Reviews - Jillian Sullivan


I would call Fishing from the Boat Ramp a must for all writers, whatever their status. I’ve been writing professionally for nearly 50 years and was once Jillian’s mentor. With this book she had become my teacher. Joy Cowley

Fishing from the Boat Ramp

Reviewed by Jenny Argante, Co-ordinating Editor, Bravado Magazine
Fishing from the Boat Ramp by Jillian SullivanIn her foreword, Joy Cowley reminds us that “Creativity, in all its forms – social, artistic, domestic – tends to take the creator beyond the personal and into the great heart of creation where there is an interconnectedness of all things.”

Artists, whether visual or verbal, glory in such ‘interconnectedness’; in unexpected juxtapositions. In fact, creativity is a product of what I like to call ‘associative intelligence’, the ability to make links, connections, between one disparate and diverse thing and another.

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Myths and Legends by Jillian Sullivan

Myths and Legends: The Gift of Stories from our Cultures

Reviewed by Jessica le Bas, The Nelson Mail.
Nelson writer Jillian Sullivan’s new book on myths and legends is a breath of fresh air. At last, one can relax and digest these wondrous stories with just the right blend of intelligent crafting and historical context.

Sullivan writes for the child in all of us. This superb retelling of legends is set out in eight clear sections, starting with creation myths, then picking up on Joseph Campbell’s famous hero’s Journey and covering common themes such as The Journey into Darkness, The Search for Truth and The Reluctant Hero.

Tales are from Maori, Chinese, Viking, Greek, Tongan and Celtic origins, to name a few traditions. There’s Crow and the Firesticks from Australian Aborigine mythology, and a Samoan story, The Origin of Kava, which follows the ancient theme of the transformation of a human into a plant.

Sullivan has captured the rythms of oral myths in an accessible style and has the knack of knowing just where to leave off. Each story is in beautiful bold type, with a pared-back narrative. This book is a retelling, not a critique. There are notes, and a bibliography at the end to satisfy those who wish to explore further.

Myths and legends would be a valuable addition to any young family’s library or the teacher’s resource kit, and for the ordinary reader wanting to enrich their knowledge of a genre often clouded in the mystical and poor packaging.

Myths and legends: The Gift of Stories from our Cultures

Reviewed by Alan Papprill, Howick College.
Here is a useful resource for any Year 8-10 teacher.

For those of us who embark on a thematic unit with Years 9-10 based on the myths and legends that underpin our cultures and belief systems, here is the ideal text.

Sullivan has collated a range of stories that are appropriate for use here in the South pacific as they range from Maori to Australian Aboriginal, to pacific Island, to Asian and, ultimately, to European – reflecting the ethnic and cultural mix that is 21st century New Zealand.

The stories are generically grouped – providing creation myths, myths relating to life and death, the gaining of knowledge, of ethical behaviour and heroism, all written in an easily read and attractively presented manner that should gain and hold the attention, however briefly, of the most reluctant reader.

The notes and bibliography at the end of the book provide useful cross cultural links between the stories as well as giving guidance for sources with more information and examples that will assist the teacher who needs to extend and challenge the Gifted and Talented as well as encourage those for whom even completing reading the base text is a challenge.

What about Bo?

Reviewed by Bronwyn Fox, Auckland
What About Bo? by Jillian SullivanBo is a young, untrained border collie sheep dog left behind when Dad walks off the farm. Also left is Jack’s mother, twelve-year-old Jack and his younger brother, Tim. Together they have to make a go of the farm.

With the help of his mother’s friend, Hamish Quigley, Jack undertakes to train Bo, believing that if he succeeds his dad will come home.

All goes well until one day Bo worries the neighbour’s lambs and Jack is forced to give the dog up. Later, quite by chance, Jack sees Bo again and determines to get him back. His efforts result in unexpected and dramatic consequences.

Jillian Sullivan has experience of working on a farm, and has researched the work of dog handlers. She puts this knowledge to good effect in shaping her story, capturing the flavour of country life, its routines and demands. She is also astute in her portrayal of family life, and childhood worries and perceptions. Jack’s longing for his absent father is well realized, as are his feelings towards newcomer Hamish.

The relationship between the two brothers is well drawn. With a four year age difference between them, Jack has to be the ‘older brother’ and take on more responsibility.

However it is Jack’s persistence and devotion to Bo that moves the narrative along and makes for a very satisfying read. Recommended.

Shreve’s Promise

Reviewed by
Shreve's Promise by Jillian SullivanJillian Sullivan is the winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for 2004, which is a New Zealand award to encourage new writers. The book which won the award for Jillian is “Shreve’s Promise”.

