Goldie Alexander's Blog

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Cruel Cove

“When Polly Robinson visits the village of Charity Cove, she becomes the victim of a devilish cult.”

This is what Cruel Cove is about.

“Polly’s vacation in the coastal village of Charity Cove quickly turns into the ‘holiday in hell’.  Though Aunt Emily and young cousins Arnold and Elliot welcome her, it’s harder to understand  her cousin Skye’s unpredictable moods. Polly’s first night in Cove, she learns that Derek Somerset is manipulating a village desperate for money through the re-introduction of an ancient cult. The only positive for Polly is her growing romance with Rudi Somerset. Rudi is equally interested in Polly. But his father has plans for Polly, plans Rudi doesn’t like.  How can he warn her? And why is Polly’s mother telling her lies? If she can’t trust her own mother, who can she trust?”

I started this YA novel some years ago, and when I couldn’t get it to work, it ended up at the back of my computer. But the current self – isolation meant that I had enough time to clean up old files. I read it again and thought it showed enough promise for resurrection.  But more needed to be fleshed out and Rudi’s thoughts added.

I was interested in how adolescence can make a youngster rebel against strict parenting, and how certain unexpected events can help a protagonist achieve growth and independence. In “Cruel Cove” Polly has a double problem.  She is a diabetic who must watch her food intake very carefully. As well, she has nightmares, predictions, about unfortunate events that have yet to take place. With no father or siblings, a school where Polly won a scholarship but where she doesn’t fit in, and a mother determined that they both succeed, Polly finds growing up difficult.

A small reprieve happens when Polly holidays in Charity Cove with her aunt and cousins. Only things don’t turn out the way she might have hoped – apart from falling for Rudi Somerset. As Polly’s diabetes dominates her life and Rudi stutters badly, both struggle against dominating parents. Meanwhile Charity Cove is suffering from a lack of employment. Will the building of a giant hotel with a wonderful view make a difference? All this makes Charity Cove a natural place to promote a secret cult that promises the locals a far better life.

At their core, YA books are for and about teenagers, usually between 12 and 18 years old, but sometimes younger. Yet certain titles are considered mainstream fiction for adults and often turned in movies. Some authors believe the intent to write for young readers is a prerequisite of YA fiction; others don’t even realize their books will be labelled as YA until after they finish writing. But it isn’t just that the main characters are teens. It’s that the novel actually sees the world through a youngster’s eyes.

Many successful authors say there’s no secret to writing for teenagers. Good writing is good writing. Believable characters, compelling plots and believable dialogue is crucial regardless of who picks up the book. But many YA authors will also tell you there’s something particularly fulfilling and rewarding about writing for youngsters who will respond to stories they identify with more intensely than adult readers.

Good YA writing doesn’t make the reader scratch his head because either the writing or the story becomes too complicated.  It’s all about perspective. Good YA novels take you into the minds of the young protagonists. The defining characteristic of YA literature is emotional truth. The characters are all dealing with issues of who they are, who they should be, and in their own ways, what they should and shouldn’t do.

Book 1. The Trytth Chronicles

After Prospero destroys a small space-ship owned by his brother Alonso, and Miranda and Ferdie fall in love, Ariel and the young couple are kidnapped by Caliban and flown to the dangerous planet of Trytth.

Prospero, the rightful CEO of Naples2Meta-Planetory-Corporation and his daughter Miranda, have been exiled by Prospero’s brother Alonso to an isolated spaceship where the aliens Ariel and Caliban also live. Prospero destroys Alonso’s small spaceship, but rescues the seven men on board. When Ferdie and Miranda meet, they fall instantly in love. Attempts by Zacharius and Antonio to murder Alonso, and Caliban and the comedians Trinithi and Stephano to take over the ship, are foiled by Prospero and Ariel. However, during an elaborate betrothal ceremony where Alonso apologizes to Prospero for having wronged him, Caliban steals a tube of ‘Blue Power’ and flies Ariel and four humans to the tropical but dangerous planet of Trytth…

Reviews

The Trytth Chronicles
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis — Booklover, Writer, Reviewer & Interviewer

The Trytth Chronicles is adapted from The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s final plays. This is cleverly converted to futuristic fantasy.

Alonso has overthrown his brother Prospero and taken control of the city of Naples2 that sits on Titan. Prospero, his daughter Miranda, Caliban, a vengeful and disfigured monster born on their spaceship, and the Trytth Ariel, have been away from their homes on a spaceship, for fifteen years.

Returning from his daughter’s wedding, Alonso’s starship is battered by meteors; a tempest engineered by Prospero. Forced to evacuate using four capsules, the seven occupants arrive through a tube connected to Prospero’s starship, landing in different areas.

Ferdie, Alonso’s son, arrives first. He meets Miranda, and they instantly fall in love. Here begins a love story intertwined with jealousy, corruption, planned revenge, retribution and absolution, and where all the characters go through trials and tribulations before a resolution is reached.

Written in a complex but easily followed storyline, and set in a fantasy world of warring creatures and threats from amazing composite animals and the elements, that include the emotional turmoil of the characters, Alexander creates a riveting and imaginative read.

An intelligent, knowledgeable writer and former teacher of Shakespeare,
Goldie Alexander’s trilogy is presented with depth and credence. The trilogy also comes in an Anthology.

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Jan Bottcher

“Goldie Alexander’s ability to bring the past, present and future to life is realised in her latest astute retellings of popular Shakespeare plays that will captivate secondary school students.

This trilogy consists of:

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ – The Tempest

‘Gap Year Nanny’ – Macbeth

‘Changing History?’ – Romeo and Juliet

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ uses ‘The Tempest’ as a springboard for spine chilling adventures in space. Prospero, and his young daughter Miranda have been banished to a deserted space-ship where the aliens, Ariel and Caliban live. When Miranda and her cousin Ferdie meet they immediately fall in the love. But wicked Caliban, seeking revenge on Prospero, sends the lovers to the distant planet of Trytth and puts their life in danger.

‘Changing History?’ Dance student Taylor is thrust back in time into the Weimar Republic – a period of political turmoil, violence and economic hardship but also one of new social freedoms and vibrant artistic movements.  The seedy Hummingbird restaurant and dancehall provides a gritty background as Taylor tries to  help a couple in love, and  prevent WW2 and the Holocaust from happening.

In ‘Gap Year Nanny’ the major characters are as unpleasant as in the original play! Ambitious Stuart Macbeth is persuaded by three internet gurus into destroying his opponents and finally himself. Merri’s account of his rise and fall and her interaction with the Macbeth family provides an interesting counterpoint to her own growing maturity.

The concept behind these novels is to demonstrate how classic characters and plots can be transformed into stories young adults will find intriguing by morphing them into contemporary settings. This is not unfamiliar territory as Goldie has already tackled the magical elements of ‘The Odyssey’ as a middle grade novel and a YA verse novel.

The Shakespeare Trilogy is a narrative introduction to the original plays with the intent that they become more accessible for students who find Shakespeare difficult. Students will be motivated to explore the plays and perhaps even write their own versions. Yet even without any previous knowledge of Shakespeare, these three novels provide enjoyable stories very suitable for YA readers.”

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Virginia Lowes

“Making Shakespeare accessible and relevant to today’s kids, who often groan about having to ‘do’ Shakespeare, Goldie has written thoroughly modern stories with the same theme and message. See her website for full details.

I especially loved the world of Trytth – the world Ariel came from originally. It’s another planet world – a bit like those invented by the late Ursula Le Guin, where the people and the world run on an arrangement like a hive, with everyone doing their jobs and no fighting. That’s the one about The Tempest and the first part takes place on a space ship which is Prospero and Miranda’s Island. (John, in proofreading, thought it was odd that the modes of transport [ship wreck/space ship] and the lands [the Island and the planet Trytth] didn’t represent each other) but it’s quite logical in the book, I assure you.)

The other two are equally engaging. If you are thinking of becoming a nanny for a while, read Gap Year Nanny and investigate Macbeth’s world translated into the corporate world of today – backstabbing thrives still. And Romeo and Juliet again battle with their families with disastrous results in Changing History? Of course, in pre-war Germany with Nazis on the rise, the ‘fault in their stars’ is that they are Jewish and Christian – how can they marry? How can they be safe?”

 

SHAKESPEARE NOW! A TRILOGY ’

www.goldiealexander.com

www.fivesenseseducation.com.au

 

This novel is also available as an Anthology which contains all three books.

