Pakistan for Children – Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll

 

9780702253317It is rare to find an exceptional novel for children with the current emphasis on YA literature rather than on children’s books. Kelsey and the Porcelain Doll by Rosanne Hawke (UQP) is an exceptional Australian book for younger readers. With her background of living in Pakistan as an aid worker, Hawke has incorporated cultural and lifestyle details authentically into a perfectly formed story.

8-year-old Kelsey moves temporarily to Pakistan with her father who will help the people rebuild after a flood and with her mother who is a nurse. Pakistan seems like an alien place to Kelsey with its Bollywood music, mudbrick houses and ‘charpai’ woven beds. She particularly misses her afternoon teas with Nanna Rose. During their Skype sessions Nanna Rose, with additions by Kelsey, tells the story of a porcelain doll which is bought by an elderly lady and sent a long way by airmail. She is checked for bombs by customs, grabbed by a dog, dropped into a flooded river, stolen by a monkey and cared for by a couple of children.

The chapters about the doll, Amy Jo, alternate with chapters about Kelsey who has made a friend, Shakila, and is becoming part of life in her remote village school. She is able to demonstrate spoken English to help the students and asks her class in Australia to help raise money for pencils, exercise books and medicine. Even though Kelsey is comparatively rich materially, Shakila is rich in family, with multiple relatives. Rosanne Hawke doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of life in Pakistan. One of the school girl’s sister drowned in the flood and the water shouldn’t be drunk – a problem for Kelsey when she saves Shakila’s little brother from the river. Urdu words are used thoughtfully throughout the book, and are also explained in a glossary. And Kelsey reads an ebook about a ‘girl who disappeared into paintings on the wall to save her family in the past’. (This book is outed in the ‘Acknowledgements’ as The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray – an outstanding book published in 2013 which won the Children’s category of the Aurealis awards). In creating this tale, Hawke has also been inspired by The Tin Soldier, The Lost Coin and The Velveteen Rabbit and the illustrations have been thoughtfully drawn by award-winning Briony Stewart.

VULTURE’S GATE

Vulture’s Gate is a compelling novel for teen readers by Kirsty Murray set in the future. It has a spellbinding plot, and strong themes that reflect on our modern day world and the repercussions of how we currently interact with our environment.

Kirsty Murray depicts a frightening but very real world in which girls are thought to be instinct due to a terrible plague, and the land has been destroyed by war and greed.

But not all girls have been exterminated. Bo, one of the main characters is very much alive. Raised by her Poppy until he was killed, she has survived on her own, helped only by her Robotraptors, especially Mr Pinkwhistle.

But everything changes for Bo when she rescues a young boy, Callum in the burning desert.

She is forced to leave her underground home. In search of Callum’s fathers, they journey across a dangerous continent, escaping outstationers, street gangs and terrorists, but nothing can prepare them for the world that awaits in Vulture’s Gate.

Callum has been kidnapped and is forced to perform in a freak show. The skills he acquires there hold him in good stead and provide him with the flexibility, balance and survival skills he’s going to need to survive in the new world.

Once they join forces, Bo and Callum look for a safe haven, but it’s not easy to find in a world where factions are fighting against each other – runaway boys against religious terrorists.

As well as being an action packed adventure, this book explores the vulnerability of both genders as the two protagonists struggle to survive in their harsh new environment.

Vulture’s Gate reflects on the intricacies of society and examines themes of loyalty, adaptability, friendship and belonging.

The relationship between Bo and Callum is real and courageous and is an authentic portrayal of two characters moving towards adulthood and the new responsibilities and difficulties that brings.

One of the most poignant things for me about this book was that children in this society are not raised in a nurturing environment, but rather one where they have to fight for their survivl.

Vulture’s Gate hooked me from the first page and kept me mesmerised till the end.

I’m hoping there will be a Book 2 to follow.

Vulture’s Gate is published by Allen & Unwin.

 

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George