We’re coming to the end of a very hard year. COVID restrictions are still part of our lives in various ways across the world, and as we head into summer, it is still quite cold – good reading weather. As I write this, not far from the beach, I have jeans on, and a jumper nearby just in case. 2020 has been the year our reviews for books aimed at kids have exploded. October saw nineteen reviews for books aimed at readers below the young adult readership, with six young adult books read, though one I feel is more a middle grade book that might straddle the two readership groups. It’s been an interesting year, where I’ve seen Young Adult numbers fall, older books read, and some months with multiple entries for one book. The younger reader stats have been much more varied, and therefore, I’ve had a bigger scope to focus on in these round ups.
This month, there was a diverse range of books read, from picture books from beloved authors like Jackie French – two reviews for her book, The Fire Wombat (which I gushed about with my bookstore when buying another book), to debut authors and #OwnVoices books.
So, how did I narrow down which books to discuss this month? As always, it is hard – as there is always crossover with other categories. I’ll start with Fire Wombat by Jackie French, reviewed by myself and Denise Newton Writes. Fire Wombat is an ode to the amazing story of a wombat that sheltered other wildlife in its burrow during the devastating bushfires of 2019/2020 that ripped across much of the east coast of Australia. Both Denise and I picked up on the sensitive way a traumatic event was dealt with, and how this book will help readers process their feelings about what happened. I also read books like this with the eye of their educational role, for literacy and knowledge, and the power these stories that represent our distinct Australian experience of last summer and the way we all tried to cope and understand it.
Tessa Wooldridge focused on Indigenous stories this month, starting with Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence by Anita Heiss, a book that I’ve got on my shelf to read as well. She has included it, and several other books about Indigenous history for children in the above post. This is more of a resource for non-Aboriginal readers to explore when trying to expand their reading of Indigenous authors, but I thought it was important to include here, because sometimes we don’t know where to look, and posts like this help find titles.
One book that I reviewed that I think is important to include is We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad. Most World War Two fiction focuses on the Allies, or the Holocaust, the big things we know about. However, some stories are not told, like the stories of the children in Germany who ran and lived in the wild and had to hide who they were if they found people to take them in, so they could live. These powerful stories show that the effects of war are so widespread, that sometimes some parts are forgotten, or relegated to history people may think they don’t need to know about. In this story, Liesl changes so much and learns so much – her belief in what she knows shaken by the events that bring the war to an end. It was one of those books where I just had to find out what happened. I wanted to know if the kids survived, and how. It is a middle grade book, but older readers will appreciate this one too.
Onto our young adult count, with six reviews in total this month.
Emily at A Keyboard and an Open Mind reviewed Future Girl by Asphyxia, a Deaf author. Set in a near-future Melbourne, Future Girl explores the insidious side of oppression, rather than the overt side. As a result, Emily says it snuck up on her a little. The story, told through Deaf MC Piper, who learns Auslan through the Child of a Deaf Adult, so she can straddle two worlds, and shows how learning Auslan is empowering, and what it means for Deaf people. Emily suggests all primary kids should learn to finger-spell at least, and picks up on the lack of Deaf, and by extension, disabled characters in literature in general. This is something I had noticed to, as there are many books where who they are there to act as feel-good inspiration for the abled characters, rather than being their own entity. Emily recommends we all give this book a go.
The second Young Adult book I’ll highlight is What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillame, reviewed by Amy at Lost in A Good Book. Amy loved this book about growing up and friendship. She says it is the epitome of teen behaviour and angst, and she loved that so many aspects were not perfect, like Maisie’s family dynamics. It is one of those books that is genuine and original, and that captures the truth of the characters in the story and that the best thing about it was how realistic and believable it is for readers, and that is uniquely Australian and that it doesn’t try to live up to an American summer – it sounds like the perfect Young Adult read for Australians, as we can finally see our summer, and our experiences reflected.
It certainly has been an interesting month, and as we come to the end of the year, it will be interesting to see what comes through in the next few months, and how this compares across the year when I wrap the whole of 2020 up.