Tag Archives: Domestic Abuse

Dragon Skin – Karen Foxlee

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Allen & Unwin

September 2021

ISBN:9781760526108

Imprint:A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

One wouldn’t normally associate the outback mining town of Mt Isa with magic or dragons but Karen Foxlee’s newest novel for middle school readers makes this eminently plausible.

How to save a dragon:
1) Assemble equipment. Water, Weet-Bix, sugar, syringe, sticky tape, scissors.
2) Believe in everything.

Pip is always reluctant to go home since her mother’s boyfriend moved in. Matt, the epitome of domestic bully, has reduced the previously happy life Pip and her mother had together to a frightened shadow where both are diminished. While her mother seems to have lost almost all her own free will, Pip’s resentment, both of Matt’s invasion, and the loss of her best friend, Mika, fuels her determination to get herself and her mum out of this ugly situation.

Pip spends a lot of time at the waterhole, where she and Mika used to sit and dream, talk and plan, even as the river dried up and the cracks in the mud widened. Since Mika’s been gone and Matt’s influence has permeated every moment of her life the waterhole has become Pip’s only refuge, even though her mum doesn’t like her spending so much time there alone.

The day she finds the almost-dead little creature is the day her whole life changes, though she doesn’t yet know it. All she does know is that she is going to save it, no matter what it takes. It’s not a lizard, it’s not a fish – it has wings and scaly skin and little nubs on the top of its little head – so it can only be a baby dragon. How and why, it has come to be almost dead, half-buried in the mud of a lonely waterhole Pip has no idea, just as she has no real idea how to save the little creature. She can hear Mika’s suggestions in her head but they come and go so she can’t depend on them. However, she’s not as alone as she thinks. As the days go by and Little Fella begins to slowly recover, Pip discovers a growing bond, born of conspiracy and curiosity, between herself and Laura and Archie, school friends she has never realised are friends.

Just as Little Fella’s strength improves and he grows to a point where he will survive, thanks to the combined efforts of the three friends, so too does Pip’s resolve and encouragement for her mother to make the move that will save them both.

Karen Foxlee’s ability to create characters with whom the reader can bond completely has become evident with the success of her earlier books and this new one does not disappoint. With its focus on a sadly, increasingly, common scenario, it will bring heart to those who may be faced with similar dilemmas – particularly as at the end of the book, the author has provided links and resources for readers with such issues.

To round off such an important and quality book, the bonus of beautiful binding makes this a joy to hold in one’s hands.

I give this my highest recommendation for your mature readers from around Year 4 upwards, with the warning that of course the domestic abuse issue may be an emotional trigger for some. In our collection, this means a disclaimer on the endpapers as an advisory comment.

The Tell – Martin Chatterton

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9781760895945

Penguin Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781760895945

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

OMG whoahhhh! If you struggle at times to get some of those middle school reluctant readers engaged with a great book (who doesn’t?) this is definitely a ‘must have’!

Pure adrenalin pumping action from start to finish, this a narrative that is tense, at times grim but with fabulous concepts of the meaning of loyalty, family expectations, ethics and courage throughout.

Raze Tanic is in many ways an average teen boy whose passion in life is creating street art (yes, graffiti but classy) with his two best friends, Ids and Candy. Together they form MCT and plan to be the best street artists in Sydney. However, Raze is far from average given that he is the son of Dejan Tanic, head of the biggest crime syndicate going and currently serving time – long time – in The Coffin, a high security jail out of Sydney. Older brother, Solo, is already firmly entrenched in the family business but Raze is determined to stay clear of it, a dilemma that has bothered him for quite some time as he anticipates his father’s fierce response. So he is well and truly astonished when during his much-hated jail visit and bravely telling his father of his decision, Dejan is not only understanding but seemingly supportive. Little does Raze know that it’s because Dejan is distracted, awaiting his ‘escape’ plan to come to fruition and when it does, all hell breaks loose.

Dejan’s bold and daring escape, executed with perfect precision, instigates the biggest manhunt ever but also triggers out-and-out warfare with rival crime boss, Jonjo Sullivan and it is Raze who is caught in the crossfire.

Ids and Candy have his back but their help is complicated by the fact that Candy’s father is Don Cooper, chief cop in charge of the operation to re-capture Tanic Senior and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Murder attempts, arson, crooked cops, betrayals, domestic violence, cat-and-mouse chases, narrow escapes and more, all over Sydney, unravel at lightning speed leaving the reader practically breathless.

