The Texts for Secondary Method: English 2Y Second Semester 2014
Below you will find brief notes for each of the texts on the reading list for the University of Western Sydney course Secondary Method: English 2Y in second semester, 2014.
10 Futures by Michael Pryor. Woolshed Press, 2013. ISBN 9781742753768. 229 pp.
This is an anthology of ten linked science fiction short stories. Each story is set at a different time in the future, dating from 2020 to 2120. Pryor explores a range of possible futures, each an extension of something that is happening now. The stories are linked by the use of the same protagonists in each story: teenagers Tara and Sam. This could be used for Stage 4 or Stage 5, depending on the reading ability of students, and is a great text for Sustainability.
A Taste of Cockroach; Stories from the Wild Side by Allan Baillie. Penguin Books, 2014 (2005). ISBN 9780143003373.
This collection of stories has just been republished. The majority of the stories are set in south-east Asia and quite a wide range of countries is represented. The opening story is factual but the rest of them are fiction, although many are closely based on the author's personal experiences as a freelance journalist. Some of the stories, such as 'Only Ten, 'The Pencil' and 'Rebel', have been widely used in the Stage 4 classroom, but others are more suitable for Stage 5. The anthology is an excellent source of texts for Asia and Australia's Engagement with Asia.
Maralinga, the Anangu Story by Yalata, Oak Valley Community with Christobel Mattingley. Allen & Unwin, 2012 (2009). ISBN 9781742378428. 72 pp.
This is a factual illustrated text that is accessible for readers from primary school age up. Well-known children's author Christobel Mattingley worked with the Anangu people to help them tell, in words and pictures, the story of what happened to their community when nuclear bomb tests were carried out on their lands in the 1950s. This text is suitable for both the Indigenous and the Sustainability cross-curricular perspectives.
Growing Up Asian in Australia edited by Alice Pung. Black Inc., 2008. ISBN 9781863951913. 288 pp.
This non-fiction anthology is a collection of true stories about the experiences of Asians in Australia – from ABCs (Australian-born Chinese) whose families have been here for generations, but who still look Asian, to very recent migrants. There are dozens of stories, grouped under thematic headings. All the stories are quite short – many are only three pages long – and they cover a diverse range of experiences and a wide variety of tone. In Victoria this is a Year 12 text but it is appropriate for use in Stages 5 or 6.
I Am Thomas by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder. Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742373331. 32 pp.
Told in the first person, this picture book is the story of a boy who doesn't belong. He is constantly told that he will amount to nothing and that he doesn't fit in - at home, at school, at church, in the broader society. He refuses to conform. Libby Gleeson's words are reinforced by Armin Greder's often ugly illustrations. Variable font sizes emphasise Gleeson's words and Greder makes interesting use of framing, of positioning and of colour. This is aimed at teenage readers and explores issues of identity and belonging.
Vampyre by Margaret Wild and Andrew Yeo. Walker Books, 2011. ISBN 9781921529221. 32 pp.
'I am Vampyre./ I live in darkness. / I long for light.' This is another picture book for adolescent readers and it too uses first-person narration - the voice of a young vampyre who longs to break away from his destiny. Wild's sparse text is more like poetry than prose and Yeo's illustrations are haunting. Again, the themes explored include issues of identity and belonging.
Ubby’s Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon by Brenton E. McKenna. Magabala Books, 2011. ISBN 9781921248313. 160 pp.
This fantasy graphic novel by an Indigenous author is set in Broome and draws on the lives and stories of that diverse community. Ubby is a tough streetwise Indigenous girl who is the leader of ‘a rag-tag group of misfits who make up the town’s smallest gang’. This is a fast-moving action comic for teenage readers. It is the first volume of an intended trilogy. The second volume, Heroes Beginnings, has been published recently.
Tyranny: I Keep You Thin by Lesley Fairfield. Walker Books, 2011. ISBN 9781406331134. 119 pp.
This black-and-white graphic novel for adolescent readers is about anorexia. Anna’s enemy is personalised as a demon named Tyranny – the alterego who constantly tells her that she is not thin enough. Graphically, Tyranny is a spooky skeleton.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Scholastic, 2007. ISBN 9780439813785. 534 pp.
