Category Archives: Young Adult

Posts about YA literature

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.

Bringing Books to Life for Kids

Bringing books to life for children is a lot of fun and a wonderful learning opportunity for young minds. Reading aloud, drawing pictures and imaginary play are just a few ways you can do this at home which gives children an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, creative thinking, recognising letters, numbers, colours, shapes and patterns, listening, exploring social and emotional skills and sharing and taking turns.

As we grow older our books can also come to life through audio books where the author is reading us their book with amazing inflection and passion, or through television and movie adaptations.

Here are a few of our favourite children’s books that have come alive.

 

Books we can watch…

 

Charlotte’s Web written by E.B White

An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads “Some Pig,” convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.

The DVD is available here.

 

 

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a prize-winning team and the creators of many bestselling books for Macmillan. Julia Donaldson was a songwriter before becoming an author, and music continues to play an important part in her life. She is always much in demand for her brilliant events at schools and literary festivals. Axel Scheffler is a star illustrator within the children’s book world, and his books have been translated into over 30 languages. His bright, humorous illustrations are a perfect complement to Julia’s lively songs.

The DVD is available here.

 

Books we listen to…

 

Road Dahl’s Phizz-Whizzing Audio Collection by Roald Dahl

Spread over eight CDs, these three sumptuous recordings are complete and unabridged, allowing listeners to enjoy Dahl’s work word for word. The stories in this collection have all been skilfully brought to life. ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” read by James Bolam (Abridged): Charlie Bucket thinks he is the luckiest boy alive when he wins an amazing tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. It’s a tour of a lifetime that changes his life beyond belief! “The BFG” read by Geoffrey Palmer (Abridged): The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who spirits Sophie out of bed one night. Together, Sophie and the BFG cook up an ingenious plan to rid the world of child-eating giants forever! “James and the Giant Peach” read by Andrew Sachs (Unabridged): James lives a lonely life with his two beastly aunts.Then one day, something very peculiar happens, something magical that will take him on the most amazing journey …

The books are available here.

 

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

This is a fabulous six-CD audio box-set containing the entire collection of stories by Beatrix Potter, complete and unabridged. The twenty-three tales have never lost their popularity, and sell in their millions all over the world. Meet the famous characters that children love and adore: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Flopsy Bunnies, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and many more. These stories are beautifully brought to life by a talented cast of readers, including Patricia Routledge, Timothy West, Michael Hordern, Janet Maw, and Rosemary Leach.

The books are available here.

 

Books we can colour and play with…

 

I Completely Must Do Drawing Now and Painting and Colouring by Lauren Child

Even the rainiest of days is no match for the wonderful imaginations of Charlie and Lola! It may be dull outside, but Charlie and Lola’s world is full of colourful adventure, and with this unique colouring book, kids can join in on the fun. With simple text on the page, activities, and tons of space to draw, the possibilities are endless! It’s the perfect way to bring imagination to life – rainy day or any day!

 

 

Maisy’s Farm by Lucy Cousins

This is a huge favourite in our house. This pop-up-and-play book opens up with a free-standing model of Maisy’s barn, garden and farmyard. It comes with a sixteen-page full-colour booklet that features learning activities based on Maisy’s day on the farm. In each room, there’s a sheet of card pieces to press out, tabs to pull, doors to open and more…so much fun!

 

 

Also…

Keep an eye out for the new initiative from Play School. In celebration of Children’s Book Week this year there will be a delightful new Play School series featuring some of Australia’s much loved celebrities as they snuggle up on the couch and read entertaining picture books written by Australian authors and they will be accompanied by Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Joey.

Enjoy!

Books that guide us through young adulthood

It’s no secret that the books we read can help to shape our lives. As we move through different stages there are often a handful of key books and characters that we relate to and help us make sense of the people and world around us.

One particularly ‘testing’ time is between the ages of 8 and 12. These young adults face a variety of hurdles and curveballs as they grow up and learn to find their place in the world. Sometimes listening to yet another tale from mum and dad is just too much to handle and so they turn (hopefully) to books.