Price for individual books: $ 15.26
Shakespeare Now: An Anthology: $ 31.46

Published 6th November 2018

ISBN: 981760322601

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book 2. Gap Year Nanny

Alongside Merri’s slow coming of age, we follow Stuart Macbeth’s rise and fall in the corporate world.

Home from Europe quarter way through her gap year, the only work 19YO Merri finds is as the Macbeths’ nanny. Sexually confused and lonely, she breaks with Mica, her female lover after developing a crush on her employer, the charming Stuart Macbeth.

Lorna, Stuart’s wife, exploits Merri, who overhears Lorna persuade Stuart to follow three Internet Gurus’ advice on taking over as chairman of SA Developments. Stuart uses Merri to confide how he destroys his old boss Duncan, and his best friend Banquo, and buys information on business colleagues.  As the year progresses, still taking the Internet Gurus’ advice, Stuart becomes increasingly obsessed with maintaining power, though always loathing his own excesses…

 

Reinventing the Classics: Shakespear Now!

The historian Yuval Noah Harari argues that large numbers of strangers only co-operate by a belief in common myths perpetuated in our folk stories and accepted by our religions. These infiltrate into literature and with time, become our guidelines. Though the worlds they describe might be different, they provide a torch for solving present day moral and ethical dilemmas. Immersing students into the great books and ideas of Western civilization is an excellent way of preparing them to meet the challenges of life.

The Guinness Book of Records lists over 500 feature-length film and TV versions of  Shakespeare. Some remain faithful to the original script. Others blend characters, plots and themes into something ‘new and strange.’ Before I took to writing, I was a high school  History and English teacher. Students were often flummoxed by Shakespeare’s wonderful, if archaic language, to the point that plot, character and language became lost in the need to translate.

Some might think me cheeky to attempt to rewrite the classics. But I had already done this twice: once for the middle grade novel ‘Neptunia’, and then in the YA verse novel ‘In Hades’, both loose adaptations of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. I also wanted to show how timeless Shakespeare is by using vastly different settings.

I began with ‘The Tempest’. What if, instead of a magic island, in some distant future, Prospero and Miranda have been exiled by wicked brother Alonso to a spaceship in some lonely part of the universe?  What if the only other inhabitants are the aliens Caliban and Ariel?  In ‘The Trytth Chronicles’ nineteen-year-old Miranda, along with her father Prospero, the rightful director of the Naples2Meta-Planetory-Corporation, has been exiled by her uncle Alonso, to an isolated spaceship. Also on board are Ariel – a Trytth. And Caliban – a Xrobb. Prospero, using Blue Power, creates a tempest of meteors to destroy Alonso’s small spaceship and brings his brother, his nephew Ferdie and those that help run Alonso’s mega company to his giant starship.  As in the original play, Miranda and Ferdie fall instantly in love. But Alonso’s subordinates have murder on their minds. And evil Caliban, wanting to make Miranda his bride, steals a tube of Blue Power and flies Ariel and four humans to the beautiful but dangerous planet of Trytth. What happens then tests Miranda’s courage to the limit.

My problem with ‘Macbeth’ was relating it from the perspective of a contemporary youngster. It has always struck me that ‘overvaulting ambition’ is universal, and there are many ways to destroy an opponent apart from daggers, swords, bullets or poison. Our media delights in following the rise and fall of our more brazen business entrepreneurs. And don’t many young people have trouble finding employment?  In ‘Gap Year Nanny’, Merri Attwater is home too early from her gap year, the only work she finds is as a nanny where she develops a crush on her employer, the charismatic Stuart Macbeth.  One night she overhears Stuart’s ambitious wife Lorna, persuade him to pay three Internet Gurus for advice on becoming more successful. Using Merri as his sounding board, Stuart admits to destroying his old boss Duncan and taking over the company.  As the year progresses, Merri’s life improves. But Stuart’s overwhelming ambitions start to destroy him.  What I did change from the original play was allowing Lorna Macbeth, who truly doesn’t deserve it, another lease of life.

When it came to the setting of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ I found a building in Berlin only rediscovered in 2008. Originally named ‘The Hummingbird Restaurant and Theatre’, it reached its full glory in 1920’s during the Weimar Republic when Berlin was a centre of cultural Europe but the building fell into disrepute after the 2nd world war. Twenties Berlin had enormous creativity, strong divisions between rich and poor, a weak government and too many small and aggressive political parties. So many instances still occur of youngsters from different ethnicities and religions falling foul of their conservative families. In Changing History? Melbourne based Taylor and her grandfather, visiting Berlin in July 2017, are exploring this old building now turned into an art gallery.  Though Taylor wants to audition for entry into tertiary dance schools, she’s told she won’t make it.  Worse still, her two closest friends are betraying her. Hit by a chunk of cornice, she regains consciousness in May 1928. Rom, the Hummingbird’s junior manager, takes her home to his impoverished family. Now Taylor only survives by dishwashing, clearing tables, sharing a tiny room with dancer Juliet, and eventually joining her troupe.  Rom and Juliet are deeply in love. But as they come from different religions, both sets of parents are totally against their marriage. When Taylor hears that Hitler is coming to Berlin, she persuades Juliet and Rom to help her poison him and thus prevent the Holocaust and WW2. But can Taylor really change history?

The Sydney based company Five Senses Education took on Shakespeare Now! Three books each averaging 270 plus pages was a mammoth effort, and I worried that a one-fits-all cover would be quickly dismissed. My good fortune was finding the artist Paul Taplin who created some startling results. Now all I can hope is that the youngsters who read these novels will be interested enough to go back to the originals, because there is no way any contemporary author can attempt to reproduce Shakespeare’s wonderful poetry.

 

Reviews

Gap Year Nanny
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis — Booklover, Writer, Reviewer & Interviewer

In Gap Year Nanny, adapted from Macbeth, we see corruption, lust for power, and dissipation which accompany the betrayal, ruin and death of loved ones.

While Merri is on holiday in Europe, her belongings are stolen at the backpacker’s hostel. To repay the debt incurred for her return home, she becomes nanny to the three children of the very rich Lorna and Stuart.

Lorna is obsessed with money and status. In order to increase their income, she manipulates Stuart into taking advice from three company gurus that communicate through a TV screen. Stuart loses control of his life to them, deteriorates physically and emotionally, and then falls apart after playing a decisive role in the destruction and death of his best friend. His end is expected.

Meanwhile, Merri, obsessed with Stuart, is struggling with her conflicting sexuality after breaking-up with girlfriend Mica. Totally responsible for the children and as a constant observer of their parents’ detachment, growth, change and maturity is inevitable in an ever-evolving Merri as she tries to make sense of her life and the role she’s participating in.

Written in a complex but easily followed storyline, and set in a fantasy world of warring creatures and threats from amazing composite animals and the elements, that include the emotional turmoil of the characters, Alexander creates a riveting and imaginative read.

An intelligent, knowledgeable writer and former teacher of Shakespeare,
Goldie Alexander’s trilogy is presented with depth and credence. The trilogy also comes in an Anthology.

 

Gap Year Nanny
Reviewed by Ella (ellalamb.blogspot.com)

“Part of the Shakespeare Now! trilogy (also available as an anthology), Gap Year Nanny takes Macbeth from historic Scotland and brings it to modern Melbourne.

During her gap year, Merri watches the rise and fall of her employers, corporate climber Stuart Macbeth and his wife Lorna, while looking after the couple’s young children. The familiar tale of greed and corruption plays out against Merri’s day-to-day problems, such as getting her charges to trust her, losing old friends, making new ones, and balancing a social life with the demands of her job.

Placing Macbeth’s main themes and characters in a modern setting (the witches make a memorable appearance as internet gurus) makes this book a great introduction for young people studying “the Scottish play” for the first time.

I look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy – The Trytth Chronicles based on The Tempest and set in the future, and Changing History? a time-slip novel set in 1928 Berlin based on Romeo and Juliet.”

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Jan Bottcher

Goldie Alexander’s ability to bring the past, present and future to life is realised in her latest astute retellings of popular Shakespeare plays that will captivate secondary school students.

This trilogy consists of:

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ – The Tempest

‘Gap Year Nanny’ – Macbeth

‘Changing History?’ – Romeo and Juliet

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ uses ‘The Tempest’ as a springboard for spine chilling adventures in space. Prospero, and his young daughter Miranda have been banished to a deserted space-ship where the aliens, Ariel and Caliban live. When Miranda and her cousin Ferdie meet they immediately fall in the love. But wicked Caliban, seeking revenge on Prospero, sends the lovers to the distant planet of Trytth and puts their life in danger.

