Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Maggot Moon

Maggot MoonMaggot Moon by Sally Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if one of the pre-WW2 Dictatorships realised their desire to invade and control other territories and you lived in that territory? What if you lived in a society that didn't accept difference and you were imperfect? What if the school yard was full of bullies, including some of the teachers and you were chosen as their target? What if you had one true friend and then you arrive home to find he & his family have 'disappeared'?

Sally Gardner's Maggot Moon is a a stand out in the dystopian fiction genre. Standish Treadwell is a fifteen year old boy living in [alternate] 1956 occupied England. A brutal regime controls the war-torn Zone Seven where Standish lives with his grandfather. A mysterious brick wall backs onto their house and it seems to be growing larger and larger as does the threat from the Motherland which is growing in supremacy and darkness.

Everything changes for Standish when Hector Lush, a boy his own age, and his parents move in next door. The two become firm friends and with their vivid imaginations, they escape the oppression of Zone Seven by blasting off to their invented planet of Juniper, drinking 'croka-colas' and driving around in an ice-cream-coloured-Cadillac.

Then Hector disappears and Standish's world begins truly fall apart.

This is an amazing book that can be enjoyed on many levels. First and foremost, it is a great read with a staccato narrative told in the quirky voice of Standish. The themes of this book include the power of friendship and family bonds, discrimination, the dangers of conformity and the power of the imagination.

Maggot Moon celebrates difference and the contribution it makes to the diversity and richness of life. Sally Gardner's motivations for writing this book include raising awareness about dyslexia, challenging discrimination and emphasizing that superficialities should not be used to judge or condemn others (Brendan Murray). She achieves all of these aims within a gripping, unique and lyrical story and she is a well deserving winner of the Costa Children's Award 2013.

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears

Foal's BreadFoal's Bread by Gillian Mears
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Foal's Bread is the story of an Australian family living in Northern New South Wales and spans the inter-war and WW2 years. The Nancarrow family are dairy people and show jumping runs in the blood. This show jumping is the tough show jumping of the Australian country shows not the regal showjumping of upper class toffs. Life too is tough and this is a book of courage and resilience.

The paths of Noah Childs and Roley Nancarrow intercept at the Port Lake Show where they are both entered in the jumping competitions.Here begins their love story. The two settle on the Nancarrow family dairy with Roley's parents, sisters & Uncle Owen. A daughter, Lainey, and a downs syndrome son, George complete the family. As the blurb on the inside cover states, this family's story is one of "impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams 'turned inside out', and miracles that never last, framed against a world both heartbreakingly tender and unspeakably hard."

This story starts and ends brutally with Noah who is one of the best chracters I've encountered in a book. She might be described as tough, resilient, awkward, jealous, tender, loyal, and harsh. She is at times negligent, alcoholic and a murderer yet the power of this novel is that the reader never loses empathy for her.

Roley's riding is interrupted when he is struck by lightening while out riding in a storm. The effects of which gradually cripple him, physically and emotionally till the point that he becomes an invalid and wastes till his young death. As Roley's legs go to waste so does his marriage to Noah.

The family dynamics on the dairy are another central part of the plot. We see a power struggle between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law tussle for attention, affection and authority. The reader will also meet the spinster Aunt who cooks, cares, sews, mediates and dreams for something of her own. We see a sister's fierce love for a downs syndrome brother but also her shame. We see a mother who becomes viciously jealous of her own daughter and her ability to withhold affection and isolate her child is heart wrenching. On the flip side, her ability to defend and protect that same daughter provides the heart breaking climax of the story.

I love reading books in which I feel like I have met the characters and this is certainly the case with Foal's Bread. Having grown up in country Queensland, I found these characters very authentic and their lives, desires, heartache and actions all resonated deeply. A great read.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book tells the story of a year in the life of Charlie, an American, high school student. It is a no holes barred account of what teenage life is like. Charlie narrates his own experiences and gives the reader great insight into his inner world. He also gives detailed observations of the experiences of his friends and family members. His voice is one of innocence and his search to find his moral compass positions the reader to have much empathy for him and the desire to see him safely through the tests he faces, provides the impetus to turn the page.

In this year of Charlie's life he has to navigate the teenage world of friendships, partying, sexuality, school and home life. Charlie also has to face a tragic situation from his own past which provides a climax in the plot.

I loved this book. It tells it as it is and if you have lived through or are living through teenage years, you will certainly remember and/or relate to Charlie's life.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

On our way

We booked our flights for France and Italy today. I can't quite believe we are going. Even after 5 years of saving, it kind of doesn't feel real BUT CAN'T WAIT!!!

First entry went into the journal:

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Seeing by Diana Hendry

Lizzie is a thirteen year old girl in 1953 who finds growing up in the post war peace of the seaside English village of Norton boring. The mundanity of peace is quickly changed when Natalie & her brother Phillip arrive in town. Attracted to Natalie's wild spirit, Lizzie befriends the newcomer and soon becomes caught up in Natalie's grand plan to eradicate evil.

Natalie reveals that her younger brother has "second sight" and can see the swastikas on people's heart. The siblings believe the world is full of "left-over Nazis" (LONs) and that it's their duty to revenge the cruelties of the concentration camps. The three embark on a quest to rid Norton of LONs and what unfolds is a haunting tale of friendship, anger, love, hate & consequence.

This is a great story that engages the reader immediately but has a tension that makes you feel uncomfortable through out. Haunting is another word that could adequately be used to describe this tale. You can read a thorough review of the novel in this link to an article published in The Telegraph (July, 2012).

Colours for Beginners