Across the street a person is framed in a watery yellow square. It’s a kid looking out – like me – except his head is wobbling about all over the place. He sort of tips it back and then it nods forward on a different angle. I can’t see his eyes, but I know he’s watching, checking out his new neighbourhood.
When a new boy moves in across the road, Sticks isn’t sure what to think. He already has a best friend, Ranga, who lives down the road. Sticks and Ranga love getting into mischief, playing on the Playstation, and skateboarding. James has cerebral palsy, and is in a wheelchair – so he can’t do any of those things. Or can he? Where there’s a will there’s a way, and with James’ determination and try-anything attitude, plus the ingenuity and friendship of Sticks and Ranga, James could soon be flying. Unless something goes wrong.
Dropping in is a funny, moving story of friendship. The three friends are as different as they are good mates, and each battles his own set of challenges – including bullying, ADHD and disability. What they have in common is their loyalty and their love of life, a blend which makes this a really satisfying story.
Dropping in, by Geoff Havel
Fremantle Press, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.
‘Now there’s a girl with a death wish.’
Mio watched the girl skateboard down some handrails, nailing the landing but carving close enough to fog up a metal pole. Straightening, and with a push-push of her foot, she popped into the air, the skateboard somehow stuck to her feet, before flipping and spinning, only to drop to a crouched landing before rolling away.
Mio smiled as she spotted the sign attached to the pole. The ‘N’ had been whitened out and texta-ed over so that the NO SKATEBOARDING now read GO SKATEBOARDING. She pointed out the sign to her friend Clem saying. ‘Those skateboarders don’t miss a trick.’
Mio and her friends, Clem, Bryce, Tong and Darcy, are mad keen BMX riders. They are excited that the council is constructing a BMX/skate park, until they find there’s been a change in plans. The council have decided that it’s too dangerous to have the bikers and skaters together and the park will now be just for the skaters. They are all furious, but Mio is the most determined to do something about it. They meet with their friend, Mr Lark to plan a course of action. Mio borrows Mr Lark’s Vietnam War dog tags for a school project and things begin to go wrong, especially for her. Each attempt she makes to sort things out just lands her in more trouble, until even her closest friends seem keen to distance themselves.
Extreme! is a rocketing ride from start to finish. It is full of BMX stunts, described in detail. The reader has plenty of opportunities to experience the similarities and differences between BMX riding and skateboarding. The thrills and the spills. There are chase scenes worthy of any action movie. Extreme is told from the omniscient point of view with characters from Japanese, Vietnamese, Jewish and Anglo backgrounds. In Mio, for example, Japanese reticence fights with an Australian forthrightness. Tong struggles with English, but also with some Australian concepts. The relationship the children have with Mr Lark is an anchor for them all, particularly when other adults appear to be being unreasonable. Themes include justice, cultural identity, friendship, identity theft, cooperation and safety.
Recommended for upper primary-early secondary readers.
Extreme!, by J A Mawter
If anyone saw Corey Matthews wandering down the main street of Narra with a skateboard under his arm, they would have had no idea of the trouble he had to handle in his life. They would’ve thought he was just another fifteen-year-old guy hanging out.
There isn’t much to do in Narra. Zac and Corey have lived here all their lives and, although they are best mates and enjoy spending time together, what they want more than anything is a place to skate. When good girl Lauren Saxelby decides to make a skating film, enthusiasm for a town skatepark starts to grow. Corey is right into it (and into Lauren, too, it seems) but Zac won’t have a bar of the project. He’s been caught before by schemes which don’t eventuate. Their friendship is threatened by the project.
For Corey, the skatepark is something to hold on to – a dream to follow. His life is pretty difficult, and perhaps if he can make something good happen it can help. After all, he’s a Matthews, which means he’s automatically classed as no good – so he can use all the help he can get.
Getting Air is a gritty teen read with plenty of skateboarding action as well as a hard-hitting exploration of family violence, loss and grief. The story was first told in a play called Skate before being rewritten as a novel. It will appeal to readers aged twelve and over, especially rural teens and those with an interest in skateboarding, who’ll be able to relate.
Getting Air, by Debra Oswald
Random House, 2007
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