Australian Children’s Laureate 2018-2019: Morris Gleitzman

In 2008, The Australia Children’s Literature Alliance was formed as an independent and not-for-profit organisation that champions and promotes “the transformational power of reading in the lives of young Australians.” The ACLA is inclusive, representing the spectrum of the field of children’s and young adult literature. The vision and mission of the ACLA is:

ACLA’s vision is to: enrich the lives of young Australians through the power of story. 

ACLA’s mission is to:

  • Promote the value, importance and transformational nature of reading

  • Influence the reading habits of Australian families

  • Raise the profile of books in the lives of children and young adults

  • Champion the cause of young Australians reading.

The organisation’s primary activity is developing and managing the Australian Children’s Laureate Program, established based on the successful implementation of similar programs in the UK, the US, with programs in Finland, Holland, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden and Wales as well.

The Children’s Laureate is an Australian author or illustrator of books for children and/or young adults, and in particular, someone who has made a significant contribution to the canon of Australian Children’s Literature and is appointed on a biennial basis. The inaugural year, 2012-2013 – was shared by two well-loved authors, Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor.

In 2014-2015, Jackie French took the mantle. She has authored over 140 books, including The Matilda Saga and the iconic Diary of a Wombat.

 

Leigh Hobbs held the mantle for 2016-2017.

And the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2018-1019 is Morris Gleitzman. The theme for his term is Stories Make Us – Stories Create Our Future. Morris has written celebrated books for the youth market for over thirty years including Two Weeks With the Queen, and the Felix Series, stating with Once.

In a world where our attention is divided by many different means of technology, it is comforting to know that there are those passionate about championing books for children, and showing the power of books to teach, to heal, to help us understand the world around us. Keep an eye on the included links for more information on what Morris gets up to this year.

More information about the role and how it is selected can be found here:

Further links and interviews:

http://readingtime.com.au/cbca-book-year-younger-reader-acceptance-speech-morris-gleitzman-author-soon/

http://www.morrisgleitzman.com

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-12/morris-gleitzman-on-why-kids-need-books-author/9421494

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/australias-new-childrens-laureate-morris-gleitzman-hopes-to-inspire-children-in-dark-uncertain-world-20180207-h0vr05.html

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The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

the war I finally won.jpgTitle: The War I Finally Won

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Genre: Children’s/YA, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 2nd October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Like the classic heroines of literature, Ada wins our hearts as she continues her World War II adventures after the Newbery Honor–winning The War that Saved My Life.

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—crippled in her mind as well as in her body. But who is she, she wonders?

Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their guardian, Susan, in a cottage in the English countryside, on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton and her daughter, Maggie, Ada’s dearest friend. Life in the crowded cottage is tense. Then Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? Everyone is horrified. Ada must decide—where do her loyalties lie?

The War I Finally Won is the marvellous conclusion to Ada’s powerful, uplifting story.

~*~

Ada’s life has changed since she ran away from home, where her mother kept her locked up and punished her for being born with a club-foot. Living as an evacuee with her brother, Jamie, and their guardian, Susan, Ada’s journey is not yet complete. Though she has had her foot fixed, and she now knows she is not what her mother said she was, she must find a way to discover who she is. As the war comes closer to British shores, Ada and Jamie’s lives alter significantly, and many changes uproot their lives. When Lady Thorton moves in with them because her home is commandeered for the war effort, Ada feels the safety and comfort she has begun to get used to feel threatened. Only Maggie’s presence and Susan’s understanding seems to calm her through times of turmoil and worrying about Jamie and feeling like she still has to take care of everyone. Soon, Ada becomes accustomed to having Maggie’s mother around, because it means Maggie gets to visit for school holidays. But when Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany arrives, Ada is caught between loyalty to those she loves and fiercely protects and welcoming another young girl who has been forced out of her home and away from all she loves. Soon, Ada discovers a way to be who she is and help Ruth adjust. It is a war she must fight within herself, whilst another war rages on outside – discovering who she is and overcoming the horrors of her past to find peace.

In the wonderful and touching conclusion to Ada’s story, The War I Finally Won, has Ada still struggling with her mother’s words, but finding ways to cope with her anxiety around events she is unfamiliar with. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has taken a devastating war and used it as the backdrop to personal wars – Ada, Mrs Thorton and Susan – and tenderly dealt with disability, both physical and mental, wars, death, love and loss, all through the eyes of an orphaned child during World War Two, and her brother, who can see and accept love for what it is – though Ada’s struggle to love easily is part of the story, and her vulnerability and confusion are ever-present.

