A bird’s eye view can breed friendship

view from 32nd floorTITLE = VIEW FROM THE 32ND FLOOR

AUTHOR = EMMA CAMERON

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

William is a rather different young boy. For example, he chooses a different name each day (and his parents and friends happily go along with this). He lives on the upper floors of an inner city block of flats and loves nothing more than observing life from this vantage point, in particular, the neighbours in the building across from him. First he notices young Rebecca, a girl of about his age, who walks in a special way. He knows something about each of her neighbours: the older man who spends most of his time watching TV, the young man with the wispy pot plants and  the apartment where the curtains are always closed.  As William and Rebecca become friends they gradually put names to the faces of her neighbours and learn a bit more about the loneliness behind their lives.

Living in a city can be an isolating experience and it is hard to feel a sense of community with those around you when you all live behind locked doors. So William and Rebecca decide that this needs to change… and their actions bring about extraordinary events.

This is a sweet and gentle novel about the importance of friendship in our lives and the importance of belonging to a community. Younger readers will enjoy the story and the cast of interesting and very credible characters.

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

 Recommended (dma) ****

A love letter to the western suburbs of Melbourne

tigerfishTITLE = TIGERFISH

AUTHOR = DAVID METZENTHEN

GENRE = AUSTRALIAN SUBURBS, FAMILY, GRIEF, VIOLENCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

This is a brilliant and compelling novel. If “The Incredible Here and Now” is a love letter to the Western suburbs of Sydney, then this novel is an ode to the Western suburbs of Melbourne. It is an ode tinged with rawness and simmering violence, but also with loyalty and kindness.

Ryan is well aware that there is a bleak harshness about his suburb. There is fear lurking in the wasteland on the edge of his suburb: fear due to past violence and recent reports of a prowler on the loose. Even Ryan doesn’t want to be out in this bare wasteland at night. Yet despite this fear and darkness, Ryan clearly loves his neighbourhood and there is a lot to be loved – in the strong sense of community spirit and in Ryan himself.

Slate (Ryan’s brother) is stuck in a dead-end factory job by day and a bouncer’s job at night; simmering with anger about the consequences of past decisions.  Ariel, the new love of Ryan’s life, is trapped by her sad family history. School colleagues, Eden and Elmore are trapped by guilt. And caught between all these characters is Ryan himself; uncertain of his own future yet willing to reach out to others, however uncomfortable he may sometimes feel.

Loyalty is important to Ryan as is team work – and he uses his love of footy to guide his actions; moving forward, sidestepping where necessary, not always winning but willing to come back next week and give it a go. This is a compelling novel. Ryan’s voice is authentic and, at times, dryly funny. He sees the bleakness around him but he also sees the beauty in his community. What he perhaps doesn’t see, but what the reader will see, is how Ryan is a part of this beauty.

Highly Highly Recommended for older readers (dma) *****

A love letter to the western suburbs of Sydney

the incredible here and nowTITLE = THE INCREDIBLE HERE AND NOW

AUTHOR = FELICITY CASTAGNA

GENRE = AUSTRALIAN SUBURBS, FAMILY, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Rather than following a conventional narrative, this book is presented as a series of short snippets from Michael, a young man growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney. He is well aware of the prejudice others have towards his suburb, yet his stories speak only of the pride and affection he has for his neighbourhood. Even though there is sadness etched in between his stories, the sadness that comes with losing a loved one, we watch and hear how Michael and his family live their daily lives and the small pleasures that can be found here: in neighbours, in footy, in the local pool and the Macca’s carpark. His world is filled with likeable characters: Michael’s Poppy, his nephew Sam, his best-mate Shady and his first girlfriend, Mo. These characters become real and vivid as Michael shares their lives with us. Told in simple prose, these are simple short stories, often only a page or two in length yet they are brimming with sadness, humour and warmth. Together they fill out the story of a year in Michael’s life and his willingness to engage in “the incredible here and now” of growing up in Parramatta.

An enjoyable and heart-felt read. It is easy to see why this book was short-listed for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) ****    

WHEN BOY MEETS GIRL ….

TITLE : LUCKY STAR

AUTHOR: CATHY CASSIDY

GENRE: FRIENDSHIP & IDENTITY.

INTEREST LEVEL: YEARS 7 AND 8

Lucky Star is one of Cathy Cassidy‘s most popular novels and features one of her favourite characters, wild boy “Mouse” (from her earlier novel, “Dizzy“. Whilst Mouse is on extended leave from school (enduring school suspension after he tagged a wall at his school) he meets Cat, a confident girl from the wealthy side of town.  But can their friendship develop when both are keeping secrets from each other? Mouse has had a disrupted life (his dad left him long ago, but the pai still lingers) and now lives with his Mum on a housing estate where drug addiction and crime prosper. By contrast, Cat seems to have it all, a nice home and garden, two loving parents … so why is she so bent on breaking the rules?? Should Mouse and his Mum (Magi) stand up to the local crims or is the risk too great? And should Cat and Mouse try to take revenge into their own hands?? This is a novel about the true meaning of friendship and community, about doing right (even if it hurts) and about standing up for yourself.

And if you enjoy reading this novel, there are plenty more from Cathy Cassidy as she is a most prolific author. If you like reading about friendship and standing true to yourself then why not give “Gingersnaps” a go?