It’s time to start gathering some summer holiday reads!
The latest Chris Hammer was much anticipated and did not disappoint. The Tilt (Allen & Unwin, cover design by Luke Causby/Blue Cork) is a satisfyingly complex work told in three points of view and timeframes.
It holds both a contemporary crime story and an historical crime mystery and much of the pleasure for the reader is in weaving the threads together for resolution.
Nell Buchannan, whom we met in Treasure and Dirt, has been promoted to the position of homicide detective but the gloss on this is somewhat tarnished when she’s sent to her hometown to investigate something that appears to be a cold case.
She needn’t have worried, though, because there is indeed plenty of current-day excitement. Her superior from the previous story, Ivan Lucic, is present but very much in the backroom for most of the story, cheering her on when things get tough.
The story is set in the river and forest country of Millewa/Barmah, where the state border is formed by the Murray. The river system was the subject of a much earlier nonfiction work by the author and it is dazzling in its depiction here.
The forest in the World War 2 years, the 1960s/’70s and the current day is teeming with all kinds of activity, legal and illegal. Among other significant themes, the fragility and preciousness of the rivers and forests are strongly articulated.
Author-illustrator Tania McCartney’s Plume series is now in its third iteration with Plume festival seeker (Hardie Grant). We have come to expect ebullient and colourful picture books from Tania along with her zest for sharing the joys of books, travel and words.
In this book, Plume is bent on finding a year of festivals and tries to interest his fellows from Antarctica in joining his journeys – to no avail as they’d rather stay home.
The book takes young readers to 10 countries as diverse as Scotland and Costa Rica and focuses on celebrations that are not always the best known. Tania uses the language of each country to name the festival – Pascuas, Holi, Up Helly Aa and so on, and includes the traditions of each celebration – fireworks, costumes, throwing coloured dye powder and floral carpets.
Every page is chockers with bright colour and details that children will love to discover. Both children and adults appear in these pictures along with multitudes of very sweet penguins. Ava the albatross, as previously, provides the international transport.
The final celebration is very much about family and friendship, a perfect Christmas message.
Books such as this are important for children and their adults as they contain plenty of substance and can be read over and over with lots still to discover each time. They are beautifully wrapped educational tools communicating the importance of tradition and literacy in the most palatable way, embracing our differences and similarities with gusto. We’ll all want to board an albatross for Tania’s destinations as soon as we can.
Short-form writing is highly appealing for several reasons. Aside from the skill required to make a short piece sing, there is the practical matter of being able to enjoy a story between other tasks.
School Days is an anthology of prose and verse produced by The Fellowship of Australian Writers Canberra Region Branch, edited by Jenni Warren and Michael Moloney (cover design Craig Cooper).
As well as being a record of personal experiences and memories, it provides a fascinating historical insight into schooling over the past few decades. Its 17 contributors are regular and practised writers, many of whom have published their own longer works.
The accounts of long walks to school, huge class sizes and approaches to discipline, popular sports of earlier days, family habits and societal expectations make for interesting reading and could easily fit into a classroom program as well as on home shelves.
Barbie Robinson is co-founder and a content creator for Living Arts Canberra, a not-for-profit media outfit supporting arts and community in the Canberra region and books worldwide through its website, podcast interviews and a 24/7 internet radio station.