The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer

It all started with The Pain. He officially came into my life exactly nine weeks and one day before my Year Ten Graduation Dance.
It was a Friday.
The thirteenth of the month.
Notice anything there?

Maggie Butt is not happy. She started the year determined that everything would go well – but with the end in sight, things seem to be going fro ad to worse. Not only has she failed to make any friends, but she doesn’t have a date for the graduation dance and her marks in English (her favourite subject) are plummeting. But that’s the worst of it. Her mother seems to be letting her new boyfriend – The Pain – into both her own life, and Maggie’s, whether Maggie likes it or not.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me is a funny novel about many of the difficulties of being a teenager – romance, friendship, self-image and family. Maggie has a lot going on with her parents’ divorce having led to her changing schools and not fitting in at the new one. Her mother’s blossoming relationship with a new boyfriend also causes disruption – not the least of which is his ability to scare off the only boy who’s ever shown an interest.

There are lots of laughs to be had but there are also more serious moments.

The Pain, My Mother, Sir Tiffy, Cyber Boy & Me, by Michael Gerard Bauer
Omnibus Books, 2016
ISBN 9781742991504

The Light on the Water, by Olga Lorenzo

9781925266542.jpgIn the first few minutes of her stay in Ravenhall, she’s still able to kid herself. After all, no one is scraping tin mugs against the bars.
Prison initially seems a quitter, more subdued place than she’d expected. More like a hospital ward at eleven in the morning, but with patients who have been misdiagnosed, with galling consequences. Injustices that leave them pondering gloomily, nursing their outrage.

Almost two years after her daughter  Aida’s disappearance, Anne Baxter is resigned to the fact that she is going to be arrested for her murder. Aida’s body has never been found, but nobody can understand why Anne would have taken her autistic daughter bushwalking on Wilsons Promontory, or how she could have lost sight of her. Unable to prove her innocence, Anne waits, in limbo, as the media stalks her, her neighbours shun her and complete strangers attack her.

The Light on the Water is a masterful exploration of loss in various forms – not only has Anne lost her daughter, but the disappearance came in the wake of the collapse of her marriage. She has also lost sight of who was and of any sense of normalcy in her life. At times it seems that the obstacles preventing her recovery are too high – her barrister ex-husband seems unsupportive, her remaining daughter seems self-absorbed, and her sister and mother are terrible. Most of her friends have drifted away, and with no real leads as to what happened to Aida, the circumstantial evidence mounts. Yet Anne finds ways to keep going, to keep functioning, even managing to find new friends and allies in unlikely places.

At times really troubling, The Light on the Water is nonetheless absorbing and deeply satisfying.

The Light on the Water, by Olga Lorenzo
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781925266542

Space Alien at Planet Dad by Lucinda Gifford

Every Saturday,

Jake set out on a mission to

PLANET DAD.

Planet Dad was AWESOME.

There were BATTLES

TOWERING space stations …

Every Saturday,

Jake set out on a mission to

PLANET DAD.

Planet Dad was AWESOME.

There were BATTLES

TOWERING space stations …

Every Saturday, Jake spends time with his dad at his dad’s place. They both love Space and spend the day happily together, playing, exploring, eating and sharing movies. But one day Jake arrives to discover a Space Alien. He is not happy. And not shy about letting the Space Alien know it. Over the next visits, he does everything to repel the Space Alien, but nothing works until he loses his cool completely. Paperback with bright and colourful illustrations, with much of the text large and loud.

Jake has a wonderful time with his dad each weekend, but when his dad starts seeing someone, everything changes. Space Alien at Planet Daduses wonderful space-themed language, huge letters and voice bubbles to let the reader know just how upset he is. Dad does all he can to convince Jake that the Alien is worth knowing, but Jake continues his resistance. This is a wonderful book for families adjusting to new and unfamiliar configurations. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers, particularly those in changing family circumstances.

Space Alien at Planet Dad, Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic 2016
ISBN: 9781760153687

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Goodbye Sweetheart, by Marion Halligan

Goodbye SweetheartPeople say that a death like this, a quick death, sudden, no warning or portent, really no pain to herald it, such a death is a good death, lucky. There is even sometimes a suggestion that it is a reward, for a life well lived, for goodness, and noble behaviour. She’d said it herself in the past.

When William has a heart attack and dies suddenly, he leaves behind a loving wife, a stunned daughter. Here was a man with much to live for, a good man with a stable life. But the mourners include two former wives and two adult children. Between them they have different versions of the man they all loved and, in the days following death it emerges that there is still much about William that they didn’t know. AN unexpected mistress, who wants to be part of the mourning, pornographic images on his computer, and more. Will they find answers to their new questions?

Goodbye Sweetheart is a story about the aftermath of a death, but it also very much a novel about life, and its mysteries. The writing is superb. Each chapter is almost a short story, moving through the third person viewpoints of William at the time of his death, his various wives and children, his brother, his mistress and an elderly aunt. Readers are given fragments of William and his loved ones’ lives in a way which creates an intriguing whole.

An intimate look at grief, at family complexities and more, Goodbye Sweetheart is a book which haunts well beyond the final page.

Goodbye Sweetheart, by Marion Halligan
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760111298

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Andy Flegg Survival Guide, by Mark Pardoe

Let me start by saying that this sucks.
‘What sucks?’ I hear you say.
No, actually that’s stupid. I don’t hear you say that. How could I?
For a start I don’t even know who you are, so what would you be doing here talking to me in my bedroom?

Andy Flegg does not want to write in a journal. but if he wants his parents to buy him an XBox, he has to write in it every day until his birthday, which is 124 days away. He has no idea what he is going to write about, but he desperately wants that XBox, so he’s going to do it. Luckily (in an unlucky kind of way), life is about to send lots of curve balls Andy’s way, so he’ll have plenty to write about – as the book’s title The Andy Flegg Survival Guide to Losing Your Dog, Your Dad and Your Dignity in 138 Days suggests. The journal might even help him get through it all.

While the use of a journal of diary written by a reluctant protagonist is not new, but it is a format which works, allowing the reader direct insight into the character’s thoughts and feelings. Of course it also allows for plenty of humour in the form of an unreliable narrator and plenty of misunderstandings. Readers will enjoy Andy’s voice, and also empathise with the pain of the quite traumatic events he experiences, a pleasing blend.

The Andy Flegg Survival Guide is suitable for middle and upper primary readers.

 

Book Cover: The Andy Flegg Survival Guide to Losing your dog, your Dad and your dignity in 138 Days

The Andy Flegg Survival Guide to Losing Your Dog, Your Dad and Your Dignity in 138 Days, by Mark Pardoe
Puffin Books, 2013
ISBN 9780143306771

Available from good bookstores and online.