by Kate Richards
If searching for a trilogy of adventurous and informative novels set in South Africa and New Zealand one could hardly go past the three books written by librarian Kate S Richards and suitable for ages eleven onwards.
The first two stories take place in South Africa each giving insight into a particular period and place in the life of Jabu, an orphaned Zulu boy, at a time when interracial friendships could prove to be dangerous, while the third book chronicles his time spent in New Zealand.
The author’s inclusion of a glossary of words requiring definition is well placed at the beginning of each book and enhances the reader’s journey.
Jabu’s mum has died . . . a powerful beginning to the story as Jabu realises he belongs to nobody and has nowhere to go. Jumping on a train, and trying to avoid paying the fare, he hauls himself up onto the roof joining other boys who show him how to surf the train, an extremely risky occupation with possible severe consequences as when one of his companions comes to grief.
Stowing away in a truck on his way to Durban to find his aunt, Jabu realises he has an interesting companion.
Once in Durban he meets other homeless kids and experiences racial tension on the surfing beaches, including a violent episode with the police.
Eventually Jabu becomes an accomplished surfer and if you wonder what these accomplishments lead to please read ‘Trainsurfer’. I think you’ll enjoy it. I did!
Here the author addresses another major problem, the slaughtering of rhinos for the purpose of obtaining the animal’s marketable horn.
Jabu and friends, including a young professional surfer, journey to a private game reserve on a publicity mission illuminating the danger rhinos can find themselves in as they are trying to raise their young.
The action heats up as the surfers are taken to sea and find themselves on a luxury yacht, complete with sinister cargo, in the middle of a storm. Alexia calls on her considerable skills as a surfer.
A mischievous monkey and a chatty Raven do their part in making this informative book exciting and entertaining.
A more mature Jabu arrives in New Zealand where he joins his friend Kyle, who is training for surfing events, and meets a new friend, Pania. Pania has a younger brother, Nikau, who is in danger of ‘going off the rails’ as he looks forward to his father’s release from prison.
In the hope of reforming Nikau, Pania has formed a group called ‘Aotearora Ora Adventures’ which is similar to a group Jabu has formed in South Africa called ‘Kids Surf 4 Life’ both of which are aimed at getting kids off glue sniffing or weed. After her stepfather was hospitalised Pania decided to go ahead and take a group to Mount Ruapehu for skiing and snowboarding. They are followed to the mountain by Nikau’s father who is after a parcel he believes Nikau has in his possession.
The 1995 eruption of Mount Ruapehu volcano occurs and splits up the group. Nikau has to contend with both the dangers of an avalanche and of his criminal father, not to mention the lahar below him. Some geological detail is included as Nikau decides on a course of action.
The book touches on the use of drugs without labouring the problem.
The story flows well, draws to a very acceptable conclusion and is highly recommended.
This set of three books is a beautiful collection with each one having a very attractive cover conveying the theme of the story. There is much to be learned as the writer addresses such topics as homelessness, race relations, conservation, as well as personal relationships, making it a valuable addition to any young person’s library.
Saving Thandi ISBN: 9780473481933 RRP: $24.99
Nikau’s Escape ISBN: 9780473529048 RRP: $27.99
Author: Kate S Richards
Publisher: Green Room House
Available: Directly from the author (www.katesrichards.com) or via most online retailers (eg. Amazon, Wheelers, Barnes & Noble) as a paperback or ebook depending on country.