In term 2, Trainsurfer was the novel study for #NZReadaloud for year 9 students. Mrs Karen Wilson, the teacher who organised the Y9 novel study, created excellent resources which the students worked through. At the end of the term, the students uploaded their reviews to Goodreads. I want to share a few with you:
"I read the Trainsurfer as part of the New Zealand ReadAloud. Start and end dates were the 31th of May to the 9th of July. I thought the book was unique and gave its own message to the reader. I have never read anything like this book. The message that I got from the book was to be inclusive of everyone no matter what skin colour they are. Billie was my favourite character because she is very kind hearted and willing to help anyone who is maybe having a hard time or in need of help. From my perspective the book was a good age bracket for 13-14 year olds. Overall I really enjoyed the book." Olivia
"I thought Trainsurfer was an interesting book and a good read. I liked the storyline and the characters and the book really got me hooked. I found myself wishing I had English every day so we could listen to the book which was part of New Zealand ReadAloud. It showed diversity and the troubles that some people go through. I liked Billie the most because she was kind and was the first to be friends with Jabu. Billie reminds us that we should always do the right thing even though others are not always agreeing with you. This book is good for people ages 13-14 and all our English class really liked it." Eliana
"It was a good book full of the ups and downs of all the friends and covered lots of different locations and scenes. It was full of action and adventures. When the police came it was exciting." Callum
"An African teen boy, Jabu, becomes friends with some other teens and learns to surf. They come together to help others get off the street like Jabu was after his mother died. Using perseverance, kindness and collaboration, the teens can turn a bad situation into good. It’s clear that everyone can improve their life if they take any opportunity. I think young teens will enjoy it. All round I really enjoyed Trainsurfer." Jade
"Our teacher brought the book into class for us to read and do different activities with. It was a good book that has lots of action like surfing, tricks and going where they shouldn't. They also get in a lot of trouble. Which makes it a good exciting book." Hugh
"Trainsurfer is a wonderful book filled with dreams and goals, perseverance and determination. Trainsurfer tells the story of a young African boy named Jabu who during the story learns to surf. I think the main message that came from the book was perseverance. I think this book appeals to girls and boys around the age of 13. Overall I really enjoyed this book." Sophie
"I believe ‘Trainsurfer’ was directed at 11+ year old's, roughly early high school students. The book conveyed a message of equality and acceptance to the reader. The book ended with a twist that is obviously unexpected." Fareed
"The book dives into the lives of those who lived in South Africa during the apartheid time. The book was pretty good. It was bleak in the beginning but gets brighter and brighter, although it does briefly dive back into the darkness. By showing both sides of apartheid, the reader doesn't feel completely drawn to just one side of the black and white world. All the characters have problems that they overcome by the end of the book." Michael
Video chat with the class
I was invited to have a video chat with Mrs Wilson's class which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I hope they did too. They had planned a few questions for me, and took turns to ask them. They asked me about my writing journey. Then I was asked to sit in the "hot seat" and answer questions from the perspective of the characters. Thank you for hosting me and for your thoughtful questions. I love engaging with classes about writing, and about my stories.
I also received an email from Irene, a Mum in Manila. They can't get back to New Zealand at the moment because of border restrictions, so they decided to participate in the #NZReadAloud. Irene used a couple of the activities created by Mrs Wilson. Her son, Nicholas, went on to read the next two books in the trilogy (Saving Thandi and Nikau's Escape) and she created some novel study activities of her own. She emailed me to say, "Reading the books about Jabu was very meaningful to my son (Nicholas). He enjoyed it. "
Here are a few excerpts from Nicholas's essay where he compares the protagonists of the three books. They have they kindly agreed to share his words:
When I finished reading these 3 books, there was something I noticed about all the characters. And one thing they had all in common was them having potential. They had potential to become better people despite their past.
Jabu who had just lost his mother and witnessed one of his mates falling of a train, still believed that there was something great out there waiting for him. Jabu was first introduced in Trainsurfer. Ice who fell of the train and ended up in a wheelchair, believed that him being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean he shouldn’t stop searching for his purpose. Ice was first introduced in Trainsurfer and was one of the main characters in Saving Thandi. Nikau who had trouble with drugs, liquor and partying, had the potential to become a better person even though it took him a long time to realize it.
Two things I liked about the trilogy was how unpredictable it was, like when the mountain erupted with Jabu, Pania, Kyle and Nikau still on it! I also liked how the main characters had tragic backstories showing despite their past, they can change no matter what. Jabu went through a lot through his life, some good some not. But he didn’t let the bad stuff mess with his future.
Two things I learned from reading Trainsurfer, Saving Thandi, and Nikau’s Escape was that you should always try every day to become the better version of yourself. Even if its just one percent better every day, it's definitely worth it to try and most definitely worth it in the end. Another thing I learned was to never give up and to keep trying. When everything goes wrong, it doesn’t mean you should stop, but to keep trying. I believe that these two lessons could help anyone in the real world.
Irene has this to say about the Trilogy,
"Teens can really benefit from reading your books. Especially during this time when teens have to dig deep to stay motivated and hopeful despite the restrictions they are experiencing during the pandemic. "
I'm so grateful for the positive feedback. Thank you Mrs Wilson and Room 9, and Irene and Nicholas!