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BOOK CLUB BOOKS 2019

We have three book club groups operating during 2019.  The books we’ve read will be updated here throughout the year…

FICTION GROUP

APRIL

The RipThe Rip
Mark Brandi

It’s funny how quick it happens and without you really noticing. Anton said once that it’s like walking out into the sea, and you think everything’s fine and the water’s warm, but when you turn back you’re suddenly miles from shore. I’ve never been much of a swimmer, but I get what he means. Like, being caught in a current or something. A rip.”

A young woman living on the street has to keep her wits about her.
Or her friends. But when the drugs kick in that can be hard.

Anton has been looking out for her. She was safe with him. But then Steve came along.

He had something over Anton. Must have. But he had a flat they could crash in. And gear in his pocket. And she can’t stop thinking about it. A good hit makes everything all right.

But the flat smells weird.There’s a lock on Steve’s bedroom door.
And the guy is intense.

The problem is, sometimes you just don’t know you are in too deep, until you are drowning.


MAY

Hollow BonesThe Hollow Bones
Leah Kaminsky

“I remember you once told me about mockingbirds and their special talents for mimicry. They steal the songs from others, you said. I want to ask you this: how were our own songs stolen from us, the notes dispersed, while our faces were turned away?”

Berlin, 1936. Ernst Schäfer, a young, ambitious zoologist and keen hunter and collector, has come to the attention of Heinrich Himmler, who invites him to lead a group of SS scientists to the frozen mountains of Tibet. Their secret mission: to search for the origins of the Aryan race. Ernst has doubts initially, but soon seizes the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the Third Reich.

While Ernst prepares for the trip, he marries Herta, his childhood sweetheart. But Herta, a flautist who refuses to play from the songbook of womanhood and marriage under the Reich, grows increasingly suspicious of Ernst and his expedition.

When Ernst and his colleagues finally leave Germany in 1938, they realise the world has its eyes fixed on the horror they have left behind in their homeland.

A lyrical and poignant cautionary tale, The Hollow Bones brings to life one of the Nazi regime’s little-known villains through the eyes of the animals he destroyed and the wife he undermined in the name of science and cold ambition.


JUNE

Machines Like MeMachines Like Me
Ian McEwan

Britain has lost the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding.

Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma.

Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.


NON-FICTION

MARCH

the arsonistThe Arsonist
Chloe Hooper

Shortlisted for the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Non-fiction; Longlisted for 2019 Stella Prize

On the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, then sat on the roof of his house to watch the inferno. In the Valley, where the rates of crime were the highest in the state, more than thirty people were known to police as firebugs. But the detectives soon found themselves on the trail of a man they didn’t know.

The Arsonist takes readers on the hunt for this man, and inside the strange puzzle of his mind. It is also the story of fire in this country, and of a community that owed its existence to that very element. The command of fire has defined and sustained us as a species – understanding its abuse will define our future.

A powerful real-life thriller written with Hooper’s trademark lyric detail and nuance, The Arsonist is a reminder that in an age of fire, all of us are gatekeepers.


MAY

Imperfect High ResImperfect
Lee Koffman

By the time she was eleven and living in Russia, Lee Kofman had undergone several major operations on both a defective heart and injuries sustained in a bus accident. Her body harbours a constellation of disfiguring scars that have shaped her sense of self and her view of the world. But it wasn’t until she moved from the Soviet Union to Israel and later Australia that she realised these markings weren’t badges of honour to flaunt but were, in fact, imperfections that needed to be concealed.

In a seductive mix of memoir and cultural critique, Kofman casts a questioning eye on the myths surrounding our conception of physical perfection and what it’s like to live in a body that deviates from the norm. She reveals the subtle ways we are all influenced by the bodies we inhabit, whether our differences are pronounced or noticeable only to ourselves. She talks to people of all shapes, sizes and configurations and takes a hard look at the way media and culture dictates how bodies should and shouldn’t be.

By turns illuminating, confronting and deeply personal, Imperfect challenges us all to consider how we exist in the world and how our bodies shape the people we become.


JUNE

Australia DayAustralia Day
Stan Grant

Since publishing his critically acclaimed, Walkley Award-winning, bestselling memoir Talking to My Country in early 2016, Stan Grant has been crossing the country, talking to huge crowds everywhere about how racism is at the heart of our history and the Australian dream. But Stan knows this is not where the story ends.

In this book, Australia Day, his long-awaited follow up to Talking to My Country, Stan talks about our country, about who we are as a nation, about the indigenous struggle for belonging and identity in Australia, and what it means to be Australian. A sad, wise, beautiful, reflective and troubled book, Australia Day asks the questions that have to be asked, that no else seems to be asking. Who are we? What is our country? How do we move forward from here?


