Kapiti book picked for education read

By CLOE WILLETTS

A book by a Kapiti children's author has been selected for this year's national primary school programme NZ ReadAloud, aimed at year seven and eight readers.

Linda Hansen, a long-term member of Kapiti storytelling group Belly of the Whale, and member of the Kapiti Children's Writers' Group, has seen her 2014 release An Unexpected Hero selected as part of the online educational programme.

"I was surprised and delighted," said Linda, who spent many years living on a lifestyle block in Te Horo, before shifting to Onepoto.

"It means An Unexpected Hero will become better known in schools and this has always been my wish."

NZ ReadAloud, a connected literacy initiative that began in 2015, was launched by Napier teacher Kerri Thompson in response to Global Read Aloud, an initiative started in 2010 by Pernille Ripp, a Danish woman living and teaching in Wisconsin.

"Kerri invited me to join the programme online.

"The focus is on New Zealand authors writing stories in New Zealand settings, with the goal of 'one book to connect Kiwi kids across Aotearoa'."

The scheme involves teachers choosing a book to read aloud to their students, before sharing their responses online.

So far, more than 500,000 students on six continents had connected through the scheme.
According to Linda, An Unexpected Hero tells the tale of 12-year-old Matt, who decides to speak about World War 1 pacifist Archie Baxter, father of poet James K. Baxter.

"Matt goes to the country to stay with his grandparents for a term and is plunged into the unfamiliar world of a very small rural school and a community where everyone knows, or thinks they do, all about everyone else.

"He's involved in a school project of researching and making a speech about someone he considers a local hero.

"Archie Baxter is a risky choice as almost every family in the district has lost someone to war.

"There are people in the community who consider him far from being a hero and feelings run high."

Bullying and threatening letters ensue and behind it all, a family scandal that only Matt can deal with.

"Under such pressure, his childhood stammer returns and things look grim for this genuinely unlikely and unexpected hero."

Linda said having only learnt about Archie Baxter in her middle years, and the scale of New Zealand's resistance to war, she wanted to give today's children the chance to learn about him. It took her around 18 months to write the book.

Prior to that, she released Bad Oil and the Animals, her first fact-based novel highlighting the issue of rainforest habitats and palm oil.

Having taught writing at Massey University and worked as a magazine journalist, Linda is dedicated to writing about "genuine young people involved in real acts of courage, cooperation and creativity".

"My stories acknowledge the many young people who care about what is happening in the world and choose to act."

- Kapiti News

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