The Hand The Eye and The Heart

the hand the eye and the heart

Book Review

The Hand, The Eye and The Heart, Zoë Marriott, Walker Books, 2019, softcover, $17.99, isbn 9781406383546.

A young adult novel

Zhilan has been brought up female in her family home; she is the eldest child of the House of Hua. In a place and time where females and males had a defined role Zhilan always felt ill at ease: not comfortable in her own skin and her own abilities. For she, like her father, the (retired) great Iron General of the Southern Provinces has the ability to create illusions, a talent thought unnatural for females to possess in this fairy tale world based on Ancient China.

Despite society’s and her mother’s misgivings Zhilan is trained to hone her skills by her father. When the Emperor sends out commands for families to help fight the new threat to the Red Empire, Zhilan gathers all her years of training in order to represent her family name – as a man.

Thus begins a tale that is epic, brutal and very human.

The human side of the story is based on how and why Zhilan (Zhi is to become her new name) throughout struggles to come to terms with who she/he really is. It is a struggle we all have to deal with whether or not we are unsure of our sexuality.

Epic due to the fighting and adventure that is told within and is brutal when the true horrors of war are revealed.

The title is part of a rhyme Zhilan’s mother recited to her when a child and is not mentioned until three quarters of the way in (page 380) when Zhilan is wondering why she could not respond well to the Young General. It is a very apt summing up.

While this novel has been inspired by the fairy tale character Mulan, it is not a Disney story and should be approached with this clearly in mind.

The author gives warning at the front of the novel that ‘…this book contains depictions of deadnaming and misgendering. Please use your own best judgement as to whether you will find this triggering….’ as well as ‘…chestbinding (practices) which…are entirely unsafe…’

A challenging novel that I am glad I read.

Sharon Greenaway.

 

 

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Joy, book review

Joy, Yasmeen Ismail, illustrated by Jenni Desmond, 2019, Walker Books, Hb, $24.99, isbn 9781406385205

At first glance I thought there was nothing too special about this book but upon re-reading I changed my mind.

A kitten leaves the warmth and safety of its sleeping mother in order to play with its favourite toy. Pure Joy is felt by the young cat as the ball of red twine rolls away from it (whether the protagonist is male or female is not mentioned).

When the kitten catches the twine and climbs a clothes horse with it there is such a… ‘Tangle’…but never fear a blue ball takes its place.

And on the fun goes, including a fun time with a by now awake mum; until the kitten runs away and has a mishap, falling outside of its comfort zone. For such a brief time the kitten is scared and feels alone, however the illustrations shows a paw in view and we know the kitten is never alone.

The rhythmic words bounce along the pages with the kitten’s movements and stop when it stops and is worried or comforted.

The illustrations work very well with the text, with plenty of white space serving to focus the action on the kitten. There is a lot happening in this book which is told with these illustrations.

As the blurb states this book does ‘…celebrate the special love between a parent and child.’

Recommended.

Sharon Greenaway

14th June 2019

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Tooth Fairy in Training

Tooth Fairy in Training

 

Tooth Fairy in Training, Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Briony May Smith, Walker Books, 2019, $24.99 Hb, ISBN 9781406377569.

This delightful picture book sheds new light into the world of the Tooth Fairy.

As tradition tells it a Tooth Fairy is called upon to swap human children’s teeth that have fallen out of their mouths, for a coin. In this story Tate, who is in training to become a Tooth Fairy, knows this but tonight she learns that it is not just human children she must visit.

She goes out into the world after her lesson from her sister May; who accompanies Tate on her first nights mission.

Tate’s first night proves to be such an adventure beginning with visiting a baby hippo and ending with an unexpected encounter!

It is the exquisite illustrations that first draw you into the story. From the moment the cover is opened and a delightful Tooth Fairy home welcomes the reader, turning the next page and the hero of the story, Tate, facing the reader invites you to know more.

Told in the first person, the story is told in a clear rhythmical style. Illustrations are many and with much detail to help event he younger reader guess what is going on.

Will Tate pass her test, overcoming so many varied creatures that lose teeth and become a Tooth Fairy? You will have fun reading this story in order to find out.

Lovers of fairy tales will want to add this to their collection.

Sharon Greenaway

 

 

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Clackety Track

Clackety Track, poems about trains, Skila Brown, illustrated by Jamey Christoph, Candlewick Press, 2019.

Isbn 9780763690472,hb, $24.99

Older readers who love trains is the target of this poetry book about trains.

The opening double page spread introduces the reader to a wide selection of trains, all ready to depart on the respective rail journey.

The book then goes into detail on each subsequent set of double pages to describe or highlight the role each train will take as well as other things rail related.

Just as each type of train is different to another, so are the poems and text layout that accompany them.

Probably my favourite poem is actually about the tracks that are so important for all the trains, no matter how large or small. This poem, when read out loud, is reminiscent of the movement and sounds one would feel when riding onboard a train.

Christoph’s illustrations add an extra depth to the text and on most of the pages feature a child or two that the reader can relate to. The colourful zoo illustrations are a delight.

At the end there are some rail definitions to help those who are unfamiliar with words such as ballast as well as further train information.

My one concern is that this book is really geared to the readers of the U.S.A. and so some of the information such as comparing the laying of transit train tracks end to end to the distance of New York to Chicago would not mean a lot to an Australian child.

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A Cat Called Trim, Corinne Fenton, Craig Smith

A Cat Called Trim, Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Craig Smith, Allen and Unwin, 2019, ISBN 9781760631840, HB.

Continuing on with her love of animals and a love of history, Fenton has retold in her own unique way another real life story, this one is about the famous explorer Matthew Flinders’ cat, Trim.

Trim’s life of adventure began when he was born on board the sailing ship ‘HMS Reliance’ in 1799.

Fenton weaves a story of an individual, much likes his master, that is “…more courageous, mischievous and fearless…”than his siblings and as such took the eye of the famous explorer, or as Fenton infers Flinders took the eye of Trim!

While sailing between Botany Bay and Moreton Bay Trim is taken care of by a kind Aboriginal Australian Bongaree, but overall Trim is looked after by Flinders.

Trim experiences many things in his life: from falling overboard, surviving a shipwreck, living in a house for a time and then finally sharing Flinders’ imprisonment at the Isle de France.

Trim’s tale mirrors that of his master with the added perspective from a mischievous cat whose job it was to take care of the mice found on board the ships he sailed upon.

Smith does a wonderful illustrating job, fleshing out Fenton’s text, adding humour as well as excellent detail; perhaps my favourite double page spread was the afternoon tea at the home of the ‘…kind lady.’’

I like the vignettes Smith has put in the corners of pages that indicate what ship or other vessel Trim is travelling in, I found it helped when following both the written journey and the detailed maps found on the end papers.

There is a great deal of history recounted in this book. I did go to Google to flesh out one of the pieces, the reference to Bongaree as I wanted to know a little more about who he was and found a reference to him here.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungaree

Once again a terrific retelling of a true story. Children, particularly older ones, will get a lot from this story.

Sharon Greenaway.

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