Posts Tagged ‘Grief’

Between the Flags by Rachel Fenton. Pub. Cuba Press, 2022.

November 24, 2022 Comments off

Winner of the Laura Solomon Cuba Press prize for YA literature this three part novel captures the problems faced by young people when a crisis takes over their lives.

The following quotation from the book tells it better than I could so I have printed it intact:- “You can’t get rid of grief. Its like plastic. Once it’s there it’s always there. It just gets broken down into smaller and smaller pieces until you hardly notice it”

Mandy came out to NZ from England with her mother and elder brother and settled into the kiwi way of life. Her mother formed a relationship with a decent man, Geoff, and they had a son Casey who became Mandy’s younger brother and Geoff her father.

Mandy joins a surf lifesaving group and has serious rivalry with other girls in this group who bully her because she is over weight and different. When her mother is seen flirting with a well known local celebrity Mandy’s life starts to come undone. Then tragedy hits with the drowning of 6 year old casey and the demise of her mother’s relationship with Geoff.

Mandy copes by writing a comic book about a girl called Mako who is a lifesaver but it is not enough. She takes counselling, her school work falls away and her relationships fall apart. She needs help and a break. She gets it and the comic book is the key.

Two main parts to this novel with the comic book the third part. Read it and find out what happens. The comic illustrations are superb.

Very good teacher role models in this book. I wish I had teachers as good as this when I was at school. All the adults in this novel are worthy although the same cannot be said of some of the school girls. Female bullying is so personal.

The Hug Blanket by Chris Gurney, Illus. Lael Chisholm.

August 13, 2020 Comments off

hug blanketThe Hug Blanket by Chris Gurney, Illus. Lael Chisholm. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

I read this hard back picture book with a smile on my face, a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It is about the life and death of a grandmother and the relationship she had with her grandchildren especially her granddaughter who narrates the story.

Nana had white curly hair, wore flowing skirts, loved sea shells, baked bread and made hug blankets. She played on the beach and was a vital part in the lives of her grand children. Then she suddenly died leaving them all bereft.

Nana’s funeral had sad stories and happy stories and everybody missed her. The ending is superb as Nana’s memory is enshrined in something she left everybody. Read it and see what it is.

Beautiful illustrations that make this story of life, death and grief so meaningful.

Categories: Picture book Tags: , ,

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo.

October 24, 2019 Comments off

BeverlyBeverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo. Pub. Walker Books, 2019.

Beverly Tapinski is beautiful, she is 14 years old, her dog Buddy has just died, her mother is an alcoholic and her daddy left home when she was very young. She lives in the steamy state of Florida and was friends with Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana Elefante, the main characters in two other books by Kate DiCamillo that are reviewed on this blog.

Beverly feels bereft after the death of Buddy, the disappearance of Louisiana and the move away by Raymie, so she decides home has nothing for her, and hitchhikes out of town and goes to Tamaray.

What happens from then on is heart warming with some of the best and worst behaviour, (but mostly best) that humans exhibit. Beverly meets an old lady who lives in a caravan called Iola who takes Beverly in. She gets a job clearing tables at a sea food restaurant, meets a boy called Elmer and has some of the best experiences she has ever had in her life.

The rest you can find out for yourself, except to say this is a book of wisdom. Reading it will gladden your heart.

For primary, intermediate and junior secondary readers. A work of genius. Terrific cover.

Saying Goodbye to Barkley by Devon Sillett, illus. Nicky Johnston.

May 9, 2019 Comments off

barkleySaying Goodbye to Barkley by Devon Sillett, illus. Nicky Johnston. Pub. Exisle Publishing, 2019.

Olivia and her dog Barkley were inseparable. They did everything together, but Barkley grew old and died. Death is a part of life and it is right and proper that children learn this, and learn to cope with it.

Barkley was a great friend to Olivia and she misses him but her parents want to help her to move on and they buy her another dog. He is not like Barkley. Olivia must get used to the fact that Spud the new dog is entirely different but he is a lovable lump.

Ideal for discussions about grief and death with junior students.

The text is simple and powerful and the illustrations capture the personalities of the dogs, Olivia and the situation. A pleasing story.

Categories: Picture book Tags: , ,

Whispers by Greg Howard.

January 11, 2019 Comments off

9780241367087-1-edition.default.original-1 webWhispers by Greg Howard. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

This novel for gifted intermediate readers and secondary school students, is a slow burner. It takes a while to get into it, but once it takes off, you will be hooked.

