Cowley, Joy. 2004. HUNTER. New York: Philomel. ISBN 0399242279 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-7]
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.
Hunter sends Jordan visions of how to survive on the New Zealand coast. If they were stranded in the desert, the mountains, or under a highway overpass in a wrecked car, what would the students need to know? How can they use library/internet resources to develop this knowledge?
Invite readers to imagine a fictional ancestor, and write a letter as that person to their family today. How would the writing differ in syntax and vocabulary? What subjects would that person find important to write about? What would s/he want to know about his/her descendants’ lives today?
Other books about survival:
George, Jean Craighead. MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. ISBN 0141312424
Paulsen, Gary. HATCHET. ISBN 0689826990
A related book about time-slip:
Pearce, Phillippa. TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN. ISBN 0064404455
A related book (and/or movie) about the Maori culture:
Ihimaera, Witi. WHALE RIDER. ISBN 0152050167
By Julie Brinker