Part family story, part school story, part ghost story? This read like a really interesting and enjoyable introduction to the characters, but part ofPart family story, part school story, part ghost story? This read like a really interesting and enjoyable introduction to the characters, but part of me did wish for more about them. This would be a good lower secondary (or even last years of primary) book, particularly with the focus on finding your place in high school....more
I so wish I'd had this book in my classroom library 5 years ago - I can think of so many students who would have thoroughly enjoyed it. One of those bI so wish I'd had this book in my classroom library 5 years ago - I can think of so many students who would have thoroughly enjoyed it. One of those books to devour in one go...more
Most people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seMost people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seeing her home and community torn apart, as well as dealing with the fallout from a hurried relationship with the boy who spends his summers in the house next to hers.
This was a really sweet YA romance which reminded me a lot of Sarah Dessen and Joan Bauer books. I love YA books when the characters are invested in something else than just the romance, when they have interests and passions which they follow and enjoy. Lucy is incredibly interested in marine wildlife and volunteers with wildlife rehabilitation. You can really tell through the book that this is something which is important to her – that’s she’s a multi-dimensional character.
The relationships between Lucy, her twin brother and her parents is a fantastic part of the book as well. They are all showing the impacts of the storm and the stresses they’ve been through in having their home damaged and in rebuilding. I felt those stresses, and the way the family dealt (or didn’t deal) with them felt very realistic.
I live in a part of world which sees its fair share of natural disasters, so it was fabulous to see a book which dealt with the aftermath of a massive event. I’d love to see more books like that in the Australian market, since our country deals with so many events each year.
The romance part of the book was sweet, but probably a little more formulaic in comparison with the rest of the book. There were the usual misunderstandings and longing looks which you find in most YA romances – they’re fun when you’re reading them, but they don’t stay with you the way the other elements of this book did.
All in all, a good fun read which I’m sure will be enjoyed by many.
Willem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age aWillem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age and most of the boys he knows are engaged in an ongoing gang war. Sasha is angry with herself for playing along when Willem is being bullied. And Finn is just angry, angry at the situation he’s in, angry that he can’t seem to find a way out. When they meet Archie and his several forms of magic – cars, community, music and an old Spitfire plane – things finally start to move in the right direction.
There were a lot of things that I really enjoyed when it came to the plot of this book. Spitfires are my favourite vintage aircraft (we got to see a pair fly when we visited an airshow in New Zealand in 2011 – I highly recommend it) so I loved seeing the Spitfire play such an important part to the story. I loved the recognition of the women who ferried planes during World War Two. I also really liked the setting – the cycle of rivalry and disadvantage felt really authentic.
I just wish the writing had lived up to the promise of the story. It just didn’t flow the way I wanted it to, and it distracted from the story telling at times. There were occasions where there was too much plot – a romance story from World War Two felt a little too much, and the story would have been just as strong without it.
I thought that Willem’s Asperger’s Syndrome was dealt with well, too. The story alternates between his narration and Sasha’s and it actually helps create a good picture of what’s happening in his head and what outsiders can see. It was interesting to see a story where the main character’s disability was important, but it shared importance with the other stories going on. There’s always room for more stories with characters with disabilities, and I think there’s scope for some contrast and compare talk between Willem and other books featuring characters with disabilities.
Everyone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the reEveryone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the rest of the class, when she has something so very different?
I really enjoyed this picture book about imagination and fitting in to a group. We’re thrown right into the conflict in the book, without a lot of background information, so the reader is quickly thrust onto the side of our main character. We know she has a terrible suitcase and it’s the opposite of what she wanted. And we know that her mother, her friend and her brother aren’t very sympathetic to her plight. We’re completely and utterly on her side as she heads off to school.
Once we get to school, we see her placing herself on the outside of things, until an understanding teacher, a large box and a healthy dose of imagination come to her rescue. Inside the pretend rocket, she’s able to bring people in and her terrible suitcase becomes whatever she wants it to be.
While this is a story of imagination, it also reminds us that the things we think are odd or different about ourselves don’t always matter to other people. Our main character gets mad because her suitcase is different from the backpacks of the other students, but they never tease her about it and they’re quick to bring the suitcase into their pretend game. A lot of her anger comes from her own anxieties and the reality is no where near as bad as she thinks it will be.
I love the look at the early childhood setting and the willingness of the teacher to let the students go with their imaginations. I read a criticism that the teacher was too lenient in letting the students get noisy – which surprised me, because every prep classroom I’ve walked into has been noisy around imaginative play time. Plus, I think our narrator is a little unreliable – while they’re off on their big adventure, it’s very possible they were much quieter on the outside than in their imaginations.
There’s less story-telling in Freya Blackwood’s illustrations than some of her other books, partly because there’s a lot more text here.I adore the transformation from box to rocket, though, especially the way shape and colour change the scene and alter the world of the book from ‘terrible’ to ‘exciting’. I also love the way she uses stripes and spots so much in her work to create a real depth.
