YA picks from the First Review Book Club

first-review-club

Members of the First Review Book Club met this month and gave their feedback on what they read in August.

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

Rated by Tim: 9/10

What if you only had three minutes to save your life and the clock is already counting down. Three minutes: you wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. You realise you’ve been Called. Two minutes: they’re getting closer and despite all your training you’re exhausted, you can’t see anywhere to hide. One minute: you’re glad you can run. Nessa can’t; her polio-twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call, will she? Suddenly, a hand grabs your wrist and it’s more painful than anything you have ever experienced before in your life….. Time’s up. Could you survive The Call?


Three Dark Crowns
by Kendare Blake

Rated by Matilda: 8/10

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomach-ache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of beasts.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose . . . it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

Three Dark Crowns is a heart-stopping fantasy from Kendare Blake, acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood.

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Rated by Lili: 8/10

Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries.

This is a love story. It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words. It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She’s looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.

Sometimes you need the poets.

The new novel from the award-winning author of Graffiti Moon.


Cell 7
by Kerry Drewery

Rated by Amelie: 6.5/10

Should she live or should she die? The decision is yours. A world where justice and the fate of those accused of murder is decided by the public, but has moved on from the Roman Gladiator ‘thumbs up or thumbs down’ public vote, to a public vote by telephone. If you are voted innocent, you are set free; if you are voted guilty, you are committed to death by electric chair. Those awaiting their sentence reside in ever decreasing cells, getting smaller each day, until Day 7 and Cell 7, where they hear their fate.

Sixteen-year-old Martha has confessed to killing a famous celebrity. But has she done it? And if not, why has she claimed the murder? Perhaps she wants to show up the flawed and brutal system by sacrificing herself in the hope of a better world….

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Rated by Stella: 6/10

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave. She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate. A wonderfully icy fantastical romance, with a strong heroine choosing her own destiny, Danielle Paige’s irresistibly page-turning Snow Queen is like Maleficent and Frozen all grown up.


The Scar Boys
by Len Vlahos

Rated by Emily: 10/10

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

 

 

Write the world

A love of reading often sparks a love of writing, and both give children a way to explore their feelings and their world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be providing children with opportunities to learn how to share their stories and write their world.write-the-world

Several Brisbane high school students will be among the voices represented at tomorrow night’s launch of Write the World: Young Voices Across the Globe – Best Of 2016, a magazine that collects some of the best writing from teenagers around the globe.

Write the World is a global community for high school students, where they are empowered to develop their voices, refine their editing skills, and publish on an international platform. By becoming a member of this supportive community, young writers can refine their craft through a regular writing routine, an attention to revision, and access to quality feedback from other young writers and educators from all over the world.

Most young writers are also avid readers, and often there is a particular book that inspires them to try to write their own story. The Book that Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge, is a collection of personal stories from 32 acclaimed Australian and international authors about the books that influenced their work.

Find out why S E Hinton’s The Outsiders is the book that Marcus Zusak thinks made him him. Or read about the eight extremely useful things Fiona Wood learned from Anne of Green Gables.

Young readers who have been inspired to try their hand at writing can find out how to get started and learn some of the tricks of the trade at our writing workshop, which will be run by award-winning local author Christine Bongers.

To book for the Write the World launch:
http://wherethewildthingsare.com.au/events/young-writers-write-the-world

To book a spot on the writing workshop with Christine Bongers:
http://wherethewildthingsare.com.au/events/christine-bongers-writing-workshop

 

What we’re reading this week

There are some amazing new releases arriving on our shelves this week, but one of our favourites is, for obvious reasons, A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston.

In this beautifully illustrated book, a young girl and boy travel through a landscape of words and books, and find that your imagination, inspired by classic stories, can make anything happen.

 

child of books child of books page

Look closely at the illustrations and you might find you recognise some of the sentences: lines from stories like Alice in Wonderland, Swiss Family Robinson, Pinocchio and Peter Pan. It’s the perfect book for a book-loving family.

