Loyalty and horses in a time of war

TITLE = THE HORSES DIDN’T COME HOME

AUTHOR = PAMELA RUSHBY

GENRE = ACTION, ADVENTURE, BOY STUFF, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP, IDENTITY, HISTORICAL FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

This is a beautiful coming of age story, of 16-year old Harry’s growth to manhood during World War I, and of his 12-year old sister Laura back home in Queensland.  It is the story full of loyalty and courage, of the incredible bond between the Australian Light Horse soldiers and their horses which culminated in the victorious cavalry charge at Beersheba in the Sinai Desert in 1917, the last great cavalry charge and a striking contrast to the horrific events at Gallipoli and the Western Front.  The story begins when Harry and his friend Jack, underage and just home from boarding school in Brisbane, sign up for the Light Horse regiment which has bought almost all their horses for the war.  Harry’s sister Laura makes a huge sacrifice and offers her beloved horse and best friend ‘Bunty’ to Harry for him to ride to war.  The story is told through both Harry and Laura’s eyes, in a combination of letters, first persona and third person narrative which works well to capture the emotions and voices of Harry, Laura, Jack and their families and friends in a dramatic yet very human way.  Harry, who appreciates the great sacrifice Laura has made for him by giving him her precious ‘Bunty’, writes letters from ‘Bunty’ to Laura, which give an alternate perspective to Harry’s ‘official’ letters to his parents and help to strengthen his friendship with his younger sister.  The book’s title, while appearing to give away the story’s ending, in fact gives very little away.  It is up to us as readers to take the journey with Harry, Jack, Bunty and Laura to truly understand this unique period in history and the very real changes that it wrought upon the Australian people. This is a 2013 CBCA Notable Book for Younger Readers.

Highly recommended (mrsk) *****

Why not check out the book trailer below:

Images either sourced from the Animoto website or photos taken by mrsk.  Music “All or nothing” by Derby (sourced from the Animoto website).

Firebirds and fear, bluebirds and love

TITLE = THE TENDER MOMENTS OF SAFFRON SILK

AUTHOR = GLENDA MILLARD

ILLUSTRATOR = STEPHEN MICHAEL KING

GENRE = FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, PARENTS, GROWING UP, MENTAL HEALTH, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

This is the sixth book in the Kingdom of Silk series, which began with The Naming of Tishkin Silk, however The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk can be read on its own quite happily.  In the Silk family everyone has a naming ceremony and a naming book, and at Saffron’s ceremony it is hoped that the pages of her book will be filled with tiny tender moments “those that make the soul tipsy with ordinary happiness.”  However, Saffron begins to see ‘firebirds’ and experience severe head pain until one day she collapses in the middle of baking pies with her family.  This is a story of fear and pain; Saffron’s fear of what the firebirds and pain in her head may mean, and also the fear and pain of her family and friends around her, who see her suffering but initially, know neither its cause nor its cure.  It is also a story of discovery and love, for when Saffron is sent to the city to see a specialist she discovers the quality and depth of her family’s love for her and her treasured place within her small rural community.  This is a 2013 CBCA Short-listed Book for Younger Readers.

Recommended (mrsk) ****

What would you do?

TITLE = OTHER BROTHER

AUTHOR = SIMON FRENCH

GENRE = BULLYING, GROWING UP, IDENTITY, FAMILY, PARENTS,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Kieran’s view of himself and his world is forced to change when his cousin Bon and a new girl, Julia, arrive at his school.  Kieran wants to fit in, but Bon doesn’t know anything about fitting in—he looks different, he wears the wrong clothes, he says weird things—and Julia doesn’t care about fitting in, establishing her own style and following with seeming ease.  Bon’s arrival doesn’t just threaten to upset Kieran’s relationship with the cool kids at school, but also his relationship with his parents, his sister, his Nan and his budding relationship with the elusive Julia.  This is a story about families and relationships, about bullying and fitting in, about discovering where your values lie and that the world is more complex than you think. This is a 2013 CBCA Short-listed Book for Younger Readers.

Recommended (mrsk) ****

Wrestling with words

TITLE = LOUIS BESIDE HIMSELF

AUTHOR = ANNA FIENBERG

GENRE = FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, PARENTS, GROWING UP, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Louis is not your typical hero but he finds himself in a situation where courage and loyalty are needed, and where he must make some important decisions and take   action.  Louis loves words and would much rather read, take notes and add to his ‘Word Bank’ than join his mates Singo, Hassan and Elena skateboarding or playing basketball.  However, Louis’ father comes from a long line of wrestlers and tries constantly to share moves and arm-wrestles with him, despite his own doubtful skill. When a burglar breaks in one night, Louis fails to use his wrestling moves but instead uses his own special skill—words—with unexpected results.  The intruder is Cordelia, an older girl who has run away from family problems and whom Louis and his mates decide to hide.  This is a humorous yet thoughtful book with great characters. Through Louis, the author celebrates the richness of language and suggests that there is a hero in all of us, and that if we are true to ourselves we can be true to others.  This book is a 2013 CBCA Notable Book for Younger Readers.

Recommended (mrsk) ****

Not what the title suggests

TITLE = POOKIE ALEERA IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND

AUTHOR = STEVEN HERRICK

GENRE = SCHOOL LIFE, GROWING UP, IDENTITY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

This is a humorous and insightful verse novel about the lives of the students in a small country school.  There is the usual mix of characters–outgoing, shy, sporty,  academic, sad, silly and thoughtful and each has a story to tell about themselves and those around them.  The verses are simple and yet clearly capture the emotions and view point of the different narrators.  I particularly enjoyed a series of running jokes that threaded through the stories but was also moved by the subtler dramas which highlighted the importance of friendship, belonging and the value of leading by example, and with compassion.  This novel will appeal most to readers who enjoy stories that focus on people and their thoughts and feelings.  And the story behind the unusual title?  Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.  This is a 2013 CBCA Short-listed Book for Younger Readers.

Recommended (mrsk) ****