If you are looking for something new in your ‘identity’ collection this beautiful coming-of-age narrative will be a perfect fit.
The recent months have been a revelation in how some humans handle a crisis situation and for teens this can be a real challenge. Lissa is no different. Home alone one afternoon a strange boy turns up on her doorstep with a small baby in his arms. Reed has recently found out that he’s adopted and believes that Lissa’s mother might also be his but more than that, his older and troubled brother has handed over the baby, his tiny daughter, for safekeeping. Being on the run is hard enough but having a tiny human to care for makes it almost impossible. Lissa finds herself caught up in Reed’s dilemma while, at the same time, trying to help her older brother who has been blamed for a social media debacle with huge ramifications.
In the process of trying to unravel Reed’s history as well as helping him care for tiny Mercy, Lissa uncovers a secret about her own birth which causes her real anguish and questioning around her own identity.
Jane Godwin has written a beautiful story with compelling characters for whom the reader really feels as they navigate their various ways through their complex predicaments. This is a story of inner strength, family solidarity and an expression of the true meaning of family – it’s not about blood, it is in fact about love.
I highly recommend this for your readers from around 12 years upwards. I can’t wait to ‘book talk’ it tomorrow to my student book group.
Seventeen year old Stella knows exactly how to help people – after all, she’s read self-help books all her life. Her friends and family often are the beneficiaries of the wealth of her accumulated wisdom. Best friends Clem, Zin and Lara regularly think she’s a little weird with her psycho-babble but affectionately embrace it. Her family – Dad, Mum and sister Taylor – are a little less enthusiastic and at times exasperated.
Stella has always known she’s adopted and that has never been a problem for her until, that is, a letter arrives from her birth mother and she discovers that over the past ten years there were others, carefully put away by her mum until she might be ready for them. The timing could not be worse. Dad’s gambling problem has driven down the family finances to such an extent that they must give up their house and move to Fairyland caravan park – literally the worst address in town, infamous for meth labs exploding and filled, it appears, with the most dubious of characters.
Rather than the vice-filled wasteland redolent with crime and the dregs of society that she has imagined, Stella slowly begins to discover that Fairyland is, in reality, a community and, more importantly, that not everyone needs her help – at least, not in the way she’s always pushed it onto people. The complicated chaos of her family life combined with keeping the secret of their new address from her friends and then the unravelling secrets about her origins as she attempts to get to know her ‘other’ family ensure a great narrative which explores the nuances of relationships and the shades of right or wrong that exist in any human situation. Stella realises that it is she who needs helping as much as anyone else and it is her Fairyland experience that provides it.
There is much humour in this novel along with the pathos and over-arching themes of compassion, respect and truth all of which make for compelling reading. Readers will find much upon which to reflect – addiction, domestic abuse, the definition of family, relationships, perceptions and stereotyping among others and while it is complex it is also highly engaging and very readable.
It’s a fantastic read which I ate up over two nights and one I will enjoy sharing with my students.
I highly recommend it for astute readers from around 13/14 years upwards.
For so many the teen years are times of angst, struggling for self-identity and confidence and feeling that one ‘fits in’. For a group of five young people in the Blue Mountains it’s even more fraught as all of them suspect they may be adopted and yet no one is telling them that it’s so.
Bonding anonymously on an online chat page, the group has no idea that in real life they not only know each other but to all intents and purposes dislike individuals in the group.
When they all decide to meet up and investigate their suspicions together, there is a good deal of shock involved when they realise just in whom they have been confiding. But their need for the truth overcomes personal prejudices as each begins to uncover long held secrets and they come together to discover their true origins.
No one would suspect that their small town could hide so much deception: the terrifying truth that awaits them is something that none of them could ever have imagined.
Told turn about by each character the group gradually bond as a team and the mysterious ‘outsider’ Sam begins to reveal more and more to aid them – and shock them
For those of us who know the mountains there are many references to well known places and events which makes the reading all the more accessible. I understand there is already a plan to make this into a tele-movie or series and it really is a highly suitable vehicle for this with its surprise twists and turns.
Despite my habitual resistance to sci fi this is a great read and aside from my knowledge of the area I found it highly engaging and thoroughly engrossing.
Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 13 years upwards.
Publisher: National Library of Australia Edition: 1st Edition ISBN:9780642279156 Publication Date: 01 February 2018
What is not to love about this wonderful Heritage Heroes series? Stephanie Owen Reeder introduces readers to a cast of significant Australians with whom many of us are unaware (myself included).
This new volume continues the high standard set by the previous books with not only the fictionalised story of the person, May Wirth, but also the inclusion of relevant information around the circus both historical and current, the period, day to day life and more with the illustrations vividly enhancing these. These include, as in previous titles, advertisements, banners, newspaper clippings, ephemera and more which all add to the overall beauty of the presentation.
After sharing the 2016 Eve Pownall shortlist with my Year 5s, Lennie the Legend was our hot favourite as a winner and we were all very well pleased when our prediction became actualised.
I cannot help but feel that this new volume will also be shortlisted at least and stands a good chance of winning again.
For me it was a fascinating read. To start with this is a Queenslander who began life as a neglected, impoverished and abused child and was ‘given away’ at the tender age of seven. Fortunately for May she was taken in by the Wirths and became an integral part of their circus family. As she grew older little Miss May proved she was tenacious and talented and eventually reached the dizzy heights of performing with the legendary Barnum & Bailey circus in the United States as well as performing for royalty in England. With such an illustrious and long-lived career as May had it is indeed a shame her name is so little known in the common lore of our country. This book will be pivotal in changing that as it introduces the present generation to one of our first Mighty Girls – one who refused to give up, and who stood up for equal rights her whole life.
Well done to the author for this superb account of the indomitable Miss May.
Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.