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I feel like I’ve spent the last couple of weeks talking incessantly – I did my first ever radio interview, and then chatted to high school students for Book Week. I buzzed around at Melbourne Writers Festival, and shot up to Queensland for a whirlwind two days at Brisbane Writers Festival.
I’ve been meaning to write a wrap-up of the festivals – some words on the awesome writers I met, and the great panel discussions of all things YA, and on signing books for some fabulous young fans, and the giant crushes I’ve developed on, like, half a dozen brilliant authors who I shared the stage with (Randa Abdel-Fattah, I’m looking at you), and the weirdness of sitting in the hotel restaurant while reading a copy of Avengers Assemble, before realizing that its author, Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, was sitting at the table next to me. I don’t know what the etiquette is for fangirling while someone is trying to eat their breakfast. Potentially not awkwardly shoving their book into your bag and hurrying away before they catch sight of you reading it.
But truth be told, I’m sort of tired of talking about myself. I’ve had a blast over the past few weeks, but I am also really looking forward to curling up in my jammies with my manuscript. I’ve missed my characters. I can’t wait to be in their world again.
Oh, and also, during MWF week, this happened:
LIFE IN OUTER SPACE IS ON THE INKY AWARDS SHORTLIST!
Needless to say, I was gobsmacked. And speechless. And so completely chuffed to be part of a list selected by young readers themselves. If you’re aged between 12 and 20, you can cast your vote here. Make sure to check out the rest of the shortlist as well. I’m honoured to be among such wonderful writers.
We’re getting close to the announcement of our Inky winners, but before that happens we’re taking a close look at another of our Inky Shortlisted titles.
Next up on the chopping block – hehe – is Kelly Gardiner’s Act of Faith.
When ideas were dangerous, one girl found the courage to act
England, 1640. Sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee her home when her father′s radical ideas lead him into a suicidal stand against Oliver Cromwell′s army. Taking refuge in Amsterdam and desperate to find a means to survive, Isabella finds work with an elderly printer, Master de Aquila, and his enigmatic young assistant, Willem.
When Master de Aquila travels to Venice to find a publisher brave enough to print his daring new book, Isabella accompanies him and discovers a world of possibility – where women work alongside men as equal partners, and where books and beliefs are treasured.
But in a continent torn apart by religious intolerance, constant danger lurks for those who don′t watch their words. And when the agents of the Spanish Inquisition kidnap de Aquila to stop him printing his book, Isabella and Willem become reluctant allies in a daring chase across Europe to rescue him from certain death.
I know, terrible pun, but I couldn’t help myself.
Historical fiction scares me. Weird, to be so scared of one teeny tiny genre but there it is. I guess first thing off the bat you should know is that I’m a history major. I spent years happily learning about wars, revolution, bread and freedom; about big ideas that took years of fighting and death to explain; about beliefs so strong they ripped apart nations, neighbours and families. I find I just don’t like reading it as fiction. There’s no real rational reason why, I just prefer history as truth not a hybrid of the two. So I usually stand well away and leave historical fiction to those more adapt at being reasonable about it.
But when you have a book given a ‘notable book’ award by the CBCA, and a friend (or a hundred) giving it enthusiastic reviews, you must go where the book gods lead (even if that is into the scary realms of historical fiction).
Act of Faith is quite simply brilliant. The setting, plot and characters, while fantastic and enjoyable, come a distant second in comparison to the the theological debates that rage through this novel. Long sections of witty banter that hit on the most complex of issues in the simplest of ways. It is a book that invites you to be better, smarter, kinder. It is a book about tolerance and knowledge.
‘I have distilled all the great philosophers and theologians, all the great ideas of my faith, your faith; the three faiths of the Holy Land.’
‘But how can the religions live together in one book?’
‘Why shouldn’t they?’ he asked. ‘We live together in one world.’
Such a large complex idea, this. A book of all the religions living side by side. How? And yet the answer is so simple: we live together in one world. If in life, then why not in book? This week marks America’s 30th annual Banned Book Week. Almost four centuries from the setting of Act of Faith and we are still censoring the written word; still fighting for the right to access knowledge freely and equally. Gardiner spends her time exploring this. Just how much have we changed? Are women equal? religions tolerated? Ideas free to be expressed?
If you fear that such a seemingly grandiose tale about the state of the world, religion, politics and alike, will have your teens running for the hills, fear not. Because Gardiner’s writing is accessible. It doesn’t talk down to the reader, doesn’t tell the reader that believing X makes you stupid, Y makes you wrong and Z is the only answer. Instead, it asks questions and leaves you to fill in your answers. They aren’t labelled right or wrong. They’re just one possible answer amongst many.
