs a punch. Patricia Grace has a sparse style particularly with her use of dialogue which conveys pent up emotion well. The book is easy to read and the plot is simple. Poor Ripeka begins to wither away from her ancestral home. Her despair and confusion are well drawn and I must admit to crying several times whilst I read it.
   This book is a good one for PSSC students, the length, easy prose and setting all come together to make a great 'island 'story for students learning English.

Monday, June 11, 2012

More Views of Nauru

Here are some more photos from Nauru in the 1990s. My inspiration for The Birthmark came from teaching these students and living on the island for over three years.

Students dancing at a formal function. Source: B. Montgomery

Japanese pillbox by the side of the road. Source: B. Montgomery
Kids playing in a briny pond in Anabar. Source: B. Montgomery

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Sea Hearts (Allen and Unwin, 2012)
I have just finished reading the most extraordinary 'island' story. Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan is at once beautiful, magical, dark and heart-wrenching. It is a story set on fictional Rollrock Island where once the men took sea-wives, that is, women magicked from seals. A young girl called Misskaella discovers she has the power to call the seals and her intentions are far from innocent. The townsfolk have humiliated her for years and her desire for revenge is great. Misskaella becomes known as the witch and it is her story which is central to Sea Hearts
   The narrative is told from different viewpoints giving the reader the ability to see the damage caused by this dark magic from all perspectives. The men of the island are bewitched so that their existing relationships crumble with devastating consequences. But life with a sea-bride is not all the men imagine it will be. Problems arise with their new wives who long to return to the sea.
   Lanagan's prose is hauntingly beautiful. She really is a classy writer who can produce powerful scenes using all the senses. If you have the chance to read any of her short story collections you will also be captivated by her skill. She is an amazing author. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a true 'island' treasure.