‘Changing History?’ Dance student Taylor is thrust back in time into the Weimar Republic – a period of political turmoil, violence and economic hardship but also one of new social freedoms and vibrant artistic movements.  The seedy Hummingbird restaurant and dancehall provides a gritty background as Taylor tries to  help a couple in love, and  prevent WW2 and the Holocaust from happening.

In ‘Gap Year Nanny’ the major characters are as unpleasant as in the original play! Ambitious Stuart Macbeth is persuaded by three internet gurus into destroying his opponents and finally himself. Merri’s account of his rise and fall and her interaction with the Macbeth family provides an interesting counterpoint to her own growing maturity.

The concept behind these novels is to demonstrate how classic characters and plots can be transformed into stories young adults will find intriguing by morphing them into contemporary settings. This is not unfamiliar territory as Goldie has already tackled the magical elements of ‘The Odyssey’ as a middle grade novel and a YA verse novel.

The Shakespeare Trilogy is a narrative introduction to the original plays with the intent that they become more accessible for students who find Shakespeare difficult. Students will be motivated to explore the plays and perhaps even write their own versions. Yet even without any previous knowledge of Shakespeare, these three novels provide enjoyable stories very suitable for YA readers.

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Virginia Lowes

“Making Shakespeare accessible and relevant to today’s kids, who often groan about having to ‘do’ Shakespeare, Goldie has written thoroughly modern stories with the same theme and message. See her website for full details.

I especially loved the world of Trytth – the world Ariel came from originally. It’s another planet world – a bit like those invented by the late Ursula Le Guin, where the people and the world run on an arrangement like a hive, with everyone doing their jobs and no fighting. That’s the one about The Tempest and the first part takes place on a space ship which is Prospero and Miranda’s Island. (John, in proofreading, thought it was odd that the modes of transport [ship wreck/space ship] and the lands [the Island and the planet Trytth] didn’t represent each other) but it’s quite logical in the book, I assure you.)

The other two are equally engaging. If you are thinking of becoming a nanny for a while, read Gap Year Nanny and investigate Macbeth’s world translated into the corporate world of today – backstabbing thrives still. And Romeo and Juliet again battle with their families with disastrous results in Changing History? Of course, in pre-war Germany with Nazis on the rise, the ‘fault in their stars’ is that they are Jewish and Christian – how can they marry? How can they be safe?”

 

SHAKESPEARE NOW! A TRILOGY

www.goldiealexander.com

www.fivesenseseducation.com.au

 

This novel is also available as an Anthology which contains all three books.

Price for individual books: $ 15.26
Shakespeare Now: An Anthology: $ 31.46

Published 6th November 2018

ISBN: 981760322601

 

Book 3. Changing History?

When Melbourne based 18 YO Taylor, finds herself in 1928 Berlin, she tries to stop the world heading into the second world war.

In 2017 Taylor and her grandfather, are exploring an old building in East Berlin once known as The Hummingbird Theatre and Restaurant. Taylor is angry with her two closest friends and frustrated by being advised not to apply to tertiary dance institutes.  When she wanders into an unrenovated section, hit by a falling cornice piece, she regains consciousness in 1928…

Rom Lewinsky, the Hummingbird’s junior manager, takes her home to his impoverished family. The only way Taylor can survive is by dishwashing, clearing tables, sharing a tiny room with dancer Juliet, and eventually joining her dance troupe. Rom and Juliet are in love, but Juliet’s stepfather, a member of the growing Fascist party, refuses to give Juliet permission to marry a Jew…

Reviews

Changing History?
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis — Booklover, Writer, Reviewer & Interviewer

Goldie Alexander’s trilogy Shakespeare Now, gives a contemporary slant to three of Shakespeare’s plays, with which the characters in each novel are aligned. Each novel is a stand-alone read. The first, Changing History is adapted from Romeo and Juliet.

Eighteen year old Taylor travels to Berlin with her Opa, her grandfather, to improve her language skills while visiting the places he talks about. During a guided tour, she slips and hits her head. She regains consciousness to find herself in Berlin, 1928. Rescued by the Jewish boy Rom, she is taken to his friend’s house. Her handbag, identification and money are missing.

Stuck in old Berlin, who would believe she has arrived here through a time warp? She must find work at a time when the streets are filled with homeless people. Rom and his German girlfriend Juliet – star-crossed lovers with no hope of being together – help Taylor secure temporary lodging and a job.

Berlin life is a nesting place for artists and musicians, writers and freedom of every kind. Women are considered a commodity to be used and discarded. The rich are the only survivors in an unstable economy while the poor struggle on a daily basis. This experience changes Taylor’s perceptions and beliefs. Will she ever get back home?

Readers get an intimate and detailed view of Berlin – lifestyles, debauchery, anti-Semitism, and Hitler’s plans for Germany. Filled with an impressive amount of historical information, the story is told in a back and forth narrative that flows, regardless of time-shifts, from Berlin, 1928, to Melbourne, 2017. Teachers Notes are included with a précis of the original story in each novel.

Written in a complex but easily followed storyline, and set in a fantasy world of warring creatures and threats from amazing composite animals and the elements, that include the emotional turmoil of the characters, Alexander creates a riveting and imaginative read.

An intelligent, knowledgeable writer and former teacher of Shakespeare,
Goldie Alexander’s trilogy is presented with depth and credence. The trilogy also comes in an Anthology.

 

Changing History? in Shakespeare Now!

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

In 2017 Taylor travels to Berlin with her grandfather Opa to visit the city that family fled in the 1920’s. Her future is currently unclear with her dancing a focus but is she good enough for it to be a career? She escapes an overbearing mother, and a boyfriend she wants to dump but only to fall into a desperate and dangerous situation.

Waking up in 1928, Taylor has a bad concussion and no money, but she is helped by a young man called Rom. Despite the hardship of his own Jewish family, he aids Taylor’s recovery, then assists in finding her a job and a place to stay. Taylor has never worked so hard, shared so little food, money or comfort. She makes friends and enemies while struggling to work at night eventually dancing with Juliet on stage to pay her way. Her friendship with Rom and Juliet educates her on the influences of religion and class in a society also struggling with political and cultural change in a dynamic economic environment. Their situation is difficult; both are restrained by family pressures, both are caring, but very much in love.

Taylor shares her time-travel secret with the couple who respond with much interest. Her revelations on the rise of the Nazi party and the consequences becomes a catalyst for a plan to poison Hitler on a visit to the restaurant where they work. The plan is foiled by an informer, Taylor does not escape the wrath of party officials. Saved once again, she lives rough on the streets until she returns to the present day, in hospital, with a terrible head injury. Taylor returns home with significant changes to her views on her life, family and her future. Opa finds a photo of his parents and Taylor realises that the family history is entwined with her own Berlin journey.

Although I knew much of the history surrounding this story, I enjoyed travelling with Taylor into this period. Unlike the original play, the young couple survive.  As an historical story it provides a good entry point into German socialism and the religious intolerance in the pre-war period.

It may make Shakespeare more readable for students, but this story diverts markedly from the tragedy of the young lovers in the original. Highly readable, I did not try to look for the comparisons like I have in others stories in this series but enjoyed the time-travel adventure with well-drawn characters arranged in an dynamic setting.

 

Changing History?
Reviewed by Kate Constable

The indefatigable local author Goldie Alexander has produced three books based loosely on Shakespeare. I went to the launch and picked up this one, though I was strongly tempted to buy the anthology which contains all three volumes, including Gap Year Nanny (based on Macbeth) and The Trytth Chronicles, which transplants The Tempest to outer space!

Changing History? takes the eternal story of Romeo and Juliet to late 1920s Berlin. Eighteen year old Australian tourist Taylor is bopped on the head and time-slips from 2017 to 1928, where she finds a job at the Hummingbird nightclub, rubs shoulders with all kinds of louche Berlin types, and debates whether to share her knowledge of the future with her new friends, Jewish Rom and gentile Juliet, whose parents have forbidden them to marry. And when Taylor learns that a guy called Adolf Hitler is coming to town, she has a very big decision to make…

After lapping up the sumptuous series Babylon Berlin earlier this year, and now embarking on Ku’damm 56 (set in Berlin in the 1950s), I seem to be going through a Berlin phase. I especially enjoyed the period detail of Changing History? which cleverly drops plenty of historical information into the novel without overwhelming the human story. Taylor learns to appreciate her modern creature comforts, while picking up the political parallels with our own time. This book might even be more useful to students of modern history than those studying Shakespeare!

