An unusual recipe for a brilliant book


1. Find a desiccated bat.
2. Mix it with some water.
3. Drink it, and
4. see what the future holds for the offspring of each and every person you come across in the next few weeks.
What could go wrong?
Glory’s present isn’t easy. Her mother has died, and her father doesn’t want to leave his chair, his computer, or the copious amounts of comfort food that seems to provide little consolation for life’s miseries. Glory’s only friend is not so friendly, and she is about to graduate school with no plans for her future. Glory obviously needs the soothsaying bat juice to provide direction for her life!

But it seems that the future is not so bright. The second American Civil War is only decades away, and Glory has a vital role to play…
This is another thought provoking book from the author of Everyone Sees the Ants, Ask the Passengers, and Reality Boy. A.S. King is an extraordinary writer, who successfully twists and morphs genre in such a way so as the reader never loses the sense that every event in the book could happen in real life. This is a book for older readers who enjoy dystopian themes but who are looking for more than a rehashed The Hunger Games.

Wonderful: (ipe) *****
Author: A.S.King
Interest Level: Year 9+

A new insight into WW1

floras warTITLE = FLORA’S WAR




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) ****  

Mateship between soldiers and their horses

loyal creaturesTITLE = LOYAL CREATURES




Frank is a hothead. He is also very close to his father, with whom he works on farms in his close-knit community, tending to water supplies. So when his father is sent a white feather during the early days of the war, Frank is keen for them to join up together: in the Light Horse brigade, of course, so they can take their beloved horses with them.

Frank assumes war will be one big adventure but the reality turns out to be rather different: it is tough, dirty, dusty and disappointingly mundane. Keen to be on the frontline in the midst of the action, Frank is frustrated when his father is sent to Gallipoli and he must stay behind in the heat and dust of northern Africa, organising water supplies for the Aussie troops who are training there. And when his hotheadedness comes to the fore, Frank finds himself in real trouble.

Frank’s hotheadedness may get him into strife but he also shows great courage when put to the test – boys and girls are sure to enjoy reading about his adventures (and misadventures) just as much as they will enjoy reading about his beloved horse, Daisy.

This book is short and easy to read and demonstrates the special bond between the soldiers and their horses in the Light Horse Brigade during WW1. The loyal horses were well trained and would lead their soldiers into the fray of battle. Unfortunately, this loyalty was not always rewarded by the Army itself. Morris Gleitzman is normally better known for lol comedy but If you are an animal lover, you may find it handy to have some tissues at hand as you read the closing pages of the novel .

And if you enjoy reading this book why not have a look at the award-winning graphic novel:  “The Light Horse Boy” (reviewed here) on a similar theme.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A boys own wartime adventure

brave the restless seasTITLE = BRAVE THE RESTLESS SEAS




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) ****

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





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) *****

A moving insight into life in a refugee camp





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) *****


The journey continues for a brave young girl





 In some ways, this book is even tougher to read than the first story about Parvana, because now Paravana is on her own or without adults, for most of her journey. She does have other children with her: Hassan (a baby who demands her attention), crippled Asif (with whom she bickers) and friendly Leila. Unfortunately, the adults that Parvana meets on her travels seem to simply let her down: they either withdraw from the horror of their daily lives (like Leila’s grandmother) or they are unkind and selfish. Life is tough and the children must be brave and resilient and resourceful to survive; as we would expect from reading book 1, Parvana certainly rises to the occasion.

One of the refreshing things in this story is that although these kids must be brave and adult-like on a daily basis, they are clearly still kids: Parvana gets annoyed easily and in angry outbursts she can behave badly (as you would expect, under the circumstances). The humorous banter between Asif and Parvana (where he pretends to do exactly the opposite of what she wants) also provide one of the few glimpses of lightness and humour in the book.

This is a worthy sequel to Parvana and readers who loved the first book are sure to be thoroughly engaged in reading more about her adventures.

Read a review of Parvana here.

An exciting and moving tale of the aftermath of war





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) *****

Are some memories best forgotten??

the memory cageTITLE = the memory cage




A powerful and emotional journey awaits the reader in this book. As the cover suggests, young Alex is close to his grandfather and when the novel opens, Alex is worried. His grandfather is becoming increasingly forgetful and putting his own life and that of his family in danger. Alex is worried that his parents will put Grandad in a home. So Alex sets out to create a scrapbook of photos to help Grandad remember his past. But what if there are some things that Grandad doesn’t want to remember? Why does he refuse to talk about the war and his beloved brother who died then? What part could Grandad have played in his death? Whilst he tries to stimulate his Grandad’s memories of war, it seems that Alex is trying to bury his own past. Alex is a Bosnian refugee, a survivor of terrible conflict, who has been adopted into this large, boisterous family. And not all his step-siblings are happy about his adoption.

So Alex has his work cut out for him: trying to avoid his step-brother’s dislike, trying to keep Grandad safe whilst also digging up his mysterious past and all the time, trying to ignore flashbacks from his own war-torn past. Gradually these stories merge together and Grandad, Alex and their entire family, will learn that it is better to face some truths, however, painful rather than live a lie. Memories may bring pain but they need not be a cage. This is an engaging story with many layers for the reader to unravel. There is plenty of action, mystery and high drama as the story unfolds. Readers will learn about the horrors of war (on those involved and those left at home) and the pain of Alzheimer’s disease. However, readers should be warned to have the tissue box handy in the final chapters : although a satisfying ending is provided it is quite a moving one as well, and many readers may find a tissue or two will be needed.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Loyalty, betrayal and war

the bridgeTITLE = THE BRIDGE




Action packed from the opening page, this is an exciting tale of a future world that bears striking similarities to our own. A world which is at war and divided – by race, by religion, by a lack of compassion and understanding. So it is not surprising that betrayal and loyalty lie at the heart of this novel.

Nik is a clever student and expects to be selected for training as an ISIS soldier so he feels understandably hurt and betrayed when things don’t go to plan. So when his school is bombed and ISIS questions his loyalty Nik is puzzled. Why does his surname cause such anger?? Nik knows little of his parents, having lost them as a youngster – his sense of family lies with his close friends and he risks his life to help them.

Even crossing the bridge to the Southside to try and rescue his friend Fyffe’s 8 year old brother. The sense of threat and peril in the Southside is all too real as Nik and Fyffe struggle to stay alive and find her brother – whilst putting their own lives at risk.

There are many twists and turns in the plot and Nik (like the reader) is not quite sure who to trust. Strategy and plotting (and counter plotting) become important. And loyalty – to a cause and to one’s friends.

Finally Nik must question everything he has ever believed in – and discovers that sometimes physical frailty belies inner strength.  Against the backdrop of war, Nik learns who he can trust and what to trust in himself. This is an action packed adventure story with a powerful and credible ending which will leave readers with plenty to think about long after the last page has been read.

A worthy winner of The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, 2010

Highly Recommended (dma) *****