Act of Faith would be a brilliant reading choice for your book clubs and reading circles. It will incite debate and challenge your students to query themselves, and the world they live in.
For previous reviews in the Inky Shortlisted series: The Fault in our Stars, The Reluctant Hallelujah, BZRK, A Monster Calls and Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
1. The new readers of Young Adult fiction.
I venture to say that having 55% of YA buyers be adults isn’t that much of a surprise. Ever since the Harry Potter books – and the rather ingenious marketing strategy to have ‘children’ and ‘adult’ covers – it seems like YA has found itself in the hands of the slightly older. Children books are an interesting and unique genre – being the only genre to contain age brackets. It’s great to see that the idea of ‘age’ is being less of a deciding factor.
2. Roald Dahl Day.
Last Thursday was Roald Dahl Day. In one of those rather panic-filled moments I was asked for my favourite Dahl book. I could no sooner choose a favourite pet. It was too much!
With the threat of life and limb, I finally whittled the list down to two: The Witches and Matilda. Do you have a favourite? It’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it?!
For when Dahl Day comes next around, there are Roald Dahl packs to entice your students with.
There is also a new biography out, written by Michael Rosen – yes that would be Michael Rosen of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt. Visit The Guardian UK for a short extract of the new book.
3. The Wordtamer.
Warning: words are wild creatures, which need careful handling.
Wordtamer follows the three necessary creative writing implements; plot, character and words. Wordtamer is a really fun and interactive way to teach your students creative writing exercises. This is one of those situations where you claim you’re testing the website out for your students, but really it’s just too much fun not to play with.
4. Secret Powers and Stickers?
I can’t say I’ve ever made the correlation between stickers and buying a book… but once I had a moment to reflect, I realised I do make book buying decisions based on stickers, although in a slightly different context – I am drawn toward books with award prizes on the front cover.
It is no doubt a great marketing tool for the teens when making a reading decision – a kind of follow-the-yellow-brick-road mentality.
5. KOALA Awards, Voting Open Now!
Much like the Inky Awards, the K.O.A.L.A (Kids Own Australian Literature Awards) Awards encourages voting by the readership; children and teens.
K.O.A.L.A is for New South Wales readers only.
Voting closes on the 21st of September, so encourage your students and book clubbers to log online.
This week’s Inky Award shortlist review is all about The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams. As this title has already been reviewed here on Read Alert by CYL staffer Liz Kemp, today I’m going to give you something a little different… how to pitch The Reluctant Hallelujah to students:
The best way to pitch The Reluctant Hallelujah is to give away as little as possible. Character voices are optional. Dramatic pauses are not…
One afternoon Dodie’s (pronounced doe-dee) parents don’t come home. She figures it’s no big deal – they’re busy people and must be working late. She goes to bed, wakes up the next morning… still no sign of them.
‘Well,’ she thinks, ’they must have gotten home so late they didn’t want to wake us, and they’ve left early for a breakfast meeting. It’s strange they haven’t left a note, but they must have just forgotten.’
She goes to school and a guy who usually never talks to her, comes up and asks “Are your parents okay?” … This is definitely weird.
Eventually she tells him “Actually, I haven’t seen them. They didn’t come home last night.”
“Okay,” he says, “I need to go to your house right now and get something out of your basement.”
…”We don’t have a basement.”
It turns out they do have a basement – locked and hidden under the lounge room carpet. And in this basement is something that Dodie’s family have been guarding for generations.
And now to save her parents Dodie has to transport it from Melbourne to Sydney. And she only has her Learner’s permit.
Students love guessing what this hidden object might be. A nuclear bomb? A King? Superman? Something magic? Something powerful?
Of course it doesn’t take much research or reading to learn that it is, in fact, the physical remains of Jesus Christ. Rest assured, Williams manages to tread the very fine line between irreverence and imagination. The Reluctant Hallelujah is, really, a road-trip adventure story. Which just happens to have Jesus along for the ride.
Other “sales points” worth mentioning are:
- The Reluctant Hallelujah features contemporary teenagers in a way that isn’t forced or trying to be cool (like, when authors try to be all YOLO and LOL hai guise I’m just, like, one of you). For example, the bad guys seem to have an uncanny knack for keeping on Dodie’s trail – turns out this is because her sister can’t resist updating her facebook status.
- It also (with beauty and ease) captures the contemporary world – not only is Dodie caught in a “keep Jesus out of the hands of the bad guys” chase through the tunnels of Melbourne (totally real), and along the back roads of Victoria and New South Wales, but her actions have real-world consequences too e.g. her disappearance catches the attention of her friends, her school, and the police.
