This is a beautiful story of independence, magic and reconnection. Em (Emilia - although she isn’t a fan of her full name) is still reeling from the death of her father and so, with her mum not coping with the loss, she goes to live with her Nana in Matapouri. But things aren’t what they initially seem in the sleepy town of the North. It will take some detective skills, some connection with the whenua and a mythical encounter to bring things back to some semblance of normality. Is Em up to the challenge?
This Young Adult Fiction novel is long enough to develop some loveable characters in Em and her friends Jessie and Mia, while also being short enough to keep the story moving along at a swift pace. As a classroom text there is much to live here. On her adventures along the beach and up to the Mermaid Pools, she finds more in common with her dad’s hometown than she first thought. Thus the concepts of relationships, conflict, mythology, and community can be delved into with great depth. The writing supports really strong analytical analysis as much as the narrative arc and hero's journey being clearly part of the development.
Donna Blaber has constructed a special story of hope in penning ‘Just Remember’. Obviously a skilled writer, she is able to create excitement for what lies beyond the special Nikau Palm that holds such a precious place in Em and her Dad’s memory. Matauranga Māori concepts permeate elements of the book with some implicit references meaning a kaitiaki viewpoint or manaakitanga viewpoint could make this seemingly simple and straightforward narrative come alive in the eyes of the students. She also has a special obsidian stone that is shaped like a heart - could that be the clue that she has been looking for? This taonga certainly provides intrigue for the reader and provides depth for analytical symbolism.
The return of her mother to Matapouri brings with it a set of new challenges as Em has to navigate the causes and struggles around the death of her father. There are some things she is not quite ready to tell her yet. However, her mother may prove to be more helpful than first thought when it comes to catching a criminal.
But what about the rahui? And who is this man who keeps telling her to stay away? ‘Just Remember’ is a story that will be loved on bookshelves around the home and the classroom bringing together a uniquely Kiwi feel with magical storytelling.
Title: Just Remember
Author: Donna Blaber
Reviewer: Chris Reed, Head of Junior English, Macleans College, Auckland
Opening line: Police name victims of Dunedin car crash. Two cars collided in Dunedin yesterday, and three people including two adults and one youth, died at the scene.
You can buy this book here and read a student review on the Hooked on Books website here