Guest post : the Minnow

minnowThe Minnow, by Diana Sweeney, tells of a young girl’s difficult journey of growth through early adolescence into a new way of being.

Our storyteller, Tom (Holly), is orphaned at the age of fourteen when her parents and sibling (Sarah) are killed during a flood which affects many residents of a small lakeside town.  Tom’s ability to both perceive, and also speak to, family members who have died is at first somewhat confusing to the reader. But the most poignant introduction occurs with the voice of “the minnow”. When Tom survives the flood and takes up residence with Bill, a family friend, her first sexual encounter is the result of his abuse. Although she escapes his daily influence, moving in with close friend Jonah, Tom becomes aware that the child she carries (the minnow) will connect her to Bill and his predatory behaviour. And, although she has adult friends who would help her, Tom remains silent.

In the character of Tom (Holly), Diana Sweeney’s first novel sensitively conveys how difficult it is to report sexual predation. Tom’s fear must first be acknowledged and she must be sure of a safe passage for herself, and for her child (the minnow). Sweeney also exposes a dislocation, imaged by the flood event, whereby Tom’s life experiences separate her from school friends and the normal priorities of adolescence. This isolation is evident within the absences that Sweeney embeds in her narration. Tom’s voice consistently grounds the novel in the viewpoint of a fourteen year old and avoids adult perspectives. Even as water imagery infuses the telling and is accompanied by the voices of underwater creatures, the reader must rely on this perspective to link events with consequences. Ultimately Tom accepts her new life as Holly, and her child (the minnow) emerges to a life and voice of her own.

Although Sweeney tells of an adolescence that is experienced through loss and predation, Holly’s emergence unfolds with grace: a deep sense of renewed hope, a capacity to trust, and a connection with life’s possibilities convey images of survival that remain in the mind of the reader long after turning the last page.

Review written by Dr Yvonne Hammer.

# Note: this is one of the shortlisted  books in this year’s CBCA Young Adult section.

Words, words, words!

Way back in primary school, I had a teacher who wasn’t prepared to accept just anything from his students, and who remains today an inspiration for many things I do (thanks, DS). One thing in particular he ‘taught’ was a love of words, and I can remember him encouraging us (as 8-9 year olds) to use variety in our writing.

In year 3, many lists were compiled to replace words like ‘nice’, ‘good’ and ‘walk’ so that in our “compositions” the characters ‘perambulated’ or ‘strolled’ along in their ‘fine’ outfits to have ‘exciting’ adventures along the way. Indeed, my compositions were full of flowery adjectives, as I played with many alternative possibilities to ‘good’ and ‘bad’. [And even now, I pause to use the word ‘nice’.]

rogetWhat fun then, to come across a picture book about a man of words, Peter Mark Roget!

The Right Word : Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet illustrates/explains/describes the source of our contemporary thesaurus, Roget’s Thesaurus in a wonderful/pictorial/playful representation. Bryant tells of Roget’s sombre childhood, the intricacies of his own introverted character, and his love of words and lists.

His achievements as a doctor (at an incredibly young age), as the inventor of the slide rule, a lecturer and an author are now part of history, but it is his legacy of lists, which made Roget a household word.

The Right Word is a highly visual text which will delight wordsmiths and artists alike – as texts, lists and imagery combine to tell, explore and articulate the evolution of Roget’s Thesaurus. Notes at the end of the book also give context and meaning to the book, with a list of historical events from Roget’s life.  As well, notes from the author and illustrator, and a copy of a page from Roget’s original word book are included. With fascinating end papers, The Right Word is a delightful, enchanting and remarkably creative work that everyone deserves to dive into and enjoy.

Time to read!

tumblr_max9qbu2zS1rebh9to1_500As the holidays get closer, the weather cools and term time winds down, it’s time to start thinking what you would like to read during the winter holidays.

Perhaps you’ve already had time this year to dip into some great books? If so, it would be wonderful if you could share some suggestions to others. While there are many great books reviewed on this blog (check out the list on the List of Reviews page), crowdsourcing recommendations from keen readers is also a wonderful way to find out about both new titles, and those which have been around for some time.

Please enter your recommendations in the form below, so that I can compile a list of recommendations to share.

