August & Jones by Pip Harry

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CBCA award winning author of The Little Wave, Pip Harry, continues to display her perceptive understanding of current tween/teenage thinking and concerns in her latest book August and Jones. Harry is able to depict a very strong sense of the place in which her characters operate. As in The Last Wave, characters (in this case Jones and her parents) move from country to city. Harry skilfully evokes the sights, sounds and smells of places. Eleven-year-old Jones moves from the family farm to a  typical, small block of units in Woolstencraft in Sydney.  Equally insightfully presented are the feelings and interactions of the characters.

Jones is worried about losing her friendships and making new friends in Sydney. August and Jones portrays the shifts of friendship that happen as the interests of the characters change and their proximity to each other changes. Jones is also worried about adapting to city life, about her father's health and about whether the blurry vision that she has is a return of the tumour that she had removed as a child. 

Jones finds a staunch friend in quirky August who doesn't want to be the footballer his father wants him to be and whose parents are fighting.  As their situations become more dire, the two friends decide to create a bucket list and begin to act on it. Things change dramatically and not always the way they want but sometimes unexpected outcomes arise. The most important thing is love as it turns out.

Harry takes the reader unflinchingly to some very dark and confronting places. A very nasty health issue is diagnosed and the very difficult treatment is followed through. The impact on the children, the parents and the children at school are depicted. Courage in the face of really awful treatment is beautifully drawn and the strength of the friendship, humour and hope break through the dark places.

August and Jones progresses with each alternate chapter told in first person from the viewpoint of either August or Jones. It's a delightfully Australian book and a sensitive picture of what family and friendship means especially when huge health issues are being dealt with and when futures can seem very uncertain.  It's about making the most of life and appreciating it through all our senses. It's a novel about the possibilities of life, of resilience and hope and the power of true friendship.

Highly recommended - an easy and engaging read that deals with deep subject matter.

Themes: Change, Dreams, Friendship, Family, Illness.

Wendy Jeffrey