Christmas shopping list

 

Queues, dodgy carols, aching legs, confusion over what size feet my nephew has. Not for me, this Christmas. This year I’m avoiding the festive-season shopping chaos and buying everyone a book and a pig (or maybe an orangutan). Here’s what my Christmas list looks like.

For my Teen Son: Legacy by Tim Cahill

LegacyBlurb: The story of one of the most admired Australian sportsmen,  international football star Tim Cahill. With his trademark honesty and directness, Tim reflects on what it takes to make it to the top – the sacrifices, the physical cost, the mental stamina, the uncompromising self-belief and self-determination, the ruthlessness, but also the decency, the integrity, and the generosity. An autobiography that is more than a record of the goals and the games, Tim Cahill’s story is a universal reminder of the importance of making your moment count.

For my other Teen Son: Rich and Rare, edited by Paul Collins

Rich & RareBlurb: A collection of stories and artwork from Australia’s best loved writers and illustrators.  With pieces by Shaun Tan, Leigh Hobbs, James Roy, Justin D’Ath, Kirsty Murray, Simon Higgins, Gary Crew, Scot Gardner, there’s something for everyone.

For my Hubbie: A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

A brief history of seven killingsBlurb: A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

For my Dad: Napoleon’s Last Island by Tom Keneally

Napoleon's Last IslandBlurb: Betsy Balcombe as a young woman lived with her family on St Helena. They befriended, served and were ruined by their relationship with Napoleon. To redeem the family’s fortunes William Balcombe, Betsy’s father, betrays Napoleon and accepts a job as the colonial treasurer of NSW, but William never recovers from the ups and downs of association with Napoleon. Tom Keneally, with his gift for bringing historical stories to life, shares this remarkable friendship and the beginning of an Australian dynasty.

For my Mum: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret ChordBlurb: A unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace. With stunning originality, acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks offers us a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero from this strange age – part legend, part history. Full of drama and richly drawn detail, The Secret Chord is a vivid story of faith, family, desire and power that brings David magnificently alive.

For my God-daughter: The Red Queen, by Isobelle Carmody

The Red QueenBlurb: The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal. But before she can embark on her quest, she must find a lost key; and although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she imagined. This is the final, dramatic volume in series of books that undoubtedly shines as one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, tapestries ever woven.

For my Nephew: Two Wolves, by Tristan Banks

Two WolvesBlurb: One afternoon, police officers show up at Ben Silver’s front door. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive home. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. But are they? It doesn’t take long for Ben to realise that his parents are in trouble. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’. Now Ben gathers evidence and tries to uncover what his parents have done. The problem is, if he figures it out, what does he do? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run?

For my Niece: The Call of the Wild – Choose Your Own Ever After, by Julie Fison (a very good read, even if I do say so myself)

The Call of the Wild - Choose Your Own Ever AfterBlurb: Phoebe Wright and her besties, Annabel and Kimmi have been invited to the coolest party of the year! But when Phoebe realises it’s on the same night as her Wild Club’s movie-night fundraiser, she’s totally torn about what to do. In this pick-a-path story, the reader gets to decide how the story goes.

Save the OrangutansFor everyone: Pigs and Goats by World Vision or Orangutans by Save the Orangutan.

Merry Christmas!

Julie xx

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Fantastic’ Australian YA for Christmas

Red QueenThree new Australian YA novels, The Red Queen by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin), Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti (Allen & Unwin) and Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (A&U) will make appealing Christmas presents. These all have ‘fantastic’ elements.

What a thrill to meet Isobelle Carmody again recently when she spoke about the final book in her incredible ‘Obernewtyn’ fantasy series, The Red Queen.

 

Isobelle’s readers are probably the most dedicated fans of an Australian YA author I’ve come across. People engage completely with her Obernwtyn heroine, Elspeth Gordie, and share their personal stories about growing up with Elspeth. As many know, Isobelle started writing the first book, Obernewtyn, when she was fourteen years old and it was published in 1987 so the series of seven books has been a long time in the making. Isobelle’s readers are relieved that, even though Elspeth Gordie’s story is now complete, Isobelle has planned other ways back into the high fantasy world of Obernewtyn.

