Friday, August 10, 2012

Amnesia by Sinclair Smith

Alicia awakes to discover she is in some kind of hospital, she can't remember who she is and she doesn't recognise herself in the mirror. Then, one day her sister, Marta, shows up and has her discharged. Alicia has no recollection of Marta and when she arrives home she is told their parents are dead. Nothing in the house is what she expects, all the clothes in her wardrobe are new and still have their price tags attached. Furthermore, the clothes are very drab, nothing like the clothes she feels she would have bought. There are no photos of her in the house, no radio, no television, not even newspapers or magazines. Alicia feels increasingly suffocated by Marta, she is not allowed to use the phone and Marta dictates what she can and can't eat. She  feels like a prisoner in the house. Then one day she leaves the house to go into town where she meets Mark, finally, someone who knows her...

This books moves along at a snail's pace and a lot of the action and conversations in the house are improbable, and, I kept asking myself why didn't Alicia leave the confines of the house earlier in the book? The action does pick up considerably in the second half of the book and the ending is a little unusual and unexpected.

Where's My Teddy? by Jez Alborough

This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for a bedtime story. In a nutshell it is about mistaken identities and the associated humour that comes with the mix up. It begins with a small boy meandering through a forest desperately searching for his beloved teddy called Freddie. Suddenly he chances upon a huge teddy in the forest which he mistakes for his own Freddie even though he can't understand how he got to be so enormous. Then along strides the real owner! The rhythms and repetitions in the book book enhance the action in the story and make this a great read-aloud book. Jez Alborough's water colour, crayon and pencil drawings underscore the humour in this quirky little tale. This is the miniature version which fits in one hand, and it is shelved on The little bookshelf for little books in the classroom.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Go Eat Worms! by R.L. Stine

Go Eat Worms! The title echoes the words of Regina Barstow who is sick and tired of all her brother Todd's practical jokes with worms. Todd has collected worms for years and plans to win the computer prize at the school Science Expo with his worm house display. All is going well, until along comes the new kid, Patrick, who tells him outrightly that he has pinched his idea about worms for the expo and that he  has something exceptional planned. Todd is furious, and along with his friend, Danny, plots to find out about Patrick's project. One day whilst annoying Regina with worms yet again down in the basement of his house, Todd decides to cut one in half as shock value, but as Regina points out, the worms in his tank are watching! Now it seems they want their revenge. Todd's life becomes a nightmare and it seems that worms are plaguing him at every turn. This is a fast moving book following the usual cliff hanging chapter style of R.L. Stine. I read it in one sitting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Change the Locks by Simon French

Jacket illustration by Greg Rogers
Change the Locks by Australian author Simon French tackles issues about identity and life in a single parent family. Although it is quite slow moving, this book will not disappoint. The action revolves around Steven who is struggling to remember something traumatic from the past.  One day at school he is given a pen pal to write to as part of the current class project, and the name Elise Turnball stirs something deep in his memory.

"I remember when you were five," Patrick tells his friend Steven. "I remember. You were strange when you first started at the school in town...You don't know where you and your mum came from, it's like you... materialised. It's a mystery, Steven. You should try to solve it or something."

It is these were the words along with the name that start Steven on his journey to uncover the past. He can remember fragments, like being alone on a road in the middle of nowhere and a house full of people in a city environment, far different from where he now resides. His mother flatly refuses to answers his questions. Why?  Things at home aren't too crash hot either, the family car has just been stolen, and baby Dylan keeps him pretty busy as his mum finds it a battle as a single parent. Darryl, Dylan's father has left and his mum is depressed.  And at school, there's Redmond Hall, always ready with a smart remark and out to makes his life difficult. The only thing keeping him sane is his friendship with Patrick Hetherington. Then one day whilst ripping old linoleum an old newspaper from seven years ago is discovered, and it has Steven's photo in it.

At the Swamp's Edge by Jo Fisher

Cover illustration by Roger Boreham
First published in 1993, the book hasn't really dated as it is set in 1937, painting a picture of the pre-war years and the hardships associated with farming. Annie Miller's family have moved from Sydney to the country, to a small town called Walchep where they are running a dairy farm. But it hasn't quite worked out how it was planned, Mum's cranky most of the time and Annie feels heavily criticized in all that she attempts around the house. Her dad is exhausted  despite the help given by Annie's older brother Ted. It's a high maintenance farm with a run-down house and everything constantly breaking down around the farm. Things aren't much better at school with Annie and her two brothers finding the lessons a walk over. But, there was the swamp, a great place to explore and forget about the hardships of home. It was a time when all clothes were darned and not thrown away, cow pats were used as a mosquito repellent and the house is heated by a fuel stove. The novel is an interesting step back in time, a taste of family life in the Australian country in the 1930's.