An exciting and moving tale of the aftermath of war

TITLE = THE GIRL FROM SNOWY RIVER  

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = WAR, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a most engaging novel. It picks up a few years after the conclusion of “Waltzing Matilda” and is set in a similar area (indeed, Matilda makes a brief appearance). The story focuses on Flinty, a resourceful 16 year old who finds herself running the family farm, as both her parents have died and her older brother has gone droving. Yet in many ways , this book is about the impact of WW1 on families and friends, for Flinty’s life has been irrevocably changed by this war – as have the lives of most of the folk who live in her valley. Hardly a family remains untouched – either by loss of a son in battle or by the mental scars carried by the returning soldiers – be they sons, brothers or sweethearts.

We watch as Flinty struggles to cope both emotionally and physically and we see the importance of not only family but also the broader community. There is a lot to enjoy in this novel and the mysterious ghost that Flinty meets only adds to the anticipation felt by the reader as the story unfolds.

Sure to be a big hit with teen readers especially those who enjoy stories with links to Australian history. Whilst Jackie French believes that this book is number 3 in her sweeping “Matilda” saga, each of the 3 books she has written so far are also capable of standing alone. So the reader does not need to have read “Waltzing Matilda” or “A Rose for the Anzac boys” to enjoy this novel.

(However, you may like to check out a review on this blog for A Rose for the Anzac boys)

No wonder this book was longlisted for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An amusing step back in time

TITLE = SLAVE GIRL

AUTHOR = ALEXA MOSES

GENRE = TIME SLIP, HUMOUR, HISTORICAL FICTION, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

Jenna is a rather self-centred Australian 13 yo girl on a student trip to New York. She has no desire to spend her days learning about the past in NY’s wonderful museums, she has come here for the shopping and the fashion; she wants to be an active part of “the city that never sleeps”. So imagine her horror when one minute she is sulking in the Egyptian wing of the Met Museum in New York, the next minute she has slipped back into Ancient Egyptian times … as a slave! Jenna is in for a history lesson of a very personal kind, learning the reality of life as a slave in the royal palace with no mobile phone connection and no knowledge of the country of her birth: “Oss-trawl-ya”. At first Jenna flounders to make sense of this strange turn of events until she realises that she needs to rely on her own bravery and determination if she ever plans to get back to HER world. There are some very amusing moments in store as Jenna comes face to face with angry hippos, angry pharaohs and jealous slave girls. Sadly, some of her blunders have serious consequences for those around her but Jenna eventually stumbles into greater understanding of both herself and of the world around her.

All in all, this is an amusing journey into the past, for both Jenna and the reader.

A good read (dma) ***  

A child’s perspective on the horror of the Titanic

TITLE = FORGET ME NOT

AUTHOR = SUE LAWSON

GENRE = HISTORICAL FICTION, RELATIONSHIPS,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Set aboard the Titanic, this is a charming story for younger readers about families, friendship and loss. Young Eve is sad to be leaving her home and friends in England and setting off for America. Unlike her brother, Thomas, she is not at all excited about being aboard this magnificent ship sailing on its maiden voyage. But as the journey begins, Eve’s bad mood gradually thaws and she begins to take an interest in her fellow passengers, especially the Australian nurse with whom she shares the name Evelyn, and the cocky American sounding (though English born) Hugh. When disaster strikes, Eve must call on all her strength of will to help her family and friends. But will they all survive this dreadful disaster?

After a slow start, this novel develops into an exciting tale, especially as we see that first impressions of many of these characters are not always a good indicator of their true natures. Read more about the author here.