ObernewtynI decided to buy the first book Obernewtyn rather than The Red Queen because, even though I read it when it was published, I didn’t have a copy and thought I might savour the series again from the beginning. Of course, buy The Red Queen for Christmas if that’s where you (or someone you’re choosing gifts for) are up to, otherwise work through the series. Or delve into Isobelle’s other books. My favourites are The GatheringLittle Fur (for young readers),  Metro Winds (stories for mature readers which I reviewed here) and Alyzon Whitestarr (which is inexplicably out of print).

When I moderated a session with Isobelle at the Sydney Writers’ Festival about Fantasy Worlds a few years ago, the talented Scott Westerfeld was also on the panel. My particular favourites of Scott’s books are So Yesterday and the ‘Uglies’ series (which is also available in graphic novel form).

Zeroes

He has now co-written Zeroes with the legendary Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotta. It’s an explosive whopper of a book about young people who each have a superpower. But they are ‘zeroes’ (all born in the year 2000), not ‘heroes’. It’s a perfect holiday read (and has been roaring up the NY Times YA best-sellers’ list). Which character will be your favourite – blind Flicker who can ‘see’ through the eyes of others, Chizara who can crash computer systems, Kelsie or Nate who can influence crowds, or handsome Anonymous who blends into backgrounds and is easily forgotten; but it probably won’t be Ethan with his knowing ‘extra’ voice. It’s not clear which author has written which parts but this may be revealed further into the series.

Newt's emeraldGirls aged 11 (good readers) and older will be hooked by Garth Nix’s Newt’s Emerald about eighteen-year-old Lady Truthful. I can’t do better than use the book’s blurb to describe it: ‘A regency romance with a magical twist’. It is a change of direction for Garth Nix, who is renowned for The Old Kingdom Chronicles and Keys to the Kingdom  series. Newt’s Emerald is a mystery-adventure as well as a romance, as Truthful seeks the emerald that has been stolen from her family. It’s another perfect Christmas read.

Books & Christmas with James Moloney

Meet James Moloney, author of The Beauty is in the Walking

(Angus&Robertson, HarperCollins)

James Moloney is a statesman in the world of Australian YA and children’s books.  The hilarious Black Taxi and Kill the Possum for YA and Dougy, Swashbuckler and Buzzard Breath and Brains  for children are among my favourites of his books. I store his novels behind glass in my special cabinet for revered Australian authors.

Black Taxi

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, James.

Where are you based and how involved are you in the world of children’s and YA lit?

I live in Brisbane, where I write in a cabin at the bottom of my yard. I’ve been writing YA and books for younger kids for thirty years. My first novel was published in 1992 and after my next five titles did very well I took the risk and gave up my job as a teacher librarian to become a full time writer in 1997. I’ve enjoyed writing fantasy as well with ‘The Book of Lies’ being my best known. Since I’m now close to fifty titles, I suppose I’m classed as ‘an old hand’ in the world of YA lit.

What is the significance of the title of your new novel, The Beauty is in the Walking?Beauty is in the Walking

Ah, tricky answer that one. The publishers did not like my original title, which happens sometimes. (I had to change the title of my first novel, in fact). We workshopped ideas for a new title until an editor at Harper Collins come up with this. I liked it straight away for its lyrical sound and the way it nailed Jacob’s attitude towards his disability. It also linked nicely to his self-proclaimed expertise as a ‘connoisseur of walks’ stemming from his growing teenage attraction to girls.

Only later did I discover the words are part of a quote from Welsh poet Gwyn Thomas, ‘The beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations’ but now that I do know, I like it even better.

There is a big push for diversity in YA lit. What diversity have you shown in this novel?