Filled with characters working through life defining experiences such as gaining independence, forming friendship, going on adventures and growing curiosity the genre of Young Adult is fast becoming literature which is adored by readers of every generation.

The Chronicles of Narnia, the 13th Story Treehouse series, the Harry Potter books, and just about anything by Roald Dahl are just a few examples of titles that aid a 8 -12 year old through this exciting period of their life.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Journeying into magical realms, battles between good and evil and talking creatures await and delight every reader who settles in to enjoy these books.

The Narnia Chronicles, first published in 1950, have been and remain some of the most enduringly popular children’s books ever published. The best known, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been translated into 29 languages and hit the big screen in a film edition.

 

 

 

The 13 Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Andy and Terry live in a treehouse. But it’s not just any old treehouse, it’s the most amazing treehouse in the world! This treehouse has thirteen stories, a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a secret underground laboratory, and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots marshmallows into your mouth whenever you are hungry.

This is the start of a series of treehouse stories with Terry and Andy who enjoy completely nutty adventures because ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling

We very much doubt any of these series need an introduction, especially Harry Potter…but here goes.

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels chronicling the life of a young wizard, and his friends, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrowing the Ministry of Magic, and gain control of all wizards and Muggles (non wizards). There are many themes within this series including fantasy, drama, prejudice, madness, coming of age and elements of mystery, thriller, adventure, horror and romance. According to Rowling,however, the main theme is death.

 

Come and join us on Facebook to share what your favourite books were for getting through this phase of your life.

 The Best Young Adult (YA) Books

Young Adult (YA) fiction is the most exciting book category right now, with booming sales leading to a proliferation of genres and topics.  The YA fan-base is also broadening, with a significant and growing proportion of adult readers (who are loud and proud, and fast destroying any stigma about preferring YA over “grown up” books.  With strong narratives, intense feelings and the poignancy of coming-of-age, what’s not to love?  Here are some of the best YA, past and present:

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders is iconic YA, being one of the first stories written by, for and about teenagers.  (The Catcher in the Rye  may be better known, but was written as adult fiction.)  The Outsiders follows the conflict between the Socs and the Greasers, rival teen groups distinguished by their socioeconomic status.  Its gritty realism and depictions of violence and delinquency revolutionised the genre by creating a demand for authentic, un-moralistic stories, although it continues to be controversial to this day.  The Outsiders is also one of the best YA books turned into movies, with director Francis Ford Coppola, and a cast of emerging superstars including Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Another YA bestseller with an acclaimed movie adaptation is John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Named as Time Magazine’s #1 fiction book in 2012, The Fault in Our Stars cemented John Green’s reputation as a top YA author.  The Fault in Our Stars is about Gus and Hazel, teens who meet and fall in love through a cancer patients’ support group. John Green has achieved a skilful balance of tragedy, comedy, romance and sentimentality, and the cancer setting makes this classic doomed-romance fresh and bold.  The Fault in Our Stars is moving and romantic without being saccharine;  Gus, Hazel and their friends, worldly-wise beyond their years, are witty and irreverent without sounding annoying. A contender for best YA of all time, The Fault in Our Stars can make grown men (and women) laugh and cry – sometimes all at once.

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

The recent popularity of dystopian YA might make you think it’s a new trend – but not so!  A generation before The Hunger Games readers were gripped by Tomorrow, When the War Began.  This 7-novel series starts with Ellie and her friends going bush camping.  When they return several days later, their town is eerily quiet – their families captured by foreign military in a “peaceful invasion”.  Ellie and her friends must use all their wits and strength to adapt, survive and to fight against the invaders.  Classic coming-of-age themes are given urgency by the war scenario.  A live-action film and a new 6-part TV drama offer to bring new fans to this hugely beloved and acclaimed series.

