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Posts Tagged ‘The human condition’

What We’ll Build. Plans for our future Together by Oliver Jeffers. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

November 27, 2020 Comments off

This will be the most thought provoking picture book you will read this year from an author /illustrator who is at the top of his game.

The opening pages have two pairs of hands, small daughters hands and large fathers hands. “What shall we build you and I?.

A house is a good start then” I’ll build your future and you’ll build mine”

Of course lots can happen and things can go wrong and then there is the imaginative stuff. But I will let you find that out.

The illustrations are stunning. Ship sailing through troubled waters and the ending is touching.

One of the best of the year.

Children of the furnace Pt3. Heartsblood by Brin Murray. Pub. C.P. Books, 2020.

October 14, 2020 Comments off

Finishing a trilogy as good as this one was always going to be hard. Set in a brutal world of Sekkerland, which is Greenland without it’s icecap, the country is ruled by a ruthless regime called The Revelayshun.

They rule with a brutal hand of a religious fanaticism and the country has been so brutalised that most of the remaining inhabitants are children, mostly males. The regime is led by High Patriarch Sachs, a disgraceful human being who has brainwashed society through fear, to believe that A Great Atrocity was committed by an amorphis group called the Heaters.

The Heaters came from the Southerm Land to the south which has been badly affected by a global catastrophe caused by climate change. Now Sachs and his Revelayshun are going to invade the Southerm land and main characters Wil, his twin sister Mari, a humanist nurse Leah, a survivor of brutality Jace and a tech expert Harper, are going to take on the Revelayshun while it is away. Can they succeed or is it all a trap?

Tensely written with brutality of human against human a major theme. The country of Sekkerland is a character in it’s own right and the action is intense. The final battles make exciting reading which is not for the faint hearted. Be warned not everybody the reader wants to survive will survive but the ending gives hope for the future.

Told in 51 short chapters by two narrators Wil and Leah the language is often written as the words sound but this adds to the reality of the -plot and situation.

One of the best of the year Dystopian fiction that will make you think about the human condition. Are we capable of going this far. Books 1 & 2 are also reviewed on this blog.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins.

June 4, 2020 Comments off

songbirdsThe Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins. Pub Scholastic, 2020.

When I talked about the Hunger Games trilogy in schools when it first came out, the kids were riveted but their teachers were appalled that it involved children killing children. This sequel  addresses that concern and the rest of the inhumane treatment  that is meted out to the children and inhabitants of the 12 Districts by the rulers of Panem in the Capitol.

The civil war that resulted from the Hunger Games is over and the rebels from the Districts were defeated but not eliminated. Cassus Snow the Capitol leader is killed and there is a new guard, but Capitol has inflicted severe and more inhuman control over the Districts. The  10th Hunger Games are to take place and one of the most vile and sadistic characters I have read in children’s literature, a woman named Dr Gaul, is in charge of presenting the games. She is a Dr Mengle type who experiments on animals and humans.

A boy and girl from each of the 12 Districts are to take part in the games they are called tributes, but this time they each have a Mentor from Capitol to guide them. Coriolanus Snow son of Cassus Snow is to mentor Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 where Katniss came from. The relationship between Coriolanus and Lucy is at the heart of this novel but it is not the only one of importance.

The relationship between Sejanus Plinth, the son of a wealthy family and Coriolanus is of equal importance as Sejanus is also a mentor of a competitor in the Hunger games. It is Sejanus that heads the argument against the inhumane and barbaric treatment of the Districts and in particular the tributes in the games supported by Coriolanus in his relationship with Lucy. Can they change the way Capitol regards the District people?

As the games start inside an arena, not in an outdoor environment as with the first series, and the killing starts, all hell breaks loose.

If you are a new reader of this series do not worry you will not be all at sea, but if you have read the first series you will be totally absorbed in the new circumstances and at the more severe inhumane and barbaric treatment of the tributes in the Games

No characters from the earlier Trilogy are in this novel.

Stunningly written but not for the faint hearted. From Intermediate to YA in appeal. Over 500 pages long.

Burn by Patrick Ness

March 24, 2020 Comments off

burnBurn by Patrick Ness. Pub. Walker Books, 2020.