JUNIOR GROUP (Ages 8-12)

MAY

lightning-chase-me-homeLightning Chase Me Home
Amber Lee Dodd

Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mums favourite explorers. Two amazing, bold, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. But Amelia herself doesn’t always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on the tiny Scottish island of Dark Muir, her mum has walked out on her and shes about to start at a whole new, scary school.

Her dyslexia means shes a target for the school bullies, too. When she makes a wish on her birthday to be reunited with her mum, she finds herself disappearing and reappearing elsewhere on the island, where she finds clues and snapshots of her parents past.

Can she harness this strange magic to find her mum, wherever in the world she is? Will her Dad, sad and silent since her mums departure, start to pay her more attention? Will she find the courage to forge her own path, like the fearless female explorers she was named after?


JUNE

Lenny's Book of EverythingLenny’s Book of Everything
Karen Foxlee

I knew my brother. I knew when he talked too much about Timothy his imaginary pet eagle. He was scared.
‘Whatever you do,’ I said to Davey on the walk to school, ‘Do not tell people about your eagle. Do not tell Miss Schweitzer about your eagle.’
He looked crestfallen. His shoulders slumped. He looked to make sure Timothy hadn’t fallen off.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their single mother, who works two jobs and is made almost entirely out of worries, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure, visiting places like Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, and the gleaming lakes of the Northwest Territories. But as her brother’s health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth; Davey will never make it to Great Bear Lake.

An outstanding novel about heartbreak and healing by the award-winning author of A Most Magical Girl.


MalamandarMalamander: Legends of Eerie-on-Sea
Thomas Taylor

Nobody visits Eerie-on-Sea in the winter. Especially not when darkness falls and the wind howls around Maw Rocks and the wreck of the battleship Leviathan, where even now some swear they have seen the unctuous Malamander creep…

Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, knows that returning lost things to their rightful owners is not easy – especially when the lost thing is not a thing at all, but a girl. No one knows what happened to Violet Parma’s parents twelve years ago, and when she engages Herbie to help her find them, the pair discover that their disappearance might have something to do with the legendary sea-monster, the Malamander.

Eerie-on-Sea has always been a mysteriously chilling place, where strange stories seem to wash up. And it just got stranger…


 

Summer Reading Guide 2018

Kids’ Reading Guide 2018-19

2018 Story Competition Winner Middle Primary Mia Spicer

Miranda

As time went by Miranda sat, staring at the clock ticking away. As she sat she dreamt of being the most amazing netballer the world would ever know. Sometimes so amazing her mind allowed her to escape to another world, a world that she didn’t have to deal with bullies, a world that she could call her own but somehow it never allowed her to forget how she was almost completely different from everyone else. Miranda was born without an arm which meant she missed out on a lot of things in life. Miranda’s mum felt bad for Miranda so instead of watching her suffer she taught Miranda lots of important life lessons including how to catch, throw and even shoot with one hand. Slowly Miranda started seeing that having one arm wasn’t a disability it was more of a life experience that she would have to live with.

Suddenly she heard her door open as it opened her mum quickly ran inside. By the look on her mum’s bright red and puffed out looking face Miranda knew that her mum had some exhilarating news. “Guess what” her mum said enthusiastically. “What?” cried Miranda. “The local netball association is having free tryouts and I think you will be perfect at doing it” said her mum sympathetically. Deep inside Miranda knew that she would most likely not only let herself but her whole team down, it was useless trying. Her mum reminded her that no matter what she had to believe in herself and even if she looked completely different to everyone else.

Finally, the day that Miranda had been waiting for arrived, all the girls wanting to compete got into their age groups and started chatting away but of course Miranda had not a single soul to talk to. After what had felt like forever finally a young looking woman in a red tracksuit holding a microphone stepped out onto the wide stage. “Welcome ladies and gentleman to our 27th annual netball tryouts”. The young lady seemed to be talking for hours when finally five other people stepped out onto the stage. They slowly introduced themselves and chose an age group to work with. Miranda thought she was pretty lucky as she got Mandy who by far seemed to be the kindest coach. Mandy made all the girls get partners for every activity and of course all the girls had already chosen partners even before Miranda could make eye contact with any of them. So instead Miranda had to be partners with Mandy. First up was passing, each pair had to do chest pass, shoulder pass, rainbow pass and the bounce pass. Miranda really enjoyed passing, so all the positive thoughts lifted her spirits ready for the next shooting part of the tryouts. Since Miranda didn’t have two hands to shoot with she was forced to shoot with one hand. When Miranda stepped forward to shoot her first goal she could hear the snickering and laughter of the other girls as she missed every goal she attempted. It was as if her ears had blocked Miranda from hearing anything else other than her horrible teammates cackling away. Finally, it all became too much for Miranda she could feel the tears swelling up and her heart racing. She just wished her mum had never persuaded her to try out for the netball team in fact she felt like burying herself in a large hole and forgetting that netball ever existed. What was the point in believing that she would ever become a professional netballer anyway? Whose ever heard of a one armed netballer she thought negatively. After a day of misery it was finally time for announcing who would be team captain and most importantly the actual netball team. “And this year’s netball team captain is Skylar”. Oh great thought Miranda if I get into the team not only will I have to deal with netball but also Skylar Thomas the most perfect and popular netballer in the team. “Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for the official netball team for 2018” Mandy said cheerfully. Mandy had already mentioned seven other players before she came to the final spot. “And last but not least Miranda Appelby”. Miranda was so upset she felt like crying for the second time but then looked over to her mum who was overjoyed to hear that her daughter was in the netball team the opposite of her teammates faces of horror.

