It was a young voice on the phone. Male. ‘Are you Francesca Vega?’
‘I’m Frankie. Who the hell are you?’
‘Is Juliet Vega your mum?’
‘Why are you asking?’
‘Cos I’m Xavier Green. She’s my mum too.’
Bam, crash, ka-pow. Hell of a game changer.
Frankie Vega is in trouble. She’s broken a boy’s nose and is at risk of being expelled. But that’s only the latest of her troubles, which began when her mother abandoned her when she was four. Since then Frankie has been scared and angry with just about everybody. So when a kid turns up claiming to be her brother, Frankie is wary of being hurt. Then, when Xavier goes missing, she isn’t sure whether he’s let her down or whether he is actually lost. It seems no one else but Frankie cares where he has gone.
Frankie is a moving and absorbing contemporary novel. Frankie is a sassy yet inwardly fragile character whose first person voice is believable and oddly endearing, even when she’s behaving badly towards the few people in her life who seem to care for her. Her story is heartbreaking but also has funny and heartwarming moments.
Dealing with issues including what constitutes family, homelessness and self-belief, Frankie is a brilliant young adult novel.
Frankie, by Shivaun Plozza
Archie was a sloth.
But, while all the other sloths liked to flop and snooze and sloth about, Archie liked to leap and swing!
He liked to juggle
He liked to move and groove!
But he was the only one.
It’s widely known that sloths are –to be honest – slothful. They don’t have any energy and they don’t mind a bit. They sloth about all day and all night. Except for Archie. He likes to leap and swing and move. He tries to get his friends to join in, but they don’t want to. What’s worse, they tell him to go away.
In the deepest corner of the jungle, Archie makes friends with other animals who are different – a white zebra, a short giraffe, an elephant with a small trunk, and a hyena who doesn’t laugh – but Archie misses the other sloths. When he goes home to see if they will take him back, he discovers they are in danger. And it is his energy that will help them.
Archie is a comical, warm-hearted book about difference, and friendship – and sloths. The text is laugh out loud funny, but the illustrations are simply sublime. Archie’s expressions are adorable and the supporting cast is bought to life with humorous detail.
Will be loved by adults and children alike.
Archie: no ordinary sloth by Heath McKenzie
Five Mile Press, 2016
Left! Left! Left! Right! Left!
We make our way in the dark.
Early in the morning – before dawn – a family makes its way to a memorial service, standing together to remember the fallen. With the other people who gather they remember, through words, through silence, and through the last post, men and women who have died in combat.
Reflection , a picture book, was released in time for this year’s ANZAC Day, equally serves to explore other such ceremonies, including Remembrance Day. The text , just a sentence per spread, observes simply what happens at such a ceremony. However, the illustrations add an extra dimension – with one page in each spread showing what is happening in the contemporary ceremony, and the other page showing scenes of war. So, for example, in the first spread, as the modern family males their way through the dark, so do the soldiers of old. The modern illustrations use gentle colours, while the scenes of war use khakis and sepia tones. Background washes of grey skies span both scenes, linking them. In the final spread there are a mix of coloured and grey figures walking together, suggesting that the departed are marching with the living. Back of books notes highlight the conflicts Australian and New Zealand forces have served in, from the Boer War to Afghanistan in the present.
A beautiful, haunting book suitable both for classroom use and private reading.
Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War, by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Robin Cowcher
Walker Books, 2016
Teacher’s notes are available here.