RELEASED MAY 2020

This is a Young Adult novel out of the top draw. It is a novel of parallel worlds, of dragons, of the human condition, of action and ultimately a love story.

It is the year 1957 and the Cold War is heating up so to speak. The Russians are on the verge of putting a satellite into space and the Americans are worried about the spying implications of such a satellite.

This is real history but there is an additional element -DRAGONS. Yes dragons inhabit this planet living in the waste lands of Russia of Asia of Europe and the Americas. Humans and dragons rarely meet. They have lived a peaceful but uneasy existence for centuries but that is all about to change with the launch of the Russian satellite.

There is a prophecy that nuclear war will break out between men and rid the planet of humans thus allowing dragons who are immune from radiation to fly free. The satellite launch is going to be used to trigger the war.

Enter a religious cult of dragon worshipers called Believers in the person of Malcolm a ruthless 17 year old, gay killer whose job is to assassinate a teenage girl called Sarah Dewhurst as she is prophesised to stop the dragons.

The action and plot turns are staggering. Written in two parts the end of the first part seeming to be the end of the world. After a torrid conflict a claw of a dragon known as The Spur is used to transfer all the action into a parallel world where every character in the first part has a different life in the second world.

This is a brilliant transition but will the prophecy be true in this second world and is there hope for human kind and dragons?

Superbly told, totally compelling. If you miss this you will miss the best book of the year.

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.

The Fate of Fausto. a Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers.

October 8, 2019 Comments off

FaustoThe Fate of Fausto. a Painted Fable by Oliver Jeffers. Pub. HarperCollins, 2019.

This quality sophisticated picture book in hardback cover will have as many opinions about it’s meaning as there are readers and that is a wonderful thing. It is certainly modern in theme and is one of the best books this year.

As Capitalism begins to creak and groan, with the rich getting richer and the poor, poorer and megalomaniacs cheating their way into political power, the proposition that the World is mine, raises it’s ugly head.

Fausto is one of these. He tells a flower, a tree, a sheep a lake and a mountain “you are mine”. They bow before him although mountain gives him a hard time and he stamps and wails. Check Trump out with impeachment imminent.

Then he takes on the sea. Sea is unimpressed but Fausto is doggedly and stupidly determined to dominate. The confrontation is superb. Read the rest and see what happens.

History shows that all things must pass.

Superb simple yet prophetic text, spaced beautifully on the page and illustrations that say it all. Fausto is a superb creation and the sea mighty and accepting. Check mountain out after it is all over. What a look.

Simply the best, better than all the rest. Could be a song.

For everybody. Will evoke plenty of discussion.

And the Ocean Was our Sky by Patrick Ness. Illus. Rovina Cai.

September 9, 2019 Comments off

ocean skyAnd the ocean Was our Sky by Patrick Ness. illus. Rovina Cai. Pub. Walker books, 2019.

Nietzsche once said “if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss stares into you”. So it is with this outstanding novel about the worlds of whales and men, each with a determination to kill the other.

This book is from the whales’ point of view as they hunt a devil ship with a white hull called the Toby Wick. For the whale, gazing into the abyss is the reverse of man. They do so when they breach the surface and encounter the sky.

The whale society is as sophisticated as our own and they want to hunt us in the same way as humans hunt the whales. Captain Alexander leads a pod with apprentices whose mission is to chase a prophecy that says a show down with the devil in the form of Toby Wick is inevitable. Read it and see if it is.

Just as Ishmael narrates Moby Dick, apprentice whale, Bathsheba, under the command of Capt. Alexander narrates this stunning novel. The pod discovers a wrecked ship on the surface with a human barely alive on board but carrying a medallion in his hand that is interpreted by the whales as foreshadowing a clash with the devil, Toby Wick.

Bathsheba captures the man for the pod and encloses him in an air bubble so that he can survive in their world. This relationship is to question the whole way in which whales and men relate to each other, but will it stop a catastrophic ending?

This novel is one of the reasons that I stay with children and young adult literature. The illustrations of Rovina Cai are off this planet, depicting the world of the whales in their grey/blue world, but increasingly red mingles, then dominates.

Don’t miss this outstanding work for high school , young adult and adult. The best of the year, bloody brilliant in fact.

A Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale.