Each character in the story is fighting a war. They are all involved and connected to World War Two – as evacuees, as hosts, as a mother and wife to a husband and son who are fighting in the war, a war of loss and of love, and identity wars, to find who they are in a new and frightening world. When the safety Ada is getting used to is threatened, she feels the war anew, and it is Lady Thorton who steps in to help her through it. Ada finds that in this new place in Kent, she has people who care about her: the Thortons, Maggie, Ruth, and Susan – she has always had Jamie, who does what he can to help his big sister throughout both books.

Like the first book, this one dealt with what are difficult themes in an eloquent and thoughtful way, approaching it so that readers of all ages can understand what is going on at their level and through their experiences. Through these characters, the personal and physical war is experienced in different ways, and learning to love and understand others is a key theme in the book.

With a satisfying yet realistic ending, The War I Finally Won is a great way to end Ada’s battle.

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2018 NSW PREMIER’S LITERARY AWARDS

The NSW Government has a long tradition of celebrating and connecting the public with art and literature. The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are an opportunity to highlight the importance of literacy and literature, whilst enjoying and learning from the work of our writers in NSW and Australia. Like other literary awards, this award in highlighting the spectacular Australian Literature Australian writers produce, highlights and honours the achievements of Australia’s writers, and their artistic contributions to society, but also to highlight our literary achievements to the world. The State Library administers the awards.AWW-2018-badge-rose

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have more categories than the Victorian awards. These categories are:

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

2017 Winner: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

2017 Shortlist: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers by Ryan O’Neill

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm

After the Carnage by Tara June Winch

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2017 Winner: Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahil

2017 Shortlist:

The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

Dodge Rose by Jack Cox

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh

The Bonobo’s Dream by Rose Mulready

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

2017 Winner: Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish

2017 Shortlist: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner

Talking to My Country by Stan Grant

The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft by Tom Griffiths

Avalanche by Julia Leigh

Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

2017 Winner: Ghostspeaking by Peter Boyle

2017 Shortlist: Burnt Umber by Paul Hetherington

Breaking the Days by Jill Jones

Fragments by Antigone Kefala

Firebreaks: Poems by John Kinsella

Comfort Food by Ellen van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

2017 Winner: One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

2017 Shortlist: Elegy by Jane Abbott

The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French 

the-ghost-by-the-billabong

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson

One Would Think the Deep by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

2017 Winner: Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

2017 Shortlist: Magrit by Lee Battersby and Amy Daoud

Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

Desert Lake Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Figgy and the President by Tamsin Janu

Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize For Playwriting

 

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

2017 Shortlist:  The Hanging by Angela Betzein

You, Me and the Space Between by Finegan Kruckemeyer

Ladies Day by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

2017 Winner: The Code – Series 2, Episode 4 by Shelley Birse

2017 Shortlist: Down Under by Abe Forsythe

Sucker by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessel

The Kettering Incident episode 1 by Victoria Madden

Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

Cleverman Episode 5 “Terra Nullius” by Michael Miller

Multicultural NSW Award

 2017 Winner: The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

2017 Shortlist: Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson

Not Quite Australian: How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation by Peter Mares

Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea by Marie Munkara

Promising Azra Helen Thurloe – on my To Be Read pile.

The Fighter: A True Story by Arnold Zable

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Royall Tyler

2017 Shortlist: J.M.Q Davies

Penny Hueston

Jennifer Lindsay

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translation Prize

 2017 Winner: Jan Owen

2017 Shortlist: Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial Prize Next Awarded in 2018

Last awarded in 2016.

2016 Winners: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

2016 Shortlist: Ghost River by Tony Birch

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dirty Words by Natalie Harkin

Not Just Black and White by Lesley Williams and Tammy Williams

Other Awards:

NSW Prize for Literature

2017 Winner: The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell

People’s Choice Award

 2017 Winner: Vancouver #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earls

 Special Award

 The Special Award was last awarded to Rosie Scott AM in 2016.

Across these twelve categories and the three additional ones, there is a diverse range of authors and stories, that tell of personal experiences, imagined worlds and that draw on history and the world the authors have lived that led them to write these books. Each prize I have looked at so far has shown a different degree of diversity, with this one having a broader range, if only because it has more categories than the others I have looked at. Last year’s winners and nominees are in good company with past winners Peter Carey, David Malouf AO, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally AO and Helen Garner.

Each prize has a different amount of money, and further details can be found in the provided links. In 2018, the total prize money, including sponsored awards is up to $305 000, and to be nominated for any of these awards, the writer and illustrator must be living Australian citizens or hold permanent resident status.

