You can read my review of the second book about indomitable Layla on Kids Book Review now.
Well here we are a week out from Christmas 2020 and while you likely have most of your shopping sorted you may just still be tearing your hair out for the age group that always seems to be the hardest to please.
These two titles have been thoroughly vetted by The Kid who approves of them with enthusiasm, the content being two of her favourite topics.
We Love Billie Eilish: her life, her music, her story
Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Mortimer Imprint: Wellbeck
Table Of Contents:Welcome • Profile: Billie • The Story So Far • Profile: Finneas • Don’t Smile at Me • 9 Reasons We Love Billie • When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? • Billie By Numbers • Music Videos • Speaking Out • Promoting Change • Gallery: iconic looks • Quiz: Your Billie look • Awards and Nominations • Influences • How to Be the Ultimate Fan • Top Billie Quotes • Spot the Difference • Hair gallery • Songwriting Process • Things You Didn’t Know • Gallery: Performance highlights • 2020 Tour • Quiz: How Well Do You Know Billie? • The Future.
She’s probably be one of the most talked about performers this year and by all accounts a great role model for young people. Still just 19 this young woman has risen to the pinnacle of stardom by staying true to herself whether that’s with her music, her style or her advocacy.
Young fans will gobble up the facts and images in this attractive informational text and perhaps find their own inspiration to create. With stats galore, packed with fabulous photos, quizzes and with loads of quotes from both Billie herself as well as her family this will be a highly-prized addition to a bookshelf. I foresee many of our students going wild to get their hands on it (we had put it on our orders list when it was first promoted!).
‘I’m not going to say I’m cool, because I don’t feel that. I just don’t care at all, and I guess that’s what people think is cool.’
Show your cool and get this one into the hands of some young thing who knows their stars.
Recommended for kiddos from around 10 years upwards.
The Ultimate Fan Book Tik Tok Famous – Malcolm Croft
We might all shake our collective heads at the ubiquitous social media sensation – and of course, are cautious about the content – but there’s no denying there has never been anything quite like this phenomenon in my experience.
The Kid loves watching the dance clips and for her it’s just an amusing diversion but for some it’s a huge money-spinner like no other. This book gives the facts and photos about the virtual superstars who have gone viral around the world.
Beginning with a general introduction to the app that’s taken the world by storm the content is then categorised: houses, people, artists, music and fashion which kids will no doubt find fascinating (as they plan their own stellar future digital careers). The book concludes with some rising stars and a very handy guide on How to be Tik Tok Famous which I’m sure they will love!
Given that over the past few years approximately half the secondary students I’ve asked re their potential future careers have given the response ‘I’m going to be a YouTuber’ I feel sure that answer has probably been overtaken by the hullabaloo that is Tik Tok.
Recommended for readers from around 8 upwards.
Harper Collins Australia
ISBN 10: 1460755219
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
Well if you told me I would absolutely fall in love with a YA (primarily) romantic novel I would no doubt have scoffed loudly. However, this is just delightful and so so much more than just romance. Eglington explores contemporary culture, family relationships, aspirations, dreams and music with such a deft and ‘spot on’ ability that this will be a sure-fire hit with your teen readers.
It’s an immediately engaging format told for the greater part through Instagram messages, Skype, email and texts, accompanied by playlists (readers will love these!) which bounce with growing rapidity between Isolde in Sydney and Taylor in Queenstown. This young pair has been best friends all their lives, with a quirky but cool family connection, until a big bust-up when each speaks their mind and a rift of Cold War proportions extends over eighteen months.
In that space of time momentous things have happened to both. Taylor, who had been a rising snowboarding champion, lost his lower leg in a car accident which has effectively rendered him gloomy and despondent. Isolde has studied – actually lived and breathed – ballet her entire life and has her sights set on the National Ballet company but within a year she has muffed her first audition badly and also been terribly hurt in her first romantic relationship and feels similarly.
