Burning Eddy by Scot Gardner

Some people call Daniel Fairbrother Dan. Most just call him Fairy. It’s not a name that he likes.

Daniel is searching for meaning in his life. His family life is dominated by his moody and unloving father. Away from home, he has no friends and little to be happy about.

When Daniel meets a Dutch woman, Eddy, he starts to slowly see changes in his life. Eddy is eight-six. She has a tattoo, a history and can make music with her farts. She pays Dan well for the work he does in her garden, and seems to read his mind. She offers him more than work and pay – she offers him friendship. Eddy’s friendship does not prove to be an instant fix to all of Daniel’s problems – his father’s moodiness seems to escalate, the other boys pick on him and he is haunted by memories. But Eddy shows Daniel hope. Maybe there is a point to life – and maybe, just maybe, things will get better.

Burning Eddy is a poignant story about growing up, about family and about friendship. Author Scot Gardner weaves a tale which draws the reader in, caring deeply about these characters. Along the way he continues to drop bombshells that reshape the reader’s perceptions of the characters, so that the story is an ongoing surprise.

Absorbing.

Burning Eddy, by Scot Gardner
Pan Macmillan, 2003

Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome

When Gracie hears that Napoleon is coming to live on the island of St Helena, she is terrified. She has heard tales of this man, painting him as a monster. She wants nothing to do with him, refusing even to make his bed in the boarding house where she works.

Forced to find new employment, circumstances take a strange turn when she ends up working at the house where Napoleon is guest while his own house is prepared. Still scared, she avoids him at all costs as she goes about her work. Gradually, however she becomes aware that he is just a man, with emotions like any other person, and that he has been broken by the events which brought him to the island.

It seems, too, that Napoleon is aware of Gracie. Although they have never met, they cross paths regularly, and Napoleon takes an interest in her circumstances, managing along the way to make her life a little easier.

Gracie and the Emperor makes use of an interesting combination of fact and fiction. Gracie and her story are products of the author’s imagination, but of course Napoleon Bonaparte is not. Author Errol Broome tells a story of what life may have been like for Napoleon after his defeat, entwining it with the imaginary life a young island resident.

Suitable for children aged 10 to 14, this is a special book.

Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Born in the Old Kingdom, Sabriel has not been within its walls for many years. She has lived in the safety of her school, away from the power of free magic. But something has happened – her father, Abhorsen, has vanished and she is the only one who can find him.

Back in the Old Kingdom, Sabriel discovers that she is much more than she ever thought she was, or could be. Others are know calling her Abhorsen, and looking to her to save the Old Kingdom from the terrible evil that lurks beyond the grave. All Sabriel wants is to find her father and return his title to him. The two quests – finding her father and saving the Kingdom – become one, and Sabriel must draw on all she has learnt and much that she learns along the way, as well as the strength of her friends, old and new.

Sabriel is an absorbing fantasy- rich in depth, in originality and excitment, yet accessible even to those new to the genre. It is little wonder the book was a winner of the Aurealis Award for Australian Speculative Fiction, and that the remaining titles of the trilogy have been eagerly awaited.

Sabriel, by Garth Nix
First Published by Harper Collins, 1995, newly published by Allen & Unwin (2003)

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

In a world of the future, vastly different from our own, teenagers Leila and Andre live with their parents and their much-loved baby sister Bonnie. Their world has been shaped by the destructive forces of wars years before. Those who have survived have built new lives based on peace.

But sometimes peace is only an illusion. When Morwena is wiped out by a violent strike, only the children survive,saved from death only to have to confront new terrors. Chaos reigns as survivors try to find loved ones, food and water are short, and no one is able to trust anyone else.

Alone in this grim world, Leila tries to find her brother and sister. First though she has to contend with her own fears and dreadful evil forces – Alrica, the wolf woman, Rattus, the ferl and the Grim organisation.Can she survive and be reunited with her loved ones? Is there life for these scattered chidlren from Morwena?

Children of Morwena is Helene Smith’s third novel for young people. Her earlier titles are Operation Clancy and Leaping the Tingles. She lives in Australind, just outside of the Western Australian city of Bunbury.

Children of Morwena is a inspirational story of how love can survive the toughness of life.

Children of Morwena, by Helene Smith

Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay

Katherine is just like any other eighteen year old – she has dreams and she has insecurities. Still, she is keenly aware that she doesn’t look like other eighteen year olds. An accident at the age of three has left her with severe burn scars.

At times Katherine believes that no one else can possibly understand her problems, but as she deals with them and grows, she learns to communicate – with those around her and with herself. She faces her troubles with dignity and with humour, refusing to give in to self pity.

Butterflies is a superb young adult novel. Author Susanne Gervay has a wonderful talent for creating stories which explore serious issues with a perfect blend of humour and empathy, of detail and entertainment. Her books don’t hold back from the truth, but are positive and uplifting.

Butterflies is an inspirational novel by an inspirational author.

Butterflies, by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson, 2001

The Cave, by Susanne Gervay

Sam isn’t keen on going on school camp. For eight days he and a group of boys he doesn’t particularly like are going to trek through the bush, over mountains and even into caves, on a survival camp that is supposed to be a physical and personal challenge.Sam’s friends are in a different group and he has nothing in common with the ones he’s with.