I wrote this novel partly in response to a challenge from an old friend/editor to explore how disabled teenagers seek love and explore their sexuality. Since people with a physical or intellectual disability have always been marginalized throughout the world, telling a story about a boy living with cerebral palsy could be seen as showing diversity. It’s important to understand, though, that I didn’t self-consciously build the story around that theme, any more than I set out to write my novel ‘Dougy’ and its sequel ‘Gracey’ because the main characters were Indigenous Australians. In both instances, I wanted to tell a good yarn that I felt compelled to write. I’d like young people to read ‘The Beauty is in the Walking’ as the story of a boy growing up and moving into the next phase of his life who happens to have a disability.

A second example of diversity in the novel is the Lebanese Muslim family that Jacob becomes involved with. The story is set in a country town where communities can sometimes be slow to embrace non-Anglo and especially non- European ethnic groups, especially after recent terrorist acts by people of Middle Eastern origin. Readers will note that Jacob has very little contact with Soraya and virtually none with Mahmoud, the boy he attempts to exonerate after the boy is falsely accused of a disgusting crime. Jacob is only partially motivated by anti-racist sentiment. Mostly he undertakes the role of defender to prove himself and rise above the ‘disability’ prejudice that is holding him back.

How did you create the character of Jacob?

Like I always do, I spent some time trying to ‘be’ him, to think like a seventeen year old with CP, reading about how young people cope with their disability and I interviewed a women in her early thirties whose CP had consigned her to a wheel chair since her teens. She had recently had her first child. The results were surprising. A lot was written and said about the assumptions that able-bodied people make about CP sufferers, especially the tendency to assume a person with laboured movements and speech must be intellectually disabled as well. I was also pleased to hear that many people with CP are highly mischievous and have a great sense of humour.

How important is writing about boys for you?Buzzard

Gracey’, ‘Angela’, ‘Black Taxi’, ‘Bridget: A New Australian’ and the entire Silvermay fantasy series are all written in the first person from a female character’s perspective, so I do write about girls. However, I’m seen more as a writer for boys and I have written and spoken extensively about encouraging boys to read, so definitely, it is important to me. I think I have an innate understanding of a certain type of male character stemming from my teen years. I have often said that writers need to have something to say and mostly I say it to boys. My characters tend to share a lot with me in their interior lives so perhaps the importance to me is the continual exploration of my own masculinity. I‘m very aware that boys don’t easily externalise self-doubt, anxiety and their deeply felt needs thanks to social expectations so it’s important to explore such things in novels about boys which boys can quietly delve into as a counterbalance.

You’ve written many books, including award-winners. Could you tell us about some?

My earliest award winners were ‘Dougy’ and ‘Gracey’ which seemed to strike a need at the time to understand the experience of Indigenous Australians. Dougy saves his much loved sister, Gracey, from the violent madness that briefly overcomes their small outback town. I continued the story with that sister’s experience when her athletic ability wins her a scholarship to boarding school. Her years there separate her from her cultural roots and she has to re-make her personal identity in order to cope.

bridge to Wiseman's cove‘A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove’ is the one everyone loves. Winner of the Children’s Book Council award in 1997, it tell of lonely, overweight Carl Matt whose been abandoned by his mother in a seaside town where his family name is roundly despised. When he leaves school to work for and ultimately save a struggling barge service, he finds new strengths in himself and forms the friendships that help him understand there is love and a place for himself in the world.

How else do you spend your time?

I love movies and TV series like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. I read, of course, in order to shamelessly steal ideas from other authors. I ride my bike for exercise and I’ve even ridden around Europe, although any image of the Tour de France you might create in your mind is laughably inaccurate.

Which books would you like for Christmas?

I see Anne Tyler has a new book out – ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’. I love her work and Isobelle Carmody has finally finished her grand series with ‘The Red Queen’. But really, I’d like someone to choose a couple of great new YA novels not set in a dystopian land or part of any series and put them under my tree. Christmas is a time I go into bookshops to really look around. I often give books to family as presents (and they do the same for me) and then we end up sharing them around.