However the two do reconnect and forgive each other and over a space of almost a year their online conversations become deeper and more meaningful and are headed, for both, towards feelings that run much deeper than childhood friendship. The growing warmth between them is not without hiccups though as (don’t we all know it?) the medium of cyber conversations can lead to missteps and misunderstandings. Happily though there is a completely satisfying resolution – though the ending does lend itself to a continuation at some point down the track.
It is charming, refreshing, often humorous but also sobering at times with serious family issues with which both teens are faced. The trans-Tasman relationship will most certainly be of appeal to a wide readership and the insight into both settings, not to mention both passionate pursuits, is fascinating.
Unlike others in this genre there is nothing which might preclude readers who may be younger or more ‘sheltered’. Even swear words are not explicit which will mightily please many who would want to include it in their collections but otherwise might have to pass it up.
Highly recommended for readers from around 12 years upwards. Loved it!
Many of you will be familiar with Juliet’s recent picture book, Grace’s Mystery Seed, which has been widely praised and garnered considerable accolades – and rightly so.
However you may not be so well acquainted with her earlier novels which have also been positively received. Outback Wonder is Juliet’s third novel and eminently suitable for your readers who are embarking on their exploration of YA fiction – particularly if they prefer a novel without the overt or possibly contentious aspects of some.
Hannah is approaching her final year at school but is weighed down by the emotional upset caused by her parents’ separation. She is so depressed by this she feels she cannot even confide in her friends. Her father who had been unable to find work for some time, causing much of the reason behind the marriage breakdown, has finally found a job he loves – out in the Flinders Ranges. The outback is so foreign a concept to Hannah that she cannot comprehend why anyone would want to go there and when her dad sends an email inviting her to visit during the holidays, she is beset with conflicting feelings. Though she misses her father terribly she has less than zero desire to visit the remote location and can only think of flies, snakes and endless desert landscapes – not to mention no friends, holiday outings, shops and cinemas.
Yet, when she arrives it doesn’t take long for her to become swept up in the unusual surroundings, the quirky characters and the unexpected delights which include opals and a certain good-looking young pilot named Sam. Along the way there is a wealth of description and vicarious observation of this stunning part of Australia.
During her stay Hannah is able to come to terms to some extent with the dilemma she has faced and with Sam’s help begins to reconcile her resentment of her personal situation, and accompanying turmoil, with the reality that her parents have parted for their own reasons.
For your girls aged from around 13 upwards who are looking for a novel that combines adventure, travel and romance this is a perfect choice. I can say only one particular point jarred with me which was within a reference to a photograph with koalas and the mention that Hannah was holding ‘the bear’ – oops!
Apart from that blip this would be a welcome addition to your shelves and a glimpse into a landscape that most likely will be unfamiliar to your readers but with a character with whom they can completely empathise.
You may also enjoy this blog post in conversation with Juliet.
ISBN 10: 1460709888
For so many the teen years are times of angst, struggling for self-identity and confidence and feeling that one ‘fits in’. For a group of five young people in the Blue Mountains it’s even more fraught as all of them suspect they may be adopted and yet no one is telling them that it’s so.
Bonding anonymously on an online chat page, the group has no idea that in real life they not only know each other but to all intents and purposes dislike individuals in the group.
When they all decide to meet up and investigate their suspicions together, there is a good deal of shock involved when they realise just in whom they have been confiding. But their need for the truth overcomes personal prejudices as each begins to uncover long held secrets and they come together to discover their true origins.
No one would suspect that their small town could hide so much deception: the terrifying truth that awaits them is something that none of them could ever have imagined.
Told turn about by each character the group gradually bond as a team and the mysterious ‘outsider’ Sam begins to reveal more and more to aid them – and shock them
For those of us who know the mountains there are many references to well known places and events which makes the reading all the more accessible. I understand there is already a plan to make this into a tele-movie or series and it really is a highly suitable vehicle for this with its surprise twists and turns.