Of course, you also look into our Library Thing catalogue, which provides access to lots of details about our newest library purchases, along with recommendations for similar titles that you would enjoy. GoodReads is another site that you can join to share your reading experience with friends and other bibliophiles.

RECOMMENDED READING -

[please share your suggestions here]

Recommended reading for teens

[not published - for verification only]

Guest post: Laura G. – the Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

frankieIntriguing and unique.

The fascinating novel, The disreputable history of Frankie Landau-Banks, has a great sense of adventure and mystery through out the narrative.

E.Lockhart has intrigued the reader, by the use of many exquisite language techniques and devices, allowing the reader to weave into all the corners of the main character’s mind, wrapping the reader into the novel. E.Lockhart uses her unique writing techniques to capture the reader from the beginning, by leaving a trail of evidence to the wild events that evolve within the book.

The novel follows the American high school experience of wallflower, Frankie Landau- Banks, and her metamorphosis into an independent, powerful woman. An engaging read, strongly recommended for the teenage reader.

five-star-rating

Fabulous, Laura – sounds like another great novel from the author of We Were Liars – previously reviewed here.

Guest post: Listen to the Moon

Listen-to-the-Moon-jacketFrom the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo, this is an intriguing tale full of warmth and friendship set against the backdrop of World War 1.

It includes an injured girl washed up on a rocky island off the end of England, Mozart’s music, a cranky school teacher, the German U-boat campaign, a kindly doctor, a boy who prefers sailing to going to school,  a mystery, islanders who swing between suspicion and compassion for the stranger in their midst, a floating piano, a family who were determined to do what was right, a horse, the Lusitania, and courage and resourcefulness, all of which is true. To say any more would be to spoil the story.

 Morpurgo says that he wrote it because this is ‘the most unlikely and unbelievable story I have ever heard.’

You too will be amazed. Highly recommended. (M.Cayzer)

N.B. If you visit this link, you will see what sort of things inspired Michael Morpurgo to write ‘Listen to the Moon’. You can also hear from Morpurgo in the video below as he answers FAQs.

CBCA 2015 – Shortlist announced

With the 2015 theme ‘Books light up our world’, the Children’s Book Council of Australia have just announced the Shortlists for this year’s book awards which include:

CBCA

Older Readers Shortlist

Older Readers

Nona & Me by Clare Atkins

Intruder by Christine Bongers

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

The Protected by Claire Zorn

The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

A more extensive list (the Notables) is also worth viewing, as are the Shortlists/Notables for other categoories such as Younger Readers and Picture Books – see the CBCA site for more fabulous recommendations!

International Women’s Day

IWDAs women around the world prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, various posts have started to circulate, focusing on the valuable impact of women as authors.

As noted by some, however, this influence has taken some time to develop:

Female writers have given us some of the greatest novels, short stories, poems and essays ever written. But this kind of recognition didn’t come easily for most women. For centuries, female writers struggled to get their work noticed, let alone praised. Some used male pen names, initials or remained anonymous so that their work wouldn’t be discounted because they were female.

http://mikeswritingworkshop.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/25-female-writers-who-changed-history.html

The same blogger (above) lists what he considers to be 25 female authors who changed history – some great and well-renowned writers. Of course, there are many other lists available online, and many who may dispute some of the authors included here, but it is a worthy list to review. (Thought: Where are the Australian authors?)

Here at home, we can look to this year’s Stella Prize, which seeks to recognise and celebrate Australian women writers’ contributions to literature. In doing so, the award aims to applaud the talents of our many local female authors, promote their creativity and encourage up-and-coming female authors. (Click on the image to see the longlist nominated for this year’s award.)

Soruce: http://thestellaprize.com.au/2015/02/announcing-the-2015-stella-prize-longlist

Source: http://thestellaprize.com.au/2015/02/announcing-the-2015-stella-prize-longlist

The success of the Stella prize in fostering the talents of our Australian women’s authors is clear in these 2 quotes:

‘I am living proof that a women-only prize can be career changing … Yes, a prize for women’s writing wouldn’t be necessary in an ideal world, but that isn’t the world we live in.’ – Kate Grenville

‘I hope that the Stella Prize, with its graceful flexibility about genre, will encourage women writers to work
in the forms they feel truly at home in, instead of having to squeeze themselves into the old
traditional corsets.’ – Helen Garner

EatTheSkyDrinkTheOcean_CVR_PR-681x1024Another event more relevant to Young Adult readers, which celebrates women’s authors, has been the publication of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean –  an anthology of short stories by popular Australian women’s authors.

