Book Bingo 13 – a book with non-human characters

Book bingo take 2

Book bingo Saturday again – round two, post thirteen of the year for the challenge. To mark off the non-human characters square, I have gone to a book I wrote a quiz for as part of my quiz writer job with Scholastic that fits the category of a book with non-human characters:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

A Home for MollyA Home for Molly is about a young puppy called Molly – who has been left behind at a beachside town by her owners and forgotten. She befriends two girls – Anya and Rachel, ad plays with them on the beach. When it comes time to go home, each girl leaves with her family, thinking that Molly belongs to the other. Molly’s search for a home, and Anya and Rachel try and help her – before their holidays end and they have to go home. Neither wants to leave Molly alone, but who does she belong to – or will she find a new home with Anya or Rachel?Beast world

A home for Molly is a sweet story, with a sweet ending and fits this category quite well. Molly’s perspective of her world is charmingly written, and I felt as small as Molly did when trying to navigate her world. Molly is an adorable character, and though the story is also about Anya and her desire for a dog and to help Molly, it fits into the category of non-human character quite nicely.

Of the many books I have read, this was always the category I knew I wasn’t sure how I would fill. Animals – I had a few ideas here, such as Paddington, Animal Farm, and a few that had peripheral animal characters. Other options would have been aliens, cyborgs or robots – I received one by George Ivanoff called Beast World that also fits into this category – which is a steampunk London ruled by animals in a world where humans are extinct, which is accessed through a portal and is part of a series – which I have also been writing quizzes for and hope to write on the last two books in the series which came out recently.

I chose these two books because animals were front and centre, and main characters the reader sees the story through rather than a peripheral character who are often seen through the lens of the human characters. Whilst these two books are not by Australian Women Writers, there are many others that will be. I’m not sure how I will fill some squares the second time around, but by ticking off what I can first, hopefully I will manage to wokr out the trickier ones.

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Other Worlds 2: Beast World by George Ivanoff

Beast worldTitle: Other Worlds 2: Beast World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 203

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Xandra finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
She and her brother are sucked through . . .

Into a crazy world that looks like steampunk London. Except in this world there are no humans – only animals. Xandra and Lex encounter rhino police, armadillo housekeeping staff, rodent inventors and even a lion on the throne. Here humans are the endangered species!

Will Xandra and Lex survive Beast World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Continuing the Other Worlds series, Xandra and Lex Volodin are on a school excursion when they get sucked into a painting in the museum. Xandra’s wheelchair is left behind – and once in the new world, they encounter a steampunk London – where animals rule, and live, and where humans are relegated to myths alongside unicorns and Basilisks. Here, Xandra must explain her muscular dystrophy, and get help from Nikole Telsa, a coypu, who is an inventor, and Archie, a friendly llama, to foil a plan by a carnivorous tortoise in a world were even tigers are vegetarians. Lady Mimsy is after Queen Victoria – and Lord Grimsby is after her crown – so tigers can rule instead of lions. Whilst Xandra and Lex are in this world, they must work to stop Grimsby and Mimsy before they can go home, and back to their lives in their world.

Book two of the Other Worlds series, also one I wrote a quiz for, is so far my favourite of the series. I loved the steampunk world, and I adored Telsa and Archie – they were adorable, brave and worked with Xandra and Lex nicely. Like Perfect World, Beast World shows diversity and difference, and puts a spin on the way portal worlds are portrayed. This unique and fun story has animals in clothes as Lords and Ladies in a Victorian London setting, and uses the dynamics of the human world in the animal world to illustrate how different people will do anything to attain their goals. a fun story, and I hope other people enjoy it as much as I did.

I loved Xandra because she didn’t let her disability define her, but she still struggled with the constraints of it, especially once through the portal without her wheel chair. The exoskeleton she uses in Beast World gives her a freedom that the chair doesn’t, yet she shows that whatever she uses to get around, she’s just as capable as anyone else – a powerful message to send, and a fabulous character sending it.