My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

My Sister Rosa is shaping up to be one of the best YA in 2016.  It is a deeply unsettling story about 17-year-old Che and his  younger sister Rosa.  Che realises that, behind her charming facade, Rosa is a psychopath – manipulative and devoid of empathy.  Their parents are oblivious to Rosa’s true nature, so Che becomes her self-appointed minder – monitoring her behaviour and preventing her from hurting others.  Following the success of Liar and Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier shows her prowess in psychological thrillers once more.  My Sister Rosa is a tense and absorbing read, supported by brilliant characterisation.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is the latest hit by Rainbow Rowell, whose popularity and critical acclaim have been snowballing since her YA debut in Eleanor & Park.  Carry On is about Simon Snow, a magical Chosen One in his final year of wizarding school, as he comes to terms with his destiny, juggles relationships, solves mysteries and fights evil.  It is a story-within-a-story, with Simon and his friends first appearing as the book-obsession of the titular Fangirl of Rainbow Rowell’s previous novel.  Carry On is one of the best YA of 2015, richly-layered with magic, ghosts, vampires, friendships, romance, humour and teen angst; it is also a loving tribute to fandom and the Harry Potter universe (which shares similarities with Simon Snow’s world).

Back to school: books that smooth the transition

As January hurtles along, many families will be preparing for a big milestone – the First Day of School.  To help both kids and parents prepare for this exciting event, we present our favourite books on starting school.  The big kids have not been forgotten – we have included books on starting secondary school, because we understand that this is a big challenge too.  Hopefully this list will also help any families starting school later in the year!

For Young Kids

Many picture books talk about starting school.  A good place to start may be your child’s favourite book or TV character – many of them, including Hugless Douglas, Maisy, Charlie and Lola and Peppa Pig, offer stories about starting preschool / kindergarten / primary school.  Other great stories (and conversation starters) include:

Starting School by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

This gentle and sympathetic book follows five children – Tim, Hannah, Sunita, Joe, and Polly – on their first day of school.  The children have different personalities and experience the day differently.  The story is engaging and also informative, since it highlights the many predictable events of orientation, such as finding your way around, getting to know people, and learning new routines.  From the team that bring us the equally gorgeous and popular All Through the Year (about the months of the year) and Today We Have No Plans  (about the days of the week).

Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish and Lynne Avril

This is a good introduction to the Amelia Bedelia series, which can grow with your child through their primary years – the series range from picture books to early readers and chapter books.  Amelia Bedelia is a very literal-minded girl who gets confused by common sayings.  Her misunderstandings land her in many funny situations!  Here, Amelia Bedelia learns to enjoy her first day at school despite feeling nervous and having a very eventful time.

 

First Day by Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley

First Day gives “first day nerves” a little twist when it’s the parent, not the child, who is feeling them!  This is a joyous, affectionate look at the excitement of getting ready for school on The First Day.  The excitement may be tempered by a little sadness, but that’s okay, because “the best bit about waving goodbye is the next wave will be hello”.  Andrew Daddo and Jonathan Bentley is a great team who is adept at capturing the moods and behaviours of young children.

The Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen and Freya Blackwood

The combination of Freya Blackwood’s illustrations and a grumpy main character made me smile and smile as I read The Terrible Suitcase.  The little girl longs for a red backpack with yellow rockets to take to her first day of school, but all she has is a Terrible Suitcase. She feels so mad that she hides in a big cardboard box in her classroom.  Luckily, friendliness and imagination turns this terrible day into something magical. I love how real the characters seem, and how inventive this story is.

For Parents

Ready, Set, Go? How to Tell if your Child’s Ready for School and Prepare them for the Best Start by Kathy Walker

Deciding when to send your child to school can be daunting, particularly when present-day ideas about “school readiness” focus on emotional and social maturity (which can be hard to recognise), rather than the more clear-cut criteria of age or intellectual development.  Kathy Walker, a leading parenting and education expert, is here to help you with this guide.  Based on her experiences working with families and educators, Kathy explains what school readiness means and how to assess it; she also describes how schools work, and gives advice on how to choose a school that suits a child and their families. Finally there are tips on preparing children for school, both in the lead-up and in the early weeks of term.  Readable and highly informative.

