When The Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth

when the mountains roared.jpgTitle: When The Mountains Roared

Author: Jess Butterworth

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Orion

Published: 10th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 282

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: A vivid, warm and atmospheric adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell.

I thought we’d live here forever … but then, I thought Mum would be here forever too.

When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in a run-down building in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there.

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up.

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if she can only overcome her fears…

~*~

When Ruby arrives home one day, she finds the house in turmoil, with boxes and suitcases half packed. Her father announces they are moving to India, and she needs to pack her own bags. At twelve, Ruby wants nothing to do with this move – she wants to stay in Australia, the only home she knows. To leave now feels like she’d be leaving the memories of her mum, and it also means leaving all her friends and not being able to see them again. When intruders force the family to flee and leave earlier than planned. Soon, they are on a ship, with their dog, Polly, and a baby kangaroo in tow, sailing across the sea to a new life, and a new venture in India.

But the hotel Ruby’s father has been asked to run is not all that it seems. High up in the Himalayas, stories of previous owners being plagued by a vengeful mountain goddess abound, and the stories lend themselves to more sinister goings on, and hint at tragedy when Ruby and her new friend, Praveen, discover what Dad’s bosses are truly up to, and find out about the poaching of the majestic snow leopards. Ruby vows to do all she can to save them – if she can overcome her fears.

Jess Butterworth has again created a story, set in the Himalayas and India, where the characters are full of life and complex, and deals with issues of poaching, and what happens when someone gets involved with the wrong people in a clever and accessible way for younger audiences. Grief is explored through Ruby’s reaction to her move and the changes in her life – how she responds to the dark, and going to sleep, and of cars. But this hurried move, and the smuggled joey, and quest to uncover her dad’s secret drives Ruby to overcome her fears. Together with Praveen and her grandmother, Ruby will follow her heart, and instincts, and use her photography talents to bring some rather evil men to justice.

When The Mountains Roared has diverse characters, and a setting that is vastly different to what many readers will have experienced, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it – it allows the reader to travel without leaving the comfort of home, and go on an adventure with Ruby and Praveen to save the snow leopards of the mountains that they call home, and save Ruby’s dad from getting into trouble with men like the ones who drove them from their home in Australia.

A great read for middle grade and younger teen readers, or anyone who enjoys a good story.

Booktopia

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I Am Sasha by Anita Selzer

I am Sasha.jpgTitle: I Am Sasha

Author: Anita Selzer

Genre: Historical Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published:  2nd April, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 325

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: One boy’s extraordinary experience of wartime survival. One mother’s incredible courage. Based on an astounding true story.  It is German-occupied Poland in 1942, and Jewish lives are at risk. Nazi soldiers order young boys to pull down their trousers to see if they are circumcised. Many are summarily shot or sent to the camps.
A devoted mother takes an ingenious step. To avoid suspicion, she trains her teenage son the be a girl: his clothing, voice, hair, manners and more. Together, mother and son face incredible odds as their story sweeps backwards and forwards across occupied Europe.

~*~

Based on a true story, I am Sasha is the story of the author’s father, who spent his teenage years from 1942-1944, after the Soviet liberation of Poland, hiding as a girl, under false papers that also hid his, and his mother’s Jewish identity from the Nazis as they marched and invaded their way across Europe. Larissa, Sasha’s mother, ensures his safety as they move back and forth between Polish towns, avoiding the ghettos and transports to camp. After seeing what happens to boys from their hiding place in a barn, Larissa concocts a plan to turn Sasha into a girl – Sala – to keep him safe. Their lives are constantly under threat though, and they’re always moving finding new places to live and settle, until they find somewhere they are able to stay until the Soviets liberate Poland, and a place where Sasha’s mother begins work for the Zegota, a Jewish underground resistance that helps Jewish people escape the Nazis.

At the end of the war, their story is followed until their arrival in Australia, and their reconnections with their family, friends and the new friends they make in the displacement and refugee camps as they journey to their new home in Melbourne.