As Kirsty Murray noted when discussing the collaboration on International Women’s Day: A Mouthful of Sky:

“The central idea is of re-imagining the world from a feminist perspective”, and they envisaged the ideal reader’s age as being roughly 13 to 17 years. Eat the sky, drink the ocean

and Margo Lanagan writes about the importance of stories to shine light on issues faced by women, and recent anthology Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, which crosses borders, genres and mediums to re-imagine the world from a feminist perspective.

Eat the sky, Drink the Ocean is a fantastic collection of writing by wonderful Australian authors – so look out for our copy hitting the shelves soon.

Which women’s authors would you like to celebrate? what is it that you particularly like about their writing?

Movie to book? Worth a look?

As always,  over the summer break in Australia, there is a flurry of movies released to the cinemas. At the same time, there is often a hive of activity to publish (or re-publish with a movie-jacket), the associated books. This summer was no exception – though this activity included at least 2 books which were written from the movie – Paper Planes and the Water Diviner.

paper-planesThe magic of what happens in Paper Planes is well suited to a movie format. The struggles of Dylan with his father’s depressed state, alongside bullying issues at school and further afield, are clearly recognisable in the early stages of the movie.

Scenes shot in slow motion capture the drama of what is happening and of course background music enhances the flights taken. Particularly engaging is the scene where Dylan’s grandfather fires up his imagination with a flight in a vintage plane in an Aviation museum. It certainly captured the imagination of the 6 year-old I took to see it.

The book itself lacks a bit of depth – I didn’t feel the same anticipation of what was to happen, nor imagine as vividly the action taking place. The addition of photos from the movie, within the book, and instructions for making paper planes at the end, were a bonus – and certainly inspired my 6 year old companion before we saw the movie. From the photos and the movie trailer we had seen previously, he could already identify some of the themes and characters – “He’s the bully… She does lots of backflips and somersaults… He gets pushed down the stairs.”

Certainly the story has value with great themes of resilience, friendship and the value of imagination- whether consumed as a book or a movie.* (Further review to come.)

the-water-divinerOn the other hand, having just finished the Water Diviner, I am really keen to now see the movie. Andrew and Meaghan Anastasios have developed rich characters and locations in the Water Diviner, and help you see both sides of the story of our historical Anzac tragedy.

You can truly imagine the rough-tough-but-sensitive Connor in his quest to find out the fate of his three sons. Details about the battle fields, life after war in the invaded country and reflections on family life from differing cultural perspectives develop throughout the story.

Thus, the Water Diviner provides the perspective of loss from point of view of the Turkish people. Contrasts and similarities abound in this tale, there is much to ponder about the impact of war.  (Further review to come.)

*********

Anyone who has read this blog before would know that I am an advocate for read-the-book-then see-the-movie. And my bias is often towards the richness of what the book has to offer over the movie. However, I have also agreed in the past with comments from authors who point to the fact that we can appreciate both mediums equally – that it is often unfair to judge them on their differences:

I can only respect what a screenwriter has to do when trimming a sizeable novel to a 120-page script.

I feel like when you give someone a creative job, you can’t say, “Right, be creative, but do it how I want you to do it.”

Source: Marcus Zusak – How I Let Go of the Book Thief,http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/markus-zusak-how-i-let-go-of-the-book-thief-20140102-306he.html

And…

A film is a film is a film.

[On the other hand] Readers [bring a] box of effects and nuances to colour in the spaces left by the writer [of a book].

In film, the magic tends to be woven on the surface. The viewer is treated to another’s dream. In literature, the reader does the dreaming. And that, for me, remains the greatest magic of all.

Source: The Weight of Expectations for Lloyd Jones,http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/the-weight-of-expectations-for-lloyd-jones-20131031-2whz8.html

 

So now it is over to you to judge – which way are you going to find a story? Will you always “read the book, then see the movie”? or does a movie sometimes inspire you to go back to discover the delicacies and intricacies of the book? 

* I do have one alteration that I would make to Paper Planes, and that is that I would at least infer that he had adult company to and within Japan – perhaps with Maureen?