Other Worlds 1: Perfect World by George Ivanoff

perfect worldTitle: Other Worlds 1: Perfect World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Science Fiction, Children’s books

Publisher: Random House Australia/Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages:192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Keagan finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
He steps through . . .

Into a weird world of clones who are obsessed with perfection. But this world isn’t as perfect as it seems. Keagan is determined to return home – all he has to do is find a way out of the city, survive the Dumping Ground and outsmart a bunch of rogue clones!

Will Keagan escape Perfect World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Keagan enjoys playing video games with his best friend, Ravi, reading and creating websites, but on the day his mum asks him to go and buy her some pickles while she is out, he stumbles across a shop called Matilda’s Collectibles, and he is drawn to it like a magnet – as though something within is summoning him to step inside and discover the miraculous things inside. What greets him is a dark and dingy store, complete with glass cabinet and a number of clichés he’s encountered in writing – including the strange old woman – Matilda. Within moments, he grabs a falling computer chip disguised as a key, and is transported into a sci-fi world from his computer games – Perfect World – were everything is perfect – five clones for each generation, and where the clones who have imperfections are sent to the Dumping Ground. Here, he is quarantined, studied and dumped through a garbage chute, where he meets Eone and the rest of the Refuse. He falls into a plot by one named Befour to start a revolution and take over Perfect World. Can Keagan stop Befour, teach the clones the lessons they need to learn and get home before his Mum notices he is missing?

This is another book I received from Scholastic to write a quiz for – and it is aimed at 8 years and older, up to upper primary. The first in a series of four, Perfect World explores ideas of perfection and imperfection, sameness and differences, and diversity. It is the kind of book that any child or reader can relate to and put themselves in Keagan’s shoes. A fun read, it encourages being yourself and not doing what everyone else does just to fit in – the clones of Perfect World are the antithesis of what Keagan believes but, in a world, where perfection and being the same goes so far, the generations speak in unison – which Keagan finds quite unnerving.

What I enjoyed about this book was that Keagan remained true to who he was, but at the same time, used his knowledge to translate his sense of self, and individuality into terms that the clones could understand – at least the ones not trying to take over things.

Keagan is the key to teaching the clones about diversity and friendship – and his relationship with Eone is quite adorable, as is their journey to discovering diversity, and divergence and enlightenment – and hopefully, this book will show kids that it is okay to be who you are and that you don’t have to fit in with the crowd.

I hope the kids who get to read this enjoy this book, and get as much out of it as I did.

Booktopia

Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison

music and freedom.jpg

Title: Music and Freedom

Author: Zoe Morrison

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Vintage Australia/Random House Australia

Published: June 27, 2016

Format: paperback

Pages: 345

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: I have no use for forgiveness, not yet. But other ideas like that,
kindness, for example, I think that is fundamental. Resurrection;
I like that too. And love, of course, love, love, love.

Alice Murray learns to play the piano aged three on an orange orchard in rural Australia. Recognising her daughter’s gift, her mother sends Alice to boarding school in the bleak north of England, and there Alice stays for the rest of her childhood. Then she’s offered a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, and on a summer school in Oxford she meets Edward, an economics professor who sweeps her off her feet.

Alice soon finds that Edwards is damaged, and she’s trapped. She clings to her playing and to her dream of becoming a concert pianist, until disaster strikes. Increasingly isolated as the years unravel, eventually Alice can’t find it in herself to carry on. Then she hears the most beautiful music from the walls of her house …

This novel’s love story is that of a woman who must embrace life again if she is to survive. Inspiring and compelling, it explores the dark terrain of violence and the transformative powers of music and love.

