Of fairies, family and moving homes

plenty by anandaTITLE = PLENTY 

AUTHOR = ANANDA BRAXTON-SMITH

GENRE = REFUGEES, MIGRATION, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, GROWING UP  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

Maddy is angry, very angry. Her parents have decided to move from inner city Melbourne out to the country and they haven’t consulted her. Up until now, Maddy has loved her home: knowing all her neighbours (and their pets), with a close group of friends and happy rituals that have made her feel like queen of her surrounds.

Uprooted from all she loves, Maddy maintains her rage: angry with her parents and her grandma (whose early dementia is part of the reason for her move). But at her new (and very small) country school Maddy meets Grace, tall, willowy and equally uprooted; from war-torn Sudan she has travelled to rural Victoria yet in the face of considerable hardship, she simply smiles.

Can Maddy learn something from Grace? And will she forgive her grandma and be open to all she has to teach … especially when they seem to share a fondness for fairies ?

This is a gentle and enchanting story about growing up, families and the vulnerability of children. With a satisfying ending … credible and vibrant characters in Maddy, Grace and Maddy’s Greek grandma. Young readers will enjoy this little book … and it may just make them think a little more deeply about family, refugees and friendship.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****   

An intriguing study of Australia’s boat people across the ages

refugeTITLE = REFUGE

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = REFUGEES, MIGRATION, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Faris is one of the boat people on his way to Australia with his grandmother. Fleeing their homeland, where violence and terror reign, they hope to meet his father who has fled to Australia some years earlier. They have spent their last remaining money to pay for passage on a flimsy, overcrowded boat; so when a storm hits them, Faris fears for his life and blacks out.

Thus begins this moving story about Australia’s long history of boat people. For when Faris awakens he finds himself in a kind of dreamland: living in the picture perfect Australia that he has always imagined – big houses, plenty of food and koalas and kangaroos roaming the streets. On a nearby beach he comes across a group of children like himself…yet different. Each one of these children has landed on this stretch of coast, each one was fleeing a moment of great terror, each one needed refuge from violence or fear before they could face the harsh reality of their lives.

AS Faris learns the stories of these other children he realises that he is not alone in seeking asylum in Australia: one may be a convict from Australia’s early times, one may be fleeing violence in Sudan, one may be setting out from Greece or Sri Lanka or Ireland. All of these children have seen desperate times, all must grow up fast if they are to survive.

In this book, Jackie French reminds us that we have a long history of migration, a long history of boat people; she puts a human face on a terrible political reality. This book may slip into a type of fantasy world in the coming together of so many characters from different time periods but the truth behind the story is very real. Beautifully told and with plenty to ponder. AS usual, the notes provided by the author at the end of the book, will add even greater depth and meaning to this thoughtful tale.

No wonder this book gained a Notables listing in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****     

A nail-biting end to a saga of betrayal and revenge

TITLE = QUINTANA OF CHARYN

AUTHOR = MELINA MARCHETTA

GENRE = FANTASY, POLITICAL INTRIGUE, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

Having left readers on a cliffedge at the end of book 2 in this series (“Quintara of Charyn”), from the opening page of this final instalment, Melina Marchetta steps back into the same sense of dread and doom that permeated the middle section of this intriguing series. In book 2, the only glimmer of lightness came when we visited the Queen of Lumatere, Isaboe and her beloved husband and child, Finnikin and Jasmina. Yet book 3 opens with the couple fighting. What does this mean for the happy couple and the future of their land?

Isaboe has been hell-bent on revenge, having lost her entire family to assassins. But as the reader knows, this means she has unknowingly sent her husband out to kill the father of Froi, the young man whom Isaboe and Finnikin cherish as a friend.

Book 1 in this series was about displaced persons and the need for a homeland; book 2 was about betrayal and loyalty on both a personal and national level. Book 3 builds on both themes, for much of this novel is about choices; in particular the choices we make in the name of family loyalty and love. So many of the characters have experienced pain at the hands of others, yet so few of them seem capable of getting past this pain, in fact, many seem determined to inflict pain on others in the name of justice. It seems rare for many of these public figures to show kindness and compassion.

Cleverly, the comparisons between the lives of Quintara and Isaboe are sharply drawn in this third book: both women are pregnant, both imagine they are having sons, both carry the babes of men who love them, both are queens but here the similarities seem to end. Whilst Quintara seems cruel and crazy and hated by most of her kingdom, Isaboe seems the model diplomat and rational ruler. Until they cross paths. Will Isaboe take revenge on her “rival” simply because she is linked to the assassins who destroyed her family? And if so, at what cost to her own sanity? And could such action put Lumatere at risk? Or will Isaboe learn some hard lessons about the ugly side of revenge?

Another compelling novel in the Lumatere Chronicles which is sure to leave readers satisfied and amazed with Marchetta’s craft at tying together the complex and thoughtful strands of this fascinating saga.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

The final stunning chapter in a heartfelt series

TITLE = PARVANA’S PROMISE

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

The opening of this book may well surprise readers of the Parvana series: for it is set in a US Army base in Afghanistan and it appears that the young girl who is being questioned as a suspected terrorist is, in fact, Parvana! Readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering how this has come about and what lies ahead for Parvana.

And so the story unfolds in dual paths: part of the story recounts the interrogation process and Parvana’s imprisonment whilst alternating chapters take us back to see how events unfolded to bring Parvana to this point. We see Parvana working with her mother and sisters in setting up a school, trying to help her fellow refugees against great odds. For this education project is not welcomed by local villagers especially some very traditional men who see it as inappropriate for girls to be wasting their time on an education. The hatred that the school inspires may seem inexplicable to modern Aussie teens, but it is credibly portrayed and provides a threatening backdrop to the book.

Yet balanced against this is the more immediate threat of the Army officers who see Parvana as a potential source of danger. Will she survive against the emotional drain of interrogations or will she gain her freedom?? And why is she staying so silent anyway??

This novel cleverly brings the reader up to date with Parvana’s story whilst also introducing readers to the idea that foreign troops may be trying to bring peace to this region but they may in fact bring further torment for the surviving people of this war-ravaged land. A thought-provoking novel, in keeping with the rest of this wonderful series (“Parvana“, “Parvana’s Journey“, “Shauzia” are the previous titles in the series) .

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A moving insight into life in a refugee camp

TITLE = SHAUZIA

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Readers of the “Parvana” series will recall that Shauzia was Parvana’s best friend in the first book. Together they worked in the Kabul market and dreamed of one day escaping from the toil and trouble of Afghanistan and travelling to France to lie in fields of lavender.

As the title suggests, this book focusses on Shauzia’s story and how she is surviving in the refugee camp in Pakistan. Shauzia was every bit as headstrong and determined as Parvana and she is frustrated at the way of life around her. She rebels against the older women in the refugee camp and sets off alone, hoping to make it to the sea so she can travel to France, and maybe meet up with Parvana there.

However, Shauzia soon discovers that surviving on her own in the city of Peshawar is fraught with danger.  Will her headstrong nature actually prove to be a curse for Shauzia or will it give her  the will to survive??

For those who have enjoyed the “Parvana” series, this book will be a welcome addition: with strong, credible child characters and plenty of action, drama and emotion. This book is a real page turner and offers a welcome insight into refugee life which should be quite eye-opening for young Australian readers.  

 Highly Recommended (dma) *****