Book Review: Alan Turing By Jim Eldridge

I have always had a fascination with code breaking and cyphers. I have also been fascinated by the history of Bletchley Park and knew about the life of Alan Turing , well before the movie The Imitation Game. I recently took the opportunity to visit The Bletchley Park Museum, which is still being developed. I  spent a full day enjoying the opportunities that this museum offers and is well worth a visit.

It was with this interest I read the book,  from the Real Lives series, by Jim Eldridge entitled simply Alan Turing. This series looks to offer a great reading option for a number of the boys I work with. They are very accessible stories about interesting real-life figures and written by a range of authors.

My GoodReads review:

Alan Turing (Real Lives)Alan Turing by Jim Eldridge    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jim Eldridge has written a short but interesting biography about Alan Turing, who has become more widely known since the movie “The Imitation Game”. I have enjoyed many books written by Jim Eldridge as he writes about historical people and events in a narrative form that makes history accessible to a broad audience.

Alan Turing was a remarkable man and nowadays is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century and is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. Jim Eldridge has written about Turing starting from his schooldays, through his time as a solitary undergraduate at Cambridge, his important and secret wartime work through to the moment of his untimely death from eating an apple laced with cyanide. (There is still debate about the circumstances of his death and quite a few theories about what actually happened.)

Alan Turing had a startling talent as a mathematician and was credited with shortening World War II by years, thanks to his work on the Enigma code. He was an awkward man who did not make friends easily and was gay in a time that made him a criminal and received punishment for it. Jim Eldridge includes it all in this book. He encourages the reader to consider all the factors to better understand the amazing life of Alan Turing, a true British hero.

This is part of a series (Real lives… ) of biographies written for younger readers and there is a broad range of people covered. All the books are short but offer enough information to satisfy young readers with accessible (but not simple) language. They are good books for boys who enjoy “real” stories and reluctant readers.

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BookShow Podcast – How to write YA fiction

bookshowFiction for young people has had a long tradition. You can go back to Dicken’s David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol, Mark Twain’s  Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, Louisa Alcott’s Little Women and our own Seven little Australians. There were the Biggles stories and the boys and girl’s own adventures and today there are a plethora of styles and genres that encompass the books that are also labeled YA.

In a podcast, How to write YA fiction, from the 27th of July, two very successful current YA authors, John Green (US) and Bernard Beckett (NZ), talked to Sarah leStrange on the The Book Show (Radio National). The books of both authors are much prized by young adults and so they are worth listening to when there is discussion  about writing for young adults. You can hear, in the 12 minute conversation, the things they consider to be the key ingredients to capture the attention of teen readers today.

Good literature is just that. I wrote a post trying to define my thoughts about what constitutes “YA” literature. Good YA literature is enjoyed by older readers as well as the YA audience. In some ways this literature has to be better than a lot of adult literature. For instance young people tend to be less forgiving about slow beginnings and padding. At the moment, if I had to quickly define YA literature,that the books must have a good story, driven by the actions and choices of the teenage characters, and essentially be about the growth of those characters.

These two authors voice some very interesting thoughts and again there are no firm definitions. Have a look on the Fiction Focus site for discussions and links to further exchanges about YA Literatue

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What is YA Literature?

YA books display

YA books display

I have an RSS feed from the Fiction Focus site and today I found they had put up a post about YA literature. This was not the first time that there had been some discussion about this type of literature. In a post called musings they discussed the definition “YA” in the context of Anthony Eaton’s Into White Silence

Today the Fiction Focus blog site pointed me to a blog written by  (a children’s book editor). In this thought-provoking post she sought to articulate a practical definition of YA literature.

I’ve been thinking off and on about a practical definition of YA literature — something I could look at to help me decide whether a manuscript is an adult novel or a middle-grade novel or, indeed, a YA.

This is very much a WORKING theory; I hope you all will offer challenges, counter examples, additions or arguments to help me improve what I’m saying here. But here’s what I have right now — the definition broken into five parts for easier parsing:

  1. A YA novel is centrally interested in the experience and growth of
  2. its teenage protagonist(s),
  3. whose dramatized choices, actions, and concerns drive the
  4. story,
  5. and it is narrated with relative immediacy to that teenage perspective. Continue reading