The season was nearly over. Mandy had trained the netball team hard, Miranda had trained herself too, although every game day Skylar put Miranda on the bench. Miranda rarely played a quarter of the game but she enjoyed watching her team win every week in fact Miranda’s team did so well they made it to the grand final.

All was going exceptionally until suddenly Skylar tripped over and sprained her ankle. Everyone gasped in horror as she cried in pain. “Miranda we need you to play in re-placement of Skylar” said Mandy as she quickly pinned the letters GS to her top. The game started again with only nine minutes on the clock scores were even. With one minutes to spare the ball was passed to the Center who then did a shoulder pass to Miranda who stood next to the ring positioned to shoot. Miranda bent her arm while her oily fingers grasped the ball. Everyone in the room silently watched as the ball pushed off her hand to the top of the ring. The ball went 360 degrees again and again until finally it fell in. The crowd cheered and roared as Miranda was lifted off the ground and into the air. Again her ears blocked out every noise except from the sound of happiness. Finally Miranda had found the respect she deserved and was not bullied from that day forward. She knew what purpose she had in her world and never let her disability stop her in any life challenges.

By Mia Spicer

2018 Story Competition Winner Upper Secondary Elise Harrington

Remember September

On a strangely humid night in September, Mumma learnt how unfair life sometimes was.

They roared into our commission housing almost as loudly as the sound of hail on our tin roof. Mumma peered outside seconds before they arrived, and began screaming. Pa just turned his gaze towards us, then towards the floor. They roared in, shouting and pushing.  Mumma kept screaming and throwing her hands up, until one of the men shoved her into the wall, while Pa kept quiet and tended to her as her head hit the floor a little too hard.  They had big boots, dark eyes and wide brimmed hats on, and they went for sister first, grabbing her roughly, I began to fight the men. They were too strong, and plucked her out of my arms before I could finish shouting at them to stop. By the time they had hauled brother and sister out of the house, I had ran to Pa, who was cradling distressed and hysterical Mumma, breathing harshly. They were pale like Pa, and we were dark like Mumma, thats why they didn’t like us. I had overheard Mumma and pa talking about the scary men, the ones who came in the night, in big utes , tearing children out of the housing like they had no choice; they didn’t of course, but it was the evil eyes and red hands that made it clear they weren’t fighting it. His big eyes lit up the darkness as he ripped me from Mumma’s grip, hauled me outside, and threw me in the back of the ute, where brother and sister lay, in the open air, clinging to each other as if their life depended on it.

Hours went passed, and it wasn’t until the hot September sun was beaming down on us in the middle of the sky that we realised how far we must have traveled. My eyes followed the rickety fence beside the truck that seemed to go on forever. With our skin was hot, hands sweaty and throats dry, we stayed silent. I kept following the fence until I felt dizzy, and kept following until I emptied my stomach over the side of the truck. The men in the front yelled and spat at me until brother pulled me back towards him and sister and I slumped into them, resulting in a loud cry escaping sisters lips. The ute pulled to a halt and the engine turned off. I jumped out of the tray, thinking we had made It home, but was greeted with a large man’s hands groping my arm and hauling me back onto the it.  He grabbed sister, I looked away a second before the sound of a hand coming in contact with skin tore through my eardrums. Sister was thrown into my lap, silently breathing heavily. The ute roared to life and we started moving again. I kept my eyes shut. It was hours before I looked down at my sister, sleeping in my lap still, with a hand mark, almost as red as the men’s skin after being in the sun too long, just below her cheekbone. My own purple eye greeted me as I looked into my reflection in the window.

