6 Dec 2016

Book Review and Christmas list - Charlotte Graham

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 2:21 pm on 6 December 2016

Charlotte Graham recommends Christmas gifts for young adult readers, including original, modern, and Kiwi classics, and ideas for history and fandom geeks.

Update for 2017: From this year's young adult fiction, Charlotte particularly enjoyed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - a fictional treatment of the Blacks Lives Matter movement - and Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson, in which a teenager is accused of killing a baby. Both books for teenagers deal with challenging subject matter, including the justice system and racism. 

From 2016, here's Charlotte's list of the best classic books for older children and young adults (including suggestions from listeners).

Classics: For younger young adults

  • Call of the Wild by Jack London (great book to lose yourself in)
  • Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott (great intro to the Bechdel test! Four sisters and their mother growing up while their father is at war)
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (good to talk about values and the importance being kind in challenging situations)

Classics: For older young adults

  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and its modern-day counterpart, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (hugely enjoyable portrayals of teenage angst)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (autobiographical novel about growing up black in America. It's so important right now for young people trying to get their heads around the root of what's happening with race in the US. Discussions of racial and sexual violence - worth a chat to your child about).
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (there's a lot of sisterly love alongside the romantic love plots in this one - a great introduction to Austen)


Cool choices for high-school aged kids... Neither of these are "young adult" books per se, but both entirely suitable for high-school aged people.

  • For fandom geeks: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - 90s cult classic, brings out the best in both authors, screamingly funny, and in-jokes for days. Great yarn about the apocalypse told through great characters.
  • For history buffs: The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis - the first in a series of historical fiction about a private eye detective in Ancient Rome. Very funny, great moral and philosophical discussions, meticulously historically accurate. First in a 20-book series.

Greatest of all time…

  • The Alex series by Tessa Duder - a four book series. Fantastic role model for driven young women who feel like they don't fit in, takes youth problems as seriously as adult problems, great snapshot of NZ life in the late 1950s and early 60s. I've met other people who also re-read this series every couple of of years (still!).
  • Get rid of your kid for the rest of the holidays: John Marsden's Tomorrow When the War Began series (there's 7 of them, plus 3 spinoff books), about young people waging a guerilla war in the Australian bush when their country is invaded. Nominated by a number of listeners too.


Other kiwi honourable mentions: anything by Margaret Mahy (and The Changeover was re-published in 2017 with a  great new introduction by Elizabeth Knox!); Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock (two young women discover their LGBT sexuality, amazing book); Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee for something deliciously scary; and if you can get your hands on a copy (it's incredibly hard to find), for younger young adults/older kids, Prudence M. Muggeridge, Damp Rat by Gaelyn Gordon is amazing wish fulfillment fantasy of kids without parents, roaming the streets and robbing banks. Great yarn.

Harry Potter stand-ins: The Demon's Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan; The Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.



We asked listeners to send in their classic favourites and were overwhelmed by the response!

  • Margaret Mahy (nominated by many) - The Changeover, Catalogue of the Universe, The Tricksters, Alchemy, Memory, and for slightly younger readers, The Haunting.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (nominated by many).
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (being true to yourself - nominated by a few listeners).
  • Rocco by Sheryl Jordan (NZ).
  • Wolf Brother and rest of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver (magic and animals).
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The 39 Steps by John Buchan (Scottish adventure novel).
  • Mister Monday and the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix (creative world-building).
  • The Power of One and The Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay
  • Judy Blume - anything by.
  • Swallows and Amazons and Coot Club by Arthur Ransome.
  • The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
  • Flowers for Mrs. Harris by Paul Gallico.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
  • The Alchemist by Paul Coelho.
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  • The History of Mr. Polly by H.G. Wells.
  • Christopher Pike - anything by.
  • Terry Pratchett - anything by.
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (horses).
  • The Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel.
  • Spider by William Taylor.
  • Life on Earth by Sir David Attenborough (non-fiction).
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.
  • The Conjurer by Jack Lasenby.
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.
  • The Alanna series by Tamora Pierce.
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling.
  • The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (sci fi with an NZ connection).
  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

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