Tag Archives: family

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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IMG_4458We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, paperback novel, 225 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2014.

Harris and Tipper Sinclair have three daughters, and their daughters produce a number of grandchildren. Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the eldest, but only by a few weeks. Next are her cousins Johnny and Mirren, one child for each Sinclair daughter, more grandchildren come, but these three are the first. The family is from old money, they are beautiful, they are strong, they seem to have it all. They even own a private island off the coast of Massachusetts, where the whole family spends their summers together. When Johnny’s mum finds a new partner, she brings along his nephew to spend summer on the island. Gat is the same age as Johnny, Cady and Mirren, and together they are the four liars, best friends growing up together, making mischief, having fun. In the summer before they turn sixteen something terrible happens, an accident, Cady can’t remember, and the family won’t tell her. What are they hiding, and why?

As I read the first page of We Were Liars, I prepared myself for a pretentious, overindulgent and vain story of frivolity and inconsequence. By the second chapter I was intrigued, and by the fourth, I was starting to race through the pages. I had to know what Cady had forgotten, and what was happening to the family.

The story is told from Cady’s perspective, and jumps between the summer of the accident, which her amnesia is blocking, and the summer two years on, when she has returned to the island and her memories are beginning to re-appear. The style of writing employed may not appeal to everyone, though I felt it fit the story quite well. There are elements of romance and family conflict, there are secrets and lies, all revolving around an intriguing mystery leading towards the truth. This book provided me with something that has become increasingly rare for me, an ending that I never saw coming, it slammed me, it made me cry, but it was so very very perfect.

I found all of the characters in We Were Liars to be well written with plenty of depth, surprisingly, I liked the four liars. These teenage characters of Cady, Johnny, Mirren and Gat had some aspects of spoilt rich kid, but they were still likeable. They were stifled and embarrassed by the behaviour of the adults, with ideals which were refreshing, but they still took it for granted that they would always have whatever they wanted. The way that Cady changes after the accident is interesting, she is a complicated girl, suffering debilitating migraines, and hovered over by her mother. Part of me wanted to dislike her for her assumption of continuous wealth and security, but I couldn’t, she was doing it tough in a lot of ways, and I felt for her.

The adults, though less central to the plot, were as expected of adults in a privileged family. During the summer of the accident, the aunties are arguing over money and property and the love of their father. Harris Sinclair is manipulative and uses his immense fortune to play his daughters off one another. Rich people are often portrayed in literature and film using their money as power and needing more and more no matter who they trample on to get it. Not knowing anyone with this sort of money at their disposable, I must assume that this is only a slight exaggeration of reality, and the behaviour of the Sinclairs is consistent with this image. I thought that the way the three women wheedled, connived and ingratiated themselves in order to gain favour with Harris was pitiful, yet completely plausible. I find this behaviour bewildering, but then I’ve never had lots of money to fight over before!

One of the best young adult novels that I have read in some time, We Were Liars, is a stunning read for high school students and up. Give it a go, it’ll surprise you, and it will stay with you for a very long time.

 

 

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Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend by Anna Branford and Sarah Davis

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IMG_1445Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend by Anna Branford and illustrated by Sarah Davis, hardback chapter book, 109 pages, published by Walker Books Australia Pty Ltd in 2013.

Violet’s family has just moved into a new house. Violet is busy exploring the backyard when she discovers a knot in the fence, and accidentally turns it into a hole. She worries that the neighbours might be angry about the hole, so she writes a little apology note and leaves it, along with a small present in the hole. A reply arrives in the hole from Rose, a young girl that lives next door. Is Rose Violet’s possible friend, or maybe she could be a very good friend?

This is the story of a young girl making a new friend and all the uncertainty that comes with it. The story is well written and enjoyable. Violet reminds me of some children I know, and all her worrying and planning gave me a chuckle. While this is not the first book in the Violet Mackerel series, it is the first one we have read. It will not be the last. My preschooler is taken with Violet. She really enjoyed the story and I think she identified with Violet, they have some things in common, such as their collection of small items. She’s keen to read more Violet books.

There are very nice black and white illustrations throughout the book. My preschooler was particularly impressed with how Violet was depicted in the illustrations, just like she imagined her to be (apparently)! The notes that are passed between Violet and Rose are actually drawn as notes in the book too, with writing that even looks like the writing of a young girl. I thought these were a lovely addition.

Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend is a chapter book that is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. My second grader read the whole book before school one morning, finding it an entertaining story, but a very easy read. I think it would be a good book to help build reading confidence in young children.

 

 

The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood

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IMG_0510The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Australia in 2011.

When Lucy asks for a hug before bed, Mummy tells her it is her last one. Lucy promises to return it, and Mummy gives her a nice, gentle hug. Then Lucy runs off to share it with the other members of her family, where it becomes bigger and peanut-buttery, but still nice. The hug runs away with Annie, and Lucy chases her to get it back, but it’s not easy, and she really wants to give Mummy back her last hug.

This is a sweet book about sharing love within families and the differences each family member brings. It contains simple language suitable for emergent readers to try, and delightfully quirky illustrations. At the start of the story, Mummy appears to be searching for a skirt in the dirty wash pile in just her undies and shirt, despite it being almost bedtime. I liked that the house was messy, there were drawings on one of the walls and Mummy was breastfeeding the baby at the end. The steps in the house also made me think of the MC Escher house. I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the illustrations, and the realistic portrayal of a house with four children in it.

The Runaway Hug is a nice book to share while cuddling up with your child. It leaves us with a warm and happy feeling each time we read it together. Best for preschoolers and lower primary school children, this award winning* picture book is loved by both my preschooler and my second grader.

 

* The Runaway Hug won The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category in 2012.