Sky by Ondine Sherman

SKY-final-257PX-194x300.pngTitle: Sky

Author: Ondine Sherman

Genre: YA

Publisher: The Author People

Published: 28th June, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 166

Price: $18.99

Synopsis: Sometimes you have to lose everything to find yourself.

After her mother’s death, Sky leaves her city life to move in with her aunt and uncle in a small Australian town. But the city isn’t all that she leaves behind. Trying to fit in with her new friends means doing things she never dreamt she’d do.

Just as she thinks everything is starting to feel normal, Sky stumbles on a case of animal cruelty that forces her to make some tough decisions.

Will Sky risk everything to stand up for what she believes in?

~*~

After the death of her mother, and removal to a small country town from the city, Sky is left with an empty, desolate feeling, a sense of disconnect from everyone and everything, including her aunt and uncle who have taken her in as guardians, and the sensation that she is losing her identity, and who she is, as well as her convictions about animal rights, and being vegan. Terrified of the isolation that comes with being a teenager and the new girl in school, Sky hides what she is passionate about in an attempt to fit in, and get in with the popular crowd – something that many teenagers feel during the turbulent years where they can sacrifice any part of themselves – interests, convictions, beliefs – in an attempt to fit in. Sky is torn between doing the right thing – staying true to herself and befriending Lucy, a less popular girl, but one who shares Sky’s passions – and joining in with the popular crowd, which means becoming a hypocrite.

aww2017-badgeAs well as this, Sky has been interacting online with a fellow vegan, and a boy at school who is also a devoted animal lover – could they be the same? This love story evolves as the story goes on, and does not dominate Sky’s thoughts – she is in mourning and the evolution of the story reflects this, and the reader’s ability to pause and think about these issues, but also, gives them the freedom to make their own choices as well.

Ondine Sherman has written a novel that reflects her beliefs but also reflects the nature of humans and the contradictions and challenges they face after death and in new places, and within themselves. Whilst Sky does speak a lot about being vegan and animal cruelty, rather than trying to convert the reader, Sherman shows one aspect of the fight for animal rights, and she does it well. With an open ending, leaving much to the imagination of the reader, I found that this worked for Sky and her story, and left off in a place where, like many people, she was left in a state of indecision.

Starting this novel, I wasn’t sure if I would connect with it or enjoy it, but found that like any novel, it had good points and bad points, and it is a powerful story about finding out who you are, and staying true to yourself, finding a family and finding friends who will always stand by you. At times I did find Sky annoying, but the popular girls were more annoying, and I did like that Sky stood up for what she believed in but at the same time, I also felt that she accepted that not everyone would agree with her all the time.

The power of this novel lies in its ability to communicate a message about what the author believes but also, a general message about being who you are. It may not be one I will revisit right away, but it was an unexpected and interesting read that had a story behind the story, and that fits in with the philosophy of The Author People and Lou Johnson.

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The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky

the blue cat.jpg

Title: The Blue Cat

Author: Ursula Dubosarsky

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: From the multi-award-winning author of The Red Shoe comes a haunting story about a boy who can’t – or won’t – speak about his past in war-torn Europe, and his friendship with a young Australian girl.

A boy stood in the playground under the big fig tree. ‘He can’t speak English,’ the children whispered.

Sydney, 1942. The war is coming to Australia – not only with the threat of bombardment, but also the arrival of refugees from Europe. Dreamy Columba’s world is growing larger. She is drawn to Ellery, the little boy from far away, and, together with her highly practical best friend Hilda, the three children embark on an adventure through the harbour-side streets – a journey of discovery and terror, in pursuit of the mysterious blue cat …

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky is a glimpse into a world affected by war through the eyes of children. The main character, Columba, is a dreamy, curious child, who notices the strange boy, Ellery at school during the early part of 1942. A blue cat, sleek and mysterious, has appeared at her neighbour’s house. The arrival of Ellery and the cat spark a curiosity in Columba that has her asking more questions, wanting to know more about the world as she tries to become Ellery’s friend. Columba’s friend, Hilda, is the realist, the pushy one out collecting money for the war effort, and isn’t as dreamy as Columba.

Ellery’s arrival hints that war is closer to home than everyone thought. He is mysterious and quiet, and doesn’t speak English – through the eyes of a child, he is strange, a mystery and yet, someone that Columba sees is in need of a friend. Though they do not talk, they become friends, something Ellery’s father finds pleasing for his son, lost in a new world without a mother. The story culminates in a search for the mysterious blue cat, and events that bring the war and the realities of what that means closer to home for Columba.