Wild Things staff member Genevieve, who runs the Wonder Club book club, has just read the October book club book, The Roman Quests by Caroline Lawrence.

Juba and his siblings are fleeing the Roman Emporer. Born into a rich artisan family, their parents are arrested and their lives ruined. Juba has to lead his siblings to Brittania and on their travels they are challenged with robberies, betrayals and the question of their future. A fast paced historical fiction for 8+ that totally sucks you in. It has excellent characters, fascinating friendships and challenges readers to consider their responsibilities. I really enjoyed this story and can’t wait to do it with The Wonder Club  as our October Book club book.

Genevieve has also read The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

The Girl From Everywhere is a celebration of pure adventure. Nix is the navigator of a time travelling pirate ship. They can travel to anywhere through maps. The place need only exist when the map was made for The Temptation’s Captain to be able steer her over the stormy wild borders of a map into a new world. The crew are time-refugees from little known cultures and absurd times. The father-daughter relationship is messy and painful. I really enjoyed this story and it twisted me in ways I wasn’t expecting. An excellent fantasy for 14+

 

Our predictions for the CBCA winners

Tomorrow is the big day when the Children’s Book Council of Australia announces the winners of the Book of the Year awards. Wild Things staff have chosen the titles they think deserve to appear in the list of winning books.


FIONA:

My pick for Book of the Year: Early Childhood is The Cow Tripped Over the Moon. Combining a fractured nursery rhyme, counting book and a lovely tale about perseverance, I loved the unique story by Tony Wilson and the retro graphics of Laura Wood.

For Book of the Year: Older Readers I am torn between the book which I have a sweet spot for, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, and the book I think will win because all my colleagues have loved, which is A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray stole my heart and I think it will have cast a spell over the judges as well so it should certainly win The Book of the Year: Younger Readers. Otherwise I will turn the judges into trees!

I thought The White Mouse: Story of Nancy Wake was an excellent example of illustrated narrative non-fiction, especially as it is the story of a remarkably brave young Australian woman. But I am so over the glorification of war in children’s picture books (see The Picture Book of the Year shortlist)  I am hoping that Clare Wright’s highly readable, thoroughly researched and fascinating history of the forgotten women and men of Eureka, We Are the Rebels will be the rightful winner.

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GEN:

I do hope the Older Reader winner is A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay. It’s what a dystopian novel should be. It’s fascinating, searches for truths and has a quiet, firm and strong female main character.

I am actually a big fan of Star of Deltora by Emily Rodda in the Younger Readers section. I have to admit, I don’t think the Book Council will give Emily Rodda her 6th award for it. A young girl struggles with her family’s history and strikes out on her own, searching for a quest and adventure on the seas. It’s my favourite Rodda.

I have no idea how to compare Flight by Armin Greder and My Dead Bunny by James Foley. Flight is poetic, muted and affecting. My Dead Bunny is ridiculous and gruesomely appealing.

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Sally:

My pick for Early Childhood is Piranhas Don’t Bananas by Aaron Blabey, and Flight by Armin Greder for Picture Book of the Year.

Jodie:

Like most Wild Things staff, I suspect (and hope) that Meg McKinlay’s A Single Stone will be chosen as the Book of the Year for Older Readers. Most of us also agree that Chris Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow deserved a spot among the shortlist (yes, we’re bringing that up again and no, we’re not biased!).

My pick for Early Childhood is The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, another Wild Things favourite, and for Picture Book, I love the illustrations in Suri’s Wall.

I find the Younger Readers category the most bewildering; it covers such a broad age range and a wide spectrum of reading levels and themes. It’s hard to compare Libby Gleeson’s Cleo Stories to Morris Gleitzman’s Soon! I like Molly and Pim as the book most appropriate for what I’d call “younger readers”.

 

#LoveYourBookshop

love wild things

Tomorrow is National Bookshop Day, a time to celebrate bookshops but also to show us some love. Because we need it!

