The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Bruno and his sister, mother and father must move away to a concentration camp for his father's work - the 'Fury' has many things planned for Bruno's father. Buno hates living at 'Out-With', because there are no places to explore, and that is Bruno's most favourite thing to do. And the new house only has three storeys instead of five!

One day, Bruno sets out to explore and find out why there is a fence separating him from all the people wearing the striped pyjamas - he wants to play with the boys over there! He walks and walks, and in the distance sees a speck which eventually becomes a boy. This boy is named Shmuel, and he is wearing the striped pyjamas, too! They soon become great friends and every day Bruno meets Shmuel at the fence. Sometimes he brings food, because Shmuel is very skinny and is always ravenously hungry. Then Bruno decides he might like to come and meet all the other people, so Shmuel brings him some striped pyjamas and he climbs under the fence...

I liked that this story was told in the perspective of a young child (Bruno). It gives a simplified air to the novel and shows how children interpret the goings-on of war and the other terrible things that happened during the Holocaust. I would recommend this book to eleven-year-olds to thirteen-year-olds. In the novel's synopsis, clearly states that 'this book is not for nine-year-olds', and I would agree; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has an ending not fit for anyone younger than eleven.


Mao's Last Dancer and Chinese Cinderella

Today I am going to recommend a text for study at year eight level – either Mao’s Last Dancer or Chinese Cinderella. I have recently read both of these autobiographies myself and I found them very rich in Chinese history and quite exciting to read.  I think that both of the autobiographies would be good to study in terms of history and Chinese culture. One of these books, however, is more uplifting and inspiring.

In Mao’s Last Dancer Li has a dream and succeeds through hard work and perseverance. He is born into poverty. Some government officials come to visit his school to choose students for the Beijing Dance Academy. He is confused and scared but his mother persuades him to go so he will have a better life and get fed more often. When he first tries ballet Li hates it and thinks it is weird, but after a few years he is inspired by a video of famous Russian ballet dancers, Baryshnikov and Nureyev, and wants to work very hard at his ballet so he can become like them.

Chinese Cinderella is more of a sad story. It describes Adeline’s life in a way that shows a lot of self-pity. She is born into a very wealthy family right in the middle of the Second World War. Her Mother dies when Adeline is only two and her father remarries soon after to a very demanding and cruel woman. Adeline experiences many years of abuse both physical and mental.

Mao’s Last Dancer and Chinese Cinderella are both very similar in that they are both autobiographies about Chinese people, and they both travel away from their parents.  In both stories Li and Adeline face challenges in their childhood.

They are very different, though, because the families portrayed in the texts are very unlike each other. Mao’s Last Dancer covers Li’s life from birth to adulthood, and Chinese Cinderella ends when Adeline is fourteen.  There is also a slight time difference: Adeline was born about twenty years before Li was. Li was born into a very poor family of seven boys who he was very close to. They were happy but poor. Adeline’s family was very cruel to her, and they were very wealthy.

Ultimately, I think that Mao’s Last Dancer is a better choice for study because it really inspires you, whereas Chinese Cinderella is a good story, but it’s not as appealing as Mao’s Last Dancer is. The inspiring uplifting parts of Mao’s Last Dancer will make the students want to do well in life, and it is quite an enjoyable read. Having read both of these novels I did enjoy Chinese Cinderella, but I liked Mao’s Last Dancer even more.


Whale Rider Review

For this review, I will be comparing the book to the film.

Title: Whale Rider

Director: Niki Caro

My rating out of ten: 7.8/10

Audience: 8 to 14 year olds.

The story is about a girl called Paikea (Pai). Her mother died a few weeks after Pai was born. It is set in New Zealand, and has a lot to do with Maori culture. When she was born, her grandfather
Koro Apirana (or Paka, as she and her grandmother, Nanny Flowers, call him) rejects her, because he wanted a male heir.

She goes to live with her Grandma and Grandpa instead of living with her dad.

