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Review of HUNTER by Joy Cowley

by Julie Brinker

Cowley, Joy. 2004. HUNTER. New York: Philomel, Penguin. ISBN 0399242279

HUNTER tells a dual story: one of a nameless Maori slave in 1805, just at the beginning of New Zealand's contact with Western civilization; the other of three modern-day ("2005") children stranded in the same area. The escaping slave is able to psychically bridge the two centuries to show the oldest child how to survive until help comes. Tension is exquisitely tightened through the stories as the slave is hunted but feels he can't abandon these shadow children, and the injuries of the youngest child grow potentially gangrenous.

The blunt realities of survival, however, are leavened with plenty of humor, as when Jordan, the eldest sibling, says in frustration, "You know, I hated that book about the Swiss Family Robinson. When they got wrecked, they found everything they needed. Stink! I mean everything! They even had animals and--and sugar!"

Part survival story, part introduction to Maori culture and New Zealand history, Hunter is, all-in-all, a great read for middle school students.


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