Category Archives: Young Adult

Posts about YA literature

The Newest YA Books Hitting the Shelves

The secret is out – YA (Young Adult fiction) is one of the most exciting and popular book categories at the moment.  Gone is the stigma of grownups reading ‘kids books’ –  readers of all ages are attracted to YA for its strong narratives, awareness of social causes, and championing of diversity and the authenticity of #ownvoices experience. With strong new releases every season, we’ll take a look at some recent hits:

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Virtue and Vengenace is the highly-anticipated sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, one of the strongest YA debuts ever.  Having brought magic back to the kingdom of Orisha, the feisty heroine, Zelie Adebola, finds out that the unexpected consequences of her actions may derail her fight against oppression. This fantasy trilogy is set in West Africa, with inspiration from Harry Potter, West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement.  Tomi Adeyemi deftly uses her fictitious realm to explore issues of racism, oppression and slavery.  Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a solid second instalment, leading up to a huge finish in the third and final volume.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for one of the wealthiest families in Atlanta. By night, she moonlights as Miss Sweetie, the author of a newspaper advice column. When her column becomes popular, she uses it to challenge society’s ideas about race and gender, and must step up to overcome the backlash that follows.  Stacey Lee is a Chinese-American writer whose stories reinterpret historical events from a Chinese-American perspective.  Downstairs Girl is a powerful novel about identity, betrayal and the meaning of family.

Heart of Flames by Nicki Pau Preto

If you love High Fantasy with mythical creatures then be sure to check out The Crown of Feathers saga.  Heart of Flames is the second instalment, continuing this story about siblings Val and Veronyka, who dream of joining the Phoenix Riders, a disbanded band of elite warriors who have empathic links to the phoenixes they ride.  Within the political machinations and tensions of an unstable world, Val, Veronyka and their friends discover their distinct identities, fall in love, and strive towards their goals.  Nicki Pau Preto does a great job of world-building, and of fleshing out her characters, by telling the story from multiple perspectives.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Award-winning author Renee Watson teams up with poet Ellen Hagan to give us a stirring story about feminist activism and empowerment.  Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends attending a social justice-focussed high school in New York.  When they realise that sexism and racism are rife even in their progressive school, these strong-willed teens fight hard to make sure their voices – and those of other young women – can still be heard.  Watch Us Rise is a dynamic, complex story with a multidimensional, diverse cast.  The use of a dual narrative, and the inclusion of art, poetry and blogs to drive the story, add extra interest.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt The Flame is a new quest adventure set in a realm inspired by ancient Arabia. Zafira is a strong, skilled hunter tasked to bring back a magical artefact in order to save her world.  Disguised as a man for self-protection, Zafira is pursued by, but eventually forms an uneasy alliance with, the King’s Assassin.  Will they succeed on their perilous journey? We Hunt the Flame is a story of conquering fear and creating your own destiny; of morality and understanding.  Hafsah Faizal is a debut author who has drawn upon her Arabic and Muslim heritage to craft a rich fantasy world.  We Hunt the Flame is a read-alike for books by Tamora Pierce, and perfect for fans of the game Assassin’s Creed.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon

Sandhya Menon balances classic tropes of YA romance (an exclusive boarding school, young royals, and uber-rich “beautiful people”) with a dash of fantasy, and an earnest exploration of the issues of loneliness and parental expectations, to give a fresh take on the Beauty and the Beast story.  Indian princesses Jaya Rao and Isha have been shipped off to the exclusive St Rosetta’s academy to ride out a scandal surrounding younger sister Isha.  Jaya vows to take revenge on fellow student Grey Emerson, whose family has been feuding with the Raos for generations, and whom Jaya believes caused Isha’s scandal.  Both Jaya and Grey grow in self-awareness and independence during their funny and romantic enemies-to-lovers journey.

Christmas Presents for the Hard-To-Buy-For (#htbf)

So, the big red man is on his way and you’re wondering what you’re meant to wrap and pop under the tree? There’s no need to worry, we have your back. In fact, we have found six great books for the Hard-To-Buy-For people in your life that they would happily unwrap no matter what they normally read. 

Pop on some festive music, grab yourself a Christmas tipple and get ready to cross those hard-to-buy-for gifts off your list. 