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Jan Bottcher

Goldie Alexander’s ability to bring the past, present and future to life is realised in her latest astute retellings of popular Shakespeare plays that will captivate secondary school students.

This trilogy consists of:

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ – The Tempest

‘Gap Year Nanny’ – Macbeth

‘Changing History?’ – Romeo and Juliet

‘The Trytth Chronicles’ uses ‘The Tempest’ as a springboard for spine chilling adventures in space. Prospero, and his young daughter Miranda have been banished to a deserted space-ship where the aliens, Ariel and Caliban live. When Miranda and her cousin Ferdie meet they immediately fall in the love. But wicked Caliban, seeking revenge on Prospero, sends the lovers to the distant planet of Trytth and puts their life in danger.

‘Changing History?’ Dance student Taylor is thrust back in time into the Weimar Republic – a period of political turmoil, violence and economic hardship but also one of new social freedoms and vibrant artistic movements.  The seedy Hummingbird restaurant and dancehall provides a gritty background as Taylor tries to  help a couple in love, and  prevent WW2 and the Holocaust from happening.

In ‘Gap Year Nanny’ the major characters are as unpleasant as in the original play! Ambitious Stuart Macbeth is persuaded by three internet gurus into destroying his opponents and finally himself. Merri’s account of his rise and fall and her interaction with the Macbeth family provides an interesting counterpoint to her own growing maturity.

The concept behind these novels is to demonstrate how classic characters and plots can be transformed into stories young adults will find intriguing by morphing them into contemporary settings. This is not unfamiliar territory as Goldie has already tackled the magical elements of ‘The Odyssey’ as a middle grade novel and a YA verse novel.

The Shakespeare Trilogy is a narrative introduction to the original plays with the intent that they become more accessible for students who find Shakespeare difficult. Students will be motivated to explore the plays and perhaps even write their own versions. Yet even without any previous knowledge of Shakespeare, these three novels provide enjoyable stories very suitable for YA readers.

 

Shakespeare Now!
Reviewed by Virginia Lowes

“Making Shakespeare accessible and relevant to today’s kids, who often groan about having to ‘do’ Shakespeare, Goldie has written thoroughly modern stories with the same theme and message. See her website for full details.

I especially loved the world of Trytth – the world Ariel came from originally. It’s another planet world – a bit like those invented by the late Ursula Le Guin, where the people and the world run on an arrangement like a hive, with everyone doing their jobs and no fighting. That’s the one about The Tempest and the first part takes place on a space ship which is Prospero and Miranda’s Island. (John, in proofreading, thought it was odd that the modes of transport [ship wreck/space ship] and the lands [the Island and the planet Trytth] didn’t represent each other) but it’s quite logical in the book, I assure you.)

The other two are equally engaging. If you are thinking of becoming a nanny for a while, read Gap Year Nanny and investigate Macbeth’s world translated into the corporate world of today – backstabbing thrives still. And Romeo and Juliet again battle with their families with disastrous results in Changing History? Of course, in pre-war Germany with Nazis on the rise, the ‘fault in their stars’ is that they are Jewish and Christian – how can they marry? How can they be safe?”

 

SHAKESPEARE NOW! A TRILOGY

www.goldiealexander.com

www.fivesenseseducation.com.au

 

This novel is also available as an Anthology which contains all three books.

Price for individual books: $ 15.26
Shakespeare Now: An Anthology: $ 31.46

Published 6th November 2018

ISBN: 981760322601

In Hades

17 YO Kai lives on the streets. The night Rod, his 12 YO autistic brother, comes looking for him, the two steal, crash a car and die. Searching for Rod, Kai finds himself in Hades where he meets dead Bilby-G. As their adventures continue, these youngsters are magically transformed to what they were before Kai became a street-boy and Bilby G. became anorexic. In their efforts to find Rod, the youngsters come across some of the mythical characters as described by Kai’s Greek grandmother before she died: a multi-headed dog. A blind prophet. Twin whirlpools. Three goddesses. A dangerous sea-nymph. The powerful sea-god and his evil one- eyed son.

(This novel’s journey consisting of 47 poems that trace their journey through the underworld) is based on some of the mythical creatures from Homer’s “Odyssey”

Reviews

‘In Hades’ a verse novel.
Reviewed by David Campbell.

Homer’s Odyssey might seem an odd choice as the basis for a story written for young adults, but if that classic poem were to be described as the original ‘road movie’ then what Goldie Alexander has achieved with her verse novel In Hades suddenly begins to make a lot of sense. Over the years there have been many famous road movies, from our own Mad Max and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to the likes of Hollywood’s Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, Rain Man, and Little Miss Sunshine.

That’s a fairly mixed bag, but the common thread throughout is the journey undertaken by the central characters, a journey of discovery and self-revelation. Alexander has explored the complex notion of redemption though the adventures of Kai, a 17-year-old boy who, in a daring plot-twist, dies at the very beginning of the story when he crashes a stolen car. Kai’s younger brother Rod, who is autistic, is also killed in the crash, and it is Kai’s search for Rod in Hades that leads him to encounter all manner of monsters and physical challenges that have to be overcome.

But In Hades is not just a gripping adventure tale, it’s also a love story, for Kai meets up with the anorexic Bilby-G, and their journey together becomes one of mutual self-discovery.

This is an ambitious project, and one of the keys to its success is the poetry, for Alexander has effectively managed the difficult feat of marrying the action (and the romance) to the rhythms and cadences of the verse. The book is not one poem, but 49 of them, each with its own distinctive structure and voice. So we begin with the dramatically brief opening (The Accident), which scatters words on the page as we might imagine the shattered wreckage of the car strewn across the road, and then moves to the more tightly structured, yet still confused, second poem (After!), in which Kai comes to the realisation that he is dead.

Bilby-G arrives on the scene in poem 15 (Meeting Bilby-G), but before then we have learnt something of Kai’s troubled background, most of his problems arising after his step-father walks out (he doesn’t know his biological father) and takes up with another woman who rejects the two boys. Kai’s experiences during this time will resonate with quite a few young people and provide a useful basis for discussion, the poem titles alone striking a chord…for example Sleeping Out, Street Kids, and No Fixed Address.

The rest of the book follows Kai and Bilby-G as they are, in a sense, reborn, rediscovering the people they were before their lives went downhill. We learn what brought Bilby-G to this point, and begin to see the degree of guilt that haunts both of them and the truth that has to be faced, best summed up by an old man they meet along the way who tells them that they must seek forgiveness and then forgive themselves if they are to find peace. The physical challenges they encounter, which include a dangerous sea voyage involving whirlpools, sea nymphs (shades of Ulysses and the Sirens) and, finally, a one-eyed monster, provide the means to this end.

The book operates on several levels. Firstly, there’s the “What happens next?” element of the story itself, finding out who (and what) Kai and Bilby-G meet, and how they react. Then there’s the background, the events that led up to their deaths and the sort of people they were…there’s ample material for debate in the way they interacted with their families and the understanding they eventually come to about that. And finally there’s the poetry itself, with the multitude of formats providing the stimulus for discussion about the use of language and poetic structure to enhance the ancient art of story-telling.

This last, for me, is the most interesting, but that won’t be the case for everyone. Responses to poetry are, naturally, very subjective, and the challenge for those unfamiliar with the genre will be to come to some understanding of what the writer is trying to do. That doesn’t mean universal agreement, of course, and there are certainly some sections that I would have tackled differently, but that is where verse can add an extra dimension to the tale being told. There is considerable value, and much to be learned, in teasing out the various techniques employed and looking at possible alternatives. That not only enhances appreciation, but prompt readers to take an interest in having a go for themselves.

The inventive use of language is a powerful instrument, and I recommend In Hades as something out of the ordinary that should provide an excellent source of stimulating material for a variety of young adult readers.

David Campbell is a nationally recognized writer. He divides his time between poetry (both traditional and free verse), short stories, and newspaper articles.

 

 

In Hades

A novel written in verse is a good way to introduce teenage readers to poetry, especially if the plot and issues are relevant to this age group. In Hades by Goldie Alexander is a good example of a verse novel that will reach young readers as it combines colloquial and poetic language. Based loosely around Homer’s ancient epic, The Odyssey, the story involves Kai, a homeless boy and Bilby G, an anorexic girl. The two find themselves flung together in the underworld, in a series of dramatic, after-death experiences, with goddesses, a sea nymph and other strange, myth-like creatures. These dramatic events lead to some self revelation by the central characters and this is the purpose of the narrative. If the cover design doesn’t frighten you, or draw you in, the inside pages just might.

Elli Housden

English Teacher and Reviewer.

