Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Books on Puberty

When you have an older boy and a girl two years younger, puberty seems to hit simultaneously. Our family has leapt from childhood to transition almost overnight it seems and we realised we needed books to fill in the gaps. Not that we hadn’t talked to them over the years, so that they knew the general picture, but in a reading family you have to have a book on everything! And of course an objective outside perspective, the questions that never get asked, the ones that you forget about because it was all so long ago.

Books on puberty have come a long way since I was that age. I remember a dour paperback with technical illustrations, very medical, very unreal, not very interesting. Today on Amazon you are bombarded with choice. Brightly illustrated books aimed at various age groups, some even for pre-pre-adolescents in picture book mode. Some have an encyclopaedic amount of detail covering the whole of growing up, some are more focussed on the changes of puberty itself.

We tried to look in our local bookshops to get a better idea of what was on offer and be able to read before buying, but nothing available here really seemed to provide just the right level of information. There were still even some medical type paperbacks of the kind that went out in the 70s. So it was back to Amazon.

After reading endless reviews we decided upon this pair of books – Puberty Boy by Geoff Price and Puberty Girl by Shushann Movsessian. They have just the right amount of information for our age children, 11 year old girl and 13 year old boy, and can also be read by our nearly nine-year old girl who isn't quite there yet, but will be soon enough. They are intended to prepare children at the beginning of puberty, enough detail, but easily readable by this age group. Our son read it through in two evenings, our daughter was engrossed in it to start with and tailed off rather half way through, but is still dipping into it.

There are loads of pictures of real kids doing stuff – boys on skateboards, girls hanging out with friends, so the emphasis is on puberty being what you’re all going through, as a normal part of life. Of course there are the line drawings of the body and its changes too, but they are way better than the medical text book ones I remember. The tone is friendly and chatty, approachable without trying to be too street smart and hip.

We’ll need to get a further book or two later on that address more complex teenage issues such as relationships, sex and drugs, as these topics weren’t covered. These books are definitely meant for the beginning puberty girl and boy rather than the full on teenager, which is perfect for our kids.

Published in Australia, they are available on Amazon.co.uk, which is still doing free super-saver delivery to South Africa, so they were easily affordable and we just had to wait three weeks for them to arrive.
Puberty Boy currently costs £5.82 and Puberty Girl costs £6.72.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Time Riders By Alex Scarrow

If you are enthralled by the idea of time travel, envisaging it as a romantic way of experiencing other times and places, The Time Traveller’s Wife will have already disabused you of that idea.;  It is awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing, often landing you in dangerous scrapes. Alex Scarrow’s YA Time Riders series shows time travel in another light. It can be a huge disaster for the world. One person changing a tiny thing in the past has a ripple effect that could endanger our whole civilization.

The story starts with the recruiting of three very different young people, each  torn from certain death in various catastrophes  to live in a time bubble in New York 2001 and learn how to fix time contaminating events caused by the misuse of time travel. They have to travel in time themselves and clean up the messes created by other time travellers from the future before they bring disaster upon us.

Scarrow’s writing is so gripping, his characters engaging and well-developed that the story steams along at a fast pace, drawing in adult readers just as intensely as the teens it is written for.

While some stretches are quite harrowing, there is plenty of humour and emotion mixed in with the drama, and you even start to care for the support unit, a genetically engineered ‘meat robot’ who is there to protect them on their missions and who starts to develop learned human character traits.

Altogether a great read and the sequel  looks pretty good too.

TimeRiders: Day of the Predator
Timeriders: The Doomsday Code

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Cherub Series by Robert Muchamore

If you have a just turned teenager, in search of a thrilling read, but not quite ready to dive into regular thrillers (or maybe it’s you not quite ready to expose your fledgling to the sex and violence of so many novels, thriller or not) then the Cherub series is the perfect bridge from children’s fiction to the grown up world.

A wonderfully believable scenario is created here – orphan kids are hand-picked to becomes part of a special espionage group of 11-17 year-olds. A hectically full-on training worthy of the SAS prepares them for their missions in the real world, infiltrating terrorist groups or drugs organisations or whatever modern criminal world is the current mission.

The best thing for me reading them as an adult is that the characters are fully drawn and real. Despite being highly trained and skilled in martial arts and so on, these kids are dealing with all the usual teenage traumas and rites of passage. James, the main character has a volatile relationship with Kerry, his first girlfriend, so that you have to read the books in order, to keep in touch with whether they are going out with each other or are no longer speaking and going out with someone else in the group of friends.

Just be warned that these books really are meant for teens not for younger kids. There is a lot of violence – not too graphic but violence none the less, and snogging in the early books when James is 12 or 13 does progress in the later books to the 16 yr olds sleeping together, again not graphic. The language is free of the f-word but a fairly realistic cleaned up representation of tough kids talk.

All in all the twelve books in the series are a great read, very compelling and have been passed around the adults in this family as soon as the 13 yr old was done with them.

The Recruit (Cherub #1)
Class A (Cherub #2)
Maximum Security (Cherub #3)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Book Book

After a long lull in posting activity here I've been invited to join The Book Book, moonrat's community book blog.

