A new insight into WW1

floras warTITLE = FLORA’S WAR

AUTHOR = PAMELA RUSHBY

GENRE = WW1, WOMEN IN WAR, ROMANCE, GROWING UP  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Flora is a young Australian girl accompanying her Father on an archaeological dig in Egypt in 1915. Having travelled to Cairo with her father for many years, she is well used to the heat, the dust and the Egyptian food but this year is different. The war in Europe is encroaching on the sands of Egypt and Flora finds that even for an archaeologist’s daughter this means change: there are fewer parties and pretty dresses and more bandages and cups of tea with young men who are leaving for the war front. More dramatically, when these young men return injured, Flora must deal with the smell, the bloody wounds and the suffering.

For readers interested in the role of women role during war-time, this book will make an interesting read. Certainly, the role of Australian civilians in Egypt is an unusual perspective for a book about ww1 and the description of Egyptian life, and life for a young woman in the early days of the war, will intrigue many.

Some may find the Flora’s romantic entanglements less credible but they are sure to enjoy her bold spirit and determination.

This book was chosen as a Notable book in the Older Readers section of the CBCA awards (2014).

Recommended (dma) ****  

The highs and lows of life for youngsters in the 1870’s

that boy jackTITLE = THAT BOY JACK

AUTHOR = JANEEN BRIAN

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS

For those interested in Aussie history, this story will be an absolute delight. Set in the 1870’s in the early days of South Australia, the novel is based around the life of a youngster in a tin mining community. Jack and his family live simply in a small cottage built by his father. Mother spends all day baking and cleaning and looking after Jack’s younger brother and sister. And Jack must help out with chores before and after school (such as brining in fire wood, carrying in buckets of water and tending to the goat.

But Jack enjoys life; he loves school and has fun playing in the surrounding bushland with his best mate, Gilbert. The only thing Jack doesn’t really like is the thought of working underground as a miner, like his father. Yet he has promised Gilbert that when school is over he will join him as a miner, assuming that day is well into the future. But when Gilbert’s dad is injured, Gilbert must become the breadwinner of the family and Jack finds an awkward decision looming before him.

Can he back out of a blood promise … and what will his dad think of him if he does?? But if being underground really frightens him… what choice does he have??

Young readers will enjoy learning about the life and times during this period of Australia’s history … it might even make them reflect on how much easier our modern lives are… especially when Jack’s sister becomes dangerously ill …. There are no ambulances to ring..no medical centres to attend. And those children who complain about school might think again when they read about some of Jack’s trials and tribulations during his school life.

Recommended (dma) ****

Action aplenty amidst the sewers of Victorian London

CITY OF ORPHANS BK 1TITLE = CITY OF ORPHANS (book 1) : A VERY UNUSUAL PURSUIT 

AUTHOR = CATHERINE JINKS

GENRE = HORROR, ADVENTURE, FANTASY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

If you like action, adventure and ghosts… with a backdrop of historic London then you will love this book. Young Birdie lives in the dark and threatening streets of London at a time when being a child wasn’t always easy. But Birdie is happy with her lot because she lives and works with Alfred Bunce, the local bogler who kills child eating monsters. Alfred may speak little, but he certainly looks after and cares for young Birdie ..even if his job does require him to use her as bait for the monsters he kills!

Birdie loves her job, despite the danger; she feels certain that she and Alfred are a match for any bogle out there. But have Alfred and Birdie bitten off more than they can chew … will they survive a run-in with the crook Sarah Pickles and the mysterious doctor?

If you enjoyed Jonathan Stroud’s “The Screaming Staircase” (reviewed here) you will also love this book … fast-paced, a cleverly twisting and  turning plot and an historic London that is brought magically to life … you can almost smell the rats and the sewers!!

Look out for the second (A Very Peculiar Plague) and third (A Very Singular Guild) books in the series … soon  to be on the shelves.

 This book was shortlisted in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards and then announced as THE WINNER!! CONGRATULATIONS TO CATHERINE JINKS.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

An entertaining story about circus life in Australia’s past

gundagai 2TITLE = THE ROAD TO GUNDAGAI

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = CIRCUS, RELATIONSHIPS, DEPRESSION ERA, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

Although this is the third book in the “Matilda Saga”, readers do not need to have read the previous 2 stories to enjoy this book – it works perfectly as a stand alone book. Set during the zdepression in Australia w e follow the misfortunes of Bluebell Laurence. AT the tender age of 16 she has no sooner lost her parents and younger brother in a shipwreck than she is caught in a dreadful fire in her home. Badly burnt and scarred, Blue’s legs have been fused by the fire. She decides to run away to the circus when she believes that her life may be in peril … and so we follow her adventures along the road as she is befriended by the odd assortment of circus folk, in particular the elephant, Sheba.

Blue has led a privileged life up until now and so she has a lot to learn about the hardships faced by so many during the depression. And bubbling beneath this story is the central problem: was someone really trying to poison Blue, and if so, who??  There are many surprises in store for both Blu and the reader as the mystery is gradually unravelled.

This is a truly entertaining tale which is sure to be enjoyed by readers who enjoy adventure, history and just a touch of romance.

 If you would like to know more about the other 2 books in this series why not read these reviews:

A Tale for Matilda and The Girl from Snowy River

Highly Recommended *****

An exciting adventure set in Ancient Roman times

galdiator bk 1TITLE = GLADIATOR: FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

AUTHOR = SIMON SCARROW

GENRE = ADVENTURE, ANCIENT ROME, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

If you like reading adventure stories set in Ancient times, then this book is for you! At the beginning, Marcus is ten years old, growing up on a small farm in Ancient Greece. He adores his father, Titus, who was a centurion before he retired and loves his mother Livia. Life is good. Until the day that the money-lender, Decimus, sends his men to the farm to brutally slay Titus and send his family to be sold as slaves.

