All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mini Reviews: For The Forest Of A Bird by Sue Saliba & Paper Planes by Steve Worland

on February 2, 2015

For The Forest Of A BirdFor The Forest Of A Bird
Sue Saliba
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 195p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Nella waits for the swallows to return to the creek every spring. It’s something she’s done ever since her father left. This year she plans to take him to the creek, show him the swallows. Maybe convince him to come home.

But then Nella’s father falls ill and the events that follow rock Nella’s world and challenge everything that she believes is true and threatens everything that she wants to happen. Nella goes on a search for the truth, travelling to Phillip Island, where her father moved after he left. There Nella must face a new reality and the things that she cannot change.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of Sue Saliba when this book turned up on my doorstep from the publisher. She’s a previous winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for young adult fiction so clearly that’s some sort of ignorance on my part but after reading this book I will definitely be finding her previous books, especially Alaska. 

For The Forest Of A Bird is not a long book, just under 200p but each one of those 200p is beautifully written. There are no wasted words and Saliba manages to create a lot using very little. Nella is a teenager, 15 or 16 and she’s still mourning the loss of her father after her parent’s split up. Nella’s mother is mentally ill and constantly takes herself off her medication leading to embarrassing situations. Nella almost takes care of herself really, she doesn’t seem to have many nurturing influences in her life. Her brother often treats her a bit like a young child, her mother is distant or not present and even though Nella adores her father, he’s moved down to Phillip Island. Unbeknownst to Nella, he’s built himself a whole new life down there, which Nella is about to stumble upon when she attempts to bring her father home after he’s hospitalised.

Nella comes across as desperate for love and vulnerable but there’s also a determined strength to her too. She makes plans to care for her father, to bring him home and then when she realises that cannot happen she travels alone down to his place to find him and be with him. What she learns when she arrives rocks her and she has a lot to deal with in a very short amount of time and she does tend to freak out with each new piece of information but then she thinks about it, she talks about it with someone she meets on the island and she comes to accept it and move on. She realises that for a relationship with her father, she will have to process these things and deal with them. She doesn’t want anyone to ever come between them. I feel like Nella has had to deal with a lot and she’s still dealing with things in this book but she’s making decisions and trying to be mature even though I think she’s just a little girl who wants her daddy to come home on the inside.

For The Forest Of A Bird is a stunning, moving book – it looks deceptively simple to read but there’s a wealth of depth and development within the story.


Book #24 of 2015


For The Forest Of A Bird is book #7 read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015


Paper PlanesPaper Planes
Steve Worland
Puffin Books AUS
2015, 193p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Dylan is 12 and lives with his father in a remote town in outback Western Australia. One day in school, Dylan discovers that he has a remarkable talent for making paper planes and getting them to fly long distances and so he undergoes a journey to qualify for the World Junior Paper Plane Championships in Japan.

But it isn’t all fun and games. Dylan has to contend with the school bully, a super competitive fellow paper plane whiz, his first feelings for a girl and his father’s deep depression and withdrawal from life. Dylan has a lot he needs to face before he knows that he’ll be ready to create the best paper plane in the world.

Paper Planes is a little different in that it’s a book based on the screenplay by Robert Connolly and Steve Worland. Worland is probably best known at the moment for his adult action novels but he’s also worked in TV and on movies, including Farscape and Bootmen. Connolly came up with the idea when he and Worland realised how few Australian kids movies their daughters had seen, instead it was all Disney and Pixar etc. Whilst those are great movies, they wanted to make something uniquely Australian and it seems like they’ve succeeded here. Paper Planes has a fantastic cast (Sam Worthington, Debra Mailman, David Wenham to name just a few established stars and young actor Ed Oxenbould plays Dylan. Oxenbould is a name most Australian TV aficionados would recognise).

Paper Planes is middle grade rather than YA, and I don’t read a lot of it. Ok, any really. But I have a 3yo and a 6yo and I’m assuming it’s going to become a lot more common in my household soon and this one seemed like a pretty good place to start. Dylan is a very likable kid and the narrative is charmingly conversational, very much fitting to a 12yo boy. Before reading this I didn’t even know there was a World Paper Plane Championships but google tells me that it is apparently true! I thought it was such a fun concept to base a story around – who hasn’t made a paper plane and tried to fly it as far as you can? Although the tone is light hearted and fun, the book does delve into a few issues such as schoolyard bullying and the best way to handle it, ultra-competitiveness, the thrill of a first crush as well as grief and how had it can be to go on. Each are handled very well – just enough focus without tipping the mood too seriously and Dylan thinks his way through each challenge and you can see him really learning things as he gets through each round. The paper planes he makes and how he has to adjust them if necessary are rather a good metaphor for other things kids need to deal with in life and how they must adjust in different situations.

I thought Paper Planes was a very enjoyable read and I’ll be keeping it to read with my eldest in the coming year. It’s probably a great way to expand on the movie as well, which we might have to watch also.


Book #25 of 2015

3 responses to “Mini Reviews: For The Forest Of A Bird by Sue Saliba & Paper Planes by Steve Worland

  1. They both sound like really amazing Australian books! I loved your reviews of them both. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  2. marlin1 says:

    This might be a case of where the movie is better than the book. I saw Paper Planes last week and it’s an absolutely delightful movie.

  3. These both sound like great books. I didn’t realise Paper Planes was a book before a movie… I’ll have to check this out.

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