Review Blog

Jun 02 2010

Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781742373966.
(Age 11+) Recommended. A dark island, which calls, 'Feed. Need', a property developer determined to take over the hillsides overlooking the bay and a young girl who sleepwalks and dreams of a powerful enchantress, all combine to make a powerful story. When Sebastian Cardwell comes back to town and gets elected to the council, it looks as if the peaceful life that Meredith's family has enjoyed will end. What is worse, he wants to build a holiday house on Kaitangata Island, which has been her special refuge. As the protests grow, so do Meredith's dreams of a brooding being on the island.
Kaitangata Twitch is a gripping story which looks at the theme of conservation, the power of wealth versus the individual and whether the land has a voice of its own. Mahy manages to give both viewpoints about land development. Mr Gallagher and his daughter Kate are vocal opponents of any change coming to their New Zealand bay, which is only 35 minutes from the city. Mrs Gallagher is more tolerant, pointing out that they were intruders not that long ago and that perhaps others have the right to a beautiful setting.
Mahy has a deft hand with language. She describes the island with memorable imagery, painting a frightening picture of an entity with a wide mouth that wants to feed. Mahy had me on the edge of my seat whenever the island called to Meredith with the word 'Flick!' and she responded by sleepwalking. There are plenty of plot twists, uncertainty about what is dream and what is real and a surprise denouement.
A very welcome re-issue to coincide with the television program Kaitangata twitch (2005) is a compelling story with elements of the supernatural that will appeal especially to girls. Because of its examination of issues like conservation, wealth and passive and aggressive protests it would be an interesting discussion text for lower secondary students.
Pat Pledger

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