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And now for Term 1

It is difficult to know what to say here. It feels as if life remains suspended while we hold our collective breaths to find out how this bushfire season ends. Still, it’s true that for most of us – at least for those of us not directly impacted – life goes on, and in a couple of weeks school will go back. I don’t think it will be business as usual though, and we’ll all be dealing with the impacts of this incredibly awful summer for some time.

For many of our students, and I’m sure more than a few of us, escaping into a book is a helpful coping strategy when the real world gets a bit too much to deal with. Whether it’s familiar and comforting, or something entirely new and different, stories give us a chance to live in somebody else’s shoes for a while. Books can give us hope that things will (usually) turn out okay in the end. If you are looking for something new, please find some suggestions below.

The Long Distance Playlist tells the story of Taylor and Isolde. The two were best friends, until an argument made the fact that they lived in different countries a bigger obstacle than it had been. When Taylor hears that Issy has broken up with her boyfriend, and is really struggling, he reaches out with a Spotify playlist and their friendship is rekindled through. Their developing friendship is composed in a range of immediately recognisable to teenagers. Both Issy and Taylor are coping with their own problems: Taylor recently lost his leg, shattering his dreams of being an Olympic snowboarder; and for Issy’s nasty break-up is a small problem compared to her parents’ constant arguments. Sensitively written, this is a wonderful novel which will speak to teenagers wherever they’re at.

As adults, we know that there are many different types and ways to love, but this can be a difficult concept for young children to grasp. In Love from the Crayons, Drew Daywalt’s beautiful verse and Oliver Jeffers’s quirky illustrations show us how love comes in many colours, from “Love is red …because loves comes in all shapes and sizes” to “Love is blue …because sometimes love is stormy.” Children will be familiar with the crayons from their previous adventures and this can be a useful aid in discussing with them all the different forms that love can take.

In The Kid Who Came from Space Tammy has disappeared from the face of the earth. Usually, this would be a figurative expression, but this time it’s quite literally true. Only Tammy’s twin brother knows what’s really happened and, while he’s sworn to silence, he’s determined to bring her home. Ross Welford is known for his ability to tackle serious topics in an engaging but sensitive manner, and this is most definitely the case here. Exploring sibling relationships, friendship and acceptance of those who are different, this is sure to be an inter-stellar adventure that kids will love.

Read of the MonthThe Hunting Party

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of crime fiction, and it’s my go-to read when I’m looking for something to escape into; when I want something entertaining but not too taxing. If this sounds like what you need, The Hunting Party will fit the bill.

The novel is set in the snowy Scottish Highlands as a group of friends gather for New Year’s Eve. Everyone is keeping secrets, and one of them is about to become a murderer. Was it Emma, who has organised the trip? Miranda, the Queen Bee of the group? Could it be Heather, the lodge manager? Told from multiple viewpoints, this is an engrossing whodunnit with red herrings galore.

There is a lot to keep on top off in this novel, with shifts between past and present as well as narrator, but it is hugely entertaining. I particularly enjoyed all the secrets and lies of the friends and lodge staff unravelling. While this is not an original plot – an isolated locale with a limited number of suspects is a staple of crime fiction – it is a lot of fun and does have its unique points, particularly with the identity of both murder victim and killer being kept secret until the end.

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