Another month over and another round up of what I’ve been reading. Eleven books this month – which isn’t bad in yet another hectic month. Also another month of quite eclectic reading – ranging from a childhood favourite to really serious nonfiction, which made me cry as I got face to face with some of Australia’s terrible history. But these are books that need to be read, and I will be reading more such offerings. In the meantime, here’s the list:
Books for Children (and Grown ups too!)
- Pax: Journey Home, by Sara Pennypacker (Harper Collins, 2021). I was so pleased to see this book on the shelves. I read it’s predecessor, Pax, when I was in Vietnam a few years ago – buying it because of its amazing cover (by illustrator Jon Klassen). It’s a book that stayed with me, so to find a sequel at long last was exciting – and I wasn’t disappointed. During the war Peter had to release his pet fox, Pax, back into the wild and each struggled to adapt. Now, with the war over, Peter struggles with his new life and his guilt over letting Pax down. When they are reunited, it turns out they both can help each other.
- Nice Girls Don’t Play Footy, by Kathy Helidoniotis (Scholastic, 2019). This one had been in my to read pile for quite some time, and the week of the AFL grand final seemed a good time to pick it up. A story of a girl learning to love footy – and trying to find a way to play it against the wishes of her family and friends.
- No Flying in the House, by Betty Brock (Scholastic, 1970). I adored this book when I was a child,. Funnily, I didn’t remember the story very well – only that there was a tiny talking dog, and a girl who discovers she can fly. But in spite of not remembering the specifics, the memory of wanting to hug the book, and loving it, and talking about with my sister, who loved it too, have made me hold onto the copy I picked up second hand when my own children were young. And, finally, I picked it up and reread it. And I loved it again, which was a relief.
Books for Young Adults
- The Boy From the Mish, by Gary Lonesborough (Allen & Unwin, 2021). A coming out and coming of age story. Jackson lives on the ‘mish’ a community outside a rural coastal town. When his Aunty brings another boy to visit for the summer holidays, Jackson confronts the knowledge that he is gay, and realises that fighting and hiding who he really is, is not a way forward. A tender, genuine read.
- A Weekend With Oscar, by Robyn Bavati (Walker Books, 2021). life’s already tough for Jamie, with the death of his dad earlier in the year, but when his mother doesn’t return from a week away and he is left trying to care for his younger brother Oscar, who has Down syndrome, it gets increasingly difficult – especially as asking for help will risk them being separated.
- When Rain Turns to Snow, by Jane Godwin (Lothian, 2020). I read this when it came out last year, and then picked it up this month to recommend it to my uni students, and ended up rereading it over two nights. Lots of issues being explored here – family, adoption, online trolling and more – packaged in a story that makes it all palatable, so it isn’t issue-heavy.
Books for Adults
- The Salt Madonna, by Catherine Noske (Picador, 2020). I purchased this at the Western Australia’s Premier’s Book Awards ceremony late last month. It was one of the shortlisted books which I hadn’t read, and the cover called to me. The story of a teacher returning to her island home to look after her dying mother, and confront her own past, as well as the struggling island community’s willingness to see miracles where perhaps there are none. I do like Australian gothic, and this was done well.
- The Last Goodbye, Fiona Lucas (Harper Collins, 2021). I’m always interested in how other authors deal with topics of grief and loss, which is why I picked this one up. Anna is grieving her husband, killed in an accident, and rings his mobile number hoping to listen to his voice message. But someone answers – and soon she has a long distance friendship with Brody, who has a grief of his own. Part romance, part story of acceptance with a satisfying resolution.
- Animals With Human Voices, by Damen O’Brien (Recent Work Press, 2021). I bought this on the strength of its divine cover, which is stunning, isn’t it? The poetry inside didn’t disappoint either. Poems about animals, but more about people, and the climate change, and truth, and all kinds of things really.
- Jandamarra and the Bunubu Resistance, by Banjo Woorunmurra & Howard Pedersen (Magabala Books, 1996). I visited the West Kimberley this month, flying in and out of Broome, and, at the airport, looked for a book from Magabala Books, the local publisher. This one jumped out as me as I knew a little of Jandamarra’s story, but not enough. Not an easy book to read, and to be reminded of the terrible things colonialists did in our northwest – and elsewhere – in the name of progress. It made me angry and sad and a little bit helpless – but the book was well written and well researched and I had no trouble believing that these things happened. It’s confronting to know I live on lands stolen and with a such a terrible history of slavery and genocide, which many Australians still have trouble accepting. So I didn’t find this easy but I did find it necessary, because it is important to know and to question so that hopefully we can somehow make our country better.
- The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben (Bollinda, 2016). Having read this, I will never look at trees in quite the same way. In spite of being (understandably, given that the author is German) focussed on European trees, I found this look at how trees communicate, make decisions and more fascinating. Listening on audio had an extra benefit – the reading (by Mike Grady) was lovely – almost like being read a soothing bedside story.
This brings my total for 2021 to 119. I wonder if I can crack the 150 by the end of the year? Best get reading. What have you been reading?