The men stood in front of us, three little kids in a line of more than one hundred. After arriving at the church, we were settled for a night, and hauled up in the morning after a long, hard and sleepless night. The men carried weapons, threatening us without even touching them. Their yelling became music to my ears after the silence throughout the church last night. All of the children were too scared to make a sound, in fear of retaliation from the wide set nuns. We stood for what seemed like hours, while a short man with a big belly inspected each of us. They were looking for signs of disease in each and every one of us. One of the girls a few metres down from us had a red boil on her lip, they took her out of line and shot her through the head. I didn’t open my eyes until I felt warm spit on my face. The small man stood in front of me, mouthing something I could not hear, the
gun shot and squeal of the girl still ringing in my head. He lifted my arms up, then ordered me to take my pants off. I slowly slid them down to my ankles. After a long inspection, he turned to the scary man who had killed the girl and gave him a sign. The fat man turned his gaze to brother, immediately signing at the man with the gun. The wide set nuns rushed over to him, picking one of his arms each and hauling him back into the church. A shot rang out next to my person seconds after sister squealed. I couldn’t look. Staring at my feet became difficult as blood stained the gravel in my view. I had lost both my siblings in a matter of seconds.

Days passed and I hadn’t said a word. I sat in the back of the church, picking the skin around my nails. Pa couldn’t stop my bad habit this time. Nuns came and go, giving me water, warm from the sun and watery oats to eat. This morning, four nuns accompanied me, with excited looks on their face. They spoke, words I could not understand. But thanks to Pa, I learned some English and could make out the words ‘family’ and ’love’. I became excited and jumped up; the sadness settled me back to the ground when I remembered I would be the only child returning home. I willingly went with the nuns. This time getting in the back of the ute was easy; I was going home.

The trip was over almost as quickly as it begun, maybe I had fallen asleep for a day? The men driving the truck sounded the horn and within seconds, a young female came out, attached to a male by their tangled arms, smiles as wide as the ute’s tray. They were the palest people I had ever seen. I was confused, this wasn’t home, these weren’t my parents. The men directed me towards the couple, and with big smiles and nervous eyes, they started speaking to each other, words I could not understand.

It had been one entire year since I’d seen Mumma and Pa; I was sitting in a classroom, full of pale children, with the exception of myself, and a petite girl who couldn’t speak English yet. I had been taught English by the pale couple, they gifted me with a house, a warm bed, food on the table each night, and a loving home. They were beautiful people, it felt wrong calling them my parents, but I know they did love me. I still hadn’t seen Mumma or Pa and although by brother and sister were long gone, I still kept each of them in my heart.

As the man and woman sat by their fire, he wiped away each tear she shed with a soft kiss as they mourned the loss of their three children. It was a cold night in September, contrasting the humid night that had ripped their family apart one year prior.

A tribute to the stolen generations.

By Elise Harrington

2018 Story Competition Winner Lower Secondary Alex Tepaski

The Edge of Insanity

Ameera used to find it hard to kill a man. Now, standing in the darkness, she remembered why.

She studied the scenery around her. The bridge on which she stood ran from one side of the mouth of the bay to the other. To her left, the sun had set, leaving her in the cover of night. To her right, she could still just make out the silhouette of buildings and skyscrapers that made up the city. Her city.

Finally, her gaze shifted downward. He stared up at her, brown eyes struck with fear, salt and pepper hair clinging to his forehead in sweaty clumps.

“Please Ameera,” he sobbed as he grasped helplessly at the edge of the bridge, the only thing stopping him from falling into the violent water below. “Ameera, I’ll take you to the park. Buy you ice-cream, help you climb the trees like we used to, remember?”

Lightning flashed in the sky above them, Ameera’s red curls bounced and flew in the wind. Stumbling back, she nearly fell over the edge herself, the criss-crossing iron flooring clanking under her feat. She clutched her face in her hands as her mind raced back 13 years ago. She did remember. She remembered all too well. Images of piggy back rides and loving smiles, and the fear on his face as her three-year-old self fell from a tree.

She couldn’t think that way. Those smiles weren’t full of love for her. Those panicked glances weren’t full of fear for her. They were all for his weapon. He didn’t save her. He led her into the trap from the very beginning. He raised her to kill.

Then. Why. Was. This. So. Hard?

“Ameera, you know I’m not a bad guy. I raised you. I loved you.” He swung upwards, attempting to get a second hand on the railing, and she almost let him. Stepping forwards, she kicked his hand away. He swung back and nearly lost his grip. Ameera wished he had. It would have made this so much easier.

“You killed,” her voice came out halfway between a croak and a groan. “You killed my mother.”

He hesitated.

“Your mother,” he began “died in a car accide-“

“DON’T YOU DARE!” Her pale eyes filled with rage. The grey looked less soft now and more like the storm clouds in the night above them, blocking out the stars, moon and anything beautiful that came with darkness. “Don’t you dare try and feed me those lies. Not again. Never again…” her voice faded to incoherent muttering as she paced up and down the bridge. He tried to get her attention, but she couldn’t hear anything over the sound of her own heartbeat pulsing in her ears. She’d lived with her mother’s killer so long she had begun to think of him as a father. How could she not realise what he was doing to her?

