Kids' & YA Books March Round-Up

Bushrangers, bankrobbers and missing person investigations all feature in this month’s round-up but don’t worry, it’s more hopeful than bleak, and we can confirm that the Next Big Thing is…cute little brothers.


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It’s another great month for YA, especially the Australian variety, but first a novel from the States that’s so good I’m going to break all my own rules and use the term unputdownable.

em-freaks*Freaks Like Us* by Susan Vaught is about a teenage boy with schizophrenia, who is relentlessly plagued by inner voices, so much so that when his beloved best friend Sunshine goes missing he can’t be absolutely sure that he hasn’t harmed her.

As an investigation gets underway, he knows there’s something he’s suppressing and it’s going to take enormous bravery to bring it to the surface. I loved Susan Vaught’s intensity and fearless approach.

Have a look at our recent blog post to find out why she was so well-placed to write a novel about teenagers living with mental illness.

Back home, two much-loved names in Australian children’s & YA fiction came together for a double launch last week at the Carlton store: Simmone Howell with the highly anticipated Girl Defective, and Kate Constable, author of the award-winning Crow Country, with another beautiful novel in New Guinea Moon.

A double launch just about sums up the Melbourne YA community – generous, supportive and truly dedicated to the genre. Simmone Howell’s prose in Girl Defective is in a league of its own; our children’s and YA specialist at Hawthorn, Katherine Dretzke, has already labelled it her book of the year. Kathy Kozlowski at the Carlton store loved Kate Constable’s “light touch” and the dramatic moments throughout New Guinea Moon (Kate grew up in New Guinea). I hope this kicks off a double-launch trend.

Sibling relationships are a stand-out feature in Australian YA this year – teenage girls with quirky little brothers in particular. There’s pig-snout wearing Gully in Girl Defective, and I’m currently reading Lili Wilkinson’s latest, The Zig-Zag Effect, featuring a magic-obsessed little brother.

That book is out next week and you can join Lili and I for a chat at the Carlton store (Thursday 21st March at 6.30pm).

But available right now is Steph Bowe’s second novel, All This Could End, narrated by a teenage girl, Nina, whose family earns a living by robbing banks, and also by her new friend Spencer whose father just happens to be a bank manager. A quirky premise leads the way into this novel about teenagers trying to carve out their own identity in the middle of family chaos. And there’s another little brother in Tom, age 12, who is rather more enthusiastic about robbing banks than his big sister.

em-timmy Our children’s book of the month, Timmy Failure (currently at the special price of $14.95 for a hardback) is going down brilliantly – it even made our young reviewer miss his tram stop! For those who have zipped through all the Wimpy Kids, Tom Gates and Eric Vale Epic Fail, look no further!

Girls love these books just as much as boys, we’ve found, being more open to characters of either gender. It’s a shame that the idea persists that boys won’t read funny illustrated diary-style series with girl main characters, but I live in hope.

Speaking of which, Starring Jules (As Herself) is a light and funny addition to Junior Fiction (approx. 6-9 year olds), which will particularly appeal to independent readers who like their girl characters not too frilly or fancy. Jules has a lovely, open approach to life. She deals with best-friend issues and her biggest phobia (the flavour of orange) in a sweetly erratic way.

For the same age group there’s Lio: There’s a Monster in My Socks, a graphic novel about a kid who’s very crafty as well as very funny. Graphic novels continue to get the recognition they deserve as a valid addition to a child’s bookcase. As our Hawthorn children’s & YA specialist Alexa Dretzke put it:

“This is a book that isn’t a battle and yet sneakily promotes reading, as books are Lio’s constant companions as he plans his cheeky contraptions.”

In picture books, I’m keen to find out if Jackie French’s latest, Dinosaurs Love Cheese, can give my dinosaur-obsessed but cheese-hating 6-year-old an appreciation for Roquefort. I’ll get back to you on that.

You can meet Jackie French, along with dozens of other amazing authors, at the Children’s Book Festival at the SLV on March 24th. You might also catch me in rabbit ears (to complement the SLV’s Alice in Wonderland exhibition). The things I do for children’s literature…

But let’s end on a more sophisticated note, because you can’t go past the fabulous cover of Meet Ned Kelly, with artwork by a first-time picture book illustrator, Matt Adams.

Perfect for younger readers finding out about the notorious bushranger for the first time, the story is told in classic ballad-style. Author Janeen Brian is another one in the festival line-up on March 24th. If you’re in or around Melbourne, that’s yet another reason to visit.

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[missing asset]**Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time. Her other title is ‘Mum’, or more accurately ‘Muuuuuuuuum!’**

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New Guinea Moon

New Guinea Moon

Kate Constable

$16.99Buy now

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