The energy and intensity of the narrative is superb and the characterisation of the three teens so well done – Martin has captured their ‘voice’ perfectly. Their resilience, ingenuity and sheer daring will appeal to even the most disengaged reader in my opinion and there is no doubt that this would also make a fabulous ‘read aloud’ for those 7/8/9 kids who disdain novels.

I’ve already recommended this to my Choclit group and promoted it on our library home page but will certainly be giving it a lot of ‘book talk’ time (whether that’s real-time or virtual). It’s definitely one to add to our eBook collection as well and I’m pretty selective about those, only adding what I judge to be a ‘winner’.

Do your collection and your teens a huge favour and make sure this one is added to your shelves – you won’t regret it and nor will they!

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check this out!

How To Make Friends with the Dark – Kathleen Glasgow

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781460751060

ISBN 10: 146075106X

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 19.99 AUD

 

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

My timing for reading this could have been better really. It was the 5th anniversary of losing my girl this past week, a scant fortnight before  Miss K’s 10th birthday. So at times it completely undid me reading Tiger’s story but trust me despite the heart-breaking poignancy there is also light and hope in this narrative.

Tiger and her mother have always been a team – just the two of them – in a little house with not much money but lots of love. There are often times when Tiger is completely fed up however: no money, no new clothes (her mother eclectically selects throw-outs from other people for her daughter) and above all her mother’s almost obsessive over-protectiveness.

Like most teenagers, Tiger is ready to rebel and does so spectacularly with a massive show-down with her mum about her plans to attend the upcoming big dance with one of her best friends, Kai – the boy she’s always really liked. As the mother-daughter conflict escalates during a day of constant texts and missed calls with Tiger refusing to countenance either her mother’s attitude or the hideous dress she’s found in a conciliatory gesture, the unimaginable happens. Tiger’s mother suffers a fatal aneurism and is dead within seconds – alone and as Tiger well knows, with her daughter’s last horrible words as the last exchange between them.

With no family to take her on, Tiger is immediately thrown into the maw of children’s services and foster homes and her ‘Grief Life’ consumes her and comes close to completely overwhelming the little resilience she might muster. And then, the most unexpected development turns everything on its head. Tiger has a half-sister and indeed, a father (who happens to be in jail)  – something for which Tiger has never been prepared, given her mother’s refusal to even discuss the past.  But the trauma isn’t over for Tiger. The journey of her adjustment to her new life, new family, new emptiness, new dark is at times harrowing and heartbreaking but ultimately some hope surfaces and perhaps – just maybe- Grief Life will ease, at least partly.

This is beautifully written and Tiger’s voice is compelling throughout. Make no mistake, it’s not an easy read emotionally but very much worth it. Our individual ability to process and then live with grief is unique to each – I know this only too well – but for anyone who has been in this aching abyss of blackness this could well be a book that will prove both cathartic and affirming.

I recommend it most wholeheartedly… but for mature readers from around 14 years upwards – there is some profanity and certainly some confronting situations/incidents as well. For your school library it’s definitely for your Middle to Upper secondary students.

Find teaching notes here.

At the End of Holyrood Lane – Dimity Powell/Nicky Johnson

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holyrood

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781925335767

ISBN 10: 1925335763

Imprint: Exisle Kids Publishing – NZ

On Sale: 20/08/2018

List Price: 24.99 AUD

 

Just before Miss Small (who really is no longer small!) came to live with me, she was absolutely petrified of storms. She would watch the sky anxiously and literally quiver with fear. While I guessed that this was symptomatic of something else, I hasten to point out it was not domestic violence and as time went by and her emotional anxiety eased, the storm ‘thing’ disappeared.

However, as one who has lived with DV and escaped, it is not only diminishing and frightening for the adult involved but has a very real impact on the children exposed to it, whether or not they are the recipients or not.

So this book with its subtle analogy was quite resonant for me for both those reasons.

This new picture book from Dimity Powell, beautifully illustrated by Nicky Johnston, provides a safe metaphor for children in just such a situation and enables caring adults to explore strategies by which these victims can begin to feel secure.