AWW-2018-badge-roseI am Sasha was inspired by a family’s history, a grandmother’s memoir and a father’s short story, given to a daughter and granddaughter to retell for the world. In 1994, Larissa gave Anita the manuscript, written in English – because she wanted to reach as many people as possible with her story, explaining to Anita that she wrote it in English to reach a wide audience – an audience that would include those affected and those not affected, and those all over the world who wanted to know more.

It is a story of sacrifice and the drive to do whatever one can to survive, whilst witnessing the depravity of humanity, and what humans are capable of at their worst, but also, what people will risk to save themselves, and keep others safe – what they will sacrifice or potentially lose just to keep friends safe – as Bella, Larissa’s gentile friend did for Larissa and Sasha throughout the years, before disappearing to Warsaw shortly before the end of the war.

Larissa and Sasha showed great resilience through their years of hiding and Sasha pretending to be a girl – Sala – under false papers, in a regime where you never knew who you could trust and where your landlady, or neighbours could turn you into the Gestapo at any time, on the mere suspicion of being Jewish, or a Communist or anyone who was against the Nazi regime. It is just one of many stories about the Holocaust and the horrors of World War Two around today.

Never forget are the final two words in the author’s note, and the horrors of the Holocaust, of stories like Sasha’s, Anne Frank and many more are a part of history we should never forget, and never let happen again. We should never forget the millions of people the Nazi’s persecuted based on religion, race, politics, sexuality or anyone who simply tried to resist them, and the brutality that these people faced, and the survival stories as well as the tragic ends. None of this should be forgotten. This is why Sasha’s story is an important one, and why it was important for Anita, his daughter, to tell.

Stories like this remind us of why we must resist regimes and abuse, and why we must speak out and stand up for what we believe in, because otherwise, the people who commit these atrocities and who support them win. I found this story to be powerful and moving, and as such, I read it very quickly. Whilst it is aimed at a Young Adult audience, I feel anyone interested will be able to read this and understand it.

Booktopia

Book Bingo Six: A Book With a One-word title, a book published more than ten years ago. 

book bingo 2018.jpg

Only two books for today’s book bingo post – both of which fit into one of the categories I am filling today, and two more rows have a bingo – Row One Across:

Row #1 – – BINGO

 

A book set more than 100 years ago: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham – AWW2018

A book written more than ten years ago: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018

A memoir: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book more than 500 pages: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

A Foreign translated novel: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner (translated by Niall Seller)

And Row Two down.

Row #2 – BINGO

 

A book written more than ten years ago: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018

A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book with a one-word title:Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018, Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book based on a true story: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

The first square that I filled for this week is a book with a one-word title, and there happened to be two books that filled this square, with one of them filling the other completed square. First, Munmun by American author, Jesse Andrews, a new release book where, in a satirical world based on America, your height is related to your wealth, and where littlepoors struggle to climb up the wealth ladder whilst being blamed for their standing in the society – a reflection on how society treats the vulnerable today. I reviewed it several weeks ago on the blog, and wasn’t overwhelmed by it, though the premise was interesting and there were times that the execution worked well, though I still found some aspects could have been reworked to have a similar effect.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Second is an old favourite, Thunderwith, which fits two squares this week. I first encountered this book in 1998 and still have the same copy that has been sitting on my shelf for twenty years. I’ve been trying to fill each square with at least one book, but this square had so many options, I felt that at least two would work. I also entered Thunderwith into the published more than ten years ago square – it was published twenty-eight years ago in 1990. Lara’s story has layers of emotion that many can relate to, and is set in the Australian bush, in an area a few hours north of me, so reading the familiar names of places I have visited is always enjoyable. I’ve reviewed it here.

So that’s my sixth book bingo of the year, and I’m off to see how Mrs B and Theresa Smith are doing with theirs!

Booktopia

Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn

thunderwith 2Title: Thunderwith

Author: Libby Hathorn

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian Children’s Books

Published: First published in 1990, current edition published 2015.

Format: Paperback

Pages: 217

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A modern Australian classic from bestselling author Libby Hathorn, now with a new, contemporary jacket in celebration of its twenty-fifth anniversary.

