Round-up of February Children’s and YA Books

Self-identity stands out as a theme this month, expressed through humour or tense drama, with books set in the past, present and future.


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keilThe Ampersand Project from publisher Hardie Grant Egmont aims to sign up debut fiction in a contemporary vein from Australian authors. Life in Outer Space by Melbourne writer Melissa Keil was the winning submission out of several hundred last year. YA fans who have a soft-spot for nerds will love this quirky rom-com about a horror-movie geek trying not to fall for a beautiful girl who seems out of his league. Our children’s and YA specialist Leanne Hall called it “big-hearted and unique”. If you fancy following in Keil’s footsteps, the folk at Ampersand have extended this year’s submission deadline to 22nd February.

Karen Healey’s new YA novel, When We Wake, has the most startling cover and a great premise to go with it. Set in Melbourne about 15 years from now, it’s about a teenage girl who dies, is chosen by the government to be cryogenically frozen and then gets successfully revived 100 years later, becoming an instant celebrity as a result. What will Australia be like in 2127? Healey’s version is scary but believable.

The Australian YA-love continues with Alyssa Brugman’s insightful Alex As Well, which gives us an energetic, often brutal, version of life as a transgendered teenager. Alex has been raised as a boy, and given regular doses of drugs to keep her that way, but she’s had enough of pretending to be someone she’s not and risks everything to change her identity for good. The behaviour of Alex’s mother is particularly confronting. In a few sections of the novel we get to see an online message board she frequents for support, where her turmoil is given voice, too.

My final OZYA mention goes to Melbourne’s Aimee Said whose Freia Lockhart’s Summer of Awful is out this month. Although it’s the sequel to her 2010 novel Finding Freia Lockhart, it reads very well as a standalone. Freia has a fresh, funny voice and this is a very readable story for the younger end of YA – first boyfriends, trouble with the mean girls at school, etc. Exactly the sort of thing I loved at 13 (and now). The book has a serious side, too, with a storyline about a parent going through a serious illness, and this is nicely handled.

joshuadreadDifficult parents crop up again in Joshua Dread, for readers of 8-12, but in a thoroughly light-hearted way. Joshua’s folks have superpowers but instead of cheesily saving the day they decide to use them for their own evil gains. How refreshing! However, this is a source of great embarrassment for Joshua. A fun and easy read – yes it’s got boy appeal but I think parents too will be very tickled if they choose to read this one aloud with their kids.

There are two new girls in the brilliant Our Australian Girl series. Meet Ruby by Penny Matthews is set in Adelaide in 1930, while Meet Lina by Sally Rippin is set right on our doorstep in Readings Carlton, in 1956. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to host an event and look forward to seeing lots of Sally Rippin and Our Australian Girl fans on March 7th at the Carlton store. Italian treats included!

And speaking of treats, if your 7+ children have been enjoying the recent spate of cookery shows, they’ll no doubt enjoy Meredith Costain’s Disaster Chef.

We’ll finish on picture books, and first up is Ten Things I Love About You. Warning: this is extremely cute. Rabbit is making a list of things he loves about Pig, and asks Pig for some help, but Pig is terribly busy and becomes a little impatient with his relentlessly positive friend. The retro artwork is very appealing, and naturally there’s a happy ending for these two very different friends.

Finally, another picture book not to miss is Bronwyn Bancroft’s Remembering Lionsville, a personal and vivid account of this well-known artists’ childhood with the Djanbun clan.


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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!’**

Our Australian Girl: Meet Lina (Book 1)

Our Australian Girl: Meet Lina (Book 1)

Sally Rippin, Lucia Masciullo

$14.95Buy now

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