Books for the hard-to-buy-for Her

Mirka Mora: A Life Making Art by Sabine Cotte

This beautiful book provides a unique insight into one of Melbourne’s most beloved personalities. Revealing an unseen side of Mirka through both her materials and practice, this intimate portrait shares her complex and truly innovative techniques, which until now have not been studied. Detailing the artist’s breadth of practice, her idiosyncratic processes and blend of traditional methods and modern creativity, this book shows how Mirka’s various modes of making art connected deep emotions, stories of displacement and loss with major movements of the twentieth century. From Holocaust survivor to Melbourne cultural icon, Mirka expressed the intensity of her personal life through artworks that embodied feminism, the craft movement as well as community art policies of the 1980s. With privileged access to the artist and her studio, Sabine Cotte offers a new perspective on this extraordinary woman, illuminating Mirka’s significance as one of Australia’s most compelling, creative and prolific artists.

Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis

This is a landmark biography of a singular and important Australian photographer which is beautifully written and deeply moving. Olive Cotton was one of Australia’s pioneering modernist photographers, whose significant talent was recognised as equal to her first husband, the famous photographer Max Dupain. Together, Olive and Max were an Australian version of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera or Ray and Charles Eames, and the photographic work they produced in the 1930s and early 1940s was bold, distinctive and quintessentially Australian. But in the mid-1940s Olive divorced Max, leaving Sydney to live with her second husband, Ross McInerney, and raise their two children in a tent on a farm near Cowra – later moving to a cottage that had no running water, electricity or telephone for many years. Famously quiet, yet stubbornly determined, Olive continued her photography despite these challenges and the lack of a dark room. But away from the public eye, her work was almost forgotten until a landmark exhibition in Sydney in 1985 shot her back to fame, followed by a major retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000, ensuring her reputation as one of the country’s greatest photographers. Intriguing, moving and powerful, this is Olive’s story, but it is also a compelling story of women and creativity – and about what it means for an artist to try to balance the competing demands of their art, work, marriage, children and family.

Books for the hard-to-buy-for Him

Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James

The first volume of Clive James’ autobiography begins “I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment, that did not affect me.” 

In the first installment of Clive James’s memoirs, we meet the young Clive, dressed in short trousers, and wrestling with the demands of school, various relatives and the occasional snake, in the suburbs of post-war Sydney. His adventures are hilarious, his recounting of them even more so, in this, the book that started it all. 

Word of the Dog by Megan Anderson

They say that a dog is a man’s best friend. So why not give him the gift of a little canine humour. 

What can we learn from the gentle art of listening? With affection and wit, artist and writer Megan Anderson has assembled characters from the dog world to put a canine face on human observations – those things that occupy our thoughts, and delight, move or perplex us. By imagining dogs as the bearers of candid human thoughts, Word of Dog offers a glimpse into the beauty of the everyday, a joy for readers of all breeds and temperaments.

Books for the hard-to-buy-for Teen

The Book Of Dust by Philip Pullman

Surely a hard-to-buy-for teen is a fan of His Dark Materials which has been taking over our TV screens. 

Malcolm Polstead’s Oxford life has been one of routine, ordinary even. He is happiest playing with his daemon, Asta, in their canoe, La Belle Sauvage. But now as the rain builds, the world around Malcolm and Asta is, it seems, set to become increasingly far from ordinary.Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra forever . . .

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

This is the intoxicating and bloodthirsty finale to the New York Times bestselling The Folk of the Air series (depending on the teen, you may need to buy book one and two first, or get the whole trilogy). After being pronounced Queen of Faerie and then abruptly exiled by the Wicked King Cardan, Jude finds herself unmoored, the queen of nothing. She spends her time with Vivi and Oak, watching reality television, and doing odd jobs, including squaring up to a cannibalistic faerie. When her twin sister Taryn shows up asking a favour, Jude jumps at the chance to return to the Faerie world, even if it means facing Cardan, who she loves despite his betrayal. When a dark curse is unveiled, Jude must become the first mortal Queen of Faerie and break the curse, or risk upsetting the balance of the whole Faerie world. 

Enjoy!

The Best Books of 2019 picked by Team Booko

We are still pinching ourselves that it is somehow October already! Wow the year has whizzed by. With the end of the year looming and Christmas (ahem) just around the corner we thought we would round up the best books that the Booko Team has read this year. 

