The Luminous Solution
By Charlotte Wood
Allen & Unwin 2021
Charlotte Wood is an Australian writer with a succession of fiction and non-fiction novels. Her work includes The Writer’s room and The natural way of things. She has also had success with articles featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, among others. The Luminous Solution is a book that draws from Wood’s doctoral studies in creativity, experience with her own writing journey and her many interviews with other creative writers. It is a series of essays that discuss creativity, resilience and the inner life. On top of that, there is an underlying theme of gender equity and political progress. Looking through a writer’s lens, Wood explores ideas around mentorship, despair and creative thinking, and uses her honed skill of metaphor to explain hers and those she admires’ approach to solving creative puzzles.
Intuition Vs Pragmatism, a resonating piece, describes two approaches to writing: “There’s the dreamer, the mystery seeker… and there’s the pragmatist who trusts in hard work and grit.” Pg 99 Further to this, Wood confesses to abandonment of a piece when the struggle becomes impossible: “perseverance wasn’t helping me,” pg 102. She describes her conflict with ‘giving up’ versus the need to give herself space. Eventually the “melancholy ache” brings her back and she returns to the work in “pure pragmatist mode.” Pg 103.
Further in the book, Wood’s articles turn to rage as she discusses issues of feminism. She describes the rage as ultimately exhausting. She then finishes her collection by posing questions such as “How should we think about growing old?” and discussing her thoughts.
A diverse collection of essays that thread together logically and result in an insightful and thought provoking book.
More rules for life- a special volume for enthusiasts
By Kitty Flanagan
Allen & Unwin 2021
I suppose I must be an enthusiast! I was given the gift pack (both books) for Christmas and it has been a pleasure to pick them up at varying intervals throughout the beginning of this year and have a laugh. Flanagan is an Australian comedian that appears both on the stage and TV. More Rules for Life is her third published book and both ‘rules’ books were written during the multiple lockdowns caused by the pandemic.
Both books are the perfect accompaniment while muddling through a deep or technical book. When reading something heavy, it’s nice to have something light on standby. Much like scrolling through a phone but far more satisfying, these books create the perfect tool for procrastination.
In ‘More Rules for Life’, Flanagan has logically ordered her rules into chapters such as leisure and lifestyle, and holidays and travel. There are rules for each generation, which tickled my fancy- it is always enjoyable to poke fun at other generations while ignoring the quirks of your own. She has also included different sections about the pandemic such as mask wearing, and zoom etiquette. Rule number 631 ‘always state your whereabouts when talking to someone on the phone’ had me laugh out loud but I won’t dare to summarise it as my execution wouldn’t do Flanagan’s humour any justice.
Flanagan’s dry wit is exactly what you might need on a dull day, in a dull zoom meeting, or just when you need a laugh.
Apples Never Fall
Apples Never Fall
By Liane Moriarty
Pan Macmillan Australia 2021
A mother’s love is not always as clearly defined as one might imagine. And there are many ways for a child to show and return that love.
In Apples Never Fall the Delaney family are a passionate, competitive and larger-than-life tennis family. The parents, Stan and Joy, have recently retired from their tennis coaching school that both they and their children lived and breathed for decades. But neither Stan, Joy, nor their children made it to Wimbledon as hoped, and the question looms about who is most disappointed by this.
Savannah is not one of the Delaneys and her mysterious entry into their lives is unexpected. Her ulterior motive is unclear and when Joy disappears, suspicions about Savannah’s involvement bubble to the surface.
Liane Moriarty, author of nine successful adult novels, never fails to deliver. As with all of her published stories, she craftily builds numerous characters, each with vivid, defined voices. Her strength in writing from each character’s perspective is consistent and entertaining. Despite dark themes, Moriarty continues to create stories with humour and energy that allow her readers to breeze through the tales with light-heartedness.
One of my favourite authors; Apples Never Fall is another of Moriarty’s that I’d highly recommend.
The Silly Seabed Song
Aura Parker (2021)
Penguin Random House Australia
Have you ever counted sheep to get to sleep? Or perhaps you sang a song to help dreams come along? Poor Turtle Hatchling Fred can’t get to sleep and all of the other sea animals think it’s a great idea to play the Silly Seabed Song! There are rhymes and nonsensical words, boings and bangs and plenty of colour.
Aura Parker is an illustrator, designer and picture story book creator. Her successful book Twig received a notable from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and her book Meerkat Splash won the Speech Pathology Book of the Year award in 2020. The Silly Seabed Song is Parker’s most recent project. With its playful illustrations and rhythmic text, it is bound to please a young audience.
The Silly Seabed Song is an extravaganza of bright colours and animated sea creatures. Parker has a ‘find it’ key at the beginning and end of the book that will mean multiple reads are a must. Well pitched for pre-school aged children, this book would also be ideal for the Early Years in Primary school where an abundance of punctuation, rhyme and onomatopoeia can be analysed.
Train party by Karen Blair
Karen Blair (2021)
Penguin Random House Australia
“Here come the trains! Clickety-clack!”
This is a delightfully illustrated story that many pre-schoolers can relate to. The picnic rug and treats are set out and there is excitement bubbling as the mini trains and their drivers collect the families for a scenic drive around Castleview Railway.
Karen Blair is an illustrator and art teacher. She’s worked with a number of well-known authors such as Margaret Wild (Our Baby) and Davina Bell (Lemonade Jones). Train Party, however, is one of the few books that are both written and illustrated by Blair. The book begins with a playful map of Castleview Railway. The story takes readers through the delight of a young child’s birthday party. Colour and illustrations fill the pages with short bursts of rhythmic text and basic rhymes.
This would be a winner for any young child who has experienced the delight of a birthday party, and any eager young train enthusiast.