Despite my habitual resistance to sci fi this is a great read and aside from my knowledge of the area I found it highly engaging and thoroughly engrossing.
Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 13 years upwards.
Check out teaching notes here.
Penguin Random House
Just wow! Once again Tristan has crafted a sensational narrative with high-impact tension and thought-provoking themes which will keep readers eagerly turning pages.
Two young people are both, each in their own way, prisoners of sad circumstances. Sima, with her family, is detained in a centre for illegal immigrants and under threat of deportation after three years of trying to reach a safe haven, escaping violence and turmoil at the hands of the Taliban. Dan lives in a run-down caravan park on the edge of local society ostensibly with his mother, except she’s been absent for long periods engrossed with her new partner, leaving Dan to fend for himself. Both are desperate for escape.
When protestors help fifty detainees in a daring and dangerous flight from the centre, Sima is separated from her family and does her best to evade capture by hiding out in a toilet block at the local high school.
The school goes into lockdown as a result of the incident at the detention centre and Dan inadvertently becomes involved in Simi’s predicament. For both it is a delicate balance of trust and neither is confident of the response from adults such as Dan’s mum or his teacher but it seems that, almost unexpectedly, the morality of the issue outweighs the legality and help comes when it is least likely. After all, what price a life?
As the plot unfolds the reader becomes completely invested in the characters that are realised with a deft portraiture which is compelling and emotional without becoming cloying or stereotyped. Details which round each one out are often subtle and understated lending more weight to the overall picture. It is certainly clear that one cannot categorise people as simply one thing or another – good or bad, sympathetic or callous, that there are dichotomies in everyone. This viewpoint alone would give rise to much worthwhile and meaningful discussion with young readers.
Tristan points out that essentially he has written ‘a human story, rather than a political one’ with the ultimate goal of exploring the reactions, observations and actions of those dealing with difficult situations. Despite this there is no doubt that for many readers there will be, like Dan’s teacher Miss Aston, opportunity to discuss and debate various aspects of current social conditions.
It’s never been difficult to ‘sell’ Tristan’s books to my students and now the ripple effect is evident as more and more share their recommendation with peers but this one will be a block-buster I foresee. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts with our staff as I believe it will make a great read-aloud for Middle year students.
Don’t miss out – get your copy on order now!
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99
To be honest, I’m totally not a sci-fi person but this novel had me completely engrossed from the first page.
London: 2109. Population: 300.
Sixteen year old Lowrie and seventeen year old Shen are the only remaining ‘children’ on Earth after a mystery virus, eighty-five years previously, simultaneously struck every human around the globe rendering them all infertile. Their community, including their parents, are all in their eighties and fiercely protective of the two teens. The pair has been raised by their respective parents as close as siblings each with their own particular strengths and weaknesses but with a shared passion for ‘treasure hunting’ and mudlarking along the Thames. As the unused buildings of London crumble around the central district in which they live, Lowri and Shen meticulously record each of their finds, preserving history as much as possible and tracking each artefact’s heritage whenever possible.
When Lowrie discovers an old purse containing the almost antique plastic cards previously used by humans, she begins an investigation of their owner, Maya Waverley, and discovers much about the virus and its subsequent consequences that neither she nor Shen know about.
As the mystery deepens and unexpected disasters occur, the young pair is faced with the possibility of being the last remaining humans on the planet.
There are so many ‘ah ha’ moments in this that it is impossible and also highly unfair to reveal any more of the plot but suffice to say that this is a gripping narrative in which tension builds page after page until the final denouement.
As well as the riveting storyline there is much to reflect upon in this novel about such questions as the definition of ‘life’, the human condition, prejudices, selfishness as well selflessness and above all the true meaning of family and love.
It is truly a remarkable book and one which I unreservedly recommend to able readers from around twelve years up.
July 30, 2018
It must be hard to be so multi-talented *wry face*. Andrew Daddo has certainly proven his ability as not only a media figure but a very able and engaging writer.