Vowing revenge, Marcus is sent to a gladiator school where life is brutal indeed. Apart from trying to survive the gruelling training, Marcus must try and outwit the local bully, Ferax, who hates him with a passion and would like nothing more than to see him dead. Can Marcus survive these threats to his life? And what news does the kitchen slave have for Marcus about his father Titus and the slave hero, Spartacus, whom Titus fought in the slave rebellions 10 years ago? Spartacus may have died in that uprising but his name lives on and he is still revered by slaves throughout the land.

This book is fast paced and Marcus is a brave and clever lad who will win the hearts of most readers. Furthermore, this is the first book in a series, so there is plenty of action still to come. And if readers wish to know more about Ancient Rome as depiced in this story, then there are useful notes at the end of this book. Or why not check out the “Gladiator” website?

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

If a dinosaur travelled to mediaeval times … oops!

TITLE = DINOSAUR KNIGHTS

AUTHOR = MICHAEL GERARD BAUER

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, KNIGHTS, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Take a scientist who believes he can play with time, a dinosaur and some medieval twins and you have the recipe for an unusual adventure. Roland and Oswald have known better times when they grew up in the castle as the twin sons of the esteemed doctor. Since their father has fallen out of favour their lives have been turned upside down and Roland’s dreams of becoming a knight seem hopeless. Or are they? What happens when an unsuspecting dinosaur is transported into their time … and mistaken for a fire-breathing dragon? Will Roland get his chance to face the dragon and save the princess?? Or will he and his brother simply be collateral damage in a scientist’s attempt to play with time??

Michael Gerard Bauer has all the ingredients for an entertaining story which young readers are sure to enjoy.

Recommended (dma) ****

An intriguing, and at times wry, set of gaslamp short stories

TITLE = WILFUL IMPROPRIETY

EDITOR = EKATERINA SEDIA

GENRE = VICTORIAN AGE, MAGIC, GASLAMP FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

As Scott Westerfeld explains in his foreword, the Victorian era was an intriguing mix of decorum and chaos; decorum was evident in the strict social mores of the time whilst the development of the steam engine meant that the social barriers of the times were constantly being threatened. This wonderful collection of stories plays on this contrast. Many of the characters take a leaf from Shakespeare’s plays and have their heroes/heroines use cross-dressing camouflage  to explore the times (“At Will by Leanne Renee Hieber and “Resurrection” by Tiffany Trent are two fine examples). Popular NZ author, Karen Healey,   introduces a touch of magic to spice up the romance in “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Magikal Management”. Whilst others explore the romance and propriety of the Social Season in “The Language of Flowers” (Caroline Stevermer) and “”The Dancing Master” (Genevieve Valentine). This is a book to be dipped into with great pleasure to see how other young folk rebelled against the strictures of their times … to follow their hearts or simply to survive a Season.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****  

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).

A brilliant update on an old classic

TITLE = BLACK SPRING

AUTHOR = ALISON CROGGON

GENRE = GOTHIC, FANTASY, LITERARY REVAMP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 – 12

A fresh and brilliant take on a literary classic (Wuthering Heights), this novel is an absolute masterpiece. For those who have read the story on which it is based, this will be a wonderful read: the intense gothic atmosphere is rendered effectively, the characters are well drawn and familiar, the inclusion of supernatural elements only heightens the effect and gives it a more credible context. The writing is brilliant: the sense of place and mood is created with succinct yet evocative imagery, which recalls the harsh beauty of the original Bronte creation. Croggon has even kept the structure of the original – with the finicky character (here named  Hammel), whose commentary frames the real story of the relationship of 2 compelling and passionate characters (in this case Lina and Damek, rather than Cathy and Heathcliff).

For those who are new to the story line, they will be equally captivated. The front cover is haunting and truly creepy, to match the narrative style which reflects the writing of the 19th century without being too old-fashioned to put off readers who are more used to modern novels.  The ensuing tale of intense emotions – love, anger, hatred and revenge – is wrapped up in a haunting atmosphere where darkness lurks and where passion is never far from the surface.

This novel could be a great introduction for many to the Bronte world for after reading this book, many will be drawn to the original and may well find it more accessible. Alison Croggon is to be commended for taking a literary classic and breathing new life into it – for complementing the original work so cleverly.

A must read for lovers of YA literature and for lovers of literature in general

This novel is a worthy selection as a Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A curious adventure from a curious dictionary

TITLE = WORD HUNTERS: Book 1 (The Curious Dictionary)

AUTHOR = NICK EARLS

ILLUSTRATIONS = TERRY WHIDBORNE

GENRE = ADVENTURE, TIMETRAVEL, FANTASY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a clever and unusual story: a timeslip adventure that all starts with words and their histories … and a very curious dictionary. The aptly named Al and Lexi Hunter discover that they are in fact word hunters: able to travel back in time to learn the heritage of certain words and certain names… just where will their adventures take them next? And can they always be certain to get home safely??

An entertaining story with delightful illustrations that add to the appeal. ou may also like to check out the Word Hunters website here.

Recommended (dma) ****

Why not check out the book trailer below:

Images either sourced from the Animoto website or photos taken by dma. Music “Born This Way” by Ian Cotterill (sourced from the Animoto website).