Clinical psychologist Judith Locke is visiting my school next term, so I figured it would be a good idea to read her book.
After doing so, I’d have to suggest it is very good reading for anyone who has, or who works with children.
The Bonsai Child of the title is a child whose growth is hampered by over-parenting – or in the case of teachers, over-reliance on others instead of themselves.
Locke gives really sensible advice on how much help to give in order to raise – or help foster the talents of – young people, in a way that helps them to be self-sufficient and empowered young adults.
It gives concrete strategies to accomplish this, and clear discussions of the ramifications of what happens if you do not take her advice.
Easy to follow and something parents and teachers can easily look back on.
Alistair McLeod’s collection of short stories Island begins well – the opening two stories, The Boat and The Vastness of the Dark capture McLeod’s key concerns beautifully.
The whole collection is centred around the geography and people of Nova Scotia, the isolation of such remote areas and in many stories, the lack of connection young people feel to the traditional lifestyles. This collection encompasses stories written across the broad span of McLeod’s career – so naturally there are some shifts in focus and conception.
After that promising beginning – you can read The Boat here for example – I got lost in the stories in the middle of the collection. The yearning of the characters got lost amongst far too much detail and I found it very difficult to stay engaged – as many VCE students may also find (Island is on the text list for 2017). While The Road to Rankin’s Point is a poignant moment in the middle, I had difficulty reading the descriptions of animal slaughter in Second Spring, amongst a couple of stories that suddenly had a focus on farming that I didn’t see elsewhere in the collection.
The collection ends will with the eponymous Island looking at how easy it is to give your life to the area and wonder where it went, but I was pretty exhausted by that point. This would be one more to pick and choose from than to try to read as a whole collection.
I am very much overdue in writing this review, having finished the book more than a week ago. My reading has been very interrupted recently as the need to read for the 2016 text list at school has kind of trumped any personal reading. This book sat right in the middle of that process – one I was considering for school, but eventually finished even after I went in a different directon.
Stiff has a lot of things going for it. I enjoyed reading a book set in Melbourne for a start – and it does have a terrific sense of place and local flair. And not many writers can make the world of politics interesting – although pretty much everything the main character Murray Whelan does is interesting. Smart but somehow still a disaster-area, Whelan turns every situation into a black comedy.
Whelan is an ALP member and right-hand man of a sitting member. Somehow, he gets embroiled in the death of a factory worker, which leads him into the path of union corruption and migrant gangs. A few brushes with death later, and he can’t imagine what has happened to his life. Although he would probably prefer all of this to a visit from his estranged wife.
A solid read, particularly for young men who will find much to relate to in Whelan’s character.
Bird and Sugar Boy (or James and Craig) are outsiders who have found each other. Bird in particular is troubled – his mother left him alone with his father years ago, and all he cares about are birds. But life works when the two of them are together. Then Sugar Boy reveals his family is moving to Broome – and Bird’s life falls apart. The one person who supported him is going away, and he feels more abandoned than ever.
Bird takes off to try to find the one person who never let him down – the author of his favourite book on birds. But the world is bigger than Bird imagined, and in his time of need, he finds out who really cares about him, and how he can show his caring to others.
Quite moving in places, although not a lot of action. Might be a struggle for reluctant readers who need a lot of plot. This is more quiet and introspective. Sofie Laguna is one to watch for though – I’ll be looking for her Miles Franklin Award-winning The Eye of the Sheep.
As a teenager, I read this and found it dry and dull. Now, after really enjoying Go Set A Watchman, I felt I owed it to Harper Lee to take another look at this classic.
The most memorable thing about this book is the court case – where Atticus takes a stand and defends a black man against the charge or raping a white girl. To a modern audience, the accused man is clearly not guilty – but the course of the case shows exactly how far we have come in terms of civil rights in the last century.
This is powerful stuff – and I think the reason why this book initially frustrated me so, is that is it actually a very small part of the text. This is a story about family and growing up in the South. Scout lives through several significant moments in the book which are sure to shape her character – the character that was so evident in Go Set A Watchman.
I still think – perhaps controversially – that this isn’t a perfect novel. It’s too long – there are too many meandering stories of Jem and Scout’s childhood adventures. But it is an important story that the follow up novel makes us review. Atticus is still a great man – but it really doesn’t say anywhere in To Kill a Mockingbird that his defence of Tom Robinson is motivated by the Civil Rights movement. It’s motivated by justice. Atticus does what he thinks is right – he’s just “colour-blind” enough to do it for a black man too.
These remain a terrific pair of texts and I certainly have deeper respect for To Kill A Mockingbird as an adult. But I loved the grown up Scout in Go Set A Watchman too. Definitely have a read.
This is a fun and positive young adult fiction novel we have been considering for our booklist. It is striking when you think about it, how few YA fiction books end happily. So many of them involve loss and tragedy. It’s important to balance all of this with more positive views of the world.
So this is a fun and uplifting read about Candice Phee, a very unusual girl who sets about to improve the lives of those around her; her parents, her new best friend (Douglas Benson from Another Dimension), her uncle who has been estranged from the family – even the girl who bullies her in class.
What starts as a class writing task turns into a bit of a mission for Candice, and gives her a chance to expand her personality and social skills as well.
Although the main character is female, a boy could easily read and enjoy this. A good choice for parents who want to make sure their child is exposed to happier books as well.
This is one of the greatest books for boys I have read.
Chris Hadfield spent his life working towards being an astronaut – a feat that is considered beyond many of us. And once he became one, he focussed on being the best astronaut he could be.
In telling his story and sharing his philosophy on life, Hadfield teaches us the life lessons that were so crucial to his success. After all, it’s not every boy from Canada who gets to take a turn commanding the International Space Station.
Some of the lessons shared by Hadfield include – ‘aim to be a zero’. He suggests that too often, we aim to be the best before we are really ready. There is nothing wrong with doing your job and contributing to the whole – that’s what they have to do in space. Everyone has their role to play, and pushing yourself further than you are ready to can result in dangerous consequences. Everything is imparted in such a good-natured and positive way – every sacrifice was worth it for Chris, and no set-back ever made him change his goals. He is grateful and humble for the amazing experiences he has had and the wonderful people he has worked with.
There is plenty of info about life in space – everything from their training regime to how to actually go to the toilet (although Hadfield admits he has no idea how women do it!). There is also a plethora of YouTube videos you can watch to further explore the text – including the initial video of Hadfield playing David Bowie’s Space Odyssey on the ISS. This made him the internet sensation he is today.
Hadfield is a wonderful role model and if we were all like him, the world would likely be a better place. I would buy this book for every young man I know if I could. If they could learn a little from him, they lives would be shaped and changed in extraordinary ways.