Welcome to the second round-up of 2016 examining books aimed at younger readers! Lots of fabulous books, new and old, to look at this month, so let’s dive in.
Brona reviewed Special by Georgia Blain which deals with trading in data and genetic modification as the norm. It’s an examination of what makes us unique as people:
“The premise of Special is fascinating because it feels so possible, so close to the path we seem to be on. Datastreaming rules this new world. It’s a constant distraction as well as a way of keeping tabs on everyone. Without your mobile and your datafile, you have no access to food, work or shelter.”
Amy from Lost in a Good Book delved into some Kaz Delaney books, reviewing Dead, Actually; Almost Dead and The Reluctant Jillaroo. She points out that she was left sleepless by all of them! When reviewing Almost Dead, Amy talked about how both the writing style and the story construction pulls the reader in:
“There is a perfect balance between the paranormal, the mystery, and the every day, and Kaz’s writing is so inviting that you want to keep turning the page. Her words draw you in and even closing the book for sleep is unthinkable because you don’t want to leave the story. Your curiosity overrules sleep, and who could sleep anyway when such an enthralling tale is being told!”
Bree @ 1girl2manybooks reviewed Kirsty Eager’s new book, Summer Skin, a story of residential university colleges, revenge and romance. She points out how the book taps into Australian culture while pointing out double standards which are often applied to young men and women when it comes to relationships and hook ups. She also talks about how the characters don’t fall instantly in love – that they’re flawed human beings who require growth as the story progresses.
Brenda introduces us to Evan’s Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood, which seems to take a totally new approach to the much told Gallipoli story. Evan has travelled with his father since he was eight, now they’ve been asked to travel to the Dardanelles. What starts as an adventure soon turns into a quest for survival. Brenda was recommended this book by a Goodreads friend and definitely passes the recommendation along:
“What a unique and fascinating book Evan’s Gallipoli has turned out to be! Narrated in Evan’s voice and told in day by day diary entries, it is a wonderful story which tells a different side of the Great War.”
Kira reviewed Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, the story of Francesca who is struggling finding her place in a new school surrounded by new people while her mother seems to fall apart at home.
“This was such a great story. I love the setting, having lived in some of the areas mentioned in the book, and the Aussie catholic school experience is well represented. The Aussie slang and the relationships between each of the characters felt authentic.”
A story of popularity (or lack of), family and a ghost made up Yellow by Megan Jacobson which was reviewed by Amy. Kirra makes a pact with the ghost which is supposed to make everything better, until she learns about the complexity of the struggles around her.
“The emotions definitely begin early on and stay in varying degrees until the final page. Yellow grabs onto your heart and will take it on a tough and brutal journey filled with pain and surprises and twists that you will not believe. It’s down to earth despite the fact there’s a ghost in a phone box, and it’s filled with characters who have flaws and failings and while you can’t forgive everything, it’s evident some of them are doing the best they can.”
Tsana and Shaheen both reviewed Their Fractured Light, the final book in the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner. Tsana talks about how some of the formulas are mixed up in this third book, but recommends reading it as part of the series:
“If you enjoyed the earlier books in the series, then I definitely recommend picking up Their Fractured Light. If you’re new to the series, then it makes sense to read them in order.”
Shaheen highlighted several elements which made the book exciting for her, but admitted sadness that the series was ending:
“I am a huge fan of this world, and of the six brilliant individuals who helped save it. I have enjoyed every page, every moment, of my journey in the Starbound world and am sad to see it go. But Kaufman and Spooner promise that this is not the end of their joint ventures but only the beginning, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting any and all future collaborations between these two talented authors.”
Tarla reviewed Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield, a book about a girl living in a small town, working at a roadhouse and waiting for her ‘real life’ to begin. Tarla notes that she particularly likes the way the setting is constructed:
“The town the novel is set in is named Mobius, and is a dying town people might be able to leave occasionally, but somehow they end up back where they started. I love the line, ‘people drove in by accident and left on purpose’.”
Jess from The Never-Ending Bookshelf has provided a lengthy and thoughtful review of Cyclone by Jackie French. This book follows on from the books Flood and Fire and looks specifically at Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Jess points out how vividly the cyclone is painted for the reader, both through French’s words and through the illustrations of Bruce Whatley:
“Cyclone is not your stereotypical bright and bubbly picture book. Instead it features darker coloured illustrations and covers a period of destruction and loss rarely seen in children’s books, but it’s also uplifting and true to life, a point that Jackie French makes sure to never shy away from in her work. It’s a perfect example of the harsh and unpredictable reality of the weather and poignant reminder not to take anything for granted.”
Finally Brona reviewed Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters by Ailsa Wild. This book, part of a new series, looks at building blended families as well as a secret, a runaway and a mean neighbour. Brona highly recommends them for 8+ readers:
“Wild writes a smart, snappy story with humour and good grace. The relationships feel authentic and believable. She tackles typical childhood concerns like belonging, lying and sharing.”
To round off the round up this month, I have to mention the shortlist for the Readings Children’s Book Prize which was announced yesterday. It was great to see 4 fabulous Australian Women Writers amongst the shortlistees:
- Run, Pip, Run by J.C. Jones
- 88 Lime Street by Denise Kirby
- The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears and Dinalie Dabarera (Reviewed by Brona’s Books)
- Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler
Despite others hinting that I am supposed to ‘grow up’ at some point, books for young people continue to play a huge part in my reading life. This has served me well, when I became a teacher and was known for always having a book recommendation at hand. I’m currently enjoying the rich world of picture books with my three year old, preparing a big pile of picture books to read to our soon-arriving bub, revisiting some of my favourite authors and reviewing books when I manage not to lose my blog . . .