Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

This is my nightmare. Sure, there are any number of planks in the rickety suspension bridge of our trip that could give out and send us plummeting – the flight, the road trips to Okanagan Lake and Seattle. Foreign places, foreign people. Foreign everything. And, of course, The Appointment and all of the question marks it entails. But to go wrong here? Here? At the airport? On the list of places you’d want to avoid acting out of the ordinary, the airport would rank number one with a bullet. Or maybe a taser.

Nineteen year old twins Justine and Perry have had a tough few years. Their beloved dad has died after a battle with cancer, and they are on their own. Now, as they plan to part ways for the first time in their lives, they are taking a trip together. But travelling is complicated, because Perry is autistic, and doesn’t always cope well with change. Justine has always looked after him, but there are times when even she finds it hard to get through to Perry. From their arrival at the airport she is faced with challenges, but only she knows that in Canada they are going to face what could be their biggest challenge of all.

Are You Seeing Me? is a beautiful young adult novel, dealing with themes of disability, family, loyalty and change. While it is Perry who seemingly has the hardest time dealing with change, Justine too has lessons to learn about trust and about caring for herself, even about her brother. Their journey is both physical and metaphoric, and readers will enjoy seeing the sights through Perry’s eyes, as his fascination with earthquakes, mythical sea-creatures and Jackie Chan dictate their touring schedule.

Using the alternate viewpoints of Justine and Perry, each with their own unique voice and take on the world, Are You Seeing Me? is funny, sad and touching in equal measure.


Are You Seeing Me?

Are You Seeing Me?, by Darren Groth
Woolshed Press, 2014
ISBN 9780857984739

Available from good bookstores and online.

Miss Understood, by James Roy

This is my story. (Not this bit, though – everything that comes after this.) But like I said, this is my story. Me, Lizzie Adams. It’s a story about some stuff that happened to me, and to some of the people I know, and it’s completely true. All of it. because I don’t lie, honest. And if I do ever happen tot ell a lie or do something ‘silly’, it’s always an accident. Never on purpose.

Miss Understood

Lizzie is often in trouble at her school, Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple College, so when she almost sets the school on fire, it’s the last straw. She finds herself expelled, and condemned to being home schooled by her mum. Mum is a teacher, so she knows all about how to teach Lizzie, but Lizzie isn’t impressed. At home there’s no playground, no friends, not even a proper recess. What she wants to do is to prove that she is responsible enough to go back to school, but that isn’t going to be easy.

Miss Understood is a heart warming, gently funny tale of being good and being misunderstood. Lizzie wants to do the right thing, but it doesn’t always work out right, something most readers will relate to, and the story also deals with important issues including adult depression and family in a way accessible to young readers.

Roy has a gift for making stories both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Miss Understood, by James Roy
Woolshed Press, 2012

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove

I’m still not entirely sure what happened. One minute I was telling my friends how nervous I was about reading a poem on ANZAC Day, how they were expecting twenty or thirty thousand people to show up to the Dawn Service, how it was going to be broadcast on national TV. The Next minute Riley announces she doesn’t believe in glorifying war and she’s not attending on principle.

Romola should be used to changing schools – this is the fifth time she’s done it. But it isn’t easy, and this time she’s determined not to mess it up. She is going to make friends, and keep them whatever it takes. All she has to do is keep her mouth shut and not do anything outlandish. But Riley, one of the ‘in’ girls and supposedly Romola’s new friend, doesn’t make it easy. Whenever Romola likes something, it seems Riley doesn’t.

Sebastian has problems, too. His mum has hooked up with a new guy, and now they’re talking about getting married. If that happens, Sebastian’s mum and dad can never get back together.

Sebastian and Romola don’t know each other, but fate throws them together, and soon the pair are friends, helping each other through some tough times, and exchanging tips for getting through. Both are out for revenge – but as they get to know each other, and themselves, a bit better, they realise that revenge isn’t always sweet.

The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge is a fabulous dual perspective tale of friendship and family – and revenge. Told with humour, it is nonetheless a book which addresses serious issues, including family dynamics, the impact of war, peer pressure and belonging.

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge

Suitable for readers aged ten and over.
The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove
Woolshed Press, 2012
ISBN 978174275086

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure, by Nette Hilton

Pyro Watson clutched his blanket tightly to him. It wasn’t going to change anything, no matter how hard he held on. the old camper still swayed and rocked in the night wind. The ocean still hissed and roared and slugged its waves to the beach. The rocks still shone as darkly and the moon still lurked behind dark clouds.
Auntie Mor and Mr Stig still snored at the back of the van.
And Mum, who said Auntie Maureen could have made things easier if she’d just stopped tripping around for ten days so they could all get better organised, was still all the way across the Nullabor looking after Nan.

Pyro has been sent to stay with his aunt in a campervan while his mother tends to his grandmother. He’s not expecting to enjoy it at all. And with the campervan rocking in the wind on a dark, dark night, Pyro is sure the next ten days will be the longest in his life. He calls up his love of pirates and escapes to another dimension where he is San Simeon, captain of his own pirate ship. San Simeon is brave and adventurous, and has the loyalty of his crew. His adventures include an ongoing battle with his arch-enemy, Roaring Roy Bistro, and the liberation of a golden-haired maiden, Calamity. But a captain’s life is a lonely one too, and San Simeon struggles with the possibility of traitors in his crew. Like San Simeon, Pyro feels alone and unsure of himself. His best friend, Geezer is back at home, he can’t swim and he’s stuck here with two almost-strangers.

Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure features two stories side-by-side. There’s the ‘real’ story of Pyro’s time by the beach in the caravan park and the parallel adventures of his alter-ego San Simeon. The pirate adventure is differentiated by a different font as Pyro daydreams his way through his adventure. Sometimes the real life informs the action of the daydream, sometimes the daydream offers the solution to his real life dilemmas. Pyro discovers that he is not alone in anything. There are new friends to be made, common ground to be found with his aunt and her friend, Mr Stig, bullies to be thwarted, and traitors to be identified and routed. Themes include friendship, trust, bullying and family. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure

Pyro Watson and the Hidden Treasure, Nette Hilton ill Gregory Rogers Woolshed Press 2009 ISBN: 9781741664164

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author