Tag Archives: Depression

The Storm Keeper’s Island – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

August 2018

ISBN: 9781408896884

Imprint: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP :$14.99

What a simply sparkling debut novel! It did take me two nights rather than my usual one (but I confess a little tiredness even after a week of holidays) but it was simply page-turning and thoroughly engrossing.

Fionn Boyle and his older sister Tara are going to Arranmore Island for the summer to stay with their paternal grandfather.  Tara, who is thirteen and has turned into a right little cow since her birthday, has been for a visit the previous summer but for Fionn it is his first experience of his ancestral home and his first encounter with his rather odd grandfather.  Fionn has plenty of time to become acquainted with his grandpa though as Tara has cut him right out while she aids and abets her ‘boyfriend’ Bartley (a thoroughly poisonous toad) in his quest to discover a long hidden secret.

That secret is to be a huge part of Fionn’s initiation into true island acceptance, and in fact his true inheritance, and that doesn’t just refer to the inhabitants. From the first day Fionn is bemused and intrigued by the overwhelming and obvious existence of magic running throughout almost every aspect of the island. He cannot ignore it as it keeps appearing in one form or another often when he least expects it.

Doyle’s plot has twists and turns a-plenty keeping the reader fully engaged with the very believable characters as they intertwine in past and present. In style and concept it reminds me of the masterful work of Alan Garner, blending mystical legend, magic and contemporary reality and, much like Garner, Doyle has taken a locale and its history well-known to her and woven a narrative that could well become a modern classic.

 

I really relished every word of this and look forward to reading her future work.

Very highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

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The Other Side of Summer – Emily Gale

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ISBN: 9780143780113

Published: 30/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

Sometimes a book strikes such a personal chord with you that you are almost mesmerised by it from the first. My own family’s grief over the loss of my youngest daughter last year has wrought such changes in our dynamic that at times it feels hard to breathe.

Summer’s family are torn apart by the death of her brother Floyd following a bomb explosion at Waterloo Station. Her mother Cece is paralysed by depression (and believe me, I know how that feels), her older sister Wren retreats further into her Goth styling and perpetual angriness and her Dad is battling to keep the family afloat in the face of his own sadness. Despite the best efforts of her amazing friend Mal, Summer cannot seem to move ahead in any sense and when Floyd’s beloved guitar is returned to the family unscathed despite the bomb destruction, the pain comes flooding back albeit with the mystery of how it survived where Floyd did not.

When Summer’s Dad decides that moving back to his home country of Australia is just what the family needs, the emotions are mixed and compounded even further when at the last moment Cece stays behind with her own mother.

Moving to the other side of the world is not what Summer wants but at least a part of her thinks that maybe there is a chance of finding her own self, alongside with Floyd’s voice in her head and his guitar at her side.

When she meets a strange boy down at the local creek, she at first thinks he is a ghost and perhaps meant to help her, but as the plot unravels via twists and turns it appears that this is no ghost and Summer is the one who must be the helper.  She realises there is a connection to the Ibanez Artwood guitar but what is it?

This is a beautiful exploration of grief, intertwining lives and the deep darkness of depression which will intrigue readers from the start.

I would highly recommend this for readers from around 12 upwards and will be promoting it in our Secondary Book Club at our next meeting.

I Was Here – Gayle Forman

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  • Simon & Schuster
  • 288 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471124396 |
  • February 2015

List Price

AU$ 19.99

NZ$ 21.99

Many of you will already be familiar with Gayle Forman’s If I Stay – either the book or the blockbuster movie, or indeed her other work. Having been pretty much focused on YA for boys for the past year, that one passed me by.  However, having just finished the proof copy of this latest of her novels, I feel I will be backpedaling to find more. Elegant prose, moving without being cloying, completely engrossing and utterly fascinating, I Was Here explores sadly all too common issues of depression, mental health and teen suicide.

18 year old Cody struggles with the despair and grief she experiences following the suicide of her best friend, Meg. The closest of friends since kindergarten days, Cody realises that since Meg went away to university, she has lost the same intimacy they had always shared and when Meg’s parents ask Cody to go and retrieve Meg’s belongings from her university digs, she is struck anew by how much of Meg’s recent history is hidden from her.

Gradually, Cody begins to understand that the incomprehensible suicide of her friend may have been encouraged by external agents – or to be specific an external agent.  Her initial distrust of Meg’s Washington friends – in particular, the attractive Ben with whom Meg had had a liaison at one time – is broken down as each in turn, becomes part of her sleuthing mission to uncover Meg’s last months and days.

Cody discovers as much about her own inner thoughts, feelings and life as she does Meg’s during her journey – and finds that love comes unexpectedly and unlooked for from unlikely quarters, and healing is possible in spite of everything.

