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.
Jessie has been moved into the same bedroom as her big sister and she’s not particularly happy about it. In fact, she’s crying – a lot – and keeping hJessie has been moved into the same bedroom as her big sister and she’s not particularly happy about it. In fact, she’s crying – a lot – and keeping her big sister awake.
This is a really sweet story which might be familiar to those of us who are older siblings who had to share rooms. Although my younger sister was only as bad as Jessie on one occasion (and we were sharing a hospital room, so it’s kind of understandable), I totally sympathised with the older sister and her attempts to convince her sister to go to sleep.
On the first read-through, however, I was kind of annoyed by the parents in the book – why don’t they go and comfort Jessie instead of her sister having to come out to tell them she’s crying? With repeated readings, though (the two year old has become a big fan), I start to wonder whether the older sister is the most reliable narrator – how long is she waiting before she alerts her parents? Are her parents really as relaxed about Jessie’s crying as our narrator suggests? (I think they are a little more stressed out, judging by the dad’s willingness to drive around the block to settle Jessie.) While that line of questioning keeps me entertained as an adult, I think my son really just enjoys the main struggle of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t really comprehend and can’t say an awful lot back – he’s fascinated with younger children at the moment, so it really connects with him.
You simply can’t talk about this book without talking about Freya Blackwood’s illustrations. As always, they tell the story as much as the words on the page do. The colour scheme of blue and orange is absolutely stunning and creates such a lovely contrast between the world which should be sleeping (upstairs) and the artificial light at night world which is still awake (downstairs). Like The Runaway Hug (written by Nick Bland), stairs are featured in the illustrations – a wonderful way of adding depth to a house when we only really see two small segments of it. In a completely sentimental moment, I get a real kick out of the inclusion of the Tupperware shape sorter (with scattered shapes) – I had one as a child and it was one of the ‘must-have’ toys I bought before my son was born.
The more I look and think about this book, the more I see why my son is so enthralled by it. It improves with additional reads and is perfect for bedtime story time.
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.
Denton Little is going to die tomorrow. Science has developed a way to determine when everyone will die, and Denton is one of those people who will diDenton Little is going to die tomorrow. Science has developed a way to determine when everyone will die, and Denton is one of those people who will die young. So how will he spend his last days and what is that mystery everyone is keeping from him.
I loved the premise of this book – the idea that science has a way to predict when we’re going to die and that some countries insist on everyone being tested. The implications of this was really interesting – people who were due to die were banned from certain activity, they started holding funerals before people died and rituals developed for the death days. Trying to work out how the world would live with such a development is fascinating.
The story itself was quite good too. Most of the time it veered towards humour – the way that people act towards imminent death isn’t always quiet or dignified and the author found a lot of humour in that. I loved the twist at the end – I wish that more time had been spent on it and setting it up more thoroughly.
My main complaint with the book was that it felt really frantic in the middle, but at the same time it felt that the middle portion dragged on too much. It was almost like the key parts of the story – the premise and the twist – got lost in a series of hijinks. It felt exhausting to read at times.
I also could have done without the romantic triangle – it felt a little out of place at times and was pretty much unnecessary – I think there were other ways the author could have developed the story without it.
There is, however, a huge amount of discussion possible around this book. There’s massive moral issues about telling people when they’re going to die and doing nothing to prevent or get around that. There’s also some interesting thoughts about how you would live your life if you knew exactly when you were going to die. A book that sets up big thoughts like this is sure to stay with you – the humour is just icing on the cake.
Finch is fascinated by death and the different ways people kill themselves. Violet is just counting the days until she can escape Indiana and the suffFinch is fascinated by death and the different ways people kill themselves. Violet is just counting the days until she can escape Indiana and the suffocating grief of her sister’s death. When they find each other at the top of the school clock tower, they find a possible saviour (though they don’t really know who saves who), a project partner, a confidant and much more.
You’ve possibly seen the many many good reviews of this book, and when you read it, they’re easy to understand. This was a beautiful celebration of the small but wonderful things which surround us – and one of the saddest, loveliest books I’ve read. Finch and Violet felt incredibly real – although the reader might not share their same problems, their reactions, the way they handled the big events of their life, were incredibly relatable.
