August 19

And the winner is…

Book of the Year 2017

Announced in Hobart today, the CBCA winners in the Older Readers’ category were:

Book of the Year: Claire Zorn, One Would Think the Deep (see review here)

Honour book: Cath Crowley, Words in Deep Blue

Honour book: Zana Fraillon, The Bone Sparrow

(Did you pick the winner this year? I never do…)

This year’s winners were among 600 Australian authors and illustrators, who created over 400 titles selected for the 2017 notables list!

As noted in a Sydney Morning Herald commentary on the CBCA awards this weekend, many of this year’s shortlisted books touched on friendships and families:

In a strong year where friendship and family were the dominant themes… Claire Zorn’s One Would Think the Deep, (which) captures the grief and anger of 17-year-old Sam following the unexpected death of his mother and how he learns to move on. Children’s Book Council of Australia reveal the best books of 2017, August 19, 2017

Claire’s previous books have also won prestigious nominations and awards, such as CBCA Book of the Year in 2015 for the Protected, CBCA Honour Book for the Sky so Heavy in 2014, along with Premier’s Literary awards along the way. Truly a creative talent to keep an eye on. You can more about her, and how she writes, on her blog here.

Of course, even Claire would look up to another winner in these awards, who has been winning great accolades since 1986 – Bob Graham, Australian author and illustrator of children’s picture books! Bob won again this year with his book called Home in the Rain“a tender, touching story of family life, perfect for sharing when a new baby is on the way. A beautifully observed celebration of the way inspiration can, and often does happen in the most ordinary and unlikely of places.” (Walker Books)

As stated above, there are many more wonderful titles to enjoy if you take a look at the Notables list for 2017. Happy reading!

For the complete list of winners for 2017 (Picture Books, Younger Readers, etc) see the CBCA site. Happy Book Week!

August 6

Thirst by Lizzie Wilcock

thirst-21Imagine:

  • a car accident in the desert
  • driver (probably) dead
  • 2 foster kids stranded
  • one totally disenchanted with foster care
  • the other a young boy

This is the way Thirst begins, and, as we learn a little about the stranded kids, 14 year old Karanda and 8 year old Solomon, it seems that there is little chance their luck is likely to improve in a hurry.

Karanda’s emotions are mixed – angry, perhaps privately scared, but she is determined to get away from her miserable existence as a foster child, passed from family to family. On the other hand, Solomon simply wants to tag along, as Karanda begins to storm off who-know-where, but away from the car-wreck (which is probably their one chance of discovery and rescue). What other option does he have, really?

In her anger, Karanda is uncaring; suspecting that it would be easy for searchers to eventually find sweet little Solomon near the car wreck. However, he is persistent, and keeps up as she marches away from the wreck and her old existence. Thus their circumstances ends up binding them together in a struggle for survival; which would challenge anyone of any age.

Thirst, by Lizzie Wilcock, is peppered with great descriptions of the Aussie outback, and many unique survival tips from the wise-for-his-age Solomon – lucky for Karanda that he follows along.

Karanda’s anger and struggles are palpable throughout, while Solomon’s quiet perserverence is far beyond his years – making much of Karanda’s action seem quite immature and thoughtless.

The physical situations they face are a good reflection of the harshness of the outback; and their emotional battles give the reader lots to pause and think about. But whether it is a realistic story has been questioned – there have been mixed reviews. It is a good survival story, if you just go with the flow.

In the end, is it worth the struggle? What do we learn? What really challenges us the most from this tale?

July 27

Moving on – but sisters forever

protectedAlmost 12 months after her sister’s accident, and with a court case looming, Hannah is still struggling. But she is not alone – her mother drifts aimlessly about much of the time and her father has also lost his spark, sustaining both physical and emotional injuries. This is much as you might expect when a family loses a sister/daughter.

Hannah, however, must continue her journey as a school student, facing the many trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Strangely, in some ways, life is easier at school without her sister. Before the accident, Hannah was bullied at school, with little help from her older sister, Katie. In fact, Katie’s presence often made things worse, as Hannah failed to develop the same standing at school, and Katie failed to lend any sisterly support. (Should Hannah feel guilty about this?)

The enjoyable part of Claire Zorn’s writing is how she captures place and time. Set in the Blue Mountains, the school and social situations in the Protected ring true. As with the Sky So Heavy, her characters are authentic, move about in real places in the community, and some act as thoughtlessly as egocentric teenagers sometimes do.

However, Hannah doesn’t have to struggle alone all through the book, and there are ultimately different degrees of healing for the family. Quirky little inserts (lists, goals, likes and dislikes) hint at the sisters’ relationship, differences between them and add the flavour of sibling intimacy. Thus, some of the situations will make you squirm, while others will have you cheering on the efforts of those who aim to help.zorn2

So, the story probably isn’t new (reflect back to the Incredible Here and Now, a male perspective), but the way in which it unfolds is real and believeable. Since people react to loss in many different ways, it is valuable for us as readers to take the time to step into someone else’s shoes; which indeed we can do as we read the Protected.

Congratulations to Claire; just like the Sky So Heavy in 2014, the Protected has been shortlisted for the Older Readers CBCA awards in 2015. (For a little insight to the author, you can read: Claire Zorn, author of The Protected, answers Ten Terrifying Questions)

 

March 5

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?