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.

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.


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

Guest post: by Meredith C.

‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’, by Brian Selznick, is a novel that uses both words and pictures to tell a mysterious and intriguing novel. The main character Hugo is a young orphaned boy who lives in a train station in France, 1931. He operates the clocks while avoiding being seen by the station inspector.

Hugo spends his spare time fixing his dead father’s machine, or automaton. However, to find the clogs and various other parts he needs, he steals them.

The toy store that Hugo steals from is run by an old, grumpy man. One day when Hugo is stealing something the man catches him and forces to work for him. While working for the man Hugo meets a young, bright girl named Isabelle.

The two children must embark on an adventure to discover the secret of the automaton and what lies within it. They also discover that the old, grumpy man from the toy booth is not how he seems, he has an exciting past.

I found the book interesting to use pictures to help tell the story; it was the first book I read with that kind of structure and I am so glad that it was so interesting and intriguing. I would recommend this book for a teenager. I would personally give it 4 stars.

For more information about Brian Selznick, Hugo Cabret and more of his books visit:

Guest review for Baking cakes in Kigali

For this post I have a guest reviewer. Thanks to Mrs Leask, who gave me permission  to repost her comments on this blog. With an interest in Tanzania and surrounding countries, and after reading her comments, I too read ‘Baking cakes in Kigali’ (by Gaile Parkin) and I agree wholeheartedly with all she writes below… (Thanks, Kirrily)

bakingcakes“A delightfully warm and relaxing book to read in bed or on a couch during a quiet evening.  We are introduced to the wonderful Angel Tungaraza through a series of apparently unconnected stories, which gradually dovetail to form a very satisfying whole. 

Angel and her family are Tanzanians, living in the capital city of neighbouring Rwanda, where her husband Pius has a contract job at the University.  Both their children have died; Angel and Pius are raising their grandchildren.  Angel has developed a small business baking and decorating cakes. 

It is through Angel’s diverse clientele that Parkin gently introduces big issues affecting Rwanda – and much of Africa – the legacy of colonialisation, AIDS, casualties of war (in Rwanda’s case, the terrible genocide), foreign aid.  Although very heavy subjects, these are touched on through the interractions between the cakemaker and her clients, more often than not, over a cup of sweet, cardomom-spiced tea. 

Initially I was concerned that the book would either trivialise the horror of such a damaged land, or that it would be terribly depressing.  Neither is true because, although Parkin doesn’t whitewash any of the dreadful realities, they are found within the stories of people who display resilience, humour and hope.  This book gives insight into what is unimaginable to most non-Rwandans, and allows us to enter into real hope.”

Note: reliable sources (thanks Kirrily) tell me that Gaile is working on her second novel, also featuring the Tungaraza family, Angel’s family. Definitely something to look forward too.