All the best with The Beauty is in the Walking (which I’ve reviewed here) and thanks very much, James.Book of Lies

 

 

Isobelle Carmody — New and Old

9780670076406Isobelle Carmody — it’s a name synonymous with fantasy and science fiction for young people in Australia. She is a much respected and avidly read author. She first hit it big in 1987 with the publication of Obernewtyn, first book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles. And finally, at long last, that series will conclude with the publication of The Red Queen in November this year. Fans have been eagerly looking forward to this for a long time. Given the imminent publication, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on some of her writing.

The Obernewtyn Chonicles is the series she is best known for. Set in a post apocalyptic world, it follows the adventures of Elspeth Gordie, a girl with some extraordinary mental abilities. Elspeth’s adventures have spanned the course of six books so far…

Obernewtyn

The Farseekers

Ashling

The Keeping Place

The Stone Key (In the USA it was split into two books: Wavesong and The Stone Key)

The Sending (In the USA it was split into two books: The Sending and The Waking Dragon)

And book seven, The Red Queen, is not far off.

What many people don’t know is that Carmody wrote a prequel novelette a few years ago. “The Journey” was published in the excellent short story anthology Trust Me Too (and I’m not saying it’s excellent just because I’ve got a story in there too).

And while we’re on the subject of Carmody and anthologies… she also wrote the introduction to Trust Me, the precursor to Trust Me Too.

9781876462574 9781921665585

Carmody has written lots of other books aside from the Obernewtyn Chonicles. Many of then are still in print. Some are out of print. And some are coming back in new editions.

In June this year a new edition of Scatterlings hit the shelves. It was originally published in 1991, and has been out of print for a while. It’s great to see is back!

Scatterlings is about a girl named Merlin, who wakes from an accident. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is. The world around her is unrecognisable — divided up between the Citizen Gods who live in a domed city, numerous clans who are controlled by the citizen gods and, of course, the Scatterings… the clanspeople who have run away to rebel. Perhaps most disconcerting of all is the fact that Merlin hears voices in her head.

The lead character knows very little at the start of the story. So the novel is a journey of discovery for her. And we, as readers, get to go along with it. And WOW, what a journey it is — full of mystery, amazing revelations, intriguing characters and intricate relationships.

This is the second of Carmody’s older books to be rereleased for a new generation of readers by Ford Street Publishing. Greylands, originally published in 1997, returned to bookstore shelves in 2012 (see my review). It’s wonderful to see these Carmody classics coming back into print, as the stories are timeless and well worth being discovered by new readers.

greylands-fordst 9781925272062-1

Of course, there are lots of other Isobelle Carmody books currently available. Perhaps now would be a good time to check them out…

9780143306863 9780670075188

9781742379470 9781742374413

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

jupiter_ascendingCheck out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: Blu-ray Review  — Jupiter Ascending

.

.

Australian YA and other fiction in London

I’m just back from a tour of (mostly indie) London bookshops.Children of the King

My visit to the Tower of London was enhanced after seeing Sonya Hartnett’s Children of the King, which alludes to the missing princes held captive by their uncle Richard III in the Tower, in a Notting Hill bookshop.

Australian YA, as well as children’s and adult literature, held its head high with sightings of Amanda Betts’ brilliant Zac and Mia, (which I reviewed here) and works by Kirsty Eagar and Melina Marchetta. I was so pleased to see my favourite Marchetta, On the Jellicoe Road on the shelves there. Watch out for the movie.Jellicoe

Karen Foxlee seems to be appreciated much more in the UK and US than in Australia. I saw Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy (for children) and The Midnight Dress. (I reviewed The Midnight Dress for the Weekend Australian here.)

And Jaclyn Moriarty has had a strong following overseas, which her own country is finally catching up with now she is winning YA awards here. Her sister, Liane’s Big Little Lies, the best seller for adults, was everywhere.

Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island, published here as Sea Hearts was visible and I also noticed another crossover series, Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn.Red Queen

It was great to see some of the incomparable Isobelle Carmody’s stunning YA works. Along with many others, I can’t wait for The Red Queen, the final in the Obernewtyn Chronicles, which is being published this November. This series is world class and dearly loved. How will Elspeth Gordie’s story conclude?

Shaun Tan’s Rules of Summer rules the world. It was everywhere, and even featured in bookstore displays.

Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief still has a high profile but Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect for adults seemed to be even more popular. Like Rules of Summer, Rosie was everywhere, which makes me anticipate my upcoming conversation with Graeme at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival in September even more eagerly. It is so difficult to write humour and we spent a car trip recalling anecdotes from his books and laughing aloud.

Australian children’s books were highly visible, particularly multiple titles by Morris Gleitzman, including his holocaust series beginning with Once.

SoonThe latest in the series, the chilling Soon, is now available in Australia, although not quite yet in the UK. Andy Griffiths’ and Terry Denton’s Treehouse series was as ubiquitous as London’s red, double decker buses and John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series was also popular. I spied books by Emily Rodda and it was a thrill to see Anna Fienberg’s stand-alone children’s novel, Louis Beside Himself, as well as her Tashi series, illustrated by Kim Gamble.

Some Australian adult authors taking shelf space were Peter Carey (Amnesia), David Malouf, Evie Wyld (All the Birds, Singing), Hannah Kent (Burial Rites), Tim Winton (Breath), Steve Toltz (Quicksand) and Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

A few standout OS YA authors on the shelves included Mal Peet (who I’ve written about here), Frances Hardinge (Cuckoo Song and Fly By Night) and Patrick Ness, whose latest YA novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, will be available in August. It’s one of his best. rest of Us Just Live Here

Meet Alice Pung, author of Laurinda

LaurindaThanks for talking to Boomerang Books about your outstanding first novel Laurinda (Black Inc.), Alice Pung.

Thanks for interviewing me!

You are well known for your excellent non-fiction, Unpolished Gem, Her Father’s Daughter and as editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia. Why have you sidestepped into YA fiction?

Growing up, I went to five different high schools, and I have always been fascinated by the way institutions shape individuals. In each new high school I felt like I was a slightly different person – not because anything about me had immediately changed – but because people’s perceptions of me had.

High school is the only time in your life where a large part of your identity is actually shaped by other people. As an adult you can choose your friends, and your time is finite, so of course, you try to only spend time with people who like and affirm you. As a teenager, though, you are forced to fit yourself in amongst 200-1000 other people, who are all with you every day. So I’ve always been interested in how teenagers adapt to this. And I wanted to do this through fiction because I wanted to create a character inspired by a number of young adults I’d met and admired.

You are also known for the Asian content and stories in your books. How does this manifest in LaurindaUnpolished Gem

Laurinda, first and foremost, takes a satirical look at class. Lucy Lam, my main character, is from depressed socio-economic circumstances, and I did not want her race to be the main focus. Where many young adult books fall flat, I think, is when they focus on the ethnicity or race as the most important part of their character. The reality is, most teenagers don’t spend time thinking about their cultural background. You don’t wake up every morning aware that you’re Asian, until someone draws your attention to it.

And that’s the paradox with a school like Laurinda – where everyone is so liberal and politically correct and culturally sensitive – the most interesting thing other girls focus on about Lucy is her Asian-ness. The other girls do not realise that she is a teenager in the exact same way they are: Lucy does not know the history of colonial Indochina, is not an authority on oriental food, and is more interested in boys than Vietnam war films.

Did you attend a school like Laurinda? If not, how did you imagine and craft this setting with such verisimilitude?

I get asked this a lot! No, I didn’t attend any school that was as rotten as Laurinda (thankfully!), but I have, like most other students, had teachers who were bullies, been in classes where we bullied the teachers, and seen the whole mean girl dynamic five times over in each new high school at which I started.

