Exploring Children's Books

News and reviews from Mia Macrossan

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CBCA Notables very varied list

Each year when the CBCA Notables come out there is always a lot of comment about the nature and type of book that is given the sticker ‘notable’. When I was a judge 2013-14, there was plenty of robust debate about what  is and what isn’t a literary work. It’s bit like Justice Potter Stewart’s famous phrase ” I know it when I see it”. I certainly know when I don’t see it. Here is a list of cheerful, entertaining, well- produced books which does contain some titles that are more challenging, layered and thoughtful. I am already looking forward to seeing the Short List for each category but meanwhile it’s good fun to explore the Notables.

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Reckless Book 1 :The Petrified Flesh

Reckless  Book 1: The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke

Pushkin Children’s Books 346 p $16.95 Age 13+

an interesting puzzle in that it is an extensively revised version of an earlier publication by the German writer Cornelia Funke. Reckless Book 1, The Petrified Flesh is the story of two brothers, Jacob and Will. Jacob, the elder has discovered a mirrorworld, a land behind the mirror in the study in their apartment. He disappears into this world and becomes a successful treasure hunter, finding magical items for those prepared to pay his price.  Will follows him and discovers that fairy tales are real if very different from what we have been told in our world. When Will is cursed, and has only a short time to live before his whole body turns to jade, it is up to Jacob to use all his wits and experience to try and save him. This is the first book in a trilogy, the other titles are Living Shadow and The Golden Yarn. It is beautifully written, highly original, with many unexpected twists and turns, and a very exciting read. It can lean a little towards the dark side which is why I recommend a reading age of 13+.  Cornelia Funke has been compared to J K Rowling. Personally I think Funke is better than Rowling but you will have to read the books to make up your own mind.

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

A Shadow Bright and Burning by debut author Jessica Cluess is for slightly older readers, say 13+. It is about a girl, Henrietta who can burst into flames. She is discovered and taken to London along with her best friend Rook, a boy who has been damaged by the evil Ancients who are threatening to destroy the country. People hope that Henrietta will prove herself as a sorcerer and be approved by the queen as the prophesied one, the one who will save them all. Hettie is not so sure that she is this much wanted person and doubts her own powers, as well as being suspicious of the motives of some people around her. She is helped and hindered by the bunch of trainee sorcerers with whom she studies and works. It all comes to an exciting climax in a battle at the end of the book. But as we all know winning a battle does not mean  you have won the war so there is a sequel coming. This is a delightful book, Henrietta is an engaging character and the created world blends Victorian customs and technology with some very inventive fantasy elements. Great fun A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessical Cluess published by Random House for $19.99.