Posts Tagged ‘Secrets’

Duck’s Backyard by Ulrich Hub, Illus. Jorg Muhle. translated by Helena Kirkby. Pub. Gecko Press, 2022.

November 18, 2022 Comments off

This is a brilliant story about a lame duck who is cared to fly and a blind chicken who has energy to burn and a desire to have his big secret come true.

They meet in Ducks backyard where he and his crutch have stayed for years and chicken persuades Duck to go on a journey of discovery. So they do

On the way they go through a dark forest, cross a deep ravine and discuss the philosophy of life. Will duck learn to fly and will chicken find his big secret. The journey is brilliant and the ending even better still.

Jorg Muhle’s illustrations of Duck with his crutch and chicken with his sunglasses are superb. he captures the fun and seriousness of their journey to a T.

A great read-a-loud for juniors and something to savour for intermediate readers and seniors. Adults will love this too. If you do not like this story then you are sick of life. Travel changes everyone.

The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2021.

February 20, 2021 Comments off

This might possibly be the best novel dealing with the evacuation of children out into the countryside from London and other cities in WW2, that has been written. Comparisons can be made to Goodnight Mr Tom but that would be wrong because there is the added dimension of mystery and relations between Wales and England.

Twelve year old Jimmy and his younger 6 year old brother Ronnie are evacuated from their home in London to a small Welsh coal mining village. Jimmy is determined not to like it when him and Ronnie are billeted with the Thomas’s who not topic of the week in their community.

Ronnie while very emotional takes to the Thomas’s straight away and starts calling them uncle and Auntie which Jimmy finds difficult to accept. Jimmy has his own problems as his best mate in London Duffy is billeted with the vicar and his bad boy Jack and they cease to be friends. A girl of similar age Francis who was an object of fun and derision in London has found great confidence in the change to Wales.

On a walk up the hills Jimmy and Ronnie discover a skull hidden in the trunk of a tree and expose a decade old mystery that deeply involve the Thomas family.

Strong emotions are evoked and cultural differences are exposed as well as family secrets and community relations. This book was compelling reading and would make a good read aloud at middle school and intermediate level.

A stron part of the novel and a source of mystery are the tree illustrations that begin each chapter. You will have to find this out for yourself plus and additional mystery in the written text.

A superb novel about this era of the phoney war inWW2 and very good social values as well as historical perspective.

Boy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.

July 30, 2018 Comments off

boy under waterBoy Under Water by Adam Baron, illus. Benji Davies.. Pub. HarperCollins, 2018.

This novel for intermediate and junior high school readers is about growing up and it addresses a massive question – “Do grown-ups tell you the real stuff or do they try to shove it aside like an old tent stuffed behind a sofa”?

Every family has secrets, secrets that affect other family members and friends¬† behaviour, and kids do not understand. Why don’t they know? and what will happen when they eventually find out?

Cymbeline Igloo is nine years old and he lives with his mother. He has artistic ability and his mother gives art lessons. Family history comes to a shattering crisis when Cymbelline has to go to the swimming pool with his class. His mother panics and Cymbelline wonders why his mother has never taken him to the pool or any body of water where he could learn to swim.

Cymbelline attends after a challenge from a class member and while waiting to commence a swimming lesson he is pushed into the deep end and sinks to the bottom. His mother erupts. The next morning when Cymbelline wakes up his mother is gone.

I am not going to tell you anymore you will have to read the novel and believe me I did not guess the ending, nor will you but it is brilliant.

Superbly told and explained by Adam Baron with an underlining dark and witty humour. He is talking to the kids and opening big secrets. Deftly illustrated by Benji Davies.

You will find out about the name when you read the book.

The Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr.

January 3, 2018 Comments off

truth ella blackThe Truth and lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

I finished this stunning novel 2 hours ago so I have poured myself a whiskey and ginger ale to savour this moment of reviewing it. It is not a book I will forget in a hurry because it deals with a 17 year old girl called Ella who is struggling to keep out and /or control a  character in her mind that she calls Bella or bad Ella.

Ella is a studious girl with talent in art, she has a gay friend called Jack and a girl friend called Lily. Bella however is loud, violent and provocative and takes over Ella at embarrassing times. A solution is at hand but you will have to read the whole book to find out what it is.

The action is started when Ella’s parents take her out of school in London in the middle of the day and whisk her onto a plane that is flying to Rio a place that Ella has always fantasised about. Why? It happened at a time when Bella was starting to dominate.

Rio is wonderful and the action of the rest of the novel is set in this magnificent Brazilian city with its beaches, bars and favellas. Ella meets a boy and it is love at first sight but it is not this that causes Ella to flee her parents and live rough on the streets of Rio’s favellas. Bet you want to know why and the reason is stunning. Secrets!!

The second YA novel from Emily Barr after The One Memory of Flora Banks and it is structured in a count down of 40 days until she dies.

My goodness me I might read it again. Superbly written with a host of other characters, but at times I got irritated because I wasn’t getting there fast enough. Ella/Bella is a strong character and you are with her all the way but you do feel for her parents.

The Bakehouse by Joy Cowley.

June 3, 2015 Comments off

bakehouseThe Bakehouse by Joy Cowley. Pub. Gecko Press, 2015.

Bert is in his 80’s when his great grandson comes to visit, wanting to know of an incident in his life during World War 2 that involved an abandoned building they called the Geronimo Bakehouse.

It awakens feelings and memories in Bert that he would rather forget and a decision he made that altered the course of many of his family’s lives especially his sister Betty who was 15 years old at the time.

The year was 1943, Bert was 11 years old and playing war games in his head and in the playground. It was a time when a Japanese invasion was feared, the men were overseas fighting and the Americans had come to town with their candy, nylon stockings and their swagger. The girls were hooked..

Bert imagined air raids like he heard on the BBC Radio News and decided to set up a secret shelter in an old bakehouse. It is to be used by a soldier who has gone AWOL and doesn’t intend to return. Bert and his sister help and feed him but Bert has misgivings about it all. You will have to read the novel to find out what is going to happen.

An excellent short novel. Sophisticated, no nonsense writing that recreates the war time atmosphere in New Zealand, a time when young women painted lines on their legs to simulate stockings, we all sang “bless them all Bless them all, the long and the short and the tall” and said such home spun philosophy as “what the eye don’t see, the heart can’t grieve over” and loose lips sink ships.

Family life during war time is portrayed very well and poor Bert carries his secrets around with him like a heavy unexploded bomb.

Superb reading for intermediate and junior high school students.

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.

Prairie Whispers by Frances Arrington

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Prairie Whispers by Frances Arrington. Pub. Puffin, 2005.

When I visit schools and talk to their students this novel gets a lot of reaction. Students especially girls from school years 5-8, are attracted to it in droves.

Why is this? Because it is about secrets. Colleen has a secret so vital that it is like a stone in her heart. While riding across the prairie after tending to her mother who is in a coma and waiting for the birth of her baby, Colleen comes upon a wagon in which is a mother who is dieing after giving birth to a baby. She says she is going to die and asks Colleen to look after her baby.

When Colleen’s mother gives birth to a stillborn baby without regaining consciousness and the mother in the wagon dies, Colleen places the live baby in her mother’s bed to make out that this is her baby. What a secret to hold.

Colleen is a brilliant girl and a great role model, but things happen that threaten her secret. Her younger brother pesters her after picking up that she knows something, and the baby’s father comes back. Heart rending stuff.

If you haven’t read this or got it in your libray then you are mad. A superb novel with a reading guide inside. I know it is 2005 but you can still get it.