Book Review: My Story: Canterbury Quake, by Desna Wallace

Available in bookstores now.

Canterbury Quake is the latest installation of the populacv_canterbury_quaker ‘My New Zealand Story’ series; the debut novel of Christchurch writer Desna Wallace. Wallace skilfully recreates the fear and distress felt during and after the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes, through the fictional diary of eleven-year-old Maddy.


Sometimes Maddy just wishes she could be like the other girls at school.  Then maybe her parents would buy her a cellphone for her birthday.  Maybe her sister wouldn’t be so bossy, and her little brother less annoying!  All the other girls – like Maddy’s best friend Laura – seem so much luckier than her…at least they have phones.  Maddy scribbles down her thoughts in her new diary day after day…and then the unimaginable happens.  Maddy’s world is changed forever, and cellphones become the last thing on her mind.

After the city is shaken awake on the 4th of September, 2010,  everything that Maddy’s family relied on crumbles. Routines are shattered, work buildings destroyed, schools shut down. The neighbourhood has become a labyrinth of detours and a strange sandy substance, lined with ever-present road cones.  Maddy records new words like “liquefaction” and “aftershock” in her diary, trying to make sense of the rapidly changing situation the city is in.

Maddy’s older sister Tessa has stopped talking to anyone, and her best friend Laura moves away from Christchurch, leaving Maddy to pair up at choir with a girl she barely knows.  Everyone is too scared to even go out to the movies anymore.  It feels as though nothing will ever be the same again…will Maddy and her family be able to cope with the aftermath of the quakes?


Canterbury Quake reminds readers that, in the face of disaster, we all have to accept each other’s differences and work together to be able to move on. Far from a dry book full of dates and facts, Canterbury Quake takes you right back to the September and February quakes, from the fresh perspective of a young girl living in the middle of the city. The bravery of the characters perfectly reflects Cantabrians’ reactions to the earthquakes. You will find yourself marvelling at how strong the spirits of a city’s people are. Everyone should read this book at least once; the earthquakes are part of Christchurch’s history, but they’re also a part of New Zealand’s history.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon (who experienced the quakes first-hand)

My Story: Canterbury Quake
by Desna Wallace
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431824

Book Review: Hene and the Burning Harbour, by Paula Morris

This book is available in bookstores now.

When Hene’s parents send her away from the pacv_hene_and_the_burning_harbour, Hene knows that life will be difficult.  A new disease is spreading fast across the village.  When her brother Taehi catches it, Hene has no choice but to leave and live with the missionaries.

Hene is thrown into a world vastly different from her own.  Far from her family, she has to attend school, learn to sew and wear a heavy dress.  Times are tense, and more than anything she wishes to go home- but when she meets a mysterious girl called Rangi, Hene can’t help but be curious.  Why is she so secretive about living in Kororareka?

Soon Hene makes friends with Rangi, and is beginning to settle into her temporary home- but then Hone Heke attacks Kororareka.  Hene sees smoke rising into the air from the other side of the bay- the town has been set on fire; and Rangi is alone there.  If Hene wants to save her friend, she must risk danger and face her fears to reach the burning harbour.

Hene and the Burning Harbour is the second book in the ‘New Zealand Girl’ series.  Similar to the ‘My Story’ series, but targeted at a slightly younger age group, ‘New Zealand Girl ‘teaches children (girls aged 7 to 12 in particular) what it was like to live in certain periods of New Zealand history as a child.  These novels are written using fresh perspectives and an enthralling style that will have you turning pages in total rapture.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon

Hene and the Burning Harbour
by Paula Morris
Published by Penguin Books (Puffin)
ISBN 9780143307730