Showing posts with label Pauline Hosking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pauline Hosking. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The Bogan Mondrian

The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick, (UQP)  PB RRP $19.95  ISBN: 9780702259982

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

Luke, a Year Eleven student from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’, becomes a catalyst for helping Charlotte, a girl from a wealthy family, address the domestic violence occurring in her home. Steven Herrick chose these backgrounds deliberately because, as he says, domestic violence ‘is an issue that affects people from all classes, races and religions.’

Luke’s father has recently died from cancer. Trying to come to terms with the loss, Luke sleepwalks through each day, wagging school and compulsively taking photos. When he discovers the truth about Charlotte’s home life, he realises that his own life could be worse. Much worse.

This is a powerful story, told by Luke in first-person prose, celebrating courage, compassion and friendship. It is set in Katoomba and the background and characters are clearly Australian.

The book raises questions about what it means to be a man and a father in today’s society.  On the surface Charlotte’s father is a charming, successful business man. His darker side is hinted at, not described in great detail. By contrast, Luke’s father was a gambler, a drinker and smoker -  a rough diamond who adored his family. Luke himself displays unexpected strength and kindness as does his friend, basketball-obsessed Blake.

Steven Herrick is better known for his verse-novels like The Simple Gift. The poet in Herrick is obvious as he doesn’t waste a word and uses some beautiful, evocative images. Although the subject is serious there are many moments of humour between Luke and his mother, and between Luke and a neighbour who’s teaching him to swear in Italian.

The resolution is believable and will have readers cheering. The Bogan Mondrian is highly recommended, especially for boys from Year 8 upwards.

The title might confuse some readers. Here’s the explanation: Charlotte has painted her bedroom walls in squares like a Mondrian painting, turning the room into her retreat from the world. At the end of the book Luke (the bogan) paints his room exactly the same. This time it’s not a retreat, it’s a celebration.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent by S.J. Morgan, (Midnight Sun Publishing) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9781925227451

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

The cover and title of Heaven Sent are misleading. They give the impression that this is another YA novel in which angels (or demons) arrive on earth and have a relationship with a human girl. Evie, the protagonist, is almost convinced this is the case when gorgeous Gabe smashes his car through her bedroom wall.
He says he has come to make sure she is happy.

At this stage Evie is wearing a body brace because she has scoliosis, her parents have divorced and her mother is living with Seb who grows marijuana for a living. Miraculously things start to improve after Gabe appears. Evie stops growing and is able to discard the brace. Her father is located by Gabe and reconnects, and her mother gains the strength to leave Seb. There’s also the entrance into Evie’s life of blonde Year 12 student, Isak.

But nothing is as it seems. Gabe’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic. Instead of being a guardian angel, Evie (and the reader) gradually realise Gabe has serious emotional and mental problems. One of the nicest things about the book is that, even after Gabe has a Christmas meltdown, Evie remains a true friend, committed to helping him any way she can.

Like Gabe, many of the characters in Heaven Sent defy the reader’s initial expectations. This is especially true of Paige, Evie’s best friend. Evie herself changes from someone who is happiest being invisible, to someone confident and resilient - although she does sometimes appear much older than sixteen.

This is S.J. Morgan’s first YA novel. It’s a solid debut. The Australian setting is a definite plus and the author gradually reveals Gabe’s true situation with the skill of a good mystery writer.  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

The dog with seven names

The dog with seven names by Dianne Wolfer, (Random House) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN: 9780143787457

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

A puppy is born on a cattle station in the Pilbara. The runt of the litter, she is cared for by Elsie, the daughter of the station owner, and receives her first name – Princess. In February 1942, with the Japanese air raids moving closer, the family leave the Pilbara and go south for safety leaving Princess in the care of a kind drover. Later Princess (now named Flynn) flies with the Flying Doctor Service and stays in Port Hedland hospital, calming and giving courage to those hurt and in danger. The little golden-eyed dog, a cross between an Australian terrier and a dingo, has many adventures and is renamed many times before reuniting with Elsie.

