Killer Virus and Other Stories

Buy the book from Five Senses Education
Reprinted 2006.2007
ISBN: 1 876580 40 2
Also a Louis Braille audio book.
Unabridged edition. CD and Tapes.
Reader: Stuart Halusz.  ISBN 0 7320 2961 9
www.louisbrailleaudio.com.au

“‘Party-Plan’.

Finn’s mum was making school lunches. ‘Don’t expect a birthday party this year,’ she told Finn. ‘We can’t afford it.’

His face fell. ‘But I’ve been to all my friends’ parties. I have to invite them back.’

His mother went on placing sandwiches in bags. ‘Food, clothes, fuel, car and rates.’ Her voice was firm. ‘We’ll barely manage much else now Dad’s lost his job.’

Finn’s lower lip stuck out. But his mum looked so fierce, and so unhappy, it seemed best not to argue. He opened the fridge and took out a carton of juice. She grabbed it out of his hand. ‘Juice is expensive. If you’re thirsty, drink water.’

Finn saw red. ‘You’re always at me. It’s just not fair.’

‘Life isn’t fair.’ She tucked a straggly piece of hair behind one ear. ‘You want a party, go earn the money yourself.’

‘Right. I will!’

He pounded out of the kitchen into his room where he flopped onto his bed. Above him, cracked plaster radiated out like spider webs. He glanced around. Everything was shabby. The carpet was worn. His wardrobe bulged with clothes that no longer fitted. Finn sighed loudly. He was sick of being poor. And looming up in less than three months was his thirteenth birthday.”

Killer Virus is one of a collection of short stories suitable for students from Years 6 to 9, but with a special emphasis on subjects which will appeal to boys. Two of the stories have been won the Mary Grant Bruce short story prize.

The stories are:

  • Alley Cat
  • Party Plan
  • Vertigo
  • The Glitterland Tapes
  • Foto-copier
  • Killer Virus
  • Everything You Ever Wanted
  • The Hedge
  • First Kiss
  • Swimathon

They cover a range of types of story, for example, adventure, science fiction, fantasy and mixed format, and deal with topics and issues such as:

  • overcoming fear
  • relationships
  • animals
  • bullying
  • friendship
  • romance
  • technology
Recommended reading age: Upper Primary, Lower secondary
Included  in the NSW and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges. 

This review appeared in the United States in the following newspapers:

  1. VISIONS MAGAZINE – MARCH 2006
  2. THE TOWN WESTSIDE CRIER – MARCH 2006
  3. ANDERSON COUNTY VISIONS MAGAZINE – MARCH 2006
  4. TECHACHAPI’S CREATIVE COMMUNITY – SPRING 2006

Author, Goldie Alexander, Fiction, ISBN 1 876580 36 4, Trade Size Paperback, Publisher-Phoenix Education, (www.phoenixeduc.com) Available at Bookstores Nationwide, or Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

It’s not often that an excellent children’s book hits my desk, but one finally did. This title basically was written for kids (boys) between the ! ages of 12-14. Still, it’s worth a read even if a child is slightly younger, or even a few years older.

Killer Virus is a collection of short stories that will keep a child interested. The Killer Virus story is one often stories included in the book. Other stories are: Party Plan, First Kiss, and The Hedge, just to mention a few.

From fantasy, to humour, to realism… each story has a lesson to be learned by young eyes. And, don’t worry about four letter metaphors – this title is clean as a whistle. It’s educational, interesting and definitely a read that kids will enjoy. I did, and I sent the book to my grandkids in Texas!

Did you know that that the Spanish Influenza killed millions of people throughout the world? Originally, it was passed from hogs to humans. Here is another tidbit of information that came from the Killer Virus story. The Hong Kong Flu was passed from chickens to people. It too killed thousands of humans.

Not that the story was downbeat; Goldie Alexander used the story to tell kids about viruses around the world, and it was a great lead-in to her story. This particular story, Killer Virus was about a computer virus; still a little history was included.

Each story has its own ending; each story is a stand alone piece. Short and to-the-point is how to keep a kid’s attention, and this author is a real master when it comes to writing at a young adult’s level.

“A picture is worth a thousand words”, it has been said. By all means, that fact is evident in this title. Mr. Ben O’Hagan did a fantastic job throughout the entire book. With his drawings, each story has been kept to a minimum of words. On a personal note, I’d like to see illustrations in adult works – books today tend to ramble-on.

Killer Virus is a four-star read for young adults, and should do very well in the US marketplace.

 

 STORY INSPIRATIONS:

A common perception amongst educators is that boys regard reading fiction as wimpish and therefore an activity more suitable for girls. They claim that if boys do read, that they tend to prefer reading non fiction. They argue that boys want material that supplies them with facts. They point out that as women form a greater percentage of children’s writers, that these women tend to use female protagonists, female driven plots and feminine themes.

The well-known author Mario Vargas Llosa backs this argument up by pointing out that only a minority of grown men read fiction. When queried, their usual response is that fiction is a female middle class activity. Busy men don’t have time to indulge in fantasy and illusion when there is so much else – sport, business, stock-market reports etc.- to catch up on. So it’s easy to conclude that if fiction is seen as wasteful and an indulgence, that their sons will quickly adopt similar attitudes.

I don’t want to get into the argument of who reads more and why. Or even what they read. However decades of teaching have taught me that many boys and girls are reaching puberty while still in primary school. It is then a boy’s attention span will drop, and his interests become vastly different to a girl’s. I know that adolescent boys find it hard to sit still long enough to work their way through longish fiction. I know from bitter experience how difficult it is to maintain interest in a novel from one lesson to the next, when due to time-tabling difficulties, there might be several days between classes. I suspect, though I have no indisputable proof of this, that these days the emphasis in schools isn’t on reading for pleasure.

Writers are first and foremost readers. Reading is what attracted them to this profession in the first place. I filled my own adolescence with reading and going to the movies. I would argue that if there is some truth that boys no longer read as much, then we writers must come up with new ways and means to involve them. The idea-mongers and creators may change the medium – more film and multi-media – but never the message. ebooks are still in their infancy, but as a quick, cheap and paper-saving device, I am sure that their day will come – no matter how often older readers assure me that they couldn’t do without the smell and rustle of paper.

My solution was to construct a short story collection – a genre that has in recent years gone out of fashion – using only teenage boys as protagonists. Thus I set about putting together ten stories of varying length where each story involved a boy in some interesting and relevant experience. In some ways I was lucky. Though I was no longer working in schools, I knew a number of pubescent boys who could provide me with excellent role models as well as a few ideas. Though these boys still had girl-soft skin, they spiked their hair with green and purple jell and wore t-shirts bearing rude messages and baggy pants. Pubescence being the time when the social group is everything, all were fixed in their determination to meld with their peers and reject adult ideas and control. I understood how they felt. Writers often have latent alter-egos, and under my grandmotherly exterior, an army of angry adolescents was just itching to get out.

Llosa argues that ‘literature is one of the common denominators of human experience… that it helps us understand each other through time and space.’ He points out that there is no more effective method to protect us from prejudice and injustice than learning about other lives and experiences.

Extensive Teacher Notes for Killer Virus can be obtained from www.phoenixeduc.com

 

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