Taken from the website:

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are presented by the NSW Government and administered by the State Library in association with Create NSW. We are pleased to acknowledge the support of Multicultural NSW and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The 2018 winners will be announced on 30 April 2018.The short-list will be announced in March.

Purchase any of the above books here:

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Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2018 Winners

2018 VPLA Victorian Premier's Literary Awards key art tile.jpg

Each year, the State Premiers of Australia nominate several books across several categories for literary awards, and each of the awards are announced at different times, and have different categories.  The Victorian awards were inaugurated in 1985 to honour Australian writing and are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

The Victorian awards are split into five categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and writing for young adults, with one winner in each. Each winner wins $25,000 and they go on to contest the Victorian Prize for Literature. The Premier’s Award also incorporates the Unpublished Manuscript Award, won by Christian White for Decay Theory in 2017, and a biennial Award for Indigenous Writing. Both of these awards go onto contest the Victorian Literary Prize with the other five categories.

People can participate in the awards by voting for their favourite work on the shortlist, and the winner of the People’s Choice Award, which is named alongside the general categories wins $2,000.

In 2018, none of the winners were male or identified as male. Of the five winners, four were women, and one was non-binary – Alison Evans, whose novel, Ida, won The People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were announced on the first of February.

The winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-FictionThe Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for Fiction: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Prize for DramaRiceby Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • The Prize for PoetryArgosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young AdultsLiving on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • People’s Choice AwardIda by Alison Evans (Echo)

Of these, I have Australia Day by Melanie Cheng on my To Be Read list, and am deciding which of the others to explore.

The above winners were chosen and voted for from the following shortlist:

The shortlist

Fiction 

  • A New England Affair by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
  • Australia Day by Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing)
  • The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Choke by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Restorer by Michael Sala (Text Publishing)
  • Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)

Non-fiction

  • The Museum of Words: A Memoir of Language, Writing and Mortality by Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications)
  • Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness by Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing)
  • For a Girl: A True Story of Secrets, Motherhood and Hope by Mary-Rose MacColl (Allen & Unwin)
  • No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow (Scribe Publications)
  • Tracker by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)

Drama

  • Rice by Michele Lee (Playlab)
  • Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui (Sydney Theatre Company)
  • The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany (The Ensemble Theatre)

Poetry

  • Argosy by Bella Li (Vagabond Press)
  • The Metronome by Jennifer Maiden (Giramondo)
  • redactor by Eddie Paterson (Whitmore Press)

Writing for Young Adults

  • Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren (Allen & Unwin)
  • Ida by Alison Evans (Echo)
  • Because of You by Pip Harry (UQP)

Highly commended

Fiction

  • No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
  • Terra Nullius by Claire Coleman (Hachette)
  • Atlantic Black by A.S. Patrić (Transit Lounge)
  • Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington (MidnightSun)

Non-fiction 

  • They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention edited by Michael Green, André Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope (Allen & Unwin)

Poetry

  • I Love Poetry by Michael Farrell (Giramondo)
  • Reading for a Quiet Morning by Petra White (GloriaSMH Press)

Young Adult

  • In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Hardie Grant Egmont)

Reading up on as many of these entries as possible shows that this award strived for diversity too, and in naming four women and one non-binary author as winners, shows the importance of having these voices heard in society, but also the exemplary work these authors have achieved to have been nominated for these awards. Some of the authors on the shortlist were also nominated for the Stella Prize, and are on the 2018 Longlist, and information about this can be found on my post about the 2018 Stella Prize here.

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The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

war saved life.jpgTitle: The War that Saved My Life

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s and YA

Publisher: Text Publishing

Published: 16th May 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: · Winner, Newbery Honor Book, United States, 2016 

  • Winner, Schneider Family Book Award, United States, 2016 
  • Shortlisted, West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award, 2017

An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds, set during World War II.

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room flat. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Miss Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take in the two children. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

~*~

For nine years, Ada has lived in a tiny, one room flat with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, in London. For years she has been confined in this dreary place because of a birth deformity – clubfoot. She receives little care and love from her mother, and all her affection comes from her younger brother, whom she has raised. When war is announced in 1939, all the children of London are evacuated to less populous areas to save them from being bombed by the Germans. For Ada, this is her chance to leave home for good, to escape the horrors of her young life and get out of the dim home she lives in. On her bad foot, she hobbles towards the school, receiving assistance from Stephen White, a neighbour also being evacuated. Unaware of what the outside world is like, both on the journey and arrival in Kent, where they are placed with Susan Smith, and their lives begin to change. Jamie gets to go to school, Ada learns to ride, and they learn what it is to be kept safe, though throughout, Ada feels that there will always be something that will take them away, that this cannot last. The war is present, though never at the forefront of the book, just a threat that lingers as Ada fights her own war against everything her mother has told her she is and breaking down her own barriers to let people in, to learn to read and to find her place in the world. But can Ada’s sanctuary last?

