February 24

the Mozart Question – Michael Morpurgo

Renowned author, Michael Morpurgo, deals with yet another challenging issue in this short tale – how can we discuss trials and tragedies of the past? How do we heal the impact of extreme and damaging situations which haunt survivors – things their descendants struggle to understand?

When a young reporter is thrust into an important interview with a famous violinist, she is warned not to ask ‘the Mozart question’. Thankfully, she is unaware of what this means and in her innocence of this, she is able to develop an extremely meaningful and significant conversation with a descendant – of a survivor – of a Nazi concentration camp.

Morpurgo has written several stories related to the impact of war  – most famously, War Horse, which has been made into both a global stage play and a movie. ‘The Mozart Question’ tackles the silence many families have faced, post-war, and gives younger readers a hint of discussions that never happened after major wars. What were the things that no-one wanted to discuss? How hard was it to have been a survivor? What were the impacts on life after survival?

‘The Mozart Question’ represents many of the unasked questions we have for survivors of war. In this story, we might ask:

  • Why doesn’t Paulo’s Papa play his violin anymore?
  • Why did his mother never reveal that she also played violin?
  • How will they react to Paulo’s violin lessons?

Morpurgo offers one type of resolution to come through an extreme wartime experience –  what can we learn from this? Can it reflect real life? and what can we learn about human resilience in the face of historical tragedy? Can stories like this show us what people have faced in times of war and beyond? Yes, yes!

# Listen to Michael Morpurgo (2010) discussing where his stories spring from:

September 8

Rich and Rare…

rich-and-rare-frontAt over 480 pages, Rich and Rare, may at first seem like a challenge – but as a collection of Australian short stories, poetry and artwork, it is probably one of the most accessible books published in Australian YA fiction recently.

Editor, Paul Collins, has described it as as ‘a sumptuous literary feast’ in which ‘no one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.’ And like a feast or banquet, it is a book which you can dip in and out of wherever you want, and, as much as you want or need.

With the contents divided into 13 different genre groupings, there will be parts that appeal to many different readers, at different times in their reading journey. With an amazing collection of contemporary Australian authors, it also provides a tasting of writing by our very best, well recognised Australian authors, poets and illustrators – which is truly inspirational.

As a collection of short stories, the anthology provides many great examples of how to tell tale succinctly; which will appeal to a generation which wants things ‘fast and furious’ and who read with ‘a need for speed’.

As a collection of short stories, set in Australian condoitions, it provides many ‘aha’ moments which readers will recognise – for example:

  • the perfect weather which ends school holidays (A Tidy Town)
  • the sadness of losing a sibling (My Brother’s Keeper)
  • the tussles of brotherhood (the Knitting Needle Ninja)
  • when talent and perserverance triumph (Bringing Luisa to Life)

It also provides some interesting tales, which challenge:

  • the rights of privilege and inheritance (the Two-faced Boy)
  • the spirit of adventure (Search)
  • what you should/could do to support your family in times of crisis (I Can’t Sleep)
rich-and-rare

# Young and free creators in ‘Rich and Rare’

While Brodie writes diary entries to frogs (the Frog Diaries), a precious pet is lost in Carpet Capers, and a vindictive teacher makes life uncomfortable for his young students (Dr Lovechild Regrets) – but will he reap what he sows? In the mix, with many many more tales, there is a great assortment to both please and intrigue readers – indeed, too many to write about individually.

In the busyness of daily life, this anthology could be  a welcome collection. With reknowned authors, interesting genres/themes and inspirational tales to share, it provides strong but concise stories without huge time demands on readers. Perhaps ones that will inspire discovery of lengthier stories written by many of these talented creators? Indeed, there are many more stories to discover within and beyond this amazing collection.

Which is your favourite:

  • tale with the book?
  • author within the book?
March 31

Replica – what does that mean?

There are some books where writing too much in a review can spoil even the beginning of a novel. You could think here of the Book Thief, the Life of Pi and the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (which was even published without a blurb). Replica is another title, where too much information early on would spoil the twists and turns the story takes.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/children_sbookreviews/11032027/Replica-by-Jack-Heath-review.html

Author Jack Heath and cover of Replica

That said, it can be revealed that Jack Heath’s tale is one that will grip you, and have you guessing about what is real, and where the next twist in the tale might happen. Indeed, the main character, Chloe, spends a lot of time trying to understand who she is, what her role in life might be, and what sort of dangers her family and friends might be facing:

Chloe wakes up to find all her memories have been wiped. And the only person who knows what happened is a teenage girl who looks and sounds exactly like her.  [Source: http://jackheath.com.au/replica/]

As more is revealed about where Chloe is and who she is dealing with, challenges arise in the story. Will the replica be able to fool her family? Friends at school? Will that protect Chloe and her family?

There are many questions to be answered, and changing circumstances to be overcome, as our heroine makes choices in how to act and who to trust. (Great to have an active female protagonist too!) The action in the story is fast and furious, creating a page-turner where you struggle to be able to place all the pieces togther. (Can you guess some of the twists and turns ahead?)

Cleverly scripted, Replica is another book from Jack Heath, who rose to fame as a young author. Having started writing The Lab when he was 13 years old, he was given a publishing contract at the age of 18. Other titles which followed, Remote Control, Money Run and his latest titles, the Cut Out and 300 Minutes of Danger are all action-packed thrillers for young adults, and always eagerly awaited by his followers.

Jack is an author who likes to share his love for reading and writing and has many videos to promote this. In this interview from 2012, he speaks a lot about his ideas for writing, how he does it, and why. His compulsion to write and his ideas leading up to the writing of Replica, a book set in Canberra about a robot who is pretending to be a human being… are interesting to hear, especially after the release of Replica:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_19zskzVvo

Jack Heath: “Writing is what keeps me happy. (I’m) Just a guy who’s interested in stuff”.

Aren’t we lucky he is? What ideas can you pick up from this interview?