- If you’re looking for a book that touches on disability – specifically how people with disabilities are often invisibile in society – The Reluctant Hallelujah ticks that box too. (Dodie & co simultaneously “hide” and move Jesus about by placing Him in a wheelchair.)
So if you’re looking for a laugh, a conversation starter, and/or something a bit different – The Reluctant Hallelujah is the book for you.
Don’t forget to send any fans of The Reluctant Hallelujah, or any of our other shortlisted titles to insideadog.com.au/vote
1. Coming soon…
Remember when Hardie Grant Egmont caught everyone’s attention earlier this year with the Ampersand Project? Well, they’ve now announced that Melissa Keil is the first author to be published as part of the project - congratulations Melissa!
Melissa’s debut novel is called Life in Outer Space. It won’t be hitting the shelves until March next year, but you can oggle the shiny cover design…
2. John Green continues to be amazing
Just when you thought it wasn’t possible to love the man any more, he goes and does an impromptu I Am A interview on reddit.com. He answers questions about his writing (from ”Why do all of your characters name their cars?” to “Can you tell us a little bit about your early days as a writer?”) and about life (from “What is the biggest regret of your life?” to “I’m a freshman in college. Do you have any advice about how to decide what the hell to do with my life?”).
Adulthood, for better and for worse, is not quite so simple in my experience. You are always figuring out what the hell to do with your life, and then the decisions you’ve made are always be changed by circumstance…
Look, I could copy and paste the whole thing. It’s brilliant. He’s brilliant. Just go read it.
3. The trouble with reading
The latest UK statistics say 17% of children would be embarrased to be seen reading. In America, a teen boy shares his experiences of being teased for reading:
Simply reading a book is considered passive or introverted. Or it’s considered a “white thing”—something black kids, especially black boys, shouldn’t be caught doing if they want to be popular.
What do you think – do these stories and statistics reflect your own experience?
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again – in Australia, at least (hey, we’d love it if we were international!) we want to help. We’re here to advocate reading for pleasure for all young people! If you’re looking for some support, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do. (Please note that we can’t do everything, but even in situations where we cannot be of assistance, we will attempt to refer you to someone who can be.)
Side note: We’re not sure that vintage library posters are the answer, but gosh are they fun to look at.
4. Loving the silver screen
Do you like your books adapted? Beautiful Creatures now has it’s very first movie trailer (compelte with stunning musical backing by Florence and the Machine). The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey also has a brand new, highly squee-worthy movie trailer.
5. Wikipedia in the classroom?
Do you use wikipedia in your classroom? ReadWriteWeb has put forward two great cases both against and in favour of the idea. Wikipedia - an unreliable source or a valuable crowd-sourcing tool?
6. Competitions and Awards
The winners of the 2012 WA Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced. Congratulations to Penni Russon, who won the Young Adult prize with Only Ever Always!
Vote! Vote! Vote! There’s just 2.5 weeks remaining for 12-20 year olds to vote for their favourite book in this year’s Inky Awards (and go in the draw to win all 10 shotlisted titles!).
Did you also see our Library Prize competition? Schools and libraries can enter to win all 20 longlisted titles for their collection.
Text Publishing is also running a very cool competition to celebrate Richard Newsome’s latest Billionaire book: 10-13 year olds can win a $100 book voucher + a $1,000 book voucher for their school, by writing a story – details here.
What’s that? … Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a Inky Awards winner?
As voting intensifies (I can already tell that the Gold Inky will be down to the wire!) and the finish line looms, we’d like to invite you all to attend our InkyFest events.
InkyFest Evening Event
The Winners Announcement will be made at our Inky Fest Booktalker event on the 23 of October. The event will not only applaud our 2012 winners, but include authors’ James Moloney (2011 Gold Inky Award winner) and Rhiannon Hart (Longlisted for the 2012 Gold Inky) in discussing reading and writing.
Date: Tuesday 23 October 2012, 6:00pm – 8:30pm
Bookings: Book online or call 03 8664 7099 or email email@example.com
Inky Fest Schools’ Day
Bring your students for a fun-filled day of author and teen judging panels, an improv session and the winner announcement.
Date: Wednesday 24 October 2012, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Bookings: Book online or call 03 8664 7555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Or fill out the Schools’ Day booking form and post it care of the provided address.
Venue: Experimedia, Main entry, Swanston St
The Inky Awards are Australia’s only awards for youth literature decided by the readers. 2011 is the fifth year of these awards and we’re got some exciting plans ahead.