It has a real New Zealand feel to it in terms of style and language, and it really keeps you guessing with a number of twists and turns along the way. This book is many-layered: it’s a ghost story, it’s a tale of friendship, it’s a contemporary picture of the breakdown of a family, and it’s a quest featuring a brave and much-wronged teenager, Shreve. The promise in the title is for Shreve to help an old lady who she fears might be in some danger, but the fingers of the promise stretch into many areas.

This book is interesting and appealing on many levels, and has enough action it to suit teenage boys and girls alike.

Shreve’s Promise

Reviewed by Ann Packer, The Dominion
A fine new talent shines through Shreve’s Promise (Scholastic). Jillian Sullivan won the 2003 Tom Fitzgibbon award.

The ending of this ghostly tale moved me to tears.

Against the background of a family breaking up, Shreve befriends an old woman whose stepson has moved in, supposedly to care for her. Enter the ghost of the woman’s dead daughter. Though it could have been clichéd, this confident first novel is not. Neither is it mawkish in its handling of the theme of elder abuse. Shreve’s life is very much centred in the present – mastering skateboard manoeuvres, managing friendships, finding something to wear to the school dance. In learning to trust her intuition, Shreve gets others’ lives back on track too.

Launched and Other Stories

Secondary School English, Newsletter, Term 3, 2005
Launched and Other Stories by Jillian SullivanIf you have attended any of my workshops you will realise that I often use and promote the short stories of Motueka writer Jillian Sullivan. Her book of short stories “Hey Tony” has been out of print for some time and this has been frustrating to say the least. I am pleased to say though that the wait is over.

Pearson [ISBN 0-582-5483-8] have just published “Launched and Other Stories.” This collection of Jillian Sullivan’s stories includes some new stories but many are re workings of earlier stories like ‘Red Dress’ and ‘Dear Dad.’ As an added bonus Ewen Middleton has written activities to complement each story.
Steve Saville
Secondary English Facilitator

What About Bo? & Shreve’s Promise

Kate de Goldi review, Kim Hill Show, National Radio, May 7th 2004
Kate de Goldi: “I want to talk about What About Bo? by Jillian Sullivan, and Shreve’s Promise, also by Jillian Sullivan, which we looked at very briefly last week. Did you get to read Shreve’s Promise?”

Kim Hill: “I have read Shreve’s Promise, very quickly.”

Kate d G: “We mentioned what a lovely story Bo was, about a boy and his father’s dog and a separated family and a solo parent.”

Kim H: “I like that one, I’m not as keen on Shreve’s Promise”

Kate d G: “I think Shreve rests on a slightly improbable premise which is that the young girl at the center of it is visited by the ghost of a dead girl. I didn’t really buy that, but what I want to say about the book, and what I think is notable about Jillian Sullivan’s work, is the absolute simplicity, clarity and kind of freightedness of her writing much of the time, and the very nice way she writes about incredibly ordinary domestic New Zealand circumstances. There’s no pretension, there’s no grandiose kind of plot and scheme and series of relationships that seems to characterize quite a lot of young adult writing at the moment in New Zealand. …It’s very, very straightforward, and I think what she does best of all is write about activity. In Bo she writes about the business of sheep mustering really really convincingly, and in this one (Shreve’s Promise) she writes about skateboarding really well.

Kim H: “And care of the elderly.”

Kate d G: “Yes, it’s an interesting issue, isn’t it. There’s this sort of elder abuse going on.”

Kim H: “Well she seems to do all sorts of interesting things, this author.”

Kate d G: “Oh look, she’s quite fascinating. I happen to know the book she’s writing on at the moment is about a boy in a rock band, which Jillian has been herself… a woman in a rock band, a drummer, and she just writes fascinatingly about it, you really are pulled in to the realities and the minutiae of that world.
“There’s a fantastic description here of the girl Shreve, going out to skateboard. I learnt quite a bit about skateboarding there. Do you know what dropping in is?”

Kim H: “No.”

Kate d G: “I thought she was referring to going round to see someone, but no – it’s what you do with a skateboard when you’re coming off the – ramp, but there’s this most wonderful, beguiling page about her doing this, and achieving it. And of course it’s a metaphor for finding the freedom from the problems that are besetting her in her life.
“She writes really well about parents behaving badly, separating, and finding new lives, but without any judgement. So, I think she’s a really interesting writer to watch.”

Kim H: “And it’s really nice to learn something from a book.”

Kate d G: “The next one we’ll learn something about rock bands, and apple sorting and a number of other things. I really look forward to it.”