This hugely successful novel broke new ground. It's a big book (although it can be read in about an hour) and about half its pages are made up of visual text rather than words. However, it is not an illustrated text: the visual text tells the story, just as the words do. One follows the other, seamlessly. Set in Paris in the 1930s, this is - among other things - about the birth of cinema. It is accessible to readers in upper primary but appeals to all age groups. Lots of schools use it as a Stage 4 novel.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. Egmont, 2007 (1982). ISBN 9781405226660. 182 pp.
This has had a new lease of life because of the Spielberg film and, more importantly, the hugely successful stage musical that uses giant puppets to represent the horses that were sent to France in World War I. This is a very moving war story, told through the experiences of farm boy Albert and his beloved horse Joey. The most interesting feature of this novel is Morpurgo's decision to use first-person narration - in the voice of Joey, the horse. It shouldn't work; it should seem clunky, or cute, or sentimental. But it's exactly right, and very powerful; Morpurgo is very successful in evoking the terrifying atmosphere of the battlefield. The novel is now supported by an app. It is an excellent class novel for Stage 4.
Refuge by Jackie French. HarperCollins, 2013. ISBN 9780732296179. 272 pp.
Teenager Faris and his grandmother Jadda are on a small crowded boat on a grey sea under a grey sky. We learn something of their story and the reasons for their flight from home. Chapter 1 ends with Faris and Jadda being swept overboard by a gigantic wave. The surprise begins with the opening of Chapter 2. Faris wakes in a soft bed in a beautiful bedroom in a luxurious house. Breakfast, with a smiling Jadda at the top of the table, is a buffet of everything he could dream of. Gradually the reader becomes suspicious that all is not quite as it seems: the pet koala gnawing a chicken leg is a pretty good clue.
French has made the transition seamlessly from the grim realism of the first chapter to a fantasy world - an Australia that Faris had imagined, based mostly on tourist websites. On the beach Faris meets other children, from many different countries and from many different times in history. French is not just telling us Faris's story. She is telling us the stories of all the children who have come by boat to Australia over the centuries. This is a very interesting choice as a class novel for Stage 4.
The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky. Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742374710. 150 pp.
This is a beautifully written, haunting mystery beginning in Sydney in 1967 and ending on the 11th November, 1975. The setting is an exclusive girls' school and a small class of girls who are taken to the park by their teacher. Their teacher disappears, and her shocking, unexplained loss binds the girls together. Their personal story takes place against a background of historical and cultural events of great significance. This richly layered novel is for competent readers in Stage 4.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Alfred a. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 9780552565974. 313 pp.
This is an easy and engaging read. August was born with severe facial deformities and, despite many operations, still causes strangers in the street to gasp with horror. Because of his disfigurement, he has been home-schooled. Now, at Year 4 level, his family has reluctantly decided to take the risk of sending him to school. The novel is narrated in August’s voice - and it is the voice that engages the reader. The fact that August is only ten would normally be a disadvantage for high school readers, but there is nothing childish about this voice. August is bright and cheerful and accepting of his situation. He is also acutely aware of how others react to him and is extremely courageous. As he struggles to make his way in the hostile school environment, the reader cheers him on.
The Bridge by Jane Higgins. Text Publishing, 2011. ISBN 9781921758331. 352 pp.
This excellent post-apocalyptic novel is the first from New Zealand author Jane Higgins. The oil has run out on earth and there have been water wars. The story is set in a divided city, constantly at war: on one bank of the river live the elite in Cityside; on the other bank, in Southside, live 'the hostiles', refugees from 'Oversea' and the 'Desert'. Nik has had a privileged education in Cityside, but not all is what it seems, and his identity and loyalty are to be severely challenged. This is an exciting thriller where black and white are not always clearcut.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina. Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 9781921720086. 400 pp.
This post-apocalyptic novel is set in a world that has been devastated by environmental neglect. The new rigidly regulated authoritarian world does not tolerate those who are different, so there are exiles who have become resistance fighters. Ashala, a resistance leader, has been captured and is being interrogated. There are lots of surprising twists and turns: all is not what it seems. There is also a very interesting use of the story of the Rainbow Serpent.
Genesis (The Rosie Black Chronicles Book 1) by Lara Morgan. Walker Books, 2010. ISBN 9781921529399. 454 pp.