The team has a wide and mixed bunch of titles so find yourself somewhere comfy to sit and get ready to be inspired to sink yourself into some fabulous stories. 

From the Founders:

Riina’s Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I have been meaning to read Exit West by Mohsin Hamid ever since it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017, and finally managed to read it this year. Though the story takes place in an unnamed city, it bears much resemblance to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I was firstly drawn to the book because of the refugee theme, but ended up finding much more than a refugee story: a thought-provoking story about belonging, prejudice, loyalty and love.

The story is of young lovers who are forced to leave the city of their birth due to escalating violence and civil war. They hear rumours of mysterious doorways that open up in random places and that take those who can pay the price to some far-flung place that is safer than the place they leave behind. The couple end up going through two more doorways in search of a place they can feel safe in. By inventing these “magic doorways” Hamid is removing the journey from the refugee story, instead focusing on the experiences of leaving and arriving, and how such events shape and change a person. This way the story is in some ways relatable to anyone who’s ever migrated for one reason or another.

As events unfold, Hamid pays homage to various humanitarian crises across history, showing the reader how easy it is for history to repeat itself; how close we are to losing our humanity. Fear, prejudice and “otherness” are never far below the surface.

Though the book was not a pleasant or easy read, it made it to one of my most favourite this year due to the thoughts it left me with for days after I had finished reading the story.

Dan’s Pick: Practical Object-Oriented Design by Sandi Metz

I first heard the name Sandi Metz at a programming conference I was attending in Sydney.  My friend had bought a ticket and flown from Melbourne to see her speak.  Sandi was the keynote and the subject was on persuasion.  My friend, the Sandi fan, convinced me to watch a few of her programming videos and on the strength of those, I bought her latest book, ‘Practical Object-Oriented Design

It’s a dry sounding subject, but I was hooked immediately. Like me, Sandi is a Ruby programmer and like me, she builds systems in Ruby. The strength of the book is the way it introduces and discusses problems in designs of systems.  Sandi identifies problems in design with straightforward examples.   There were many moments during the book, when a problem was introduced that I immediately recognised and had struggled with.  The main difference is that rather than move on to the next issue, Sandi reduces the problem to its kernel, then deftly brings a few tools or patterns to bear on the problem.  It’s like watching a tangled cord be unknotted.  

I’m not sure I’d have been so engrossed in this book had I not, quite literally, struggled with the exact problems presented.  This book has improved me as a programmer and I would highly recommend it to any developer with a few years under their belt. 

From our youngest reviewers:

Niko’s Pick: Brotherband by John Flanagan

A series I recommend is Brotherband. It is by John Flanagan, and exists in the same world as his international bestselling series “Ranger’s Apprentice,” which is about the Rangers of Araluen, and Will, the ranger Halt’s apprentice. Brotherband’s events happened shortly after Ranger’s Apprentice, where Gilan is actually a character in both of the series.

Brotherband is set in Skandia, a land of sea wolves and democracy (as in they vote for their leader, the Oberjarl, instead of having a royal bloodline, like Araluen). The main characters are a Brotherband called the Herons (named after the bird) and they are led by Hal. They fight bad guys and do missions for the Oberjarl, Erak.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes Vikings and battles and action and many other things I forgot to name. This book is good for anyone older than 8, but really, it’s good for all ages as long as you can read. It’s that good.

Elora’s Pick: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

I made a book report for a Book called Smile. I recommend this book for 6+! This book was written by Raina Telgemeier. She also wrote some books called Sisters, Ghosts, Drama and Guts. Those are all the books by her that I know of. I thought it was a good Graphic Novel. The good things about it are: it actually happened, it’s funny and all other emotions including the sad emotion 😭 Sad😢. Her so called annoying sister named Amara says “You’re gonna be a METAL-MOUTH” when she gets braces from tripping over and losing 2 fully grown teeth! The dentist was nice so he gave her fake teeth to make her look normal and she ends up with a good life.

From the Marketing Team:

Cheekily, Marie has two favourites and because they are so different from each other we thought we’d let that slide and let her review two. 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

If you like to sink your teeth into fascinating stories and learn practical tips at the same time, then this book is for you. A great friend recommended this to me and I loved it (and have since recommended it to a number of other people).