High School Rocks: Make Starting High School an Awesome Experience by Jenny Atkinson

Jenny Atkinson is a former teacher who now specialises in helping students, parents and staff achieve a confident, happy transition to high school.   Based on survey feedback from over 1600 students, High School Rocks addresses the challenges that concern students the most – including friendships, independence, time-management and bullying.  A mix of tips, stories and advice will help families develop their own coping strategies, and improve resilience.  High School Rocks is currently available only from the Kindle Store  or the author’s website.

For Big Kids

Many stories aimed at upper-primary or early teen readers explore themes of dealing with change, loneliness and understanding oneself, issues also relevant to the transition to secondary school.  Some novels that specifically mention school transition include:

New Boy by Nick Earls

Herschelle and his family have just moved from South Africa to Australia, and despite his careful study of Aussie slang, he is struggling to fit in.  At school, he is lumped in with the nerds, though he was one of the cool kids back in Cape Town.  Nobody understands his accent or his Aussie-isms, and both he and his family make gaffes because they are confounded by local customs.  Things come to a head when Herschelle is picked on for being different.  New Boy has great messages about diversity, racism and bullying – especially because it offers the interesting twist of having a bullying-victim who is white.  This is Nick Earls’ first book for younger readers, after a string of successes for teens and adults.

Pea’s Book of Best Friends by Susie Day

Life changes for Pea and her sisters when their ditzy mum becomes a successful author.  Her new glamorous image means they have to relocate from a ramshackle flat in Wales to a house in London.  Pea is excited about London’s various attractions – and even likes her new school uniform, “in a masochistic Malory Towers sort of way” – but she really misses having a best friend.  Catastrophes ensue as Pea hunts for a new best friend while her sisters plot to return to their former lives.  Pea’s Book of Best Friends is a fun read with likeable, quirky characters.  The first in an ongoing series.

 

How to be Happy: a Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton

For mature readers, or with adult guidance – How to be Happy is an award-winning memoir that has been variously praised as hilarious, heartbreaking, and important.  It follows David’s life as he enters high school, through his attempts to fit in both at home and at school, and into his early twenties.  How to Be Happy tackles many confronting topics – including depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, love and academic pressure – with sincerity and honesty.  It is ultimately uplifting as David realises that life can be okay even when it is not happy 100% of the time.

The Inky Awards 2015: who will win?

Today we’ll take a look at the Inky Awards, whose winners will be announced next week (October 13).  The Inkys are an annual celebration of quality young adult (YA) literature, hosted by the State Library of Victoria.  Teen readers are actively involved throughout the judging process – from selecting the longlists and shortlists out of the nominations, to voting for the winners.  While shortlists are chosen for their quality, originality, readability and age-appropriateness, the winner is chosen by popular vote. Two prizes are awarded each year – the Gold Inky for an Australian book, and the Silver Inky for an international book.

This year’s Gold Inky looks set to be tightly contested.  The five shortlisted books are all compelling reads.   They are diverse in style and themes – there’s something for everyone.  I have found it hard to pick one standout book so I have highlighted a special quality of each one.  Enjoy!

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Why it’s good: so funny, you wish you were part of the gang

For Alba and her friends, high school is over, and Christmas and a leisurely summer beckon. However, their plans are interrupted by an obscure prediction for apocalypse, resulting in hundreds of “believers” descending on their sleepy little town. There’s nothing like imminent doom and an influx of strangers to focus the mind on big Life Decisions, such as: What do I want to do in life?, and: Is heading to the City for uni and a career inevitable?, and: How do I really feel about my best friend – is it friendship … or love?

Alba is an appealing heroine – bold, sassy, technicolored like her comic-book creations; but beneath that chutzpah there is angst and vulnerability.  The easy camaraderie between Alba and her wise-cracking gang is endearing and hilarious.  They may not be “conventionally cool” people, but they are having so much fun that you’ll wish you were one of them. The book’s cover art – in retro comic- book style – complements the story perfectly.

