Tag Archives: Grief

Paper Cranes Don’t Fly – Peter Vu

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Ford St

August 2017

ISBN 9781925272765

RRP $19.95

Exquisitely poignant and so beautifully written this is a young adult book which will touch the hearts of every reader. There have been other books that look at the lives of young people with life-threatening or terminal illnesses but this is the first I’ve read that really offers the reader true insight from the point of view of the patient.

Three young adults have grown up together as the closest of friends. From their first meeting in Prep they have been inseparable.  Adam, Ambrose (AJ) and Tess are the trio who form the centre of this novel. Their love for each other is deep and without reservation.  They are more bonded than some siblings and even in high school when they are at different locations they still are as close as ever. Except for the all times that Adam is in hospital but even then AJ and Tess are by his side as often as they can be either in person or via technology.

Adam has grown up with a small benign brain tumour but over the years the tumour has started to become more troublesome often causing extensive hospital visits. He is quite the favourite there as he has developed close relationships with staff. Just as these young people are about to step over the threshold into their adult lives, Adam’s tumour becomes even more aggressive and ultimately serves him a life sentence.

In the final long months of his life, Adam has started to write down his story from the first beginnings of friendship with his two closest companions to his daily life in the hospital. It is this which we read giving us an intimate and warming insight into the care of patients for whom hospital is a second home.  This is not only another ‘young cancer victim’ narrative but a deeply personal look at how unconditional love, support, patience and compassion can transform the unspeakable into something beautiful.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As we seek to model to our students the transformational effects of love and empathy, this is exactly the sort of book which can demonstrate this without preaching.

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 upwards.

Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406373189
Imprint: Walker
May 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $14.99
New Zealand RRP: $16.99

 

I know that most folks will already know Raymie Nightingale but this paperback edition has been my ‘waiting for child pick up’ read for a few weeks so it did take me a while to get through in the short snatches. It comes as no surprise that this is another successful book for Kate DiCamillo bursting with warmth and love as well as poignancy.  If you didn’t manage to catch Kate on her recent tour you certainly should put it on your bucket list as she is just a delightful, engaging and genuine speaker. Kate puts her heart into every book she writes and perhaps none more so than Raymie. The parallels between her own life and that of Raymie are open for all to see and certainly her conversations about the book confirm this.

Raymie is devastated when her father takes off with a dental hygienist. She devises a plan to get him back – or at least call her. So she enters the Little Miss Central Florida competition and upon advice from her father’s sympathetic ex-secretary takes up baton twirling as her ‘performance’. She doesn’t like the twirling lessons at all and at first she doesn’t like the other two girls with whom she is learning. Beverley is a very cynical and embittered little girl with a pushy bullying mother and Louisiana is an odd little girl living with her eccentric grandmother and in fear of being put in the state home. Despite all odds the threesome become the firmest of friends and with many interludes of comradeship of somewhat dubious nature goes on to create their own happy – or happier than before – endings.

This is a warm and inspiring story for girls who may be having some difficulties in their own lives, showing them that though life may throw curve balls, friends can bring you just the support you need to get through it all.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards. Find activity notes here.

Exchange of Heart – Darren Groth

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9780143781578

Penguin Random House

9780143781578

July 31, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

$19.99

If you were impressed with Groth’s 2014 novel Are You Seeing Me? you will be likewise taken with his new one and his ability to blend heartbreak and humour into one splendid story.

Munro Maddux has taken a desperate step in his grief and guilt over his little sister’s death. Evie was just 13 and had Down’s syndrome, and when she suddenly died of her supposedly low-risk heart defect Munro’s feelings of big brother inadequacies have completely undone him. Unable to rid himself of an inner voice his therapist has named the ‘Coyote’ and with his grades at school failing as well as his social interaction, he makes a huge decision to go on a student exchange to Brisbane.  It’s a long way from Canada to Queensland and Munro’s parents are not coping so well with his departure although they are trying to assuage their own grief with building a foundation in Evie’s honour.

Placed with a very understanding family, Munro with his Aussie ‘brother’ Rowan slowly begins to find his way in the social morass of Sussex High – not without some hiccups – but with an added bonus of a sympathetic Caro. But it is when he is placed at Fair Go for his community volunteering that his healing really begins. As the Life Partner for a disparate group of young people who reside in this assisted living facility for reasons Munro forms bonds that are destined to become unbreakable. Will it be enough to silence the Coyote forever?

Groth brings his wealth of experience as a special needs teacher and the parent of an autistic child to this novel breathing life into his characters at Fair Go with an astute awareness of their strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

There is a real tenderness in this novel which the reader feels palpably as we begin to unravel Munro’s real issue with his sister’s death and his growing attachment to his new life after Evie.

There is some swearing which might rule this out for some collections or restrict it to Senior but it is a beautifully written book full of emotion and empathy.

I highly recommend it for readers 15 upwards. Put in your pre-order now!

 

 

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer

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letters

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.

 

 

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.

Grandad’s Island – Benji Davies

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  • Simon & Schuster UK
  • 32 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471119958
  • July 2015

RRP

AU$ 14.99

NZ$ 16.99

For many children, losing a grandparent is often their first experience with death and grief. The emotions of this may be openly expressed or may not be so visible to observers. Using a picture book to invite discussion on this topic may be very valuable for either individuals or classes.

There are many quality books that handle the topic of loss with sensitivity and the wise teacher-librarian will usually have quite a collection in order to be ready for the occasions when they are needed.

This new book by Benji Davies examines this topic with a beautiful and gentle grace as the close bond between grandfather and grandson and their final parting is described.  The colourful illustrations of his favourite destination underline the ‘perfect place’ in which Grandad chooses to stay and reassure Syd that Grandad will be happy there.

I also believe this would be an excellent choice to deal with the concerns a child might have about a grandparent going into a care facility.

Watch the book trailer to see a preview and find out more about the award-winning author here.

Holier than Thou – Laura Buzo

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Before I started this blog, I wrote this review of Laura Buzo’s second novel. I am reposting here as I’m about to review another of this terrific author’s books. Stay posted!

holierthanthou

Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781741759983.
Recommended for Year 11/12 students. Wonderfully funny, heartbreakingly poignant, undeniably bursting with life, Laura Buzo’s second novel Holier than Thou is contemporary fiction that crackles with emotion and energy.
Holly Yarkov is 24, a social worker in the toughest neighbourhood of the city. The tragic death of her beloved father during her high school years propels Holly not only towards her chosen, and difficult, career but also to a rollercoaster ride of relationships – with friends, family and lovers.
Set in a gritty but very vibrant area of Sydney, well known to this reader, Buzo’s true-to-life portrait of the Inner West captures its very essence.
With an intuitive insight into the different ways the human psyche deals with the tremendous impact of grief and the ensuing, and often enduring, emotions it engenders, Buzo peels back layers of Holly’s struggle to hold fast to a status quo which relentlessly continues to slide out of her grasp and strikes a resounding chord with the reader. The irony of her Woman-of-Steel nickname, bestowed upon her by her peers, coupled with her drive for perfection and her ‘compulsive volunteer[ing]’ cannot fail to move even the most cynical audience.
It is impossible to follow Holly’s journey without a true empathy and involvement with her compassionate character. This novel comes recommended highly by this reader, but with caution, as suitable for mature young adult readers – there is a very liberal application of strong language, drug references and sexual situations. The completely authentic voice of this outstanding novel is no doubt, directly attributable to Buzo’s own intimate knowledge and experiences as a real-life social worker in Sydney. This reader freely confesses a habitual antipathy towards this genre but can honestly say without hesitation this is a cracker of a novel. Loved it!