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?

March 7

the Martian – book or movie?

martianScience fiction has not been my favourite genre for some time now (though it used to be..). But I convinced myself to read ‘the Martian’ after recommendations from an English teacher (thanks, Amanda) – before watching the movie, of course. [Note: it is suited to a mature audience.]

If you want a example of the genre, science fiction – then this is it! ‘The Martian’ is full of scientific events, descriptions and data calculation, which at times I found overwhelming.

The complex explanations and calculations that Mark Watney makes (in order to decide how best to cope with being stranded on Mars) consume a lot of the early part of the book; but after all, he is an astronaut with the associated scientific background. The lucky thing is that he is a botanist, and so able to calculate the best way to grow his own food in the ‘Hab’ – the unit in which the crew of 6 had previously habitated on Mars.

Did I mention Mark Watney was stranded on Mars? This happened after a severe storm, which NASA had predicted, and had thus ordered the evacuation of the team to Hermes, the vessel orbiting Mars (ready for their return to Earth). Assuming he was struck dead in an accident, the other 5 team members reluctantly left him there.

Understandably, there are lots of tensions in ‘the Martian’. Tensions between NASA and Mark Watney regarding the best ways for him to survive. Tensions for the Commanding Officer, Lewis (and her team) who left Watney behind, believing he was dead. Tension also arises as parties within NASA try to decide the best ways to rescue Watney, and whether they should risk the lives of others to rescue him. And of course, global political tensions and overtones are always under consideration.

Mars-Discovery

Martian Landsacpe – Source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/09/marsnasa-live-blog-watch-tonights-major-announcement-here/

There are also lots of laugh-out-loud moments; which humanise the predicament Watney finds himself in. He complains about the disco music Commander Lewis left behind. He laughs when he makes mistakes. And, he laughingly pronounces loudly the firsts he has achieved as a human on Mars eg. the first colony (his potato farm in the hab). Or to quote the book:

It’s a strange feeling. Everywhere I go, I’m the first. Step outside the rover? First guy ever to be there! Climb a hill? First guy to climb that hill! Kick a rock? That rock hadn’t moved in a million years! I’m the first guy to drive long-distance on Mars. The first guy to spend more than thirty-one sols on Mars. The first guy to grow crops on Mars. First, first, first!

Source: http://www.techinsider.io/the-martian-best-space-sci-fi-movie-2015-8

Movie still – Source: http://www.techinsider.io/the-martian-best-space-sci-fi-movie-2015-8

One of the big issues Watney has is forgiveness –  for the crew that left him behind. They did what they were expected to do, given the information they had, and for this he forgives them. Of course, they have no hesitation when called upon later to initiate a rescue mission. But that, they must realise, could have implications for their future careers – as well as their lives.

In reality, how long can a man survive when his survival depends on monitoring all things needed for survival in a harsh environment – food, water and oxygen? Would you survive, or just give up?

Having already told too much of the story, I will pause here with a comment from a recent Catalyst program which actually praised the value of sci-fi literature (the Martian, in particular) for inspiring the imagination:

NARRATION
But perhaps one of the key benefits of sci-fi is it helps makes the future seem more possible.

Dr Katie Mack
Like with The Martian, you know, you see this landscape, it’s depicted as a place you can go, an achievable goal. And so I think a lot of times people see these kinds of depictions in science-fiction and that makes it seem more achievable and it makes it seem like more of a goal that they can work toward. Source: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4415534.htm

Another part of the Catalyst program pointed out discrepancies in ‘the Martian’, and scientific fact as we know it; BUT, who knows what science fiction will inspire in the future?

## Looking forward to watching the movie soon – to fill visual gaps – and of course, so that I can point out what they missed from the book! Did YOU read the book first?

June 10

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.

March 8

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?

September 13

Congratulations, Jackie French!

607

Source: SMH, September 12 2013

Accolades once again to Jackie French’s writing talents! She has been awarded the Young People’s History Prize at NSW Premier’s History Award for 2013.

Extraordinarily, Jackie had 2 chances to win, as 2 of her books were shortlisted for the prize – Pennies for Hilter and Dingo: The Dog Who Conquered a Continent. A third book, What are the Mysteries of Lake Mungo? by Timothy Gurry and Robert Lewis, made up the shortlist for this section of the History awards.

Jackie is well reknowned for her writing – especially historical fiction; and has won many awards over the years as children’s author. As a prolific researcher and writer, she collects her inspiration from around her, including comments from fan-mail. Pennies for Hitler is a fine example of this:

After reading French’s first book on the fraught topic, Hitler’s Daughter, the boy was moved to write his first note, observing: “I have learnt to be wary of anyone who makes you angry”.

French says: “I had been wondering how did Hitler do it. How did he get people to believe that people because of their race and religion should be exterminated? And a 14-year-old boy gave me the answer. Anger is contagious.” From SMH article below.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/jackie-frenchs-pennies-for-hitler-wins-young-people-prize-at-nsw-premiers-history-award-20130912-2tmnd.html#ixzz2eizC2ZWU

# Also see our previous review on Pennies for Hitler. Congratulations once again, Jackie!