I really enjoyed the project of seeking Indiana ‘icons’. So many times we see books set in ‘big’ places – New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Paris – that it feels like there’s no story in the less notable parts of the world. Of course there is, though, since people live everywhere, and this is a good reminder to look for stories beyond the big places.
The only thing which I wondered about was why no one had ever discovered Finch’s secret about his home life – why no doctor or teacher ever raised an alert. It’s just possible, which the right amount of lies and charisma, but reporting laws are pretty strong here, so it felt surprising that no one had said anything.
This will probably be one of the YA books which gets talked about a lot this year. I noticed that they’re already talking movie deals, though, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Sometimes it’s nice to keep books for the readers for a little longer, to give them time to discover them – especially young readers who’ll find them in libraries and bookshops and borrowed from friends, rather than getting the latest review copy. A good book-to-movie adaptation will still be good a few years down the track – there’s no need to rush the whole thing.
t’s late1974 and Julie is sent on a holiday to New Guinea to spend time with her father who she hasn’t seen since she was three. She discovers that sht’s late1974 and Julie is sent on a holiday to New Guinea to spend time with her father who she hasn’t seen since she was three. She discovers that she’s falling in love with the beauty of the highlands, but also finds herself uncomfortable with the colonial attitudes of he ex-pat community, while being called on her own beliefs and actions. When tragedy strikes, she finds herself reassessing her place in the world and her future.
This was an absolutely beautiful read which did a wonderful job of bringing the beauty and contradictions of 1970s New Guinea to the reader. I realised, as I read it, that I’d never read a book set in New Guinea before, which seemed like a pretty big oversight.
One of the things Julie discovers in the book is the casual racism of the ex-pat community, especially the diminutive terms used for the local men and women who work for them, regardless of their age (Julie seems particularly conscious of it, which is explained away by having a mother who talks about it at home, but I’m still not sure how realistic it is for a teenager in the 1970s). However, the author doesn’t shy away from showing the reader moments when Julie is also casually racist – the book does a good job of showing the complexities involved and pointing out that there’s always ways to do better.
I think it’s terribly important that we have books which tell stories of Australia’s past – the honest truth beyond what is often taught in history classes. This is a book which points out that we had a colonial past beyond our own borders and that it wasn’t really that long ago – less than 10 years before I was born. It’s not always a nice story to think about, but it is an important one. Books like this help us think more about it and should be celebrated more than they are.
My only complaint about the book is that it felt a little rushed towards the end, almost like another storyline had been pushed in where it didn’t really need to belong. It just felt slightly unbalanced, like it appeared too late in the book.
New Guinea Moon is a really lovely book which does a wonderful job of setting up Julie’s world and the things she sees. I thoroughly recommend it.
Every family has their stories, just some families have stories which are a little more memorable than others. And how do those stories change when yoEvery family has their stories, just some families have stories which are a little more memorable than others. And how do those stories change when you discover that you were adopted and no one in your family was intending to inform you of that fact?
This was a wry look at family, in particular parents, and how the quirks which we just accept as children become increasingly strange, sad or worrying as we age. In particular, it’s about Judith Lucy’s parents, who had their fair share of quirks, and how she could poke fun at them (in her role as a stand up comedian), recognise the painful aspects of your upbringing and still love them.
Lucy is one of those writers who brings her distinctive voice into writing beautifully. You could really hear her speaking through the book, like you’d just sat down in the pub to have a chat and these stories were the result. It makes for an easy read, as well as one which lingers after you’ve closed the book.
I liked the way the story doesn’t follow a straight linear path, instead being short memoir pieces arranged around key words. I think a story which had gone straight from beginning to end could have been too much. Plus, the stories from Lucy’s adulthood, where she views her parents differently, give context to her childhood stories. We’re able to see what she couldn’t as a young girl.
Some of the stories are really funny. The one about the different vicious pets the Lucy family owned absolutely cracked me up. Others are quieter and sadder, like the death of Lucy’s parents to meeting her birth parents. Occasionally the stories stray from straight family stories into stories of living in Perth or school days or holidays, but they all come together beautifully to create a cohesive picture.
This was a really good read, which definitely sticks with you after the pages are closed. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy.
