Tag Archives: Family relationships

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome – Katrina Nannestad

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girldogwriter

Harper Collins

Imprint: ABC Books

October 2017

ISBN: 9780733338175

RRP: $16.99

Maybe it’s because spring is here (my favourite season) or maybe it is just the stars aligning but I have been so blessed to be sent so many absolutely delightful books to review lately. This is just gorgeous and I love it.

Young Freja is not your average child. She’s not used to people or social situations or even making conversation. It’s not because she’s an only child. It’s because for all of her ten years she has spent nine months of each year with her zoologist mother Clementine in the wildness of Arctic regions as Clem studies the wildlife. Freja revels in these annual expeditions and the beautiful discoveries her mother shares with her. It is only for three months of each year that she is forced to try to adapt to ‘civilisation’. Each Christmas period the pair returns to England where Clem lectures, raises funds and prepares for the next trip and Freja is endured by a parade of babysitters all of whom find her odd and ‘difficult’.

This year things are different. Clem tells Freja that she is ill and she must go to Switzerland alone for her treatment. There will be no trip until she is well.  Freja is devastated – not just because of the trip but the trauma of being separated from her mother, not to mention the horror of ‘babysitters’. Enter Tobias Appleby and Finnegan his large hairy dog. Clem explains to Freja that Tobias is an old and dear friend and he will take great care of her. And so he does, in a completely bewildering and eccentric way to which Freja immediately responds. Their bond develops quickly though not without hiccups.

Yes, we can make assumptions here however nothing will be revealed so early in this new series.

Of course, the most exciting thing is when Freja (in one of her confused and shy moments) expresses a desire to see Rome and of course! For Tobias that’s simple as can be and soon the three of them (Finnegan as well) are acclimatising to the Roman way of life. For Freja it is a revelation. She discovers hitherto unknown social graces in herself and finds friends – friends!

This is a wonderful story about family, friendship and identity and I look forward to the next in the series with anticipation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

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Piglettes – Clementine Beauvais

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piglettes

Penguin Random House

Imprint: Pushkin Press

ISBN 9781782691204

August 2017

RRP $16.99

This superb YA novel deals with some pretty gritty issues like bullying (cyber and real life), self image, identity and family relationships and is one of the most wickedly funny books you’ll read all year.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are three girls at the same school and recently voted as the first three place-winners in a Facebook ‘Pig Pageant’ for the ugliest girls by their schoolmates. This event was initiated by Mireille’s erstwhile childhood friend Malo, who is one of the most odious youths ever. Since they both started high school Malo has made it his mission in life to humiliate Mireille at every turn.

While the girls are all pretty crushed by this horrible bullying, they are not going to let it get the better of them and form a friendship that will fly them forever.  Each has a particular reason for their proposed plan to cycle to Paris for the huge Bastille Day celebrations; Mireille, wants to confront her biological father, now married to the President, Astrid wants to meet her idols Indochine and Hakima wants to berate the commanding officer about to be awarded the Legion of Honour for the debacle that resulted in her brother Kader losing both his legs in battle.

Overcoming the opposition of parents, the girls set off on what must be the craziest road trip ever with Kader in his super wheel chair as their chaperone. Along the way they garner the respect and adulation of thousands via newspapers and social media and in real life.

Told through Mireille’s witty and philosophical voice, the reader is alongside the girls for the entire trip which is joyful, uplifting and totally hilarious.

Proving themselves as true Mighty Girls the trio triumph over the online bullies and even horrid Malo shows some indications of redemption, especially when the reason for his nastiness is revealed. Each girl learns valuable lessons about herself particularly when they finally attain their goals and find that something has changed about their motivations.

Definitely worthy of its achievement of winning France’s biggest award for YA/teen fiction I highly recommend this to you for your girls from around 14 years upwards.

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.

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408883525

Publisher:

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

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kissitbetter

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:9781408845622

Publisher:Bloomsbury

Imprint:Bloomsbury Child

Pub Date:February 2016

$22.99

 

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

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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

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Dead Dog in the Still of the Night – Archimede Fusillo

Ford St Publishing

May 2014

Paperback 224 pages

ISBN 9781925000344

RRP $18.95

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http://www.thelitcentre.org.au/author/archie-fusillo

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.

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