Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mister Monday

by Garth Nix

First book of The Keys to the Kingdom series.

Reviewed by Brendan H. of Year 8

This is a very weird book, as all of them are in this series. It’s about a kid who has asthma and isn’t a very good athlete, who one day runs into a man called Mister Monday who gives him a part of a weird and mystical key and an atlas. Then he goes into a weird house in another realm. It seems he must kill Mister Monday and be the ruler of the lower house.

Try the rest of the series: Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir far. For more information, free chapters and other fun go here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Runcible Jones: The Gate to Nowhere

by Ian Irvine

Reviewed by Brendon D. of Year 8

The start of a whole new fantasy quintet about a 13 year old foster child. When his dad mysteriously dies after writing a book on magic, Runcible Jones goes on a quest full of magic, mystery and mayhem. This is a fun adventure novel with a whole range of magical characters and creatures.

Runcible Jones is a great read which I would recommend for all fans of magical stories or if you like any book by Ian Irvine. Be sure to look out for the second book, coming out in October 2006.

Take a look at the Runcible Jones website. Lots of information including a sample chapter to read. Ian Irvine's earlier books have also been popular with boys at Patrician Brothers' who like to get into a great big fantasy series. Runcible Jones is his first book for younger readers.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Theodora's Gift

by Ursula Dubosarsky

Australian Readers' Challenge listed title.

This is a sequel to The First Book of Samuel but it is not necessary to read both books to enjoy either one. Both feature a loving but chaotic family focusing on Samuel aged 13 and Theodora, 14, who live with their father and his second wife Hannah (Samuel's mother). At the heart of this family is their German Jewish heritage and their grandfather Elias, a holocaust survivor who is approaching death.

Theodora and Samuel are both disturbed when their father sees frightening visions and suddenly moves to the country with Pearl - his first wife and Theodora's mother. Both children take action in their own way to bring their father home. The story is set in September 2001 - it seems for a while that it is not just this unusual family which has become somewhat more chaotic than usual.

A gentle and absorbing story with a cast of unusual characters.

The Red Shoe

by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Red Shoe is a story with the child’s point of view at its centre. Set around Easter 1954 and looking back to a significant event of the previous Boxing Day, we see a family in a time of crisis. There are three daughters aged 6, 11 and 15, a mother, a father who is often absent on his ship, and Uncle Paul.

Around them are contemporary events involving Russian spies, children dying of polio, and various Sydney murders and misadventures, captured in newspaper clippings placed between many of the chapters. But there is also the possibility of going to the Royal Easter Show, family picnics, trips to the beach and school parades.

In spite of the child’s point of view, this story deals with some serious issues. The father is suffering from the after-effects of trauma so his depression and the shocking possibility of suicide create a fearful backdrop to the story.

Looking back on The Red Shoe is like viewing a tapestry that reveals greater depths as you move from capturing the big picture to looking into each detailed corner. There is much to discover here.

Read how the author came to write The Red Shoe here. For links to background information about a variety of things mentioned in the book, like the Petrov Affair, polio epedemics of the 50s, the Argonauts Club and the Palm Beach Ferry look here.

Hold On

by Alan Gibbons

We hear this story in turn about from two sources – the diary of John, who we know from the start has died, and the recollections of school mate Annie. Although never a friend of John's, they happened to meet some months before on holidays a long way from home. John is not someone she has paid any attention to - in fact she rather fancied one of the boys who turns out to have been tormenting John for years. But she learns from him something of the bullying he has suffered and sees first hand how harshly John’s father treats him.

Who is responsible for John's death? Annie thinks she knows and returns to England bent on exposing the bullies. But could she be implicated? Her friendship with John stirred up feelings in him that were more than she wanted. Has she done the right thing? Can she accept that others have learned from this hard experience? Why didn’t John do more to expose the classmates who terrorised him? And did he really intend to kill himself?

Alan Gibbons stirs up emotions and asks us to put ourselves in the places of the major characters of this drama. Many of us will identify with the friends and teachers in the story who are very wary of causing a fuss, but also played their part. A gripping read.

This author seems to make every story he writes a thriller. Other excellent books by Gibbons held by the library include The Legendeer Trilogy - Shadow of the Minotaur, Vampyr Legion and Warriors of the Raven. Even his humorous books tell stories at a mile a minute - like Julie and Me and Michael Owen Makes Three, which is about a boy who can never quite decide if he is more obsessed with soccer or girls (at least, a certain girl).

Room One Nineteen

by Luke Keioskie

This novel is set in the Green Institute for Wayward Adolescents, specifically in Room 119 where Dr Carl T. Luskan meets a group of students each week for his radical new therapy called Elementary Creative Thought. But we know right from the start of the book that something very wrong has happened in this room . Dr Luskan is dead and his colleague has put together this book which includes transcripts of Dr Luskan's taped notes about each of the students, and their writings completed in the course of the treatment.

Some bad behaviour has been going on but who might be the trouble makers and who are the troubled?

The best parts of this book are the stories which are presented as being written by the six students, each of whom has had a troubled past and is being treated for some crime or major problem which Dr Luskan has not been informed about. Dr Luskan himself seems to be becoming increasingly anxious as the story goes on, leading to a thrilling conclusion - unless you are smart enough to work it out for yourself.