This powerful and poignant novel asks profound questions about the meaning of life and the possibility of living forever. The Tuck family have found the fountain of youth in spring water and for them eternal life is a reality. Whether this gift is a blessing or a curse is explored in this novel. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles into the family and a stranger seems close to exploiting the secret the Tucks must take action to protect Winnie and the secret. This text can be read at different levels and provides excellent opportunities for classroom discussion and composing.
The Cry of the Wolf
Puffin Teenage Books – ISBN: 0140373187
The Cry of the Wolf, a cautionary tale about extinction and survival, is set in Britain where a hunter is determined to shoot the last wolves left alive in the wild. Ben unwittingly assists the stranger before he realises the danger the hunter presents. Ben and his family then do all they can to save the wolves, Silver and Conna and their cubs. The final confrontation between Grey Cub, the sole survivor, and his parents’ killer, turns the hunter into the hunted. With its clear descriptions and compelling narrative this novel will have strong appeal in the classroom.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
Hodder Headline – ISBN: 0340266074
Set in Hiroshima in the 1950s, this is the story of eleven-year-old Sadako who develops leukaemia as a result of radiation from the atomic bomb. The ‘thousand paper cranes’ of the title refers to a belief that a sick person will be made healthy again by the gods if she can make a thousand paper cranes. The story tells of Sadako’s determination to put the story to the test. This simple tale of love and hope is a powerful text to use in the classroom.
King of Shadows
Penguin – ISBN: 0141307994
This time-shift novel takes young Nat Field back to Shakespeare’s time. Nat is rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the rebuilt Globe Theatre, when he is stricken with bubonic plague. He wakes to find himself in a play with Will Shakespeare – Cooper provides authentic detail from the Elizabethan Age as a backdrop to Nat’s growth as an actor and a person. This is an excellent novel to study in companionship with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (See also The Dark is Rising sequence.) Walk Two Moons
Macmillan – ISBN: 0330330004
This story uses the technique of embedded storytelling to explore the mysteries that surround the young heroine’s past. Sal’s life has been completely disrupted by an event in the past involving her mother. With her grandparents, she embarks on a journey across the USA to ‘discover’ the truth. The story of the car journey is at times humorous, at times poignant. Implanted in it are a multitude of other stories about school, friends, other mothers, fathers and children. As the stories weave their way towards a conclusion and the mysteries are unravelled, we are carried with them to an overwhelming affirmation of the importance of the family. 1995 Newbery Medal Winner. (See also The Wanderer.)
Catherine, Called Birdy
Macmillian – ISBN: 0330397796
Set in the Middle Ages, this is a story of Birdy, the teenage daughter of a minor lord and lady in Lincolnshire. Birdy keeps a diary and as her father tries to marry her off to different suitors she records not only her reactions and evasions but also presents a clear portrait of life in the Middle Ages. In this funny and engrossing novel, Catherine may sound like a medieval Adrian Mole but the Author’s Note provides background information that helps to position the reader in the historical reality.
The First Book of Samuel
Penguin Books Australia (Viking) – ISBN: 0140369953
Twelve-year-old Samuel Cass finds himself in familiar Dubosarsky territory – an urban, professional-class family whose fabric is taut with tension as all members struggle to find their individuality in the complexity of relationships and cultural diversity. The past poignantly echoes in the actions of Samuel’s grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, to hold the family together. The author’s prose sparkles with absolute clarity.
Allen & Unwin – ISBN: 1865086940
Deborah Ellis’ story of a twelve-year-old living in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime conveys, with disturbing immediacy, the plight of a people living in a society where basic freedoms are denied. After her brother’s death, her mother and sister as adult women are confined to the family home and her father is imprisoned by the authorities. It is up to Parvana to provide for the family. In doing so she meets others who are suffering as she is and learns strategies of survival in a world where women become prisoners in the home from adolescence onwards.
Edited by Alwyn Evans
Fremantle Arts Centre Press – ISBN: 1863683828
School students in Western Australian schools have written this collection of short stories, all winners of the Tim Winton Young Writers Award. While these stories are from upper and middle primary students in the Perth metropolitan area their focus is on real-life experiences. The brief biographies that follow the students through to their high schools will provide a useful transition text for Year 7 teachers and students.
Ariel, Zed and the Secret of Life
Allen & Unwin – ISBN: 1865082635
Ariel and Zed are misfits and wary of holidays together, but the mysterious island Ariel’s mother talks about sounds interesting even if she seems a little vague about it. This wonderfully funny novel of fantasy and adventure, with its badly behaving characters from well-known stories and fairy tales, is an excellent introduction to intertextuality. Ariel, Zed and the Secret of Life was the winner of the Alan Marshall Award in the 1993 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
HarperCollins – ISBN: 0207198012
Four country children waiting for the school bus in the rain occupy themselves with taking turns telling stories. It is Anna’s turn and the story she begins takes the children to Nazi Germany and the world of Hitler’s daughter, Heidi. Anna, usually a great storyteller, find this one difficult! It is clear that, for her, Heidi is more than a character in a make-believe story. As the children become more and more involved in Heidi’s story, they explore the moral and ethical issues it raises in their own conversations and with their parents. The book offers many opportunities for exploring methods of narration and the interconnectedness of fact and fiction.
Puffin – ISBN: 0140389857
Libby Gleeson highlights the plight of refugees, as Andrew becomes involved in his sister’s plan to shelter an illegal East Timorese immigrant in the family home. The author paints a convincing portrait of a strong family unit, able to withstand vigorous debate and disagreement on a range of personal and political issues. It is pleasing to see an adolescent male portrayed as sensitive to the feelings of family and friends. Humorous interludes and present-tense narrative alleviate the intensity of the theme. (See also Love Me Love Me Not, Eleanor Elizabeth, I Am Susannah.)
Two Weeks with the Queen
Pan Macmillian Australia – ISBN: 0330271830
Colin is sent to England by his parents when his little brother is dying of leukaemia. He sets out to find the ‘best doctor in the world’ and is thrown out of both Buckingham Palace and a major London hospital. He helps a man whose friend is dying of AIDS in hospital and learns the importance of being with loved ones in a crisis. Then, for this reason, he returns home. Funny as well as sad, the book is accessible on a wide range of reading levels. (See also Bumface and The Other Facts of Life.) Thunderfish
Random House Australia – ISBN: 009183953X
This action-packed sea rescue adventure is set in the future. Kira is a rich, female protagonist whose aim is to save refugees attacked by pirates on the high seas. The book deals with a number of moral dilemmas, decisions relating to piracy, individual responsibility and the dubious power of the press, highlighted in sensationalised gossip columns and headlines. The thriller is compelling and easy reading with an interesting twist to complete the story. The characters are believable and the twenty-first century technology is fascinating.