Two stories for a new generation


 Help AroundHelp Around the House

‘One way we can prepare our children for their futures in a sometimes dark and uncertain world is to tell them inspirational stories,’ feels Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman. He has previously taken his young readers on some painful journeys around AIDS and the Holocaust.

His latest book is a story about eleven year old Ludo who was brought up to help others. His mother was a very popular scout leader and his father a city councillor who was always willing to go the extra mile for the locals.

Sadly his Mother gets cancer and dies. Then his father is elected to parliament in Canberra as an Independent. Ludo is invited to come and spend time with him. He thinks he and his Dad will be able to do lots of good works together.

But he is very quickly disillusioned. Canberra is a city where there is a big divide between the rich and the poor. Politicians have lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve and are more interested in maintaining their privileged positions and staying in power. The have- nots are getting angry.

Ludo is shocked by the fact that his father has changed and seems to have forgotten that the reason he first wanted to be politician was to help others.

He himself is determined to honour his Mother’s memory and to keep doing good. With his new friend Henry who is also a scout, he goes out at night to find homeless people and to distribute nutritious Anzac cookies fortified with chocolate made by the caring lady who is the housekeeper at his father’s house.

The two boys discover what at first they think is the body of a homeless man in a park but he turns out to be a seriously injured well known citizen. This sets off a horrible train of events which could lead to a serious miscarriage of justice.

When Ludo eventually tells his Father the whole story it forces him to take a look at the kind of person he has turned into. Can he find a way to return to the caring person he used to be?

Discussion starters:

  • This book was written for children 8 years and up. Gleitzman, who is a first time grandfather himself, is of the view that through communication technologies children today are exposed to what is happening in the world from an early age. They should read stories about the real world which could inspire them to make a difference. Are eight year olds mature enough to read and think about these issues or is it like throwing them in at the deep end before they are ready to swim? Or should this book be older children? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Help Around the House is by Morris Gleitzman. Imprint Puffin. RRP $19.99

HelenHelen and the Go-go Ninjas

Helen and the Go-go Ninjas was written by two well-known New Zealanders: Ant Sang one of our best known cartoonists who helped to create the TV series BroTown and Michael Bennett  whose films have won international awards. Both are Aucklanders and they have used this city as the setting for their sci-fi graphic novel.

Graphic novels (book length comics) first arrived on the market in the late seventies. Their target market is teens but like other YA books many adults also enjoy them. If you have never read one you are by no means alone as nor have the majority of older people.

But before you start to read Helen and the Go-go Ninjas I should warn you that it is dark and contains both violence and bad language.

My teenage granddaughters would not be at all disturbed by that. Teenagers have access to Netflix, TV movies and You Tube where there is much more explicit material than there was in our days.  Technology has made it a different kind of world now from when we were young.

They loved the Hunger Games in which youngsters were forced to fight each other to the death and shared it with me. I could barely finish it as it as I don’t have a cast iron stomach.  By comparison I found Helen and the Go-go Ninjas less confronting.

It is an exciting, fast paced action packed story about Helen, a young environmentalist who is captured by a gang of female ninjas and suddenly finds herself 340 years into the future. She is horrified to discover that global warming has laid waste to the landscape and society is out of control. A group of male thugs called the Riders is violating tree women who have lost their minds because of giant Peace Balls (a scientific experiment gone wrong). Helen is extremely courageous and is willing to risk her life but will she be able to save them?

The fact that it is the pictures which tell the story and the words are few made it a quick read.

Although you might well want to linger over the pages and enjoy the way Ant Sang has superbly conveyed a whole range of emotions in the faces of his characters and used colour very effectively to express different moods.

Discussion Starters:

  • Morris Gleitzman, the Australian children’s laureate, is of the opinion that after a book has been read a conversation should always follow. What is the first question you might ask your teenager after you have both read this graphic novel?
  • Join in some positive futures thinking! If people had listened to environmental activists like Helen in the present day what kind of city could Auckland be 100 years from now? Let us know in the comments.

Helen and the Go-go Ninjas by Ant Sang and Michael Bennett. Published by Penguin. RRP $30