Recommended (dma) ****

An exciting “gaslamp” novel

TITLE  = THE TRUTH ABOUT VERITY SPARKS

AUTHOR = SUSAN GREEN

GENRE = ADVENTURE, SUPERNATURAL, HISTORICAL FICTION, MYSTERY, DETECTIVE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 & 8

What a truly delightful book! When the novel opens in 1878, Verity Sparks (an orphan) happily works in a hat shop in London. However, due to circumstances beyond her control, Verity suddenly loses her job and finds herself wandering the streets of London, clutching her few possessions. Her three most prized treasures were given to her from her dying mother: a little quilt, a ring and an old coin. London isn’t a safe place for young girls on their own, so when Verity is saved fromthe local louts on the streets, she is thankful to be whisked away in a carriage .. but just a little hesitant, too …who is this kind stranger? Where is he taking her? And is she safe after all?

What soon becomes apparent is that there are even more mysteries in store for Verity: what is the “magical” power that enables her to find lost things? Can this ability be put to use for the good of others?? Or is it going to be a curse for young Verity? And why does someone seem to be chasing her? Perhaps the most important mystery of all involves Verity’s birth and those three treasures she has inherited from her mother.

Readers are sure to be caught up in the adventure of this story and be truly engaged by our spunky and determined heroine, Verity Sparks.

A worthy inclusion in the short list of the CBCA Book of the Year, YR (2012)

Read more about the book here.

Read more about the author here or check out her blog.

Read about some of Susan’s other books here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Read about Susan Green’s visit to Book Club and check out the video which records this exciting event here.

An intriguing tale from our past

TITLE  = NANBERRY: Black Brother White

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = HISTORICAL FICTION, RACISM, INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 8

Set during the time of Australia’s early settlement, this story begins in 1788. Nanberry is a young Aboriginal boy enjoying his traditional way of life, until his family and tribe is all but destroyed by disease (probably caught from the new white settlers). Surgeon White rescues the lad and not only saves his life but also, he decides to adopt him, as he has no family of his own. Nanberry soon learns enough English to act as a translator for Governor Phillip. He learns to wear English clothes and eat English food, he learns to respect the white culture and some of its citizens whilst always having a love for his own tribal way of life. At times these cultures pull him in different directions, especially when there are conflicts between the local tribes and the white settlers.

Whilst Jackie French has undertaken vast research before writing this story (and she provides useful notes and references at the end of the book for interested readers) this novel is always an engaging story rather than a history lesson. Many of the characters are real people (including Nanberry himself) but Jackie French certainly brings them to life. Nanberry is a thoughtful and interesting young boy, his adopted father the Surgeon White is well meaning but unusual in many respects (few other families had a possum as a pet!). So readers are sure to enjoy reading about their life journeys and learning more about what life was really like in the early days of Australian white settlement.

It is no surprise that this book has been shortlisted, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers (2012)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Time travel with action and danger

TITLE  = TIMERIDERS

AUTHOR = ALEX SCARROW

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 AND UP

This is the first book in an exciting new time travel series by Alex Scarrow. Join Liam, Maddy and Sal in a wild ride as they come together from the past and future to try and protect the present. They must travel back in time – never to change the past, only to protect history from change. But what will happen if others also ride time for less honourable purposes? Will Liam be stuck in a brutal dark past? Will the present-day be damaged forever? Can newbies Sal and Maddy rescue Liam and save the day?

This book is a deserved winner of the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year.

Highly recommended (dma) *****

Why not check out the following book trailer to learn more about this great book:

All images from the Animoto site. Music also selected from the Animoto site (“Battle Song” by Vaeda). Text provided by booklover.

 

Swashbuckling sword play galore

TITLE = THE WITCH HUNTER CHRONICLES 1: The Scourge of Jericho

AUTHOR =STUART DALY

GENRE = FANTASY, ACTION, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION, SUPERNATURAL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

The first in a new series of action packed adventures. Set in 1666 and focussed on a group of highly trained soldiers who must rid the nation of witches.  Lots of fast paced action, plenty of battle scenes, complete with swordplay, guns and the occasional bit of magic. Young Jakob is a new recruit in an elite team of soldiers …. But will he survive his first mission, when the stakes turn out to be even higher than first imagined? He may not have the skill of the rapier like his compatriots but bravery and quick thinking may just save the day…. But are their more enemies than they counted on?? Are they to be caught in a deadly trap … who can they trust and who may betray them??