Though the publisher’s website suggests this is a novel for readers aged 12 up, I would strongly suggest that if you are contemplating it for your library collection, it is most definitely Senior Fiction. Plentiful strong language, drug and sexual references could cause consternation for younger readers (or their parents!).  However, given the focus we should be putting on these issues with our young people, there is most definitely much to be explored, examined and evaluated in this narrative.

I would highly recommend it – but repeat, I will be designating this as Senior Fiction in my own library.

Racing the Moon – Michelle Morgan

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http://www.michellejmorgan.com.au/

ISBN: 9781743316351
Australian Pub.: January 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Children’s fiction
Suitable for ages: 12-14

RRP $12.99

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I received this in a pile of books from Allen & Unwin later in the year and picked it up last week when doing the X-mas reshuffle thing. It’s been a really enjoyable read and one I think would appeal to students both boys and girls in Middle School.

Set in a memorable year: the Sydney Harbour Bridge finally ‘met’ in the middle, Phar Lap wins the Melbourne Cup and Bradman scores 334 runs in the Test, the novel follows the trials and tribulations of young Joe Riley for a year of his sometimes tumultuous life.

Joe and his family live in the Glebe of the Depression, a ‘rough and tumble’ sort of neighbourhood (still is, last time I saw it!) and luckily, they make ends meet through various means. Dad runs an illegal betting shop, Mum takes in sewing and Joe sells fresh eggs from his uncle’s farm, has a paper round and is not averse to using some of Dad’s knowledge to rig the gambling on the local billy cart derby.   He has a younger brother Kit and an older sister Noni and in general, apart from when Dad is on the grog and he cops a belting, life isn’t as dreadful as it is for others.  Until, his parents decide after several brushes with authority, that they have saved enough money for Joe to go to boarding school.

Despite his protests, Joe is packed off across the harbour to St Bart’s, which turns out to be a pretty nasty place all round and when a predatory priest makes one wrong move too many towards Joe, he finds himself with a bloody broken nose and Joe is shipped off again, this time to the Farm, a reform school on the South Coast.  At this point I was expecting more nastiness for Joe, but as it turned out, the Farm wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, Joe learns a lot about himself, new skills, working as a team and the satisfaction of physical labour.  However, in the scheme of things this almost came as an anticlimax, but does prove his rite of passage. Joe returns home with a good report and will go to school locally after all.

The plot is not necessarily the strongest but it would keep, particularly boys, reading. I am thinking about using this in literature circles in Middle School this coming year – partnering it with The Sequin Star – Belinda Murrell. Both set in exactly the same period of time, with a great deal of historical information to absorb but one with the boy protagonist and one with the girl. My co-ed groups might like this approach I hope.

One thing I have to say is that I do NOT like the cover at all – it looks like a book for much younger readers and for this type of novel, I would have expected a much grittier design to engage the readers.  I can’t see any of the teenage boys I know picking  it up based on the jacket!

Allen & Unwin do have a link to teaching notes on the webpage but it wouldn’t work for me – but visit their website and try it out here

Q&A with Colin Thompson

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Since he started writing and illustrating children’s books in 1990, Colin Thompson has had more than 65 books published. He has received several awards, including an Aurealis Award for the novel How to Live Forever, CBCA Picture Book of the Year for The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley and CBCA Honour Book and the Family Therapists’ Award for The Big Little Book Of Happy Sadness. He has been shortlisted for many other awards, including the Astrid Lindgren Award – the most prestigious children’s literature prize in the world. Colin lives in Bellingen, Australia. His books with Random House Australia include How to Live Forever, numerous picture books, The Floods series, The Dragons series, The Big Little Book Of Happy SadnessFree To A Good Home and Barry.

Author Lives In: Bellingen, NSW, Australia

thompson, colin

Courtesy: Random House Australia

Colin, welcome to Just So Stories!

Reading the biographical details on your website, your life has been a mix of various locations, jobs and interests and your writing career did not kick off until relatively recently. Can you tell us about any interest in books and writing when you were a child/teenager/young adult whether favourites or what you inspired you and then, perhaps you could share why you started to write professionally?

When I was a child there were only fourteen children’s book in print and they were jolly super-wizard japes and pretty boring apart from one or two such as the Wind in The Willows which is probably still my favourite children’s book. There no books with no nasty common working class people in – unless they were burglars and the only books with coloured pictures were annuals of the comics I read, like the Beano.

Nothing inspired me to be a writer. I had no desire to be one and the thought never once  entered my head until I was 49 and went to see some publishers in London to see if I could get some work illustrating children’s books. I couldn’t, but one publisher told me to go away and write a story. I said I didn’t know how to – I was rubbish at English at school – but she kept pestering me until I got so fed up with her that I sat down and wrote Ethel The Chicken. (You can read this in my collection of stories Wild Stories which is a collection of three books of short stories re-published here by Random House)

So I started writing because a publisher told me to.