Eleven year old Riley James lives with his father and older brother in a deeply religious country community in South Carolina. There is no room to be different in this community and Riley knows that he is. He has the same feeling for boys that most boys have for girls. He is by his own admission a mummy’s boy and he clashes with his gun-toting elder brother Danny and with his father.

Crisis comes when his mother disappears and the police are constantly questioning Riley about it. He says he can remember nothing but events in this story, particularly a Stand By Me type camping trip into the woods with some other boys, jog his memory.

At the beginning of the novel is a story about Whispers told to Riley by his mother. When she disappears he retreats into his imagination and creates a bizarre fantasy explanation about things in life based on the whispers story, but reality is close at hand.

Where has his mother gone? Is she still alive? and what about his awakening sexuality? Read this intense novel and find out.

Only Love can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

October 9, 2018 Comments off

only loveOnly Love can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber. Pub. Walker books, 2018.

I have always liked romance and relationship novels and I liked this one, but it drove me to distraction yet I couldn’t put it down. As Gene Pitney once sang “Only love can break a heart, only love can mend it again”. So it is with this novel.

Among other things it is a novel about control in a relationship and getting over the death of a loved one.

Reiko is a beautiful 17 year old girl with a Japanese father and an American European mother. Everybody notices Reiko wherever she goes but she has  a monkey on her back that she never talks about and needs to get it out.

When Reiko was 12 years old her 14 year old sister Mika died in an accident. Reiko feels guilt and has never grieved properly. Mika appears to Reiko in her room and they talk.  Reiko tells nobody, she should. Everybody skirts around the subject.

Then Seth appears on the scene and a relationship develops that drove me crazy. Reiko is practically perfect and Seth is a lone wolf. They get on well but Reiko keeps him secret and exerts a control over the relationship that upsets Seth. Both of them are using the other for their own purposes and sooner or later the dirt is going to hit the fan.

When it does, major change takes place for the benefit of both.

The strong parts of this novel are the friendships between Reiko and her brother Koji, her parents and her girlfriend Dre. Reiko is lucky to have them but Mika needs to be talked about.

Reiko drove me nuts with her self analysis and her secrecy and control over Seth, but I always felt Seth was out of his league with this beauty. It really enhanced the belief that women are from Venus and men from Mars. This has to change and it does.

I loved it and so will you. High school and young adult.


The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

April 9, 2014 Comments off

MinnowThe Minnow by Diana Sweeney. Pub.Text Publishing, 2014.

A book with a laid back gentleness about it even though it deals with the very human truth of grief and loss.

Tom is going on 15 years and she is pregnant to Bill, a shifty character who is old enough to be her father. He took advantage of her through their love of fishing when Tom was in shock and grieving for the loss of her mother, father and sister Sarah in a flood.

Tom calls the growing foetus The Minnow and she talks to it and it talks back to her in one of the strange relationships in this novel. Tom has other relationships that are strange. She talks to her Papa who has been dead for 30 years, Papa appears to her throughout the novel and their relationship is critical to Tom’s grieving process.

Tom is warned that Bill is wanted by the police but she does nothing. Bill is in her eyes half of The Minnow and they still fish together. She doesn’t know what she feels about Bill and the reader gets the feeling that it is abuse.

Tom moves in with a boy from school named Jonah, who also suffered a loss in the flood, and this relationship helps her on the road to recovery. I can tell you no more read it you will become as absorbed in Tom and Minnow’s story as I was.

A first novel for Diana Sweeney and it won the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. I think it deserved to. I particularly enjoyed the language told through Tom’s passion for interesting words that you need a thesaurus to understand.

A novel about letting go those precious moments you spent with your parents and siblings and now can be no more.



The Scent of Apples by Jacquie McRae

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

The Scent of Apples by Jacquie McRae. Pub. Huia, 2011.

Lovely story this about grieving, emotions, feelings and growing up. The main message that come across is “if you hold on too tight to the past, the future can’t come in,”

Libby is going on 13 years old and she is very close to her grandfather who she calls Poppa. She lives on an orchard that grows apples to be made into cider. Libby loves the land, she loves plants, she is tomboyish in character and this all rankles with her snobbish and uptight mother.

When Poppa dies suddenly and her Nan has a stroke and is taken into a retirement home, Libby grieves. Home life is not good as her father and mother drift apart and Libby starts to pull her hair out leaving bald patches on her scalp.

Then her mother checks her into a boarding school where she meets a Maori girl called Charlie which turns out to be the start of Libby’s recovery from all her grief.

There is more to this book than that though including family secrets, Maori Medicice and the meaning of friendship.

Mainly for girls aged 10 to 14 years but there is something for everybody in this very perceptive novel.