Review: In Hades from Kids Book Reviews

In Hades is the new fantasy YA verse novel written by the talented and successful Australian author Goldie Alexander. YA verse novels have become increasingly popular and successful in Australia and overseas. As Goldie expressed in her guest post on KBR on 27 October, “we live in an age where more people are being published but fewer have time to read”. So, what better way to reach young adult, reluctant and male readers than to write a condensed (In Hades is 15,000 words) and engaging novel?

The first short chapter draws the reader in with a fast description of a car accident. Seventeen-year-old Kai is killed. He’s a street kid who steals a car to go on a joyride with his autistic younger brother Rod who also dies. From there, the story takes up in Hades, an in-between place in the afterlife that will determine Kai’s fate.

Whilst anxious about the whereabouts of his brother, he meets an anorexic girl who initially doesn’t speak. He names her Bilby.G after the bilby tattoo on her shoulder. They encounter an old blind man who tells them they are in Hades, the isle of the dead, and they must seek forgiveness for their earthly deeds before their souls will rest in peace.

Kai and Bilby.G lived unhappily and tormented and died prematurely and perhaps unfairly. They embark on a journey through Hades, overcoming Odyssean adventures and obstacles whilst learning to forgive others and themselves.

Alexander has woven their experience with parallels of the sea journey Ulysses, in Homer’s epic poem Ulysses, took on his way home to Ithaca. Kai’s Greek grandmother had told him epic tales of the creatures in Ulysses’ adventures that Kai must now confront. Kai and Bilby.G learn to show courage, strength, love and forgiveness – attributes they lacked before they died. It’s also about taking responsibility for their actions and redemption.

The characters of Kai and Bilby.G are convincing. They were risk-taking, self-centred teenagers before their somewhat unexpected deaths, unaware of the effect their actions had on others.

Although the setting of Hades is magical and fictional, the growth of the characters whilst in Hades, their feelings and emotions, are realistic and have the reader caring about their destinies. The setting has a surreal aura about it and the reader feels as if they too are navigating the mystical sense of place that is akin to shifting sands.

The plot addresses serious issues and themes presented in poetic form and layout, giving the text a fluidity and continuity that keeps the reader engrossed. Each of the continuing 49 chapters are individually formatted, maintaining reader interest and simplifying the layout.

Unlike prose, the poetic language in the verse is tight and cleverly honed so it resonates and delivers the required impact, especially in chapter one.

Serious issues such as drug use, family breakdown and rejection, eating disorders, disability and self-harm are skillfully woven into the storyline without being too overpowering, yet they are able to capture the essence of the characters’ back stories and current journey. The darker issues are balanced with the possibility of hope, romance, trust and forgiveness.

In Hades is a lovely novel and has much to teach teenagers about the journey of life and the consequences of choices made.

by Susan Whelan

In Hades by Goldie Alexander, illustrated by Aaron Pocock (Celapene Press)

Kai’s family is fractured. So is he. With his parents’ separation all his high achievements mean nothing. He sinks into a world of despair. Drugs and every other kind of abuse possible is called on to try and block out what once was. It is on a bad day that he steals the car. The worst part is that his autistic brother Rod is with him when it crashes.

The story is about what happens to Kai’s soul after the crash and what he needs to do to redeem himself, to allow it to rest in peace. His quest through the underworld to find Rod is filled with guilt, determination, pain and discovery. He meets another lost soul, whom he names Bilby-G. An anorexic, she too, is on the same journey through guilt, and together they slowly come to terms with what it is they’re facing.

Alexander uses her knowledge of Greek myths and characters with great skill to incorporate allusions to accent her main characters’ challenges and struggles.

This outstanding verse novel could be seen as Goldie Alexander’s best piece of work yet. Even the positioning of the text upon the page is done with careful consideration. This device contributes tremendously to the overall effect on the reader’s impression of what is being shown. The fine-line, black and white illustrations by Aaron Pocock, perfectly complement the text.

Themes that flow through the work are those of self-discovery, family, trust, love, and forgiveness: of others and their human weaknesses, but mostly of oneself.

by Anastasia Gonis

web: http://www.celapenepress.com.au/
ISBN 978-0-9750742-6-8 (pbk)
ISBN 978-0-9750742-5-1 (ebook)

That Stranger Next Door

In 1954, Melbourne is still reeling from WWII, the Cold War sees suspicions running high and the threat of communism and spies are imagined in every shadow.  15 year old Jewish Ruth is trying to navigate her own path, despite her strict upbringing and the past that haunts her family. A path that she wishes could include her first love, 17 year old  Patrick. But the rich, Catholic boy is strictly off limits.

When a mysterious woman moves in next door in the dead of night, Ruth becomes convinced that she is none other than Eva or Evdokia Petrov, a Soviet spy and wife of famous Russian defector, Vladimir Petrov.

Reviews

Goldie Alexander has created a riveting story with many layers to it. It is told through two points of view by the main characters. This approach gives a close and intimate look into their thoughts which adds mystery and tension, and keeps the pages turning.

The reader is immediately pulled into the era and setting. Its strong sense of place and time, descriptive historical happenings, social and political climate, class distinctions, and post-war prejudices, are plaited into a Romeo and Juliet romance that threads its way through the pages.

Perhaps Goldie Alexander’s best work yet, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers, between the ages of 14-104, due to the many themes and issues covered. It should be noted that there are scenes with sexual content.

Anastasia Gonis reviewing for Buzzwords

 

 

Reviewed by Virginia Lowe, reviewer, teacher and author of the ezine: Create a Kid’s Books

It is the nineteen fifties, and Ruth is curious about the new tenant, Eva, who moves into the flat next door to theirs, above Papa’s milk bar. She is convinced that ASIO is hiding Evdokia Petrov there. Her being taken from the plane at the last minute, and being hidden in Australia, is being discussed on the radio, and by her parents. They are worried by the thought that this might set Prime Minister Menzies to bringing in laws about ex-communists, like those in America – ‘Reds under the beds’. Papa had belonged to the Communist Party, many years ago.

One day, walking back from the school tram, Ruth bumps into Patrick from the catholic college nearby, the collision caused by her reading and him being on a bike. Ruth’s little brother is only four, and she often has to look after him because her parents work long hours in the milk bar. So she uses after school sport as a cover for meeting Patrick again, and again in the park. He even teaches her to ride a bike! So exciting. She confides only in her friend Nancy – not in her parents, who would disapprove. He’s not a ‘nice Jewish boy’. So she confides in Eva too, and uses running her messages as a cover for meeting Patrick as well.

But eventually, when Patrick asks her home, she discovers that his parents are equally unimpressed with him introducing a girl who is not a ‘nice Irish Catholic lass’. Not only that, she can’t hold her wine in a mature manner (and they don’t know – and wouldn’t care – that she’s never tasted it before).

And Evdokia next door? That can remain a mystery until you read it – up until the last few pages, even though ‘Eva’ has chapters in the first person.

This is an exciting romance about a doomed love, set in a period of which little is written. Though there is Ursula Dubosarsky’s The Red Shoe, about the Petrov affair, as well (I reviewed it some years back – and she gave me a tiny red shoe, too!).

 

 

Reviewed by Dianne Bates. 2014

A fictional story, That Stranger Next Door, is nonetheless rooted in actual events that happened in Australia in the 1950s. Ruth Cohen is a fifteen-year old girl growing up in a Melbourne Jewish home she shares with her parents, grandfather Zeida and younger brother Leon. Like girls her age, Ruth has dreams for her future, but unlike her peers (and despite her mother’s ambitions for her), she doesn’t want to become a wife and mother when she grows up; she aspires to a career as a doctor. A scholarship student, she’s certainly clever enough. However, when she meets Patrick O’Sullivan from a wealthy Catholic family, her ambitions fly out of the window.

Invited to Patrick’s home where she meets his overbearing and unlikeable father, she hears political talk at the dinner table which is at odds with the politics of her parents who own a milk bar. Politics and events in Australia thread through this story; the world is in the grips of the Cold War, McCarthyism is rife in America and Australia is reeling from the shock of the Petrov spy affair. Ruth’s father, a former communist, is concerned that ASIO is investigating him, while Patrick’s father works for the right-wing politician, Bob Santamaria.

The story begins with Ruth wakening one night to a mystery; someone has stealthily moved into the flat opposite her home. When she discovers that the new tenant is Eva who never pulls back the curtains or comes outdoors, her active, intelligent mind creates a scenario; she comes to believe that Eva is Evdokia Petrov, the defector. A relationship develops between the two with Eva helping Ruth conceal her secret meetings with Patrick and acting as a romantic sounding board. Meanwhile, Ruth suspects that strangers in black cars near her home are spying on Eva – or are they spying on her father, believing he is a communist spy?

