Scoop Review of Books

Archive for February, 2014

A Difficult Journey

A Winter’s Day in 1939 by Melinda Szymanik (Scholastic, $18.50)
Review by Nikki Slade Robinson

Awinter'sdayAdam is 12 and living with his family in rural 1939 Poland… but not for long. Their home isn’t far from the Soviet border. When the Soviet Red Army invades Poland, Adam’s family is one of many uprooted and transported to Russian labour camps.

It is a harsh existence: appalling living conditions, freezing temperatures, illnesses, a severe shortage of food, and the ever-present enemy. It’s a challenge to survive each day, let alone try to stay together as a family.

This young-adult story, while fictional, is closely based on Melinda Szymanik’s father’s recollections of his family’s experiences in 1939 Poland and the USSR: ‘My father was 12 when the Soviet Red Army invaded eastern Poland, where he lived, in 1939. His family was transported from Poland to a labour camp in Russia in 1940. Their experiences… form the basis of this novel, and a lot of the things that happen to Adam and those close to him happened to my father and his family and friends.’
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Simpler than it looks

Girl’s Guide to Sewing by Cheryl Owen (New Holland, $29.99)
Reviewed by by Sophie Robinson (age 12)

Girl's Guide to Sewing HR My best friend has just started college. I was thinking of buying her a little something but I haven’t yet. Now, though, I think I’ll make her a ‘Foxy Key Fob’ out of the Girl’s Guide to Sewing. She likes cute animals and sewing so I think she’ll like a home-made gift from me. In fact I think I’ll make two so we can have matching ones!

The book has 35 projects and is clearly set out with plenty of photos – at least one for every project. The first section ‘Essentials’ has information on equipment, materials, techniques and templates. It explains a lot. The second section has the projects. Each project has a photo and brief description: for example the Jeans Gadget Bag: “It’s often a sad day when we must admit that a favourite pair of jeans are past their best. Don’t despair, upcycle…”. After the description, there is a list of what you will need, cutting-out instructions, and maybe a tip: “Don’t use your skinniest jeans… [for the bag]”. Then there are the step-by-step instructions. Each step has a lot to do, so I think it would have been better to write maybe five shorter steps rather than one very long step. It would save having to re-read each step to find your place again, especially when you’re learning. There are some diagrams: some are fine, but in some cases it could be good to include more detail.
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Pirates with parallels

The Freedom Merchants by Sherryl Jordan (Scholastic, $19.50)
Review by Nikki Slade Robinson

freedommerchantsI’ve just been on a roller-coaster ride from an idyllic 1600s Irish fishing village, across stormy seas to the land of the Barbary pirates, and back again. And a good ride it was too. The words weave a sense of calm, only to give a sudden twist, lurch, or pitch into the unknown. I was kept on my toes the whole time.

As with Ransomwood, Sherryl Jordan’s previous JF/YA title, The Freedom Merchants is beautifully written. The text flows richly, smoothly, effortlessly. The story wraps around the reader. The era, the people, the adventure all are believable and utterly absorbing.
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