Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

By Maureen Tai, 18 March 2021

The wood was at the center, the hub of the wheel. All wheels must have a hub. A Ferris wheel has one, as the sun is the hub of the wheeling calendar. Fixed points they are, and best left undisturbed, for without them, nothing holds together. But sometimes people find this out too late.

From the Prologue, Tuck Everlasting

I have to remind myself sometimes that when I extoll the virtues of reading “the Classics,” the Great Expectations and Jane Austen that I grew up with are now texts from the mists of antiquity and of absolutely no interest to my modern tween. But we still read together, my thirteen-going-on-eighteen-year old child and I, and we read Tuck Everlasting, as close to a classic as you can get these days. And what a marvellous classic this is.

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Flash Review: Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan

By Maureen Tai, 12 March 2021

One animal is featured in each of the twenty-five Tales from the Inner City, (ages 12+) a collection of pleasantly surreal and hauntingly philosophical short stories by celebrated Australian artist, illustrator and writer, Shaun Tan. Complemented by stunning and evocative artwork, Tan explores the troubled relationship between humans and animals. In deeply meaningful prose, he exposes the banality and pollutive effects of urban existence and suggests that nature – whilst fragile – is infinitely wiser and more resilient than humankind will ever be. This thought-provoking book will appeal to older children seeking to understand their place on this miraculous planet.

Flash Review: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

By Maureen Tai, 24 January 2021

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.


Set in rural Pennsylvania before the end of World War II, Wolf Hollow is a gripping and emotionally intense coming-of-age novel by Newbery Honor-winner Lauren Wolk. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s idyllic, rustic life is upended by the arrival of the sadistic and duplicitous Betty Glengarry. To protect herself and a reclusive, war-scarred veteran from Betty’s escalating malice, Annabelle must trust her own instincts and act courageously – even by telling untruths – to fight for a justice that she alone believes in. Although the stark brutality is tempered by Wolk’s sparse, beautiful prose, Wolf Hollow is better suited to older middle graders. (100 words)

War is Over by David Almond & illustrated by David Litchfield

30 November 2020, by Maureen Tai

“They tried to be good children. John tried to be a good boy. He knelt by the bed and said his prayers each night…But each morning he woke and there seemed to be no end to come. The war continued.”

We have regaled in the victory story of World War I for so long that we have forgotten, not so much how horrific the events were, but how tenuous its ending was for those who lived in those times. Back then, there was no certainty of triumph, no guarantee of freedom. No one knew when the war would end. War is Over is a powerful reminder of the anxiety, fear, confusion and desperation of the war years, embodied in a gentle, young Northern English boy called John. John’s father is away in France, fighting the enemy. His mam works long, wearying shifts at a nearby munitions factory that John’s class visits one day on a school outing. On that same day, John meets Jan, a German boy.

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