Three Scoops by David Hill
David Hill has been in the hearts of young New Zealanders for years. Classics like See Ya, Simon remain at the forefront of our YA canon in this country. There is something comforting about his writing style - perhaps it is the fact that he retains an almost rustic ritual of writing his initial manuscripts by hand, still. His writing flows and one can easily find themselves caught up in the world of his imagination.
Three Scoops is a series of three short stories in that typical larger font of books aimed at younger readers. Each has a distinctive sound and approach that retains interest and creates intrigue. Beginning with a classic historical account of the New Zealand horse regiment’s contribution to the Boer War in South Africa - Coming Home. It is the story of a rural New Zealand lad and his horse. Told from multiple narrative perspectives, one from the point of view of the young man and the other from the imagined mind of the horse. Separated in the lead up to leaving for South Africa, the young man Harry struggles to create a bond with any of the other army horses. Meanwhile the horse pines for the return of his master. It is a heroic story honouring the bravery of the young soldiers from around New Zealand.
The second story I wish takes a completely different approach - almost contrasting to Coming Home. A fantastical story focused on a young boy named Trent. Moving to a new town and starting a new life is made more bearable by the discovery of a book-elf with magical powers to turn what seem like uninteresting books into some of the most unimaginably exciting moments of young Trent’s life. The book-elf, Gene, seems able to create the reality for Trent’s dreams all in an effort to release himself from the SLOB (the overlords of the book-elves) who have imprisoned him in a book as punishment for bad behaviour. Questions arise as to how much Gene is actually helping Trent and there are many hilarious moments that will have young readers wanting more from this unlikely duo - perhaps in a subsequent spin off novel?
The final of the three is Strange Meeting - a science fiction story focused on space travel. A meteor is on the way and the human race must find a way to save themselves. Drawing on his enduring love for astronomy and the very real possibility that some stray meteor or asteroid may end up in a trajectory to the Earth, Hill has written a real classic with Strange Meeting. Despite the audience being younger, the story is action-packed. The main character, Sophie - aka Rocket Girl - has parents who work at the Mahoe Rocket Launching facility where Neptune 3 is close to blasting off. Pita, a classmate, is not sure about the mission after hearing his koro suggests it isn’t a good idea. Definitely one of those stories that leaves you with more of your own questions than answers.
Hill wrote that in all three stories “The people don’t do much, but there’s so much tension and fear in their minds”. As a storyteller there are few better than David Hill in New Zealand YA fiction and these three are testament to instant classics in the genre.
Reviewer: Chris Reed
One Tree House