I’ve always been a watcher. No one suspects the quiet Asian kid of harbouring very much ambition except ‘doing well at school’, so as a teenager I’ve been privy to a lot of fly-on-the-wall conversations. Sometimes, I even heard some of the most outrageously racist things from other students, and other times I got insight into the struggles of girls I never thought would have struggles.

Also, as an author I have visited hundreds of schools throughout Australia, each with their own culture and traditions. I’ve seen how certain schools promote feminism while others promote a warped sense of femininity that denies competition while pushing success at all costs. I’ve also been to a private school so understand a little about the aspirations of those students, and did not want to tar all the students with the same brush. It seems that all the news and opinion pieces about private schools in the media are rife with so much hyperbole and polarised views. So I hoped that Laurinda would allow people to take a light-hearted and yet simultaneously very serious, nuanced look at why they feel this way.

Growing up AsianThe protagonist, Lucy, is an exceptionally well-created, three-dimensional character. She should become a role model.

Wow. Thank you!

In spite of the vast amount of YA lit I read, I’m excited to have been exposed to new ideas via Lucy, such as needing a group of friends to get a boyfriend at fifteen, and recognising students who are ‘self-contained satellites’.

Could you describe Lucy, or something about her?

When I wrote the character of Lucy, I was very aware of her voice first and foremost, very certain that the reader would be hearing her thoughts and not her words. She’s what school psychologists would now call a classic introvert, but the fascinating thing is that she was not an introvert at her previous school. It is only coming to Laurinda that she loses her speaking voice.

Many young adult books stress the importance of belonging to a group, yet Lucy is content to be by herself at school after she recognises that the institution is rotten. When evil exists, we are taught to do something about it – Lucy’s non-participation in the institution is a form of resistance, and I think it’s pretty stoic. You have to have a strong sense of self to choose to be ‘a loner.’

The ‘Cabinet’, a controlling group of girls, is a masterful, chilling portrayal of teen power. How did you devise their dynamics and role in the school?

I wanted to create characters that were so entitled that they didn’t even realise how entitled they were. There’s the old cliché of the silver spoon, but I didn’t want these characters’ entitlement to be based on wealth – I wanted it to be based on cultural capital: the handed-down power that exists in our society. Their alumni mothers trained them to appreciate Royal Doulton and institutional loyalty, their fathers are powerful men and their school Laurinda trains them to be ‘Leaders of tomorrow.’

So of course they’re going to want to ‘lead’ the school. They feel it’s their birthright. And also, being such perfectionists, they feel a duty to weed out the weaker elements of the school: vulnerable teachers, students they feel are not up to scratch. I did not want the Cabinet to be vacuous ‘mean girls’, but the sort of pressure-cooker girls you would meet at a private school who must be on top of things all the time; and yet whose worlds are so tightly-wound that any threat to their order would ignite them. And I hope readers come away with an understanding that those girls are as much victims of institutional and familial insularity as they are cruel.

You mention a number of literary texts, such as Emma, Romeo and Juliet, The Great GatsbyWhy did you include these? Emma

Those were books I studied as a teenager when I went to a private grammar school. Gatsby is a book about class and a man who will never quite belong because of his pink suit. And when Jane Austen began to write Emma, I think she resolved: “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” because Emma, like the Cabinet, is selfish and entitled. But actually, she is my favourite Austen character because there is a gravitas and kindness to her at the end when she comes of age.

Lucy is informed by the principal that YA literature is not studied at Laurinda. Do you have a personal opinion about this provocative stance?

I studied John Marsden and Isobelle Carmody books at my Catholic College, and a novel about a Cambodian refugee called ‘The Clay Marble’ in Year 7 at a public school. It seems to me that the more ‘elite’ the school is, the more their texts seem removed from the realities of existence as a teenager.

I cannot fathom how you could teach teenagers and yet remove their experience from the whole equation. YA books taught me how to become an adult, how to deal stoically with adversity, how to negotiate with adults around me, how to cope with mental illness: they were the most important books I have ever read in my life.