Lara feels completely alone after her mother’s death. She moves to the bush to live with her father, but his new family make her feel like an intruder, and a bully makes school just as unwelcoming. With the appearance of the mysterious dog Thunderwith, Lara begins to feel a connection to this harsh place. Will it ever feel like home – and will her stepmother and half-siblings ever feel like family?

THUNDERWITH has won numerous awards, including the Children’s Book Council Honour Book Award (1990), the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (1991) and was also adapted into the classic TV movie THE ECHO OF THUNDER, starring Judy Davis, who was nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Gladwyn.

THUNDERWITH was directly inspired by Libby’s family holidays in the Wallingat rainforest: ‘One night there was a huge storm and when I looked out of the window, this big black dog ran across the clearing, a very proud and wonderful-looking animal. Afterwards, when I climbed back into the bunk where I had been sleeping, there seemed to be this chanting thing going on between the thunder and the rain on the roof, “Thunderwith, Thunderwith.” By morning, I had a story.’

~*~

thunderwith 1Following the death of her mother, Cheryl, Lara moves to the Wallingat with her father, and his new family – Gladwyn, and four children: Pearl, Garnet, Opal and Jasper. She feels completely alone: Gladwyn and eldest daughter Pearl seem to hate her, her father, Larry is so often away, and school presents more problems in the face of school bully, Gowd Gadrey. When exploring the bushland behind the property one day during a storm, a dog appears. As he appears, Lara chants “With thunder you’ll come, and with thunder you’ll go,” – and names the dog Thunderwith. As she battles bullying at school and indifference from her new family, Lara finds solace in Thunderwith as she searches for her mother’s spirit, feeling as though she has been abandoned. Her only refuge is the library, and the Aboriginal story teller, Neil, who seems to understand Lara and the way she feels and becomes a great source of comfort to her. When tragedy strikes, Lara is faced with a tough decision, and the sense that this tragedy could tear the family apart or bring them closer together.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe first time I encountered Thunderwith, was in my year six class, where we read it as a group. There was something magical about it, and twenty years later, after having read it multiple times, it is still there. I loved it in class so much, I wanted my own copy – I wanted to read it on my own as well, and have done so many times over the years, that my book is creased, with yellowed pages, but still intact, and still ready to be read again. It was the first Young Adult book I ever read – though I didn’t know that was the category it fitted into at the time. I fell in love with Thunderwith, the book and the dog – an amazing dog, and filled with amazing, diverse and complex characters whose secrets are slowly revealed.

It is a story of love – the love for family, mostly. Lara’s love for her mother drives her, and the love she received as a child is so easily shared with her new siblings. Lara’s courage and love shines through, as she adjusts to her new home, new life and new school across several months, and a single school term. It is one I have loved and enjoyed for a long time, and that will always be a favourite.

Booktopia

Some of the authors appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival…

It’s that time of year again, when the programs and author schedules for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival are announced. Held between the first and the sixth of May, mostly at Carriageworks but with some events at a variety of other places around Sydney, there will be many events to choose from, and many authors to meet and hear speak.

Below is a sampling of the authors published by Hachette who will be attending this year, which has a diverse and intriguing calendar of events that I am sure will sell out quickly! So here are some of the authors appearing, and when and where they will be appearing.

American author, Jennifer Egan, author of Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus,The Keep,Look at Me, Black Box,A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Manhattan Beach. Jennifer will be appearing at the following events, all in Bay 17 at Carriageworks.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 3pm – On the Record: Historical Fiction

Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm – Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach

Sunday the 6th of May at 6pm: Closing Address: Jennifer Egan.

Also from America, Zack McDermott, author of Gorilla and the Bird, will be appearing on the following dates at the following locations:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20: The Full Catastrophe

Friday, the 4th of May, at 11.30am, Carriageworks, Track 8: Zack McDermott: Gorilla and the Bird

Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky, also from America, will be appearing at four different events over the course of the week, all at Carriageworks, where the majority of the events are held.