This is set 500 years into the future in a Newperth that is divided into the haves, the 'Centrals', the have-nots, the 'Bankers', and the fringe dwellers, the Ferals. This is a long but gripping read as the main character, Rosie, is on the run with a dangerous secret, unsure of whom to trust.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Book 1) by Marissa Meyer. Penguin Books, 2012. ISBN 9780141340135. 387 pp.
This might be chick lit, but it's wonderfully intelligent chick lit, playing deliciously with genre. It is a clever re-telling of the Cinderella story, transposed to some future time in New Beijing. Cinder is a cyborg, despised by her nasty stepmother and one of her two stepsisters. She is an engaging character and it is not surprising that there is a growing attraction between Cinder and the handsome Prince Kai, a budding romance threatened firstly by the fact that Kai does not know that Cinder is a cyborg and secondly by the evil Lunar Queen Levana's determination to marry the prince for political reasons. The plot twists and turns delightfully as Cinder fights to save her prince and Earth itself. This is especially popular with girls.
Act of Faith by Kelly Gardiner. Angus & Robertson, 2011. ISBN 9780732292805. 220 pp.
This meticulously researched historical novel begins in England in 1940, when sixteen-year-old Isabella is forced to flee to Holland because of persecution under Oliver Cromwell. Very interestingly, given her gender, in order to survive she gets a job with a printer in Amsterdam. Master de Aquila comes to the attention of the Spanish Inquisition because he is printing books that the Church wants suppressed. Isabella becomes involved in a terrifying flight across Europe, pursued by officers of the Inquisition. This is an absorbing read for good readers. It is the first of a trilogy. Book 2, The Sultan's Eyes, was published in 2013.
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick. Harper Collins Publishers, 2013 (2012). ISBN 9780552567350. 224 pp.
This is an intensely disturbing novel, firmly based on a real-life story. It begins with an eleven-year-old boy, Arn, walking through the countryside. His family and neighbours are walking with him. It is the beginning of a terrible, gut-wrenching journey, because this is Pol Pot's Cambodia.
Patricia McCormick’s chilling novel is based on the real experiences of Arn Chorn-Pond, who somehow survived when more than two million of his fellow-countrymen were starved or slaughtered. The title is taken from the advice Arn was given - 'never fall down', because, if you do, that will be the end of you.
Arn survives on his wits and through sheer luck. His experiences are vivid: the sounds, the smells and the images stay in the reader's mind long after the book is closed.
The Road to Gundagai by Jackie French. Angus & Robertson, 2013. ISBN 9780732297220. 422 pp.
Beginning in 1932, this is based on the improbable premise that an orphaned teenage girl is rescued in the middle of the night by a nine-year-old boy, who uses a hastily erected pulley system to lower her out the second-storey window of her aunts' house. The girl, Blue, is ill and weak, partly because of injuries she received in a fire; she is also, although she does not know it at the time, being slowly poisoned with arsenic. The boy, Ginger, is from The Magnifico Family Circus, where he plays - among other roles - both the hunched back dwarf in the House of Horrors and Tiny Titania, one of the stars of the trapeze act in the Big Tent.
This is a hugely enjoyable read. The life of the little circus is vividly evoked. The circus characters are wonderfully eccentric, weaving their glamorous magic from the tawdriest of materials to delight their small-town audiences.
The 1930s is of course the depth of the Depression and the little circus is touring country towns. We see through Blue's eyes the conditions in the camp and the poverty and hunger of the children.
Song of the Slums by Richard Harland. Allen & Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743310052. 370 pp.
Song of the Slums is set in an alternative nineteenth century England. King George IV is on the throne and the country is dominated by the plutocrats, who have made enormous fortunes from their industrial enterprises that leave cities like Brummingham choking in foul smog and millions of people living in slums. Astor comes to Brummingham believing that she is to be married to the son of one of the plutocrats, but she has been betrayed. When she flees from intolerable circumstances, she is given temporary refuge in the slums by Granny Rouse and her gang but must earn her place by proving her worth as a musician - in a rock and roll band that is playing inventive and shocking new music.
The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant. Allen & Unwin, 2012. ISBN 9781742376691. 288 pp.