I’ve not been enthralled in recent times by a lot of the YA coming my way – it’s been too much ‘same oh’ for my taste but this is fresh and sparky and real in a way that will grab readers from the very start.
Emily needs to leave her country town for a while. She has a mysterious growth near her brain which requires specialist attention in Melbourne. She and her mum put on a positive and brave face as they leave home, Dad and Siss to go stay with Aunty Astrid. Emily is not only nervous about her condition but also the prospect of a new school, no friends and the unknown in general.
Hendrix is a very recognisable character. He is a boy whose father drives his own failed athletic ambitions and his hidden guilt through his son, pushing him harder and harder to achieve an Olympic dream with his running.
These two could not be very much different and yet in many ways are similar. Both face difficult challenges, both feel isolated from the normal teenage social existence and both are essentially lonely.
When they meet in the park – Hendrix running and Emily walking her new puppy – it is not a situation that seems likely to fire a romance. Yet both find themselves continually thinking about the other. Their romance develops in spite of their respective difficulties. Daddo has beautifully created the respective parents alongside the young people’s story. Emily’s mum, loving and supportive, understanding and compassionate, firm but realistic and Hendrix’ father, immovable, almost unbelievably strict and controlling, and it would seem without a shred of real paternal care and concern.
As the narrative develops and reaches its denouement the characters become fully rounded and grow to the point where the reader is totally embroiled in their lives.
I highly recommend this for both boys and girls from around 13 years upwards. There is some sexual activity and some ‘bad’ language which some find disturbing so err on the side of caution if this would not fit your collection’s ethos. However that being said it is absolutely believable and realistic and many teens would relate to its themes.
– Sophie Elkan with Laura Chaisty & Dr Maddy Podichetty. Illustrated by Flo Perry
Imprint: Green Tree
Navigating through puberty is no easy ask and often it seems tweens heading into teens can be quite overwhelmed despite all intentions to help them be informed and comfortable. For some, in this instance, girls it can be a very beneficial adjunct to whatever home and school offers to have their own relatable ‘reference’ book and this one is a great example.
Aimed to empower girls through its sensitive, wise and often humorous take on issues that can be of real concern to young women it covers a wide array of topics including basics about body changes, care and comfort, relationships and friendships, information on sex and sexuality plus some input regarding safety on the internet. All this is couched in accessible straightforward text accompanied by some very quirky illustrations.
The main author’s clear information is supported by both a psychotherapist and a medical doctor which is helpful and provides a very balanced viewpoint. The illustrator has also included some space for girls to record their own thoughts or feelings which is a very nice touch indeed.
Whether you are looking to provide your own girl with a reliable source or perhaps seeking to support the teaching of Personal Development in your collection, this would be an outstanding addition.
I highly recommend it to you for girls aged from around ten years upwards.
I often think that if a book leaves you feeling slightly unsettled it must have achieved its goal. This was a quick read so it was done and dusted in one sitting but the reflection afterwards probably took equally as long as the actual reading.
This is the story of some stories. The stories are shared in a recount of interviews of four teenage boys from the same town on the Sunshine Coast. To me it blends bogan and Aboriginal and mainstream culture in ways that are quite complex although simple on the surface. The boys are often rude and disrespectful, prejudiced and intolerant yet they speak with the only honesty they know. Their histories are not pretty and their current lifestyles often not so as well. However, like most teens they think they are invincible and it is this that creates the biggest shock in the climax of the narrative.
Obviously in my work I encounter teenagers on a daily basis and at times I see this disregard for almost everything continually and I find that depressing. Yet at the same time I know there is good in many of them and see them rally to causes, to mates and to their passions in positive ways.
To my mind this will be a powerful book if we can get it into the right hands at the right time. Be aware there is considerable use of offensive language so you would be cautious about where you place it in a collection but that being said it is worth sharing and promoting.
Recommended for mature readers from around fourteen upwards