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

Why it’s good: a tense page-turner that transcends the “YA” tag

Sydney, 1932: the inner suburbs are a hotbed of crime and poverty, such that the tabloids dub Darlinghurst and Surry Hills “Razorhurst” and “Sorrow Hills”.  Razor gangs rule these areas with violence, and everyone lives or dies by their wits.  When Dymphna and Kelpie discover the aftermath of a brutal murder, they realise they are in great danger. Over the next 24 hours, they run, plot, mask their fears, and constantly recalculate their best strategies for survival.  As the truce between rival gangs crumbles and power shifts, will they live till tomorrow?

Razorhurst is anchored by a pair of feisty, street-smart heroines: Kelpie, a street urchin who never misses small details; and Dymphna, beautiful, intelligent, a (literal) femme fatale nicknamed “Angel of Death”.  They may seem poles apart but they share similarly traumatic pasts and an ability to see and hear ghosts – a twist that adds unexpected richness to the plot.

Razorhurst is a tense noir thriller.  Larbalestier’s meticulous research shines through in the vivid evocation of that glamourous-yet-gritty era.  It definitely deserves a wider readership than the YA tag would suggest.

Laurinda by Alice Pung

Why it’s good: schoolyard intrigues that get under your skin

John Marsden praises Laurinda as “funny, horrifying, and sharp as a serpent’s fangs” and he is spot-on.  Laurinda’s depictions of the insular world of an exclusive girls’ school are likely to bring back memories – especially the uncomfortable ones – to anyone who has ever experienced the bitchiness and power plays of teenage girldom.

Lucy Lam, Asian and from a poor neighbourhood, wins a scholarship to Laurinda: “no ‘Ladies’ College’ after it, of course; the name was meant to speak for itself”.  Far out of her comfort zone, her confidence falters; she becomes a quiet but keen-eyed observer of the power dynamics of her new environment.  Her outsider status offers her the perspective to critique Laurindan society and see its rottenness – condescension, casual racism, bullying.  When the most powerful clique at Laurinda makes overtures to Lucy, she becomes torn between her aspirations for sophistication and middle-class values, and her disgust at the duplicity inherent in privilege and “good manners”.  Will she retain her identity and stand her ground, or will she join in, in order to leave the poverty and lack of opportunities of her current life?

Alice Pung’s first foray into fiction elaborates on the themes of identity and belonging prominent in her earlier work. She offers a valuable voice for immigrant youth everywhere, who are trying to navigate issues of race and class in their adopted homeland.

The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

Why it’s good: a breezy holiday read with important life lessons

Sweet, earnest, gawky Josie has tumbled into an internship at a top women’s magazine.  This isn’t her first choice – she wants to become a newspaper journalist – but a prize for the Best Intern keeps her motivated.   Each week, Josie’s internship offers a glimpse into an exciting and glamorous adult life – living in a big city, meeting celebrities – although it also shows its dark side, with body image issues and online bullying.  As she focuses more on her internship, she loses touch with her family and friends.  Soon she has to make tough decisions about what matters most, and how to maintain her integrity.

The Intern is a fun read with coming-of-age themes.   Josie is not perfect, but likeable and relatable.  Gabrielle Tozer uses her own experience in magazine publishing to create an authentic setting, with just the right touch of ridiculousness.  Josie’s fish-out-of-water story invites comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada; what sets them apart is the Intern’s background detail- the struggles of Josie’s mother and sister since her father left the family; the exploration of issues surrounding body image, eating disorders, the definition of success and cyberbullying. Many supporting characters are drawn with depth, and I look forward to meeting them again in the sequel, Faking It, which is now available.

The Protected by Claire Zorn

Why it’s good: a harrowing but un-putdownable read

The Protected has already won this year’s CBCA Older Readers Book of the Year, will it win an Inky as well?  The Protected is not “fun” or “entertaining”, but it is mesmerising and unforgettable.  It reads like a mystery – the events that lead to the current tragic situation are slowly revealed.  The Protected draws readers in, empathising with Hannah, hoping against hope that she will have a happy, or at least hopeful, ending.

