Tag Archives: Family relationships

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer



Allen & Unwin



Bloomsbury UK

Imprint :Bloomsbury Child

March 2017

RRP $16.99

Juliet’s mother died in a terrible hit-and-run accident. On her way home from yet another international photography mission documenting the heartbreak of war zones and disasters, she returned early at Juliet’s request and on her way from the airport was suddenly and terribly gone forever. Like so many of us who have lost someone so dear, Juliet cannot let go, especially of rituals, like writing letters to her mother as she has done all her life. Only now she leaves them at the cemetery.

Declan Murphy is known by his ‘reputation’. He’s tough looking and constantly confrontational, he’s spent time in jail, he’s doing community service and he spends most of his time skulking around trying to be invisible. Nobody knows the truth behind his attitude, not even his best friend realises the full depths of Declan’s story.

When Declan, as part of his mowing community service at the cemetery, reads one of Juliet’s letters, he is so overcome with empathy that he responds with his own comment.  Outraged beyond belief at the invasion of her privacy, Juliet responds to him with undisguised contempt and rage. And thus a strange correspondence begins.

Along with that, a close and trusting relationship between two dreadfully despairing young people who do not know each other slowly builds. Or are they strangers?

Slowly but surely each is unravelling the real identity of the other and along with that an antipathy which belies the honesty and trust of their anonymous letter exchanges.

For both the healing process and the road to hope is their unfailing support for each other as their separate tragedies unfold and their defences are lowered.

The characterisation in this is excellent – even relatively minor characters bristle with life and emotion.  I particularly like the ‘voice’ of both Juliet and Declan – though Declan’s intellect has been shrouded by other details this as well as his inherent compassion shines through. There is, as one might expect, from seventeen year old protagonists some low level swearing but it is all totally in context and expressive in itself.

There is a real twist in the tale which avoids cliché or triteness and is exactly the kind of ‘messiness’ that might happen in families. All in all it’s a terrifically engaging read and the reader develops a real affection for these characters.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 upwards.



Kiss It Better -Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Sarah Massini



Allen & Unwin



Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016



Everybody needs kisses. In our house there are plenty to share for any reason or none at all. This charming book shares the special sweetness of family kisses for young readers with a lilting rhyming text and a gorgeous family of bears.

Little humans will relish the thought of kisses ‘speaking’ to them.

A cheer-up kiss says, “Tell me what’s wrong.”

A be-brave kiss says, “Come on, stay strong!”

A see-you-soon kiss says, “I’ll miss you, too.”


Everything feels better with the help of  a kiss!

I can’t wait to share this with some special little people in my life – all of whom know that kisses are indeed ways to tell each other how much we care.

Highly recommended for your readers from Prep up.


Izzy the Invisible – Louise Gray, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson



Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781848125094

Publisher: Bonnier

Imprint: Piccadilly Books

Pub Date: March 2016

RRP $14.99


Just imagine if you could be invisible whenever you like – most children would love this!

This new story which is perfect for beginning independent readers comes from a mystery author so to speak. The publisher’s notes tell us that Louise Gray is a new pseudonym for an author of over ninety books and sales of over $3 million dollars.

Izzy is a very sweet little girl who is rather curious and quite lively. She lives with two busy working parents and a rather bossy older sister. It is her Nana Lin who is her real kindred spirit. Nana is a retired science teacher who has quite a menagerie (which is perfect for Izzy who is not allowed pets) and still messes about with her various experiments. Her latest is a concoction called Vanishoo which she hopes will make things become invisible but it’s just not working out. That is, until Izzy accidentally knocks an extra ingredient into the swirling liquid bubbling on the stove – and promptly vanishes!

Luckily, it’s not actually a permanent condition. It seems that a feather from Nana’s parrot  Perky makes Izzy visible again as long as she keeps hold of it.

Not surprisingly Izzy’s parents are none too thrilled with this development and harass Nana to come up with an antidote.  While they await this impatiently, Izzy does make good use of her new ability by giving some nasty teenagers a good wake up call, helping a neighbour and making peace with her big sister.

All in all this is a fun read with some solid family messages about trust and doing the right thing.

Recommended for young readers of about 7 years upwards.

Dead Dog in the Still of the Night – Archimede Fusillo


Dead Dog in the Still of the Night – Archimede Fusillo

Ford St Publishing

May 2014

Paperback 224 pages

ISBN 9781925000344

RRP $18.95



As the son of Italian immigrants growing up in Melbourne, it is no surprise that Archimede Fusillo’s work often features an Italian flavour and with more than a nod to his own adolescence.

About his first book ‘Sparring with Shadows’ Archie wrote “I have tried to show that boys do have emotions, are vulnerable, and that it is acceptable to express their feelings.  There is a constant duality of feeling one way and having to appear another.”

His new book with the eerie title continues this theme and once again focuses on a character struggling to come to terms with many conflicting feelings.  Primo is the youngest son of a family with strong personalities, long held resentments and simmering sibling rivalry. His domineering and womanising father is reduced to an old man suffering dementia and in a nursing home, though still exerting his influence on thefamily.  Primo’s mother is trying to come to terms with her long –suffering of her husband’s many infidelities, his middle brother has become embroiled himself in an ugly separation due to his own indiscretion and also facing the wrath of his mistress and her drug dealing brother, his older brother wants to sell off the old man’s mechanical workshop and take possession of his prized classic Fiat 500 and Primo is dealing with his final year at school and a disintegrating relationship with his girlfriend, Maddie.

The immaculately preserved scarlet Fiat becomes a focal point of the story. “I want to buy a car. A special one. A Bambino. Red. Red for speed. Red for the sex.’ While Primo’s family might think this statement of their father reflects upon his philandering, it becomes apparent that this one thought had sustained him from his peasant childhood until its fulfilment.  For Primo the car represents adulthood and independence as well as being his father’s prized possession. For older brother Santo, it is a classic cash cow – ripe for the picking.

When Primo ‘borrows’ the car to impress his girlfriend and then prangs it, he is desperate for money to repair it before anyone finds out. Brother Adrian’s peccadillo with his adultery provides an opportunity for Primo to warn off the scorned lover, Crystal, with the promise of payment for services rendered albeit not in the way Adrian had envisaged.

Tangled and intricate, the plot unravels with miscommunications, wrong perceptions, hidden emotions and gritty realistic episodes.

While the media release suggest this book is suitable for readers 10 and up, my own recommendation would be for older boys – perhaps 14 and on. There are numerous references to drugs, sex, violence,  strong language and adult concepts. Heaven sent for some of my own reluctant Year 10 readers.