Bancks, Tristan. On the Run
November 17th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley
Ben enjoys making stop-action movies and is in the middle of one when the police show up at his door, asking for his parents. They are still at work, and Ben is watching his younger sister Olivia. When his parents do get home, they claim that they are going on an impromptu family vacation, whisk the children into the car and take off for a family cabin with a borrowed car and too few supplies. Ben knows that something is wrong, but plays along, since his parents are fighting a lot and the situation is scary in many ways. He and Olivia try to make the best of it, but when their parents leave suddenly, the two are worried. Eventually, the two are on their own, trying to get to their grandmother's house by surviving in the wilderness using tips from My Side of the Mountain. Ben knows his parents are in trouble and can't see how things will ever work out, even if he can manage to get the very ill Olivia to his grandmother's.
Strengths: Really good use of classic novel as an inspiration for a character; My Side of the Mountain is one of my favorites, and I'm glad it is still read... in Australia, too. This had a variety of survival elements, from finding food in the wild to escaping from the police. It's a nice length, too, and doesn't have the trouble with translation that sometimes plague Australian imports.
Weaknesses: I like my adventure novels to be a little more fun, and Ben and Olivia certainly weren't having fun. When I got done reading this, I felt like I needed a shower, and some lines about Ben's grandmother's cookie jar having cat hairs and possibly weevils.... ewww. Good writing, yes, but I don't enjoy being skeeved out!
What I really think: Haven't had much in the way of fresh new survival novels lately, so think I will buy this, weevils or no!
Kreller, Susan (trans. Gaffney, Elizabeth). You Can't See the Elephants
October 13th 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Mascha is spending time with her grandparents because her own father can't deal with her after the death of her mother. She is bored in her grandparents' subdivision, but soon meets Julia and Max. They hang out together, and Mascha soon realizes that both children are being beaten. Since their father is a well-to-do business man, no one believes them, or tells them that they need to mind their own business. Finally, Mascha comes up with the great idea to keep the two children in an abandoned farmhouse in a nearby field. She brings them food, but there are no facilities, so the children begin to complain about being dirty. Clearly, this is not a well thought out plan, and eventually the authorities find the children... and blame Mascha for kidnapping them. She is even vilified in the local news. Finally, her grandparents believe her and agree to alert the authorities.
Strengths: This was a good translation. The book was nominally reset in the US., which probably is better for most readers. This was rather like de Vries Bruises, and is a bit more graphic in the descriptions of injuries than most US books. For some reason, this is the sort of child abuse novel that my students like to read.
Weaknesses: Now I am worried about German parenting skills as well! The entire neighborhood knows that the children and the mother are being severely injured and nobody does anything? Seemed odd to me. And I would rather have kept the German setting.
What I really think: I will probably buy this for my readers who like Hawes' Waiting for Christopher or Roberts' Don't Hurt Laurie, but it wasn't something I enjoyed personally.