Hannah is a quiet, withdrawn fifteen year old, who has been shuttled from psychologist to psychologist following the death of her sister Katie.  The accident that killed Katie also left Hannah’s father seriously injured, and her mother clinically depressed.  When Hannah starts to connect with the school’s counsellor, the full tragedy of her situation is finally revealed.  Hannah’s pain is caused by years of relentless bullying – while her cool, beautiful sister watches on. Katie’s death leads to a tangle of guilt and grief and anger that Hannah, nurtured by the glimmerings of new friendships, finally learns to deal with.  The Protected is a powerful story with complex characterisation, all the effective because it is quietly, gently told.

For more information, including the shortlist for the Silver Inkys, see https://insideadog.com.au/page/inky-awards

Take 5: Books with adult and junior versions

Are you looking forward to the day when your kids will be old enough to share what you are reading, or to discuss issues you are passionate about?  That day may come sooner than you think.  Some great books are now available in junior versions aimed at 5-15 year olds.  While many teens will enjoy the original (adult) versions, these junior editions will allow new generations of readers to access these inspiring and thought-provoking works.
Ugly: My Memoir by Robert Hoge

One recent example is Ugly, the joyous and uplifting memoir of Robert Hoge.  Ugly follows Robert’s life from his birth to the birth of his daughter.  His childhood is suburban and familiar, filled with childhood pranks, school camps, bad haircuts, and siblings.  What makes his story extraordinary is that Robert was born significantly disfigured – a massive tumour distorted his facial features, and his legs were twisted and useless.  Despite this, Robert’s family is determined to give him an ordinary upbringing.  Lots of love and courage, as well as a series of groundbreaking operations, allow Robert to triumph over his difficult beginnings, and grow up to be a successful journalist, science communicator and political advisor.

Ugly by Robert Hoge

A younger readers’ version of Ugly was published in August this year, allowing 8-15 year olds to share in this inspirational story.  Ugly also offers a reflection on disability, beauty and ugliness – all important issues for this age group.  May have particular appeal for fans of R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.

 

 

 

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Dohttps-::covers.booko.info:300:refugee1

The plight of refugees is in the spotlight once more, making this a great time to revisit this heart-warming book.  The Happiest Refugee is comedian Anh Do’s memoir, which begins with his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam.  During their journey in a leaky fishing boat, Anh and his family nearly die from disease, starvation, dehydration and pirate attacks.   Even when they are rescued and resettled in Australia, there is no simple Happy Ever After: Anh and his family face many hardships while they rebuild their lives.  Fortunately, hard work, determination, a loving family and a sense of humour help them to overcome many difficulties and pave the way to success.

The Happiest Refugee has won many awards, and was so popular that it became a live show that toured Australia.  What makes it so special is Anh’s irrepressible optimism – he can find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud.

The Little Refugee by Anh Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatleyhttps-::covers.booko.info:300:refugee2

The Little Refugee is a picture book adaptation of The Happiest Refugee, aimed at primary school students.  From young Anh’s point of view, we learn about Anh’s life from his birth in Vietnam to his early years in Australia.  Atmospheric illustrations by Bruce Whatley (of Diary of a Wombat fame) effectively contrast the Do Family’s frightening journey with the more humorous situations as they settle into Australian life, and emphasises how hard work, persistence and a sense of humour triumph over hardship. The Little Refugee was awarded CBCA Honour Book in the Information Book of the Year category in 2012.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Weather1The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

The Weather Makers is the book that identifies Tim Flannery as an international authority on climate change.  It is an award-winning, best selling work that has been highly influential, with endorsements by policy makers, scientists, and writers worldwide.  The Weather Makers tells the climate change story – from its its history, to its current status, and onto potential future impact.  It also encourages its readers to start taking action to avert the imminent climate crisis.  The Weather Makers is widely admired for being authoritative and comprehensive while remaining readable and accessible to the general public.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Weather2We are the Weather Makers: the Story of Global Warming by Tim Flannery

