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) *****   

When grief threatens to overwhelm life …

as stras fallTITLE = as stars fall

AUTHOR = CHRISTIE NEIMAN

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Robin’s happy farm life has been replaced by a rather lonely city existence. On the night of a threatening fire, her parent’s marriage has been shattered and the fallout for Robin has been equally heart-breaking: a new tiny house in a new strange city, a new school and the need to make new friends…. One of whom could be Delia ….but….

Delia’s life has also been shattered, on the same night and by the same fire. The loss of her mother has caused Delia to withdraw, her older brother (Seth) has turned to drugs and her father has turned to alcohol.

The common link between the two girls (unbeknownst to them) is not only the fire but also a strange and rare bird. Can this bird draw the two girls together … before it is too late for them … and for Seth??

This is a beautifully written book which brings alive the countryside of Australia, in all its terrible beauty. The characters are credible and their dilemmas are heartfelt whilst allowing different characters to take turns in telling the story from their point of view, is both clever and magical (when the narrator happens to be the bird).

A wonderful blend of warmth, sadness, beauty and complexity; mature readers will love this book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****  

An interesting blend of humour, grief and reality TV

loathing lolaTITLE = LOATHING LOLA

AUTHOR = WILLIAM KOSTAKIS

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

15 year old Courtney  Marrow has lost her boyfriend in a car accident and is struggling with her grief. She lives with her Mum and younger brother and has a poor relationship with her father (who recently remarried the dreadful Lola, without warning his children first). On the plus side, Courtney has a great best friend: Tim (they talk together, support each other and he is very loyal towards her). His twin sister (Katie) is another story altogether; having recently decided she will be Courtney’s second best friend …. Is she really on Courtney’s side (or only looking out for herself?)

Courtney has been selected to be the star of a reality TV show based on “a real teen” – however, she is unaware of the plotting going on behind the scenes: by supposed friend and others. Can Courtney survive the reality experience with her reputation and sanity intact??? And what about those burgeoning feelings for a new boy in her life … is it too soon after the death of her previous boyfriend?

Clearly there is a lot on Courtney’s plate and readers will enjoy watching her trying to untangle the complications in her life and her heart.

The authors second novel (The First Third) was announced as an Honour Book (OR) in the CBCA Book of The Year awards. This is his first book and it reveals the same desire to blend laughter and sadness. Although it is perhaps not quite so well handled here, there is still a lot to like about this book.

Recommended (dma) ***  

A moving story for older readers

eleanor and parkTITLE = ELEANOR & PARK

AUTHOR = RAINBOW ROWELL

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, SCHOOL, BULLYING, ROMANCE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is a sad story as flagged from the opening page.

Park is afraid to be open about his feelings, so initially seems a bit angry with Eleanor. Eleanor seems gawky and awkward but as we follow their stories in alternating chapters, we see what hides beneath the veneer that they show the world.

Eleanor comes from a poor and brutal home where her step-father rules. He has only just allowed Eleanor to return home, after kicking her out a year ago. Her mother is afraid to stand up to her partner, so Eleanor and her siblings eat early (before he comes home) and cower whilst he shouts and their mother cries.

Eleanor’s newness and strange attire make her a target for the school bullies so school days are equally difficult for Eleanor; until Park slowly reaches out to her over a shared interest in comics and music. Gradually, their friendship blossoms, giving both of them inner strength. But does their love stand a chance when Eleanor’s brutish step-father is watching her every move… and when put to the test, will Eleanor and Park have the courage to take action .. even at a cost to their relationship?

This is a credible and moving story … although some readers may not like the ending?? Given the themes in the story, it is likely to suit more mature readers.

Recommended (dma) **** 

A boys own wartime adventure

brave the restless seasTITLE = BRAVE THE RESTLESS SEAS

AUTHOR = DAVID McROBBIE

GENRE = SEAFARING, WAR, WW2M GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Adam Chisholm has grown up near Liverpool, the busiest seaport in 1940’s Britain, so it is no wonder that ships have always been his passion. With his country at war, it is also no wonder that 15 year old Adam chooses to sign up for the Merchant Navy, to do his part for the war effort, especially given that his beloved mother has recently died.

Over the next few months Adam sails on an Atlantic convoy, faces seasickness and shipwreck, helps to salvage a ship and takes part in the destruction of a submarine. As the ship’s “Peggy” he learns how to keep a mess tidy and how to ferry meals across a slippery deck to satisfy the hunger of his fellow sailors. He will also discover a whole new vocabulary of shipping terms, which he must learn, if he is to obey the orders he is given on board.

A story about mateship on the High Seas, boys are sure to find this book entertaining and quite an eye opener about ships, seafaring and life in Britain under the duress of war. Images at the start of each chapter (including maps and posters of the era) and a glossary of ship terms at the end add to the sense of truth behind Adam’s story.

