My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

Published: 1st April 2021Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Larrikin House
Illustrator: Scott Stuart
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

My Shadow is Pink is a beautifully written rhyming story that touches on the subjects of gender identity, self acceptance, equality and diversity.

Inspired by the author’s own little boy, ‘Shadow’s’ main character likes princesses, fairies and things ‘not for boys’… he soon learns (through the support of his dad) that everyone has a shadow that they sometimes feel they need to hide.

This is an important book for a new generation of children (and adults alike) which exemplifies the concepts of unconditional love, respect and positive parenting.

This story is a great example of defying gender norms and being your true self, also a great book showing examples of positive parenting and accepting friends. Stuart tells us that our shadows show us what’s inside, who we really are no matter what is presented to the world.

There is so much to love about this story. The fear of liking things “not for boys” is explored so well and there are so many different interpretations of what this could apply to. Stuart doesn’t specify but instead explores how whatever the reason, a pink shadow is ok and a boy with a pink shadow is not something to worry about.

The narrative is told through rhyme which has a lovely flow and it fits in and around the illustrations so you can compare and appreciate each one as you read. The themes are easy to understand for kids and the feelings of acceptance and loneliness in a new place like school are explored well and succinctly. I loved the dad a lot. His shadow is big and blue but at the same time he is anxious for his kid on their first day of school but doesn’t prohibit what they want to wear.

The illustrations are wonderful. I loved the colour contrast and the expression of the different shadows. Stuart shows how they can be their own individual self but connected to a person as well. The pink/blue scheme was an interesting choice given the theme, but as a base starting point it was clear Stuart was using well known and established gender colours to show young readers in the simplest manner about gender identity and defying gender norms.

This is a beautiful book that made me tear up at the end because from the start where there is so much uncertainty and worry, with the dad saying things are “just a phase” I was curious where the story was going. But seeing him come out and be supportive in so many different ways was amazing. It is a super adorable story that doesn’t have anything too complicated in it, the message is simple – people can be different on the inside to other people in a lot of different ways and there is nothing wrong with that.

You can purchase My Shadow is Pink via the following

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I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Published: 3rd May 2018 (print)/3rd May 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins/Harper Collins Audio
Pages: 395/9 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Angel is living her best life as an Ark fan and when she gets a chance to meet the band she gets more than she bargained for. I was waiting for Angel to step over her boundaries as a fan but Oseman balances the line quite well. It was interesting seeing Angel’s mindset switch from thinking she knows everything about the band and its members to suddenly realising they are messy and complicated humans just like she is. I love how this is so intimate and yet not at the same time. It’s a snapshot in time where two paths crossed and they changed each other’s lives. I love that it is that simple.

At the same time though, the story is so much more than it first appears. The exploration about identity and expectation, as well trying to find your place in the world is incredibly well done. I loved the complex nature of the characters and how it never felt cliché or stereotypical, the pressures and realities were there and seeing such depth in the characters and their emotions is something Oseman is so good at. You get to be inside the head of these characters and they become real. The two points of view offer great contrast between the experiences of both Angel and Jimmy. Even overlapping the same events it was interesting to see the different perspectives and inner monologues and reactions. Oseman shows us the darker side of fame through The Ark’s experience and how each member copes with the stress and struggle and we see Angel’s life as a fan and her obsession with the band and the affect it has on her life. Each character stands on their own and even through Angel and Jimmy’s eyes we see their lives and struggles too.

Aysha Kala and Huw Parmenter do a wonderful job as narrators; having such an intimate book is helped along by having the voices in your ear like these characters are telling you the story themselves. It also helps bring out the emotion because this story is filled with emotions and with two first person narratives and heightened emotional subject matter there’s going to be a lot of them.

I was curious how the story would end but I think Oseman has perfectly wrapped it up. I was unsure if there would be a sudden shift but I found myself surprisingly satisfied with how the book ended and I’m still a little surprised at the impact it had one me. Oseman has written some beautiful stories and this is another one to add to the list. The complication of emotions, fame, friendships and life all come together all at once and the seeing it play out and aftermath of it all is a beautiful journey to go on.

You can purchase I Was Born for This via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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Loveless by Alice Oseman

Published: 9th July 2020 (print)/9th July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Children’s Books /HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Pages: 435/12 hrs and 27 mins
Narrator: Elisabeth Hopper
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

I ADORE this book. I love so many of Oseman’s works but this one I fell into and didn’t want to climb out of again.

Georgia is a great character, she has friends, lives her life, has great plans for after high school, but she also has a weird feeling she isn’t like other people. I loved how this is explored naturally and how it comes about organically and not in a way where the character is aware of what they’re feeling or experiencing. Georgia’s cluelessness until put in certain situations or asked by people makes this story wonderful because we go on Georgia’s journey with her instead of coming to it after the fact and have her explain it to us.

Oseman does a wonderful job at explaining what asexuality is and what it feels like in a way that feels natural in the narrative and never becomes overbearing for the reader. It is used as a way of explaining things to readers who may not know about it through the characters but there never felt like there was a moment where the story stopped so we could get The Explanation.

