Monday, January 23, 2012

Six Little New Zealanders by Esther Glen.

Six Little New Zealanders by Esther Glen.  Hardcover book published by Cassell and Company 1947.

Here in Australia we are more familiar with our own home grown Seven Little Australians than with the Six Little New Zealanders.  The Seven Little Australians was written by Ethel Turner and first published in 1894.  There was also a well loved and popular 1970s TV series based upon the book, which is probably more well known now than the book itself.  This book is New Zealands own “Little” book, of which I have no idea how popular it is/was in New Zealand.  When I’ve mentioned this title to anyone here in Australia any comment is usually preceded by a blank expression followed by a raised eyebrow. 

Unlike the whole Pavlova fiasco, there is no dispute that I’m aware of as to which came first, as the New Zealand book was  first published in 1917.  Apparently the author had visited Australia at some stage before 1917 and had stumbled across Ethel’s work and decided that New Zealand needed an equivalent wholesome childrens book.  My cynical mind makes me think that she saw an opportunity to make a few bucks and what better way to do this than to rip off an Aussie… which to be fair to New Zealanders, Australians also do in the reverse (see Pavlova). The book did of course have an emphasis on the whole being New Zealand thing and what better way of doing this than by setting the story on a sheep station… maybe Esther didn’t realise that there are sheep stations here in Australia as well, although with my cynicism still actively engaged, it is possible that she intended the book to be as popular ($$$) here in Australia as the Seven Little Australians was… it wasn’t. 

I do like the way Esther has altered the plot significantly by having one less child… a clever manipulation (?).  Indeed it was the title indicating only Six blah, blah, blahs that attracted my attention as it triggered something within my brain immediately linking it to the Seven blah, blah, blahs.  Well done Esther, your tricky plot manipulation in this instance, has worked. There is a collector base for the works of Ethel Turner and her ilk and I recently mentioned this title to one such collector who hadn’t heard of the book but did indeed raise an eyebrow and express some interest. 

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