04 December 2013

Hero of the Hill {Books for kids}

There's books and then there's GOOD BOOKS.

This is more than just a book. It's local history and personal memories and NZ writing and great illustrations and awesome rhyme all rolled into one.

Mylo was given this story by a friend for his birthday recently but it wasn't until I started reading it that I realised just how personal this story was.

It's the story of the Fell locomotives that travelled over the steep and treacherous Rimutaka Hill incline carrying passengers and supplies for 77 years between 1878 and 1955 until they built a tunnel under the hill that now carries diesel trains 8km through the hillside.

The beauty of this book is that it tells the story of the amazing feat of engineering that went into the building of the incline and the ability of the engines to navigate the very steep slope.

Joy Cowley's story is powerfully and lyrically written with every page ending in the word 'hill', and the illustrations by Philip Webb beautifully depict a bygone era.

The reason this story resonated so much with us is because Mark and I mountain biked the entire Rimutaka Rail Trail back in December 2005. The whole track is now a walking and cycling track with the history of the incline told at various points along the track. Riding through the tunnel at Summit in the pitch black on a mountain bike is a very unusual experience, requiring you to just back yourself to be able to ride in a straight line focusing on the pinpoint of light up ahead at the end of the tunnel.

The journey from Kaitoke at one end to Cross Creek at the other is about 1.5 hours with the steepest part of the track waiting for you when you turn around to make the journey back over again.  The track back up again takes you through the dangerous Siberia gully where the incline at its worst is 1 in 13 which is tough even in low gear on a mountain bike let along for a 22 tonne engine pulling carriages all the way up the hill.

This story would make a great gift for any Kiwi kid and especially those who live locally in the Wellington area who can one day explore the trail for themselves.

You can purchase the Hero of the Hill on Mighty Ape.

I was not sponsored to write this post - it is merely my opinion having enjoyed the story so much with my own personal experiences of the local area. 

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