Welcome to the May 2020 Round Up. We were still in some kind of lockdown, but things started to ease a little – we could go to the shops and get take away, but were still working from home and I think learning from home. Heading into June, things are getting much looser – which will be good for gathering of books. During May as we were used to our new normal, I know I seemed to be reading more, though that hasn’t really changed for me, and as a result, we had a surge in our numbers for books for kids and young adults. We had sixteen books reviewed for children and younger readers, and thirteen for young adult readers, with twenty-nine in total. These books covered all sorts of genres and themes, from picture books to middle grade and longer novels.
We had some new reviewers this month – ten of our sixteen were spread out across those reviewers with six by your editor – me – as I try to keep up with trends and what is out there. Our most reviewed book, with four reviews, was The Year the Maps Changed by Danielle Binks – this is Danielle’s first book, and one that explores the 1999 Kosovar-Albanian refugee crisis, and the centres set up in Australia to help – this was two years before the Tampa crisis and ‘Children Overboard’, so it was right smack in the middle of my own early teen years, and brought back memories of not only these events, but of what life was like pre-Internet and pre-having a phone glued in your hand all the time.
Nadia L King took part in the blog tour set up shortly after tours and events started to be cancelled back in March. There were several things Nadia liked about this book, and one aspect that all reviewers picked up on was the diversity and accessibility of the political issues and time period for middle grade readers, and Nadia highlights the juxtaposition of ‘new Australian’ Vietnamese refugees and the Kosovar-Albanian refugees looking for a safe haven – and the role diversity plays in the representation of these issues, the characters and storyline through the metaphor of maps, cartography and geography as a storytelling device. As the reviews all touched on similar issues, I’ve highlighted one and the rest are linked below:
Denise Newton reviewed the latest Jackie French book – The Schoolmaster’s Daughter, which I received for review purposes last week and look forward to reading. Denise said it was engrossing and accessible historical fiction. as an avid fan of Jackie French, all her books are like this. Denise starts her review by calling Jackie French a national treasure, and I could not agree more – what Jackie has brought to Australian literature and history through her books is fantastic and engaging. They bring history to life. Denise says this is aimed at middle grade and older readers – and it explores Australia as it forms its Federated identity in 1901, and the conflicts that arise after the characters are stranded in their boat, with meticulous attention to historical detail. I really look forward to reading this book.
The third book I’ll be highlighting for younger readers is Daisy Runs Wild by Caz Goodwin, one of my reviews. Daisy, Jasper’s pet koala, is lazy and has to be taken around in a wheeled contraption – but today something is wrong, and she creates havoc on their walk! Caz asked me to review this after I asked her to participate in my Isolation Publicity series – her interview will be appearing in August, and what I loved about this book was the way the story was told through rhymes and fun, using scenarios that seem outlandish but that kids and those young at heart can truly imagine. It’s a great story for kids learning to read, and the rhymes and rhythms will help them learn to love language.
In Young Adult reviews, we have had a few new reviewers, and a few familiar faces. One book that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately is Peta Lure’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley, reviewed by myself and Veronica Strachan. It explores themes of diversity, neurodiversity and LGBTQIA characters for a young adult audience, and is accessible, and allows readers to see the many, many differences in the world in a way that is not only different and unique but relatable in many ways.
Another Young Adult book reviewed in May was How To Grow a Family Tree by Eliza Henry-Jones, reviewed by Cass Moriarty, about family and what it means, who makes up family and why – Cass said it was filled with humour and wit, and was a touching story about who you are in life. This is another one I am looking forward to reading as well.
With more books than usual reviewed in both areas this time, it was harder to choose which ones to highlight. But it is good to see a diverse range of books and reviewers for younger readers – especially for children and middle grade readers – this seems to be a very fun area to read in.