~*~

Music and Freedom is Zoe Morrison’s first novel, and it is a thought-provoking and eloquently told story for a debut novel. Throughout Alice’s life, she has been educated in England, in boarding schools and music programs, where music has given her a sense of self and freedom, though she longs to return home and be free there with her family. Unable to return home, she weds an Oxford economics professor – a man who is troubled and with very traditional ideas of how a woman should act and how a husband should be allowed to treat his wife. As a result of his demands and the abuse she suffers at his hands, something she cannot speak of with the women’s circle she is part of for fear of being blamed for his temper by others, Alice internalises the abuse and her fears. She tries to escape through her music, but is forced to play elsewhere when Edward is home, and soon, even her music becomes a prison when Edward demands she attends a concert and perform a complicated Rachmaninoff piece she is not given ample time to prepare.

The novel is told in short chapters that mirror a diary, and go back and forth between a young, vibrant Alice in the 1940s and 1950s to a disoriented, confused old woman, trying to claw towards a freedom that she has been denied for so long – whether physically by her husband, or emotionally by the thoughts of doubt that imprison her.

This structure shows how Alice became the way she is at the opening of the novel, and slowly, she finds a way to be free with the help of her neighbour in Oxford, Emily, and her son, Richard.

Zoe Morrison deals with the issue of domestic abuse and the silence it can cause, even when attempts are being made to combat it. Alice’s fight for freedom is life long, and only when she is an elderly woman, can she finally find the freedom she desires, and find a way back to music, and a way into a new form of freedom: writing.

An eye-opening and emotional story, it is told with care and sensitivity for Alice, and has incorporated necessary research. This is just one story, one experience in a time when there were different expectations for men and women in some areas, and a time when the lines between what people expected men and women to do began to blur. The setting of Oxford illustrates this in the traditions that Edward holds so dear, and in the desires that Alice has throughout the novel about her music and freedom.

The Lost Sapphire by Belinda Murrell

 

 

Title: The Lost Sapphire

Author: Belinda Murrell

the lost sapphireGenre: Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Random House Australia

Published: 16th May 2016

Format: Paperback

Pages: 310

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Marli is staying with her dad in Melbourne, and missing her friends. Then she discovers a mystery – a crumbling, abandoned mansion is to be returned to her family after ninety years. Marli sneaks into the locked garden to explore, and meets Luca, a boy who has his own connection to Riversleigh.

A peacock hatbox, a box camera and a key on a velvet ribbon provide clues to what happened long ago . . .

In 1922, Violet is fifteen. Her life is one of privilege, with boating parties, picnics and extravagant balls. An army of servants looks after the family – including new chauffeur Nikolai Petrovich, a young Russian émigré.

Over one summer, Violet must decide what is important to her. Who will her sister choose to marry? What will Violet learn about Melbourne’s slums as she defies her father’s orders to help a friend? And what breathtaking secret is Nikolai hiding?

Violet is determined to control her future. But what will be the price of her rebellion?

 

~*~

 

The Lost Sapphire is this year’s historical novel offering from Belinda Murrell. Like the rest of her historical novels and time slip novels, it is set in Australia and begins in the present day, before flashing back to 1922 and a story that mirrors what is going on in Marli’s life. In the decades between the wars, Marli’s great-grandmother encounters a Russian chauffeur, Nikolai, when he comes to work for her father. In 2016, Marli discovers that an abandoned mansion is going to be returned to her family, and she starts exploring it with a new friend, Luca, who also has a connection to the Riversleigh property Marli’s family is getting back. As Marli and Luca build a friendship, and explore Riversleigh, they discover its secrets.

Back in 1922, Violet begins to assert her beliefs and discover who she is. Her passions lead her to helping Nikolai and other friends who are less fortunate. In this world of changes in industry and worker’s rights, the echoes of World War One and events of 1917 foreshadow the world that Violet and those she holds dear will be plunged into soon. It brought another layer to the novel that those who know the history can appreciate. The rundown mansion of Riversleigh has echoes of The Secret Garden: a place locked up, that two children in need of companionship restore the house and garden, guided by a fairy wren in place of the robin.

