The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)

the giant and the seaTitle: The Giant and the Sea
Author: Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)
Genre: Fiction, Eco-themes
Publisher: Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $26.99
Synopsis: A stunningly beautiful and powerful take on climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope. With lyrical text by acclaimed author Trent Jamieson and illustrations by CBCA Award-winner Rovina Cai that will resonate long after reading. For fans of Shaun Tan and Armin Greder.
A giant stands on the shore, watching the sea. She never moves, never speaks, until the day she turns to a little girl and says, ‘The sea is rising.’
The brave girl takes the message to the town. But when the people refuse to listen, the giant must find another way to save them.
Perfect for the children of the Climate Strike, this is a lyrical and deeply moving story about climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope.

~*~

A giant stares out at the sea – she can see something is wrong – the sea is rising. The young girl she meets tries to pass on the message – but the townsfolk ignore it – can the giant save them before it is too late? Climate change is a big topic now and has been for many years. Over the past few years, there have been many and varied books about climate change, how to reduce waste and various strategies on how to help. One of the latest books in this genre is The Giant and the Sea – which combines the real world issues of climate change and unwillingness to listen and act with a fantasy, far off world to illustrate what climate change is to younger readers and readers of all ages.

Trent Jamieson’s story gently and quietly tells the story of a world under threat from a rising sea. It can be read on several levels – the simplicity of needing to find safety, and as readers gain confidence or deeper understanding – what the rising sea and dark machine mean and how they are connected to climate change. From there, readers can work out that action must be taken. Trent’s simple yet complex and layered cyclical narrative is combined effectively with Rovina Cai’s illustrations, which are in shades of darker colours – browns and greys, black and muddied shades to show the despondency of the giant and the characters. At times it does feel hopeless – and this reflects the reality of the climate change issue that Trent is writing about.

It is one of those books that feels like it stays with you long after you read it, and it will. It is one that can be revisited over and over, taught in class and used as an example at all levels of education to teach about climate change or how to deal with climate change in literature and make it an accessible topic for all ages. This will be ideal to teach in classes across the board, and to open up discussions about climate change as well as differences of opinion, and how to talk about these issues with people who might not be as receptive to some issues.

This story really brought the issues to life, and because it ends the way it starts, it has a cyclical feel – that this is an ongoing issue and discussion that will always be talked about, always get attention. However, this book is also a warning that we need to act – and act soon.

Ideal for children aged four and over, this is a sensitive way to teach them about climate change and open up discussions about what is going on in the world today.

 

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

monstrous devicesTitle: The Monstrous Devices
Author: Damien Love
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Rock the Boat
Published: 19th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: A cinematic and original page-turner for fans of Indiana Jones and Alex Rider

On a winter’s day, twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. ‘This one is special,’ says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.

Things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, saving him from an attack – and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework – and plunging him into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unravelling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

With an ever-present admiration for the hidden mysteries of our world, Monstrous Devices plunges readers into a gripping adventure that’s sure to surprise.

~*~
When the robot Alexander receives a mysterious robot from his grandfather, he has no idea what is in store for him. Soon, it seems as if the robot has come to life. Soon, Alexander and his grandfather are racing through Paris and Prague as they try to solve the mystery of the robot that comes to life and does things that Alexander never thought possible, and invites danger into their lives that is at times scary, and that Alexander and his grandfather need to get out of so they can resume their daily lives.

This intriguing novel combines adventure and quest stories, with living toys, ancient myths and stories from the past about the golem, and robots in a unique way. It merges magic and reality seamlessly, and incorporates themes of science fiction and stories of how the living robot came to be, and is at times, scary or worrying, but action packed from beginning to end as they try to bring an end to an ancient family feud fuelled by macabre magic, and people who aren’t quite who they say they are.

At times, it feels apocalyptic – as though the robot and those who want it and want to control it are going to win. It feels as though it is a whole story, that the ending wraps things up nicely. Yet at the same time, there could be a sequel. The Tall Man who appears has a connection to one of the characters that is hinted at but perhaps not wholly resolved – and as the mystery of the robot unfolds, we are told along the way about Alexander’s absent father, whose non-presence in the novel shapes the characters and forms an interesting plot line that works well not being resolved – we don’t always find out everything – yet also works to hint at a sequel – either way, this plot line is woven throughout as Alexander ponders who his father is and what is going on with the robot and his grandfather.

This is a book filled with mystery and danger at every turn, as it draws on the golem legend from Jewish culture, and a Rabbi Loewy who is linked to the robot and the store it was taken from in Prague – this theft opens up the novel – where we first meet the tall man and the young girl who accompanies him. They are a constant presence in the novel – whether on the page or off the page, and their role gives the novel the scary undertones – what do these two people want, and who are they are two questions constantly at play throughout the novel.

