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Thursday, April 19, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018: R Is For Gillian Rubinstein

Gillian Rubinstein writes for children and teens. You may have heard of her under her pen name of Lian Hearn, under which she wrote the Japanese-themed Tales Of The Otori series. I do hope so - this British-born Aussie author’s YA series has sold four million copies!  

But back to that presently. 

I discovered her with a children’s book, Space Demons, which was the first of a trilogy, though, really, it worked perfectly well as a stand alone novel. We used the class set for Literature Circles, because it was very readable and had plenty of meat for discussion. The kids came up with some brilliant, scary and menacing book trailers as their creative responses. Here's the cover. That blonde boy looks uncannily like my nephew Mark when he was a teenager!

Space Demons is a computer game. A young boy, Andrew, receives a prototype copy from his father, who has been in Japan. He shares it with his friends. They discover that shooting a particular gun at a person will throw them into the terrifying world of the game, where the Space Demons lurk, but you really have to hate the other person while you’re scooting at them. When four children are stuck in the game together, they find they must co-operate to get out. 

It is, perhaps, a little out of date(published in 1986) when you consider how elaborate computer games are these days, but the themes still work and my students enjoyed it. 

She has done quite a lot of books, both for older readers and younger. Foxspell was set in South Australia, where the author lives, and involves shape changing fox spirits. Foxes are an introduced species in Australia, but that point wasn’t made in this book. I found it intriguing that the introduced-species olive trees you find in South Australia also had their spirits - Greek, of course! 

I have just realised that she was the author of a picture book which my nephew loved as a child and has read to his own children. It’s called Prue Theroux: The Cool Librarian, about an amazing teacher librarian who makes the kids wildly enthusiastic about reading. While she is absent for a while, her replacement makes the children really miss her! My nephew, Mark, has told his sons that I am Prue Theroux! Very flattered! But I have to admit that, unlike Prue, I don’t dress up as Xena for Book Week(I’d look awful!). All the same, Gillian Rubinstein, you may visit my library any time you like! 

Galax-Arena involves children who have been kidnapped, apparently to perform dangerous gymnastics for aliens. There is more to it than this, but I can’t say more, because spoilers! I see that there was a stage play version and there was going to be a film, but nothing seems to have happened yet. 

Tales Of The Otori, starting with Across The Nightingale Floor, followed by Grass For His Pillow and Brilliance Of The Moon, then two more novels published later, is a YA historical fantasy series, set in an alternative feudal Japan. You may have heard stories about the powers of the ninja in old Japan. Certainly, there were people in the days when ninja lived and worked in Japan who believed they had magical powers. What they really had was the kind of skills you can only get by being taught from childhood, as a member of your clan which specialises in them. You’d also need to be able to do a day job to help you as a sleeper agent. The “nightingale floor” of the title refers to squeaky floors set up in Japanese castles to give away anyone who tried sneaking across them to assassinate the lord - as if that would stop a determined ninja! 

So, this series asks, “What if ninja actually did have magical powers?” What a great idea! 

As she is so very prolific, I’m going to give you the link to her Wikipedia page, which lists them all, here: I gather she is still writing things Japanese, not surprising given how much research she did for Tales Of The Otori!

And here are her pages on Amazon, Booktopia and Book Depository. The Amazon page has both names under Gillian Rubinstein. I have chosen the Lian Hearn page for the other two because they don't have many books under her own name. Prue Theroux may be out of print, but worth checking out, even if you have to go to AbeBooks!

Buy and enjoy! 


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - not having kids ... I've missed these authors - but certainly I'm going to check in at the library and see if I can scan through a few ... fascinating - cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

As a teacher librarian I take these authors and books for granted. For you, I’d suggest the Lian Hearn titles, which you might enjoy more than th books for younger readers.

AJ Blythe said...

I thought Space Galaxy looked familiar, but couldn't recall reading it myself. Then I realised the year of publication probably meant one of my brothers would have read it - I'll have seen the cover on their bookshelf. The premise of the book sounds like the movie "Tron".

Sue Bursztynski said...

Space Demons like Tron? I hadn't thought of that.

Jenny said...

I'm afraid I knew nothing of this writer until this morning. I'm glad to have found your blog!

Shalzmojo said...

Another author I havent come across Sue but am dying to read her books as you have made them so so tempting. Thanks for the share.

R is for From Russia wih love #atozchallenge

Sue Bursztynski said...

And I’m glad you visited! Welcome!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Shalini! I hope you enjoy them when you do find them.