This year marks the centenary of World War I, so we can expect to see a number of new titles commemorating this event from different perspectives. One Minute’s Silence concerns Remembrance Day as it relates to the Anzac soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, but it also asks readers to consider the young Turkish soldiers who fought bravely to defend their land. The title page shows a teacher in front of a blackboard looking up at a clock as the hands reach 11am, and the opening double-page spread shows a class of high school students looking bored. Thereafter, the narrator asks readers to imagine what it was like for the ‘twelve-thousand wild colonial’ boys as they landed on the shores of this strange, hostile land, and then to imagine the Turkish soldiers ‘from distant villages, hearts hammering’ as they stood in trenches ready to fire. Were they so different after all? The text in this book is minimal but searching, and the illustrations are outstanding. This is an ideal book for upper-primary to secondary school students, to discuss a time when people much like themselves faced terrible dilemmas.
Hilary Adams works in a specialist children’s bookshop in Sydney. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 2, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Every week Lucas and his mum visit Great Grandpop in the nursing home, and every week Lucas waits outside getting grumpy and bored. One week, while he is waiting, Lucas meets another occupant called Jack, and with Jack’s encouragement he comes to see the exciting, vibrant people that the nursing home residents used to be. And still are! Jack’s ‘tricks’ help Lucas to understand his great-grandfather and appreciate him for the person he is. Lucas and Jack is a tale of discovery and love, gently told and beautifully illustrated. Its colourful, evocative illustrations and thoughtful narration make the story accessible to a wide range of readers aged from four years. Lucas and Jack is the kind of book that should be on all family bookshelves, with its message that we should remember our elders for who they are, what they have achieved and the amazing lives they have led, rather than seeing only their frailty.
Natalie Crawford is a children’s book specialist at Dymocks Claremont.This review first appeared in the Junior Term 2, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
My Dog Doesn’t Like Me is an endearing tale of a young boy named Eric and his new puppy Ugly. Since coming into Eric’s home, Ugly has caused no end of trouble and, in spite of his efforts, he is showing no signs of improvement. Finally, Mum and Dad issue an ultimatum: Eric must train Ugly properly or he’ll be re-homed. With the help of his school friends and Grandpa’s friend Maggie, Eric embarks on a plan to make sure Ugly is allowed to stay for good. Elizabeth Fensham has written this story from Eric’s perspective, offering an intimate view of everyday family life. With its gentleness and humour, My Dog Doesn’t Like Me will appeal to children aged seven years and above who have felt overwhelmed or burdened by the task of caring for their pet. It’s refreshing to read a book that shows the pressure children can feel to be grown up, as well as the great sense of achievement they can gain from taking on responsibilities.
Natalie Crawford is a children’s book specialist at Dymocks Claremont. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 2, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Pen Barber has an unremarkable life in the Western Australian suburbs. Her relationship with her husband Derek is not bad, but it has become bland and formulaic. The familiar routine of her life is disturbed when she finds an old letter from Derek’s university days. What she reads in it casts doubt on everything she believed to be true about her husband and her marriage, and so she sets out to unravel what she believes to be the untold truth of his past. Convinced that the answer lies with one of Derek’s ex-lovers, Pen decides to stalk her. In the process she finds out things about herself that she could not have imagined, and becomes trapped in a web of her own lies and deception. This is a short, tightly written book and an intense exploration of obsession and introspection. Pen’s internal monologue is compelling and intimate. The story also has a stunning finale that readers will be turning over in their heads hours after they have finished it. I would recommend Claustrophobia to readers of Jodi Picoult, Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn, though it is more subtle than Gone Girl. If you have book club customers, you should tell them about this one too. It is a little book that will start big conversations.
Stefen Brazulaitis is the owner of Stefen’s Books in Perth. This review first appeared in Issue 2, 2014 of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Singer-songwriter, comedian and writer Justin Heazlewood—AKA The Bedroom Philosopher—has written a hybrid memoir-guidebook for anyone interested in working in the creative arts in Australia. Funemployed recounts Heazlewood’s career of highlights and missteps, backed up with extensive interviews with local artists. It doesn’t encourage artists not to have a go, it just reminds them to temper their expectations. Heazlewood writes openly about the mistakes he’s made and his crippling fears and doubts. He tenderly recounts his childhood and the stages of his music career, his early success on Triple J radio, the mounting debts, and a peaceful equilibrium he could only find after a lot of painful lessons. Interspersed with Heazlewood’s own story are the voices of more than 100 local artists. The average annual creative income for an artist is $7000—how do they survive? They discuss which jobs support a creative life, give tips for applying for funding grants and warn about the occupational hazards. Funemployed is a great gift for someone graduating, just beginning, or considering a university arts degree. While they might have heard the same message before from their parents, career counsellors and teachers, a fledgling artist is much more likely listen to someone like Heazlewood, who can speak without pretension about the lessons he learnt scraping his way through the Australian arts scene.
Brad Jefferies is the publishing assistant for Books+Publishing. This review first appeared in Issue 2, 2014 of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.