The book gives well-researched information about the Japanese raids on Darwin, Wyndham and Broome. There’s also mention of the secret airstrip constructed at Corunna Downs by the US Army.

Events are related by Princess in the first person. According to Dianne Wolfer’s acknowledgements, The dog with seven names was one of two creative works accompanying research into anthropomorphism in Australian children’s literature. While much of what Princess recounts seems in keeping with a doggy view of the world, some of her wider understanding of places and events is problematic. However, this will not worry young readers who will enjoy the tale of a cute and brave animal in a time of war.

The author supplies a detailed timeline connecting World War II events to the story and some pages of additional historical information. These make the book a valuable classroom resource for students studying recent Australian History.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

From Cinnamon Stevens: Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking

Diary entry for March 18th

I am sitting in the brand-new Ambassador Theatre, observing.
That’s what detectives do.
          My bum is the first bum to ever touch this prickly, cloth-covered seat. How awesome is that?
          Around me heaps of nervous kids are waiting with their parents/teachers/friends. They’re here to try-out for a part in Macbeth, the play by William Shakespeare. The one about murder. And witches.
          My best friend Cossie hurries up the aisle. ‘Cinnamon, Cinnamon!’ Behind her glasses, her eyes are wide with excitement. ‘Cinnamon, do you believe in ghosts?’
           ‘Do I believe in goats?’
          ‘No, GHOSTS!’ Cossie bounces into the seat next to me. ‘I think I just saw one!’
          ‘Wow! True?’
           ‘It was white and shimmery. It gave me a wave and disappeared.’ 
          Wow to the max! ‘Where did it go?’
          ‘No idea. Back to the astral plane?’ Cossie grins. ‘Course I might be mistaken. I’d taken my glasses off to give them a polish. You know I’m short- sighted. Maybe it was a cleaner or someone.’
          ‘Yeah. Maybe.’ Or maybe not! This sounded like something I should investigate.
          I check the time on my phone. ‘Cossie, we’ve ten minutes before your audition starts. Let’s go find this ghost!’
          She gives a thumbs-up. ‘Wicked!’
          That’s why Cossie’s such a good friend. She’s always up for adventures.
          ‘Follow me, Cin. A ghost hunt might settle my nerves!’
          We hurry down the centre aisle. Cossie leads, I limp along behind. During my last case I’d sustained a life-threatening injury (okay, a broken toe) which was healing. Slowly.
          The auditorium is built like an amphitheatre, with tiered seats leading down to the stage. The whole place smells of fresh paint.  
          When we reach the stage with its massive scarlet and gold curtain, Cossie whispers, ‘Quick, in here!’     
          We slip through a narrow gap at the side of the curtain into the backstage area. An almost invisible door is tucked against a far wall.
          My friend says, in a Dracula-type voice, ‘I voz searching for a place to practise my lines ven I discovered zat door and ze secret stairs beyond. Come, Cinnamon, ve must go down ze stairs into ze darkness!’
          She opens the door, revealing a space like a lift shaft. But there’s no lift. Instead, a metal staircase spirals above our heads and beneath our feet, lit by dim electric lights. We’re near the bottom of the stairs, only a few steps away from a shadowy, cavern-like basement.
          I’m starting to feel less enthusiastic. Not that I’m scared of the dark exactly. I just prefer places that are brightly lit.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Things We Can’t Undo

The Things We Can’t Undo by Gabrielle Reid, (Ford St. 2018) 346 pp, ISBN 9781925736045   PB RRP $19.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This appealing, fast-pace novel covers tricky subjects like consent, mental illness, suicide and the negative aspects of social media. It doesn’t pull any punches but is never gratuitous.