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. in his chatty style, Voss takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into his head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In addition to the unbelievable stories, this is a practical guide of tactics and strategies that you can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Educated by Tara Westover

I still think about this book regularly after finishing it a few months ago, I think it is haunting me. With three little girls of my own and being brought up in a home where education was highly valued, I was intrigued when hearing about this story. I couldn’t imagine a world more different from my own and was so moved by the account of Tara’s life as she gets to the heart of what an education is and what it has to offer. I’m putting the blurb for the book below as I couldn’t describe it any better. However, prepare yourself because it is an exceptionally sad tale. 

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home. Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties.

Enjoy!

Monday Inspo

Each year across Australia, the CBCA brings children and books together by celebrating CBCA Book Week. During this time schools, libraries, booksellers, authors, illustrators and children celebrate Australian children’s literature. Keep your eye out for Karen’s post this Thursday where she shares her learnings from attending library school and how it helped with raising her children to be readers.

Escape to Everywhere

Australia punches well above its weight when it comes to children’s literature – so it is particularly fitting that we devote an entire week to celebrating this each year. This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is “Escape to Everywhere”, which perfectly describes what great writing means to me: whether it takes you to a fantasy land within your mind, or offers a glimpse of life elsewhere on Earth – a great book stretches your imagination and broadens your horizons.  Drumroll please for this year’s winners…

Book of the Year: Older Readers

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Claire Zorn is a YA force to be reckoned with – all three of her novels are award-winners, including two CBCA Book of the Year awards (The Protected won in 2015).  One Would Think the Deep is about Sam, whose mum dies suddenly, shockingly, in his arms.  Having no options, he moves to the coast to live with his estranged aunt and cousins.  In this new environment, he struggles to process his grief, shock and anger – but also finds some solace in the surf.  One Would Think the Deep is almost painful to read, but Claire Zorn’s complex characterisation and raw, visceral portrayal of grief draws you in and doesn’t let go.

Book of the Year: Younger Readers

Rockhopping by Trace Balla

Trace Balla is another rising star, with both Rockhopping and its prequel, Rivertime, winning major awards. Having travelled down the Glenelg river together in Rivertime, Uncle Egg has finally agreed to take Clancy hiking to the Glenelg’s source in Gariwerd (the Grampians). During their five days in the wilderness, they see lots of flora and fauna, meet other hikers, have some scary moments – and Clancy grows up a little.  Trace Balla shows her love of nature through her incredibly detailed illustrations; she also conveys some beautiful messages about slowing down, living in the moment and respecting indigenous culture.

Book of the Year: Early Childhood

Go Home, Cheeky Animals! by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley

Inspired by life in Tennant Creek, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a great book for reading aloud (loudly!), with lots of opportunities for audience participation.  There are too many cheeky dogs in Canteen Creek, but when the weather changes and more cheeky animals arrive, chaos begins! The lively rhythm of the text and child-like illustrations combine to present a hilarious and riotous scenario that will appeal to both school-aged and younger children.

Picture Book of the Year

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham

“Delightful” and “heartwarming” are no exaggeration when it comes to Bob Graham’s books – he is an expert at showing the humour and joy in the minutiae of life.  Home in the Rain starts with a little red car stuck in traffic – Francie, her mum and her baby sister (warmly tucked inside Mummy’s tum)  face a long drive on a rain-sodden day. From such an ordinary premise, Bob Graham has crafted a tender story that makes your heart glow. Home in the Rain is his eighth CBCA win – and a compelling example of why Bob Graham is one of our most beloved and awarded authors.

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks by Gina M. Newton

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks showcases more than 120 animals from 55 National Parks around Australia – from our national icons, through birds, to fish and insects. The book is divided into seven sections, each exploring a different habitat; thus offering additional insights into geography and ecology.  Gina M. Newton and NLA Publishing have done a terrific job in making a wealth of information accessible rather than overwhelming, using a range of colour coding, charts, maps and photos. Perfect for browsing as well as for reference.

The Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Patchwork Bike by Van T. Rudd (text by Maxine Beneba Clarke)

A streetwise gang of children build a patchwork bike using what they can find – branches for handlebars, a flour sack for a flag. This exuberant story highlights the joy of making your own fun using creativity and imagination. The setting is hugely different from suburban Australia, emphasising how play is universally valued by kids, whatever their circumstances.  The street-art style of Van T Rudd perfectly matches the rhythmic text of slam-poet Maxine Beneba Clarke.