Exciting natural history, Spencer Dodd
June 01, 2021
The cover of this book by Des Hunt interested me with its fierce looking moa, curious kaka and a steaming lake in the background.
The main character in Crown Park is Jack, a young boy that has had to move to Taupo for his dad’s work and is having trouble fitting in at his new school. His mum works long hours and his dad works away from home. Fluoro Fred is a homeless man who lives in Crown Park. He appears to mumble to himself and beg to get money for food. We find out at the end he is a professor of volcanos but his wife died. Chainsaw is Fluoro Fred’s cat.
Other characters include a boy called Liam and his brother, the school bully who has set his sights on Jack. He harrasses Jack both in and out of school. There is also Mary who works at the fish and chip shop and whose dad is a policeman.
The story was slow to start for me, however once it got going was a fun and exciting read. I did get confused as to whether they were time travelling or if it was like a meditation session.
I enjoyed the descriptions of the forests. I have been to Taupo but I remember it differently from the book. I found myself using the internet and researching the birds mentioned in the story. I liked the index at the back (which I found at the end) which explained the birds and animals featured in the book.
I also liked how there was a similar theme between the animals and in ‘real life’ with the bullies and the adzebills. I thought that the Bennett brothers were believable characters who were greedy nasty bullies – like the adzebills.
I liked the descriptions of the forest which built an image in my head and made me feel like I was ‘in’ Crown Park and going along with the Luce Crew. I liked reading about extinct New Zealand birds such as the Moho and the North Island Giant Moa.
The best part of the book was its description of the Taupo Eruption and its lead up with the earthquakes and pelicans on the lake. The description of the eruptions with the lava flow and ash cloud was super fun to read and imagine. I did some reading about the eruption and how it impacted New Zealand’s landscape, and its flora and fauna.
The text was easy to read and the story flowed at a good pace. I was a bit confused about how they ‘travelled’ and that is still unclear to me. However I enjoyed the characters and liked how there was a cat who reminded me of my own fearless cat. I really connected to the book and enjoyed it.
I would recommend this book to my peers as an easy read that gets your imagination going, while giving you a lesson about the Taupo Eruption and how the animals became extinct.
- Spencer Dodd is 13 and lives in Christchurch.