#Aww2019 #LoveOzMG Book Review: “Songbird” by Ingrid Laguna

Title: Songbird
Author:
Ingrid Laguna
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/10/19
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

This was such a sweet, uplifting book! It’s only short and I read it all in one sitting, and afterwards had a huge smile on my face. It was kind of easy to see where the story was going, but that didn’t take away from it at all.

Jamila, her mother and younger brother are refugees newly arrived in Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is struggling to balance her new school life where she is the odd one out with her mother’s needs as they all try to adapt. But when Jamila joins the school choir and begins to make friends, she starts to fit in there… if only her father could make it to Australia, too…

I really felt for Jamila. I could feel her distress and not being able to talk to her classmates and being nervous due to her less-than-perfect English. I felt her frustration when her mother called her home from school to help with things like groceries. i have not had the same life experiences as Jamila but music got me through some bad times, too, so I completely related when she found that the school choir rehearsals were one of the only times at school that enjoyed, and how she could lose herself in writing a song.

The book deals with refugee issues, racism, death and terrorism in a way that I think would be accessible to readers in the target age group. I think it would be a great introduction to the topic, with room for discussion afterwards, and without feeling too overwhelming.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#CBCA2019 #aww2019 Book Review: “His Name Was Walter” by Emily Rodda

Title: His Name Was Walter
Author:
Emily Rodda
Genre: Fantasy/contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/05/19 – 12/05/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I was equal parts excited and nervous to read this book. Excited because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. And nervous because… well, because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely into the story-within-a-story format of the book. Even though I ultimately enjoyed it, I thought there might have been better ways to integrate Walter’s  story with that of the modern-day school children. Walter’s story was often cut off right in the middle of something so we could see how Colin and Tara were faring; it all felt a bit disjointed. I also found that the story felt a bit superficial – I felt I was told how characters were feeling a lot of the time, rather than it being shown.

But at the end, when it was revealed exactly how Walter was connected to the modern-day characters… I’d already figured out some of it, or at least suspected. But I actually really loved this part, and that’s why the book still gets four stars from me. The final lines of the book made me tear up a little.

And look, I know I’m not the book’s target demographic. I think kid readers would make fewer connections between the real world and the fairytale story earlier on. I think they would find the ghostly bits creepy or even terrifying. I’m a grown-up now and I do have to recognise that Emily Rodda is still writing for kids. But the fact that the story moved me at the end is enough to make me feel her writing stands the test of time.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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“The melody conjured the taste of caramel sugar; laughter on a spring day; ice skates scraping on a frozen pond.” // Review of “The Enchanted Sonata” by Heather Dixon Wallwork

Title: The Enchanted Sonata
Author: Heather Dixon Walllwork
Genre:
Fantasy
Intended audience: Middle-grade/lower YA
Date Read: 14/12/2018 – 28/12/2018
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

This is the kind of book I may not have loved as much as I did if I had read it in another time and place. However, I was reading it around Christmas, and I got swept up in the descriptions of gingerbread and snow and music and it was lovely.

This is a retelling of The Nutcracker, with a bit of  The Pied Piper and The Phantom of the Opera thrown in. The writing has  a fairy-tale feel about it. Even when the stakes are high, there’s a feeling of whimsy to it and the language is beautifully crafted. Music is the form of magic used in this story and you feel a bit like you’re listening to music as you read.

It took me a little while to get interested in the romance between Clara and the Nutcracker because… well, it’s a bit weird because he’s a nutcracker the whole time she knows him, and also they’ve known each other for a day or maybe two, but their banter was sweet, and by the end I was totally squeeing over them.  Also the Nutcracker (aka Prince Nikolai) is super-awkward and insecure but also really comes into his own and proves himself when given a chance and I like that in a leading man. Also, there’s no toxic masculinity to be seen.

Clara’s character growth took a bit longer. For a long time she was in denial about any feelings for Nutcracker, or her growing fondness for the kingdom or the other friends she is making there. However, once she got the proverbial knock on the upside of the head and realised a few things about herself, I was able to get behind her a bit more.

I mentioned Phantom of the Opera earlier and I want to talk about that because it seems I was the only one who noticed this? The villian a musical genius called Erik who has a tragic backstory and lives at least part of his life underneath the city’s enormous music hall. People hear him playing and don’t know where the music is coming from and assume he’s a ghost. If that’s not Phantom of the Opera, I don’t know what is!

Definitely recommend this one if you are in the mood for a whimsical, magical fairytale. It will make you smile.


Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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