Poetry Box Reading Back, Reading Forward: David Hill on Falter Tom and the Water Boy

Poetry Box October poem challenge here

My Whitcoulls Top 50 Kids’ Books popUP poem challenge here

Falter Tom and the Water Boy, Maurice Duggan, Kenneth Rowell illustrator, Kestrel Books, 1959

Auckland author Maurice Duggan wrote Falter Tom and the Water Boy way back in the late 1950s. Falter Tom is an old, lame Irish sailor who tells many stories of his life. But none of them match what happens in the book, when one day he’s walking on the beach and sees a small dolphin playing in the waves. No – it’s not a dolphin. It’s a young boy, with green hair and copper-coloured skin, who leads the old man into all sorts of adventures and astonishing places beneath the sea. They become friends. They face danger. They find treasures. It’s a book full of magic, wonder and secrets, and it won prizes and praise in several countries.

David Hill lives in Taranaki, where he has been a fulltime writer for 40 years. His novels and stories for young readers have been published in several countries and languages. His new book, Below, the story of a boy and girl trapped deep underground when a tunnel collapses, will be published next March.

Maurice Duggan (1922-1974) is one of New Zealand’s greatest exponents of short fiction, despite a small output. His 1957 Falter Tom and the Water Boy was one of the first internationally successful New Zealand children’s books. In 1960, Duggan was the second recipient of the Burns Fellowship. His Collected Stories was published posthumously in 1981.

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