Malamander

Malamander
Malamander Book One
Written by Thomas Taylor
Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery, Fantasy
Published May 1st 2019
304 Pages
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★★★★★
Nobody visits Eerie On Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep.

Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy, especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea monster, the Malamander. Eerie On Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger...
As winter approaches the seaside town of Cheerie On Sea, the summer warmth begins to evaporate, the bustle of tourists has disappeared and the first two letters on the welcome sign disintegrate and the harbour side town becomes Eerie On Sea, a township thriving on folklore and intrigue. Herbert Lemon is the lost and founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, a centuries old tradition of returning lost items to their owners and finding objects that have been lost. When a wild eyed young girl stumbles into Herbert's cellar of lost treasures, adventure awaits.

Violet Parma has returned to the Grand Nautilus Hotel to uncover the mystery of the disappearance of her parents, infant Violet found in the family hotel suite while all that remained of her parents were their shoes left upon the beach for the tide to claim. Technically Violet is a lost child searching for her parents and if anyone could solve the decade long disappearance, it's Herbert Lemon, lost and founder extraordinaire.

Herbert Lemon is a fantastically entertaining, endearing young man and prestigious lost and founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Herbert Lemon arrived at the hotel as a child under the care of Lady Kracken and hotel manager, the petulant Mister Mollusc, found washed upon the sandy shore with no knowledge of his name. Residing in the hotel cellar, Herbert is surrounded by centuries of hotel memorabilia including clues which will perhaps provide answers for young Violet.

Violet Parma has returned to Eerie On Sea to discover the final moments of her parents. Although raised by her aunt, Violet has travelled alone with only the clothes she's currently wearing and a tattered postcard around her neck that was found in her abandoned bassinet. Violet is a sprightly girl and daring adventurer but under her inquisitive facade is a young girl grieving and searching for the parents she barely knew. She may not remember the community of Eerie On Sea but her reputation proceeds her. Following in the footsteps of her parents, visiting the Eerie Book Depository where books choose their reader, the fish and chippery at the end of the pier where the lonely man awaits the song of the siren or the local physician who has a museum of artefacts and curios but those of Eerie On Sea will tell you they were taken by the Malamander, a mythical creature from the ocean depths.

Malamander is outrageously entertaining and wildly imaginative. Thomas Taylor has created a fantastically atmospheric narrative of unforgettable and beautifully written characters, of adventure and shenanigans. Simply brilliant. 

Catch A Falling Star

Catch a Falling Star
Written by Meg McKinlay
Middle Grade, Historical, Contemporary, #LoveOZMG
Published March 1st 2019
256 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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★★★★☆
It’s 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things twelve year old Frankie thought she’d forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only did he? Does he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. It always has been. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading straight for calamity.
Frankie Avery is watching the skies high above her small town in Western Australia where six years prior, revolutionary space station Skylab was launched into orbit. NASA estimates that Skylab will fall to earth within the next few months, reigniting memories of six year old Frankie, two year old brother Newt and their father in their makeshift star observatory, teaching his children about the limitless depths of space before he disappeared from their lives.

The ramshackle observatory sits derelict, high on the hill holding secrets lost to time. Secrets of a father who is no longer of this world. Of a grieving family, an absent mother and a space station that is falling to Earth on the anniversary of her father's disappearance.

Frankie Avery is a wonderful young lady and narrator of Catch A Falling Star. She's mature beyond her years and currently cares for her brother, the namesake of scientific revolutionary Sir Issac Newton. Caring for Newt is a full time position and while Frankie juggles school, her homework and Newt's endless scientific experiments, she feels the frustration of friend Kat who adores Newt but would like to spend time with her best friend without her little brother tagging along. Frankie's mother works long hours, a nurse at the local hospital who is often late home and asks Frankie to prepare dinner and take responsibility for Newt.

Twelve year old Frankie just wants to please others, her mother, best friend Kat and keep Newt safe from harm, usually of his own doing but as the coverage of Skylab saturates the media, Newt begins tracking the falling space station, collecting information, articles and media reports to piece together when Skylab will fall to Earth. As an infant, Newt was always destined for the stars and although he can't remember, would sit upon his father's knee and watch the skies from their wooden observatory. With their mother working long into the night, Frankie and Newt only have one another and a dusty photo album that contains their father's life.

My heart ached for all Frankie endured, the loss of her father, the responsibility placed upon her young shoulders and the grief she suppresses to maintain the balance at home. I loved the nostalgic Australiana of the late seventies, the feeling of warm summer nights, freshly cut grass and walking to the local milk bar barefooted. Meg McKinlay has created a wonderfully gentle narrative, beautifully tender and an exploration of the many facets of grief and how is reshapes families. Absolutely loved it to the moon and back. 

The Little Wave

The Little Wave
Written by Pip Harry
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Verse, #LoveOZMG
30th April 2019
234 Pages
Thank you to UQP
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★★★★★
When a Manly school sets out to bring a country class to the city for a beach visit, three very different kids find each other and themselves.

Noah is fearless in the surf. Being at the beach makes him feel free. So where does his courage go when his best mate pushes him around?

Lottie loves collecting facts about bugs, but she wishes her dad would stop filling their lonely house with junk. She doesn’t know what to do about it.

