COLOUR FOR CURLEWS
IT’S the year 2015 and 15- year- old William Drake is dumped in a state- of- the- art prison from which escape is deemed impossible. After all, this prison is a converted oil rig in the middle of endless ocean and the only way on or off it is by helicopter.
But in young Drake’s mind, escape is never impossible – and he knows a little about it, having already broken out of three other prisons. It’s just a matter of taking his time and figuring out the system so he can beat it.
In the meantime, life takes some unexpected turns.
He finds friendship when he is definitely not in the market for such encumbrances and discovers a much darker side to the rig that even its appalling use as a prison for young people might suggest.
The first of what looks certain to be a series, The Rig is a fine work from a writer whose biography would imply he is about 50 because he has a degree in counterterrorism, security and intelligence, as well as post- grad studies in security science, work in border protection, liaisons between domestic and international military forces, and private security consulting, not to mention his creative and professional writing studies and his penchant for writing urban fantasy and sci- fi.
Yet this prodigy is only 25, and while occasionally the odd clunk in his writing style makes his age more apparent, for the most part, this is a really terrific story sprouting from a vivid imagination and an outstanding talent.
Touches of Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB series, James Patterson’s Maximum Ride, Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider and even JK Rowling’s Harry Potter ( readers are introduced to a brutal new game called rigball) are evident.
But Ducie has used those apparent influences well to create something of his own that young readers aged 12 and up are likely to very much enjoy. STAY WHERE YOU ARE AND THEN LEAVE By John Boyne, Random House, softcover, $ 21.95 FROM the author of acclaimed and much- loved children’s wartime story The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas comes another poignant story of war and what it does to those who are forced to endure it.
Like so many British children, five- year- old Alfie’s comfortable, safe world is turned upside- down when World War I breaks out.
His adored dad, Georgie, enlists immediately and heads off to Aldershot for training before active service.
His mum ends up working as a nurse and doing laundry and sewing to try to make ends meet.
Their beloved neighbours are branded as German spies and taken to the alien civilian internment camp on the Isle of Man.
Meanwhile, Georgie’s boyhood friend, who endured devastating domestic violence when he was a child, is imprisoned as a conscientious objector for refusing to go to war and kill.
When Georgie’s letters stop coming, Alfie is convinced his dad is dead.
His mum tells him he is on a special secret mission, but when Alfie spots his dad’s name on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor, he realises his dad is not on any such mission and hatches a plan to find him and bring him home.
Told with warmth, compassion and insight, this story has a lot about it to remind readers of our own Morris Gleitzman.
Though few can touch Gleitzman for the heart- wrenching humanity of his glorious character Felix from his World War II books Once, Then, Now and After, Boyne has created a memorable and sympathetic character in Alfie.
Through Alfie’s eyes, we see the damage that war wreaks on those who fight and those who stay behind.
The revelation of the meaning behind the book title is tragic and shocking, and gives readers pause for thought about the extraordinary sacrifices made in battle.
A wonderful account of the people who lived the history and an important read for children aged 12 and up. MY HAMSTER IS A SPY By Dave Lowe, illustrated by Mark Chambers, Lothian, softcover, $ 12.99 IN THIS third book in the fun Stinky and Jinks series, Ben Jinks and his talking hamster set a trap to stop the spate of neighbourhood burglaries.
Stinky takes his courage in hand to figure out the identity of the mastermind behind the robberies and, together, he and Ben hatch a cunning plan to catch the burglars redhanded.
With its use of plentiful humour, terrific characters ( Stinky the grumpy hamster is utterly adorable), simple language and appealing illustrations, this series is perfect for emerging independent readers. Written and illustrated by Renee Treml, Random House, hardcover, $ 19.95 THIS wonderful picture book takes a quirky and unique approach to teaching children about colour.
Two curious curlews start the hijinks when they discover some paints and an artist’s brush.
A daub of yellow, a blob of blue, a squeeze of red, and soon a whole host of birds are bedecking themselves in colours and mixing the primaries to create orange, green, purple and brown.
With a distinctly Australian flavour, lots of rhyme and rhythm, creative layout and design, and very appealing illustrations full of humour and movement, Colour for Curlews packs in everything that captures the imagination and attention of children and makes learning fun and effortless.
At the back of the book, there’s even some information for those who want to find out a little more about the creatures featured in the story.
Likely to become a much- loved classic over the years.