This was a different novel for me – most of the things I read don’t have robots. It was interesting, and perhaps gives a brief look at what things could be like if robots did take over or at least, what could happen if they could read our thoughts and act of their own volition. In this way, it was a touch scary at times, yet also engrossing – to find out if Alexander and his grandfather succeed, you have to read on. It captures the imagination and once in Prague, takes the reader somewhere new and historic. It evokes a sense of history and mystery, and magic in a place that has a long and complex history within Europe in many ways – perhaps too many to list here.

This is an interesting and mysterious read for confident readers aged nine and older, and will take you on a journey you’d never expect.

An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip

an alice girlTitle: An Alice Girl

Author: Tanya Heaslip

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 19th May 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Alice to Prague, for fans of Toni Tapp Coutts’ A Sunburnt Childhood and Mary Groves’ An Outback Life, comes Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up with her sister and brothers in the late 1960s and early 70s on an outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

An Alice Girl is Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s on a vast and isolated outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

Tanya’s parents, Janice and Grant ‘the Boss’, were pioneers. They developed the cattle station where water was scarce, where all power was dependent on generators and where a trip to town for supplies usually meant a full day’s journey. Grant was determined to teach his children how to survive in this severe and isolated environment and his lessons were often harsh.

Tanya and her siblings led a childhood unimaginable to many Australians. Whether working the mobs of cattle with the stockmen, playing cattle-duffing on horseback or singing and doing lessons at their School of the Air desks, the children were always aware of the demands of the land.

But while her sister and brothers loved riding and working stock, Tanya’s heart longed to be back at the homestead with her books and stories.

In a childhood that many would consider very tough, Tanya tells of this precious time with raw honesty, humour, love and kindness. This is the story of an Alice girl.

~*~

Tanya Heaslip grew up in the outback near Alice Springs with her brothers, sister and parents, working with cattle or playing games once their work had finished. For Tanya, this was a precious time but also a time of isolation – where her only connection with the outside world at first was with her School of the Air friends and Correspondence School teacher. Yet through School of the Air and her friend Jane, she discovered a world beyond her family’s home and beyond spending every day with her family and nobody else.

This biography tells the story of Tanya’s first eleven to twelve years, before she headed off to boarding school in Adelaide, as the rest of her family did in the following years. This is a story of isolation and a life that seemed tough – as Tanya tried to please her father but also, found solace in writing and books – in a world of words.

These stories precede Alice to Prague, and show readers where Tanya came from and how she found herself on the journey and in the career she has now. Reading both is a great experience – two periods in her life, both as fascinating and as intriguing as the other. From one extreme to another across both books – isolation in Alice and the Northern Territory to surveillance under a Communist regime in Prague. Both are fascinating stories.

AWW2020In An Alice Girl, we get a glimpse of what life is like on a remote cattle station, how everything they did differs from what most of us know, and the way of life they led, what was most precious to them and how they managed – the tough exteriors Tanya and her siblings built up, and the way they learned to cope with what they had and accept it.

Tanya explores why this is, and how her parents, who were born on the cusp of World War Two, were impacted by living through war, and how it made them who they were. Vastly different from her family, Tanya was still very close to her siblings – for much of their lives, just about every day – they could only interact and play with each other – there were times when there were other children around, but this was often temporary and short lived.

The Northern Territory came to life in this book, and was as big a character as Tanya’s family, evoking a sense of place that feels familiar yet at the same time new and unfamiliar to many readers who live in cities or suburbs. For those who lived in regional or remote areas, some things might be relatable, others might have been experienced differently. It is part of Australia’s story – one person’s experience of the world around them and how they navigated it through childhood and learned things along the way and in adulthood that they hadn’t realised or noticed at the time.

It is honest, at times brutal, and also has many heart-warming moments. Combined, this makes it an engaging personal and family story of childhood, and what having an isolated childhood is like, up to the feeling of being ripped away from all you know to a boarding school in another city, another state. An Alice Girl is the story of a childhood where what she had was loved, yet Tanya also wanted more. It explores her love of words and books, of school – of friends she had never met until she was able to attend a country show where she watched her friend compete.

It was a different world to today. Tanya only knew her friend’s voice, whereas these days, we know how our friends who live far away from us write, what they look like but not always what they sound like. We’d recognise their faces, but maybe not their voices. For so long, this was the opposite for Tanya. But she shone through and her life is fascinating. Reading about it showed there was a whole world out there beyond what we know in the cities and suburbs along the coast.

I enjoyed reading this book about Tanya’s early years, seeing how she grew up and what initiated her taste for writing, and the outside world, which is further explored in Alice to Prague. For readers of that book and new readers, this is a fantastic read that everyone will get something out of.

