Review Blog

Jan 08 2010

Fran's dozen (baker's) 2009 (a selection of what I have read and enjoyed in 2009) by Fran Knight

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Picture books
Cummings, Phil Wang Wang and Funi (How can anyone pass up Phil's picture book with his familiar rhyming story inviting small readers to look for the pandas at the Adelaide Zoo. The illustrations by Adelaide artist Shane Devries, add to the excellence of this lovely book, a far cry from the usual book published as part of a merchandising campaign.)

Thompson, Colin Free to a good home (Thompson's unusual look at family life had me laughing at loud. Instead of an animal following them home, the children have a granny. She is adamant that no-one is looking for her, and makes herself cheerfully useful in this house. A wonderful multi layered story to enthrall all kids, big and small)

Middle school
DiCamillo, Kate The magician's nephew (Conjuring of an elephant which falls into the audience, devolves into a story about family and obligation, and where a person, or animal, fits into the scheme of things. Peter knows that his sister is alive and has been told by the fortune teller that her discovery will be linked to an elephant.)

Flanagan, John Halt's peril (The ninth book in the Ranger's Apprentice series, this one is deliberately mystifying. Flanagan took great glee in setting up a story which had people guessing as to who might die, and whether Halt would survive this episode, and just whose funeral is taking place. See my interview with him on Readplus.)

Millard, Glenda A small free kiss in the dark (A marvelous futuristic story shows war demolishing Sydney and a young girl, Tia, having to find a safe refuge, along with several strangers who become like a family. A survival story out of the ordinary, finding positives where none should be.)

Westerfeld, Scott Leviathan (SteamPunk at its best with the story of the beginnings of World War One, with the assassinations of the Archduke and his consort and what may have happened to their young son. The creatures created by the author are fantastic, the intrigue believable, and the history in the background, most credible. And with all that it is a romp, with plenty of adventure and a brush of humour.)

Collins, Suzanne The hunger games (Imagine a future where there are nor wars! But each year two teens are chosen from each district to fight to the death on behalf of their home area. Usually the result is a forgone conclusion as one from the warrior district, with heavy support and advertising rights, and well trained comes out on top, but this year is different, as Katniss, a skilled hunter, takes her sister's place. An amazing story of survival and determination, along with a sly dig at reality TV.)

Henderson, Don Keepinitreal (an entertaining story concerning the oddest collection of people coming together to save the local greyhound race course. Set in the western suburbs, the characters are very real, without being caricatures, the setting tangible and the action, hilarious.)

Murray, Kirsty Vulture's gate (Bo and Callum come together by chance and survive together in a hostile world where women have all but died out. Callum has been used as a trained gymnast doing daring tricks on motorcycles to get money for the men that own him and Bo has hidden since her grandfather died. Australia in a near future where Bo has a roboraptor to keep her company and help her survive, but the pair must move across hostile territory to make it to the city where they expect to find safety.)

Larbelestier, Justine Liar (Micah's friend Zach has died, torn apart by dogs in the park. Micah must search her very being to work out whether she was the culprit, and the story, divided into three parts, Telling the truth, Telling the true truth and The Actual real truth, will have readers agog as they try and work out how reliable the narrator really is. I still don't know.)

Rai, Bali City of ghosts (The Amritsar Massacre in 1919 was one of those incidents I read about in Yr 11 British Commonwealth History (albeit from one point of view) but reading about it in this astonishingly realistic historical novel, where both sides of what happened are shown through a group of quite different characters makes this one to read and reread.)

Sedgwick, Marcus Revolver (Sedgwick is one of my favourite authors, and here he tells a survival story with a difference. A boy is cornered by a man who wants to kill his father, but father's body is lying on the table in this tiny cabin, snowbound near Nome. A life and death struggle between the man with the gun and the lad captures your attention to the end. If anyone wanted something for those kids hooked on Hatchet, then this is it.)

Valentine, Jenny The ant colony (Fleeing to London Sam finds himself getting involved with the lives of the others in his building of run down flats. Without realizing it he begins to reveal parts of himself that he wants to keep hidden, and people begin to care about him and him about them. A stunning climax sees Sam returning to the rural area where he was born to confront the reason he fled.)

And of course, several goodies have been missed out, so I must suggest Anna McKenzie's The sea wreck stranger and Catherine Jinks' hilarious take on the vampire genre, The reformed vampire support group. And I read several that have been published before 2009, The giver (Lois Lowry) and Here lies Arthur (Philip Reeve)
Fran Knight

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