Since Tim Flannery dedicated The Weather Makers to children, “to all of their generation who will have to live with the consequences of our decisions”, it makes sense to produce a version of the book that speaks to youth readers directly.  The result is called We are the Weather Makers.  It is underpinned by the same vigorous scholarship, but with updated data, and more streamlined, concise prose.  While it is aimed at 10-15 year olds, We are the Weather Makers will appeal to anyone who wants a succinct version of the original, important work.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Eats1Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

When Lynne Truss wrote her “small book on punctuation”, she had no idea that it would become a bestseller that reinvigorates interest in the niceties of the English language.  Eats, Shoots and Leaves is more than a guide to punctuation use – it is also a lament and a call-to-arms.  Through amusing anecdotes drawn from history, literature, and real signage, Lynne Truss discusses the origin and history of different punctuations and how they should be used. Eats, Shoots and Leaves manages to be witty, informative and compulsively readable, because it shows that misplaced or absent punctuation can change the meaning of sentences in dramatic and funny ways.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:SpaghettiThe Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes! by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

The adult version of Eats, Shoots and Leaves has inspired two picture books illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.  While Eats, Shoots and Leaves focusses on the use of commas, The Girl’s Like Spaghetti focusses on apostrophes.  Each book contains double spread pages that show how dramatically meanings can change when punctuations are placed differently.  For example, “the girl’s like spaghetti” may describe your best friend, while “the girls like spaghetti” sounds like a good meal!  The witty illustrations allow even young children to appreciate the quirkiness of the English language, and the importance of good punctuation.  Perfect for Ages 6-12.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:FastfoodFast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Fast Food Nation is Eric Schlosser’s critique of the American fast food industry.  He shows how the rise of fast food has resulted in many societal problems including rising obesity rates, widening income gap, labour exploitation, and potential for mass outbreaks of serious diseases (such as BSE, aka “mad cow disease”).  It is also a warning for the future, as emerging economies embrace fast food as part of their yearning for a Western lifestyle.  Eric Schlosser is an investigative journalist who has used a compelling narrative to make serious topics – politics, economics, health, business strategy, psychology – interesting and accessible.  Fast Food Nation is a seminal work that has inspired other exposes into big businesses, such as Super Size Me and Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:ChewChew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson

Chew on This is an adaptation of Fast Food Nation aimed at 10-16 year olds.  Eric Schlosser teams up with fellow journalist Charles Wilson to refine the original text and make it more accessible to the age groups that most favour fast food.  Chew on This has retained the engaging narrative and the solid research (including footnotes) of Fast Food Nation, but is more concise and straightforward.

Interview with an author: Michelle Hamer

shell copyMichelle Hamer is the author of eleven books including the best-selling Australian novel, Gucci Mamas, and its follow-ups, Versace Sisters, Chanel Sweethearts and Armani Angels (which she co-wrote under the name Cate Kendall). She is also a regular contributor to The Age newspaper where she was previously an editor. More recently, she has written the ‘Daisy’ series of children’s books. We were fortunate to speak with Michelle on the writing process:

https-::covers.booko.info:300:DaisyWhat piece of writing are you most proud?

I would have to say the Daisy books, which were published by Penguin last year as part of the Our Australian Girl series. The journalist in me enjoyed the research necessary to write historical fiction, and the writer in me enjoyed creating the story that brought the history to life. I’d had seven books published before this series, but this was the first children’s fiction I had written, which fulfilled a lifelong dream to write for kids. I plan to continue writing in the children’s genre. I have a new book coming out next year and am working on a new series.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Daisy2Do you base any of your characters on people you know?

Mostly the characters come from my imagination and from bits and pieces of other people.

Do you have a process that you use to develop your characters?

I create characters that I like, who I’d like to hang out with and enjoy getting to know as the story develops. I’m often surprised by what they do and say, but once I start writing I try to just go with it and see what happens. It’s fun to create the nasty characters too, especially when I get to teach them a lesson during the story.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Daisy3Your background is journalism. Is it difficult to move between fiction and editorial content?