The Blue Cat is dreamy, and has a fairy tale feeling about it – as though the blue cat is not quite real. This fits with the dreamy sense I got from Columba, and also the childlike ways of understanding the war – You-Rope for Europe, said phonetically perhaps, as a child might say it. I found there was a sense of magic about it – the threat is real, especially during the air raid siren practice when Columba and Ellery are out walking, and yet, it retains some of the innocence of childhood, though it is scarred by a war that is so far away yet in other ways, so close to the characters.

The Blue Cat combines history with a sense of dreaming, placing the characters in a world where sometimes their imaginations help to get them through the day, but at the same time, the reality of war will always be there. Prisoners of war, bombs and people like Ellery, hiding away, hoping for safety away from the dangers of a nation far away. Throughout the book, Ursula Dubosarsky incorporated primary sources from the time period, which added to the reading experience and gave Columba’s story an authentic feel, and added to the gravity of the situation and reality that the characters were living. An enjoyable novel showing war through the eyes of a child, and a good read for children aged ten and over.

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

frogkisser.jpgTitle: Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 22nd February, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A rollicking fantasy-adventure by the master of children’s speculative fiction.

Talking dogs. Mischievous wizards. An evil stepstepfather. Loads and loads of toads. Such is the life of a Frogkisser.

Princess Anya needs to see a wizard about a frog. It’s not her frog, it’s her sister’s. And it’s not a frog, it’s actually a prince. A prince who was once in love with Anya’s sister, but has now been turned into a frog by their evil stepstepfather. And Anya has made a ‘sister promise’ that she will find a way to return Prince Denholm to human form…

So begins an exciting, hilarious, irreverent quest through the Kingdom of Trallonia and out the other side, in a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs.

~*~

Frogkisser is a fairy tale for all. When Prince Denholm is turned into a frog by the stepstepfather, Rikard, of Morven and Anya, Anya’s sister promise to Morven to find him and turn him back into a human. And so, Anya sets out on a Quest, with Royal Dog Ardent, a newt called Shrub, who was once a boy and Otter-Maiden, Smoothie, to find the ingredients for the lip balm needed to reverse transmogrifications. She needs to see a wizard, and meets up with the Seven Dwarves, and the Association of Responsible Robbers, to help up hold the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs, that Duke Rikard and the League of Right-Minded Sorcerers are trying to do away with. As Anya and Ardent embark on their Quest, The Kingdom of Trallonia is under the control of the Duke, and it is up to Anya and Ardent, along with those they meet along the way and rescue, to ensure the Duke doesn’t succeed.

Usually a fairy tale involves a prince saving a princess. However, in Frogkisser, it is Princess Anya who is destined to be the one to save the prince and go on the Quest, aided by faithful dog, Ardent. Anya is content to sit in the library reading and learning about magic – she wants to be a sorcerer, but perhaps this Quest, and what Duke Rikard does, will change her mind. In this fractured fairy tale, Anya is the one with the most agency – and is just as flawed as any other character, but it is what she does with those flaws and the knowledge she has that make her the hero of the novel.

Each character had quirks and flaws that made them complete, especially those on the Quest, such as Anya, The Good Wizard, Ardent, Smoothie and Scrub. Even Bert, the head of the Association of Responsible Robbers (ARR) was neither wholly good or bad – rather, she knew what she wanted to do, yet gave Anya fair warning of her plans. I enjoyed Anya’s growth over the book, and how she learnt to deal with unexpected changes in her Quest. She is a wonderful character, and a lot of fun. Definitely not a typical princess who waits to be saved – she does the saving herself. She is also human with human flaws and interests that make her relatable, and her trusty talking dog, Ardent, is the most adorable sidekick and Quest companion ever. He became my favourite character.

Garth Nix has combined traditional fairy tale and fantasy tropes with a mixture of well known fairy tale characters and myths, but turned them on their head: The Good Wizard is a woman, as is the Robin Hood character – Roberta, or Bert. The male and female characters for the most part work together efficiently and without question. The final chapters and climax were unexpected in some ways, but lovely in their execution. It is a delightful novel, and though aimed at a Young Adult audience, can be enjoyed by anyone who likes their fairy tales with a twist. I hope to revisit this novel soon.