One of my goals for 2015 was to read and review as many Robin Klein books as I could and it was wonderful starting with this old favourite of mine. IOne of my goals for 2015 was to read and review as many Robin Klein books as I could and it was wonderful starting with this old favourite of mine. I actually read the book I’d read (over and over) as a child – I think I got it for my 9th birthday and it’s sadly coverless, but otherwise completely readable!
This was the sort of sci-fi I adored as a kid (I also loved This Place Has No Atmosphere, which is still one of my favourite Paula Danziger books), but on this reread, I was struck by just how sci-fi it was. X and her family aren’t just aliens, they’re aliens with special powers (though, they usually have to study to perfect them). They then go on to use those powers on Earth, especially while trying to navigate the first few days and everything that’s required to set up their new home. It’s also interesting how those powers seem to diminish the longer they stay on Earth – they’re almost completely human by the end of the book.
I was also struck by how much story is in such a small book. Klein essentially creates two worlds – the unfamiliar alien world and the more familiar Earth world – and shows our characters navigating between them. She throws in schoolyard rivalry and difficulties with friendships, parents navigating different working roles, a genius younger brother, an aunt that you love, but you really don’t want your friends meeting and romantic longing all into one rather short book, but it never feels rushed or overwhelming.
At its core, Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left is about a family of very different people finding out who they really are. Zyrgon, their home planet, is described as claustrophobic and corrupt, with very proscribed roles for everyone. On Earth, the family discover new talents or utilise existing ones, but they have the space to learn more about themselves without someone peering in to have a look – pretty deep for a kids book.
Possibly it’s because I’ve read it so often (and because I around the age of the initial audience), but the book didn’t feel very dated to me. There’s no real pop culture references to throw you out of the book and it doesn’t rely on old technology. The calculators and reference machines the family use probably wouldn’t have to be as hidden these days (I assume they’d probably look a lot like tablets), but I felt it really has stood up well since its original publication.
I noticed last year that it can be difficult to find new copies (or ebooks, though that might have changed since I last looked) of Robin Klein books (apart from Hating Alison Ashley) which is a real pity. Her books have a very unique voice and place in Australian children’s literature and they should be celebrated more. Luckily, you can often find them second hand – particularly at big book fairs like Brisbane’s Lifeline Bookfest, but I’d love to see them made more available to young readers today.
Shelley just wants to make a fresh start at her new school. However, she soon becomes involved with the local football club and the whirlwind world ofShelley just wants to make a fresh start at her new school. However, she soon becomes involved with the local football club and the whirlwind world of players, die-hard supporters and the various rituals which hold them together. She befriends the new recruit, Mick, discovers that friendship can be more complicated than she previously thought, and learns that it’s not always so easy to keep your past away from you.
I have to confess that I have an absolute love for books which write sport well. My high school phys ed teachers would be in shock to hear it, but there’s something about movement written in a way so you can ‘see’ it which always draws me in. (I also enjoy books which write dance well.) A particularly good sports book will write a sport which you don’t know that well in a way that you suddenly feel like you understand it. (I highly recommend Pip Harry’s Head of the River and Juggling With Mandarins by V. M Jones for other examples of YA fic which do sport well).
I have some knowledge of AFL (my Grandmother is from Geelong and I’ve been to a couple of Brisbane Lions games), so I’m not sure whether this book would work for a complete newbie, but it does immerse us in the game and the world around the game. Shelley doesn’t play AFL, though she’d like to – instead she gets involved in the world of the supporters – the people making the banners and cheering as a group and hanging around training trying to meet the players and get autographs.
I must admit that it took me a little while to work out when the book was set – Shelley not playing AFL (there’s definitely women’s teams around these days), the informality around the supporters group and the fact it seemed to be just a Victorian league threw me, and I wondered for a while if it was set in the local comps rather than the big leagues before working out that it was set in the not so distant past (the use of different team names instead of the Hawthorn and Collingwood type names which are more familiar didn’t help). Maybe I missed an explanation of the time period somewhere or maybe it’s clearer if you’re Victorian or know more about AFL history, but it definitely threw me as a Queenslander.
Shelley is clearly miserable – for reasons we understand as you read the book. The world of the football club – with it’s own set of rules and rituals – doesn’t make her immediately happy, but it gives her a place to belong (or at least, to feel like she belongs). Her friendship with Mick does the same thing – she feels like he understands her and she understands him. However, she doesn’t really see how this looks to outsiders – considering that Mick is an older recruit and is married with kids. As an adult reader, reading in the aftermath of multiple scandals involving football players and young women, it makes for sometimes uncomfortable reading.
