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'The latest book in the Through My Eyes series, Lyla, is set in Christchurch during the time of the 2011 earthquake and aftershocks that greatly impacted on the city and its people. Based on the actual events in Christchurch, it allows young readers the opportunity to have an insight into how daily life can change so dramatically following a natural disaster. We see this through the eyes of fictional character Lyla, a teenager who shows great resilience, creative thinking, and courage as she deals with the massive impact on the lives of her family, friends, and neighbours. Lyla takes on the role of supporting many people in her community, forming new friendships and coping strategies along the way. Never knowing when the next aftershock will occur adds to Lyla’s daily challenges. She is a wonderfully strong character, who displays a strong sense of community and tremendous empathy and care for others.

I found this to be a powerful and thought provoking book as it allows readers to ‘experience’ the fear and challenges of living through this natural disaster. The everyday experiences of Lyla and her community following the earthquake, such as having no water, no power, unreliable communication networks, limited food, and unsafe buildings and houses all around gives readers some understanding of how devastating and catastrophic it was in Christchurch in 2011, a city that is still recovering from these events.

There is attention to detail and authenticity as readers are introduced to some new concepts and language, some specific to earthquakes, such as liquefaction (when shaking from an earthquake causes loose soils to lose strength and act as liquid), and some related to New Zealand and Maori culture, such kia kuha (be strong). The inclusion of a glossary is a very useful reference point for readers. A timeline of the actual events in Christchurch is also included, which provides readers with the factual details of the story’s setting.

I feel that this book will particularly appeal to the Year 5 – Year 8 students at my school. It also links in with integrated topics looking at natural disasters and how children live around the world.

Overall, an absorbing and insightful addition to the Through My Eyes series, and I highly recommend it.' Marissa Caluzzi, Junior School Teacher Librarian, Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School (CBCA newsletter, March 2018)

'Told through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, Lyla takes the reader on a journey through life, before, during and after a huge earthquake devastates Christchurch in New Zealand in 2011.

It is written very much in the style and language of a teenager and has a great focus on the things that would be most important to a young person in this situation. It also weaves a background story around a love/hate relationship with a young man who lives in the same street as Lyla. It is, in a way, a coming of age story.

What stands out most about this book is the relevant (true) information added at the end of the book, taking it from simply a story, to a useful, factual text that could have many uses in the HASS and Science Curriculum. Information such as a detailed and informative earthquake timeline, relevant websites about the actual earthquakes, and a glossary of colloquialisms and indigenous terms from New Zealand mean this book could be used for research and information purposes as well as to entertain.

This book would be best suited to capable Grade Six students up to around Grade Ten. As it is told from the point of view of a young female teenager, it would most probably be of interest to girls.'
Francesca Massey, Exeter Primary School, TAS

“It’s never going to stop. We’re going to die. Stop. Please. Just stop. But the ground didn’t listen to prayers or pleas or screams…” The continued threat of aftershocks and the inability to learn the fate of loved ones catalyses the sense of chaos in Lyla’s young life.

Fleur Beale’s fictional account of an adolescent girl’s survival of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake and its aftermath will captivate readers intent on reading tales of survival. Lyla is in her second year of high school and excited to be celebrating her mother’s birthday in a posh local restaurant situated in the heart of Christchurch when a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hits. Despite being separated from her family and friends, this courageous protagonist returns to her semi-functioning home and turns it into a safe zone for those living nearby. Lyla bravely navigates collapsing buildings and liquefaction to aid the injured and offer comfort and support to those in need whilst also struggling through own mental trauma.

Lyla would work extremely well within a unit that explores themes such as survival, adversity, resilience and hope. The novel is rich in figurative language that vividly captures the devastated setting of Christchurch and transformation of well-rounded characters. The language and themes of the novel are accessible to ideally Stage 4 (Years 7-8) students who could interpret how meaning is created in an engaging way through an analytical study. Students could also develop their creative writing skills using the novel as a basis to explore how an event can be described in a holistic way; the physical devastation, spiritual decline, emotional trauma and mental instability all captured in the experiences of Lyla.

Beale has created a sensitive portrayal of how great loss can be overcome with perseverance and time. Readers will be hooked until the end and will truly admire the tenacity of individuals and the community during times of crisis.
Eufemia Mellas, Parramatta High School, NSW

'I enjoyed reading this fictional account of the earthquake that hit Christchurch (NZ) in February 2011, told from the perspective of a teenage girl – Lyla. Fleur Beale’s skill in telling this story through Lyla’s eyes at times brought me close to tears. Beale’s talent created vivid pictures in my mind of Lyla’s poignant narrative of the devastation.

Lyla is at the outset a pretty together teen who attends a girls’ school with an historical family connection. She is haunted by the September 2010 quake, and pleads with Rūaumoko, the Maori god of earthquakes, to stop with the frequent aftershocks which are still happening months later. But Rūaumoko is not listening, and we journey with Lyla and her family and friends through the quake of February 2011, its resulting ruin, loss of life, and traumatic aftershocks.

The attention to detail is apparent as one reads not only the factual information around the story’s centre, but the feelings and reactions of the people who lived through it; not knowing if loved ones are safe, the obliteration of property, the loss of loved ones, some losing all they had known. This is skilfully brought to life via the people in Lyla’s life. Out of the initial tragedy, we find also people reacting strangely at times as they gradually find ways of coping - part of the human condition in such circumstances. And Lyla is no slouch – stepping in to help those in need as she came across them. Lyla herself becomes an unwitting victim of this quake, and has to deal with her own reactions and mental health. Beale treats this sensitively and our protagonist is able to find hope in a world where Rūaumoko is restless.

I would highly recommend this book to tweens, teens and adults.'
Jane Callaghan, Library Technician, Wheelers Hill Secondary College, VIC

'Fleur Beale’s novel Lyla is an engaging read that takes us to Christchurch NZ during the 2011 earthquake disaster.

Through Lyla’s story, readers discover what it is like to live in an earthquake prone area through a major disaster and its aftermath. We experience her fear and the devastation as people she knows are unaccounted for and familiar surroundings are destroyed; We are taken along for the ride as she finds courage and fortitude in helping with the clean-up and recovery process; and we empathise with her as she deals with complex emotional issues.

Lyla is a brave young woman, whose actions inspire those around her into action. She proves to be a role model for those around her and for those reading about her. She is brave and selfless.

Beale paints vivid images of Christchurch and its surrounding suburbs during the 2011 earthquake which led me to reflect on my own experience seeing the city’s destruction on the news from the safety of my home in Australia.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is an accessible text and easy to read and would be a fantastic text choice for students in years 7-9. Its audience would be quite varied. There is just enough action and suspense to keep you interested and as Lyla is set in a real-life situation, it has you question what your own reaction would be. It would be a great addition to a unit of work on disasters or telling stories. It is an excellent example of historical fiction and a solid addition to your school library or book room.'
Kate Fitzsimmons, The Forest High School, NSW

'In Lyla I loved Lyla's personality and Matt's too. It was a capturing story and in my opinion it was my favourite book that I've read in the 'Through My Eyes' series. If you like books that are realistic fiction, then this is the book for you.

In the book it showed how much people can change. For example: Matt the mean annoying teenage boy turns into a great fun and humorous teenager. It also showed how people are affected by these problems.

I loved how Lyla and her family were caring and helpful towards people whose houses had been destroyed, people who got injured and how well they helped in the community.

Over all it was a fantastic and interesting story.'
Esther, 11