The camp has all the challenges Sam expects – no toilets or showers, gruelling walks, not enough decent food – and plenty that he doesn’t. As well as dealing with these, he must also deal with the memories evoked by the camp – memories of happier times, camping in the bush with his grandfather before he died. The camp will reveal many things he didn’t know before, about himself and about the people around him.

The Cave is much more than a story about a school camp. It is an exploration of modern male youth culture. Violence, bullying, drugs and sex mingle with more positive elements such as mateship and loyalty. As Sam learns, so does the reader.

Susanne Gervay has a style which allows readers inside the minds and emotions of her teen characters to reach understanding of the complexities of their lives. Teen readers will learn and grow, but there is much here for older readers as well.

The Cave, by Susanne Gervay
Angus and Robertson (An imprint of Harper Collins), 2002.

Walking Naked, by Alyssa Brugman

Megan is one of the leaders of the ‘in’ group. They do everything together, moving in a pack and thinking in a pack. She can’t imagine what it would be like not to be popular. Perdita, on the other hand, has no friends. She is so different that Megan’s group call her ‘the Freak.’ These two girls have nothing in common.

When Megan and Perdita find themselves together on detention, Megan finds herself getting to know and almost like Perdita. Perdita teaches Megan about poetry and about a whole different side of life. Megan shows Perdita what a family is like. Ultimately, though, Megan has to choose between her ‘old’ friends and the popularity of the group and her almost-friend Perdita. It seems a simple decision, but Megan’s choice will have shocking consequences.

Walking Naked is the second novel for talented young writer, Alyssa Brugman. Her first novel, Finding Grace found critical acclaim and made the shortlist of the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards. Walking Naked is sure to draw similar praise. It has a skillful balance of humour, insight and tragedy, making it both entertaining and shocking.

This is a must read for every teenager.

Walking Naked, by Alyssa Brugman
Allen & Unwin, 2002

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio

Kathleen’s life is without purpose. Her Mother, who never wanted her, has recently married and, as well as a step-father, she now has a little ‘sister’, Sally. To top it off she has just started at private girls school, where she is mostly alone and unliked.

When the serpent comes to beckon her with promises of happiness, she is lured by his talk of death. Suicide, she thinks, will put an end to all this. But another animal comes too – a nightingale which she will hear sing if only she can be patient.Kathleen will have to choose -the comfort of death with the serpent, or the comfort of life with the nightingale.Neither offers a quick path to happiness.

Listen for the Nightingale is a gentle young adult novel which looks at the issue of suicide as well as those of family, friednship and child abuse, among others. Whilst being challenging and thought provoking it is not a dark or depressing story. What is offer is an insight into the thoughts and life of one teenager with problems which lead her to consider suicide.

Listen for the Nightingale, with its ultimate message of hope, is a novel which would be well suited to classroom study, but is equally valuable for personal reading.

Zenda Vecchio is a South Australian author. Listen for the Nightingale is her first published novel.

Listen for the Nightingale, by Zenda Vecchio
Greater Glider Productions, 2002

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans

A girl lost in the outback, a group of boys raising a pair of undies on the school flagpole, an Italian youth migrating to Australia – subjects as diverse as the young writers who chose them. What binds these stories however, is their quality and the fact that they were written for entry into the annual Tim Winton Young Writers Competition.

Following the success of the first compilation of prize-winning stories from the contest, Destination Unknown (2001), Life Bytes brings together 13 first class stories. At times it is hard to remember the stories were written by primary aged children – with both the subject matter and the writing style often showing a maturity unexpected in pre-teens.

The Tim Winton Award, sponsored annually by the City of Subiaco, offers children across the Perth metropolitan area the chance to develop and demonstrate their creative writing abilitites. Life Bytes, showcasing some of the best entries submitted in the award’s ten-year history, is a great read, especially for those who work with young people.

Editor Alwyn Evans is a contest judge and editor and author of children’s books.

Life Bytes, edited by Alwyn Evans,
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

The Singer of All Songs, by Kate Constable

The wall of ice that surrounds Antaris is impenetrable. No one can get in or out of the land without the powerful chantments of the priestesses who live within the wall. So, when Calwyn finds an unconcious stranger lying inside the great wall, she can’t believe her eyes. Somehow this stranger has achieved the impossible.

Calywn decides to help the man, and is drawn into the biggest adventure of her life – a quest which may impact not only on her own future, but on that of the whole of Tremaris.

With Darrow (the injured man) she meets and journeys with Tonno and Xanni, fisherman brothers, Mica, who can call the wind, Halasaa, who can talk to the beasts without words, and young Trout. Together the group hopes to defeat the evil sorcerer Samis, who seeks to master all Nine mystical powers of Chantment and so be the Singer of All Songs, and ruler of Tremaris.

This refreshing fantasy is a gripping read, with appeal to both female and male readers, from teen to adult.

Kate Constable has previously had stories published in various literary magazines. This is her first novel.

Outstanding.

The Singer of All Songs
, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2002