Saturday, 18 November 2006

Mr Bluenose

MR BLUENOSE Jack Lasenby, Longacre, Dunedin, New Zealand, 2005, 120 pages, Paperback, NZ $16.95. ISBN 1-877361-06-2

It won’t be long before bus-loads of literary tourists begin visiting Waharoa, seeking souvenirs of Uncle Trev’s travelling asparagus bed, the Women’s Institute Cavalry and the dog-scoffing boar pig. As the locals sell case lots of Old Puckeroo Horse Liniment (famous for making smoke come out of Aunt Effie’s ears), they will praise the name of Jack Lasenby, already venerated as the “Lying Old Author”, especially when the publication of Mr Bluenose results in a fresh wave of customers seeking apples and boiled lollies.

While Uncle Trev tells tightly compressed tall tales, Mr Bluenose offers a gentler and more ruminative story-telling pace. The principal narrator is a nameless young girl, who helps Mr Bluenose on his orchard throughout a golden summer. A sea-dog who has swallowed the anchor, Mr Bluenose spins yarns, and the girl re-tells them to the Waharoa storekeeper for “big red-and-white striped boiled lollies”. She quickly learns the power of narrative, using tales of hypnotic moreporks and cannibal wardrobes to quell her enemy, Freddy Jones.

It is Mr Bluenose’s nautical tales which are particularly satisfying – Lasenby acknowledges his debt to Kipling – but there is also a mischievous, lolly-stealing horse, who seems vaguely familiar. Mr Bluenose is an amusing introduction to the way that stories can create their own worlds, while bringing pleasure to those who hear them. Readers from upper primary school to adult will find much to enjoy here.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on July 16th 2005.

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