The War that Saved My Life is more than a story of survival in war, it is survival of who Ada is and who she can become, survival of spirit and the land. It is a unique experience of war told through the eyes of a disabled child, who has always been the carer, and never cared for, fearful of a mother who has never loved or wanted her and struggling with a disability that she has been told can never been helped. In this story, there is a harsh reality shown of disability and the way it is seen and treated – the unwillingness of Ada’s mother to help or care for her versus Susan’s desire to keep Ada safe, wanting to help her and wanting to care for her, and the repercussions of nine years of being treated poorly, of being abused, set against the backdrop of a war that killed millions and wounded many more.

Each character has layers that need to be peeled back slowly, and they are. Even though Ada’s PTSD isn’t explained explicitly, it is shown in a way that readers can understand, and that people can relate to, giving people a character that they can see themselves in and representation of what they might have gone through or be feeling. The War that Saved My Life is told in first person format, through Ada’s eyes. The reader can feel and experience what she goes through: feeling trapped, feeling unable to articulate what she is feeling or find the right words, and the way her mind gives her conflicting messages, that she feels she cannot unravel properly.

It is more than a story about World War Two, it a story about the war that Ada fights within herself every day, trying to trust someone who cares for her after all she has been through. It is touching and shows the reality of Ada’s life with her mother. It shows the strength of love between siblings and the love that another can have for someone they aren’t related to.

In a story where the protagonist feels at war with herself and those around her constantly, she copes in the only way she knows how – detaching from a situation and letting herself go into her own world. She learns that there are many ways to love and care for people, and that sometimes, a lie to protect someone is okay, but lying to hurt and humiliate is not. With Susan, Ada learns that there are no absolutes in life, and that she can be helped, that her club foot can be fixed so she can at walk. Ada’s constant disbelief is coloured by the way Mam treated her for so long. It is a war that Ada is determined to win.

A touching story that can be read by all ages, The War that Saved My Life is deserving of the awards it has won and been nominated for. It is a book that shows a different side to the war, and will hopefully become a much-loved classic in years to come.

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Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

wheres jane.jpgTitle: Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories.

Author: Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

Genre: Children’s and Educational

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Murdoch/Quarto UK

Published: 29TH January 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: An introduction to the novels of Jane Austen with the main characters and elusive author hidden in ten beautifully illustrated scenes.

Can you find Jane Austen hidden in ten scenes from her beloved novels? This beautiful new book introduces young children to Austen’s intriguing Georgian and Regency-era world, filled with all the makings of the best stories – sparky humour, legendary showdowns, secrets, love and triumph. Children spot the main characters in ten major scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. First read a snappy synopsis of the story, then explore key stages through a simple, illustrated narrative as you meet the main characters. Next absorb the wonderfully detailed illustrations as you search for the characters and the elusive author in the big and bustling main artworks. Katy Dockrill creates the fun and engaging scenes that house Jane’s immortal characters, from imperious Lady Catherine to timid Fanny Price, wicked Mr Wickham to sensible Elinor Dashwood, and proud Mr Darcy to feisty Elizabeth Bennet.
Getting to know them all will keep young readers enthralled for hours.

~*~

Where’s Jane? By Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill takes Jane Austen’s novels, and translates them into an accessible book and game for young children and readers of the novels. Including ten major scenes from each of Jane Austen’s novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Each summarises the book in the pages before the pictorial scenes, and gives a list of characters to look for on the page before – each scene has a different set from each book, and each scene also contains a pug, and Jane Austen – additional characters to be found amongst a host of many, in some of the best-known stories in English literature today.

The Georgian and Regency world of Jane Austen is full of traditions, and characters that are well known today. Her books are read by millions each yea, and this is a great way to introduce a younger audience to her work and these periods, inviting them to investigate literature beyond the modern stories available when they are ready. It is ideal for ages six-seven and older, as even teenagers and adults will get enjoyment out of this. Knowing some of the stories and characters helps complement this book and in turn, this book will complement a Jane Austen collection as well. A fun afternoon can be spent searching for Darcy, the Bennet family and other popular characters in a delightfully colourful way after or before reading the books by Jane Austen.

