I love books so much that it is nearly impossible for me to choose favourites. However, I for the purposes of this blog (and because it may be useful for my audience of teachers and students) I am going to try very hard to play favourites. Early January each year I plan to evaluate the books from the previous year, identifying those that I have found most enjoyable and, more importantly, the ones that are most useful in terms of their educational merit in the classroom. I am going to call these the “Boomerang Awards”, since these are the titles which I am most likely to go back to time and time again as a teacher.
Overall “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”
Without a doubt the best book I read in 2014 was an awesome title published by University of Queensland Press. The Protected, written by Aussie author Claire Zorn is a gorgeous contemporary set in the rural setting of the Blue Mountains. It tells the story Hannah, who struggles to survive in the aftermath of her older sister’s death. There is nothing I didn’t like about this story and if there ever was a book I’d be pleading to have in a class set, it is this one. A finely crafted story that is as beautiful as it is poignant, The Protected is suited to students in grade 9-10 for shared reading or, for older middle school students and senior school students through to year 12.
Runner-Up “Boomerang Book of the Year 2014”
Another book that I thoroughly appreciated was Zana Fraillon’s No Stars to Wish On. Published by Allen & Unwin in 2014. Fraillon’s story is told through the innocent eyes of 6 year old Jack, who is forcibly “removed” from his family and forced into a foster home as a Ward of the State. In gorgeous prose we follow his mistreatment at the hands of the cruel Sisters and dare to hope that he will finally reunite with his family. No Stars to Wish Upon is a uniquely Australian story that explores a dark episode in our history. It is deceptively simple, however, the depths of its themes (and the darkness of the content) place it firmly within the Middle years. I would have no hesitation in using it at year 9 as a shared text, for senior students in an independent reading program, or as an extension text for independent reading by advanced readers in the latter part of primary school.
“Boomerang Best Series of the Year 2014”
With so many series appearing on book shelves across the nation (and “virtually” across the world), I felt it might be useful to highlight the one I found most captivating for the year of 2014. The Starbound Trilogy, written by Aussie author Amie Kaufman and American Meagan Spooner secures the title this year. These Broken Stars and This Shattered World explore the Science Fiction universe where all is not as it first seems. Where many series tend to follow the same protagonist for each episode, The Starbound Trilogy operates within the same world but with a different setting and different protagonist (the previous key characters seem to come back for cameo roles only). For this alone I applaud the series, since each book will work as a stand alone book too!!! I would not use this series as a class text (it is too long), however it is something to share with your avid readers who are always looking for the next big thing. This is it, bring on the film production!
That’s it for 2014. If you like what you read please go back and read my longer reviews via the hyperlinks above.