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.
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.
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.
My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
Imagine you are a young girl who has just been given a horse that she adores then her dad and mum decide to go and live in a tent on a piece of land jutting out into Waitemata Harbour Auckland called Takaparawha or Bastion Point.
Erica Tito finds this is happening to her and she keeps a diary of what happened in the next 507 days during the Ngati Whatua occupation of Bastion Point that divided New Zealand under the Muldoon Government.
It is a stunning account of a confrontation between Government and Maori that set the pattern for the next 40 years and asked the crucial question of “Are we as New Zealanders a racist society”? and “have the Maori got a fair deal in their land deals with the Government?”.
Tania Roxborogh examines these questions through the eyes of Erica and her experiences and her relationships with those on Bastion Point and the children at the school at which she attends during the occupation.
The burning question for Erica is – those that want to develop the land say the land is theirs but do they have a receipt to say that is so, and why do her tribe the Ngati Whatua say it is theirs? One thing is for sure ” no-one laughs at Maoritanga”
Conditions on Bastion point were primitive. No running water, no electricity, a long drop for a toilet and tent accommodation that was exposed to the elements. A child could be excused for hating this situation and wanting to be back home with the horse that she loved. But when mom and dad say we stay what can you do? Over the next 507 days Erica’s opinions and resolve change.
As time passes to over a year and nothing is resolved the eviction of the occupiers at the end,is a traumatic and moving occasion. Read this excellent account and find out why.
Another gem from the My New Zealand Story series many of which are reviewed on this blog.
For primary, Intermediate and junior secondary readers.
Horizon. survival is no game. by Scott Westerfeld. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.
This can only be the beginning of a new series because the end is inconclusive and elusive to the reader who is kept guessing all the way through the novel.
It is a science fiction/adventure novel with survival a major theme and is aimed at intermediate, junior secondary readers.
The novel begins with an unusual airplane crash by an aircraft en route from USA to Japan. In mid flight over the Arctic the aircraft is sliced through from nose to tail by something weird and crashes in a lush and dangerous jungle. How could this be?
Furthermore during the ripping of the fuselage all 500 adults disappeared leaving behind 8 teenagers and there seemed to have been some sort of electric selection system that decided who survived. Could this be true?
The teenagers wonder where they are. The plants and animals seem to indicate they are on Earth but two moon like lights in the sky suggest another planet. As the teenagers face what has happened to them they find an anti gravity device which allows them to explore the surroundings and they encounter a flesh eating vine and birds with razor sharp beaks that hunt in a flock.
Cool heads are needed to get out of this because if they got there, there has to be a way back. Read it and find out.
Imaginatively written by Scott Westerfeld, this series will be a winner.