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Saturday, July 01, 2017

CBCA Shortlist #5 and #6: Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade And Dragonfly Song

So, as I have read these two nominees a long time ago, and reviewed Captain Jimmy Cook and interviewed the author of Dragonfly Song, I thought it might be best to simply give you the links. Of course, I wasn't thinking of them as shortlisted books at the time! 

So, what did I think? Captain Jimmy Cook was great fun. There has since then been a sequel, Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers: X Marks The Spot. I have given them both to a book loving younger family member, Eden. Eden is in Year 2, but reading at a much higher level. However, the story themes do appeal to even a good reader who is about Jimmy Cook's age.

Dragonfly Song is set in the ancient Minoan civilisation and follows the adventures of a heroine who is suffering elective mutism, as she becomes a bull dancer. Unlike in Mary Renault's The King Must Die, in which the youngest member of Theseus's team is fourteen, these bull dancers are twelve or thirteen - and they actively compete for the honour, while those in The King Must Die are tributes who believe they are going to be thrown to a monster. Those in Dragonfly Song train and exercise and the best are chosen to go to Crete for the bull dance. 

The youth of the dancers in Dragonfly Song makes good sense. Children are far more flexible than adults; just check out those "women's" gymnast teams at the Olympics, made up of kids who can't be much beyond primary school, some still in primary school. If you live in Australia, you've probably heard of the Flying Fruitfly Circus, a team of child acrobats who do the most amazing feats. In fact, my school used to have a Circus program for our EAL students, many of whom were asylum seekers with dreadful memories who needed a chance to play. After only a few weeks, they performed for their schoolmates and they were wonderful. So, yes, children being bull dancers works for me.

Likewise, the behaviour of the bulls. Wendy Orr knows about these animals, having spent twenty years on a dairy farm with her husband. She says that sometimes the "tame" bulls are more dangerous than wild ones, because they know what to expect and can't be as easily fooled.

But look, why not just go and read both posts? I think these are both strong books. One of our students who read Dragonfly Song said she loved it. That has to count for something! 

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