The author, Rebecca Smith, is Jane Austen’s five-times great-niece, and has also written other books linked to Jane Austen, including writing guide, The Jane Austen Writer’s Club, reviewed on this blog as well. Using her ancestor’s stories, and together with illustrator, Katy Dockrill, Rebecca has created a delightful new entry and portal into the world of Jane Austen that will delight fans, young and old. It is a nice addition to any library that includes books by and about Jane Austen.

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The Endsister by Penni Russon

the endsisterTitle: The Endsister

Author: Penni Russon

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Unforgettable characters, chaotic family life and an intriguing ghost story combine in this funny, absorbing tale of a family who inherit a mansion on the other side of the world.

‘I know what an endsister is,’ says Sibbi again.
We are endsisters, Else thinks, Sibbi and I. 
Bookends, oldest and youngest, with the three boys sandwiched in between.

Meet the Outhwaite children. There’s teenage Else, the violinist who abandons her violin. There’s nature-loving Clancy. There’s the inseparable twins, Oscar-and-Finn, Finn-and-Oscar. And then there is Sibbi, the baby of the family. They all live contentedly squabbling in a cottage surrounded by trees and possums…until a letter arrives to say they have inherited the old family home in London.

Outhwaite House is full of old shadows and new possibilities. The boys quickly find their feet in London, and Else is hoping to reinvent herself. But Sibbi is misbehaving, growing thinner and paler by the day, and she won’t stop talking about the mysterious endsister. Meanwhile Almost Annie and Hardly Alice, the resident ghosts, are tied to the house for reasons they have long forgotten, watching the world around them change, but never leaving.

The one thing they all agree on – the living and the dead – is never, ever to open the attic door…

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseMoving to London is the last thing Else, and her siblings, Clancy, Oscar, Finn and Sibbi want to do. Mum, or Olly as Else calls her, doesn’t want to either. But when their father, Dave, inherits an old family home, Outhwaite House, in London, the entire family is uprooted from their little cottage surrounded by rolling hills and kangaroos, and taken away from all that is familiar. Else, the oldest of the five children, is the most resistant and rebellious, purposely leaving a much-loved violin behind, feeling stuck in everything. Clancy is in love with nature, and finds a neighbour, Pippa, to share this with, and it seems that the twins fit in, whilst Dad is out every day and Mum is too busy for Sibbi. For Sibbi, the youngest, it seems everyone is too busy for her, and she slowly becomes paler and thinner, and speaks of ghosts. Two ghosts, Almost Annie, and Hardly Alice, have been tied to the house since their deaths in Edwardian and Victorian times, unsure of what keeps them there, and watching the changes in the world pass them by. If there is one thing that the living and the dead agree on: Don’t open the attic door.

The Endsister is part mystery, part ghost story and partly a story about finding yourself and staying true to who you are, and where you belong in the world. Inspired by Penni Russon’s children and stories of her father being a ten-pound Pom in the sixties, this exciting and fantastic book is told from several perspectives, two in first person and two in third person. Else and Clancy tell their experiences in first person, the stark contrast of Else struggling to fit in and find her place against Clancy’s ease at making the move and making friends a reminder of how we all react to change differently and in our own way. The twins, Olly and Dave are almost peripheral characters who pop in and out as needed. The third person perspectives are taken by Almost Annie, Hardly Alice and Sibbi. Almost Annie and Hardly Alice share their chapters, trapped together as observers of the lives of the living, whilst Sibbi, as a four-year-old, shows us the world through the eyes of a child that age, and the effects that the house is having on her, and what the endsister is doing to her, or so she keeps trying to explain to everyone.

Within each perspective, the history of the house, family and the people the characters are, were and will become are slowly revealed, whilst keeping up a good pace at the same time to ensure the intrigue and desire to keep reading remains. The mystery of what is in the attic, and what is happening to the family drive the story through to the conclusion that seems to race at the reader, whilst climbing to the climactic crescendo in short, dramatic scenes that work for this section of the book. As each chapter is a different length, reflecting the age, personality and mood of that specific character, this contributes to the ease of flow throughout the novel and the magic of the words creating distinct personalities for Else, Clancy, Sibbi, Almost Annie and Hardly Alice.

It was such fun meeting these characters and exploring London and the Outhwaite House with them, and it ended in a positive and lovely way that brought a smile to my face and stayed true to the characters throughout the novel. A great read for younger and middle-grade readers, and anyone who enjoys a good story.

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