Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a delightful tale about a storyteller who loses his ability to tell tales. His son struggles to recover his father’s special gift by doing battle against mysterious forces attempting to destroy the seas of inspiration from which all stories are derived. Funny, allusive and fast-paced, this story will provide many opportunities for student responding and composing.
Puffin – ISBN: 0141310243
Three Australian children are kidnapped and propelled into a vicious game in the Galax-Arena, where rivalry and death mingle. Believing themselves to have been transported from earth to become the pets of an alien species, the children must struggle to understand themselves as well as their predicament. The special language developed by the kidnapped children can make for a fascinating classroom study. (See also Space Demons, Skymaze and Shinkei.)
Bloomsbury – ISBN: 0747548471
In a Texas wasteland at Camp Green Lake, in a juvenile detention facility where there is no lake, boys are forced to dig countless holes to improve their character. Stanley Yelnats finds himself at Camp Green Lake, the innocent victim of mistaken identity. He discovers that the character building is a cover for the warden (who paints her fingernails with rattlesnake venom) and her search for something hidden in the desert. The novel moves between time with humour and craft. It has a wonderfully twisted ending and its deep understanding of friendship and compassion make it an outstanding classroom text. Winner of theNewbery Award in 1999.
The Bad Beginning
HarperCollins – ISBN: 0064407667
Poor Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire! They have the misfortune to lose their parents and despite their intelligence, charm and resourcefulness they are exceptionally unlucky. This leads to many difficult and dangerous experiences, which inevitably amuse and entertain. This irreverent and twisted tale should prove popular in the classroom and there are several sequels.
HarperCollins – ISBN: 0006754171
In Waymer, USA, a boy’s tenth birthday is the biggest event of his life but Palmer La Rue doesn’t want to turn ten and become a wringer because that will mean he will have to kill pigeons. Bullying, peer pressure and family relationships are central to this novel in which a young boy must learn how to stop being afraid and stand up for what he believes in. Wringer is a powerful and effective novel that confronts issues that all teenagers face. (See also Maniac Magee.)
Lothian Books – ISBN: 0734401132
If white boys can’t jump, can Asian boys play cricket? Vietnamese-born Lan is sick of multicultural food festivals at school and wants to do something different. He decides with his friend, Izram, to form a school cricket team with a difference. This funny and entertaining novel explores multiculturalism and school with a sharp eye and, while set in a primary school, is still relevant for high school study.
Lockie Leonard, Legend
Macmillan – ISBN: 0330360027
This is an engaging story of second love as Lockie continues learning about relationships when his ex-girlfriend comes back into his life. Lockie is growing up and family responsibilities take over when his mother suffers a breakdown and is admitted to the local hospital. Winton’s skilful use of language and his creation of a contemporary vernacular are very appealing. (See also Blueback, Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo and Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster.)
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a mystifying and wonderful collection of pictures, each with accompanying one-line text, that can inspire and enthuse students. This American classic won the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award for 1984. Van Allsburg has won the Caldicott Award three times. (See also The Wreck of the Zephyr and Jumanji.)
Walker Books – ISBN: 0744552397
A sister forgets the quarrels she has had with her brother and attempts a rescue that demonstrates the power of her affection. The picture book with its allusions to other folk tales would make a good introduction to the use of intertextuality; it is a fascinating exploration of a sibling relationship. (See also Voices in the Park, Piggybook.)
Libby Hathorn and Gregory Rogers
Random House Australia (Mark Macleod Books) – ISBN: 0091829186
This is the story of Shane, a young street kid, his finding of a lost kitten and their journey home to Shane’s ‘house’. The illustrator portrays a city at night (Sydney), contrasting the busy streets ablaze with lights and the dark back alleys. Both are hazardous for Shane and the tiny kitten. Way Home is a poignant tale of two vulnerable young survivors for older readers.
Eleanor Coerr and Ed Young
Margaret Hamilton Books – ISBN: 1876289481
This picture book rending of the famous Sadako story is illuminated by Ed Young’s delicate pastels. Students can benefit from a comparison of the visual text with the longer prose version annotated earlier in this list. (See Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.)
The Singing Hat
Penguin Books (Viking) – ISBN: 014131320X
This picture book parable explores the possible impact of serendipitous events and celebrates difference and the courage to remain resolute in the face of widespread disapproval. Something unexpected and improbable happens to Colin Jenkins, and the world around him seems a different place because of it. The illustrations combine collaged photos and fabrics, revealing and witty speech bubbles, bold blocks of colour and featureless, white urban silhouette against which the plot is played out.
The Great Escape from City Zoo
HarperCollins (Angus & Robertson) – ISBN: 0207196087
This brilliantly original concept is executed with imagination and craft in a monochrome suggestive of historic photographs. The sophisticated style and wit enchant both adults, who will appreciate the satire on city life, and children, who will enjoy the escaping animals’ inventiveness and deception of adults. The illustrations make subtle, clever reference to various icons of 20th century visual art and film.