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)