Books and Bites Bingo Book to movie: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

books and bites game card
My next square is the one for book to movie. For this option, there were many, many options from Harry Potter to Jane Austen, The Book Thief and Northern Lights (The Golden Compass), which is now a television show and will be marking off my book to television category later this year in another challenge.

As luck would have it, I received the new bind-up edition of Nim’s Island, celebrating twenty-one years since it was first published, and I have seen the movie, so this worked for this challenge and another that had a book to movie adaptation choice.

NimsIsland_roughs

I chose this because it was a fun read as well, and I’m trying to see how many review books work for my reading challenges, and how many they crossover into as well – in doing so, across the first few months of the year, I have managed to knock off quite a few categories and squares. Some books have filled in more than others.

I need to watch Nim’s Island again sometime but for now, I’m trying to focus on the reading. Before I used this book, I had The Book Thief earmarked for this category. It’s one of those categories that is open and can change – and those are the ones I am aiming to mark off first, as some are more specific, sometimes down to the author or the book, and some specific to a month – so I have to wait until then to fill them in.

One category that comes up in two challenges I might have trouble with is the book you haven’t finished or that you have said you’ve read but haven’t – as I finish the books I commit to. So those could be a challenge, but I might find some way to tweak and stretch them so it works for my means.

Book Bingo Five 2020 – Coming of Age

Book bingo 2020

May, and round five of 2020 book bingo with Amanda and Theresa! Many of the posts have been from books I have read in January and earlier in the year, yet something about checking off the categories during the quieter times of the year is really satisfying, as I know that by checking off the ones I can easily fill in, that by the time I get to the harder ones, there’ll be less pressure to get through it all and make sure it is done. Also, when it comes to my Book Bingo wrap up post, I won’t have to add in links as I go, I can do it all at once.

For my fifth square, I chose coming of age. For this square, there will be many books, and many ways this story can be told. For this one, however, I chose a book that came out in February that Scholastic asked me to review, and one that even though I knew it was for review, I kept thinking of quiz questions for.

ella at eden

The book is the first in a new series, that is part of the Ella and Olivia family, where each stage of Ella’s life is focused on by a different author. This new series is about Ella as a teenager at a boarding school called Eden. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking shows Ella on the brink of becoming a teenager, where she starts at a new school, far from home. Here, she will discover more of who she is and what she likes, and Eden will help her do this.

As the teenage years are a time of big change for people, this is why it works as a coming of age – Ella is starting to discover who she is separate from her family, and for those who have read Ella and Olivia, and the Ella Diaries, it is a great continuation from these series, and having written some Ella and Olivia quizzes, I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to more in the series.

Books and Bites Book Bingo Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

books and bites game card

 

A travel memoir is one area I wasn’t sure what I would find – but as with all my challenges, I have been finding fun and inventive ways to interpret the categories I thought I might struggle with. This time I am marking off my thirteenth square and gaining a BINGO for the first row. I have checked off travel memoir but done something a little different and bent a fictional book with travel in it to work here.

 

books and bites game card

I used The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by LD Lapinski – the review went live on the 28th of April. When Flick discovers a travel agency unlike any other and is invited to join the Strangeworlds Society. With all the travelling Flick and Jonathon Mercator do, it feels and reads like it could be a travel memoir – as we experience the journeys as they do. In this way, it has a sense of travel memoir, even if told in third person and the action takes place as we’re reading and isn’t described after the facts as one typically finds with a travel memoir.

strangeworlds

 

It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but in the current isolation climate, I’m finding I could be doing that a lot over the next few months – and I’m trying to use new reads as much as possible, and will slot re-reads in where I need to.

 

Books and Bites Bingo Progress Report One – First Bingo

I should be doing this for each bingo line I hit – with the regular book bingo, it is being included in the relevant post. For this one with Monique, I am trying to update as I complete a line.

books and bites game card

 

My first BINGO of the sheet is the top lime – which I actually completed last month but have only just managed to find time to write this brief post. This was possibly the easiest line – some squares I am still finding books, or waiting for a release, or am, not sure what I will use. Luckily, these are fairly broad categories and I can go with anything for many of them, so when I find something that fits, that is what I will use. This is my overall challenge strategy and I am finding it less stressful as it allows me to read what I have and if it fits, that’s a good thing.

This was a challenge I signed up for later than the others, but am having fun with it nonetheless. Of the books I used in this challenge, I loved them all and there were so many others that could have worked here. I admit to stretching the travel memoir category – using a fictional book with travel that felt like it could be a travel memoir – I expand on this more in the post, however.

I look forward to filling the rest of the squares and reporting on them in the coming months.

Books and Bites Bingo
Set in Europe:Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell