KIDS’ LIT

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - ROSE­MARY NEILL

AN award- win­ning novel by New Zealan­der Bernard Beck­ett, Ge­n­e­sis was snapped up by Melbourne’s Text Pub­lish­ing and re­cently sold to Bri­tish pub­lisher Quer­cus for $ 220,000. It’s easy to see why this philo­soph­i­cal thriller at­tracted a hefty sum: Ge­n­e­sis is a pro­foundly so­phis­ti­cated, bril­liantly ex­e­cuted novel for young adult read­ers that bris­tles with com­plex and un­set­tling ideas. It’s set in a fu­tur­is­tic dystopia, an is­land repub­lic where refugees are shot on sight and ge­netic test­ing is used to di­vide cit­i­zens into castes. The nar­ra­tive un­furls like a Pla­tonic di­a­logue be­tween Anax, a clever stu­dent who seeks to be in­ducted into her so­ci­ety’s elite, and a for­bid­ding panel of ex­am­in­ers. While some of the early ex­po­si­tion can be stilted, Beck­ett ac­cel­er­ates the pace and height­ens the ten­sion un­til his nar­ra­tive reaches a con­clu­sion so shock­ing, it’s like a blow to the head. Highly rec­om­mended.

Ge­n­e­sis By Bernard Beck­ett Text Pub­lish­ing, 145pp, $ 19.95

Fair Dinkum His­to­ries: A Na­tion of Swag­gies & Dig­gers

By Jackie French Scholas­tic, 160pp, $ 14.99 WITH re­search show­ing young­sters find Aus­tralian his­tory a turn- off, par­ents and teach­ers should get their hands on Jackie French’s Fair Dinkum his­tory se­ries. French’s se­ries coun­ter­points dry his­tor­i­cal fact with droll hu­mour, ar­cane po­lit­i­cal events with a sure hu­man touch. Aided and abet­ted by Peter Shee­han’s quirky car­toons, the fifth vol­ume in the se­ries cov­ers the pe­riod 1880- 1920, sum­maris­ing events as di­verse as Fed­er­a­tion, Gal­lipoli and the life- chang­ing ef­fects of iron stoves.

The True His­tory of Stuff: Vol­ume One

By James Valen­tine ABC Books, 100pp, $ 19.95 WHEN do three short sto­ries fall short of a sat­is­fy­ing col­lec­tion? When they are padded out by the au­thor- nar­ra­tor’s self­ind­ul­gent re­flec­tions on his sub­ject, as they are here. James Valen­tine, a well- known ra­dio an­nouncer, needs to put more en­ergy into show­ing us his sto­ries rather than telling us about them. Nev­er­the­less, his tales about Trapezia, an imag­i­nary coun­try where ev­ery­day stuff ( peanut but­ter, shoelaces, days of the week) orig­i­nated, are of­ten daz­zlingly in­ven­tive. They are vividly ren­dered through his clever, off- the­wall hu­mour and Reg ( Mambo) Mom­bassa’s play­ful il­lus­tra­tions. The open­ing story, about a princess whose filthy hair leads to the dis­cov­ery of sham­poo, is a gem.

Squeaky Clean Gene

By Peter Rigby and Bay Rigby Rocket Frog Books, $ 16 THIS oddly charm­ing pic­ture book is the first chil­dren’s ti­tle from new West Aus­tralian pub­lisher Rocket Frog Books. It tells of a dung bee­tle, Gene, who goes green at the sight of poo. Gene’s hy­giene fetish makes him an out­cast in his cow- pat wor­ship­ping com­mu­nity, but he even­tu­ally finds ac­cep­tance among his reek­ing rel­lies. Strange but fun.

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