I've just posted my review of Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram there, so do go visit if you'd like. I've not abandoned Great Books Reviewed altogether though and plan on reviewing more often in the future..it's a hectic world, this blogosphere!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Exodus by Julie Bertagna


This Whitbread award children’s book is so powerful, it had me absorbed and helpless for days. Definitely for teenagers and adults rather than younger children, it is an exploration of a future, when sea levels have risen dramatically. Mara is a fifteen year old girl with vision and determination, living a subsistence level life on one of the few remaining islands in the North. Storms rage all winter and blistering hot summers send the sea level rising every year. Technology is long defunct in her community, but she has a relic from the past that she uses to explore the ruins of an old-world virtual reality internet equivalent, The Weave. Her discovery of some New World cities built out of the sea bed into the sky, gives her an idea to save her community.

When the refugee convoy reach the New World city they find that humanity has split into two groups, the intellectual elite live lives totally cut off from the Earth and reality in their techno world, while the outcasts and refugees eke out an existence in the netherworld, among the drowned ruins of the old world city. To save her people Mara has to work an even more daring plan, infiltrate the New World city, cope with its sophisticated technology and find someone she can trust.

Bravery, self doubt, trust, love, and care for humanity are all powerful emotions that drive this engrossing story. It is too near the possible truth to dismiss as mere futuristic fantasy, so is not a cosy read, but faith in the ultimate good nature and noble spirit of the few gives hope for mankind’s eventual survival. Read this for a great story, but not if you’re feeling fragile, this is no escapist read.

Amazon.com Exodus
Amazon.co.uk Exodus

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

December's Books

The whole month of December slipped by without a single post here, not because I haven’t been reading (I have still been escaping into the pages of alternate reality most evenings) but because the flurry of preparations for Christmas left me without a spare brain cell to evaluate, summarise and review anything coherently. Here is a brief selection of the books I have been devouring uncritically recently.

Jodi Picoult Vanishing Acts

A rescue worker and mother finds that her whole life she has lived a fictional identity, after her father is arrested for abducting her from her mother at the age of four. Jodi Picoult’s excellent handling of character, plot development, moral dilemmas and legal procedure kept me immersed till the end.

Vanishing Acts from Amazon.com Vanishing Acts from Amazon.co.uk

Erica James Love and Devotion

Not one for the over imaginative parent. Harriet is left with the upbringing of her sister’s two children after their parents are killed in a car crash. The story of how she and the rest of their family rebuild their lives and she has to adjust from being a fast track career woman to an instant mother replacement, is well written and enjoyable.

Love and Devotion from Amazon.com Love and Devotion from Amazon.co.uk

Anne Perry The One Thing More

Set in the troubled and desperate times of the French Revolution, a conspiracy to rescue the King from his imminent execution at the guillotine is threatened when the main mind orchestrating it is murdered. Anne Perry is great at bringing to life the lives of ordinary people in the midst of history unfolding, the domestic details, the food shortages and suspicion, households divided but still a sense of hope shining out from the fog.

The One Thing More from Amazon.com The One Thing More from Amazon.co.uk

Elisabeth Luard Family Life

An autobiographical account of her life bringing up her four children between London and Andalusia in the Sixties and Seventies. Passionate about food she weaves family and local recipes into her stories. This is my third or fourth time of reading – I love her pragmatic approach and resourcefulness, acquiring a donkey transport when they can’t afford a car in Spain, deciding to spend a year in France so the children will be trilingual before returning to English schools and finishing with the poignant story of one daughter’s early death in her twenties. I admire her both as a food writer and indomitable mother.

Family Life from Amazon.com Family Life from Amazon.co.uk

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Married to a Bedouin

I’ve just finished reading “Married to a Bedouin” by Marguerite van Geldermalsen. She was a young New Zealander travelling the world in the late seventies, when she met Mohammed, one of a Bedouin tribe, who lived in caves and tents among the archeological remains of an ancient Nabatean civilisation in the valley of Petra.

She travelled onward, but circumstances brought them together again and she realised that he was the man for her. This is her account of their life together told simply but vividly. She starts off knowing nothing of the language or culture, seeing the Bedouin from an outsider’s view. Gradually she comes to know each individual, adapts to their lifestyle and becomes one of them. She is refreshing in her perspective, neither a saint promoting self-sacrifice for the man she loves, nor a high handed crusader trying to show them the benefits of civilisation. Occasionally her irritation with an incomprehensible tradition or superstition bursts out, but later on she comes to realise that there is a valid reason behind it.

For example, she is initially horrified to discover that a woman is considered ‘unclean’ for forty days after having a baby, as any Westerner would be. The reasons become clear however: the ‘unclean’ epithet isn’t a stigma, rather the new mother is given a chance to recover in a protected space, surrounded by all the other women of the family, friends, neighbours and so on, who cook, clean, fetch water, take care of the other kids, while she has no other duties than taking care of her baby and as a bonus she has the diversion of their company for forty days. No-one but her takes care of the baby and it is not shown around (for fear of the evil eye) until after the forty days are up, thus giving it a chance to develop its immune system before being exposed to the germs of the world.

Their cave, though primitive, sounds snug and warm and over time they acquire some modern conveniences – a gas oven, eventually a kerosene fridge and once Mohammed gets a driver's licence they have a car too.

This book records and encapsulates a way of life that is fast disappearing (by the end of the book the tribe had been resettled into houses away from the archeological site, their children were learning computer skills and many of the traditions of nomadic life had been left behind) and is a fascinating read, both for her personal story and the account of Bedouin life.

Amazon.com has an excellent customer review of Married to a Bedouin by someone who now lives in Petra.

To see more details at Amazon.co.uk on Married to a Bedouin click on this title link.