#Tumeke! is an exciting new book by Wellington author Michael Petherick and published by Annual Ink/Massey University Press. Described as a multimedia novel for young readers and those who are young-at-heart, #Tumeke has truly unique and visually appealing pages that we think will attract all readers.
We asked debut novelist Michael Petherick to tell us a bit more about it.
#Tumeke! is a multimedia riot. The story is told through all the forms of communication kids use today - texts and messaging, instagram posts, sound apps, an online blog.
Telling a story through correspondence is an old form of novel - Frankenstein and Dracula were both told through correspondence. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a more recent example. I wanted the book to be a big-hearted celebration of the diverse, happy, noisy communities that I see our children growing up in today. Using online forms of communication was a way to speak directly to kids living in the 21st century.
In #Tumeke’s press release, it mentions an inner-city neighbourhood setting. Was this inspired by your own community, or somewhere else?
There’s lots of Newtowns in the world. Wellington has one, and I know it pretty well. Auckland has its Newton. Sydney has a Newtown, and there’s loads in America. It’s inspired by all those places. They’re usually suburbs that were settled a long time ago, when the “old town” got too big. #Tumeke! has layers of all those places - street names in the book are taken from the Newtowns of the world.
We believe a goat makes an appearance in this book. Can you tell us any more about the colourful cast of characters?
Everybody loves a goat. Nanny is always munching dahlias where she’s least wanted. Constable Piripi is forever trying to track her down.
Harmonica Man is a fixture as well, pumping out renditions of Lorde’s 400 Luxe from his piece of cardboard in front of the supermarket. Rishi’s mum makes a big play with her curry lessons from her kitchen above the shop. There’s a big cast of characters. That’s what Newtowns tend to be like.
There’s lots of music going on as well. The kids in the book form a band: bass, tape loops, drum machines and rap. It’s one of the main story arcs. Then there’s the Newtoun International Wiri Crew, with their cutting edge kapa haka, “blowing the doors off the wharenui” according to Maori Television. The Decibel Riot Squad enters late in the piece, kicking off the viral #Tumeke campaign that is the climax of the book.
What does ‘Read NZ’ mean to you – how important is it that we read books from this place?
A country has to be able to see itself in its books. It’s how we celebrate who we are. When Lorde sang Royals and Tennis Court we knew she was singing directly to us. It’s the same with Avantdale Bowling Club and Tom Scott’s rap poems. Our kids hear stories about themselves and it gives them a sense of identity and place. It makes them strong.
Which New Zealand books or writers have been special to you in your life?
I read lots of New Zealand writers when I was growing up. Everything by Maurice Gee. As an adult, Emily Perkins’ Not Her Real Name still influences me, even a decade later. I used some of the poems in her book as models for the poems in #Tumeke. Dylan Horrocks’ graphic novels were a model for #Tumeke as I discussed the book with the graphic designer. The two of us share an office with Dylan so it was easy to channel him directly.
My kids consume books by New Zealand authors - Kate De Goldi, Fleur Beale, Margaret Mahy in their younger days. If it’s good, they eat it up.
What are you reading at the moment, and have you got any book recommendations for us?
I’m reading a lot of music biography at the moment. Shayne Carter’s Dead People I Have Known will make you cry. Please Kill Me and Meet Me in the Bathroom, two books about the New York music scene set decades apart, are both great books. You’re right there with the bands, in the armpit of the beast.
What’s next in store for you, Michael?
A few projects. I’m halfway through another kids book, the Kawakawa Criminological and Rugby Football Club, if anyone is interested! A novel for adults, based in the nineties Auckland underground electronic scene, has been on my desk for a while.
And I’d like to follow up #Tumeke! with an album. All the parents out there know that nothing quite matches long summer road trips with a halfway decent kids’ album belting out the speakers of the car.