This ambitious novel is organised into three sections: the story of Omed in Afghanistan under the Taliban and his desperate – and unsuccessful – attempt to find asylum; the story of a traumatised Australian teenage boy, Hector; and a final section in which an older Hector goes to Afghanistan to try to search for Omed. The first two parts are limited third-person narrative, the world seen first through Omed’s eyes and then through Hec’s. But the third part is first-person narration in Hec’s voice – the voice of a writer who is telling both Omed’s story and his own. This is an interesting experiment in metafiction.
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. Allen & Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781742372624. 394 pp.
Set in a small Western Australian community in the 60s, this is a terrific thriller. Thirteen-year-old Charlie is woken in the middle of the night by Jasper Jones, the town's notorious teenage outcast. Jasper is in serious trouble and he comes to Charlie for help. There is a body in the bush, and Jasper knows that the police will accuse him of murder. This was written for adults but is an interesting choice for study with Year 10. Some people refer to it as the Australian To Kill a Mockingbird.
The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner. Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742373843. 214 pp.
This absorbing novel begins in a funeral parlour where school drop-out and general misfit, Aaron, is about to start work. The funeral director has taken Aaron on only as a favour to the school counsellor, who is a friend. Aaron’s school reports are dismal: even the counsellor expects very little of him. He appears to be completely antisocial and he has failed all his subjects. But the story is told by Aaron in the first-person and the reader discovers that Aaron is very different from the persona he presents to the world. This has some terrific scenes of black humour and some intensely sad moments as well.
All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield. Text Publishing, 2011. ISBN 9781921758300. 208 pp.
This is a quick and easy read. It's the summer school holidays and sixteen-year-old Mim's mum is on the couch and her brothers are in gaol. Mim knows she doesn't want to turn out like any of them. As the hot summer continues, Mim finds herself involved in trouble with the local crims, trouble with a boy and trouble with her best friend, while her relationship with her mother continues to deteriorate. Despite the setting, this is a warmly positive novel.
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic by Allan Wolf. Candlewick Press, 2013 (2011). ISBN 9780763663315. 430 pp.
This superbly researched account of the sinking of the Titanic is told in verse-novel form, using twenty-two different voices. The voices are those of real historical people who were on board, ranging from the wealthiest of passengers to a refugee girl whose money has been stolen. There are voices from the crew as well as the passengers, some of them surprising: several times we hear the voice of the ship's rat. The most surprising voice of all is that of the iceberg itself. Despite the fact that we know the ending, this is an absorbing read.
The Accident by Kate Hendrick. Text Publishing, 2013. ISBN 9781921922855. 260 pp.
This thoroughly engaging novel is narrated by three very different characters who appear to have no connection, apart from the fact that they are all doing Year 12 HSC. The story is told in 33 short chapters, alternating from Sarah's voice to Will's and then Eliat's. But it's more complex than that. Each chapter is headed: before, after or later. Each chapter is not only a different voice but it's in a different time - before, after or later than the pivotal accident. There are connections between the characters - Sarah and Will are both doing Year 12 at the same school, but at different times - yet no direct connection, until the account of the accident brings them together at the end. The characters are appealing and the narrative structure is impressive. Hendrick pulls together the different strands of the narrative and the different time frames with an effortlessness that is impressive.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Walker Books, 2012 (2011). ISBN 9781406339345. 240 pp.
Thirteen-year-old Conor is suffering a recurrent and terrifying nightmare, triggered by the fact – that he is attempting to deny – that his mother is dying. So when, just after midnight, Conor hears his name being called and finds that the yew tree from the graveyard on the hill has transformed into a huge and threatening monster at his bedroom window, Conor isn’t even frightened: this real-life monster is much easier to deal with than his nightmare. The monster is and does everything monsters are meant to do, roaring and threatening to eat Conor alive with its ‘raggedy teeth’, shattering glass and wood and brick, but Conor can cope with it. The dialogue between Conor and the monster is a joy. Over a series of nights, the monster tells Conor stories – stories that finally enable him to accept that his mother will die.
The Vanishing Moment by Margaret Wild. Allen & Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743315903. 183 pp.
This focuses on the lives of two young women whose fates are transformed by a single significant moment. We follow the stories of these women in separate chapters. For about a third of the novel, it is not clear how their lives are connected. There is a third perspective - a man called Bob who is remembering unhappy childhood experiences. His connection to the two young women, Arrow and Marika, is even less clear. Gradually pieces of the puzzle come together: Wild has constructed an intriguing plot that keeps the reader turning the pages until the heart-wrenching resolution.