Selected as a 2014 Notable book (Younger Readers) by the CBCA Judges.

Recommended (dma) ****

Going on the run … with Mum and Dad!

two-wolvesTITLE = TWO WOLVES

AUTHOR = TRISTAN BANCKS 

GENRE =CRIME, FAMILIES, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Ben loves making movies; his favourite pastime is to create his own stop-motion movies using all sorts of odds and ends to create the settings and the characters. His favourite genre of movie is crime: cops and robbers (with maybe a zombie or 2 thrown in for good measure). But one day his parents arrive home, bundle Ben and his little sister, Olive, into the car and take off. Suddenly, instead of directing a movie, Ben has one of the starring roles.

What is Ben meant to do once he realises that maybe, just maybe, his parents are not the law abiding citizens he always thought them to be? Is he brave enough to stand up to his dad? Should he turn them in to the police… they are family after all? And what about his little sister … can he drag her along with him?

These are tough decisions and Ben is in a tough situation. This is an exciting story from a popular author (Galactic Adventures: First Kids in SpaceMac Slater, Cool Hunter) which is sure to be enjoyed by young readers, both boys and girls.

 Recommended (dma) ****

 

Of jokes … and grandfathers … and new love

tigers on the beachTITLE = TIGERS ON THE BEACH

AUTHOR = DOUG MacLEOD

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, GRIEF, GRANDPARENTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Jokes are important to Adam. His beloved grandfather has always kept him entertained with jokes so it is only natural that Adam tends to find the humour in life. But suddenly there doesn’t seem a lot for Adam to laugh about: his loving parents seem to be constantly arguing, his grandmother is crankier than ever, his grandfather can no longer send him funny emails and to make matters worse, the girl Adam likes just doesn’t seem to have a sense of humour at all. Can things get any worse…well, when your younger brother is a rather special kid, who is dabbling in explosives, then, yes maybe they can!

This is an entertaining story, set in an Australian seaside town. The title comes from a joke that is sent to Adam by Samantha (the girl he likes) …. Unfortunately he doesn’t “get it”. Can two people with a different sense of humour actually have a friendship, let alone a romantic relationship??

To find out, join Adam and his family in this heart-warming story about love, family, friendship … and humour.

PS. If you have read one of Doug MacLeod’s earlier novels (Siggy and Amber) then look out for their cameo appearance in this book!

Highly Recommended (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) ****    

A twisting turning plot brings plenty of surprises

celia frostTITLE = THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA FROST

AUTHOR = PAULA RAWSTHORNE

GENRE = MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

There are many surprising twists and turns in this entertaining novel. At first it seems that Celia Frost’s main problem is a rare blood disorder which endangers her life: the smallest cut could be lethal, as she could bleed out. Is it any wonder that most classmates give Celia a wide berth, for fear of causing her harm. So when we first meet Celia she is a lonely girl, struggling against school bullying.

But Celia and the reader are soon in for a surprise and we follow Celia and her Mum as their close relationship is torn apart by changing events. What began as a book about a young teen with special needs, suddenly becomes a mystery novel,  complete with a mad (or bad?) scientist, a possible kidnapping, a dodgy private eye and a special friend – who just may save the day.

Celia is a credible teenage girl, struggling to make sense of her world – a world which keeps changing shape. The other characters are equally realistic: not all may appear likeable at first but they are certainly engaging. Set in England, in particular in a poor housing estate -this is an entertaining novel by a new author.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A sad yet uplifting story

stay well soonTITLE = STAY WELL SOON

AUTHOR = PENNY TANGEY

GENRE = GRIEF, DEATH, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Make sure you have the tissue box handy … this is a great read bit it is also rather sad at times. Young Stevie hasn’t exactly got things easy: her mum can’t afford for her to go on school camp, let alone buy her a horse! Her best friend seems to have dropped her (so school days are lonely) and now her brother is sick(which means lots of time in his hospital. Even her friendship with the new girl, Morgan, gets prickly sometimes – Morgan asks too many questions in Stevie’s mind… and she doesn’t always want to answer .. or maybe she just doesn’t have the answers?

The one bright spot comes from Lara, the friend Stevie makes when chilling out in the Kidz Space at her brother’s hospital. Despite the fact that Lara is 14 and Stevie is only 11, they have a lot in common: they both love horses and they both love to draw. But Lara is sick too. How does an 11 yo make sense of her world when so much keeps shifting and there seems so much to lose?

This is a lovely story about family, friendship and coping with grief…and a young girl’s obsession with horses! Girls in particular are sure to enjoy this book, especially Stevie’s numerous drawings and sketches. But be warned… tissues may be needed at certain points in the story!

Selected as a Notable book in the 2014 Book of the Year Awards (Younger Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) ****