I really enjoyed the way the characters were written throughout The Whole of My World. They felt incredibly real and unique – and their actions were sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising, just like real people. It really helped to create the world of the story.
I’m a bit unsure how this book would be received by teenaged readers in Queensland, where the rugby league culture is so strong – especially since it’s been a few years since the Lions were a successful team. While the story – finding a place to find yourself after traumatic events – is pretty universal, I’m not sure if the AFL dressing (especially set in a time before teenaged readers were born) would put off readers who were unfamiliar with that world. It’s a great book, but I’m not sure it’s a book which would seem universally appealing.
If you are familiar with AFL, or you are looking for an interesting book about friendship and family and finding places which are open to us, then I recommend this book. There’s a lot about it to like.
Anna wouldn’t describe herself as a worry-wort, she just wants to be prepared for any disaster which might happen. So when her parents decide to takeAnna wouldn’t describe herself as a worry-wort, she just wants to be prepared for any disaster which might happen. So when her parents decide to take her and her siblings to Europe for the trip of a lifetime, she needs to make sure that she is ready for any disaster which might come. Except for that one. And that one . . .
This was an interesting take on a ‘main character learns not to worry so much’ story. By taking Anna (and her family) out of her familiar setting, we see how Anna has to adapt to countries with different languages, hotels with fire alarms and clever bag snatchers. Meanwhile, we also get to learn about her family – how her sister learns to think beyond her dance lessons, how her mother finds her love of art reignited and how her father puts family before the trip when Anna’s grandmother becomes ill.
I always enjoyed books where characters travelled when I was young, and I can see this one being popular with readers who are similar. I like that the book looked at some places which might be less familiar to the readers, while not overloading the book with travel details or facts.
Anna’s anxiety about things going wrong was handled well in the book. I really liked that she couldn’t just ‘turn it off’, that she had to deal with it a bit at a time. I also liked that there was a mixture of things going wrong and things going well in the book.
It’s probably not a book which will stay with the reader forever and stand up to multiple rereadings, but it was an enjoyable short read with some interesting characters and events. It wouldn’t be a book that students would line up to read in the classroom, but it would find readers who would enjoy it.
Jesse is an idealistic and slightly odd newcomer to an alternative school. Hunter is also idealistic – but only under a very thick layer of protectiveJesse is an idealistic and slightly odd newcomer to an alternative school. Hunter is also idealistic – but only under a very thick layer of protective (which might look like destructive) behaviour.
I really enjoyed this book. It would be very easy to dismiss it as relatively simplistic – it is a shorter book – but there are a lot of layers to discuss when you look more closely. One of the most striking things is how although both the main characters have a streak of idealism, things just don’t work the way they should (one of those things you definitely learn as you grow up). Jesse’s discussions with his picture of Jesus (or Trevor to appease his family’s declared atheism) don’t get the results he think they should. His family wants to do their part to ‘save the world’ but their finances are just too tight. Hunter’s father refuses to act in a way that Hunter feels a father should act. Even the alternative school – with a democratic leadership and teachers who are known by their first names – sees Hunter as a disruption and nuisance, rather than seeing what’s really bothering him.
The school, with its named buildings, vegetarian canteen and outward commitment to alternative values amused me – I’d love to read other stories in the same setting. I really liked the way that it seemed very different from ‘normal’ schools on the outside, yet the interactions between students and between students and teachers were very familiar.
Although I enjoyed Jesse’s story (especially when he gets enthused about his friend Kate’s commitment to saving the whales), Hunter’s story was the highlight of the book for me. His friendship with a local elderly man, the actions he takes to move on from his father moving away, the way he becomes a part of Jesse’s life is all fabulous. He’s definitely a character I wish I could read more of.
I would highly recommend this book as a Year 5 or 6 classroom read aloud. The chapters are short and would fit well into a reading session and there’s a lot to explore. One of the most striking things (something which took a little to get used to) was the way the story moved from a first-person narration for Jesse’s chapters to a third-person narration for Hunter’s chapters – there would be a huge amount to discuss there in terms of both reading and writing in the classroom.