As a special treat, just in time for the holidays, I’m rounding up the children’s and non-speculative YA books together. There wasn’t a lot of reviews since the last round ups, but those reviews are pretty amazing and cover a wide range of interesting books.
In the Children’s books, Shannon from Giraffe Days reviewed I’m Green and I’m Grumpy by Alison Lester. This is a ‘guessing’ book, with clues on one page and a half page flap which reveals the ‘answer’. Shannon discusses how it’s a great book for reading aloud – either as a day time or a bedtime story.
The rhymes are fun, with enough repetition to get a rhythm going and enough variation to make it continuously interesting and engaging. You can have a lot of fun, reading this book out loud, and doing voices and tones and pitch. Also, if you happen to be stuck for costume ideas, there’s some good inspiration here and more than a few home-made costumes in the illustrations.
Moving into the YA books, Melissa reviewed Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts. Zac and Mia is the story of teenagers going through cancer treatment and has often been compared to the very popular The Fault In Our Stars, however the review points out that these comparisons can be unfair:
. . . it is the story of different teenagers suffering from different forms of cancer in a completely different place. The experience of teenage cancer treatment is far from universal or singular – as shown by the entirely different reactions of Zac and Mia to their treatment. . .
Melissa points out that, for her, the insider references and observations felt particularly powerful, as did the feeling of a gap with peers when returning to normality. She also talks about how much rang true to her own experience:
Betts explores in this way a central problem for teenagers who have been diagnosed with cancer: the fact that it is so far removed from ‘normal’ teenage experiences that it is almost impossible to discuss . . . I wish these characters had been around for me to listen to when I was going through treatment, and I’m glad they exist now for current and future patients, and anyone who wants a realistic insight into the disease, beyond the statistics, and to be part of the growing conversation about teenage cancer.
Maree took a look at Girl Defective by Simmone Howell, which is described as “the literary soundtrack to Skylark Martin’s strange, mysterious, and extraordinary summer“. She talks about how she loved the book from the first line, particularly enjoying the authenticity of voice which drew her in.
Howell writes with a deft touch that shines with honesty, and this is what makes her characters real enough to imagine them stepping off the page and into the St Kilda streets.
Every Word by Ellie Marnie is the follow up to the popular Every Breath and was reviewed by Shaheen this month. It sends the troubled sleuthing duo into a new adventure when news comes from London, continuing the excitement and engagement from the first book.
Every Word is certainly a stronger novel than Every Breath. As you’d expect, the writing style has matured, the plotting is tighter, and everything just flows slightly better than Every Breath. I am in no way implying that Marney’s début was bad, but rather that I am happy (as always) to see when authors continue to hone their skills at their craft.
Lisa from Welcome to My Library reviewed The Protected by Claire Zorn. This book explores the aftermath of a terrible car accident in which the main character’s sister died. Through a series of flashbacks, the reader learns about the story before the accident and the struggle to return to normal life after.
I really enjoyed The Protected, it was beautifully written, raw and real – and I can see it being nominated for a few awards. Although marketed as Young Adult, I would recommend this novel for adults as well. It was heartbreaking and achingly sad, it tapped into the harsh issues of bullying, grief, shattered families and what it takes to heal.
If you have read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, I thoroughly recommend going and reading Kaetrin’s amazing (and spoiler filled) response. Kaetrin finished the book and was left feeling a little nonplussed. She left it overnight to ponder it, then woke up with an extremely emotional response. I can’t do justice to it in a round up – plus it is really full of spoilers – but I completely recommend going and reading it yourself. She sums up her final thoughts at the end:
I don’t feel that my time was wasted by reading it. I can’t say that I liked the book either. I don’t think it will be one I re-read (but then, I don’t do much of that anyway so I’m not sure of the relative value of that statement). It moved me and it made me angry . . . I thought the snapshot of rural Australia was authentic and I got a Cold Chisel earworm as well as a Kenny Rogers one. It made me think. It made me react. How do you grade that?
I have to thank the reviewers so much for their enjoyable reviews – and the new additions to my ‘must read’ list. I hope we see them all back reviewing next year!
I’ve had a strong interest in children’s fiction since Grade 1 when a fabulous teacher bribed me with Famous Five novels. I continued reading children’s and YA books long after I was supposed to ‘grow up’ – something which served me very well when I became a teacher and was known all over the school as ‘the teacher with the books’. I’m currently on maternity leave, enjoying the rich world of picture books with my toddler and sporadically blogging over at Adventures of a Subversive Reader