Tuesday, the 1st of May at 6.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo

Friday the 4th of May, 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Conflicting Narratives

Saturday, the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Resisting Unjust Authority

Sunday, the 6th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community art s worker will also be appearing. His book, The Lebs, is about breaking down stereotypes and showing people that a small minority don’t determine the majority of a culture. Michael will be appearing at the following events at the Seymour Centre, and the Riverside Theatres.

Monday, the 30th of April, at 9.30am, Seymour Centre, Workshop Room 1: Michael Mohammed Ahmad: Good Writing versus Bad Writing.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 11.15am Seymour Centre York Theatre: Student Session: The Next Wave.

Friday, the 4th of May, Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge, 4.30PM: New Australian Voices.

Saturday, the 5th of May, Riverside Theatres, Lennox Theatre, 10am: From the Sidelines AND at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing.

Walkley Award winning journalist, Michael Brissenden will also be appearing at the festival, at will have one event at the Seymour Centre.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 1.30pm, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Straight from the Headlines,

The third Australian author published by Hachette to appear is Indigenous author, Claire G Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction looking at the concept of invasion and settlement, using aliens taking over the world as a metaphor and symbol. It was an interesting and eye-opening book to read, my review is here. Claire will be appearing at three events across each precinct of the festival.

terra nullius

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Home Truths: Telling Australian Stories.

Friday the 4th of May, at 11.30am at Carriageworks Blacksmith’s Workshop: Claire G Coleman: On Fiction, Villains and the Nature of Evil

Saturday the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Riverside Theatres: Architects of New Worlds.

fairvale

Another Australian author appearing at the festival is Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, reviewed on this blog as well and it, and the previous book, Terra Nullius, were included in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge last year. Sophie will be appearing at one event this year.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Family Ties.

Royce Kurmelovs is another author appearing, and he has written the following books: Death of Holden, Rogue Nation, and Boom and Bust (2018). He will be appearing at an event about the rise of Australian populism.

Saturday the 6th of May, at 11.30 at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre: The Rise of Australian Populism.

Peter Polites, author of Down the Hume will also be in attendance at the following events and is another new Australian author whose book has come out recently.

Peter will be appearing at two events this year:

Saturday, the 5th of May at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing, with Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Sunday, the 6th of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge: Pajtim Statovci: My Cat Yugoslavia

Award winning journalist, Hugh Riminton, a news presenter and foreign correspondent, will be at the festival chatting about his book, Minefields. Hugh will be appearing at three events across the week of the festival.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Becoming the Story.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Hurstville Library: Hugh Riminton: Minefields/

Saturday, the 5th of May, 11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Peter Greste: The First Casualty.

Michael Robotham will also be appearing, and has written the following books: The Suspect,The Drowning Man, The Night Ferry Shatter,Bombproof,Bleed For Me,The Wreckage,Say You’re Sorry, Watching You,Life or Death,Close Your Eyes,The Secret She Keeps, and The Other Wife (2018).  Michael will be appearing at the following events:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 1.30pm at Carriageworks, Blacksmith’s Workshop: Michael Robotham: On Plotting the Perfect Crime.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 6.30pm at Blacktown City Max Webber Library: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 10.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall: Jane Harper: Force of Nature.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Gabriel Talent: My Absolute Darling.

Sha’an d’Anthes, a new Australian author based in Sydney who has had a career as an artist and illustrator and has travelled all over the world. She will be speaking at two events on the final day of the festival. Her picture book, Zoom, was published by Hachette Australia.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May at 2.15pm. Carriageworks, Track 8: Illustrator Battle Grounds.

Libby Hathorn, well known Australian author of books for children and young adults will also be appearing. Some of her books are: Thunderwith, The Blue Dress, Georgiana, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Volcano Boy, The Painter, Feral Kid, Chrysalis, Love Me Tender, Eventual Poppy Day, A Soldier, A Dog and A Boy, and Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

eventual poppy day

Libby will be appearing at the following events:

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 11.15am, Carriageworks, Track 12: Outside: A Feast of the Senses.