Jack wants to be a cricket star, but first he has to get to school and look after his little sister. Especially if he wants to go on the class trip and see the ocean for the first time.
The students of the Sydney beachside suburb of Manly are fundraising for an excursion to Manly Beach for the students in the rural town of Mullin New South Wales. The children of Mullin haven't been afforded the opportunity to visit the city of Sydney, the warm sandy beaches and crashing waves only seen on television or in photos including student Jack, amateur cricketer and Mullin resident. Noah and Lottie are given the responsibility of organising the fundraiser and the three children become unlikely friends.

Lottie lives with her single father after losing her mother, immersing herself within her entomology studies, passionate about insects and the local native flora. At home, Lottie's father continues to grieve the loss of his wife through his hoarding disorder. His collections of items spilling out of the house into the garden and causing the neighbours to complain to the local council. Noah is an enthusiastic surfer, under the vigilant watch of his parents since he was rescued from drowning. His best friend Harley is becoming increasingly aggressive towards Noah and with support from new friend Lottie and Jack's letters, gains the confidence to stand up for himself against his bully.

Jack and sister Kirra live with their mother in Mullin and although his mother words endlessly, he and Kirra have cousin Alby for company. The fridge and pantry and typically empty and their mother unaware of the absences Jack has from school, pressured by Alby who has finished school. When Jack's mother decides to seek support for her alcoholism, Kirra and Jack are sent to live with their aunt. Sleeping on the floor until a teacher intervenes.

Children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, exposed to neglect, alcoholism and depression, expected to care for younger siblings and themselves. The expectations placed upon children and the mental anguish they endure, Jack in particular feeling a sense of isolation. His mother was consistently working or tired, which likely may have been hungover. Lottie grieving for her mother while her father becomes depressive and her only support is the solace she finds in her tentative friendship with Noah, her insects and her letters from Mullin teacher Miss Waites.

Pip Harry has created a beautiful narrative. Told in verse, The Little Wave is a wonderfully gentle story that will resonate with children and early adolescents, the feeling of wanting to belong. Simply lovely.

Watch Us Rise

Watch Us Rise
Written by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Contemporary, Feminism, Poetry
Published March 4th 2019
368 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★☆
Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends on a mission. Sick of the way that young women are treated even at their progressive New York City high school, they decide to start a Women's Rights Club. One problem, no one shows up. That hardly stops them. They start posting everything from videos of Chelsea performing her poetry to Jasmine's response to being reduced to a racist and sexist stereotype in the school's theatre department. And soon, they've gone viral, creating a platform they never could've predicted.

With such positive support, the Women's Rights Club is also targeted by trolls. But Jasmine and Chelsea won't let their voices or those of the other young women in their city be silenced. They'll risk everything to be heard and effect change. But at what cost?
Amsterdam Heights High School is considered a liberal arts college, a progressive institution that encourages students to experience the world through artistic activism. Students Jasmine and Chelsea are tired of female students being reduced to stereotypes, forbidden to create conversations around the patriarchy, experiencing prejudice, racism and body shaming.

Jasmine Grey is an artivist and a black young woman raised in Harlem, using her stage presence to create and inspire. Chelsea Spencer creates poetry to raise awareness of the expectations placed on women, how they are perceived and often regarded as fragile and vulnerable members of a patriarchal society. Jasmine and Chelsea are founders of Write Like A Girl, a women's rights movement that encourages female students to share their experiences through solidarity and challenge Amsterdam Heights High School in creating an impartial, tolerant and inclusive environment for all students, especially female students and through an online blog, their artivism begins to inspire and empower a feminist movement.

Jasmine is passionate about black women being heard. As a voluptuous young black woman, she's aware of her body, aware of how society views those who aren't white and slender, our bodies dismissed and degraded. Within the August Wilson Acting Ensemble, Jasmine is typecast as the loud, sassy character who is considering weight loss, despite protesting her aversion of occupying roles that the industry has stereotyped for black women and women who are plus sized. I applauded Jasmine's character for her bravery and fortitude to challenge the authority of the Amsterdam Heights High School faculty, especially considering her personal circumstances.

Chelsea unfortunately was incredibly superficial and although she attempts to advocate through her poetry, her character needed guidance, especially as to not appear judgemental of females who do not conform to her feminist ideals. Choosing traditional roles such as the homemaker or primary caregiver of children as an example. As women, we're often instinctively the peacemakers, we guide others and educate, we're nurturers and caregivers. We liberate, we're scientists and mathematicians, we're women supporting all women but now with accessible online resources and spaces for women to openly discuss equality, without the concern of conversations being derailed or diminished. 

Within the dialogue, Chelsea also uses the term womyn and as she describes, so I don't have to include the word man which is harmful as it excludes transwomen and  also often uses the term womanist. Previously feminism movements have excluded black women and therefore womanist was representative of black women. Unfortunately it was introduced into the narrative and used exclusively by Chelsea who is a young white woman.

Unfortunately it didn't discuss intersectionality and the marginalisation of queer women, women with disabilities or transwomen. Characters Jasmine and Chelsea are beginning their journey as activists, fuelled by inspirational women who forged pathways for the next generation of feminists. Watch Us Rise is a great resource for young women as an introduction to feminism.

Buddy read with the wonderful Little Miss Star. Please check out her review here

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