Update

Because I’ve gotten a few out-of-the-blue followers in the last couple of months, I thought I’d make a quick post to clarify – there won’t be any new posts or reviews coming out of this blog. It was a part of a children’s literature course that I have long since finished, and as I’ve completely changed careers since then, it’s unlikely to be resurrected.

I’ll leave what’s here up for posterity, but please, don’t expect anything new.

Happy reading!

Sally

 

A quick word

I just finished reading Mastiff, Tamora Pierce’s latest. I really enjoyed it. It’s probably her best so far. A great end to the series.

Boys without names – Kashmira Sheth

syndetics-lcGopal and his family have fled their village and come to Mubai in search of work and a better life. Now, abducted on the streets of a strange city, Gopal is forced to work in a sweatshop with five other boys so browbeaten and disheartened that they don’t even have names.

Boys without names has something of a Dickensian feel to it, although it takes place in present-day Mumbai. Gopal is a strong character, defiantly holding onto his self-worth and the hope of being reunited with his family, even in the face of interminable slavery. He’s clever and brave and a natural leader for the other boys, helping them to work together and outwitting the villainous boss of the sweatshop. The other boys are also well-developed characters with ineteresting stories of their own. It is a realistic story, though Mumbai will seem like a completely different world to most of the children who will read this book. And though the threats to Gopal and his new friends are exciting enough, our faith that all will work out in the end is rewarded.

Sheth has written an appealing adventure story which opens the door to a discussion of real-world issues such as sweatshops and child labour

Hill & Hole – Kyle Mewburn & Vasanti Unka

syndetics-lcHill & Hole are best friends. Sometimes, Hill dreams of feeling earth breathe. Sometimes, Hole wishes he could see the sun rise.

Hill & Hole is a beautiful story about change, and wanting what someone else has. The language has a lovely rhythm to it, and feels like an ancient myth. Vasanti Unka’s art is gorgeous, simple shapes in splashes of colour. Reading this book I could almost feel the earth breathing soft and warm beneath me, and the sun heating my skin on a hot summer’s day. Like in any good picture book, the pictures and text work together so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It isn’t an exciting book in the loud kind of way that some picture books are, but I imagine that it would make a good story for bedtime. It is quiet and soothing. New Zealand children will have fun looking out for a certain Auckland landmark.

Hill & Hole was awarded the 2011 Russell Clark Medal at the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards and Best Book at the Publishers Association of New Zealand Book Design Awards 2011.

Liar – Justine Larbalestier

syndetics-lcMicah Wilkins is a liar. She’ll tell you she’s a boy, a hermaphrodite, or that her father’s an arms-dealer. But now her after-hours boyfriend has been murdered, she swears she’ll tell you the truth. She’ll even share her secret.

 Liar is a story about the hard-to-read line between truth and fantasy, about identity and independence and self-awareness. The distinctive thing about this story is that because Micah’s identity is so bound up in lies, and in being a liar, how can you (or Micah) ever know who (or what) she really is?

 It’s challenging, intriguing and sometimes frustrating – not being able to trust the narrator- but it’s never boring. Micah’s revelation halfway through turns the whole book on its head and you’ll be gasping to find out more. There’s very little you can say about the plot without giving it all away, but Liar is a thought-provoking, intense fantasy novel, suitable for young adults looking for something more challenging. This is a book that will stay with you long past the last page.

 Every good lie is a based on a kernel of truth, but where does the true truth lie?

A link or two…

If you’re looking for places on the web to find out about books for kids and teens, you may like to try these.

booksforkeeps.co.uk – Books for Keeps is a children’s book magazine published in the UK. Their site contains a set of reviews that you can filter by age group and publication date. The reviews are also searchable by author, and you also have access to a slew of interesting articles and interviews. I’ve already found a couple of books there that I’ll be requesting.

New titles this month – This is a page on the Auckland Libraries website where you can get lists of new titles in all sorts of categories, but if you scroll down the page a bit you’ll find the lists for children, and at the bottom of the page are the lists for teens. I may be biased, but I love these lists, and I’ve already requested stacks of books from them.

I’m still buzzing.

We had a visit yesterday from three year 3 classes and their teachers. I talked to them about the library and all the things they can do with their library cards. I read them a couple of stories and helped them choose books. It was so much fun! It’s fairly exhilirating, having a group of 30 seven year olds hanging on your every word.

I read them Millicent and Meer by Richard Byrne, a fun story about a cat called Meer who does very uncatty things; and Again! by Emily Gravett, about a little dragon with a firey temper.

Because the classes are learning how to make pop-ups at school (Wow! I forgot how much fun primary school is) I showed them a couple of the pop-ups we keep out in the back room (out of harm’s way). They were suitably impressed, though diappointed that they couldn’t take them home.

I was kind of nervous before they came, but now I can’t wait for them to come back!

Guardian of the dead – Karen Healey

To get things started, I thought I’d repost a review I wrote earlier this year, which was published on the Rodney Libraries blog.

Guardian of the dead - cover imageI was really impressed with Guardian of the Dead. It’s one of the best pieces of New Zealand fantasy I’ve read for a long time. By that I mean not just a book written by a New Zealander, but set in New Zealand too. I think it’s something that’s hard to get right. Most times I feel like the New Zealand setting is superfluous – like the author feels obligated to set it in New Zealand, because they’re a New Zealand author. Otherwise, the story could take place anywhere. In Guardian, where the story draws heavily on Maori myth and legend, the setting is not only essential, it’s an asset.

Just a few months ago I was thinking that the Maori stories of patupaiarehe would make an interesting starting point for a fantasy novel – and then Anne put this on my desk, hinting (rather heavily) that wouldn’t it just be lovely if I reviewed it for the blog. Just reading it on my lunch breaks soon became frustrating. I’m not good at nibbling away at books; I like to gobble them whole. So, about halfway through I took it home and finished it that night (somewhat ignoring the guests we had, but they’re family so they should be used to me by now).The theme running through the book is that the stories we’re raised on shape us and the world we see. Because it’s set in New Zealand that means a decent helping of Maori myth and legend. And while the well-known figures of Rangi, Papa and Maui make cameos, it’s the lesser known race of the patupaiarehe who are the main antagonists.

Te Ara (Encyclopedia of New Zealand) describes patupaiarehe as “fairy-like creatures of the forests and mountain tops. Although they had some human attributes, patupaiarehe were regarded not as people but as supernatural beings (he iwi atua).They were seldom seen, and an air of mystery and secrecy still surrounds them.” I hadn’t heard of them until quite recently, but they immediately caught my imagination.

This book has a bit of everything: magic, adventure, romance, and a heroine with a black belt in tae kwan do. Our heroine, Ellie, is a teenager with the requisite self-esteem issues, but she’s got enough fight and feistiness in her to make her a likeable and relatable character.

And so it begins

In a burst of enthusiasm for my studies, I’ve created the blog I need to post my reviews. And here it is! Welcome, one and all.

I’ll be posting reviews on books for kids and teens, and hopefully I’ll help at least a few people find new books before I’m done.