Year 10 students Samantha Jun Chen and Dylan West are in love. They’ve been together for nearly a year, so it’s no surprise when they leave Saturday night’s party to go into a quiet bedroom. What happens next will have a profound effect on both.
Did Dylan rape Samantha? He doesn’t think so. He’s totally pumped because he’s finally had sex with his wonderful girlfriend. Samantha has a different take on the experience. She wanted to say no, but she is a quiet girl not used to speaking her mind. Afterwards, she wishes she had spoken up. Samantha’s best friend Tayla is sure it was rape and sets about naming and blaming Dylan.

Samantha is a very average student who has to work twice as hard as everyone else because her parents expect her to be academically brilliant. They also believe ‘Boyfriends can wait until university’, so she’s had to keep her relationship with Dylan a secret. This means she has no one at home she can talk to honestly about what happened.   

The pressure from parents and friends, combined with her loss of trust in Dylan, has a horrific outcome. Over-stressed Samantha must find a way out. She chooses suicide.
The Things We Can’t Undo is Gabrielle Reid’s debut novel and it’s a gutsy read. None of the characters are totally black or white. As the book progresses both Tayla and Dylan develop and mature. The final pages describe Dylan carefully entering a new relationship.

Much of the story is written from Dylan’s point of view. Samantha’s feelings are recorded in the letters she writes but will never send. Tayla’s campaign to brand Dylan a rapist develops via online chats. The use of these various formats will appeal to its target audience.

If promoted sensitively, The Things We Can’t Undo should be a winner with readers from Year 9 upwards.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Perfect Leaf

The Perfect Leaf  by Andrew Plant (Ford St. 2018), picture book 32pp, ISBN 9781925736007, HB $24.95, PB $16.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

The Perfect Leaf tells the sweet story of a friendship that develops when two girls meet on a ‘cold-sun’, ‘wind-in-the-branches’ Autumn day. The girls, Elly and Mai have their own favourite coloured leaves, but neither manage to find the perfect leaf. Instead they discover something else – the power of imagination. The last few pages have no text and give the reader the chance to share the lovely feelings of childhood joy and new friends discovered.

Andrew Plant is the author and illustrator of the CBCA Notable Book The Poppy. His illustrations for The Perfect Leaf are glorious, with washes of gold and red spilling over the pages. Observant young readers will also find insects and fairies hidden in the leaves.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jasper Juggles Jellyfish

Jasper Juggles Jellyfish by Ben Long illustrated by David Cornish, (Ford St. 2018), ISBN 9781925736021, HB $22.95    PB $14.95

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This is a cute, funny and short tale told in rhyme. It teaches counting from 1 to 12 and reminds us that we can learn anything if we start small and gradually build our knowledge.

Jasper is an octopus who goes to school. He finds counting jellyfish a struggle so says he’d ‘rather learn to juggle’. He begins by juggling 1, 2, 3 jellyfish with two of his arms. Of course, as he’s an octopus he has eight arms. If each pair of arms can juggle three jellyfish, four pairs of arms can juggle twelve! Jasper and the jellyfish have fun and learn about numbers.

The illustrations by David Cornish are delightfully quirky. The colours are bold and bright. Each jellyfish has its own shape and personality. I especially liked Curlywurly meeting the startled gull, and the first double page spread which showed Jasper, a crab and a starfish on their way to school. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light by Pauline Hosking illustrated by Kat Chadwick
(Lilly Pilly Publishing) PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 978-0-646-98111-6

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

Cinnamon Stevens Ghost Light is the second book by Pauline Hosking introducing young detective Cinnamon and her two best friends Cossy and Meera.

The three young girls attend school together in Mount Dandenong. The story follows a number of directions which all end in a ghostly connection with a once great actress Adelaide Glendenning from Walhalla.

Cossy, a young actress gains a role in a performance of Macbeth which begins the story and the links with Adelaide, when she thinks she sees the ghostly apparition of Adelaide in the theatre.

A change of school excursion to the home and resting place of Adelaide sees Cinnamon’s thirst for figuring out crime surface when classmate Snowy is attacked while on a nighttime - walk through the cemetery.

