Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Colin Mudford’s brother, Luke, is dying of cancer. As Colin struggles with this knowledge, his parents decide to send him to relatives in the UK to protect him from the tragedy to come. This suits Colin because he has a plan – a plan to get Queen Elizabeth II to offer him her physician to treat and save his brother.
Things go awry when no reply is forthcoming. Colin decides to take things into his own hands and he sets off to a top London hospital to bring their top doctor back to Australia for Luke. After he is escorted from the premises, Colin spots Ted, a man in his late twenties, crying on the kerb. Colin tells Ted his story and Ted offers to help Colin. The two form a wonderful friendship that helps Colin acknowledge his feelings about Luke and also helps Colin learn the joy of helping others. Ted’s partner, Griff is in the hospital suffering from HIV/Aids and the prognosis is not good. Through Colin, the two men are able to keep seeing each other, even after Ted is bashed by a group of homophobic thugs.
I will not reveal the ending, but tissues will be required. I have read this book 4 times now and I still cry every time.
This was Gleitzman’s first novel and it’s a ripper. Whilst the setting (the 80s) might be a little dated, the themes of acceptance and tolerance still resonate, and in a way that most kids would easily understand.
Spend Two Weeks with the Queen. You won’t be sorry.
Ages 11 and up…
Half Bad by Sally Green
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was the book hyped up at the last Penguin Teachers’ Academy meeting I went to back in March, so I made it my business to get my hands on it asap. What a disappointment it was. Half Bad is exactly the right title for this book. I found the writing derivative and lacking in figurative language, which meant many of the scenes just died on the page. When I was supposed to be shocked and moved by Nathan’s treatment in captivity I really just shrugged my shoulders. Also, the second person narrative style at the beginning was very off-putting. I nearly bailed right there. However, since I was the librarian who recommended this to Matt (a colleague) I thought I should at least finish it so we could compare notes. Central character Nathan is completely unlikable. I know he is a black (bad) witch, but I felt no sympathy for him at all. The more interesting characters were the people around him. Gabriel is the character I most want to find out about, and Rose, despite being duplicitous and manipulative, is a character I wanted more of – but Nathan? Nope.
And worst of all….where the hell was the magic? For a book about witches (and some of them supposedly badass Black Witches) there was very little magic taking place.
I will read the sequel to see where Sally Green is going to take this, but at the moment I feel like it’s not somewhere I want to go.
My verdict? It’s harmless enough but I wouldn’t break any records getting your hands on it. I just hope Matt still respects my recommendations!