In That Stranger Next Door, Alexander has captured a genuine feel of the period in the way people spoke then, the way they dressed and behaved. Her characters feel real, too, from her depiction of the conflicted Ruth to Patrick’s intelligent, unfulfilled and depressed mother. Patrick’s moodiness and his treatment of Ruth after she loses her virginity to him are very well handled. The politics of the time and the cultural depiction of two diverse families – the Jewish Cohens and the Catholic O’Sullivans – ring true and is a great way of introducing teenager readers to a critical period in Australia’s history.

The story is told from two points of view with Ruth narrating most chapters but Eva telling her story, too – of being born in the Ukraine, forced to become part of the army of slave labour in a German munitions’ factory and eventually coming to Australia. Why Eva is in hiding is not revealed until late in the book. Is she Mrs Petrov? Or is there another reason for the mystery that surrounds her? The last chapter happens fourteen years later when the reader learns of what has become of Ruth and answers whether or not her ambitions were realised.

That Stranger Next Door is an engrossing read; the historical context is woven throughout the fiction to provide a rich background to the lives of two vastly different families with their respective beliefs and problems. Recommended for readers 14+ years.

 

That Stranger Next Door

Goldie Alexander’s novel is set in a rather overlooked period in Australian history: the post-war era of the 1950s and the outset of the Cold War. Early in the story, we learn that the stranger of the title could be Eva Petrov, the victim of what came to be known as the Petrov Affair. Teenage readers who are unfamiliar with this twentieth century event will discover political values and religious issues that are very different from today’s ideals and philosophies. Teenagers themselves, however, have not changed. Heroine, Ruth is perplexed and challenged by the same sort of issues as her contemporary readers, the opposite sex being the obvious one. Ruth is a Jewish girl but her love interest, Patrick, is a from a prominent Melbourne Catholic family. It’s like Romeo and Juliet all over again – without the bloodshed and the poison, but with plenty of drama.

Elli Housden

English  Teacher and Reviewer

Publisher: Clan Destine Press

ISBN 9780992492434 (eBook) 978-0-9924924-4-1

 

 

Body and Soul soon appearing as “Lilbet’s Romance”

Set in the summer and autumn of 1938, “Body and Soul: Lilbet’s Romance” is eighteen-year-old crippled Lilbet Mark’s account of the love affair between Felix Goldfarb, a recent migrant to Melbourne, and Lilbet’s twin-sister Ella. Lilbet’s father Simon Marks, her eldest sister Julie, and all their friends are entranced by Felix Goldfarb. Never before have they come across such a winning blend of worldly sophistication and boyish charm. Only clever Lilbet suspects Felix might not be all that he seems. Also, it is imperative for her physical and psychological wellbeing that Ella remains in Adeline Terrace.

As Lilbet records the day to day events that occur in Adeline Terrace South Melbourne, she explores Australia heading towards World War 2, the intolerance once shown towards the disabled, the ambivalence she feels towards her family, and the double edged sword of love and envy.

But is Lilbet as badly done by, as she would have us believe?

Among the press clippings, the unconfirmed reports coming out of Hitler’s Germany of anti-Jewish violence, and the increasing belligerence of Germany towards her neighbours add to the growing tension for this Jewish family in Melbourne of the 1930’s.

 Review: Viewpoint 2003

Adeline Terrace in Melbourne during 1938 is brought to vivid life in “Body and Soul Lilbet’s Romance”. The Marks young women, Julie, Ella and Lilbet’s lives pivot around domestic tasks in a motherless household with their dour father. But their existence is not drudgery, and the domestic is celebrated in the fascinating book. Julie is a marvellous cook, and the aromas of her meals rise off the page.

Into their lives comes the charming Alex Goldfarb, refugee from Hitler’s Germany and teller of mesmerising tales. He beguiles the extended household, but with prescience, bookish Lilbet remain sceptical.

The ambivalence Lilbet feels toward her family, her own mixed feelings toward Felix and the double-edged sword of love and envy challenge Lilbet as she struggles to mature despite her disability and the oppressive care of her older sister, Julie.

Interspersed throughout her story are Lilbet’s newspaper cuttings which provide the historical and social context, from the Spanish Civil War and the threat of much wider war, to McFarlane Burnet and the influenza virus, to Polio treatment, local theatre, holiday recipes, and much, much more in the richly detailed, evocative novel. –

Reviewer: Pam Macintyre. 

Mavis Road Medley

Cover design and illustration by Gregory Rogers.

Short listed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

A 1991 CBCA Notable Book.

Named as one the 150 Young Adult Victoria State Library’s treasures.

WHAT INSPIRED THIS STORY:

This novel, the first I wrote under my own name, was based on the experiences of my parents when they migrated to Melbourne Australia, in the early 1930’s. However, in order to bring those Depression years alive, I used the idea of ‘time-warp’ to give a present day perspective for young readers.

This book unfortunately is now out of print as Margaret Hamilton Books no longer exists. C For anyone interested, copies can still be found in libraries and second-hand bookshops. It was the first of a number of historical fictions set in Australia that I wrote in later years.

Here is a bit more of the story:

“Didi (actually named Eurydice) is miserable and unsettled because her father’s work has forced her to leave her friends and school in Sydney. Jamie, older sister Kate’s boyfriend, is also unsettled because of his parents’ divorce and his recent move to Melbourne. Kate resents Jamie’s absorption in music and his need to earn money.

While Didi and Jamie happen to be watching an old film, ‘On our Selection’ they are inexplicably transported back to 1933. Though initially terrified, Jamie and Didi are quickly befriended by the lively argumentative Sam and his fiancee Selma and taken into the Finkelsteins’ welcoming boarding house.

Once the shock of finding themselves in a totally strange environment wears off, Didi and Jamie decide to make the most of their unusual circumstances. They don’t even like each other, and now they must learn to live together. Against a backdrop of Depression Melbourne, early European migration and the excitement of Wirth’s Circus on the site of the present Victorian Arts Centre, they must find a way home or stay in 1933 forever.

 EXTRACTS FROM SOME REVIEWS:

RIPPA READS:  “Goldie Alexander paints a fascinating picture of the two characters Selma and Sam, their circus friends, the family with whom they stay and all the other characters and of life in Melbourne in the Depression..’

READING TIME: “Many issues are raised and a number are discussed  in the Finkelstein household. The themes of integrity, steadfastness in the face of difficulty and sibling rivalry underpin the plot.”

TEMPO BOOKS: “Some will enjoy this novel simply for the adventure story it is. Others will choose to study it further, to ponder the differences between attitude, language and the moral and social issues of the 30’s…”

HOME SCHOOL BOOKS: “While Didi and Jamie happen to be watching an old film, ‘On Our Selection’ they are inexplicably transported back to 1933. Though initially terrified, Jamie and Didi are quickly befriended by the lively argumentative Sam and his fiancee Selma and taken into the Finkelsteins’ welcoming boarding house. Once the shock of finding themselves in a totally strange environment wears off, Didi and Jamie decide to make the most of their unusual circumstances. Against a backdrop of Depression Melbourne, early European migration and the excitement of Wirth’s Circus on the site of the present Victorian Arts Centre, they must find a way home or stay in 1933 forever.”

FICTIONALIZING HISTORY.

My particular interest in writing history lies in bringing the past to life and comparing it with the present. In my first historical novel for Young Adults, I wanted to create a historical fiction that would allow youngsters to see the past with contemporary eyes. “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

Using this time-travel technique allows the reader to perceive events through modern eyes. Nothing is easier to lose than the past. Even when I look back on my own growing up years, they seem quite remote, the Australia of the fifties so different as to be almost unrecognizable.

It is a truism that most writers write about themselves in their earlier novels. My father arrived from Poland in late 20’s ‘Just in time for the Depression.’ I wanted to show succeeding generations what life was like then. My windfall was finding so much material on Wirth’s Circus. This circus used to set up a giant tent every Christmas on the site which is now the Victorian Arts Centre. One of my earliest memories is the smell of sawdust, the uncomfortable wooden seats, and the wonderful performances of both people and animals.

Living history fiction. Taken from an article by Kim Wilson.