All these layers in the story, and the characters that seemed to mirror each other, though in separate worlds, made for a wonderful story. Ever since I started reading Belinda’s books about a few years ago, I have waited eagerly for new ones to come out. Reading The Lost Sapphire, I was taken away to a different world. I travelled with Marli as she worked to restore Riversleigh, and explored Riversleigh of the past with Violet, explored her world of privilege but also the world of the underprivileged that she sought to expose through her writing and pictures with the help of Nikolai and her maid, Sally. The contrasts of the poor and rich were more apparent in 1922, yet the echoes of them could be seen a little in Marli’s time, in what was expected of her father. Like the other books Belinda has written, The Lost Sapphire has been rooted in a key cause or event in the lives of the characters that drive them on their journey to form their lives and the story. Each novel by Belinda Murrell is unique. I’d say this is one of my favourites, with the other top two being The River Charm and The Forgotten Pearl. These stories introduce younger readers to history in an accessible and interesting way that allows them to see the real events through the eyes of fictional characters, or fictional characters linked to family history, as in Locket of Dreams and The River Charm. I recommend this book to fans of Belinda Murrell, fans of history and mystery and readers everywhere who love a good book.

The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell

Title: The Forgotten Pearl

Author: Belinda Murrell the-forgotten-pearl

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 282

Price: $17.99

Published: 2nd February 2015

Synopsis: When Chloe visits her grandmother, she learns how close the Second World War came to destroying her family. Could the experiences of another time help Chloe to face her own problems?

In 1941, Poppy lives in Darwin, a peaceful paradise far from the war. But when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, then Australia, everything Poppy holds dear is threatened – her family, her neighbours, her friends and her beloved pets. Her brother Edward is taken prisoner-of-war. Her home town becomes a war zone, as the Japanese raid over and over again.

Terrified for their lives, Poppy and her mother flee to Sydney, only to find that the danger follows them there. Poppy must face her war with courage and determination. Will her world ever be the same again?

 

In the two days it took me to read this, I was completely absorbed by the story, day and night, even when not reading it. Starting out in 2012 with Chloe, a young girl talking to her grandmother about an assignment, readers are whisked back to 1940s Australia in the days before the war hits our shores. The peace and carefree life Poppy lives is shattered like glass, and she runs from Darwin to Sydney with her mother, where the fear remains but for a while they are safe. When the threat of war and death follows them, Poppy’s world falls apart again, but her strength and resolve to not let the Japanese chase her away from her new life, and what she knows wins over.
From the first page of this book, I knew it would be one that would stay with me but I didn’t know how it would affect me. Having a brother in the army, and with what is currently going on in the world, suddenly, the reality of war, of what Poppy and her family went through, what she told Chloe, seemed all that more real to me than just images on the television and talks of air raids and strikes and invasions. I found myself crying at times, sometimes having to put the book aside. Poppy’s fear and life had become my own and I was dreaming about the book, about the bombing of Darwin, about finding Daisy and Charlie dead in the bomb shelter. Previously all I had known about these events were the facts: the history books I had had never put a human face to these events. Until I read Belinda Murrell’s The Forgotten Pearl. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I have her other time slip books, with one left on the pile to make my way through. I could taste and feel Darwin as well. The heat, the stickiness, the mangoes, and all Poppy’s animals leapt off the page into my arms, especially Honey, her beloved dog. She made me feel safe just as she comforted Poppy.
It is a fictionalised account of very real, and terrifying events as seen through the eyes of a child. Children can relate to Poppy, and her fear for her family, her pets and all she holds dear. She is a remarkable character and I will definitely be revisiting this book when time allows. It has a part of me in it now, and always will. I will not stop fearing for Poppy and her family, or my brother, when I read it or think about what wars my brother could face, but it will be a book that will help me through those moments, as many books have and will.

A five star rating for this book.