We have lots of fun planned for the day: Canine Dress Up, book matching, story time, a visit from Grug, and the Great Bookish Bakeoff with a special junior prize. But the one competition we’re really looking forward to is the one where you tell us why you love Where the Wild Things Are.

grug  harry pupper  bakeoff

Do you love that we have an amazing range of books for kids and teens? Do you love our treehouse? Do you love that we have events and workshops where kids can meet real live authors and illustrators? Do you love that we have book clubs for young readers, middle readers and teens?

We’re not needy. Honest. But some days, knowing that there are people out there who don’t visit bookshops, who do all their book-shopping at one of the online bookselling giants, it can be just, well, a little bit heart-breaking.

We love our customers. We love spending time with you, helping you choose the right book for you or your children. That’s why we’ve included a Book Matching session as one of Saturday’s events. The wonderful Natalie Jane Prior, author of The Fairy Dancers, will chat with you or your child and help them find their perfect book match.

Book-matching is one of the things we love about our job. And we love it even more when you come back and tell us that your son absolutely loved the book we recommended, or that your granddaughter thinks you’re the best Grandad in the world because you gave her the best book ever for her birthday. Those recommendations we make come from our knowledge of books; we read them and discuss them with each other. They also come from our knowledge of you, our customer. Our recommendations aren’t based on an algorithm or this week’s bestsellers list.

We believe that’s what’s kept us going, despite the threat from eBooks and online buying. We understand that it’s tempting to buy from an online source where the prices are cheaper. But do they really love finding your perfect book match as much as we do?

And something to consider: those big overseas online booksellers don’t pay any GST to the Australian government, and the revenue collected by GST is used to fund, among other things, our schools.

So, tomorrow, show us you still love us.

If you’re one of our regular customers, come in, join the celebration, enter some competitions, maybe win a prize.

If you’re a not-so-regular customer, perhaps even someone who only buys books online, come and visit us, experience our book-matching skills, and buy just one book to show us you still love bookshops.

#loveyourbookshop #justonebook #booksellersneedthelove

 

 

 

What we’re reading

What are Wild Things staff recommending at the moment?

Anna loves All My Treasures: A Book Of Joy, the new release from Jo Witek whose gorgeous books In My Heart and Brave As Can Be are hugely popular with Wild Things staff and customers.

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I am always on the lookout for books that inspire joy, appreciation and contemplation, therefore I am excited to announce that I have struck gold with Jo Witek’s new book ‘All My Treasures’! A young girl’s Grandmother has given her a beautiful porcelain box to hold all of her ‘treasures’. As the young girl starts to think of things that she loves, she realises treasures are often a moment or a memory. The illustrations are quirky, the lift-the-flap sections are full of unexpected delight and this book will bring Grandparents and their Grandchildren together to contemplate the most meaningful thing of all: time together.

Sally has just finished reading Wolf by Wolf, a YA title by Ryan Graudin.

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Wolf by Wolf is set in an alternate world where Nazi Germany never fell and Hitler never died. Every year, to commemorate their victory, a motorcycle race is held that spans several countries—and the winner gets to meet Adolf Hitler. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, is part of the resistance. Her mission is to win the race, at whatever cost, and kill Hitler. Yael must battle her traumatic past, vindictive contestants, and the dangers of the road. Worst of all, the people who care about her are asking too many questions. Add in some shape-shifting and you have a fast-paced alternate history sci-fi novel. Yael is dedicated, vulnerable, tough, and ruthless—but is she ruthless enough to do what it takes to win? And if so, does that make her as bad as the Nazis? This is a gripping read suitable for readers aged 14 and over.

Kasia is enjoying Can I Eat That? by Joshua David Stein and illustrated by Julia Rothman.

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This book makes me hungry! A wonderful and whimsical picture book that encourages and entertains curiosity about food and other cultures. Bold and vibrant images are accompanied by text that asks funny and practical questions, shares information, challenges our perspectives and plays with language to make you want to further explore the tastes, textures and stories behind what we eat. For ages 2+.

