Twenty books! I knew I had been doing a lot of reading in April but am still surprised with my month’s total. Some excellent reads, and a real range.
Books for Kids
- The Vexatious Haunting of Lily Griffin, by Paula Hayes, illustrated by Katy Jiang (Fremantle Press, 2022). A fun story of ghosts, family and friendship. There are some serious issues explored here – bullying, family violence and more – but also lighter moments, including a naughty ghost with a sweet tooth.
- Camp, by Kayla Miller (Walker Books, 2022). A lovely graphic novel about navigating the challenges of friendship in the setting of a holiday camp.
- Our Country: Ancient Wonders, by Mark Greenwood & Frane Lessac (Walker Books, 2022). I always love a book by this talented pair. This time the focus is on Australia’s ancient wonders, from dinosaur trails to meteorite craters, and more.
- The Bravest Word, by Kate Foster (Walker Books, 2022). This was lovely – the story of an 11 year old boy, Matt, who connects with, and saves, a neglected dog while also finding a way to confront the depression which is gripping him. Beautifully wrought.
- Beaver Towers, by Nigel Hinton (Abelard, 1980). A cute story of a young boy whose kite whisks him away to a far away island where he must help beavers, and other animals, take back their castle from a magic witch.
- Bush Magic, by Kylie Howarth (Walker Books, 2022). This delightful picture book is, as the name suggests, magic. An imaginative adventure highlighting the bond between littles and grandparents. Love it!
Books for Young Adults
- Dear Nobody, by Berlie Doherty (Harper Collins, 1991). This one is a classic, but I hadn’t read it before and picked it up in an op shop a while back. The story of Chris and Helen who, in their final year of highschool, find their plans and dreams changed when Helen falls pregnant. Told mostly from Chris’s viewpoint, as well as through letters which Helen writes to her unborn baby. There was a lot to connect with here, as I was a young mother myself many moons ago.
- Frenchtown Summer, by Robert Cormier (Puffin Books, 1999). I only recently heard of this book, recommended by another verse novelist, and tracked down a copy . I did not know Robert Cormier had written in verse, but am glad now that I do know and have read this. Set in 1938 and following one summer in 12 year old Eugene’s life, with his relationship with his seemingly distant father being a core focus. The verse is beautiful and as haunting as the town (Frenchtown) and events.
- The Taking of Jake Livingston, by Ryan Douglass (Andersen Press, 2022). Not my usual cup of tea (sent to me as a review copy) – thriller with ghosts, ectoplasm, and lots of gore – but once I started I couldn’t put it down. Jake can see ghosts and, chillingly, watches them replay their last living moments on a loop. He’s being targeted by the perpetrator of a recent school shooting, and it seems the ghost has plans for him. If that isn’t enough, he’s the only black kid at his school, and grappling with his sexual identify. That’s a lot, but it’s handled well, making the book very readable, if a little scary.
- The River and the Book, by Alison Croggon (Walker Books, 2015). I’m not sure why I hadn’t read this before, but am glad I now have. With elements of fable and magical realism, this is the story of the two treasures in Simbala’s life – the river, which flows through her village, and the Book, which guides the decisions of of the villagers. But the river is affected by the actions of developers further upstream, and Sim, who is the Keeper of the Book, searches for answers, not knowing that the book itself is also threatened.
- Baby Love, by Jacqueline Wilson (Penguin, 2022). I spotted this in a bookshop and, having recently read Dear Nobody, was interested to see another take on the topic of teen pregnancy. I have to say that, having been a teen mother myself (at age 18), some of the events felt a bit close to home – but in the kind of way that made me (or my teen self) feel seen. Set in 1960, with a 14 year old main character, Laura, this was a really moving take on the subject. I had to keep reading – started it late one night and finished it the next afternoon.
- How to Repaint a Life, by Steven Herrick (UQP, 2021). I adore Steven Herrick’s writing – he is, after all, one of the reasons I fell in love with the verse novel form. This one is not in verse, but it bears his trademark forthrightness. His characters and their lives are real and relatable, and I love getting to know them, even in the midst of their pain. This one is the story if Isaac, escaping his old life with an abusive father, and trying to find himself in a small town, where he meets Sophie, who wouldn’t mind a bit of change in her own life.
- White Rose, by Kip Wilson (Versify, 2019). A historical verse novel based on a true story, this one made me gasp with its subject matter and ability to make it so very real. The story of German student Sophie Scholl who, during World War 11 had the courage to speak out against the fascist regime in her country.
- Dying to Tell Me, by Sherryl Clark (2014). One of my goals these past couple of years is to catch up on books by favourite authors. This is one of those – I am unsure why I hadn’t read this before, but looking for something else I was reminded about this one and ordered it. Sherryl is a really versatile author, and this one is part ghost story, part crime fiction and also explores the impact of family breakups. It makes for an absorbing blend.
Fiction for Adults
- After the Flood, by Dave Warner (Fremantle Press, 2022). This was a review copy and is not due for release till August. Set chiefly in and aroudn Broome, this is crime fiction with a bite – industrial espionage, protesters, grizzly deaths, and a gritty detective determined to unravel the truth.
- The Valley of Fear, by Arthur Conan Doyle. I started working my way through the collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, read by Stephen Fry, lats year, and am still going – after this one there are two more books to go. I’m still enjoying them, and have to confess I’m a little sad to be coming to the end.
Nonfiction for Adults
- A Repurposed Life, by Ronni Kahn, with Jessica Chapnik Kahn (Murdoch Press, 2020). When I saw (on TV) Ronni Kahn, the founder of the amazing Oz Harvest, speaking at the Press Club last month I straight away logged into Audible and bought and downloaded her book. I wasn’t disappointed. An amazing life, and lovely to hear it read by Ronni herself.
- Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, by David R. Hawkins (Audible). I listened to this as it was free in a two for one deal at Audible and I just chose something a little randomly to go alongside the book I wanted. I’m a little bit torn about commenting on/sharing this book because it has some really good takeaways about (as the title suggest) letting go of negative emotions (not suppressing, but letting go) and the power of this for being happier and healthier. But there are some bits which I was quite trouble about, including parts where I felt there was some victim blaming – around illness , disadvantage and misfortune. For myself I was able to let these go and focus on the bits that were relevant and helpful.
- Able, by Dylan Alcott (Harper Collins/Bolinda Audio, 2019). This was a featured title on Audible this month, and I’m glad I chose to download it. Dylan, the current Australian of the Year is an inspirational, funny, open and big hearted person, and listening to his story read in his voice was a real treat.
- Letters from Robin, by Jon Appleton (Noble Books, 2022). I bought this one after reading about it in Magpies Magazine, and am glad I did. A biography of Robin Klein told from the perspective of Appleton, who wrote to Robin when he was eleven – and thus began a thirteen year correspondence with her. Appleton went on, while still at school, to establish and publish Rippa Reads, and then to work in publishing. This memoir of that friendship also traces Klein’s career, as well as giving a unique insight into the children’s book industry of the 1980s and 1990s. The only problem with reading this is that I know have a big list of books I want to read or reread.
So that’s what I read in April, bringing my total for the year to 44 – and 109 to go to reach my target, which seems a lot. But we shall see.
I’d love to hear what YOU have been reading.