How to make New Zealand history interesting for children? That's the challenge addressed with new releases in the highly acclaimed My Story series. Each title is a fictional diary of a teenager living through an important period or event in New Zealand history.
Originating in the United States, the concept spread to the UK and Australia before being picked up here by Scholastic NZ in 2003.
Past titles in the series explored natural catastrophes like the 1953 Tangiwai rail disaster, the Napier earthquake of 1931, and lesser-known stories about immigration and socio-political themes.
My Story author, Janine McVeagh, who is "passionate about giving a voice to women", has written Be Counted! ($16.99), the diary of a lively 13-year-old girl in the early 1890s in the midst of the embryonic local suffragette movement. It charts a time of great change in New Zealand and captures well the feelings of a young woman grappling with the class-bound society she inhabits. McVeagh previously wrote Earthquake for the My Story series, inspired by reminiscences of the Other new titles in the series include Sitting On The Fence by Bill Nagelkerke, about a young boy who finds his family torn apart by the 1981 Springbok tour, and Aquarius, canvassing the 1970s government donations of land for commune farming. The diarist here is Estelle, who in the spirit of the times, becomes Starshine, as she struggles with learning to live in a hippie commune. The Maori Land March, Sir Robert Muldoon and geodesic domes all feature in this excellent tale.
Every year since their New Zealand inception, My Story titles have been shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards. This year Bill O'Brien's Castaway made the cut. Based on an Auckland Islands' shipwreck, teenage Sam finds himself struggling to survive for several months on these inhospitable islands. The My Story covers aren't wildly appealing and offer little hint of the well written historical adventures within. That aside, we are lucky that Scholastic has committed to publishing new titles every year.
- Detours, HoS