Keeping the Faith – Junior Novel to YA reviews

Believing in yourself when all else around you is in a state of upset and confusion is an emotion children are more than capable of recognising. Keeping the faith when adrift in turbulent seas is not only testing and difficult at times, it also determines your future perspectives on life. These next few books that touch on the importance of keeping the faith in dire times provide intense and touching lifelines to children (and adults) of all ages.

Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood

Marwood is more than adept at distilling emotions into moving verse novels. Attaching emotion and memories to physical things is something humans are adept at, as well. This story deftly portrays a young boy’s heart-felt attempt to retain and simultaneously farewell everything he holds dear in his life as he and his family prepare to sell up and leave their family farm.

Most wrenching of all is the fact that every spider-webbed shed, every blade of grass, every shade of sunset is inextricably linked with the times he shared with his baby sister, Leah, a sister who is no longer in their lives. Toby worries that by taking leave of the farm, his childhood home, he will also be leaving Leah behind forever.

Touching, tender, and occasionally, tearful, as goodbyes often are, Leave Taking is nevertheless an immensely uplifting tale with strong references to family, grief, handling loss, letting go and ultimately getting on with life. Highly recommended for lower primary aged children and anyone who adores the breathtaking pointedness of verse novels, as I do.

UQP July 2018

My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke

Haunting and intense, this story is a revealing expose of love colliding with faith and common sense challenging dubious doctrine. The characters are a mix of wise, spiritual, spirited and tortured souls, some anchored by a faith so pure it radiates from them (as with Frankie). Others more conflicted by their feelings and decisions (like Tom and Etta).

The many parallels, including the one of St Francis and The Wolf of Gubbio, provide interesting threads of thought to debate and ponder. Clarke paints Tom’s experience in St Finbar’s seminary as a kind of incarceration, bleak and joyless, without any of the compassion or love he expected training for God’s service would elicit. Yet he stays there because of the love and loyalty he possesses for an earthbound entity, Frankie.

This story provokes thought, evokes emotion and examines expectations under the microscope of religion, whilst also touching on LGBTIQ issues.  Suitable for lower secondary school students and YA readers, My Lovely Frankie might have seemed confronting ten years ago but sits comfortably, up front and centre on any bookshelf today.

Allen and Unwin June 2017

Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren

From the first symbolic sentence to the last striking line, this story rocks the senses. Emotionally explosive, Divaroren’s prose eloquently embraces subject matter that bristles with vileness and loathing. As each resident of Hope Street shares his or her feelings and fears, the true heart of this overlooked, multi-culturally coloured backwater road is revealed.

Each resident has a history that threatens to tear him or her apart. Each fights demons disguised as forms of bigotry, PTSD, racism and family violence. They all come from different places but they share one potent desire, to be free of fear and heartache.

Touted as ‘a novel that gives a voice to disenfranchised kids, especially those affected by domestic violence, Demet wrote Living On Hope Street to challenge us as a society to stand up and inspire change.’

This is a magnificent read, acutely executed and difficult to eradicate oneself from. Characters bare their hearts and souls in the most dramatic and raw ways making Hope Street a curiously compelling place to visit. I urge you to do so soon.

Allen and Unwin May 2017

Published by

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books - you'll find them all here at Boomerang Books. Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker and semi-professional chook wrangler. She believes picture books are food for the soul and should be consumed at least 10 times a week.