May 1, 2019 Comments off

stone & DarknessA Place of Stone and Darkness by Chris Mousdale. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

 

At last a fantasy novel with some depth. Deep not because it is set almost totally underground but because it has a lot of significant observations about the Human condition, and it is a very good tale.

Thousands of years ago Humans hounded the Strigg people out of the forests and into underground caves where their culture survived and thrived out of Human knowledge. The Striggs are a bird like creature that has lost it’s ability to fly as their wings have evolved into arm like structures with claws.

Striggworld is now under threat from polluted water from the earth above and from lack of drinking water as wells dry up. Their food supply which is a mushroom like product, morra, has also begun to be scarce and the Elders of the Striggs are contemplating a move North. They would love to go back to the surface but it is too dangerous.

On the eve of a spangletime ceremony which celebrates the move from childhood to adulthood, a young Strigg, Ellee, discovers a human boy called Blue who has fallen down a well into the underground. She saves him and with the help of her academic brother, Sidfred, brings him back to home.

When Blue is discovered by the Strigg Elders panic hits the small community. Some including Kass a fierce warrior type want to kill him to avoid other Humans finding a way underground but the Elders view is that is not our way and never will be our way.

They decide to return Blue to to Uptop or the surface, where all the Toppas live. The action begins and it will have you spellbound. Read it and find out what happens.

If there is a catchphrase that describes this novel it is “It is amazing what eventually ends up underground”. We should take heed of that. It says a lot about the Human condition of treating the Planet and every other creature on it as if it is ours alone to use. The Striggs know all about us and our destructive ways.

Excellent story, descriptively written and with a message for all Humankind.

Chris Mousdale creates an imaginative World that is totally believable, the Striggs are believable The Strigg way contrasts with that of Humans and puts us to shame. And his illustrations are superb. One of the best of the year.

Suitable for Intermediate and High school readers.

The Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat

April 8, 2019 Comments off

magic deskThe Magic Desk by Aaron Moffat. Pub Olympia Publishers 2018.\

This is the third book from this author, all are reviewed on this blog, and his main obsession is bullying in schools. He has others too and many are found in this recent novel.

Timothy is a WASP (white anglo saxon protestant), he is 12 years old and has just arrived in NZ with his born to rule mother. He looks like a studious boy but at heart is shiftless and lazy, and he is going to have to change.

Timothy is rescued from a beating by bullies by Aroha a Maori girl who fancies him and is the daughter of a reformed Gang leader. Their relationship is at the core of this novel.

Timothy’s mother buys a mahogany “escritoire”, (desk in more common language,) which has a portal into another world. Through traveling via the desk to different historical scenarios including pre European Maori, French revolution and others, Timothy learns that bullying is a human trait that is impossible to extinguish. Humans will take it to the grave.

Lots of race and immigrant talk, some of it will appall you, but mostly it is tongue in cheek and open to further discussion. The novel is well written, lofty writing in parts and the characters do change. Timothy learns that reading and writing are powerful and a petition over enviromental concerns changes everything. His mum will never change.

I laughed all the way through. For intermediate and high school students. Check it out.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes

January 7, 2019 Comments off

outsideOutside by Sarah Ann Juckes. Pub. PenguinRandom House, 2019.

I have never read a novel like this before and the thoughts I had when reading it, you will have too. Some will be right and some will be wrong but you will be compelled to keep reading and the ending will give you satisfaction.

It is senior fiction and YA and is written in a style that you need to get used to because Ele the main character, a girl in early teens, has had a background that you would wish on nobody. She narrates the story and has been brought up in a room with her brother Zeb and doesn’t know there is an outside.

Something happens to Zeb and alone in the room Ele creates a fantasy world based on a book of nursery stories such as Rapunzel and Jack and the Bean Stalk. Ele makes up a fictional world and fictional characters to explain the world she lives in, that help her survive. But why is she there? Who is the Him that feeds her and visits her from time to time carrying a gun?

Then she escapes and finds Willow and his dad Ezra and the whole mystery unravels.

A gripping read, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. You will ask yourself many questions the most important of which will be ‘how can humans act like this towards each other? To quote from the novel “Truths are like people. They don’t like being shut up tight. They shrivel slowly and then rot with lies….when those truths get out, they get rubbed clean by people. nice people”.

Thank heaven it had a positive ending.