Books about books

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There are books about everything—dinosaurs, princesses, feelings, the environment, and more—but bookloving parents (and booksellers!) have a special love for books about books.

Here are some of the ones we love; books that explain why books are so special, and others that have fun with characters who break through the fourth wall and talk directly to the reader.

its a book  not a picture bookbook

We love Lane Smith’s It’s A Book, which sings the praises of books and why they’re better than any form of technology. The jackass in the story first ridicules the monkey because his “book” can’t scroll or text or tweet, but once the book is in his hands and he starts to read, he becomes immersed in the story for so long that the monkey has to go to the library to find another book.

Similarly, Book by David Miles, illustrated by Natalie Hoopes, shows with its beautiful illustrations how a book, “the most quiet, ordinary thing that could be”, that has no bonus levels or sounds or passwords, can be anything, or take you anywhere, you can imagine.

This is not a picture book by Sergio Ruzzier is actually a picture book, one that gently shows young readers how words can create pictures in your imagination.

children loved books nibbles last book before bedtime

The family in Peter Carnavas’ The Children Who Loved Books doesn’t have much—no television, no car, and a caravan for a house, but that caravan is full of books. Getting rid of the books to make space seems like a good idea, until the family realises how bare their life is without them.

Someone who really loves books is Nibbles the Book Monster; the only problem is that Nibbles loves to eat books! In this funny book by Emma Yarlett, Nibbles eats his way through several classic tales, cleverly included as books within the book.

Characters from classic tales also appear in The Last Book Before Bedtime by Nicola O’Byrne. The narrator and the characters from the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood, debate which book should be the last book before bedtime, in a story that meshes all three stories into one humorous tale.

baxters book  we are in a book  the wrong book

Many of those characters also appear in Hrefna Bragadottir’s Baxter’s Book, lining up for their turn at the Storybook Audition. Baxter, an “unusual creature”, auditions to appear in a book about him, but after watching the auditions of other, more experienced characters, fears that he’s not good enough. They all offer advice to Baxter, encouraging him to be scary, or silly, or brave like them. But Baxter finds that being himself is the best way to be.

Mo Willems’ wonderful Elephant & Piggie ham it up in We Are in a Book!, talking to the reader, flicking through pages, and rolling around in laughter when they discover the power to make the reader say “banana”. They get to be the stars of the book, unlike young Nicholas Ickle in Nick Bland’s The Wrong Book.

Poor Nicholas tries to tell the reader that the book is all about him, but on every page an array of characters, from an elephant to a queen and her retinue, arrive to steal the show. Nicholas tries to tell them they’re in the wrong book, but will anyone listen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild picks for the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize

The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize longlist for 2016 has just been announced, and Wild Things staff have reviewed their favourites from the list.

Jennifer reviews The Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvels

I read The Marvels some time ago but the beauty of the illustrations, their detail and the way they wordlessly convey so much of this dark and entrancing story, has stayed very much with me. This story seeps in to you, much as great poetry does, as an experience of ongoing revelation. This creation by Brian Selznick, who also gave us The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is two thirds wordless graphic novel and one third prose, and tells a tale of generations of one family, of madness, of the theatre and of love. I recommend it to creative readers from 14 to 104.

Jodie reviews The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

smell of other peoples houses

This wonderful book tells the story of four teens in Alaska in 1970, living in different family circumstances but with lives that end up entwined. Ruth is the one who loves the smell of other people’s houses, breathing in the aromas of love and acceptance that she doesn’t find growing up an orphan in her grandmother’s house. Dora is hard and mean; Alyce wants to pursue a career in ballet but sacrifices her chance at this to appease her separated parents; and Hank, like Dora, is trying to escape a bad family situation, but while Dora escapes to her friend’s home, Hank takes his brothers on a perilous stowaway adventure. Love and some slightly mystical forces bring these four young lives together in this beautiful and evocative story.