“Readers are persuasively invited to assume that the modern characters’ perception of the past is authentic because it has been formed by a lived experience of history. In Living history novels, readers are positioned to perceive both the strengths and weaknesses of past and present times, ultimately reconciling the two in a present that faces chronologically forwards. The Living history novel creates a confluence of past and present, be it physically or psychically. The Living history novel is distinctive in its intense character introversion, quest journey and self-discovery. The most important outcome of the living history experience is that characters learn something significant about themselves. Because the story is about the modern character’s quest and self realisation, the past is consistently perceived from their point of view. Modern characters are transported in time and readers are only rarely invited to see the past from a past point of view.”

 

The Youngest Cameleer

YA historical fiction about the discovery of Uluru 
Recommended readership: Upper Primary& Young Adult
Part of the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge.

Viewpoint review: Summer 2011.

Goldie Alexander had written a terrific story based o the Afghan cameleers’ contribution to exploration in Central Australia. It is set around William Christie Gosse’s expedition  of 1873 that set off from Adelaide  to find an overland route from Alice Springs to Western Australia.

Alexander tells the story through a young Afghan boy called Ahmed Achbar, who arrives with his uncle, two other cameleers from Afghanistan and three camels. Although Ahmed is a fictional character many of the people in this story actually made this journey and it is interesting to read about landmarks discovered and named by Gosse. The story is based on Gosse’s journal of the exploration and is told in diary form through the eyes of Ahmed.

The descriptions of the desert are vivid, outlining the hardship of the long days travelling, the dust, lack of water and the dynamics of travelling in a group.

Ahmed is constantly thinking of home  and worries about his family especially as his father died just before he left and his uncle may have been involved in his death. His subplot allows the author to introduce snippets of information about the religion and culture of Afghanistan.

Though some of the language might challenge the younger reader, there is a useful glossary of Afghan words and which describes the surveying equipment used by the early explorers.

This book would excite interest in both early Australian history and the novels that have been written recently for children about Afghanistan.

MAGPIES REVIEW  The Youngest Cameleer (2011)

Ahmed Ackbar, a young 14-year-old Afghan, has spent six weeks at sea, and is happy to find his land-legs when he arrives in Adelaide with his Uncle Kamran. The year is 1878 and they have come to Australia to join the William Gosse exploration party as cameleers to help map a route from the Overland Telegraph Line at Alice Springs to Perth. Ahmed speaks a little English, so is able to translate into Pashto for the other Afghans in the party—Jemma Khan, Allanah and his uncle. Ahmed tells the story of the expedition through his diary entries, where we learn that life as a young cameleer is anything but easy. As well as being bullied by Jemma Khan, whenever Ahmed’s uncle is not watching, Ahmed—or Alfred, as the English refer to him—must contend with homesickness, the harshness of the Australian outback and working hard from dawn to dusk to look after the camels. Ahmed, however, has something on his mind that keeps him awake at night. Apart from worrying about being attacked by a bunyip or babalu, the bogeyman, Ahmed cannot stop thinking about the death of his father back in Afghanistan. Was his uncle involved in the death?

This is an historical fiction for older children and young adults. The story is engaging, with the likeable Ahmed recounting the story of the Gosse expedition and life as a young cameleer. Information about the life- and- death conditions endured by the early explorers; 18th century Adelaide; the history of Afghanistan; facts about camels; Afghani customs and religious observances; and the attitudes to the Indigenous Australians are all woven seamlessly into the story. The book’s themes include bullying, prejudice, hardship, endurance, friendship and hope.

Based on the diaries of William Goss, Goldie Alexander cleverly brings his story to life through the eyes of young Ahmed. Her portrayal of the relationship between the Afghans and their camels is particularly touching, as is the inner journey Ahmed takes as he contemplates the mystery of his father’s death, his growing into manhood and the responsibility he feels to look after his family back in Afghanistan.

Goldie Alexander has produced an enjoyable and informative book, Carole Poustie

Review: GO AHEAD KIDS!

Goldie Alexander’s book, The Youngest Cameleer brings to life the exploration to the interior led by William Gosse in 1873. She has based her story on Gosse’s own journal.

Goldie has chosen to tell this story from the point of view of 13 year old Ahmed Ackbar, the youngest cameleer who has to cope with homesickness and the perils of the expedition.He is also grieving for his father who died in mysterious circumstances that Ahmed is determined to get to the bottom of. Ahmed suspects that his father’s brother, Uncle Kamran was involved, an added uncertainty he must deal with on the trip.

Goldie Alexander blends fact and story seamlessly in The Youngest Cameleer to create a fascinating work of historical fiction that both informs and entertains. She also captures the unpredictability of the Australian wilderness.

“It being close to dusk, we were trekking along a dry riverbed when I heard the sound of rushing water. I ran to where the bed takes a sharp turn. To my astonishment a stream of frothing brown water was heading straight at me. Meanwhile up ahead came cries of ‘Watch out! Flood’!”

Ahmed is an engaging character and the reader is introduced to his Muslim lifestyle and the cultural differences of the participants of the expedition. There was also plenty to learn about camels and the way they live and how their bodies have adapted to the harsh environment in which they live.

The youngest Cameleer is told in diary form with Ahmed giving all kinds of details of the trip and his experiences.

“The nights are so cold, I wear my pakal and my coat, and even then I’m half-frozen.”

As the expedition continues so does Ahmed’s story and when he confronts uncle Kamran about his father’s death, the truth is not what he expected.

The Youngest Cameleer is a book for readers who enjoy history and adventure.

Review from Kids Book Capers

In 1873, William Christie Gosse set out on a mission to the Northern Territory to map a route from the Overland Telegraph Line at Alice Springs to Perth. He was unsuccessful in this mission, but succeeded in discovering and naming Ayers Rock, and naming the Agnes River, Harry’s Reservoir, and Mount Hay in the MacDonnell Ranges. This story of Gosse’s expedition is taken from his diary.  It is a significant piece of historical reference for those who aren’t familiar with Gosse’s generally unknown trek into the interior.

The fictional, main character, Ahmed, is fourteen years old when he leaves Afghanistan after the sudden death of his father, and sails with his uncle to Australia to work as translator for the Afghans, and as the youngest cameleer. His goal: to earn money for his sister’s dowry and his mother’s livelihood. In the group is Gosse’s brother Harry, Edwin Barry, Henry Winnell, Patrick Niter, three Afghans – Kamran, Jemma and Allanah, and the aborigine, Moses.

A detailed insight into the life of cameleers and their bond with the animals in their care is presented in minute detail. Accompanied are descriptions of the harsh elements, unfamiliar terrains and lack of food and water, days of heavy rains and floods, and unrest from aborigines who see their land as being threatened by the explorers. The characters and their experiences on the trek appear as visual frames, and all the senses are awakened within the author’s clear and precise prose. The valuable equipment becomes visible; you can smell the camels, ride on them across the dry, merciless land, and share the warmth of the camp fires at night.

In the desert night scenes, we learn about Gosse’s past, family and education when Uncle and Ahmed exchange information. During Ahmed’s sleepless nights, we enter the boy’s internal struggle with homesickness, the unknown land, strange people and stranger customs. His suspicions about his uncle and the part he may have played in his father’s death accompany him everywhere, shadowing Jemma’s relentless cruelty that is meted out when they are alone.

Although aimed at the young adult age group, it is suited to every age group because of its valuable historical content. This is Goldie’s fifth historical fiction book set in Australia. All these books have generous amounts of Teacher Notes to be accessed on her website.

The Youngest Cameleer by Goldie Alexander (Five Senses Education)’

Review by Virginia Lowe (manuscript assessor and author)

William Christie Gosse’s expedition was the first to come upon Uluru. Here, Ahmed Ackbar is the youngest of the expedition, and an unofficial one. He had come with his uncle and the camels from Afghanistan after his father’s unexpected death, but never been officially acknowledged as part of the party (which allows Alexander to quote from the official records).

Ahmed is put in charge of the gentlest of the camels, Flower, whom he loves dearly. One of the evocative (though the artist is unacknowledged) sketches throughout, is an excellent portrait of her, and another one of Ahmed and his dingo pup. The drawings certainly add to a chapter book of this length.

The Europeans are trying to find a route between Alice Springs and Perth. Alexander describes each of the party well, Europeans and Afghans – and there is an indigenous boy Moses, too, to help them communicate with any ‘blacks’ they come across. He does communicate, helps the party find water when they desperately need it, and even captures a dingo pup as a pet and companion for Ahmed.

