Children's and Young Adult Books

Darkwater by Georgia Blain & This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

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April 2011, no. 330

Darkness, both literal and symbolic, pervadesthese two recent books. Darkwater, the first Young Adult title by established writer Georgia Blain...

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Grimsdon by Deborah Abela & Quillblade: Voyages of the Flying Dragon, Book One by Ben Chandler

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October 2010, no. 325

Twelve-year-old Isabella and her best friend, Griffin, have been keeping themselves and three younger children alive in Grimsdon since a massive wave flooded the city three years ago

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The first book I ever properly owned – pored over, slept with, inscribed – was an elaborately illustrated hardback copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. One can imagine the producers of the attractively packaged Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children hoping it might assume similar significance for a contemporary seven-year-old boy. Conn Iggulden’s secret and quirky world of the Tollins involves old, greybearded men, intricate maps and plenty of adventures and derring-do by the book’s unlikely hero, Sparkler.

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Sacked! by Rachel Flynn, illustrated by Craig Smith & Footy Shorts by Margaret Clark

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April 2000, no. 219

Rachel Flynn’s Sacked! is for the eight-to ten-year-old market, the same audience that J.K.  Rowling’s Harry Potter books are tapping. It’s an interesting stage when everything from cereal packets to Dad’s car manual demands to be read.

Sacked! explores a clever absurdity with tongue-in-cheek, where the adult is likely to see the joke more than the child.

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Family Business by Sophie Masson & The Rented House by Phil Cummings

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April 2000, no. 219

When she sat down in that Edinburgh café almost three years ago to write Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling apparently determined that it would take a further six books to tell the complete story of her pubescent wizard. Millions of entranced and thoroughly hooked readers around the world are now breathlessly awaiting volume four. The books are immensely readable with a strong narrative drive, and Rowling cleverly leaves major plot points unanswered; one has to get the next in the series or die of curiosity. The same technique has served John Marsden well. Pity the poor parent who back in 1993 all unknowingly bought Tomorrow, When the War Began and then saw a further six titles progressively hit the bookshops, all in hardback first release, and all extending the saga. Many readers, including this one, wish he had stopped at number three but the temptation to continue must have been huge.

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‘Years ago we threw the old didacticism (dowdy morality) out of the window; it has come back in at the door wearing modern dress (smart values) and we do not even recognise it.’ John Rowe Townsend’s words, from more than a quarter of a century ago, retain a fresh ring of truthfulness. I recalled them after reading The Girl with No Name (Puffin, $8.95 pb), Pat Lowe’s first novel for children.

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The Lonely Hearts Club by Robin Klein and Max Dann

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August 1987, no, 93

Miracles can still happen. Robin Klein and Max Dann, two of the most popular and successful contemporary children’s authors, have combined forces to write a comedy with a boarding school setting which might, just possibly, start a whole new trend in Australian children’s literature.

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I know nothing of David Martin’s childhood or family, but I think that he must come from a long line of slayers of dragons, and that somewhere during the formative years of his childhood he listened to many adult conversations on social justice and human dignity. At any rate, his adult life has been spent dealing with dragons, in one way or another.

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