The story got better and better as it went along, there’s Shakespeare and love, a houseplant that is so metaphorical it would make every English teacher ecstatic, and there are teenagers at uni feeling feelings and working out who they are and it’s messy and beautiful and full of the power of friendship and it is also full of love.

Elisabeth Hopper does a superb job as narrator, her voice is fantastic for these characters and I love how there’s an instant connection, I was into this story immediately. Another bonus is Hopper is a genius and can pronounce all the wonderful “asdkfjugfk” moments in text speak and the random noises that are made when you excitedly text. I have typed them, I have read them, but I don’t think I’d heard them being pronounced until now and it was great.

I am only new to reading books that are clearly about asexuality and not just briefly implied but this might be my favourite because it’s a solid story on its own but it is also a wonderful narrative that explores discovering who you are, realising there’s nothing wrong with being different, and finding acceptance and a place in the world.

You can purchase Loveless via the following

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Things in the Sea are Touching Me! by Linda Jane Keegan

Published: 1st February 2019
Publisher:
Scholastic
Illustrator: Minky Stapleton
Pages: 30
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Look in the water, Ma!
Golly, oh gee!
Some THING in the sea
is TOUCHING ME!’

You’ll squawk, screech, yelp… and laugh out loud at the surprises for all on this funny-sunny family day at the beach.

When a small child goes to the seaside with her Mum and Ma, she is unprepared for ‘things’ floating in the water. Ma explains what each one is and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

As someone who is not a fan of going in the ocean this book is perfect for me. I will admire the ocean, I will be on top of it, watch things under it, but physically being in it is highly stressful. Enter Keegan and their wonderful book.

Of course this isn’t a story about the stress of the ocean, it’s a fun family day out and the little girl is so keen to jump right in…until something touches her. Her reaction is my reaction. Her fantastic dramatic cries of horror are mine and I adored how Keegan uses this as a hilarious story but also a reassuring, loving, and educational one as well. Stapleton’s illustrations are delightful and the mixture of the beautiful ocean scenes and creatures coincides with the drama from the young girl and her cries of terror.

What was wonderful it took me a long time to realise this had a same sex couple in it. I was so caught up in the story and the drama of the things in the sea that it didn’t register. An honestly that’s how it should be, a non-issue in a book because Mum and Ma are in the story but the story isn’t about them.

The rhyming is fantastic, the repetition is brilliant and I loved the different explanations for all the things in the sea, especially because it’s a lot different than the seas I’m used to going in (when I am forced to go in them at all).

You can purchase Things in the Sea are Touching Me! via the following

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Sword in the Stars (#2) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Published: 7th April 2020 (print)/ 7th Apr 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Rock the Boat/Bolinda audio
Pages: 355/10 Hours 48 min
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist…thousands of years in the past.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail—the very definition of impossible.

It’s imperative that the time travellers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face-to-face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future…

After the first book I was expecting a lot from this sequel and a lot of answers and it certainly delivers. The old problems and new problems, as well as the world threatening and personal issues all coincide as each character makes their move through history and plays their roles.

Once again the creativity these authors show with creating a whole new, fantastically complex and stunning story but entwined seamlessly into the established Arthurian myth is something to marvel. These rich, flawed characters are in depth and unique and their complicated relationships with one another are never trivialised.

The diversity of the characters are highlighted further as they step into the past and I loved how the characters manage and reflect on their surroundings as a result. There’s conversations, so casual and important at the same time about identity. Coming from the future, even our future, it shows how far their society has come that this is such an everyday thing it isn’t even a big deal. Discussions about pronouns and having to be misgendered in the middle ages with the danger of hiding gender for protection – female and nonbinary knights are a hurdle but one that isn’t brushed over as a minor inconvenience. The characters talk openly about how it feels awful to be misgendered all day and how it wears them down. Capetta and McCarthy use the characters to remind us how whitewashed and male dominated this story has become over the centuries and how the middle ages were a lot more diverse than what has been told, even with the constraints of misogyny and sexism.

One of the things I loved, and it’s something that didn’t need to be included but I am so glad it did, was how the story breaks the fourth wall in a way with wonderful references to how the Arthurian legend has survived. Completely in narrative but the references are real with in jokes about the various versions of the legend told and retold throughout history in TV shows, movies, and other various books and retellings.

There’s so much contained within this story and it all works so well. There’s heart-warming romance, suspense and tension, action and drama all within a story of magic, time travel, space, and capitalism. I would love nothing more than to read more about this world and these characters but I also love that it’s confined to two books because those two books pack a punch I don’t know if I could handle another.

The conclusion is positively amazing. The way it fills in details and gaps, answers questions you didn’t even know were being asked and becomes a fabulous rich and complicated set of circumstances makes it the perfect story. This is the Arthurian retelling I didn’t know I needed but it one I will absolutely cherish.

You can purchase Sword in the Stars via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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