Flick lives with the fear of storms. Normally her life is filled with ‘sunshine and butterflies’ but the storms regularly appear and Flick, in her intense terror, has no escape except to hide. At last Flick seeks help to weather the storm and finds that this is the way to become free from the tyranny of the recurring fury.

Poetically written with much onomatopoeia and beautiful language it is a book worthy of sharing even if not in a ‘pointed’ way but just to explore children’s fears in general.

We are so blessed to have such quality writers for children in this country who are unafraid to tackle difficult subjects.

This book is endorsed by ActforKids, Paradise Kids, Think Equal and will be launched on 23rd September in Brisbane.

I highly recommend it for your young readers from  Prep upwards and would suggest that you also bring it to the attention of your school guidance officers/psychologists.

HL-Book-Launch-Invite

 

The Build-Up Season – Megan Jacobson

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Penguin Random House

9780143573388

July 31, 2017

Penguin (AU YR)

 

RRP $19.99

What a fantastic and gripping read this is! This one had to be read over two nights but it was a wrench to leave it halfway!

Ily (Iliad) Piper is a young woman who has had to face many emotional upheavals in her life and now as a young woman is dealing with the backlash of them. Her father is in jail after years of physical and mental abuse of her mother, Eve, and indeed Ily herself. Ily is living in Darwin now with her mother and her Nan but is sullen and resentful of the past few years when she has been sent away to boarding schools.  She doesn’t realise that this was a safety precaution on the part of her mum and nan, she is just pissed off with them both.  The only thing she enjoys at her new school is her rather quirky friend Mia and her Art which she hopes to turn into a career. Then she hooks up with Jared – self-obsessed, angry and a control freak, just like her father.  Despite all advice from friends including the annoying next door neighbour, Indigenous boy Max, Ily pursues the relationship with Jared and falls into the same trap as her mother had done before her.

This is a brilliant and insightful exploration of the nature of domestic abuse of women and how behaviours become patterns. Fortunately for Ily she has ‘look outs’ on her side. Her mum, her nan, Max, Mia and more are there at exactly the right moments to protect her both from Jared and from her father, recently released from jail.

There are some sensitive aspects to this which may preclude it from your secondary collection such as sexual activity, violence and profanity but truly it is such an exceptional book that examines such a topical issue I would still urge you to consider it, even with provisos.

Highly recommended for mature readers from around sixteen years upwards.

Running From the Tiger – Aleesah Darlison

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Empowering Resources

September 2016

ISBN 9780994501066

RRP $15.00

Empowering Resources is an independent publishing company dedicated to informing, discussing and enabling both children and adults to engage in ‘meaningful dialogue’ about important social issues.

Aleesah Darlison is an award-winning author (and resident of the beautiful Sunshine Coast!) who is unafraid to tackle topics which will raise awareness and be thought-provoking reads.

Domestic abuse is one of those issues which is so prevalent in our society that it is completely frightening and it is no wonder that so many voices are being raised to address this insidious and often fatal flaw in our so-called civilised modern world.

Running from the Tiger is a powerful and purposeful combination of author’s voice and topical problem which could be shared, with caution, with any person trapped in a cycle of abuse.

Eleven year old Ebony is the oldest of three girls. Mum is expecting another baby and Dad, who does not deserve that appellation is a misogynistic drunken no-hoper who takes his inadequacies out on his family. In particular, Ebony cops the brunt of his physical and mental abuse.  Isolated from true friendship and with no one to share her frightening home life (her mother being totally ineffectual) Ebony suffers in silence.

But when new girl Teena arrives at their small country school, Ebony finds her first real friend. Both girls have secrets and both girls discover in each other strength which grows as their trust and friendship deepens.

Aside from the actual violence of Ebony’s father, a disturbing thing is the fact that to her community this ongoing abuse is invisible. Even those who might suspect – or indeed, Teena’s father who confirms her tragic circumstances – do nothing to help her. Having experienced this type of situation first-hand I would urge anyone who suspects that something may be amiss with a child or even adult should report their concerns to appropriate agencies.

With Teena’s support Ebony begins to find her voice and resilience to stop her father. I would have liked to see him hauled away to some kind of Azkaban personally.

This is realistic fiction at its grittiest and most confronting. I suggest that this be reserved for senior primary students and be prepared to debrief if necessary.  I can certainly see it being used by guidance officers for children who are coming to terms with such home situations and in need of extra affirmation that sometimes standing up for yourself is the only way.