A second mystery emerges as ghosts continue to be seen at the theatre where Cossy’s play will be performed and then things take a turn for the more dramatic when damage to sets and costumes. The girls attempt to get to the bottom of the situation, but it appears both mysteries could be linked.

Will Cinnamon find out who attacked Snowy, or will the mystery go unsolved? Will Cossy get her big break on the stage? They were questions which kept me reading, I guess you will have to read the book to find out for yourself.

I loved the themes of friendship and determination to find the truth from the three protagonists that really shone through in this story. Faced with a mystery, they showed strength and courage - traits to be admired by young readers.

There were also more serious themes to the book which I felt were introduced and dealt with quite well - including racism against Meera who is half Indian descent and bullying. The girls stuck together as friends and found a way to help Meera overcome the difficulties she faced at school.

The writing style through out is relatable to the intended reader age of nine and above and was an easy read that draws in the reader. The pictures, which were drawn in a  style which made you feel like you were reading a young girls diary really helped add to the scene and I think would add to the appeal for the intended age group as well.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Jemma, Short Stories

Jemma, Short Stories by Stefan Nicholson (SAN publishers), PB RRP $19 ISBN 9780980460445

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

In his publicity blurb the author writes that this book is primarily aimed at YA readers and anyone above the age of twelve. Young readers are interested in stories about people their own age or a few years older. Even though this book is titled Jemma, who is the youngest daughter in the Palette family, the main character in all the stories is Dad, a middle-aged writer of fiction.

Early in the second story we learn that Mum is in hospital with some undiagnosed problem. The story then focuses on Jemma meeting an old sea captain who sets her a riddle. The riddle’s answer will explain how humans should spend their lives. The story is thus high-jacked by adults, with the riddle being solved by Mum. (Her illness had been caused by the family dog’s new herbicidal shampoo).  

The third story is a variation on Six Characters in Search of an Author, with the imaginary Palette family talking to the author.

The fourth story, which has the most potential for 8-12 year olds, concerns the theft of a golden eagle. Jemma plays more of a role here, but at the climax of the story, instead of being actively involved in saving the eagle, she and her friends retreat to eat pizza and wait patiently for news.

This book would probably work best for an adult audience.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

It’s your world

It’s your world a verse novel by Kristy-Lee Swift (guillotinepress), PB  ISBN 9780995399136Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

It’s Your World is divided into short poems which each progress the action, rather like the work of Steven Herrick. Kristy-Lee Swift experiments and plays games with language, using rhymed and unrhymed sequences and lots of puns.

I am not a poet so can’t comment on the quality of the verse, but I certainly enjoyed reading about Evie, an unhappy fifteen-year-old. Her mother has died soon after she was born. It’s rumoured that she committed suicide. Evie has a difficult relationship with her controlling father and religious grandmother, both of whom think she’s ‘bad’. Evie doesn’t believe she is evil, just up to no good. Her only hope seems to be to find free-spirited Aunt Ruth who moved to Sydney and has been out of touch for years.

When her father has a brain haemorrhage, Evie goes to live with her grandmother. This is worse than prison. She escapes with her brother, her crush Nigel and her two best friends to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They get drunk, and she spends the night in the cemetery with a boy who isn’t Nigel.  

Evie’s father comes home. Because he has mild brain damage and is not aware of what is going on, Evie feels she now has a degree of freedom. She invites friends over, including Nigel. When her father stumbles on the scene he is furious and physically attacks her.

Evie flees to Sydney and finds there an aunt who understands and can explain the true circumstances surrounding the death of her mother. Aunt Ruth offers this comfort: ‘’There’s no such thing as a happy ending. But there can always be/a happy/keep on going.”

The poems about Evie’s lost mother are deeply moving. Others are cute, clever and often funny. Though I would have liked one or two more sequences on Evie and her father when he was recovering, this is an intriguing read. Evie is a complex, always understandable character. Her confusion, desires and pain will strike a chord with many adolescent readers.   