The world around her blurred and refused to clear, no matter how many times she blinked. The ringing in her ears was almost unbearable. Numbness spread throughout her entire body. She couldn’t feel the clothes on her back, nor the shoes on her feet. So, she did the only thing she could do.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

Her heartrate slowed. Gradually, her thoughts came back to her. She looked at what she was, from a distance this time, and gradually, came to accept it.

Ameera was a weapon. An assassin. A killer in every way, shape and form. It was what she was trained to be. It’s what she had been for the past six years. Just because she generally didn’t go on missions unless absolutely necessary didn’t mean that she hadn’t used her capabilities.

She never had a choice in her actions, not really. Once he was gone, she’d have freedom she’d never had before.

Straightening up, she pushed her shoulders back and lifted her head high. The way she carried herself held a new air of confidence, of purpose, but the lopsided grin on her face gave away just how broken she truly was. She moved toward him with boldness and authority. Her eyes, icy and cold, glinted maniacally.

He saw her expression and began to panic. His pleadings turned to screams, his screams to helpless sobs.

She knelt to be closer to him. “This is what you trained me to be Arthur,” she called down to him. “aren’t you proud?”

“You’re insane!” He choked

Her grin widened. “I know.”

Then she stood, lowered her healed boot onto his fingers, and listened to his screams as he fell.

By Alex Tepaski

2018 Story Competition Winner Lower Secondary Charli Lloyd

Sincerely Dorothy

“Grandpa, you have been looking at that box all day, the nurses are starting to get worried.”

Looking up at the teenage girl with blond curly hair, the old man adjusts the cords surrounding him and sits up in his blue nightgown. The man passes over the box to the girl, revealing a bundle of letters with a single old brown string around them, holding them together.

‘Caroline, would you mind maybe reading the first one to me? They are ordered by date.’

Confused but intrigued, young Caroline gently pulls at the brown string as it unfolds effortlessly. Her hands open the old thin paper envelope and pull out the first of only four letters.

June 4th 1918

To my dearest love,

Father fell ill with the flu last week. Some dark spots have appeared on his face. Mother wants to treat him with the others in the hospital, but father won’t go. he insists he’s fine, mother doesn’t believe him for a second.

I keep revisiting the day we met in your father’s shop, it was so perfect. You asked me out to the fields, I was overwhelmed with joy. I remember frolicking around under the white oak tree surrounded miles and miles of green grass. When the day was done, you walked me home and I got to feel the warm embrace of your soft lips against mine, under the dim porch light. I miss the simple pleasures of necking. I miss deeply you my love.

Sincerely Dorothy.                                                       

“We were only 16 when we first met, but we were 16 and madly in love.”

Caroline put the letter down to engage in what her grandpa had to say. Was this the story of how her grandparents met? No. it couldn’t be. Even though she had never met her grandmother she was sure her name want Dorothy. But, maybe it was?

“When my father was offered, an irresistible job offer in Germany, he had to take it. When I first heard the news, I was furious, I was going to be living away from Dorothy, but I came to realise there was nothing I could do. So, we moved away. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Would you read the next letter please?’

Caroline nodded sympathetically, picking up the next letter.

July 15th 1918

My love,

Today I witnessed a young man go to heaven. He held my hand as he went, it was comforting to know he was no longer in pain, but he passed the pain onto those that knew and loved him. Something inside me has shifted. It shifted the moment his heart stopped beating.

I got your telegram! I’m counting down the days until your arrival.

The weeks that followed our rendezvous were splendid. I can’t wait for more picnics in the field and I was thinking we could go to the pictures on our last night together. It will be the same again, like nothing has changed when you come visit. I love you my darling.

Sincerely Dorothy.

“Something had changed. We had spent too much time apart. Living away from one another was difficult.”

Caroline just sat full of questions. Where was this going? Who is Dorothy? Why now?

“I met your grandmother in my time over in Germany. At the time we were just friends, but unfortunately Dorothy didn’t see it that way when she heard news. From here things began to only get worse. We both said things we didn’t mean.” As he spoke his face turned pale, and his breathing became deeper. Gesturing towards the letters he added “read the next.”

Caroline did as her grandpa asked, eagerly opening the next letter.

July 30th 1918

To dear Robert,

Father died last night. Mother has locked herself up in their room refusing to leave his side. I worry she will never leave willingly.

I know you’re lonely in Germany but I thought our love was stronger? I am unsure of how to feel, things are already so bad here. Were we naïve to believe we could be together? Did you mean what you said? Did you really only agree to go out with me out of pity? Is it because you felt bad for me? Because I don’t have friends? I still love you, I will always love you, is that enough?

Sincerely Dorothy

Caroline looked up, her grandpa’s face was now colourless and weak. Fighting back the pain, he smiled and whispered under his breath,

‘Our own heaven.’