The mysterious ways of the Europeans are described – some are friendly, some are not, some like the Afghani food, others will not touch it. Not only has Ahmed to cope with the strange culture and horrific, if beautiful, terrain the party has to cross, but he has worries of his own. What had his uncle to do with the death of his brother, Ahmed’s father? Will he earn enough money to pay for a good dowry for sister Salah? Is Uncle planning to marry her? Will his little brother Yosef have forgotten him? And his attraction to the feisty Margaret on one of the stations they stop at.

This little known piece of our history, and the people who acted in it, are vividly brought alive in this, Alexander’s fifth historical novel for older children.  The date was 1872/3 (just seven years before my grandmother was born, incidentally – not really so very long ago!) I’ve never seen the giant red rock, and her description of the first European sighting makes me want to pack up and go, at once!

Review By Jill Smith©August 2011

Ahmed Ackbar is 13, through his diary letters to family back home; we journey with him in Australia with his Uncle Kamran and two fellow Afghan cameleers. He is the youngest cameleer joining an English explorer’s journey across a continent. The country he crosses is so unlike his Afghan homeland, yet shares a desert that camels are best equipped to cross.

Although arriving in Australia speaking Pashto his native language and very little English. He quickly learns to increase his meager knowledge of English, so helping his cameleers cope with the strain of dealing with infidels. Ahmed works hard and proves to be a valuable member of the expedition as an interpreter.

The culture is a shock, as people he comes to treat as friends, do things that are not acceptable to his religion. They are equally tolerated by some of the party, thought of as odd by others, because they stop for prayers, and are despised by another.

At one point when they reach an isolated station to rest, Ahmed befriends the three children living there.  He finds himself playing competitive games with the boy and allowing the girls to ride his camel. Just being alone with a female is not something he wants his Uncle to discover as it is taboo.

The book is a wonderful and accurate, drawn upon history, account of the W C Gosse exploration, tracing the journey along the inland telegraph route to Alice Springs and the discovery of Ayers Rock now known as Uluru. The naming of the landmarks along the way is also interesting, Goss contributed a great deal to Australia’s history.

The journey is a self discovery and coming of age event for Ahmed, as he is also wanting to learn how his beloved father recently died. To him, it is a mystery, and his Uncle Kamran holds the answer. He must be man enough to ask the questions burning in his mind.

Goldie has produced a book that is sure to be a school staple, as it invites young readers to question their outlook on the world and to investigate our own past. Exploration of Australia would not have been as successful without the assistance of cameleers.

Story Inspiration

My most recent fiction The Youngest Cameleer has been one of my greatest challenges as I took on the personae of a 14-year-old Moslem. A lesser known exploration into the interior was led by William Gosse in 1873.  The various members of this exploration (both European and Afghan) did exist and my story is based on Gosse’s own journal and often using his own words. This expedition was the first non-indigenous group to stumble across Uluru.  Without the use of the Afghan cameleers they might never have survived the harsh conditions they encountered.  Some cameleers even lent their name to well know landmarks: Kamran’s Well. Alannah Hill.

My intention was to bring this expedition to life. In late 1872 Ahmed sails into the prosperous city of Adelaide to help look after four camels. But he has other things on his mind. What if his uncle Kamran isn’t as innocent of his brother’s death as he seems? As the expedition treks into the interior, Ahmed must cope with Jemma Khan’s enmity, his own homesickness, and the difficulties of exploring unknown territory.

If we don’t have Aboriginal ancestors, we are all migrants. My parents came from Poland in the late twenties. Our great migrant waves have occurred at various times: during the gold-rush, straight after World War Two, and in the seventies when the ‘boat people’ arrived. Given the current political climate, it is good to recall that Afghans have been responsible for opening up this vast continent and that without their camels the task would have been harder than it already was.

Killer Virus and Other Stories

Recommended reading age: Upper Primary, Lower secondary
Included  in the NSW and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges. 

This review appeared in the United States in the following newspapers:

  1. VISIONS MAGAZINE – MARCH 2006
  2. THE TOWN WESTSIDE CRIER – MARCH 2006
  3. ANDERSON COUNTY VISIONS MAGAZINE – MARCH 2006
  4. TECHACHAPI’S CREATIVE COMMUNITY – SPRING 2006

Author, Goldie Alexander, Fiction, ISBN 1 876580 36 4, Trade Size Paperback, Publisher-Phoenix Education, (www.phoenixeduc.com) Available at Bookstores Nationwide, or Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

It’s not often that an excellent children’s book hits my desk, but one finally did. This title basically was written for kids (boys) between the ! ages of 12-14. Still, it’s worth a read even if a child is slightly younger, or even a few years older.

Killer Virus is a collection of short stories that will keep a child interested. The Killer Virus story is one often stories included in the book. Other stories are: Party Plan, First Kiss, and The Hedge, just to mention a few.

From fantasy, to humour, to realism… each story has a lesson to be learned by young eyes. And, don’t worry about four letter metaphors – this title is clean as a whistle. It’s educational, interesting and definitely a read that kids will enjoy. I did, and I sent the book to my grandkids in Texas!

Did you know that that the Spanish Influenza killed millions of people throughout the world? Originally, it was passed from hogs to humans. Here is another tidbit of information that came from the Killer Virus story. The Hong Kong Flu was passed from chickens to people. It too killed thousands of humans.

Not that the story was downbeat; Goldie Alexander used the story to tell kids about viruses around the world, and it was a great lead-in to her story. This particular story, Killer Virus was about a computer virus; still a little history was included.

Each story has its own ending; each story is a stand alone piece. Short and to-the-point is how to keep a kid’s attention, and this author is a real master when it comes to writing at a young adult’s level.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, it has been said. By all means, that fact is evident in this title. Mr. Ben O’Hagan did a fantastic job throughout the entire book. With his drawings, each story has been kept to a minimum of words. On a personal note, I’d like to see illustrations in adult works – books today tend to ramble-on.

Killer Virus is a four-star read for young adults, and should do very well in the US marketplace.

 

 STORY INSPIRATIONS:

A common perception amongst educators is that boys regard reading fiction as wimpish and therefore an activity more suitable for girls. They claim that if boys do read, that they tend to prefer reading non fiction. They argue that boys want material that supplies them with facts. They point out that as women form a greater percentage of children’s writers, that these women tend to use female protagonists, female driven plots and feminine themes.

The well-known author Mario Vargas Llosa backs this argument up by pointing out that only a minority of grown men read fiction. When queried, their usual response is that fiction is a female middle class activity. Busy men don’t have time to indulge in fantasy and illusion when there is so much else – sport, business, stock-market reports etc.- to catch up on. So it’s easy to conclude that if fiction is seen as wasteful and an indulgence, that their sons will quickly adopt similar attitudes.

I don’t want to get into the argument of who reads more and why. Or even what they read. However decades of teaching have taught me that many boys and girls are reaching puberty while still in primary school. It is then a boy’s attention span will drop, and his interests become vastly different to a girl’s. I know that adolescent boys find it hard to sit still long enough to work their way through longish fiction. I know from bitter experience how difficult it is to maintain interest in a novel from one lesson to the next, when due to time-tabling difficulties, there might be several days between classes. I suspect, though I have no indisputable proof of this, that these days the emphasis in schools isn’t on reading for pleasure.

Writers are first and foremost readers. Reading is what attracted them to this profession in the first place. I filled my own adolescence with reading and going to the movies. I would argue that if there is some truth that boys no longer read as much, then we writers must come up with new ways and means to involve them. The idea-mongers and creators may change the medium – more film and multi-media – but never the message. ebooks are still in their infancy, but as a quick, cheap and paper-saving device, I am sure that their day will come – no matter how often older readers assure me that they couldn’t do without the smell and rustle of paper.

My solution was to construct a short story collection – a genre that has in recent years gone out of fashion – using only teenage boys as protagonists. Thus I set about putting together ten stories of varying length where each story involved a boy in some interesting and relevant experience. In some ways I was lucky. Though I was no longer working in schools, I knew a number of pubescent boys who could provide me with excellent role models as well as a few ideas. Though these boys still had girl-soft skin, they spiked their hair with green and purple jell and wore t-shirts bearing rude messages and baggy pants. Pubescence being the time when the social group is everything, all were fixed in their determination to meld with their peers and reject adult ideas and control. I understood how they felt. Writers often have latent alter-egos, and under my grandmotherly exterior, an army of angry adolescents was just itching to get out.

Llosa argues that ‘literature is one of the common denominators of human experience… that it helps us understand each other through time and space.’ He points out that there is no more effective method to protect us from prejudice and injustice than learning about other lives and experiences.

Extensive Teacher Notes for Killer Virus can be obtained from www.phoenixeduc.com

 

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