Friday, 22 September 2017


Emelin by Jackie Randall (Schillings), PB RRP US $7.75  
ISBN 9780995379718     
Note: 'Emelin' is sold at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft NSW. Also as an ebook and paperback and at Australian pricing starts at $14.50.
Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

The time is 1398. Emelin is an eleven year old orphan girl with an incredible gift for creating illuminated manuscripts. She lives with her Uncle, Calibor, who taught her the craft. Life’s a struggle and money is scarce. Then Calibor receives a wonderful commission: Geoffrey Chaucer asks him to illustrate The Canterbury Tales. Other illustrators, jealous of his luck, attack Calibor and leave him to die. Emelin has the manuscript, her uncle’s tools, his precious pigments and an advance from Chaucer to complete the task in three months.

She knows she cannot stay safely at home so she sets out, in the bleak winter weather, to find somewhere to work. She joins forces with a boy named Wolf and they journey together to Reading Abbey.

Emelin’s abiding fear is that she will end up on the dead cart, and be buried in a pauper’s grave, unmourned, unnamed, unknown. This doesn’t happen. Feisty Emelin faces many trials and tribulations and eventually triumphs. Geoffrey Chaucer is so delighted with her illustrations that he offers her permanent employment.

At the book’s end, the murderer of Wolf’s father is still at large and there’s a hinted mystery about Emelin’s precious brooch. Hopefully this means there will be more books to come.

Jackie Randall’s research is meticulous. The book is full of careful detail. Readers are almost able to SMELL what it must have been like to live in medieval times. There is also fascinating information on how illuminated manuscripts were made. Emelin is an interesting, attractive character, precociously talented for someone her age. In the past girls did grow up more quickly than they do today.
Overall, the book is easy to read with plenty of action, although some sections have a potential for suspense that isn’t fully realised. A way to add value might have been to include a section of Teacher’s Notes or Historical Facts.

Emelin is recommended for readers 10+ years, especially those interested in history and art. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Dreaming Collection

The Dreaming Collection written and illustrated by Queenie Chan, (TOKYOPOP) 2010, PB  RRP $26.99 ISBN 9781427818713

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This omnibus edition comprises Volumes 1-3 of The Dreaming graphic novel, a mystery-horror story inspired by Picnic at Hanging Rock, for readers 13+ years. The illustrations are fabulous. Each page overflows with action and emotion and  the backgrounds are full of realistic, careful, architectural features. Many teenage girls will love the detail on the Victorian costumes and the manga inspired look of characters.

Less successful is the storyline which has occasional lapses in continuity. Twin sisters Jeanie and Amber arrive at a mysterious boarding school deep in the Australian bush. Here they must pretend they are NOT twins, because the scary ancient principal, Mrs Skeener, doesn’t tolerate twins. Slowly, Mrs Skeener’s secrets, and the secrets of the school, are explained.  Ever since the school was founded, girls have wandered into the surrounding bushland and vanished. The third volume reveals that the disappearances are the work of the Quinkan. These are wicked aboriginal night spirits which lure sleeping children into the bush.  After a dramatic climax, evil is thwarted and the school burns to the ground. But the experience has damaged both sisters and they grow apart.

In an interview included in the book Queenie Chan admits she has taken ‘quite a few liberties with the Quinkan’.  These may not concern the US audience or publishers of the books, but they did worry me. 

Overall, though, The Dreaming looks amazing and has enough suspense to keep young readers eagerly turning the pages.

Monday, 17 July 2017

The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool by Emily Larkin, illustrated by Helene Magisson (Wombat Books) HB
ISBN 9781925563047

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

‘I think it’s important for kids to know that it’s okay to feel a range of emotions,’ says author, Emily Larkin. ‘It’s okay to feel lonely, sad or uncertain—but these times don’t have to last.’ This lovely picture book is aimed at helping primary aged children navigate their way through the ups and downs of life.     

