Tuesday, 26 June 2018

52 Reading Challenge Week 25 - An Award-Winning Book

If you've been keeping up with the 52 Book Reading Challenge so far, then you'll know we've been having a great time exploring our collection for interesting books to read and review.

This week's challenge was to find an award winning book, and since there are a lot of book awards and we have a lot of excellent books, the hardest part of this challenge was narrowing it down.

Karen Ryle read Saga Land, by Richard Fidler and Kári Gíslason.

Saga Land recently won the Non-Fiction category in the Australian Independent Bookseller's Indie Book Awards.

Long summer days and long winter nights swirl though the thousand years of the telling of one man’s story to find his family’s heritage. Richard Fidler and Kári Gíslason travel to Iceland, tracing the locations mentioned in the historical sagas; and of Kari’ ancestor, the legendary historian and poet, Snorri Sturluson. 

Past and present intermingle then separate, as their journey unfolds in gusts against the ever dominating sheer mountains, fiery volcanoes, ice and sea. The retelling of the Icelandic sagas emphasize the strength of character needed in a wild land, where honour is everything, and where women often played a pivotal role. 

Part travelogue, part memoir and part literary history hewn large out of the landscape, Saga land is best read in one sitting on a winter’s weekend, preferably in front of a blazing log fire...

Brenda Carter read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, has won numerous awards, including the Carnegie and GreenawayMedals for writing and illustration in 2012, recognising the year's best work published in the UK. This was the first book to win both awards since the illustration award was established over fifty years ago.  It also won the BritishChildren's Book of the Year, the Red HouseChildren's Book Award and the Kitschies RedTentacle award for speculative fiction.

The novel was based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, who had cancer when she conceived it and died before it was finished. In the story, a thirteen year old boy struggles to cope with his mother’s terminal cancer, a largely absent father, his well-meaning but strict grandmother and being bullied at school. In a recurring dream, the boy encounters a monster whose stories challenge him to confront and deal with his feelings and circumstances.

A Monster Calls has been described as "compelling ... powerful and impressive" and “a singular masterpiece”.  It is a quick read but benefits from multiple readings. There is plenty to ponder and the tale is beautifully told.

Sharon Bryan read Joe Faust, by Frank Brennan.

We have a lot of books in our Curriculum Collection that were finalists or winners for the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. This isn’t one of them.

This book won the Language Learner Literature Awards' Adolescent & Adult: Upper Intermediate & Advanced category in 2012. What are the Language Literature Awards? They are awards given by the Extensive Reading Foundation (ERF) to books written specifically for language learners to reward the best books in their field. The ERF has a number of different categories depending on the target reading level and whether a book is an original text or an adaptation. The aim is to promote the fact that these books can be very well written, even if they are written for a particular purpose and have tightly controlled vocabularies and sentence structures.

These books play an important role in providing language learners a bridge to reading “authentic texts.” For that reason, it’s important to have Graded Readers (as these books are often called) that have stories which would interest adults, not just books for children.

Joe Faust is an original book written for the upper levels of a graded reading programme (it’s a level 10 book in the Page TurnersReading Library, which has 12 levels). It takes the story of Faust and Mephistopheles, and converts it to the world of high stakes financial trading. Joe Faust is a young trader who lives for the thrill of making money on the stock exchange. When he is offered a “deal” to give him a Midas touch, he takes it – signing his name in his own blood…

Well, it doesn’t end well. These sorts of deals never do, but it’s certainly a very interesting take on the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, even though I’m not in the target audience. By writing a graded reader that is enjoyable to read even if you weren’t trying to learn the language, I think Frank Brennan deserved his award.

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