 As soon as he said those words nurses filled the room shouting at one another. The piercing sound of the heart monitor was all drowned out by one excruciatingly painful thought, Robert was dead. Dead with those last three words.

August 8th 1918

Robert,

My own faith has been drowned out in a flood of my own tears and sorrow. Everything has been dull and lifeless since you left. I, myself, have gotten the flu. There is just too much pain, too much sadness, I can no longer bare it. It’s as if things have gotten so bad that I’m numb to the pain, to everything. The only feeling I have left is pain. I can’t, its, it’s just too much. I will not be taken the same way my father was, with no choice or control.  So, I must go. This is my goodbye letter. I’m to be buried under the white oak tree, in the fields, where we planned to live in our own heaven.

I’m sorry, we will be together after death my love.

Sincerely Dorothy.

One week later

Caroline knelt down on the grass with the shade of an old white oak tree in front of her, darkening her face. In amongst flowers she carefully placed a box with an old brown string around it keeping it from falling apart. On either side of the box were two grave stones, one of a young girl who took her own life and the other an old man who died of old age.

By Charli Lloyd

2018 Story Competition Winner Lower Secondary Emily Marthick

‘…a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do… Maybe it is the same with people…?’

What does the film Hugo suggest about purpose?

Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Hugo’ suggests that everyone has a purpose or place in the world. Throughout ‘Hugo’ there are characters that are broken and can only be healed by accepting or letting go of their troubles. Almost all of the characters are different or set apart because of this brokenness, or grief, that all of them have experienced or are experiencing. Even the main character, Hugo is unsure of himself. He starts to befriend other characters who are also different and perhaps broken, like Isabelle and Georges Melies. There is a common theme all along; the broken can be fixed.

Although Hugo is the main character, he is unsure of himself and his impact on the world. Starting off as innocent and almost carefree, Hugo is surrounded by the love of his father. When he is with his father, the light becomes warmer in the scenes, and his father’s eyes are filled with a strong love for his only child. When his father is incinerated by a raging fire at his workplace, Hugo starts to understand the pain of the outside world. He follows his uncle to his new home in the train station without protesting and lives alone for months by himself. “Everything has a purpose. Clocks tell the time…Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount you need; so, I figured if the whole world was one big machine…I had to be here for some reason”. Hugo ponders this and wonders what his purpose is. His father is dead; he can’t even fix the only heirloom left to him, the automaton. With the help of his newfound friend, Isabelle, Hugo comes to understand his purpose. Even though Hugo learns about the history of film and discovers many secrets on his adventure with Isabelle, the main thing he discovers is his purpose.

Georges Melies is haunted by ghosts of his past and forgets his purpose. Everything that Melies does; the way he stands in his slumped, defeated posture, to how he acts when his old films are rediscovered suggests that he is a broken man. Just when he has reached the pinnacle of his career, just when he is living his own dream, that dream is taken from him. As the first world war sweeps through Europe, there is no time to enjoy Melies’ films. The soldiers need weapons along with courage and grit, determination. What they do not need are moving pictures of wonderful people sitting on stars and battling monsters. Georges now refers to his memories as “Ghosts”. Georges was once happy, but throughout most of the film, he is so broken that he may never heal. Just when his old memories have come back to haunt him for the first time in decades, Hugo comes to the rescue and Melies rediscovers his purpose and his old life, turning the ghosts that haunt him into heavenly spirits.

Sometimes there are characters that are, and should remain overlooked, but Isabelle is certainly not one of them. Isabelle gives Hugo something to live for, and brings him a jolt of happiness every time he meets his one and only friend in the station. She remains positive and rather carefree throughout the film, but one should always remember that she too has experienced extreme grief. The same as Hugo, Isabelle lost her parents in untold circumstances, but has decided to make the most of life and bounce back. She sticks with Hugo through thick and thin, but she still does not know what her purpose is. “I wonder what my purpose is”, Isabelle ponders; and is perhaps the only one that does not know. Although she is not the main character, Isabelle has a strong purpose in the storyline. Some might just take Isabelle for granted, but if she is not so kind to Hugo, he would most likely have been caught by the Station Master, not to mention both Hugo and Isabelle would never have discovered what the Automaton had to say. Isabelle is an integral part of this film, and is actually a complex character who should not be overlooked, because her purpose is one of the most important of all.

All of these characters contribute to the sequence of events in the film. If Isabelle was not there to try to fix Hugo, he would never have discovered the automaton’s secret message, which would never have lead to them follow Georges Melies on his journey to accept his past and show his library of films to the world. Although all of them impact on the storyline of the film, they also impact mentally on each other as well. Kindness is a key message; as all of the characters find themselves in the middle of an unanticipated adventure but take it in their stride all the same, regardless of their own past or emotions, actions or desires. The film ‘Hugo’ is not only amazing, but it is a wonderful journey with the  common theme of characters finding their true purpose and place in the world.

