I must admit that the cover and the blurb did not initially grab me, but as I read through the novel, I found that I was drawn to look back at the cover again several times and appreciate its relevance, appropriateness, and beauty. I enjoyed reading this adventure-fantasy book immensely more than I had expected. The setting of the forest was easy for me to relate to, and when the Year 8 girl attended a school camp in Deep Cove, this definitely resonated with me. Walks and places featured which my daughter had spoken about after returning from this very camp two years ago. When I was only halfway through this novel, I sought out our Year 8 Team Leader to tell her about this amazing story as she was heading there herself with our Year 8 students just a couple of weeks later.
The idea of 'sparks' was an unusual concept to get my head around when they were first introduced, but when I discovered that they were a creature 'kinned' to a species I found them endearing. I adore their old-fashioned language alongside their unusual vocabulary, using words such as 'gigglemugs' and 'minikin' as part of their everyday speech. In addition to ancient forest-speak they also speak te reo Māori and English so there are a variety of languages used throughout the book. The te reo words and phrases here are very common ones such as ka pai and kete. The meaning of any slightly less common words could often be gleaned from the context.
This story is at a level that youngsters can follow, yet is also engaging and it is likely to promote further discussion and research, for example to find out what a beech mast is.
The main adventure takes place in 2020, yet parts of the book are set in 1785 and 1892, and the historical elements add to the fascinating narrative.
This author has an amazing way of combining history, adventure and fantasy. Sonya is also the founder of Kiwi Christmas Books
Title: Spark Hunter
Author: Sonya Wilson
Publisher: AHOY! an imprint of The Cuba Press, read a chapter sample here
Publication: October 2021
Ages: Most suitable for 12+ age, but also younger students with guidance.
Themes: Ecological issues and personal survival
Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? About 5 instances of the word “shit” or “bloody”, usually used to convey strong feelings in speech or correspondence. There’s a description of a rat being killed and cut open. The protagonist gets buried in a landslide and requires CPR.
Would this book work as a read aloud? Definitely! I have already two further copies for our Year 8 teachers to read to their classes
Is there a particular part of the country that it’s set in? Fiordland
Reviewer: Nadine Molloy, Library Assistant, Remarkables Primary School, Queenstown
How are you recommending this book? Highly Recommended
Opening sentence: It was a good day to start an adventure.