Out of your many published works, I have many personal favourites (though a couple of picture books particularly hold my regard – The Short & Incredibly Happy Life of Riley and The Last Circus for example). I am in awe of your versatility in being able to both write and illustrate though sometimes you collaborate with another illustrator as in those two examples. What makes you decide whether you will illustrate your own work?  Also, do you confer with an illustrator if not yourself about your ‘vision’ of the illustrations?

Actually I did not collaborate with Amy Lissiat on Riley. I am actually an 85 year old French lady and the fact that Amy Lissiat is an anagram of ‘it’s my alias’ is pure coincidence. If someone else illustrates one of my book. I do NOT confer at all and any author who does with an illustrator should not be allowed to. If they (or me) think they know how the book should look, then they should do the pictures. Otherwise leave the illustrator alone. It’s none of your business. I’m not sure I will be doing any more collaborations. Might do, but at the moment I prefer to illustrate my own stuff.

‘Dust’ was a book that I found both important and poignant. In my libraries I have shared it with dozens of children and it always makes such a profound impact. What was it’s genesis?

I got the idea after seeing news on TV about the famine in Niger which their government said wasn’t happening. No doubt it wasn’t for the government. So I decided to try and raise some money. Initially I approached Medicine Sans Frontiers, but they were ridiculous and impossible to deal with so I went to Save the Children who welcomed DUST with open arms. I’m not sure how much we’ve raised, but I think it’s at least $500,000. Save the Children took my wife and I to Cambodia to see the work they were doing there and that gave me the idea for the follow up book The Bicycle. I though the least I could do after such a stark book as DUST was to produce an upbeat book!

Not only are you talented in the picture book genre, but your novels for older children such as The Floods and The Dragons are wildly popular with both boys and girls. Can you tell us how these two series came about?

My publisher at Random house took me out to lunch and suggested I might like to write a series. I hadn’t thought of it until then and decided that I was so TOTALLY bored with all the witch and wizard books, many of which are really bad, that the genre needed sending up. If you look at the Harry Potter books, I think you’ll find that there isn’t one joke in the entire series. I don’t know this for certain because I got really bored after the first two. I know they’re good, but I think they are all at least 50% longer than they should be. I just don’t have the patience – which is why I’ve never read Lord of the Rings either.

Writing picture books is a really good way of discarding the fluff which so much writing is full of. Some of my picture books do have longer stories than average, but it does teach you to only say what you need to, not show off with all the clever words you know. Stephen King says – ‘the adverb is not your friend’ If you plan to be a writer, go and get that advice burnt into your skin.

So having taken, to put it bluntly, the piss out of witches and wizards with, The Floods I then decided to do the same to King Arthur and dragons with my Dragonsseries.

See below for my new series.

And then of course, there are the poetry books (is there no end to this man’s talent?!) – what inspired the poetry books which are enormous fun especially as read-alouds?

I wish you would stop using the word ‘inspired’. Stuff just comes into my head and I write it down – or draw it. The inspiration word is a lot of people’s excuse for not doing stuff. ‘I need to be inspired’, they say which is crap. What they need is to do is to just get on with it and if they keep trying and can’t think of anything, then they shouldn’t be doing it anyway. They should just go and get a job – teaching writing or art is one job you can do if you can’t actually do it.

Writing poetry is strange. There are times when whatever word you think of, another one that rhymes comes into your head instantly. In my 3 poetry books there is only one poem that doesn’t rhyme. I think each book was written in about six long sessions over a few weeks and then things stopped rhyming. I have been toying with the idea of another book of poems.

Most of us know that you had some issues early in your life with depression. As we have just recognised Mental Health Week and thankfully are working towards breaking down the barriers and ignorance which surrounds this daunting problem, perhaps you could share some thoughts on the topic?

I think if the world in 2014 tells itself that everyone is more understanding and tolerant of mental illness, it’s lying to itself. Society has hardly become any more accepting that it was when I had depression fifty years ago. The general belief of most people is that sufferers could and should ‘snap out of it’. This of course is pathetic and implies that people with depression (I’m saying depression because that’s what sent me into three mental hospitals in my early 20’s) or other mental illnesses are putting it on deliberately and have some control over the situation, which of course is ridiculous. Anyone who has had bad depression will tell you, it’s not something you would ever choose to have. I think it was good of the ABC to host Mental Health Week and some of the programmes were really good. There was also some patronising rubbish too. I survived my depression and one genuine suicide attempt, but I can’t really say exactly how I got over it. Now, apparently, I have Aspergers instead which I must have got later because it wasn’t invented when I was born. When I was a child it was simply called being naughty.