By Emily Marthick

2018 Story Competition Winner Upper Primary Isabel York

Bluebell Farm

It was a cold autumn morning and the golden leaves were falling.  She put on her worn slippers and headed toward the door, wiping sleep from her eyes.  She opened the letter box and took out a crinkled newspaper and two letters then she headed inside.

Maya filled the kettle with water, beginning to make herself a cup of tea, she unrolled the somewhat damaged newspaper and skimmed the headlines, then popped the tea bag in her cup, sat down on her arm chair, opened the letter and read
“To whom it may concern,
The following text contains an extract of the deed to the
Bluebell Farm”

She stopped, looked straight to the bottom of the letter and read
“Yours sincerely
David Walton fletcher
Lancaster Lawyers 27 willow street
0998646784″
Maya ran to the door put on her jacked stuffed the letter into her pocket and ran out to her car

***

Maya pushed open the door to “Lancaster Lawyers” and rushed to the counter “may I help you?” the receptionist asked
“I’m Maya Smith I’m here to see about Bluebell Farm” Maya puffed
“Oh yes come right through its room 6″.

***

Maya fumbled around in her pocket and then found the old brass key, she twisted the handle, swung open the door and headed to the car to release Blue.  He rushed to the door and without looking ran into it and fell backward Blue shook his head and dizzily walked inside Maya laughed at the little dog.  She walked through the ranch to the back door to find a horse stable complete with four horses their names engraved upon the stable doors.  Maya stroked a chestnut horse then bent down to read his name ‘Russel’ she murmured.  Maya had taken an immediate liking to him.  She wondered down the centre path, to left to which was a room containing four hooks, a shelf under each with the horses names above the hooks Maya grabbed Russel’s gear from the shelf then ambled back down the aisle.  She put on his tack and mounted the horse.

***

Russel trotted all over the farm, after an hour Russel started to act strangely, his ears began moving and he started to shake his head, Maya thought it may have been him getting used to her but as they went on she started to notice a lot of smoke and soon afterwards she caught a glimpse of a flame dancing in the distance…

***

Maya stood at the door of the cabin bullets of sweat dripped down her face, the siren ringing in her ears when the fire truck sped into her driveway, three men jumped out, soon two more trucks approached and it was not long before all that was left of the fire was a heap of ash and burnt trees
“Do you know how the fire started miss?” announced one of the firemen
“No, I was just riding my horse around the farm when we saw it” Maya stumbled upon her words
“It’s okay miss” replied the fire man “but we will need to send over an investigator to see how the fire started”
“Ok” agreed Maya anxiously.

***

The investigators car pulled up and he stepped out wearing a sharp suit, he walked up to the door and gave a loud knock “yes” called Maya from the kitchen, she wiped her hands on the tea towel and rushed up to the entryway, the investigator offered his hand and Maya shook it “Scott” announced the man
“Maya” she replied
“Now Maya is it ok if I look around your property?” asked Scott
“Um ok” replied Maya
“I’m happy for you to continue your business while I look around” he announced she agreed and the investigator strolled of.

***

It was dark when Scott returned he knocked on the back door of the ranch and slid it open
“oh your back” said Maya
“Yes,” he replied “but I found something odd, there looked to be a lighter out back of the farm.  It appears the fire could have been deliberate”  Maya froze who would do that to her
“I’ll drive us to a motel just quickly pack a bag” he directed.

***

The sunlight shone in from the window, Maya walked over to the lounge and sprawled herself over the outdated couch.  She remembered the feeling of joy when she first received the letter but it all seemed like a fantasy now, she wondered what might of happened if she had never known about the farm.  “Ring ring” the old landline phone’s call brought Maya back to reality she answered the phone “hello” Maya said trying to hide her pain
“Ah Maya it’s me Scott I was wondering if I could come see you later?”
“Ok” Maya replied
“How’s 12?”  he questioned
“Good, see you then” she said and hung up.

***

Scott arrived he wondered down the isle of hotel rooms to number 14, gave a sharp knock and was immediately greeted by Maya then they enjoyed a delicious lunch “I have some good news” announced Scott “we found our culprit, it was Max Hansen, Peter Hansen grandson, we think he was expecting the farm, given he was the man’s only living relative.  But his behind bars now so your free to go back to the farm” Scott explained, Maya rushed to pack her things and without a word was out the door, while Scott was still sitting on the couch a moment passed and he realised she wasn’t coming back so he left as well.

***

Back at the farm Maya was having a wonderful time, she heard a knock and in came Scott “Oh hello what are you doing here” said Maya
“I came to see how you were going” he replied
“I’m well, I was just making some dinner.”

Scott and Maya became great friends and they both moved into the ranch together with Blue and Coco (Scott’s dot), Russel and the other horses.

