Listen: Librarian Nicole Yule's four Easter holiday reading recommendations
Looking for something to read over the Easter long weekend? Nicole Yule (who helpfully works as a librarian) has some suggestions on what to devour – other than chocolate eggs.
Fiction for adults
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Nicole says this book was released in 2018, so it should be easy to grab from your local library before the long weekend begins. It is set in London in the midst of World War II and the Blitz. It is about Emmy Lake who dreams of becoming a journalist and working as a Lady War Correspondent. But a misunderstanding at a job interview leads her to becoming the assistant to Mrs Bird, the woman who responds to the Agony Aunt letters sent to the magazine instead. Mrs Bird won’t allow any letters which contain inappropriate themes or unpleasantness but Emmy finds herself drawn to the letters sent in by women who are struggling in the midst of the war and decides to secretly write back to them. Of course, this then leads to major complications and issues. This is a funny and enjoyable read but has a lot of depth as it considers the experiences, particularly of the women left behind during WWII in a country which found itself very much at the forefront of the war.
Non-fiction for adults
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
Continuing with the theme of World War II, Nicole’s non-fiction recommendation is an autobiography which was released last year. It is about Eddie Jaku, a German Jew who in November 1938 found himself beaten, arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Over seven years he was imprisoned in two concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and then sent on a Nazi Death March which he survived and was rescued by Allied forces. He moved to Australia in 1950 and has volunteered at the Sydney Jewish Museum since it started in 1992. His biography speaks of his commitment after surviving the war to smile every day and live his best possible life. He believes himself to be the “happiest man on earth” and his autobiography was released to coincide with his 100th birthday. Nicole says it is certainly a book which makes you rethink your problems in life and consider what it truly means to be content and happy.
The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
Nicole claims this to be one of her favourite reads of recent times.
“This is a rollicking good read, I absolutely loved it. It’s a fantasy novel but is more in the style of an alternative/parallel world rather than a self-contained fantasy world,” she said.
It is set in London in 1983 and is about Susan who is looking for her father, a man she has never met. She encounters Merlin, a young left-handed bookseller. Susan finds out that Merlin is part of an extended family of magical beings who police mythical fantasy creatures when they decide to intrude on the modern world. This family are all booksellers and the left-handed ones are the fighters who keep the fantasy beings in check while the right-handed ones, like Merlin’s sister, are the intellectual ones who organise their strategies and attacks. Susan and Merlin team up together as she seeks to find out who her father is and he looks to uncover what happened to his mother when she died mysteriously years ago. It soon turns out the two quests may be connected as they both seek to find out the truth about their families and who they are.
Nicole says this is a funny, well-written book which teenagers over the age of 15 should enjoy, as well as any adults. Garth Nix has created an amazing parallel world and right from the start you are thrown into it and expected to go along on this crazy ride with Susan as she discovers there is more to the world than what she has known.
For younger children, Nicole recommends a series which started in 2018 and now has seven books. Kensy and Max would be appropriate for primary school children in Years 3-6. It tells the story of girl/boy twins Kensy and Max who one day are whisked off to London, and discover their parents are missing. As the situation unfolds, many things don’t add up for them. There’s a strange new school, there are bizarre grannies on their street, they keep finding coded messages and they begin to suspect all the adults around them are keeping secrets.
Nicole said this series is excellent for children who like to read books with a bit of a mystery. Throughout all the books, Kensy and Max continue to search for their parents while having adventures themselves and solving other mysteries along the way.