Thursday, July 25, 2013

Noah Dreary by Aaron Blabey


Aaron Blabey is one of my favourite picture book authors (you may know him from Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley or The Dreadful Fluff). Noah Dreary is his latest – a story about a boy who complains so much that his head falls off. What a hilarious concept. It's right in line with another of my favourites, When the Wind Changed by Ruth Park. I just love picture books that are cheeky and tongue-in-cheek, and that make a clever and engaging story out of a silly saying or idea.

I love the hilarious illustration style in Noah Dreary and it really compliments the story. The illustrations are at their best in the pages that depict all the things Noah complains about. The story is typical Blabey – quirky, irreverent humour, silly, familiar, and ultimately with a positive message. This is a book kids will love for the silliness, and parents will enjoy on a more adult level. Sublime.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt


Song for a Scarlet Runner was picked up by me because I saw Julie Hunt was a Tasmanian author, and I am always interested to see what stories my old home state is producing. I was also a fan of Hunt's picture book 'The Coat'. I knew I would like Song for a Scarlet Runner because it fitted so perfectly into my favourite kind of book - middle-grade fantasy adventure, coming of age story, quirky, a quest of sorts. Hunt's book had all these things, plus two very important extras - humour, and a strong, independent, brave lead female character, Peat.

I loved the worlds that Hunt takes us into - from the boggy marshes with the cranky, crazy old Aunties; to the surreal nightmarescape of the Siltman; to the little villages and Town Hubs full of all sorts of oddball hustle and bustle. Peat's story moves along at a rapid pace, although I found I only truly got involved once Peat left the Overhang. I really enjoyed Peat's ambition and her desire to learn about the world beyond what she knows - she is inquisitive without ever being annoying or overbearing.

Hunt has created a charming cast of supporting characters. I loved the Aunties and their meddling, magical ways; I love Siltboy with his butterfly mind and lovable way of speaking (I have since read it is based on Anglo-Saxon poets). But my favourite character was by far the Sleek, who was naughty and infuriating, but one of those animal sidekick characters so completely lovable, I very near cared more about him than about Peat. Trust me, you'll love this guy and his attitude.

I thought Song for a Scarlet Runner was told in a lovely old-fashioned style, and I love the sense of adventure that runs through it. I also love that this is also a book about the magic and power of story-telling, and there is a strong folklore theme. Peat is a wonderful little character, and the story has a lot to say about courage and selflessness. I was thoroughly charmed by this book.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near


Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a book I went from being thoroughly engrossed in, to thinking it was overwritten, to admiring the luscious descriptions, to feeling a little put off by easy sentimentality, to absolutely loving the bubblegum-goth inspired descriptions, to cringing at a little too much heroine idolising. And yet, Fairytales is a glorious mish-mash of old and young, sweet and bitter, light and dark, classic and unique - so I guess my mixed feelings are quite adequate. Ultimately I quite admire it. It's the kind of writing I was doing and wanted to do in all my own creative writing uni classes, but always felt repressed by students and tutors who wanted serious, hip, navel-gazing statements - 'serious' writing that could only be taken 'seriously' if it was socially and culturally 'serious'. Meanwhile I was writing about trees that uprooted themselves and set off on magical adventures to find water. Fairytales for Wilde Girls speaks to the unadulterated, dreamer me who just wanted my writing to be beautiful.

I do admire creative license when it comes to writing, and lush, creative imagery - although a few instances throughout the book I thought, just a little, it was trying too hard. This relentless style of imagery does suck you in, though, added to the delicious contempo-magic world of Isola. Can a book be gothically sweet? Yes, this one is. It is very whimsical. Although I wish the author had pared back a little when it came to the ending, and tying the story together - it was overly-described, and thus I thought some of the beauty of it was lost.

Fairytales for Wilde Girls is set in among all the things I love - magic, gothic, fairytales, folklore, faerie creatures, coming of age, wicca, secrets, escaping to fantasy places. I love the idea of the six princes, and of having faerie confidants that no one else can communicate with. There are so many ideas here, and they are tied together in a very enthralling way.

The only sub-plot I didn't really care for was Edgar. So Isola got her happily ever after? But for a book that had a very strong feminine, female-orientated focus, I didn't really think the book needed to end with a love declaration to a male character. That is very paranormal-romance for me, and I believe Fairytales was Isola's personal growth story, not a love story.

I love that Random House (my own publishers) have the guts to publish something so unique, risky, and unusual. I don't know if I love it, but I love what it's all about