The Adventures of Mittens
Silvio Bruinsma (2021)
Penguin Random House New Zealand
Mittens is not your ordinary cat! A Turkish Angora cat, he lives with his family in Wellington, New Zealand. Through his own Facebook page ‘The Wondrous Adventures of Mittens’, this cat has captured the hearts of a community and has even been presented with The Key to the City of Wellington by the Mayor.
In this cute rhyming story, the reader enjoys following Mittens through the city to discover the many different people and professions within. Mittens is an explorer and enjoys roaming. He visits a clothing store and a university. He spends some time on a desk in an office block and checks out what is going on at the central police station.
Silvio Bruinsma wrote this story following on from the immense popularity of his pet cat Mittens. Through Mitten’s real life wanderings, Bruinsma saw an opportunity to direct the celebrity attention to a worthy cause: New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation. The illustrations by Phoebe Morris have a playful cartoon quality about them. It is a book that will delight cat lovers and young children alike!
Moonlight Mums by Laura Stitzel
Moonlight Mums- A cosy bedtime story for busy families
Laura Stitzel (2021)
Penguin Random House Australia
“Mums, with many things to do, all miss their little ones like you.”
Do you know a busy mum who can’t always be home to tuck in their little ones? This modern bedtime story paints a realistic picture of the working mother who can’t always be the one to put their young child to bed. Busy mums miss their children and will always be home to give them a kiss, even if they are already tucked up and asleep.
Laura Stitzel is an illustrator, author and animator from Australia. She has written and illlustrated Moonlight Mums and Mr Mo Starts to Grow. She has also contributed cover art and illustrations to a range of other books such as Elliot Perlman’s Catwinkle series, as well as animations including Disney’s Space Chickens in Space.
Moonlight Mums is a gentle comparison story where animals and their mothers cannot always be together at bed time, just like the little family in the story. Full of colour and rhymes, it is a beautiful story to read to a young child at night. At a higher level, this would be an excellent book to teach Compare and Contrast and Author’s craft: Organisation.
7 1/2 A Novel by Christos Tsiolkas
7 ½ A Novel
By Christos Tsiolkas
Allen & Unwin. 2021
I read the entire book believing that it was a true recount and I kept waiting for the fictional story to launch and take over. It wasn’t until the end when I read the acknowledgements that I realised the lover the narrator referred to in the book was not the same lover that Tsiolkas dedicated the book to. As I investigated deeper, I realised that this realistic recount was in fact fictitious.
7 ½ is a unique text. It follows a writer who wishes to work in solitude so that he can write about beauty. He’s not sure that he can, as his usual style is grit and outrage. “You can’t write about beauty,” says his friend, “You’re shit at metaphor.” But he’s tired of being angry and no longer cares for politics. He thinks constantly about his lover and the beauty of their relationship while he writes a fictional tale about a porn star that he once idolised.
Tsiolkas strives to show the beauty in the everyday and yet his descriptions are still raw and gritty. However I think this is his point, to embrace the shocking truth such as the sweet stench of one’s own body odor. And speaking of scent, it is something that Tsiolkas does best; describing the depth of smells that we all know to be true but still make us blush.
After writing 7 breathtaking novels that have been awarded numerous prizes and adapted for screen, 7 ½ A Novel is something out of the box. It’s a story, a musing, an observation and a story within a story. It’s something for a reader to ponder long after finishing.
Salih by Inda Ahmad Zahri
Inda Ahmad Zahri (2021)
Salih is a story of hope and empathy. A young child with a backpack full of belongings and her memories, flees her war-torn home. We learn of her sadness and wishes, and the different ways that people cope with trauma. Her journey is long and frightening. Salih and her fellow refugees do not know what will meet them when they finally reach their destination. They cannot be certain that there will be someone who can understand them and the challenges they have faced.
This is a beautifully illustrated picture story book that can help young children understand some of the experiences that other children around the world face. It is a gateway book to a global understanding and can be a fabulous tool to develop our young global citizens. The reader has an opportunity to make connections with the lovely things that Salih remembers, and is then asked to consider the changes that Salih has faced due to war.
This book is rich with imagery: “By the time we reach the sea, I am jangling like a potioneer.” and metaphor: “The sea is angry for the homes we’ve lost.” As a teacher, this book is the perfect mentor text for teaching a range of comprehension strategies including prediction and inferring. It’s also an excellent model for writing traits such as the supreme word choice e.g. ‘stomachs lurch’, ‘feet thrum’. At Year Two this text could be introduced as a challenging text where considerable rereads and teacher support might be necessary. It would also be appropriate for the Middle and Senior Years of Primary School.
Klara and the Sun
Kazuo Ishiguro 2021
Faber and Faber
A unique dystopian story written by a celebrated author. Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun was longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize after he received a multitude of awards for his previous seven novels.
In this story, an artificial friend (AF) has been developed to starve off loneliness for children who have been ‘Lifted’. To be Lifted is to be modified so that one can have future career advantages. The narrator is one such artificial friend named Klara, and the story told through her eyes creates an unreliable perspective of the challenges faced by humans in this futuristic world.
Klara is a special AF and is charged with caring for Josie, a young teenager who has become quite ill. Klara is observant, adaptable and intelligent, and because of her own solar charging, comes to believe that the sun is a powerful God.
The tone becomes dark and ominous when the desperate motives of Josie’s parents are revealed. Klara appeals to the Sun for help as she grapples with her understanding of what it is to love another.
With themes of hope, love and science, this is a story with many twists and turns. The reader will find themselves flip-flopping between sympathies for different characters, while the voice of Klara remains consistent and unique throughout the story.
What's this about?
As a lover of books and a teacher, I read widely. Here you will find book reviews of many genres including picture story, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, women's fiction, short story anthologies, non-fiction and anything else that takes my fancy.