Children's and Young Adult Books

Animals and friends are a perennial subject in children’s literature, and the junior novels and series books reviewed here highlight those interests. Most of these titles, however, are also notable because they are told with humour, even whilst exposing the anxieties of children.

Fog a Dox (Magabala Books, $19.95 pb, 111 pp, 97819 ...

A pile of picture books to savour – what better start to the year? Experienced authors and artists are met again, and new favourites are found, in these eight books.

Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood, wonderful book makers in their own right, make a special team in The Treasure Box (Viking, $24.99 hb, 32 pp, 9780670073658). A boy and his fathe ...

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

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March 2013, no. 349

Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as Well makes us question why we read. Is it something we do to escape reality, or are we drawn to other realms that may contain deeply unsettling experiences very different from our own?

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The second in the Ship Kings series has a cinematic feel and shares the first-rate quality of the first book. Set in a fantasy world where island folk live in unsettled peace under the ruling mariner class, it continues the tale of Dow Amber as he sets off on a sailing adventure aboard the battleship Chloe. He and the unusual scapegoat girl Ignella are the only outsiders aboard the Ship Kings’ vessel as it embarks on a voyage into the northern icy seas, seeking the lost son of the Sea Lord.

 

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Lina is part witch, part royalty. Her existence is scorned by both the king and the powerful wizards that all but rule the bitter lands of the North. The story of her heady romance and tragic fate is the centrepiece for Alison Croggon’s latest fiction, a Gothic fantasy inspired by Wuthering Heights.

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James Roy’s cover blurb suggests that ‘everyone has a story’. The awkward thing is that some are better than others. In his new book, young characters are linked by stories and poems that criss-cross an unnamed city. It acts as a companion piece to Roy’s successful Town (2007), which contained thirteen tales from regional New South Wales. In City, stories are told in first, second, and third person, in diverse settings ranging from sleazy nightclub strips to gleaming office blocks. It’s ambitious, but ends unevenly, with several stories unlikely to appeal to teenage readers.

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Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten (Allen & Unwin, $35 hb, 123 pp, 9781742379722) will be appreciated by aficionados of Shaun Tan’s sophisticated illustrated works and Riddle’s impressive books. This atmospheric book is allegorical and metaphorical, and the structure is cyclic. It begins and ends in the heavens; and gradually revea ...

The world’s last known Tasmanian tiger died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. Surviving film footage of the marsupial is brief. No sound recordings exist of a thylacine’s bark or cough. Its extinction is one of Australia’s most lamentable tales. Nowra’s sad, dark novel imagines how these carnivores could care for two children lost in the wilderness.

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The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey & Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary by Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne

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November 2012, no. 346

Craig Silvey’s The Amber Amulet is a deceptively simple tale that hides many classic themes within its layers. By night, twelve-year-old Liam McKenzie patrols Franklin Street in the guise of super-hero the Masked Avenger, aided (and sometimes hindered) by his sidekick, Richie the Powerbeagle. The prime belief underpinning the Masked Avenger’s doctrine is the enormous potential of dormant energy that is trapped in gemstones and minerals, which hold specific powers. He believes that energy is omnipresent, but as the world is both positively and negatively charged, he is very aware that the balance between good and evil can easily be disturbed, and he is thus constantly on the lookout for ‘Trouble’.

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Creepy & Maud by Dianne Touchell

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October 2012, no. 345

From the first sentence of Creepy & Maud, we know we are entering a volatile world. ‘My dad has trained our dog, Dobie Squires, to bite my mum,’ Creepy tells us. What follows is a vivid peek into suburban isolation and unease. Almost every character has an addiction or psychological disturbance, from alcoholism and untameable aggression to dyslexia and obsessive compulsions. This society is one where children prefer ‘being smacked to being touched’, intimacy is avoided, and voyeurism and exhibitionism emerge as the only ways to connect.

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