I love literary classics as much as any author, yet some schools teach the heavy themes in King Lear or the humour in Austen so rigidly, with students churning out essays full of fancy vocabulary and effluent literary tricks. They teach students to be contemptuous of YA literature, and in doing so, make them into miniature, insufferable snobby adults who have to deny their constant true state of existence, which is that they are teenagers!

And you cannot teach teenagers without acknowledging that for six years of their lives, they are inevitably, inextricably in this state of young-adult-hood, with questions about how to live well each day, and how to cope, and how to look forward to things.

What do you hope to achieve with this story? Alice Pung

It’s funny, but I never got asked this question with my non-fiction books, even the book about my father and the Cambodian holocaust! I just hope lots of young adults will read it and be able to relate in some way.

I’ve always been against didactic messages in YA books. If students are studying Kafka in Year 11, then of course they can make up their own opinions!

(I guess that might be one reason some schools put YA off their booklists – some authors feel the patronising need to include ‘a positive message’ and that kills the story.)

Laurinda is an exceptional novel that will be very well received.

Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts with us, Alice.

THANK YOU for these excellent and insightful questions, I’ve really enjoyed thinking about them and answering them. Her Father's Daughter

 

Brisbane Writers Festival Dazzles

Analogue MenThe  2014 Brisbane Writers Festival had an inspiring launch on Thursday night when author/publisher Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What – about the lost boys of Sudan) told a full tent  about the genesis of McSweeney’s publishing company and its 826 Valencia Writing Centres. The tutoring behind these pirate, superhero and other themed storefronts has helped countless children with their writing. Groups doing similar work in Australia are Sydney’s Story Factory with its Martian Embassy, Melbourne’s 100 Story Building, and Book Links in Queensland is working towards its own centre.

My next session was ‘Dangerous Allies’ where Robert Manne interviewed Malcolm Fraser in front of a capacity crowd. The insights about Australia’s alliance with the US were provocative and chilling.

‘Zen and the Art of Tea’ was a light-hearted exploration of tea by Morris Gleitzman and Josephine Moon. Josephine’s tip about brewing lavender, garlic or basil to make teas sounds worth trying and Morris – a literary Geoffrey Rush – was hilarious. He personified coffee as a bully, and tea as a whispering lover.

David Hunt was in fine form discussing his Indies Book winner, Girt which is a retelling of Australian history with a comedic eye.

It was fun to cross paths with David Malouf (for the second time in two weeks), Jennifer Byrne, Will Kostakis, Pamela Rushby and Tristan Bancks. If only there was more time for more sessions … I would have loved to see YA writers such as A.J. Betts, Isobelle Carmody and Jackie French but they were either offsite or clashed with my events. Andy Griffiths was so popular he had his own signing area after the other children’s writers’ part of the program had finished. Chairing Andy and John Boyne (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) a few years ago was one of the funniest times of my life.

Forgotten Rebels of EurekaThis year I was privileged to moderate sessions with Clare Wright on The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text) and Nick Earls on Analogue Men (Vintage). Clare must be the world’s most informed person in her field of women at Eureka. Her book deservedly won the Stella Prize this year. It is compulsive, engaging reading, notwithstanding its 500+ pages.

Nick was as funny as expected and revealed a secret about Analogue Men. We learned that his favourite Dr Who is Jon Pertwee and his favourite tech device Bluetooth. I explained how I laughed out loud repeatedly over one scene that I read on instant replay and Nick implied that my brain is like that of a goldfish. But no – it really was the skilful writing. It was wonderful to hear the laughing throughout this session and see the animated audiences in both these events.

Many thanks to the authors involved in the Festival, particularly Clare and Nick, and to the incredible BWF staff and volunteers led by Kate Eltham.

Isobelle Carmody’s Greylands

Isobelle Carmody’s Greylands is back! Originally published in 1997, this YA novel has been out of print for a number of years. But a new revised edition has now hit the bookshelves. Never having read it the first time around, I was delighted to be able to pick it up and finally give this highly regarded book a go.