The MOST IMPORTANT THING if you have a mental illness is to admit that you have a problem and then seek help. NEVER keep it to yourself.

Whilst not wishing to be impolite, you are nudging what some might describe as senior citizen status, yet I don’t detect any intention of slowing down or ‘retiring’- what is happening at present? What projects are you working on and what do you still feel needs to be written?

I want to say very rude words here. Stop trying to being polite. It is not impolite to tell someone they are old. It happens to everyone and it is not actually an insult.  I am not ‘nudging’ anything. Next week I will be 72. I am old, but I am as busy as I have ever been. Luckily I have not been cursed with maturity and Aspergers means you can do lots more in a day than other people.

Right now I am working on –

  • Illustrating a picture book called STANLEY, which I have just finished writing. It will be published next September. By the way, the third and final FEARLESSbook called Fearless Sons and Daughter will be published next year too (I think it’s March)
  • Editing and illustrating the first book of my new series which is called – Watch This Space. It will be published next May.
  • Writing the second book in the Watch This Space series – don’t know how many there will be
  • Drawing quite a few new pictures for more jigsaw puzzles for a company called Ravensburger. I’m currently drawing 2 that are 1000 piece puzzles and finishing one that is a LOT bigger. I’m hoping that when I’ve done a few more new pictures that we can put them all in a picture book too.
  • Working on a kind of novel/picture/chapter autobiographyish ( yes it is a proper word- Im an author so I know about this sort of thing) sort of book calledFITTING IN which is sort of about problems and other stuff like depression/Apergers/being different/shy/scared etc.etc. – not sure when this will be finished.
  • Writing an adult novel called The Mirrorball of The Gods.
  • Writing a book of adult short stories.
  • Writing another picture book.
  • Trying to find time to make samples of three ranges of models I’ve come up with. They will be for all ages between 5 and Pre-dementia.
  • Other stuff.

I have heard you speak to groups of students and inspiring them, but what advice would you give potential adult authors?

1 – Well then, get on with it.

2 – If you can marry someone rich, that’s a good idea. I am married for the third time and have never managed that.

Do you have particular authors and/or genres that you enjoy most? What are you reading right now?

I have two favourite books – neither are fiction.

1 – Botanica’s Trees and Shrubs – I read this all the time.

2 – At The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig – by John Gimlette. It’s about Paraquay and is like a cross between Monty Python and Saddam Hussein. I’ve read it about six times now. I also love two of his other booksThe Theatre of Fish and Wild Coast

My favourite author is Alan Bennett.

Finally, what would you like your epitaph to be?

Bloody hell, he must have been ancient. I thought he died years ago.

This, of course, will not be a viable epitaph for at least another 25 years. I’ve got a lot to do.

Please note the use of the word ‘died’ here. That’s what people do. They do not ‘pass over,’ they die.

Colin Thompson, I thank you so much for your valuable time and your generous sharing.

Bthank-you

Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer

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Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer

Penguin Australia

Published: 23/04/2014

Format:Paperback, 136 pages

RRP: $14.99

ISBN-13:9780143307648

ISBN-10:0143307649

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The Our Australian Girl series and characters have been extremely popular with girls 8 and up who are looking for an exciting and adventurous read. The concept was originally Jane Godwin’s when she was dismayed that girls in the 8-12 age bracket lacked worthy books that would engage them without the ‘tween’ fluff so common in most of their reading.

 

In 2014 two new characters have been introduced – Daisy and Pearlie.  Each series is set in a different period of Australian history and Daisy is the 1930s girl – and not one of the fortunate ones.

 

Separated from her dad, and then extended family, Daisy finds herself homeless and alone in a grimy and dangerous Melbourne far removed from her original country home.  Despite the efforts of her two friends to find her some temporary shelter, Daisy is snatched off to the Melbourne Orphanage (although she is not a ‘real’ orphan) with dozens of other homeless Depression children.  Following a daring escape along with two other unfortunate inmates, Daisy is returned to the grim orphanage and is left without hope of ever being reunited with her father and sister.  With two more to come in Daisy’s story and the teaser of her being adopted in the next book, readers will want to continue with the unravelling of Daisy’s dilemma.

 

These books are perfect for the age of the intended audience and whilst not sanitising the troubles of the relevant history of their setting, keep the more graphic details out of the storytelling. Readers will gain an understanding, in this case, of the effects of the Great Depression as well as the population’s obsession with the mighty Phar Lap and the Melbourne Cup.  Factual information at the end of the book provides even more for the reader who wishes to have a greater understanding.

 

A highly successful project which has kept many young readers fully engaged, this and others in the OAG are highly recommended for your girls 8 plus.

 

http://www.ouraustraliangirl.com.au/