The hero is an adorable polar bear cub. In the early pages the cub feels brave and adventurous. The illustrations are correspondingly bright, happy and fun. Then, for really no reason, the cub becomes sad and feels lonely ( ‘…Without warning the world seems closed. No one wants to know you.’)  The pictures here are navy blue and grey, with lots of wide empty spaces on the page.  A positive connection with nature and the support of family helps the little bear regain a sense of hope.

Helene Magisson’s pictures compliment exactly the gentle, emotive story. There are a number of recurring images for adults and children to discuss. What does the key signify? Why are the colours in the family photo brighter at the end of the book? How does the tree in the photo change? What does the bear’s scarf represent?

The text, generally, is clear and unambiguous. One sentence might confuse young readers (‘Only doubts are within your grasp’) but could, perhaps, offer  another chance for discussion.

Included is a useful page of Notes for Parents, Teachers and Carers written by a clinical psychologist. This adds to an understanding of the theme - that the emotional roller-coaster, described as ‘The Whirlpool’, is a normal part of life’s journey. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Archie Appleby: The Terrible Case of the Creeps

Archie Appleby: The Terrible Case of the Creeps by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Krista Brennan (Wombat Books) PB  RRP $10.99 ISBN 9781925563016

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

This slim chapter book tells what happens when Archie has to spend two days with his scary Aunt Ruth.  He’s a boy with a vivid imagination who likes making up stories. She’s a keen gardener who knows a lot about poisons and weird plants. Her husband, Uncle Jock, seems to have disappeared.  

Late at night Aunt Ruth takes food down to something in her deep, dark basement. Archie is convinced she is keeping Uncle Jock down there a prisoner and bravely decides to rescue him. After two failed attempts he manages to discover what is really in the basement. Not his uncle --  who arrives fit and well from a fishing trip -- but a monstrous plant, a Venus Flytrap Gigantus. (Shades here of The Little Shop of Horrors, although this plant isn’t a man-eater.)

Luckily everything ends well. Archie and Aunt Ruth are reconciled and he goes home considering the possibility of another visit.

The carefully chosen language, clear print and short sentences make it an easy read. Newly independent readers will enjoy the building sense of suspense and the humorous way Archie misinterprets events.  The book would also be good to read aloud.

Krista Brennan has contributed a number of delicate line-drawings. There is a mismatch, though, between the pictures of Archie smiling mischievously as he enters the basement, and the descriptions in the text of what he felt: ‘his heart pounded,’ and ‘he shuddered at the thought of going to the basement in the dark.’  

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster by Pauline Hosking (Lilly Pilly Publishing)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-099439826-0
Reviewed by Kel Butler

Cinnamon Stevens wants nothing more in life than to be a crime buster, a super sleuth, the world’s greatest detective. Just like her dad…and her brother. So when classmate, Becki, disappears without a trace from school camp one night, Cinnamon sees it as her big chance to crack the case. Recruiting the help of friends Meera and Cossie, the girl brigade embark on a hapless adventure of twists and turns, chasing down criminals and steering themselves straight into the heart of danger. Will this team of amateur sleuths find Becki and save the day? Or has Cinnamon bitten off more danger than she can handle?

Cinnamon Stevens Crime Buster is a fun whodunit chapter book, for the 10 plus age group, with a definite skew towards girls. Written in a diarized format, complete with footnotes and diagrams, this book is Cinnamon’s own account of the case of the missing Becki.

Cinnamon is an interesting character, caught between a strong sense of purpose, a desperate need to prove herself and the insecurities teenage girls struggle with the world over. Before she can unravel the case and prove her detective skills, Cinnamon needs to face her own fears, overcome her anxieties and learn to trust herself. This is as much an everyday story of friendship, family and acceptance, as it is a kidnapping mystery.

Cinnamon Steven’s Crime Buster is Pauline Hosking’s first book but certainly not her first piece of writing for this age group. Pauline has a long history of writing plays for children, teens and adults and as I type this review she is writing Cinnamon’s next big adventure…