This would be the perfect book in kindergarten and prep classrooms, a great way to discuss imagination and fitting in and how we feel about starting in new places. I can see some really in-depth conversations coming from a book like this as well as a huge amount of learning. It would also be great for younger children who like to see what ‘big kids’ are doing and as story prompts for older children remembering what it was like when they were younger.
Charli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows heCharli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows her fears about bats and the Hendra virus to get the better of her, things don’t quite go as planned.
I really enjoyed Samantha Wheeler’s first book, Smooch and Rose when I read it last year, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. Sadly, I don’t think it was as good as Smooch and Rose. Where Smooch and Rose felt multi-layered and had a real heart to it (I actually cried when I read it), Spud and Charli felt a little too one-noted, and didn’t reach me in quite the same way.
There’s a couple of reasons this might be the case – to start with, I’m not as invested in horses as I am in koalas – I’m just not a big horse person, while I live in an area where there’s recently been mass clearing of koala habitat. As an adult, I also had a pretty good idea of what the adults had done/were doing, so I didn’t have the same sense of dread that a younger reader might have. A younger reader who is interested in horses, might be able to move around those issues.
My main issue though, was the use of the ‘child over-reacts and goes too far because adults don’t give them information’ trope. It’s not the over-reacting that bugs me, so much as the ‘going too far’ – in this case, it felt like Charli was written into a position which she really couldn’t come out of. And it led to a conclusion which left me dissatisfied as a reader.
There’s information on the Hendra virus and bats and horses at the end of the book which is well worth reading – I like the little snippets which serve to build on knowledge and understanding of the reader or which act as a launching pad into further reading.
I really want to read more from Samantha Wheeler, but I really hope her next book has as much heart as Smooch and Rose. Spud and Charli is a nice little book which would appeal to younger readers, but I think the author has more powerful books to write.
Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend,Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend, with a keen interest in forensics and investigation. When they discover a homeless friend has been killed, it is inevitable that they’ll find themselves in the depths of investigation.
I first noticed this book when it started getting excellent reviews through the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Then my friends discovered it and I knew that I had to read it right now. Every Breath is a witty and fun detective story, with terribly interesting characters and a really strong sense of place. The Watts/Mycroft pairing (with self-aware nods to the Sherlock Holmes canon) is a well-written and strong relationship – but just as importantly, Watts and Mycroft are strong, independent characters individually who are able to get things done on their own.
One thing that really impressed me in the book was the diversity of characters. It’s sad that this really stood out, that the world of the book felt like the world I see around me in our local schools and our local shops. I particularly liked the care taken with descriptions, to give characters an individuality without plunging into stereotype. I think all childrens and YA authors (and screenwriters etc) should read this as a starting point for their own work – it would be wonderful to see more and more diverse books building from books like this.
The struggles of the different families in the book, also added to the depth of it. I read a criticism of YA books (I think it was based in the US) for being too firmly set in middle and upper-middle class backgrounds. That definitely isn’t the case here as Rachel and her family all work and look at ways to save money as a family. It’s a cause of conflict at times, too, which felt very real.
The mystery was interesting, though I did pick ‘who-dunnit’ quite early on. I liked the way that Mycroft and Watts didn’t get a free pass through the police departments (or from their schools) to go about their investigating. I’m found the final scenes of the mystery a little silly, but by then I was so wrapped in the book, that I just went with it.
There haven’t been a lot of notable mystery stories published in Australian YA and Children’s books over the past few years, so it’s great to see this series doing so well. I have to admit that I’m putting off the second book just a little bit longer so I don’t have a bit wait until the third which comes out in March, but I’m not sure how much longer my will power can last! If you haven’t read these books yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on them – and I’d definitely recommend that they find a place in high school libraries!
Calum and his family live between two worlds. The world of the Sidhe and the world known to the rest of us. So when a new girl arrives in town with aCalum and his family live between two worlds. The world of the Sidhe and the world known to the rest of us. So when a new girl arrives in town with a mark of a dark clan, they can’t help but wonder how she fits in. And does she have anything to do with the disappearance of Calum’s cousin?
I’m not the biggest reader of fantasy books, so I’m not always terribly knowledgeable about fantasy creatures and conventions. So, I have to admit that I found the first half of this book quite difficult to read – I felt like I was missing something (or a lot of somethings) which would make it understandable and all fall into place for me.It did eventually fall in to place for me, and I really enjoyed the second half of the book, but I wonder if young readers with similar lack of knowledge as myself would also have troubles.
Apart from that, I really enjoyed the characters in the book. The children felt very real and the adults were present – something we don’t always see in fantasy books for children. At times I felt like the ‘school stuff’ was a little distracting from the story – I’m still on the fence about whether it told us more about the characters or was unnecessary.
The highlight of the book was the rush towards the end as Calum and his friends work towards solving the mystery. The pacing was just right and held my attention beautifully, and it never felt like the action was getting away from me as a reader. It was a wonderful set up for a follow up book too.
I can see a lot of young readers enjoying the book, and with the right book talk, it could do very well in a school or classroom library. When I was teaching, I once taught a unit about Fantasy books – this one would fit in absolutely perfect.