Inky Dates for 2011
July 1 – Long List Announced
August 30 – Short List Announced
October 25 – Announce Winners at the Inkyfest
The shortlist is decided by a judging panel headed by last year’s Gold Inky winner, Lucy Christoper (Stolen). We are on the look out for four teens that love reading to be on the judging panel. They will be responsible for reading all twenty titles of the long list in a two month period in order to decided on a shortlist with their fellow judges in August. The judges will also be resposnible for choosing the winner of the Creative Reading Prize and attend the Inky Awards Ceremony in October.
Judges must be:
If you have the perfect teen in mind…have them leave a comment here telling us why they’d be perfect or email CYL. We’re hoping to have our panel finalised in the next two weeks so get in fast.
1. The world of movies.
With Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows (Part 2) DVD release date just around the corner (expect to see it gracing the stores November 16th), deleted scenes are already making the usual appearance all over youtube, facebook and twitter feeds. Expect the wands to be out and the children to be casting anti-homework spells.
Whilst we’re on the Pottermania topic, perhaps check out the Quidditch World Cup? Play begins November 12th and (sadly) ends November 13th. It’s not geographically accessible to us, down here in Australia, but I have no doubt that it will live virtually for us.
May I suggest starting up a class quidditch game? The kids will be riveted. Rules are free and downloadable: Quidditch Game Rules .HAVE FUN!
Starting tomorrow is the 12thannual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Annual, online and free.
Of particular interest will be the Young Writers Program. It is youth-orientated and classroom friendly.
‘The Young Writers Program believes that writing is an integral part of all children’s lives. Our fun, innovative approach increases students’ skills and confidence with the written word. The impact of this amazing noveling experience lasts throughout their academic years, and beyond.’
The how to is easy as pie, and the sense of community and achievement will be well worth the month-long effort.
There are resources for teachers and students alike. Well-known authors will be dropping in throughout the month with helpful hints and encouragement, and donations are all about continued education.
3. The self-publishing world
The self-publishing (indie) world has weathered many a condescending storm over the years, but has the tide finally turned?
Amanda Hocking, a self-published phenomenon, has recently sold-out (or sold-in, as the case may be) and signed a lucrative deal with St. Martin’s Press in America (Pan Macmillan Australia).
Starting with her The Trylle Trilogy books Pan Macmillan Australia will release a book a month start January 2012.
As you would expect with an online community, Amanda has made herself completely available to her audience. There are no barriers, no us and them.
A great Cinderella story to keep all your buddy novelist optimistic and hopeful.
4. Innovation in Children’s Illustrations
There is a great article through the age online today (31st October) about the continued evolution of children’s illustrations.
When considering your next art and crafts project with the kids maybe take a page out of Sarah Davis’ book and experiment with household objects (creating a ghost from hair her dog shed!).
The effect, I’ll hope you agree, is appropriate for today. Happy Halloween everyone!
The Centre for Youth Literature holds the nation’s biggest teen reading choice awards every year and 2012 will be no different.
We are currently asking for submissions from teenagers interested in serving as Inky judges.
We are hoping that youth literature professionals out there may have students that are perfect for the role. The only requirement is that they LOVE reading and can articulate their thoughts on what worked or didn’t work in longlisted titles. Have you got an ideal student?
- Read all 20 longlisted books (which they get to keep), in the space of two months.
- Help choose a shortlist of 10 books, along with fellow judges James Moloney and Danielle Binks.
- Under 20 years of age. (We discourage students in years 11 and 12 from applying with their study demands)
- Lives in Australia.
To apply, students are asked to send an email to email@example.com with the subject line ‘Inkys Judge’ telling us:
- Their details – name, age, male/female, what grade they’re in;
- Why they want to be an Inkys Judge;
- Who their favourite author is, and why;
- How many books, on average, they read in a month.
Submissions need to be in by midnight on Sunday, 20 May.
If you are unfamiliar with the Inky Awards, more information can be found here including all the important 2012 dates.
We will also be introducing a school prize this year.
Last week Inky posed in front of the cameras (famous dog that he is), for something a little special! Unfortunately all this attention went straight to his head (what, with the photo shoot and the Inky Awards coming up), and he strutted around the office asking his CYL minions to give him a ear scratches and alike.
It was all worth it, however, as we bring you….
Inky Screen Savers. Oh yeah!
Below are several sizes that we hope will fit most of the computer screens out there.
We hope you enjoy them and are able to utilise them in your library/ computer rooms/ classrooms or for your personal computer. They can be used as either a screen saver or wallpaper.