The film follows Pai as she tries to get Koro to love her. One of the main themes in the film is his disrespect for Pai, and there is also a strong sense of tradition of the Maori culture. Ultimately Pai has to prove that there can be female leaders, and sometimes tradition is not the most important thing.

The clear star of the film is Keisha Castle - Hughes (Pai). Especially for a young person her acting is  impressive.

Convincing special effects were also employed for the scene where Pai rides the whale - it is mechanical. Also, the realistic depiction of the whales that had beached themselves helps convey some of the emotion between Pai and Koro.

For those that have read the book, like me, you might find that Nanny flowers is a very different character. In the book she is humorous and a bit overweight. In the film she is neither of these; some of the fun in the book is lost as a result.

In the book, Pai's uncle Rawiri is the narrator, and he goes to Australia and Papua New Guinea. In the movie he is a bit of a slob, and he is the focus of most of the comedy. Pai is the narrator in the film however, it works well because she is very much the main character in Niki Caro's screenplay.

Also, in the movie, there is an extra character called Hemi. He is Pai's friend, and his dad appears to be an alcoholic or drug addict; he is very mean to Hemi. I watched a deleted scene that was not used in the movie, and it was that Hemi had smashed Pai's new computer her dad got her-I think his dad got to him a bit much-but in the scene, Pai didn't seem to mind.

All in all, this film is a successful adaptation of the book by Witi Ihimaera.
It does not emphasize the environmental aspects of Maori culture as in the book, but it does focus more on female leadership. For this reason, I recommend this film to girls, who might feel empowered by Pai's persistence, in the face of adversity.


Catherine, Called Birdy

Title: Catherine, Called Birdy

Author: Karen Cushman

My rating out of ten: 9.5/10

Audience: girls from 11 to 14. (This is definitely not a boy’s book!)

First Published: 1994

This is Karen Cushman’s first book she wrote.



This book is the story of Catherine, who is about twelve or thirteen, and her nickname is Birdy, or little Bird. It is set in England in the Middle Ages (1290) and Catherine is the daughter of a very disgusting rowdy knight. (I can't remember his name!)

This story is mainly about her father (the knight) trying to marry her off to different suitors, and Catherine pretending to be ugly or dumb or playing some kind of trick so that they will never want to marry her, but there are other small things that make it a lot more interesting than just that, such as when Catherine accidentally sets fire to the outside toilet(the privy). Catherine wants to be free to do what she wants – read and write, which is very unrealistic for a girl of 1290. Other girls would think that she was very weird. Reading and writing is usually valued in books, because the author must like it.

 This book is in the form of Catherine’s diary entries in a book her brother gave to her. She is always forced to have ‘lady lessons’, such as learning how to walk like a lady and where to look with your eyes - the expectations of females in that time is astounding. 

Catherine, Called Birdy is funny in some ways, like in the first few entries, which are very short. At the start, you might think ‘hmm… this is quite boring, maybe I won’t read it’, but you will like it as the diary entries start to get a bit longer, because Catherine has more things to worry about and she starts to get better at writing diary entries. 

I liked this book because it was easy to imagine what it was like in the Middle Ages. 
This is what showed that it was the middle ages: Girls were married at twelve to fifteen, knights were the leaders of small villages and women just stayed at home doing house jobs and they couldn't even read!

There is a slight twist at the end that I found quite surprising. I think you should read the book (even if you are an adult) and tell me this:

What is the twist at the end?

Who would you like to be in the book and why?

Do you like Catherine? Why or why not?


Thank you for reading my book review. I am sorry I haven’t done a book review for a long time but I will be doing a lot more in the future.



book title: uncollected

author: Paul Jennings

illustrator: Keith McEwan

my rating out of ten: 9.5/10

ages 9 to 12

this edition first published in 2002

This book has many stories in it and it is one of my favourite books I have ever read.
That is something to say, because I have read hundreds of books!
Anyway, uncollected has so many great endings and fantastic stories that I can't tell you anything!
It's all too extraordinary to reveal.
But what I must say is:
Paul Jennings is the best writer in Australia in my opinion and this book is certainly one to read!