Fast paced and set in an interesting time period – young readers are already showing their enthusiasm for this book… and they are sure to learn a lot about the period along the way!

Recommended (dma) ***

Adventure, fun … and some time-travel to boot!

TITLE = BEFORE THE STORM

AUTHOR =SEAN McMULLEN

GENRE = FANTASY, STEAMPUNK, TIME TRAVEL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

What a delightful foray into the steampunk world is provided here by Australian author, Sean McMullen. Time travel has sent 2 warriors from the future back to Melbourne in 1901, to prevent disaster from occurring on the opening of the first Parliament of this young nation. However, these young warriors have been thrust into a world very different from their own. They may have brilliant military training and amazing weaponry but to achieve their aim they will need to enlist the support of some locals. The bossy, studious Emily and her brow-beaten brother, Daniel, from the well-heeled gentry,  may not seem like the most obvious choice. However, Daniel’s street-wise buddy, Barry the Bag, may be a better proposition. The young teens must bring together the best from both their worlds, if they are to succeed in this fast-paced, and often quite humorous, adventure. There will be some lessons learned – about life and about love – and some secrets revealed along the way. The constraints on the role of young women at the turn of the twentieth century will also be explored in a light hearted but meaningful way. And the resolution of this wonderful adventure is sure to please both the characters and the readers.

A terrific read.

Find out more about Sean and his many books on his website.

Highly Recommended (dma)  *****  

An eerie new Sherlock Holmes mystery

the house of silkTITLE = THE HOUSE OF SILK

AUTHOR = ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE = MYSTERY, CRIME, DETECTIVE STORY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

What a delight – that action adventure writer Anthony Horowitz should create a Sherlock Holmes’ novel in the vein of Conan Doyle!! And he does so with great style. With Sherlock Holmes dead, a rather lonely Dr Watson pens another story recalling one of their adventures together. More correctly, it is two stories rolled into one. What starts out as a rather scary tale about revenge turns into an even more sinister affair in which Holmes and Watson venture, quite literally, into the dark heart of London. In doing so, Holmes puts his life and reputation at risk. The two stories cleverly merge together in a satisfying and clever conclusion.

For young readers who are not acquainted with Doyle’s original stories, this is a great introduction. The London of Holmes’ time is cleverly and authentically recreated and the style and language gives a flavour of Doyle’s original tales. Holmes’ clever and distinctive detecting style is also credibly conveyed. Let’s hope this is just the first of many new Sherlock Holmes’ adventures from Anthony Horowitz.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Royal blood can be a challenge

just a girlTITLE = JUST A GIRL

AUTHOR = JANE CARO

GENRE = HISTORICAL FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 AND UP

This should be an enjoyable read for fans of historical fiction. Jane Caro does a great job of creating the feeling and mood of 16th century England and the political intrigues of the day. Young Elizabeth is reviewing her life the night before she is to be crowned, recalling the royal and political turmoil that brought her into the world and that has dogged her life ever since. WE see a young lady who has had to develop sharp wits to (quite literally) keep her head when many around her were losing theirs. Modern teens would certainly get a new perspective on the stress and strain of daily life when they read about the trials and tribulations that Elizabeth has had to contend with (just to stay alive). And we get an appreciation of why Elizabeth would have developed the strength and independence that history has accorded her. There is a definite irony in the novel’s title.

Caro’s bibliography at the end of the book is acknowledgement of her research whilst also pointing readers in the right direction for further reading. Whilst readers who have some knowledge of the era are sure to enjoy this book, Caro does a good job of explaining the characters and simplifying complex political and religious allegiances so that even a newcomer to the period should be able to follow the storyline. Her inclusion of a cast of characters at novel’s end is certainly useful.

An enjoyable read particularly for girls.

Selected as a Notable book  for the CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)

Recommended (dma) ****