here are some of my favourite books from the last little while...
Malcolm and Juliet, Bernard Beckett (Text)
Sex Alert! In this hilarious and hyperbolic attempted shag-fest we’re confronted with a motley crew of hormone-charged teens: Malcolm who is making a short film about sex for the inter-school science competition (much to the chagrin of the headmaster) but doesn’t know anything about it, really. Juliet, his best friend, who has a surprising sexual past. Brian, the macho high school hero-slash-bully who is always on the lookout for sex. Kevin, who only has eyes for Brian. And Charlotte, who wants to meet someone lovely. This one doesn't hold back from the nastier sides of sex and love, but it makes you laugh and cringe all the while. Top Read!
The Composer is Dead, Lemony Snicket (Harper Collins)
Book o’ th’ year! I love it! A composer has been murdered overnight. A delightful Poirot-esque inspector must uncover just who has killed the composer. He interviews the violins ("The violin section is divided into the First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties."), the violas, the cello and bass...the flutes, the reed instruments, the brass...and on and on. They all have excellent alibis – performing all-night waltzes, feeling sorry for themselves (the violas, who "play the notes in the chords that nobody cares about."), to calm drinks of warm milk with their landlady the harp (this was the tuba, a confirmed bachelor). The percussion section "was beat - too exhausted to commit murder." Perhaps it was the...conductor?!
The Museum of Mary Child, Cassandra Golds (Puffin)
Quite a scary read for the tweens. Fairly literary and magical, this is the story of Heloise who was brought up by her godmother to believe that happiness is a waste of time and that love should not exist. They live next door to the mysterious Museum of Mary Child, into which visitors go looking interested and happy, yet exit sober and almost frightened. Heloise, who has always wanted a doll but never been allowed, finds one under the floorboards in her room – and it is though Maria (as she names the doll) has been calling to her, helping to be found. There’s also the young man locked up in prison his whole life and the caged birds of the town who escape at night to fly around helping people like Heloise. Brilliant twist at the end.
When the Hipchicks went to War, Pamela Rushby (Lothian)
The Hipchicks are the headstrong and adventurous Kathy, voice-of-an-angel Gaynor and the ultra-grown up (ie. she is belted by her live-in boyfriend and just lives with it) Layla. Young teenage go-go dancers who, in the middle of the war, head to Vietnam in their knee high boots to entertain the troops. Kathy, our narrator, is ostracised by her folk-group friends who think she’s supporting the war by going on tour, but is determined to go anyway. Her brother and protector has been drafted into the army and is on his way over too. This book is a moving and entertaining read, no real prior knowledge of the Vietnam War required and it’s great to hear about the role of women (we also come across some nurses).
The Robot and the Bluebird, David Lucas (Andersen Press)
The Robot’s heart (a clock!) has broken, so he’s thrown onto the scrapheap to rust away for the rest of his life. Then a tired little Bluebird comes along who is too weak to fly south for the winter. The Robot tells the Bluebird to make a home in the space where his heart had been...then he finds that it is as though his heart is beating! and singing! Oh so beautiful and bittersweet. A little friend of mine continually asks me to read this book but i have to tell him "It makes Kate O'D cry." "Why?" he asks. I can't explain it to him, but they are the same tears that prick when I read Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas.
Dimity Dumpty, Bob Graham (Walker)
I cannot get enough of Bob Graham, so perhaps I’m biased here. Dimity Dumpty is the story of Humpty Dumpty’s little sister. While Humpty and his parents are performing in the circus tent, Dimity finds a quiet place to play her flute. But when her brother has an accident (falls off the wall while spray-painting his tag) Dimity shows her strength and courage. I especially liked their egg-box caravan pulled by a chook.