Sunday 27 January 2013

Piano Rock

I bought Piano Rock on my last trip to New Zealand two years ago, but hadn't got to reading it yet. So I figured it would be perfect reading material for my recent trip over the Tasman. It certainly was, it filled an hour or so of my time on the plane beautifully.

Piano Rock is the story of Gavin Bishop's early childhood in the remote parts of the South Island of New Zealand in the 1950s. Three year old Gavin arrives in Kingston in 1949 with his parents. Gavin's father has moved the family to Kingston on the edge of Lake Wakatipu for his job with the New Zealand Railways.

Gavin describes their remote, simple life. Sometimes lovely, sometimes harsh and brutal. Gavin learns very young that "you can't have a dog that bothers sheep", and what happens to a dog that does, and that pigs are for food. He also mentions the rather quaint old custom of wearing brown paper to help prevent travel sickness.

He starts school early at 4.

"Might as well," Mr McLeod, the teacher, said to Mum. "He's ready for school."

Kingston School was a one room school, with 12 pupils and one teacher, a mile from Gavin's house. Four year old Gavin walked to school and back, occasionally the kids next door would give them a ride on their big old horse, Chum. Gavin was the only one in his class and would receive special sums and lessons.

Gavin was to grow up to become on of New Zealand's pre-eminent children's author and illustrators (he received the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year honours list while we were there), but he found his passion from an early age. Art was his favourite subject at school, and he drew all the time and everywhere.

I drew forts and houses on my printing books and dogs and cars on my arithmetic books. One day I was asked to write the alphabet on the blackboard. When I put funny faces and arms and legs on the letters I got a smack from the teacher. 

My copy of Piano Rock, is a beautiful hard bound copy, with a textured cover, and illustrations throughout. A style emulated by the newer release The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi, which I should have bought while I was there. Actually there were a few books I should have bought while I was there over Christmas, New Zealand titles don't seem to be that available here in Australia, but it is nice to try and keep up with a few Kiwi authors.

Piano Rock was a finalist for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards


Sim Carter said...

If Kiwi authors are tough to find for you in Australia, imagine how it is for the rest of us. I was struck by the cover and the illustrations you shared; quite fetching. I always enjoy the glimpses you give us of life and culture in your neck of the woods.

Louise said...

Thanks Sim for your lovely comment. It is a shame that authors from other countries can be so difficult to come by- even though things are getting better, and in these days of a rather global market place. It is still nice though that there is some regionality too, the thrill of different books in the shops when you go on holidays. I ended up buying a few more kiwi books this time round. Now of course I need to read them.