A little while ago I wrote about Julia Lawrinson’s Losing It, which I quite disliked. I’m pleased to say, that I enjoyed Chess Nuts, a middle grades fA little while ago I wrote about Julia Lawrinson’s Losing It, which I quite disliked. I’m pleased to say, that I enjoyed Chess Nuts, a middle grades fiction by Lawrinson, about 100 times more than Losing It!
Chess Nuts is told through the perspectives of two children in their final year of primary school. Jackson is the sporty and popular kid, Anna is the wordy, chess playing outcast. When Jackson turns up at chess club, no one expects him to stick around, and Anna definitely doesn’t want him there. However, with the help of each other they discover how to become more accepting of each other and others around them.
I really enjoyed the two main characters. Jackson is fairly typical of the ‘sporty kid who enjoys music/dance/chess’ character that you see a lot of in children’s books – and occasionally in real life. The story with his father definitely adds another dimension to him, as does Anna’s struggles with the relationship she has with her brilliant, but not necessarily empathetic mother. Anna is defiantly smart – when she’s forced to run the cross country, she deliberately walks it. She throws out witty, wordy insults, but she’s really not accepting of anyone she thinks may not be as smart as she is. These two characters together are really interesting, though I’m very glad Lawrinson kept away from any kind of romantic plot.
There were some parts that bugged me. A lot of the supporting characters are very one dimensional, like in Losing It. This particularly annoyed me in the case of Josh, who is stereotypically a person with Austistic Spectrum Disorder – all the time. We’re never shown the shades of up and down that most people with ASD have. There’s also the use of the word ‘retard’ as an insult. While people are told off for using it, I still detest seeing it used in that way, without addressing why it’s so grating. There are plenty of other insults that bullies use, or a simple comment from a teacher about why it shouldn’t be used would have been better, rather than keeping it in circulation as an insult.
Although those things did bug me, this was definitely a book with the kind of empathy and heart that was missing from Losing It. I know a lot of reviewers raved about Losing It, I much prefer Chess Nuts for its exploration of what it means to be smart, belong to certain ‘groups’ at school, and how the game of chess can be enjoyed by everyone.
I absolutely loved this book. Rose is a pampered, but overly restricted girl living in Melbourne in 1900. Her mother insists on governesses, corsets aI absolutely loved this book. Rose is a pampered, but overly restricted girl living in Melbourne in 1900. Her mother insists on governesses, corsets and becoming a ‘proper lady’. Rose is not allowed to play cricket with her brother, not allowed to read exciting books or learn about geography or history and certainly not allowed to catch a tram or explore the more exciting stores of Melbourne.
That is, until her exciting Aunt Alice – a teacher – comes to stay. Alice had exciting ideas such as women being allowed to vote, being more involved in society and being able to use their brains. She takes Rose out on an adventure to a restaurant her mother (a member of the Temperance League) would never approve of, and a magical visit to Coles Arcade – to the disapproval of her mother. But will she ever be able to break free from the restrains that her mother places on her?
I adore this time period, so this book was always going to appeal. There were such big things going on in Australia at this time, with Federation looming and women beginning to gain power across the country (and in New Zealand). Rose is trying her best to break free of her mother’s restrictions, but with Alice’s arrival it really looks like there might be possibility of a change. I am really looking forward to reading more of this one and finding out what happens next!
This was probably my least favourite out of the four introductory books in the Our Australian Girl series, but it was still an enjoyable read. Letty’sThis was probably my least favourite out of the four introductory books in the Our Australian Girl series, but it was still an enjoyable read. Letty’s sister, Lavinia is heading out to start a new life in New South Wales, when Letty finds herself accidentally on the ship as well! The book mostly looks at the difficult journey to New South Wales, as well as introducing the odious Jemima and the helpful Abner who befriend Letty on the journey.
I think one of the reasons I didn’t like this one as much is that I really didn’t like a lot of the supporting characters and I found Letty to be pretty silly at times, like when she gave away her sister’s good pillow case, knowing how expensive it was, just to keep a friend. It also feels like bad things keep happening to Letty and her sister, and it begins to feel a bit overwrought at times, though hopefully, some of the complications would be resolved in later books.
This is probably a more unspoken story than the familiar convict tales that children learn about. The idea of packing up a whole life and sailing a difficult journey around the world to start a new life is a concept which fascinates me. Again, this would be a brilliant book for the classroom and would probably be appealing to a lot of boys as well as girls.
Meet Poppy is actually an introduction to the third girl and time period in the Our Australian Girl series (also including Grace, Letty and Rose). SetMeet Poppy is actually an introduction to the third girl and time period in the Our Australian Girl series (also including Grace, Letty and Rose). Set in 1864, we are introduced to Poppy, a young orphan who is living with her brother at the Bird Creek Mission. When her brother runs away and she discovers that she is to be sent to a family in Sydney, before the usual age of 12, she decides to pretend she is a boy and set out to find her brother.
I know Heidi loved this one for many reasons, including the setting. That would be one of my few grumbles with this series – all the stories centre around New South Wales and Victoria – it would be great to see more diversity in locations to include Queenland, Tasmania, South Australia or Western Australia. These areas seem to be missed in children’s historical fiction, which is one of the reasons Georgiana was a pleasant surprise.
Poppy is an incredibly likable character, even more than Grace. She’s brave and resourceful and takes pride in her achievements. There’s a lot of learning which could be connected to this book as well, from the Missions to Bushrangers and the Gold Rush – it was a busy time in Australian history and that is reflected in the book.
While it’s not my favourite of the books (I adore Meet Rose), I thoroughly enjoyed this and can’t wait to read what happens to Poppy next.