An out-of-print book getting a second go at life is a truly wonderful thing. It’s an opportunity for new readers to discover the book and for old readers to reacquaint themselves. I know all about it! I went through the process earlier this year with the new edition of my YA short story collection Life, Death and Detention. So I am rather excited and pleased about the re-release of Greylands.

I was lucky enough to go to the relaunch of Greylands at the “Keeping Books Alive” conference on 22 October. It was enthusiastically released on the world by Maureen McCarthy. And Isobelle Carmody got the chance to speak about the importance of the story to her. (And I got the opportunity to have my copy autographed!)

Prior to this year, I had never read anything by Isobelle Carmody. She was one of those authors I had always been meaning to read, but who had somehow slipped through the cracks. But earlier this year I read the short story anthology Trust Me Too, which contains her story “The Journey”. I loved the anthology (and I’m not saying that just because I too have a story within its pages — it really is a seriously impressive collection) and was particularly taken with Carmody’s story. So when Greylands came out, I just had to read it.

It’s a fantasy story, within a story, told by a young boy attempting to navigate his own feelings about his mother’s death. Falling through a mirror, Jack finds himself in a strange world where everything is dull and grey and merely a shadow of its real-world self. There, he meets a girl who carries a burden — and they are pursued by fierce unseen creatures. Jack needs to resolve his own feelings in order to solve the mystery of this grey land.

The novel is an atmospheric, heartfelt and sensitive journey though a young boy’s grief. It’s exciting, mysterious and sometimes sad… but ultimately hopeful about the future. It is a great read. It won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel in 1998. I can certainly understand why.

This new edition, with a splendid cover from Grant Gittus, includes a new Foreward from Carmody. It provides some background to the story and highlights how personal it is to the author.

Highly recommended!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review & Giveaway  — Doctor Who: Series 7, Part 1

.

.

.

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Melina Marchetta

In what will no doubt set a dangerous precedent for the years to come, this week, to celebrate the CBCA’s Book Week, we’re doing something very special here at the Boomerang Blog. We’ve invited a selection of Australian children’s author to drop by and guest blog for us – one for every day of the week.

We’re kicking off with Melina Marchetta, whose books include the quintessential Australian young adult book, Looking For Alibrandi, which became a successful film, and On The Jelicoe Road, recent winner of the prestigious 2009 US Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature.

Enjoy.

*********

When I was in Year Six, my best friend and I were in charge of discarding the garbage in the school incinerator. As much as I’m thankful for recycling bins and child protection these days, it was there that our imaginations went haywire and we managed to bludge whole afternoons. Except for the term when my teacher read the class Ivan Southall’s Hills End. Setting our hair alight no longer interested me because I was desperate to return to class and listen to a story about a group of country Australian kids and their teacher separated from the rest of their town because of a storm and a lie. I savoured the love triangle between Paul, Frances and Adrian, I loved the moral dilemma faced by Adrian, long demoralised by his father, and I was introduced to the importance of the secondary characters. When Ivan Southall died last year I felt a sadness that we never got to meet. I would love to have told how important his work was to me.

By high school, I enjoyed any story written about teenagers. Most were from the US, like Paul Zindel’s My Darling My Hamburger. I remember in Year Eight, Judy Blume’s Forever being passed around the room with the important sex references dog eared for quick consumption. It wasn’t until I studied at university that I was truly introduced to Australian YA and I fell in love with the genre because of novels like John Marsden’s So Much To Tell You, Simon French’s All We Know and Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn.

Although my own novels aren’t specifically written for a particular audience, I’m forever grateful that they’ve found a home in the hands of teenagers who don’t go around questioning where the adults are in a story about boarding school territory wars. Teenagers don’t care much about audience or themes or finding out why a story works the way it does. But they do love language and they’ll go around quoting their favourite lines. When you ask them why it’s their favourite, their response isn’t about the use of assonance and alliteration and juxtaposition. Instead they say, “I just like the sound of it. It makes me feel something.”