Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘No Stars to Wish On’

Boomerang Book Winners for the Year 2014

Claire ZornI 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.No Stars to Wish On 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”

These Broken StarsWith 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 This Shattered WorldTrilogy 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.

by Tanya Grech Welden

“No Stars to Wish On” by Zana Fraillon, Allen & Unwin (2014)

No Stars to Wish On

“Sister Maxine is the tallest nun here. Taller even than Mother Superior usually is, although when Mother Superior is really angry she makes herself grow bigger and taller than anyone. That must be because she is part monster.” (p.131)”

Told through the eyes of Jack, a young boy, and the parallel narrative of Amrei his teenage cousin and prophetic hero, Zana Fraillon’s novel unveils the experience of the Forgotten Generation in Australia. When Jack is 6, he and his siblings are forcibly removed from their poor but loving family home. His mother and the aunts he live with are charged with the somewhat vague crime of immorality and are consequently deemed inappropriate caregivers.   As a Ward of the State, Jack, is sent to live in a Children’s Home. Here he is deprived both physically and emotionally and subjected to unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the Nuns who are charged with his care.

Sparsely written in simple and sensitive prose, Fraillon’s confronting story may be read on a range of levels making it appealing and appropriate for use with students from year 7 upwards. Although many of the ideas in the story will require careful and sensitive navigation, especially with younger children, Fraillon’s book provides meaningful opportunities to explore the human propensity for evil. This discussion could easily lead to a focused exploration of UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child with younger students appreciating thematic comparisons with fairy tales (Cinderella or Snow White) or film (Frozen). In addition older students could pair the novel with the likes of David Peltzer’s “A Child Called ‘It’”.

“No Stars to Wish On” is a chilling tale that consistently aches; nearly succeeding to drag its reader down into a pit of futility. Fraillon’s powerful and overwhelmingly desolate story was one that left me spellbound by the promise of Amrei’s quest and the sparsely scattered fragments of joy that punctuated the narrative with moments of hope.

Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden

**Allen and Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book.  I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.**

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