Stories about future societies, especially dystopian ones, are high on our “most popular books” lists. Most are about surviving in this new somewhat alien worlds, Hunger Games and Maze Runner, and many are read across most year levels. Other favourites include: Bzrk (#1 of series) by Michael Grant, 0.4 (#1 series) by Mike Lancaster, The Hunt (#1 of trilogy) by Andrew Fukuda and Skinned (#1 Cold Awakening trilogy) by Robin Wasserman.
Michael Pryor‘s book is set at the beginning, when the hero might just have a chance to stop things before society is forced to change and is enjoyed mostly by our younger students, the 12-13 year olds. The setting is now, today and easily believable.
14-year-old Bram comes home late and as he arrives at the gate senses something is wrong. It is part of the survival strategy that his parents have drilled into him all his life. Bram’s mother is a brilliant scientist who is a world leader in the artificial intelligence world. She has always been aware that things could go wrong in her field and has planned for it. Bram has an elaborately planned survival plan, called “Scatter and Hide”, that has been designed to give his mother time to find a solution to the disaster. She asks Bram to stay out of the clutches of Ahriman (as the AI calls himself) for 3 weeks. He must not be taken hostage if she is to figure out how to overcome the rogue AI. This turns out to be easier said than done. With the help of his friend Stella and Bob, another AI unit, built by his mother and put into his childhood toy duck, Bram works hard to stay free. It is not easy to stay out of the clutches of a being that controls the internet. In today’s world staying off-line and off the grid is difficult especially when so many everyday activities are dependent on technology without you being really being aware of it. Bram teaches Stella to use a slingshot against some of Ahriman’s creations and Bob has some very useful moves as they try to stay ahead of their pursuer.
Bram is intelligent and a bit of a loner due to moving around a lot due to his parents working arrangements. He has developed various coping mechanisms such as using different character voices to hide his feelings. Stella, his new friend, is independent, thinks for herself and belongs to no single group but is friendly with all. Together, along with Bob, they decide that it is sometimes better to attack than just hide. Their days are spent alternatively hiding and planning then carrying out ways to fight back.
There are some humorous moments such as the description of Bram trying to find a way of keeping up with the news without technology and Stella walking across to a newspaper seller to buy the “old-fashioned” option.
From the authors site, a page that discusses the novel, the story behind, its writing and links to other information.
Teacher Notes from Random House here.
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: Australian literature, book review, children's literature, Dystopian fiction, Machine wars, Michael Pryor, science fiction, YA literature | Leave a comment »
This year we have had many students enjoying #4 in the series “The Slaves of Socorro“. It is a great story with lots of the sort of action that our boys love. The official book trailer, whilst advertising that the book is out, does nothing to really recommend it. So much could be put into the short trailer to really whet the appetite but this is a really bland attempt. We show trailers of our new books on a screen in our library. I am always looking for something to attract the eye of not only the good readers but especially the less interested students.
My challenge to our students is to come up with a better trailer, one that offers more to the imagination and may bring new readers to the series. We created a guide to the process and a rubric for class assessment several years ago. It has been used (and adapted) by students and teachers,and is available on one of our wikis
Congratulations to the authors and illustrators of the books below. To their editors and publishers and also the CBCA judges.
The CBCA winning books for 2014 voted on by the judges, were announced this afternoon. The judges have a difficult job and I know that a lot of deliberation and discassion has gone on. The CBCA awards are given to works that are the benchmarks for quality in Australian children’s literature. The books that made to this short list are being read and enjoyed by the boys. I wrote a post about the older readers shortlist with links for follow-up earlier in the year. As is usually the case the books chosen this year were quite varied in their styles and subject matter.
The 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards have been given to the authors and illustrators in the following five categories from older readers to early childhood
- Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
- The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn
Winner: City of Orphans: A very unusual pursuit by Catherine Jinks. Catherine has an interesting page about the title, there are teaching notes and, from the Allen and Unwin site, there are Reviews by teachers (PDF) also.
- My life as an alphabet by Barry Jonsberg. There are teaching notes, on the Insideadog site there are reviews by YA readers and plenty of other reviews including a Readplus review
- Light horse boy by Dianne Wolfer
- I’m a dirty dinosaur by Janeen Brian and Ann James
- Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood
Winner: Rule of Summer by Shaun Tan. I am so pleased that another wonderful book by the brilliant author Shaun Tan won this section. There are some great resources - my post with links including to videos, a teachers’ guide here and a podcast on The art of Shaun Tan.
Eve Pownell Award for Information Books
Winner: Jeremy by Christopher Faille
- Welcome to my country by Laklak Burarrwanga and family There are Notes for teachers (PDF) and Reviews by teachers (PDF) from the Ale and Unwin site.
- Ice, wind, rock by Peter Gouldthorpe
Filed under: literature, Reading | Tagged: Australian_literature, book awards, books, CBCA, CBCA Shortlist, children's book awards, Children's Book Council of Australia, children's literature, Reading, YA literature | Leave a comment »
The film is based on Lois Lowry’s young adult novel is almost here. The trailer for the The Giver is a modern classic. It won the 1993 John Newbery Medal and was the 1993 Honor Book on the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award (Fiction)
The setting at first seems to be in a utopian society but gradually it begins to appear more and more dystopian. The poignant story is centred around 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colourless, world. At the Ceremony of the Twelves all the children in that age group are ‘assigned’ to their future role in life. The roles are carefully chosen by the Committee of Elders and based on their temperaments. It is expected that each child will live a productive life for the benefit of the whole. It is a world that encourages conformity which is seen as the path to contentment. Everyone is expected to be happy about their lot and fit into this life. This is a society which is free of pain and chaos but is also devoid of emotions and feelings. There is no place for love, joy, guilt or remorse or any other human emotion and freedom of choice and individuality are unknown concepts. Once someone becomes unproductive, for what ever reason, they enter the housing for the aged for a short period before being ‘released’.
Jonas is horrified when he believes that he has been passed over at the assigning ceremony but he is named as the Receiver. This is a position that is offered rarely and he knows nothing about it. He life changes as he begins his apprenticeship. He learns that the Receiver is the custodian of all memories in their community. The Receiver alone understands about colour, emotions, weather and, more importantly, individuality. The old Receiver is now The Giver and, as he transfers more and more memories to Jonas, Jonas begins to understand what the community has lost when they are so protected against pain, it also deprives them of joy. As the Receiver of Memory he also begins to understand some of the other dark secrets behind his fragile community. It is a great book and I hope the film does it justice.