By Isabel York

 

2018 Story Competition Winner Upper Primary Anya Renwick

The Wheel of Life

My finger flicked the arrow in the small patterned wooden box.  The arrow moved noiselessly like you’d pressed mute on the television.  Some parts of the wheel were gold, the rest black.  Gold meant I would become immortal, black meant I would immediately die.  I feel like I am meant to be here, as if I was born to do this, as if this is my destiny.  The arrow began to slow down, the point sharp as a knife, glinting in the moonlight mischievously and it landed on…  I woke with a start sweating uncontrollably and breathing quick raspy breaths.

I calm myself down and concentrate on my breathing.  “It was just a dream” I tell myself in a soothing voice and then smelling the sweet scent of fresh pancakes I head into the dining room.  Grandmother was eating breakfast; Mum was bringing through the plate of delicious pancakes I had smelled from my room.  “I had a nightmare” I exclaimed “I was spinning an arrow of a small box with carvings”.  Mum dropped the plate.  It smashed into millions of pieces.  I stared at her.  “It was just a dream honey” Mum quivered.  “It most certainly is not” boomed Grandmother.  Mum glared at Grandmother and stopped as soon as she saw me looking at her in astonishment.  “Don’t you dare tell my daughter anything about it” shouted Mum giving Grandmother a chilling glare as cold as ice before stomping into the kitchen.  As soon as Mum had got out of earshot though Grandmother leant over the table and whispered “Come to my room later and we’ll discuss this”.

Knock knock! “Come in” Grandmother called in her cheery voice.  I step inside her room.  The walls have no wallpaper but instead newspapers of the exciting things that have happened over the years.  She has a huge red armchair by her windowsill where she watches sunsets. The constant smell of hot tea and perfume so strong that you feel the urge to cough and a carpet so thick you feel as if you’re sinking in into it.  Grandmother was sitting up in bed sipping her morning cup of tea and had five of Mum’s cupcakes, stolen from the kitchen on her bedside table.  My Grandmother looks very different from other Grandmothers.  She has glasses that make her eyes at least three times bigger than they really are.  She constantly wears about one hundred bangles and necklaces made from pure gold with diamonds and rubies on them.  She never has any less than seven cats decorating her which sit on her head, shoulders, arms, chest and basically any place you can think of and they all have names like Jemima, Cookie, Ronald, Petunia, Victoria the Second and Cordelia.

I carefully climbed in her bed as well snuggling into her.  I looked up at Grandmother in deep wonder “What would she tell me?” I thought.  “That wheel you saw in your dream, the wheel of life, well, well it’s real!” finished Grandmother.  “What” I said completely gobsmacked.  “Yes, the first thing you need to know is this whole family is magic, magic runs through the blood in our veins, pulses in our hearts and has done for centuries.  Our ancestors created the wheel many years ago.  A husband and wife, he used it but the arrow landed on black and he immediately died.  The wife was so distraught that she attempted to break it with enchanted swords but the couple had made it unbreakable and so it was to be.  Since then it’s been passed down through our family.  Nobody has used it since.  Never use that wheel Gracie, it’s evil I tell you!” Grandmother said in a worried voice.  “Alright Grandmother alright but if you don’t want me to use it why tell me about it?” I ask suspiciously.  Grandmother clasps both my hands in hers “Gracie that wretched wheel has chosen you, it wants you to use it, it’s the same thing that happened to that husband he dreamed of it and used it and he died!  The wheel is hungry it wants you more desperately than anything else but you must not give in.  Promise me that Gracie. Promise me!” Grandmother begs staring into my eyes. “I promise”.

But that night I couldn’t get to sleep.  I tossed and turned willing sleep to come, thinking about the wheel even though I know it’s forbidden.  When midnight came I gave up.  I decided it must be in our antique shop below us.  So I crept out of bed and downstairs being careful not to step on the floor boards that creak.  And there it was glimmering in the moonlight looking innocent as can be.  I ran with my heart pounding to it.  This was it, this was my destiny!  I opened the box and the tip of my finger flicked the wheel, it turned noiselessly.  “NO!” shouted Grandmother but it was already moving, it was too late.  I realised my mistake and tried to break it, to run, to smash it and started crying uncontrollably.  Suddenly Mum and Dad were there too as the arrow started to slow down.  It landed on gold.  I was immortal.

It was the biggest mistake of my life.  Everyone I love has died and I’m still here.  After both my parents and children died I tried spinning the wheel of life again but nothing happened because I’ve already used it.  My great grandchildren and their children visit me sometimes.  The adults try to make me feel better but the children don’t really know what to say to me so I tell them stories from when I was a child like nobody else could tell them.  But their lifetime seems like a second to me and they will get to die like I wish above anything else that I could do.  I hate the wretched wheel but I’m its guardian now and I must make sure it’s never used again.

By Anya Renwick

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