Bob's story is about the past, leading to homelessness and gaol. Arrow's story is about the present, although her present is influenced strongly by a terrible trauma in her past. Marika's story is completely in the present. Her happy and successful life has been shattered by one single shocking moment.
The novel explores the way in which a moment in time can change lives.
Trash by Andy Mulligan. David Fickling, 2010. ISBN 9781849920568. 211 pp.
Set in the Philippines, this is narrated by multiple voices, including those of three young boys who make a meagre living scavenging on a huge tip in Manila. The tip is their home as well as their workplace. One day one of the boys discovers a bag, containing an identity card, a key and some money. The money is very welcome, but it soon becomes clear that the bag is much more valuable than it appears, when hordes of police descend on the tip offering large rewards for its recovery. The bag holds a deadly secret and the boys’ decision to solve the mystery propels them into a very dangerous situation. This is a great thriller with terrific characters.
The First Voyage by Allan Baillie. Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780143307679. 184 pp.
Set thirty thousands years ago, this novel explores what it must have been like for Australia's first peoples to make the journey from what is now Timor to the shores of what we call Australia. The story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy, Bent Beak, from the tiny Yam tribe. Bent Beak's people are threatened by the much larger tribe - the Crocodile people. The Yam tribe Elder, Eagle Eye, knows that the only way to save his people is to follow the birds that fly south, although he has no idea how long the journey will take or what they might find.
While The First Voyage can be categorised as historical fiction, it is also a kind of fantasy. This is a superb imaginative adventure on the part of the author, as he uses his knowledge of the landscapes and of the sea to picture what the journey might have been like for Bent Beak and his companions.
The Dream of the Thylacine by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks. Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742373836. 32 pp.
This picture book for readers of all ages tells the story of the last Tasmanian tiger, endlessly patrolling his tiny concrete and barbed wire cage, as he dreams of his lost freedom in the beautiful forests.
Joyous and Moonbeam by Richard Yaxley. Omnibus Books, 2013. 9781862919877. 170 pp.
This short novel is told mainly through the voices of the two characters, Joyous and Moonbeam, interspersed with a series of letters to Joyous written by his Mamma. Joyous, a big man aged thirty-three, works in a sheltered workshop. Joyous is visited in the workshop by an unhappy teenage girl, Ashleigh, whom he names Moonbeam. Moonbeam's family is falling apart after the birth of a stillborn baby and she is acting out her sadness by lashing out at home and at school.
Yaxley skilfully reveals the stories of each of the characters. The supportive relationship that develops between them is moving.
The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail. black dog books, 2012. ISBN 9781742031651. 256 pp.
Melbourne writer Suzy Zail uses her Hungarian father’s wartime experience to tell a gripping fictional account of what happened to the Budapest Jews who were sent to Auschwitz in 1944. Hanna, the fifteen-year-old narrator, is a talented pianist and is forced to go each day to the commandant's house to play for him. An unlikely relationship develops with the commandant's sixteen-year-old son, Karl - the 'wrong boy'. This is a book that helps the reader see the inhumanity of the Holocaust through new eyes.
Butter by Erin Lange. Faber and Faber, 2013 (2012). ISBN 9780571294404. 343 pp.
This is a very contemporary novel, one in which social media play a major role. It is narrated in the first-person by a teenage boy who is known to everyone as 'Butter'. Butter is seriously obese and has long been the subject of merciless bullying at school. In desperation, he decides to take action, announcing on Facebook that he intends to eat himself to death - live on webcam - on New Year's Eve. This is blackly humorous and terrific about bullying, including cyberbullying. It raises some important ethical issues about social media.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Penguin Books, 2012. ISBN 9780143567592. 313 pp.
Narrated by sixteen-year-old Hazel, who has been living with incurable cancer for more than three years, this is a compulsive read. The narrative voice is hugely appealing: this is a very bright and very funny girl who knows the inevitability of her fate and is determined not to be maudlin. Her greatest concern is for her parents: she describes herself as a 'grenade' that will some day explode, destroying their lives. Hazel meets Gus, a cancer survivor, and they fall in love. This is one of the great love stories in young adult fiction and a serious look at the extent to which we are masters of our fate. There have been lots of young adult books about teenagers with terminal illnesses, but this is by far the best.