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Next up in our Inky Awards series is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It becomes quickly apparent to the reader that Conor is drowning. His mother is on her third round of chemotherapy and she is dying. In fact she has barely days to live. It is also apparent that the monster wants the most dangerous thing of all; Conor’s secret shame.
What is absolutely heartbreaking about this novel is the yearning Conor experiences. He’s whole world is about to open up and disappear before him. His mother will leave him, just as his father left him for a new family. He will be cared for by an emotionally cold grandmother. He has no friends (having found himself alienated from everyone after his mother’s sickness became public knowledge), he is being physically and emotionally bullied by a boy in his class, and he is unraveling in the face of his, and his mother’s, reality.
I’m not ashamed to admit I cried during a majority of A Monster Calls. Around page 100 I gave up the gig and just sobbed (opposed to the don’tlookatme crying I was originally attempting). The strength of the novel is in Ness’ ability to create voice. Conor feels as real as you and I. He is a character that you willingly emotionally tie yourself to. He compels your compassion and sympathy, despite knowing that there is only heart break around the corner.
A Monster Calls is a simple story. There are no surprises of plot or miracle cures, it is just the sad tale of Conor in the last days of his mother’s life. The complexity of Conor’s emotions -anger, shame, abandonment, hate, love, sadness - all wrapped up in Patrick Ness’ accessible writing style, and it is Ness who is the conduit here, ties us deftly and (so very) easily to Conor.
Complimenting the text is the illustrations by Jim Kay. I cannot imagine one without the other; they are two parts of a whole. It was an extremely interesting partnership as Ness’ writing is often very visual. Accompanied by the illustrations, this novel felt like a silent movie. The impressions of the drawings follow you while you’re reading; the monster fills your conscience, large and imposing.
Another brilliant performance by Patrick Ness, after his success with the Chaos Walking Trilogy.
Round three of the Inky shortlist goes to BZRK by Michael Grant. Earlier in the year CYL staffer Liz Kemp gave a brief review here for BZRK. I thought I would follow it up with my own impressions.
Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind. Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal: to turn the world into their vision of utopia. No wars, no conflict, no hunger. And no free will. Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human. This is no ordinary war, though. Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain. And there are no stalemates here: It’s victory . . . or madness.
BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose? How far would you go to win?
I’m very much a fan of seeing my name (either first or last) in a book. It gives me a little celebrity thrill. So meeting Charles and Benjamin Armstrong (I know, great last name) was definitely a book highlight moment, especially being genius conjoined twins. It just doesn’t happen every day!
In all seriousness though, it was the teen judges’ reaction to BZRK that had me really excited because it was so enthusiastic. Many cries went out about the creepy ‘real life’ implications and possibilities of the nano technology. Is Wikipedia really embedded with government codes? It’s just real enough to have me joining the conspiracy theorists.
I think this is where some of the best YA literature lies: when it has the reader querying the world around them. What does it mean to be human? Is it flesh and bone, or is it memories and feelings? Is it free will? This and the reality of nano technology really spoke to our judges. They see the warring corporations, BZRK and The Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, in real life with groups like Coles and Safeway, or Amazon and everyone (alas). The reality of our world isn’t always comfortable, BZRK had me facing this fact.
Grant had me questioning the idea of villains versus heroes. Thrown into the role of ‘heroes’ is the BZRK group as they fight the ‘villainous’ Armstrong corporation. But what makes BZRK good? To limit this to a fight of good versus evil doesn’t do justice to what Grant is asking you to question here. Is a person or corporation good because they happen to perform a good deed, with evil intent? Is it a good act in the first place, if evil is always it’s intent? Is being a person or corporation that is ‘bad,’ mean your every moment is an act of evil?
While reading BZRK, I was constantly reminded of one particular History class where we had gotten a little off topic (not an irregular occurrence) and the lecturer was talking about the soullessness of corporations.
A corporation is without law or morality, for these are human inventions and a corporation is not a human.
Something to that effect, anyway. It really struck a cord with me at the time; would I become a silent cog in an immoral corporation? Would I find myself doing things, not questioning how they affected me or how they aligned with my morality for a paycheck? BZRK had me thinking on these things again, just in a different way. Every time I use technology am I making myself less human? Does Warcraft affect my ideas of morality? Does technology control me, not the other way around?
Questions to pond in an exciting and thrill seeking novel. For a slightly older readership than Grant’s Gone series, BZRK is suitable for 16+.
Don’t forget to send any fans of BZRK, or any of our other shortlisted titles to insideadog.com.au/vote