Binny Talib will also be appearing, at the same event as Libby Hathorn and Sha’an d’Anthes on the Sunday morning of the festival. Binny has two books published by Hachette Australia, Origami Heart and Hark It’s Me, Ruby Lee!

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Another Australian author to appear will be Shaun Tan. who has worked in theatre and films as concept artists and designers. His works include Lost Thing, Memorial, The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Viewer, Rules of Summer, The Arrival (an acclaimed wordless novel), and Cicada, published in 2018. Shaun will be appearing at one event on the Saturday.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 3pm, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: Bringing Imaginary Worlds to Life.

Hachette’s final author to be appearing is Debra Tindall, author of The Scared Book. she began her career as a social worker before becoming an author. The Scared Book is a CBCA notable book for children. She will be appearing at the same event as Libby Hathorn, Binny Talib and Sha’an d’Anthes.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Check out the Sydney Writer’s Festival website for more events and authors.

Booktopia

The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun (Book #2) by Emily Conolan

touch the sky.jpgTitle: The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun (Book #2)

Author: Emily Conolan

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Choose your own destiny and step into the shoes of a Somalian boy escaping war-torn Mogadishu for Australia in 2011 in this exciting interactive series.

To find freedom, you must leave behind everything you’ve ever known.

It is 2011. You want nothing more than to be a journalist in Somalia like your aunty. But the truth can be dangerous – and when you and your little sister are left alone, you find yourself facing life-and-death choices at every turn.

Can you escape a terrorist organisation and find a safe place to call home? You’ll be asked to cross a desert on foot, hide below deck in a leaky boat, and put your life in the hands of people smugglers.

At every turn, the choice is yours. How far will you go for freedom?

Author bio:

Emily Conolan is a writer and teacher, who is also known for her humanitarian work. For her role in establishing a volunteer support network for asylum seekers in Tasmania, she has been awarded Tasmanian of the Year, Hobart Citizen of the Year, and the Tasmanian Human Rights Award. The stories of courage and resilience she has heard in the course of her work with refugees, combined with tales from her own family history, inspired her to write the Freedom Finders series. Emily has never escaped from terrorists or risked her life on a leaky boat, but she has been inside immigration detention and does own a pen with a secret compartment inside.

~*~

The Freedom Finders is a new series of books, that use the Choose Your Own Adventure, or for this series, Choose Your Own Destiny. Two are coming out in April this year, Break Your Chains, set in 1825, where you’re an Irish girl trying to get from London to Australia, and the second, which I was sent to review by the publisher, Touch The Sky, set in 2011, where you are a Somalian boy escaping Mogadishu for Australia.

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn Touch The Sky, you are the main character, as you and your sister, Jamilah are forced to run from a group called al-Shabaab that is after your aunt, and when they can’t find her, they come for you. The choices you make as you read will determine the outcome, and the pace at which your story ends, and where. As a Choose Your Own Destiny book, you are given the chance to try again, and there are fact sheets at the back relating to refugees, people smuggling, and the struggles and complexities faced by those who go through this process. It is an experience, an interactive story that evokes a range of emotions: fear, horror, empathy and a desire to get through every adversity and barrier that is thrown your way. In reading it, I tested out a few different outcomes, and went back and forth during the book to discover what would happen if I picked a certain option over another – and not every option led to a desirable outcome. Though some took me to the same place twice, choosing a different outcome changed everything, and I could be sent back to the last decision I made to try again.

Because you as the reader are making the choices, it is written in second person, which is effective for this kind of interactive book, a format I haven’t seen for a while, and that can be quite fun, or in this case, educational as well, teaching readers about what refugees go through and how they are treated, and what they sometimes have to do just to survive their world. It is moving, and the journey is not easy, nor are the choices that you as the reader have to make: they are often life and death and filled with uncertainty. But which of these will get you to freedom and reunite you with your family?

