Annie’s father has been fighting in France but hasn’t been heard from in months. Annie’s mother – who is French, herself – decides to take Annie and hAnnie’s father has been fighting in France but hasn’t been heard from in months. Annie’s mother – who is French, herself – decides to take Annie and herself halfway across the world from Sydney to try and find him on their own.
This is one of the very popular and very good, My Australian Story books. I’ve read quite a few of them (and the very, very good New Zealand counterparts – track them down if you get the chance) but this one was new to me. Unlike many of the others which primarily are set in Australia, this is primarily set in France, not far from the battle-fields of the First World War.
One of the striking parts of the book is that it tells stories you don’t always hear about. First and foremost, it’s the story of civilians trying to live their lives while the war looms so close nearby. It’s also a story of fighting in France – a topic often forgotten in classrooms and story telling in an Australia so focused on the Gallipoli campaign. I probably learned more about Australian involvement on the Western Front through this book than I ever touched at school.
There were parts of the book, though, which felt a little too convenient. Annie seems to meet the right people at the right times and obstacles in her way seem to melt away when she needs them to. It gives Annie and Paul (the boy she meets in France) the opportunities to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, but it stretches believability a bit at times.
This is, however, another strong addition to a great series of books. Annie’s really easy to relate to as a character and it’s easy to be on her side as she tries to find her father. There’s some absolutely lovely moments as she and Paul unravel the mystery, and a stark reminder of how many people were lost or injured in the war. With so many commemorations focused on Gallipoli, this year, it’s a fitting time to visit books like this as a reminder of the other campaigns of the First World War.
I’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a rI’ve been reading Melina Marchetta books since Alibrandi came out and my mother pointed out that the author had the same first name as me (totally a reason to read a book!) But I’d skipped over this one, since fantasy is really not one of ‘my genres’. I have been coming around on this, though. In 2011, I devoured the Ranger’s Apprentice series (meeting the author, John Flanagan was a good reason to do this), and I enjoyed reading The Hobbit to my class in 2009. Generally, though, if there’s a map at the beginning of the book and it’s not historical fiction, then I generally give it a miss.
Since Finnikin cam out, though, I’ve had a number of people recommend it to me. And the Australian Women Writers Challenge, seemed like a pretty good kick up the bum to finally borrow it and read it. I can understand why it was recommended to me – there’s no dragons or trolls or dwarves or other complicated lore, which feel like you need a lifetime of reading fantasy to really ‘get’ and appreciate. However, there was deep magic and there was a map at the front of the book, which did make it feel like ‘one of those books I don’t read’ no matter how far I got into the story.
The story is about Finnikin, the son of Trevanion, the head of the King’s Guard. After the Unspeakable, the royal family is destroyed and the kingdom of Lumatere is left entombed, while those who could escape were left as refugees, locked out of their own kingdom. Finnikin and Sir Topher (the King’s First Man) are left travelling around the rest of Skuldenore, gathering both names and stories from fellow refugees.
That is, until they are drawn to the strange novice, Evanjalin, who leads them on an adventure they never expected – along with the promise that she would lead them to a surviving member of the royal family. Along their journey they meet Froi, a young thief, before collecting the scattered members of their old kingdom who can help them make it strong again.
There were so many expectations with this story, since a number of people had recommended it to me. It was they style of fantasy I think I enjoy the most – more emphasis on different magic, politics and history and less on magical creatures. The magic was very clearly the magic of women, which at times jarred against the traditional male roles which were evident throughout the story. As much as I enjoyed Finnikin as a narrator and main character, it would have been fascinating to have more of an insight into the world of women in this world – because Finnikin is excluded, so are we, which reminds me of how much of ‘real’ history we are excluded from because no one wrote the women’s stories.
I don’t think I’ll be going out to buy the series, but I did enjoy reading it and I have borrowed the second in the series to read (though it’s huge!) I think those who enjoy fantasy would enjoy it, though – I would recommend this one to my sister, if she hasn’t read it already. I would recommend it to teenagers who are wanting to read fantasy, and I actually think this is a book that boys could get into as well, though the cover seems to be marketed towards female readers – I notice there’s some other editions out there with more gender neutral covers.
This is the third in the children’s Parvana series, or the fourth if you include the companion book. I really enjoyed the first one, about a girl in AThis is the third in the children’s Parvana series, or the fourth if you include the companion book. I really enjoyed the first one, about a girl in Afghanistan forced to pretend she was a boy after her father was taken away. I read it to my class, so I was excited about reading another book to find out what happened to her. Sadly, I was left a little disappointed – but I’m not sure if it was because of the choices the author made, or because I wanted it to turn out differently.
The book is written in a different way, with flashbacks throughout the book, before we come back to a ‘current day’ where Parvana is being held by the US Military. I like this, as I feel it acknowledges the growth in readers who have read the previous books about Parvana. Parvana’s life looked like it was getting a little better for a while, then it just got worse and worse, with Parvana losing precious people and being in extreme danger. Then she was taken by the US Military.
This grates on me a little. Although there was no excuse for the actions of some soldiers during the war, it almost feels like the US is being used as an easy target. A few soldiers are written as sympathetic, especially after Parvana assists an injured soldier, but it is clear that they are the ‘enemy’, even more than the remnants of the Taliban which are the cause of most of the disasters which befall Parvana. It also refuses to acknowledge that there is a coalition of countries involved in the war in Afghanistan.
I also got extremely agitated when Parvana and her mother stubbornly stuck by the school they had set up, even when it was clear they were in danger. This is more of a privilege thing, though. If things got that dangerous for us in Australia, hopefully we’d have people to turn for. For Parvana and her mother, there was no where to turn and really, no where to run to. Sticking with the school was pretty much their only choice.
So, I’m up and down on this book. I feel the ending is a little neat, but it was nice returning to such a great character. It wasn’t the way I wanted Parvana’s story to end up, but I could see the issues which Deborah Ellis was trying to raise. It was worth reading, but probably not worth a reread, or even being put to the top of the pile unless you really loved the previous books.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book, though it's hard to pin down exactly why. It's the story of four children, Vinnie, siblings Kathleen and Joey anThis was a thoroughly enjoyable book, though it's hard to pin down exactly why. It's the story of four children, Vinnie, siblings Kathleen and Joey and tall gangly Dodds. The four of them are evacuated to the country during the second world war, and find themselves in the midst of another battle with the local people.
The story is fairly formulaic - especially if you have a fondness for evacuation stories and you've read a few before. There's mean teachers and Famous Five-esque crooks and mean bullies who turn out alright in the end. However it is an enjoyable and satisfying read and would be a great introduction to World War Two for unfamiliar children....more
This was a truly lovely book, one which I think my students will really enjoy.
It opens in Afghanistan with Fadi, a 12 year old. Fadi's father has, thrThis was a truly lovely book, one which I think my students will really enjoy.
It opens in Afghanistan with Fadi, a 12 year old. Fadi's father has, through a series of events, become an enemy of the Taliban and Fadi, his parents, his older sister and younger sister must flee. Luckily, Fadi's father studied in the USA, and they have friends and family there (differentiating this book from other Afghanistan stories like Boy Overboard, Mahtab's Story or Parvana). The only problem is actually leaving Afghanistan so they can access the assistance they need. Unfortunately, while trying to board the truck which will take them out of the country, Fadi's little sister is lost among the crush of people and the approaching Taliban.
The rest of the story deals with Fadi, his parents and older sister trying to make a life in the USA, while still trying to find his younger sister. All the while, you realize that it's August/September 2001, and things are about to change.
I'd link this book with the already mentioned books, along with Does My Head Look Big in This? ...more