If Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a 10-year-old boy with an annoying twin sister, then this might be his story. Connor discovers his grouchy twin sister is actually an alien the day before his 10th birthday party. She has been protecting him for the past 10 years because it’s his role to save the universe. But now, intergalactic bounty hunters have discovered his location and are coming to kill him. Naturally, Connor thinks this is all a big joke and he’s being filmed for reality TV, but when events start getting extremely weird, the alien truth becomes hard to ignore. Despite having no discernible talents, apart from knowing the exact time down to the millisecond, Connor must somehow save the world even though he has absolutely no idea how. Throw in a talking dog, some giant slugs and numerous other aliens, and you’ve got a somewhat complicated but quite hilarious intergalactic adventure. Boys and girls aged eight to 10 who like a bit of fantasy with their humour will enjoy this fun romp through space. Despite much strangeness and absurdity, it has a sweet and satisfying charm that will appeal to young fans of Neil Gaiman and Eoin Colfer.
Angela Crocombe is a children’s book specialist at Readings St Kilda. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 3, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
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.
This book is laid out in cartoon strips, which takes a while to get used to if you’re not familiar with reading in this format. But the narrative flows as easily as, well, a slowly moving river. It’s about 10-and-a-half-year-old Clancy, who is taken camping for 10 days by his uncle Egg, who happens to be a birdwatcher. At first Clancy is unimpressed with the mozzies and the lack of TV access on their canoe, but gradually he’s seduced by the wildlife and the various outdoorsy adventures of the bush—such as drinking fresh water from mossy cliffs, snacking on wild raspberries and gazing at the Milky Way without the distraction of city lights. This is Trace Balla’s celebration of the Glenelg River with its manifold attractions. The illustrations are presented in muted earthy tones, and there is plenty of fauna featured—particularly birds, including the lesser-known white-throated gerygone, the brown thornbill and the rufous bristlebird. Rivertime is a reminder for mid-primary school kids—who are quite partial to being hooked up to various electronic devices—that it’s good to move beyond your comfort zone, and that communing with nature has its own rewards.
Thuy On is a Melbourne-based reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue. This review first appeared in Junior Term 1, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
The world has been revolutionised by ‘d-mat’—fabrication technology that can build any object instantly, atom by atom. Clothes, food and even human beings can be faithfully created, replicated and teleported down to their tiniest imperfections and most personal memories. Climate change, famine and pollution are merely history lessons for teens such as Claire and her best friend Libby, who are free to go anywhere and create anything at the press of a button. But when Libby tries to use d-mat to ‘improve’ her own appearance, Claire begins to realise that the system may not be as safe or as secure as everyone believes. Bringing attention to d-mat’s failures is a dangerous game, however, especially when the molecular pattern that makes you ‘you’ can be manipulated by those with power and secrets to protect. Sean Williams is one of Australia’s most accomplished speculative fiction authors, deftly using high-concept sci-fi to ask young-adult readers difficult questions about identity, self-image and popularity in the age of social networking. It’s all expertly weaved into a fast-paced, white-knuckle chase, making it an easy book to recommend to fans of dystopian YA, such as Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Uglies’, Patrick Ness’ ‘Chaos Walking’ and Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’.
Richard Bilkey is the ereading content manager for Samsung Australia. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in July 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.