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Ruth Starke

Ruth Starke

Dr Ruth Starke (1946-2022) was a writer, critic and creative writing teacher. She held Academic Status at Flinders University where she was the Editor, Creative Writing, for Transnational Literature. She was a regular and longtime book reviewer for Australian Book Review, Viewpoint, and Radio Adelaide, and a past Chair of the SA Writers Centre. She published more than twenty-five books for young readers.

Reading Australia: ‘The Gathering’ by Isobelle Carmody

Reading Australia 03 June 2015
My postgraduate student frowned. ‘The Gathering? Isn’t that the one where someone sets a dog on fire?’ Spoiler alert: indeed it is. It is the book’s most memorable scene; it is certainly the most horrific. My postgrad had read Isobelle Carmody’s 1993 novel in high school and that was the first memory of it which surfaced. The scene shocked readers and alienated many: ‘I re-read the nov ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants' by Mark Rafidi

April 2015, no. 370 27 March 2015
‘When I think about picture books,’ writes Mark Rafidi in the first line of his foreword, ‘the words of the young girl in David Legge’s Bamboozled strikes [sic] me immediately.’ What strikes me immediately is that Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is a book that hasn’t been properly edited. By the time I reached the final page I wondered if the book had been edited at all. Rafidi ha ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'South of Darkness' by John Marsden

November 2014, no. 366 01 November 2014
It is sobering to think that the thousands of teenagers who in 1987 eagerly devoured John Marsden’s first novel, So Much To Tell You, and sent it and the author spinning into bestsellerdom are now in their forties – and as such, the target readership for his first adult novel, South of Darkness, a transportation saga that covers some familiar ground with a light tread.     ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Loyal Creatures' by Morris Gleitzman, 'Alexander Altmann A10567' by Suzy Zail, 'No Stars to Wish On' by Zana Fraillon, 'The Crossing' by Catherine Norton, 'Figgy in the World' by Tamsin Janu

September 2014, no. 364 01 September 2014
Anybody who knows a little about the role played by Australian horses in World War I will know that the story did not end well for the horses: 136,000 left these shores, and one returned. Readers of Morris Gleitzman’s Loyal Creatures (Viking, $19.99 pb, 160 pp) who are unaware of this statistic might be in for a shock. At the outbreak of war, Frank Ballantyne, not quite sixteen, is working with ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews new titles in children's fiction

March 2014, no. 359 28 February 2014
On the back of John Marsden’s new novel there is this warning: ‘This book is not a fantasy. It contains no superheroes, wizards, dragons, time-travel, aliens or magic.’ If it had also said, ‘and it is not part of a series’, I would have cheered even louder. At least I hope The Year My Life Broke (Pan Macmillan, $12.99 pb, 171 pp, 9781742613352) is a stand-alone and won’t rapidly be fol ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Refuge' by Jackie French, 'Caesar the War Dog' by Stephen Dando-Collins, 'Stay' by Jesse Blackadder, 'Shahana: Through my eyes' by Rosanne Hawke, and 'Evan's Gallipoli' by Kerry Greenwood

October 2013, no. 355 30 September 2013
You think you know what Jackie French’s Refuge (Angus & Robertson, $15.99 pb, 261 pp, 9780732296179) is going to be about, with its front cover photograph of a young boy, his dark eyes full of apprehension and sorrow. You still think you know when the refugee boat carrying the boy, Faris, and his grandmother, Jedda, to Australia is swamped by a huge wave and sinks. So you are almost as puzzl ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Cat & Fiddle' by Lesley Jørgensen

April 2013, no. 350 26 March 2013
Oh please, not another novel that draws from Pride and Prejudice! That was my first thought when I read the media release that came with Cat & Fiddle. Last year I had been underwhelmed by both P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley and Jennifer Paynter’s Mary Bennet, a novel about ‘the forgotten sister’, and I was now fervently wishing that all the sisters could be forgotten, at least b ... (read more)

ABR Patrons' Fellowship: 'Media Don' by Ruth Starke

March 2013, no. 349 07 March 2013
It is a hot gusty day in the summer of 1958, the sort of day that melts the tar on the road and brings the red dust down from the north. In the inner-city Adelaide suburb of Norwood, Mario Feleppa, twenty-eight and not long arrived in Australia, is fed up. Not with the heat – he is used to heat back in Italy – but with horses. Specifically, the horses that are stabled – surely illegally – ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'The Children of the King' by Sonya Hartnett, 'The Tunnels of Tarcoola' by Jennifer Walsh, 'Red' by Libby Gleeson: 'Mystery at Riddle Gully' and Jen Banyard

June 2012, no. 342 22 May 2012
Cecily Lockwood’s heart ‘bounced like a trout’. An arresting simile on the first page of a novel is always a good sign, but will this piscatorial comparison mean anything to young readers? No matter, back to those footsteps climbing the dark stairs to twelve-year-old Cecily’s room, where she is quailing under the bed. She pictures her older brother Jeremy in the next room, his heart ‘fli ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Inside Creative Writing: Interviews with contemporary writers' edited by Graeme Harper

April 2012, no. 340 01 April 2012
Graeme Harper is a big name in the academic field of creative writing. He was the first in Australia to be awarded a doctorate in creative writing (UTS, 1993) and followed that with a PhD from the University of East Anglia; he has held professorships in creative writing in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. He edits journals and writes textbooks on creative writing; his curricul ... (read more)
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