Book Reviews: September 2009

PNG history through stories: Books I and II by Eric Johns
Tuum Est: The history of Kerevat National High School and its students, 1947-1986 by Barbara Short
Toromuimui Myths of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Edited by Elin Johnston
Wau to Bulldog: Across the Roof of Papua New Guinea by Colin Freeman

TUUM EST – The History of Keravat National High School and its students 1947-1986 by Barbara Short
ISBN: 9780646514031. Published 2009 Allbook Bindery, West Ryde, firmly bound with softback hand-stitched cover/clear plastic front; 380 pp; A4 size; 227 b&w photographs; Cost: $30 plus $10 p&p within Australia Please send cheques to: Barbara Short, 27 Chesterfield Rd., Epping 2121 NSW. Phone: 02 9876 1018.
The book contains the memories of many past teachers and many ex-students of the school. The book will be launched at Keravat High School in PNG on 10 September by the Governor General, Sir Paulias Matane, an ex-student of the school. The newly formed Keravat Alumni Association will be selling the book in PNG and all profits from the sale of the book will go to the school which is in a poor state of disrepair.

Toromuimui Myths of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Edited by Elin Johnston
ISBN: 9780977587131. Published 2009. Paperback 207pp Cost: $34 RRP plus $2 postage within Australia. Available from the Editor, Mrs Elin Johnston, at PO Box 114, POINT LONSDALE VIC 3225

This book is a sequel to Annie Ker’s Papuan Fairy Tales published by Macmillan, London, in 1910. It’s a collection of 32 stories told to the Editor by village elders of mountain and coast along the eastern mainland ‘tail’ of Papua New Guinea.
Anyone who has enjoyed close contact with the people of Milne Bay, or on the dry narrow coast plains of the neighbouring Goodenough and Collingwood Bays, will probably know, from listening to tales told at village firesides the legends of this book. Toromuimui – The Dwarf Who Lost His Land and The Talking Bananas are two of these. The book is illustrated by some beautiful line drawings contributed by Anthony Maibani of Wamira village near Dogura. To these the Editor has added many excellent photographs of her story tellers. As with Elin Johnston’s previous book of Papuan legends, Dodoima – Tales of Oro, this volume is a collector’s piece. It is also a pleasure to read. Only 250 copies have been printed.

Wau to Bulldog: Across the Roof of Papua New Guinea by Colin Freeman
ISBN 978-1-4251-7419-4 Published 2009 by Trafford Publishing, quality trade paperback, includes maps, list of illustrations, many photos (both colour and B&w), select bibliography, 110 pages. Order this book online at
An illustrated account of an Australian Army Patrol over an old military road built by Australian Army Engineers across New Guinea during WWII. Check the December issue of Una Voce for a review of this book.

PNG history through stories: Book I by Eric Johns
ISBN 0-7339-7868-1. Pearson Education Australia, Melbourne, 2004. 132 p. illus. Maps. $19.95 (plus postage)
PNG history through stories: Book Two by Eric Johns
ISBN 0-123600411-7. Pearson Education Australia, Melbourne, 2006 169pp Illus. Maps. $19.95 (plus postage). Available from the publishers.
PNG history through stories books 1 and 2 were written by Eric Johns for use in PNG schools. Although the stories are simply told they are full of historic information told in an entertaining style and suitable for all ages and particularly for anyone with an interest in PNG.
About seventy short chapters on a wide range of topics are set out as lessons concluding with exercises based on the texts. Each chapter is very short, generally two or three pages of text. There are illustrations for each chapter and the dozens of photographs are an outstanding feature of the books. The many maps make locating the incidents of the story easy. An impressive bibliography indicates the extent of the research that went into these books.
The books cover PNG history from the earliest times of prehistory, through the years of first European contacts, settlements and colonization up to post independence times. World War II was a turning point in PNG history and many individual stories of this period are told often from the point of individuals. Michael Somare’s boyhood memories of the Japanese soldiers in his village are recounted. Some of the most interesting stories of World War II involve lesser known Papua New Guineans and it is good to see that their lives have been recorded for future generations. Hangings at Higaturu is a particularlly poignant chapter as it records the public hangings of 22 Orokaiva people for murdering or handing over to the Japanese several missionaries and Australian soldiers.
The contact between European and Papua New Guineans is told in many stories. Six-Day War recounts how 60 New Britain people died in 1878 in a punitive expedition to assert authority and to avenge the killing of missionaries. Gold rush troubles gives an account of the clash of interests between the gold miner at Edie Creek and the Bulolo villages during the 1920s. First contacts in the Wahgi Valley is full of interest as the words and photographs of those first contacted are recorded.
Children, and adults too, like mysteries and the books feature quite a few. Were 326 shipwrecked Chinese eaten by Rossel Island cannibals as was reported in Sydney in 1860? How and why and by whom were the 9000 year old drainage systems at Kuk near Mount Hagen made? What caused the Time of Darkness stories to be told? What happened when ‘the sun did not appear for three days and people had to light torches to see?’ Another mystery appears in Yali’s Question. The question was ‘Why is it the white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people have so little cargo of our own?’ Biologist Jarad Diamond offered one answer to this question in a TV series and a book entitled Guns, Germs and Steel.
There are over 70 stories of the history of Papua New Guinea in these two well written and well produced books. They can be read in sequence or taken up for short reads as the titles entice.

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