 

Write about what you know…

dietIn her first novel for young adults, Tamar Chnorhokian does exactly that; the Diet Starts Monday is set in Western Sydney and involves the mix of cultures you might expect to find there.

Zara (or Zaruhi, as her Armenian family wants to call her) is a typical western Sydney teenager, except for the fact that she is a size 22 girl with a crush on the hottest guy at school. Because of this, she decides yet again, to go on a diet – but with renewed determination this time, as the Year 12 Farewell looms at the end of the year.

Privy to Zara’s thoughts and anxieties, we can identify with her body image angst, and empathise with the things that trigger her poor eating habits. There are also little hints about what her friends think of her dieting efforts, and her fixation on Pablo Fernandez (after all he already has skinny girlfriend, and, what about his gross habits?).

There are times when you want to shake Zara back to her senses, and make her realise that as she loses weight, she is also losing the respect of her long term friends, Carmelina, Ramsi and Max because of how she is now behaving. I know I was also waiting for her new ‘friends’, Pamela and Holly, to turn around and trip her up on her self-discovery journey. And how was she now treating her own family?

The voices and characters in TDSOM are quite authentic, and the places they go are also real. As a member of Sweatshop, Western Sydney Literacy Movement, this is precisely what Tamar aims to do – to be real and provide an authentic reflection of the community she knows:

SWEATSHOP believes the best way for Western Sydney communities to identify issues that affect them, take control of how they are portrayed and perceived and build alternatives is through literacy.

(Tamar) was one of the original members of The Sweatshop Collective and has been collaborating with Michael Mohammed Ahmad since 2006. Tamar identifies strongly with her Western Sydney community and her Armenian background. [Sweatshop, Western Sydney Literacy Movement]

In an article in the SMH just before her book launch, it is clear how close to Tamar’s heart Western Sydney is:

I wanted to write a positive representation, because there are only negative representations in the media. Where I live, there are wonderful things that happen there, that is the thing I wanted to talk about.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/my-secret-sydney-tamar-chnorhokian-20141126-11to2k.html#ixzz3NpAX7qmw

Readers should easily be drawn in to The Diet Starts Monday (we all know that phrase) and will be keen to find out what happens over the HSC year for Zara and her friends. Writers will be impressed with the example set by Tamar as she sets our her commitment and contribution to Western Sydney literacy and literature development in this novel.

What might you change in TDSM to reflect the area you live in and the personalities you know in your school and community?

Indie Awards 2015 – shortlist

Each year, independent book sellers from around Australia nominate the best Australian books for a calendar year. The shortlists include choices for Fiction, Non-Fiction, Debut and Children’s literature.

As the people on the ground, and those with whom you can discuss your likes and dislikes in reading, their recommendations are valuable and inspiring to their customers. Thus, it is worth looking at this year’s list (announced January 29) and checking off some of the books they have considered for this year’s awards:

indie

Fiction

  • When the Night Comes (Favel Parrett, Hachette)
  • Amnesia (Peter Carey, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Golden Boys (Sonya Hartnett, Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion, Text)

Nonfiction

  • This House of Grief (Helen Garner, Text)
  • The Bush (Don Watson, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Where Song Began (Tim Low, Viking)
  • Cadence (Emma Ayres, ABC Books)

Debut fiction

  • Lost & Found (Brooke Davis, Hachette)
  • Foreign Soil (Maxine Beneba Clark, Hachette)
  • The Strays (Emily Bitto, Affirm Press)
  • After Darkness (Christine Piper, A&U)

Children’s

  • The 52-Storey Treehouse (Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton, Pan Macmillan)
  • Pig the Pug (Aaron Blabey, Scholastic)
  • Withering by Sea (Judith Rossell, ABC Books)
  • Laurinda (Alice Pung, Black Inc.).

[List from: Books and Publishing ]

While obviously many of these books are not Young Adult literature, some could be suitable for a mature reader, and they certainly offer some interesting titles for teachers to consider.

The Children’s category is rather broad, and I am sure that there could be an argument for at least 2 sub-categories of this – especially when you compare Pig the Pug (picture book) with Laurinda (352p.).

The awards will be announced on March 25 – how many of these will you read before then?

For more about the awards, visit Indie Awards 2015.