Having not read a book in this format for a very long time, and also, not having read many as a child, I found this to be an interesting exercise in engaging the reader. It definitely kept me just as hooked and intrigued as if it had just been a novel telling the story. By involving the reader in this kind of story, it evokes empathy within them and helps them gain an understanding beyond what is presented by other sources. It is about choices; freedom and the lengths people will go to reveal the truth to people who don’t understand or are trying to understand – and the risks taken to get dangerous information to the right people. I am hoping to read the other book that is to be published at the same time, Break Your Chains, to see what happens there.

This is a great book for anyone aged nine and older, to gain an understanding of what really happens, and how it happens, and why these people are driven to such desperate measures. It can begin a conversation and be used as an educational tool to teach school students about refugees and human rights, and possibly make people question their preconceptions and understanding of the refugee situation.

Booktopia

Munmun by Jesse Andrews

Munmun.jpgTitle: Munmun

Author: Jesse Andrews

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 416

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A pointed, amusing and highly-original story set in an alternate reality wherein every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth, by the best-selling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers. Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute – and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter – there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small.

Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?

From the bestselling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes a brilliant, warm, skewering social novel for our times in the tradition of Great Expectations, 1984 and Invisible Man.

~*~

Munmun is a satirical, tongue in cheek story about wealth, and the privileges that come with it. As littlepoors – the smallest on the scale of wealth, Warner and his sister (consistently referred to as sis throughout). Prayer, have no power. They’ve got no way of working their way to a higher scale. But when an opportunity arises for them to leave where they have lived their whole lives, and start a journey to scale up, they take the chance, and traverse the strange country that is the Yewess, with places with names like Wet Almanac, and two different worlds – LifeandDeath World – Day and Dreamworld -Night. It is a world where wealth, education and opportunity is proportionate to size, an alternate world much like our own, but also a bit of a dystopia, where no matter how much some people have, it will never be enough, mirroring some of the attitudes in the world today, and where the bigrich look down on the littlepoors for not trying harder, even though those higher up on the scale don’t try to help them, but rather, blame them for the situation life has put them in.

it is narrated by Warner, and we see the world of each scale level through his eyes, from the littlepoor to the highest rich scale and beyond – and his journey to getting Scaled Up so he can make something of himself, but he thwarts every opportunity those in the middle present him with – or so it seems, on his quest to better the lives of those like him.

At times reading this, I wondered where the story was, and where the character growth – other than physically Scaling Up was. The mashed together words and the way Warner spoke worked at first, but once everyone, even those who had more education in the book than him did it, I began to wonder if that was the way Warner heard them, or whether the entire fictional nation spoke like that. For Warner, it worked, as it was him telling the story – though having everyone else speak exactly like him left little room for character growth and development, which would have added to the novel – which has the promise of being amusing whilst still being an allegory for the greed in the world today.

It is definitely a satirical allegory of society today – and that aspect worked really well, showing how greed affects people and what some people are willing to do to have it all, and the lengths they will go to. I did find the consistently mashed together words distracting if I put the book down, so I read whole chunks in a single sitting because that ensured the flow of the way the characters spoke and spoke about their world – putting it aside meant I needed a few pages to get used to it again, however, I feel for the purposes of the satire, it has worked – even the misspellings worked and were mostly understandable, as most of them were related to cities or countries, and it was as though we were reading Warner’s thought patterns and the way he understood spoken words as opposed to written words.

At times, the mashed together words worked, and at times, they didn’t – perhaps allowing other characters to not do this would also have been an effective way to show the differences in speech patterns for classes in society.

Overall, it was a rather strange book, not quite what I usually read. The premise is interesting, and the plot seemed to be rushed in places, especially the end. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m not sure – but in a way it worked because whilst the first few parts related Warner’s struggles, the last part was focussed on how munmun had made him greedy – and the implications of this in a society where it’s okay to Scale Up, but shh, don’t Scale Up too much, that’s too greedy, which felt reminiscent of some of the things said today by politicians, which is why this works as a political allegory because it shows there is no perfect life and no perfect ending, which for a dystopian novel that also reads as a satirical allegory, works well.

It’s marketed towards the higher end of the YA market, and can be a little dark. Not my favourite read of the year, however it is an interesting one that might provoke some interesting discussions.

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