We’re into March now, and in Australia, we’re living in a COVID-normal world of check-ins, tests, and social distancing. Yet we are still reading, and our numbers for younger readers and young adult books are tracking to be fairly similar. We had ten reviews for children and younger readers this month (I admit to posting most of them, as Scholastic is now sending me review books as well, so I now have a ‘review’ brain and a ‘quiz writing’ brain for Scholastic books), and three young adult novels. The lower young adult numbers make me wonder why, because we have some fantastic YA in Australia, and there are a few I have to read. Is it because of the heavier and darker themes at times, and after 2020, we’re turning to the familiar in children’s books and novels? Or are people just not interested in YA? I know I have seen some discussion in various places about who should or shouldn’t read YA. Does the lowering trend mean the pressure on adults to not read YA is a thing? Just some thoughts I was pondering as I was pulling this together.
In Children’s and YA, we had a lot of picture books and middle grade, with Amie Kaufman’s latest, The World Between Blinks garnering two reviews. It has a diverse cast, and mixes history with fantasy and time slip into a rollicking adventure for cousins Marisol and Jake. Denise Newton and I both reviewed it favourably, with Denise saying that it lives up to its name, and that as a history nut, she enjoyed the way the story is peppered with figures from the past, as did I. We both loved the nods to Australian history with Harold Holt and the thylacine. Harold Holt lost in a world where lost things are? Perfect! Its exploration of memories and how they shape us is a powerful aspect of the book as well.
A picture book I read and reviewed for Scholastic was The Flying Angel by Vicki Bennett, a history based story about nurses in World War Two, and the role they played in getting injured Australian soldiers from Papua New Guinea to Australia. It is a touching story, and the images perfectly capture the despair of war, whilst giving children an insight into Australian history and the roles that women played.
One of the middle grade books I reviewed was Lola Online: The Secret Upstairs Fan Club Party by Shannan and Tayla Steadman, the first in a new middle grade series that captures the online world of today’s kids in a fun and accessible way for reluctant and confident readers, but also explores ideas of friendship, responsibility and the unpredictability of the online world that we all find ourselves navigating these days. It was a fun read, and one that I think would be awesome to write a quiz on, and maybe one day I will, once I can get back into it!
In young adult, Claire and I both reviewed The Ghost Squad by Sophie Masson. We both enjoyed it, and whilst Claire observed a lack of glossary, my copy had one to explain the terminology peppered throughout the book, which helped build the world which is like ours but not quite like ours, following an event called the Pulse that changed everything. I felt the events and setting of this novel were so close to our world, that it could be happening where we are in our own timeline. It is one that takes you to a different, somewhat unsettling place, yet at the same time, there is a sense of finality in the story, and a mystery woven throughout. It is one of those books that will keep you on your toes, uncertain of what is coming and unsure of who to trust.
A short round up this month, and I’ll be watching our trends and their changes throughout the year to see what happens.