Welcome to another edition of the Children’s and Young Adult Round Up! Another month gone, and many more books read with some interesting statistics. We were down to twenty from twenty-three for kids’ books and had eight young adult entries. So in terms of numbers, things are still fairly similar month to month, yet something different happened this month. We always have a diverse range of kids’ books read and reviewed. There seemed to be a broader range in the eight young adult count. It is interesting that we seem to be continuing our 2020 trends and reading more books aimed at kids aged 12 and under, and less Young Adult. One reason for this could be the familiarity and safety of children’s and middle grade books – the stakes aren’t as high and have more certainty. Whereas in Young Adult, the stakes are often higher and there can be more anxiety. Another reason could be that, in my experience at least, Young Adult writers from other countries such as America and the UK get more attention than those from Australia. I’ve been trying to read more Australian Young Adult, as I find Australian stories more open, more relatable and in many ways, more laid back. T here is a sense of unity within Australian stories – a way we can all imagine ourselves or see something of ourselves or experiences within these stories. My current TBR pile is nearly all, if not entirely Australian!
Now, onto the children’s books. Wow, I was yet again spoiled for choice with twenty reviews, and boy, did I find it hard to choose what to include with so many good reviews this month. The first one I’m including is one of my own, because it is a book that I think we should all read, and a review that the author found and was so touched by, it made my heart sing to know how my reviews are received. PAWS by Kate Foster is the story of Alex, an autistic boy who loves his dog, and wants to make friends – but everything he’s tried has let him down. Until he hears about a local dog show and meets the new neighbour. This touching story is about friendship and acceptance – accepting those we invite into our lives for who they are, about not judging them and about doing what we can to help and understand them. I loved this book and hope that everyone reads it eventually.
Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf reviewed Day Break by Amy McQuire, which she describes as a gentle, multi-generational Indigenous conversation between a child, parent and grandparent about Australia Day, and its various meanings and the debate – giving Indigenous People a voice in the debate and discussion. It’s a perspective often overlooked, and that until recent years, was probably pushed aside in a bigger way. As a non-Indigenous person like Jess, I do not want to speak for Indigenous people. But do want to say that books like this give non-Indigenous Australians to learn and begin a conversation amongst their own circles, and hopefully find a way to engage with Indigenous Australians they might interact with. For so long, Australia Day has been seen through the white lens, and I think it is time we started looking at all sides of Australian history, all voices, especially the silenced ones. It will make our history richer, more vibrant and will hopefully start to bring us together as a nation, inclusively and cooperatively.
Nadia L King reviewed a book I read and reviewed last year – When Rain Turns to Snow by Jane Godwin. Like me, she enjoyed its ability to give voice to toxic friendships and how to deal with them – what do we do when we are confronted with something so far out of our control, that we can find ourselves out of our depth? Who do we turn to when we are sworn to secrecy, and what do we do about it? We both agreed that the characters were well-rounded with messy lives – nothing is perfect. Nadia seemed to love this book as much as I did! This seems to have been one of our quieter books, a kind of meditative book that is thoughtful and sensitive, and at its heart, is about family and friendship, and loyalties.
In Young Adult, I want to begin with a classic of Australian literature, that is diverse, reflecting on the diversity and universality of coming of age in Australia, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, reviewed by Emily. I remember reading this when I was about fifteen, and still have my original copy. Emily has only just read it – but like Emily, I read it on my own after Mum bought it for me, rather than it being on my school curriculum. Emily says that it beautifully explores what it means to be caught between two cultures, whilst still being wonderfully Australian, with characters that are complex, and shows that life is messy.
Amy at Lost in a Good Book reviewed an anthology I’ve heard and seen spoken about a lot – and just haven’t managed to get around to reading yet. This anthology is Meet Me at the Intersection by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim (editors). Amy says that it was refreshing to see that each story was diverse in terms of the content, the plot, the characters and the setting – allowing each story to be its own vibrant entity. She said it was about representation, not specific messages or issues. And I’m finding that a lot lately – stories that are less about issues, though they do come up, but are at heart, about representation. About people of all kinds doing things we all do in our daily lives.
So it seems that we are also getting a very broad range of diversity – in terms of genre, stories, issues, authors, race, sexuality and so many other aspects that all go into telling diverse stories, and contribute to a diverse range of reviews at the moment.
Happy reading in May!