This suspenseful adventure story is the first of a seven-novel series about the response of a group of adolescents to the invasion of their country. Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the bush to find their families taken prisoner and their country overrun. From evading their enemies they turn to attacking them and in the process undergo significant changes. The descriptions of place and incident are compelling. This novel and its sequels provide an excellent opportunity for an author study. (See also Winter, So Much to Tell You.)
University of Queensland Press – ISBN: 0702231517
This is a groundbreaking novel, which explores issues of identity, friendship and the roles society assigns to gender. In his final year at school Xavier McLachlan discovers that relationships are of equal or greater importance than his coveted place in the school’s first XV rugby team. The game of rugby becomes something of a metaphor for life as his friendship with the unconventional and confronting Nuala develops. In the search for an identity uniquely theirs, both characters question the expectation of their peers and the society in which they belong. Characterisation is skilful and the exploration of relationships is particularly thought-provoking. (See also ABridge to Wiseman’s Cove.)
Donna Jo Napoli
Simon & Schuster – ISBN: 0689835906
Donna Jo Napoli expands the tale of Beauty and the Beast in this glittering novel set in ancient Persia. Prince Orasmyn is cursed to lion shape until the love of a woman releases him. He travels across Asia to France in his lion shape until he finds refuge in an abandoned chateau where he plants a rose garden. The story then follows its traditional path embellished with references to rose horticulture, Persian literature and the beliefs of Islam. The novel invites comparisons with the original tale and other retellings such as Robin McKinley’s Beauty. A glossary of Persian and Arabic words is provided.
HarperCollins (Moonstone) – ISBN: 1865080403
Sabriel is a very dark and at times quite disturbing fantasy. The heroine is a young girl who inherits magical powers from her necromancer father. Her father’s sudden disappearance thrusts her into a world of danger in which she learns to use her talents effectively through bitter and often painful experience. A battle between good and evil rages throughout the book and is described with intensity quite unlike most children’s fantasies of this genre. Not for the faint-hearted, Sabriel is a complex and often violent book which rewards the reader with the creation of a vivid and challenging fantasy world.
The Wind Singer
Reed – ISBN: 1740517571
In the city of Aramanth people are divided according to their occupation. If they work hard they can move through the system. However the Hath family cherish ideas and dreams and their daughter Kestel finds it difficult to fit the order and regulation and conformity of the city. Guided by an old map she sets out with her brother Bowman and their friend Mumpo on an adventure that takes them through the city sewers into the desert beyond. They know that if they can find the voice of the Wind Singer, an ancient and mysterious instrument that stands in the centre of Aramanth, they can save their people from a deadening lethargy. Tolerance and the importance of individuality are explored in the wonderful fantasy, the first book of a planned trilogy. (See also Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong.)
The Sterkarm Handshake
Scholastic Point – ISBN: 0439014085
Not just another time travel fantasy, The Sterkarm Handshake offers an insight into modern society and its values. When a 21st century scientific corporation invests in a time travel machine which makes the 16th century available as a holiday destination, the attitudes of the time travellers (scientists, entrepreneurs, anthropologists) to the society of the past deliver a revealing commentary on the society of the present. Parallels are drawn between the exploitation of the past society for tourist dollars and the imperialist exploitation of indigenous peoples in countries such as USA. An unusual love story holds the plot together and adds depth to the author’s exploration of human motivation. The Sterkarm Handshake won the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction in 1999.
Scholastic – ISBN: 0590660543
Northern Lights is the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman has created a parallel universe in which science, theology, and magic are closely linked. Lyra Belacqua is an orphan growing up in a parallel Oxford where people have a personal daemon, the manifestation of their souls in animal form. When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are determined to find him. Their quest leads them to the north of the country where horrible experiments are taking place on children. This complex and compelling fantasy with its links to the poetry of John Milton and its depiction of multiple worlds will reward close study. The Amber Spyglass, the third book in the trilogy, won the Guardian Award for Children’s Fiction in 2001.
Anne Provoost (translated by John Nieuwenhuizen)
Allen & Unwin – ISBN: 1864484446
For Lucas, a young man on holidays, the long, hot summer proves to hold menace and temptation. After his grandfather’s death Lucas’ return to the old house places him next door to the enigmatic Caitlin and brings him into contact with some extreme nationalists. This deep and disturbing novel about racism and complex moral choices will prove very relevant to Australians. Falling was first published in Belgium; it has been translated into several languages and won five major literary awards.
Hodder Headline – ISBN: 0733611818
Civilisation as we know it ends with a blackout. Through the first person narration of two well-developed characters, Holly and Tony, Pryor has created an effective scenario of the ensuing chaos and social breakdown. The lunatic New Order rises rapidly to power, blaming the old regime for the failure. Meanwhile, the scientists and supporters of the old regime are struggling to rebuild their world. The book climaxes with the inevitable clash between new and old.
The Fifth Quest
Puffin – ISBN: 0143300016
Rose is a young girl who gains a role in a well-known television series, The Quest of Ashtari. Her role brings her close to the star of the series and creates problems with her best friend. This entertaining novel explores rivalry and fame and would be a useful companion text to the study of film and television because of its insight into the techniques of production.