Jodie also reviews Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

riverkeep

The proof copy of this debut novel arrived with a cover listing comparisons of Riverkeep to, among others, Moby Dick, Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and Charles Dickens. And it’s true there is a feel of all of these influences in this story, set in a world where all is slightly familiar but creepily different. To save his father, who has been possessed by a strange creature, Wulliam must travel away from his duties as Riverkeep and his simple home on the river to join the hunt for the mormorach, a giant Moby-Dick-like creature terrorising the coast. Along the way, he gathers a band of interesting characters, including Tillinghast, the man made of straw. The language is rich, the writing is gently captivating, and the story ends with the possibility of more to come.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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The story of Subhi, a refugee born in an Australian detention centre, was featured on our last blog.

Other longlisted titles are: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman; Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle; Sweet Pizza by G R Gemin (will be released in Australia in October); and Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman.

chasing the stars  crongton knights  sweet pizza hell and high water

You can read some of the judges’ comments on these books on the Guardian website.

(And just BTW, has anyone else noticed the prevalence of blue covers on this longlist?!)

 

 

Refugee stories

asylum seeker quotes

Asylum seekers and detention centres have been a constant topic in the news and public debate for some time in Australia, and are also appearing as the subject of some recent releases in children’s fiction.

One title that tells a sweet story while dealing with some hard issues is When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah. This YA book is a Romeo and Juliet style romance, with “Juliet” being Mina, an Afghanistani-born former detention centre resident, and “Romeo” being Michael, son of the founders of the new Aussie Values political party. The star-crossed lovers first encounter each other from opposing sides at a rally for refugees.

All sides of the debate on asylum seekers, border control and assimilation are covered in this very political story, with a spectrum of views presented sometimes in a thoughtful way, sometimes with humour (“They should shut the hell up and respect the fact they have free speech in this country.”).

mina met michael  bone sparrow  little refugee

Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow, recently longlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016, tells the story of Subhi, born in an Australian detention centre to a Rohingya refugee. He has known nothing of life except the detention centre, and dreams of what life is like outside. One night Jimmy, a girl from the outside, sneaks in through the wires to find out what life is really like there. The two children develop a friendship that gives them strength and courage.

Putting a familiar and popular face on asylum seekers is The Little Refugee, Anh Do’s picture book story of his family’s perilous escape by boat from Vietnam in 1980. The book was released in 2011, and was nominated for numerous awards. It’s simple text and emotional illustrations capture the fear and danger of their trip, with the pages becoming colourful to match the relief the Dho family feels when they find safety and a chance to build a new life in Australia.

 

It wasn’t me, honest!

lying pug

Children learn to lie from around the age of two, and any parent knows those little lies are usually all about “I didn’t break that toy/eat that chocolate/make that mess”. It’s such a common occurrence in young children that it’s no surprise there are plenty of picture books that deal with this topic, often in very humorous ways.

truth according to arthur

The Truth According to Arthur by Tim Hopgood & David Tazzyman is a funny book about fibbing, that depicts Truth as a character and illustrates the way Arthur stretches, hides and bends the truth when he scrapes his mother’s car while riding his older brother’s bike. Arthur realises that the only way to make sure Mum isn’t too angry is to actually tell the truth.

was not me

Shannon Horsfall’s Was Not Me tells of a young boy who believes he has a twin, Not Me, who does lots of naughty things and gets away with it. In the end he has to admit that Not Me is actually Me.

pig the fibber

Unfortunately, one character who doesn’t seem to learn anything until he’s received some painful justice is Pig the Pug, Aaron Blabey’s well known dog who doesn’t like to share. In Pig the Fibber, we learn that Pig doesn’t like to tell the truth either, and poor, long-suffering Trevor gets the blame for breaking the vase, ripping the dress and making a grim stink.

While Arthur and the boy from Was Not Me realise by themselves that honesty is the best policy, it takes a bowling ball on the head to make Pig the Pug understand that karma happens when you tell one too many fibs!

Note: You can hear Shannon Horsfall read Was Not Me this Sunday, July 3, at Wild Things from 11:30am, with activities and cupcakes! Then on Thursday, July 7, Shannon returns for more storytelling and activities for under-6s.