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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.

Ruth Starke reviews ‘The Reef’ by David Caddy, ‘Death of a Princess’ by Susan Geason, ‘The Legend of Big Red’ by James Roy, and ‘Catastrophe Cat’ by Mary Small

December 2005–January 2006, no. 277 01 December 2004
These titles are aimed at a primary school readership, yet there’s a wide gap in both ability and life experience between the emerging readers at one end and the almost-teenagers at the other. Some novels successfully bridge that gap, but I’m not sure The Reef (FACP, $14.95 pb, 128 pp) is one of them, despite the publisher’s classification that this is ‘for children aged 8–12 years’. I ... (read more)

Raising a Smile by Ruth Starke

December 2006–January 2007, no. 287 01 December 2006
Humour sells, and it is no coincidence that the best-selling authors in children’s fiction know how to tell a funny story. It can be pure escapism of the silliest sort or the kind of humour that helps us to cope with life’s disappointments, hardships and embarrassments. Most childhoods contain plenty of all three and thus provide rich material for writers, and none has pushed the boundaries fu ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews seven children's books

September 2006, no. 284 01 September 2006
Life’s not easy when … (fill in the blank according to your main story issue). It is a line that appears frequently on back covers and in press releases for junior fiction. But life is getting a lot easier for parents and teachers of reluctant readers who would far rather race around with a ball than curl up with a book. With the arrival of the sports novel, they can now read about somebody el ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'The Nearly Happy Family' by Catherine McKinnon

October 2008, no. 305 01 October 2008
Catherine Mckinnon is known around Adelaide for her work as a writer–director with the State Theatre and Red Shed Theatre companies. In 2006 she won the Penguin/Australian Women’s Weekly short story competition and obviously came to the attention of Penguin editors. The Nearly Happy Family, her first novel, is described on the front cover as ‘a tragic comedy’. Despite the plot containing ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Hamlet: A novel' by John Marsden

September 2008, no. 304 01 September 2008
What I’ll have to do is, I’ll have to read that play.                    (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye) The greatest play by the greatest playwright, Hamlet has over the centuries daunted readers far older than Holden Caulfield. Today, however, he would have another choice: he could read th ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'Bird' by Sophie Cunningham

July–August 2008, no. 303 01 July 2008
Get out that DVD of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Locate the scene with Marilyn Monroe in the pink satin strapless number, singing ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’. Study the dancers and find that statuesque blonde in the black bustier posing as a human candelabrum. That’s Anna David. (Her best friend, Eleanor Phillips, is one of the all-American girls with pink roses in their hair). It was ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews ‘Goodbye Jamie Boyd’ by Elizabeth Fensham, ‘Saltwater Moons’ by Julie Gittus and ‘Murderer’s Thumb’ by Beth Montgomery

November 2008, no. 306 01 November 2008
It is no easy task to write a good crime novel that features a youthful sleuth. Too young to drink, to drive, to wander the mean streets or to have a wasted past, young sleuths also have parents lurking in the background, ever ready to assert their authority about meals and bedtimes. Full credit, then, to Beth Montgomery for overcoming these obstacles and writing a gripping mystery. In Murderer’ ... (read more)

Ruth Starke review ‘The Children’s Writer’ by Gary Crew

October 2009, no. 315 01 October 2009
Although Fourth Estate heralds this as Gary Crew’s first adult novel, readers who have followed his long career as a celebrated writer for young people will be aware that several of his Young Adult novels could be classified as ‘crossovers’. What defines them as such is the age and experience of their narrators: Kimmy of Angel’s Gate (1993) may be ten years old, but the story is told fifte ... (read more)

Ruth Starke reviews 'The Beginner’s Guide to Living' by Lia Hills and 'Posse' by Kate Welshman

April 2009, no. 310 01 April 2009
A decade ago, when the number of dead mums in young adult fiction had reached epidemic proportions, I drew attention to the phenomenon via the pages of Viewpoint (Vol. 6, No.1), and called for a halt to, or at least a diminution in, the rate of literary matricide. I suggested that authors might find another way of generating sympathy for their young protagonists or, if they were determined to expl ... (read more)

CYA survey by Ruth Starke

June 2010, issue no. 322 01 June 2010
With series titles dominating the new releases, it would seem that every author’s (and illustrator’s) ambition is to find a character and a conceit that will have sufficient appeal to carry them successfully through multiple volumes. This is a particularly achievable ambition in children’s literature, where the target readership has a high tolerance for repetition, a loyalty towards favourit ... (read more)
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