The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017
This novel for Intermediate and junior secondary readers is set in Sydney after the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the Japanese when great grey warships sat in the harbour like a herd of tired elephants.
It is an absorbing and lyrically novel with a sense of dread about it and ends in a surrealistic way. It recreates Australian life before World War 2 that prompted the then Prime Minister of Australia to observe “Australia is a British land of one race and one tongue”
Columba and her best friend Hilda are about 11 years old and they live on the North Shore of Sydney. Their neighbours are two elderly sisters Miss Hazel and the harp playing Miss Marguerite who say things like “people are ignorant they don’t know any better”.
Daylight saving has been introduced and it is lights out after dark to stop the enemy seeing in the dark. Darwin is bombed in the middle of the story.
Ellery a young boy from You-rope comes to town with a watch on his wrist, a bearded father and without a word of English.
At the same time an archangel blue cat wonders into the lives of Columba and her neighbours. This cat sees all and is important in providing the serendipitous ending to this story.
Easy to read with primary sources of literature, advertisements and Government directives of WW2 Australia spread throughout the novel that will intrigue the reader and provide an insight into life at that time.
I have never read a children’s novel like this before.
Torty and the Soldier- a Story of a True WW1 Survivor by Jennifer Beck, illus. Fifi Colston. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Torty is a tortoise from Greece and is New Zealand’s oldest survivor of the Great War 1914-1918. He was rescued by a New Zealand Ambulance Corps volunteer named Stewart who preferred to save lives rather than fight.
Torty was crushed by a gun carriage, rescued and nursed to Health by Stewart at the Salonika field hospital for wounded soldiers. The hospital was bombed during the war and off the coast the Marquette was torpeoed with over 100 nurses and medical orderlies lost.
Torty’s tale is told in conjunction with the war history and his trip back to New Zealand as an illegal immigrant. He still lives in Dunedin with the relatives of Stewart and is estimated to be over 200 years old.
Jennifer Beck sensitively tells the story and Fifi Colston’s illustrations of the War, the soldiers the Greek landscape and of course Torty to whom she gives life, are terrific.
Just in time for ANZAC Day and a reminder of a war story that is unlike any other.Valuable for every school library and in the home, for primary and intermediate school students but adults will love it too.
If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
The imagination of a child is limitless and this team of Terry Jones, Richard Fairgray and colourist Tara Black exploit the desire of a young boy to have an elephant to the fullest.
A young boy hanging upside down from his bunk bed looks at a picture of an elephant on his wall and proclaims “I wish I had an elephant”. If he had one he would never have to ask for a cookie again and he’d win every water fight. he would get the best seats at the circus and could build a time machine and visit elephant’s grear great great….grandfather.
But he doesn’t get an elephant for his birthday but what he does get inspires his imagination further.
Simple text in large black font make easy reading but it is the illustrations that blow your mind. The elephant has expressive eyes and the boy has bewilderment and joy all over his face.
The colouring is superb and not a page is wasted.The front inside cover has the shadow of an elephant hanging over a pit of peanuts and it finishes on the back cover with a contented elephant who clearly has had his fill.
A joyous and imaginative picture book for everybody.
Too Right Boy by M.O. Chamberlain. Pub. SHIHvillage publications. raewyn@247PR.co.nz. 2016
A self published novel about a road trip by grandfather Harry aged 80’s and his grandson Brad aged 12 years. A road trip that is life changing for both grandfather and grandson.
Harry is a retired journalist with plenty of life experience, a risk taker and a man who deeply loved his deceased wife. He misses her and still talks to her but he kept a secret from her and the road trip is going to out this secret and others.
Brad has a bit of baggage too. His mother is over protective and considers Harry to be irresponsible and an earlier day trip on horseback just strengthened her beliefs.
Harry decides on a road trip in a camper van and Brad is forbidden to go, but he stows away when granddad leaves and circumstances at home ensure that Brad remains with his granddad for the trip at least.
On the trip many subjects are discussed between the two from sex to God and drugs. Brad is a surfer and this stimulates his writing as Harry encourages him to write the events of each day down. There is also a Harley Davidson and a violent confrontation to surprise readers. Rule nothing out on this trip.Things get testy on the road as Harry relives his life and Brad soaks up the experience.
Well told in journalistic style with plenty to interest boy readers in a sort of Barry Crump way. It is positive in spite of the family demons that need to be worked through. I found it very easy to relate to Harry.
Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson. Pub. Bim UK imprint Allen&Unwin, 2017
I am very impressed with this new series that is designed for reluctant readers both boys and girls of primary/intermediate age.
In a phrase it is like the cartoon network without the cartoons. Bizarre, witty with a tight and sharp dialogue exchange between the highly imaginative characters.
The plot and characters revolve around rejected and defective high tech toys from the Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory. Dan is a cuddly bear who is so strong he can crush a tractor with his cuddles, Arabella, a rag doll with an attitude to burn and sympathy for no-one and Flax a highly aggressive rabbit with a down beat wit.
The toys are all discarded because they are defective but escape into the World and are captured then hired by Auntie Roz from the Department of Secret Affairs to bodyguard the Prime Ministers son from Rusty Flumptrunk a very bad half Elephant half human nasty.
Brilliant stuff with Tim Weeson’s animation filling in the gaps.
I was spellbound and read the short book in one sitting with a smile all over my face. It is great.The first chapter about Dan is called If Hugs Could kill and it sets the tone of the book immediately. Big font makes reading easy.
If you want your reluctant readers particularly boys to read, these are a great start.