Monday, 7 September 2015

John Joe's Tune, Tania Atkinson, Christine Ross

John Joe’s Tune
Tania Atkinson, ill. Christine Ross
Duck Creek Press $30

This is a topical picture book for all New Zealanders. John Joe is John Joseph Woods, the Lawrence teacher who created the music for our second national anthem. Tania Atkinson has written a lively verse account of the dramatic night of 8 July 1876 when Woods first read of the contest to write an ‘Air’ for Thomas Bracken’s ‘National Hymn,’ God Defend New Zealand. We see Woods, hatted and scarfed against the Central Otago winter, enthusiastically rushing to compose.

“He ran to the piano
And he played three notes or four.”

Triumph follows, with Woods winning the competition and later conducting a choir of 600 children singing the future anthem for Premier Sir George Grey – in a woolshed!

Christine Ross’s witty, colourful illustrations of these events are a delight, with Woods’ Lipp upright piano cheerfully immortalised as a national icon.  

 Trevor Agnew

This review first appeared in Your Weekend magazine, The Press (Christchurch, NZ), on 22 Aug 2015.

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