COLOUR FOR CURLEWS

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - By Joe Du­cie, Hot Key Books, soft­cover, $ 16.95

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.

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