Who am I? ‘Red’ by Libby Gleeson

She rouses herself, caked in mud, covered in debris. Where is she? what has happened? Better still, who is she?

In a daze, her eyes finally focus on a boy ‘sitting on a kitchen table in a muddy pool’. As she babbles incoherently, he slaps her hard across the face – not a very auspicious beginning to a friendship. However, they do becomes friends, as Peri is a person she has to rely on, while the girl struggles to remember who she is and how she got there.

‘Red’ is set in Sydney, following the events created when a cyclone devastates the eastern suburbs. In survival mode, Red and Peri team up. Glimpses of memory return as they move about finding food and shelter amongst the devastation. Red, though she cannot remember, is sure she has a family who could be searching for her, and so they skirt around the shelters set up to help those impacted by the cyclone’s destruction.

Peri was a street kid before the disaster, and so his skills protect them. They want to avoid the authorities taking charge of them – a decision which comes mainly from Peri, though his reasons are unclear. Red accepts this, and together they move about in survival mode, until a discovery makes their anonymity even more important.

Libby Gleeson has successfully created a mystery which unravels slowly as ‘Red’ recovers her memory, bit by bit. A friend from the past fills some gaps, though lost contact between Jazz and Red leave an absent period in Red’s life. Objects and places they encounter jog her memory also – but only to suggest to her that she is in great danger.

There are some interesting devices in Libby Gleeson’s story:

1. I love that a safe haven for Red and Peri is the school library

2. Red carries a picture book from that library with her – the story of which brings hope and colour into her thoughts. (#Trying to guess which one – think this may be similar to a recent publication?)

3. The disaster hits Sydney with an impact that recalls our shock about the Queensland floods, while we were still able to carry on our daily lives here in NSW – in the story life carries on in the suburb of Burwood, and areas outside of the eastern suburbs seaboard.

There are also others that I won’t mention, as they may be spoilers, but needless to say, Libby Gleeson has created a tale which reflects the chaos caused by natural disasters and the inner resilience of people, woven into a thriller which has you guessing ‘what next?’.

As an extremely successful author, an advocate for quality children’s literature and a passionate teacher of her art, Libby’s talents provide another great read for enthusiasts from senior primary to lower secondary school – certainly one to promote interest and discussion.

Here’s a book trailer, released by to introduce ‘Red’ and a link to Libby’s website for more great writing:

Whodunit? What I saw and how I lied – Judy Blundell

As I began reading this story, I felt that I was in an old style of detective story – where someone hires the cheap inexperienced detective in smoke-filled rooms. With that tone, the tale of Evie and her family picking up the pieces in the post-war era began, reflecting a bit of shadyness, a mystery to be solved.

Evie is a young girl, struggling with the normal angst of teenage girls – is she pretty enough? why isn’t she beautiful like her mother? where does she fit into the family? how real are her friendships? Then one day, her stepfather comes home to announce that they are taking off on a spontaneous trip to Palm Beach, Florida. Their initial excitement wanes as the discomfort of their road trip from New York increases, and then when they arrive in Palm Beach, it appears holiday season is over.

In spite of this, Joe remains cheerful about their arrival, and they soon get into the holiday mode. They also meet up with some interesting characters, though some may not be quite who they pretend to be. As you read, lots of questions form in your mind – why do they stay in Palm Beach when it’s clearly not the normal tourist season? what does Joe have to hide? who is Peter interested in, and why? and, shouldn’t they take cover as hurricane season approaches?

Elements of the book were predictable, which is sometimes satisfying for the reader. But it wasn’t totally predictable, and even at the end, who did what and why, is not 100% clear. What is clear, is the strength of family relations, and the way our perceptions might be flawed at times by what we want to see…

An “elegant, detail-driven tales (that) smoothly segues into a whodunit page-turner.” quote from the blurb (Chicago Tribune).