It’s a matter of shifting gears mentally and it’s really lovely to be able to have the opportunity to do both. I find I use different parts of my brain to write fiction, non-fiction or journalism in book form. It’s nice to have a smorgasbord of writing styles. Writing an article is so much faster than writing a book, so it’s possible to get a quicker sense of achievement and feedback, but then the satisfaction of finishing a long form work and seeing it on a bookshop or library shelf is huge.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Daisy4Do you use stream of consciousness as a method of writing? Or do you prefer other methods?

I start with a general plan and direction, I usually know the major plot points before I start, but once I get going I can find that the writing seems to happen without me thinking much about it, and that’s scary at times. I’ll be writing and writing, and thinking: “This is going to be drivel, I should stop,” but I try to silence those inner critics and keep writing, and mostly it turns out well. It’s a fascinating process. I try not to think about it too much in case it stops happening!

https-::covers.booko.info:300:GucciI sometimes think that I’ve lost the creativity I had when I was at school. What are your recommendations for getting that back?

Play, dance, sing, draw, read – immerse yourself in the creativity of others as much as possible. I think creativity can be contagious.
We tend to expect ourselves to always be doing something productive; but creativity needs space and time to flourish. Daydreaming is an excellent habit to foster.

https-::covers.booko.info:300:ArmaniI know some people that want to get their first book published. Do you have any advice for them? What is the process like?

The best advice I have is to be tenacious, develop a thick skin and keep trying. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to break into mainstream publishing, but technology has opened up lots of new forms of publishing, so in some ways it’s easier than ever to share your work with an audience.
Sometimes people say: “Oh but all the stories have been told, there’s nothing left to write”. I don’t agree. Your voice is unique, no one else can tell a story in your voice or from your perspective. That’s a valuable asset.

If you are interested in attending one of Michelle’s writing workshops, visit wordsmiths workshops.com.au

https-::covers.booko.info:300:Chanelhttps-::covers.booko.info:300:Versace

The Guardian Children’s fiction award for 2015 – Longlist

The 8 finalists for the Guardian Children’s fiction award for 2015 are diverse and complex according to Piers Torday (author of ‘The Dark Wild’ and winner of the Guardian Children’s fiction prize in 2014). ‘These books are quite simply some of the best writing for children today, from graphic novels to Victorian sequels, Greek myths to the US civil war. Diverse, complex, accessible experimental, page turning and heart breaking, they bring young readers the world on a single shelf.’

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:9780571323Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

This book is an incredible, heart-wrenching sequel to E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, set on the eve of the First World War. The five children have grown up – war will change their lives forever. Cyril is off to fight, Anthea is at Art College, Robert is a Cambridge scholar and Jane is at high school. The Lamb is the grown up age of 11, and he has a little sister, Edith, in tow. The sand fairy has become a creature of stories…until he suddenly reappears.

 

 

My Name’s not Friday by Jon Walterhttps-::covers.booko.info:300:Friday

A tale of the American Civil War from the perspective of an educated orphan boy sold into slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:islandAn Island of our Own by Sally Nicholls

From one of the brightest talents in children’s fiction and the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book prize comes a new novel about family and friendship. Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care.

 

 

 

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardingehttps-::covers.booko.info:300:lie

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as the tree bears more and more fruit, she discovers something terrifying – that her lies were closer to the truth than she could ever have imagined.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:deafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell

The author recounts in graphic novel format her experiences with hearing loss at a young age, including using a bulky hearing aid, learning how to lip read, and determining her “superpower.”

 

 

 

 

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almondhttps-::covers.booko.info:300:ella

I’m the one who’s left behind. I’m the one to tell the tale. I knew them both… knew how they lived and how they died. Claire is Ella Grey’s best friend. She’s there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her.

 

 

https-::covers.booko.info:300:brightAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossanhttps-::covers.booko.info:300:apple

When Apple’s mother returns after eleven years of absence, Apple feels whole again. She will have an answer to her burning question – why did you go? And she will have someone who understands what it means to be a teenager – unlike Nana. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother’s homecoming is bitter sweet, and Apple wonders who is really looking after whom. It’s only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is, that she begins to see things as they really are.