Megan's Journey, by June Keir

In bed that night, Megan tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep. The thought of meeting her mother was very scary. Just about the scariest thing she’d ever had to face. She got out of bed, turned on the light and looked in the mirror. What would her mother see, she wondered, when she saw her daughter for the first time?

Megan is happy living with her grandparents, until a letter from the mother she thought was dead shatters her existence. Why didn’t her mother ever let her know she was still alive? How can she trust a woman who she has no memories of and who hasn’t made contact in all these years?

Eventually, Megan agrees to visit her mother in Japan. But fitting in to a family that includes her mother’s new husband and two young sons is not easy. To Megan it seems that everything is done differently. Worse, her step-father seems to hate her, and her mother is unwell. When Megan learns that her mother wants her to stay in Japan, she feels trapped.

Megan’s Journey is a story about family and about adapting to different cultures. Megan must deal with many challenges as she gets to know her new family. Her mother and step-father also have issues they must resolve. Readers aged 11 to 14 will be drawn in to Megan’s story.

Megan’s Journey, by June Keir
Loranda Publishing, 2004

Without Speech, by June Keir

Emily’s blue eyes filled with tears. If only she could speak for herself. At times like these, she felt almost overwhelmed by the difficulties of having cerebral palsy. In utter frustration she banged her feet on the footrest of her wheelchair.

Emily just wants to be like the other kids. She wants to be allowed into the playground without adult supervision, so she can be part of things. But the school principal is worried for her safety, and says Emily needs someone with her. Emily can’t speak for herself to prove that she can cope – she can’t speak at all, and has only eight words on her communication board.

With the help of her friend Jade and her teachers, Emily learns a different way of communication and, when she sees something suspicious happening in the playground, gets a chance to show the prinicpal just what she is capable of.

Without Speech is part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education. This title is aimed at children with a reading age of around 10 years and is suitable for both classroom use and private reading.

It is a pleasure to find a chapter book with a disabled main character. Readers are given Emily’s viewpoint on the frustrations she must face and also see her proactive in solving some of her problems.

Without Speech, by June Keir
Macmillan Education, 2003

Lighthouse Letters, by June Keir

There’s absolutely nothing to do in this place. We are the only people on the island. There’s no-one else here – just Mum, Dad and me. There are no shops, no movies, no cars and no schools. You’d think no schools would be a bonus, but it’s not. I’m so bored I’d even welcome going to school!

When Sam’s parents take him to live at a remote lighthouse for a year, he doesn’t know how he’ll survive. At least his weekly letters from his mate, Luke, will keep him up to date with what’s happening in the real world. But Sam won’t have anything interesting to tell Luke, he’s sure.

As the year professes, however, Sam’s life seems to get more interesting. First there’s an old boat to restore and even go fishing in. Then there are whales swimming just off the shore. For Luke, being at home without your best mate might be less than thrilling.

Lighthouse Letters is a chapter book told through the letters written by the two boys and children will enjoy the novelty of the format. Part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Lighthouse Letters is suitable for children aged 8 to 10, with a target reading age of about 8.5.

Lighthouse Letters, by June Keir
Macmillan Education, 2004

Set Free, by June Keir

When the new boy – Zach – starts school, he is put in the empty desk net to Ben and Ben is told to look after him. But Ben can’t get Zach to talk to him, and neither can anyone else. Zach follows Ben around and even does what Ben tells him, but he won’t speak to him.

When Ben invites Zach to come to the national park with him, the pair stumble across a poacher trying to trap the birds in the park. As they try to track the poachers’ movements, the boys find themselves caught up in more trouble than either can handle. Zach needs to speak and to overcome his fears if they are to survive.

Set Free is a fast paced adventure for kids, but it is also much more. Zach’s trauma stems from his experiences as a refugee coming to Australia on a leaky boat and being interred in an immigrant detention centre. Ben has had trauma of his own – his best friend James has been knocked off his bike by a truck and killed. Both boys have to put these experiences behind them as they form their new freindship and tackle the dramas that unfold in the national park.

Part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Set Free is a thought-provoking read suitable for private reading as well as classroom use.

Great reading.

Set Free, by June Keir, illustrated by Dion Hamill
Macmillan Education, 2004