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LylaWhat people are saying about Lyla


'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

'"I't’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

'A compelling and beautifully crafted story about the impacts of natural disasters.

Through her thoughts, thirteen-year-old Lyla enables young readers to understand the physical, emotional and social impacts of witnessing natural disasters in a contemporary world.

Cleverly constructed, the story travels through three stages. Initially Lyla and her friends share the turmoil and immediate impact of an earthquake and although a fictional text, it is evident that real events are carefully researched with specific details identified. Set in New Zealand, the story is entrenched in reality with its touches of Māoritanga, use of slang and the broken spires on the Christchurch Cathedral. The timeline and glossary at the end of the book are useful in providing a context and could be used to create Lyla’s biographical report or a historical account of the Christchurch earthquake. Torn between her safe plan — to go straight home — or stop and help an injured man, Lyla loses her friends and is left wondering for days in fear of their safety. This is a human story with a strong female protagonist.

There are also numerous opportunities to complete word study inquiries about subject specific words like liquefaction.

The story continues from here to show how Lyla and her friends deal with the immediate impacts of the earthquake. While her parents, a police officer mother and trauma nurse father, are in the heart of Christchurch dealing with the disaster, Lyla takes on the role of friend and protector, opening her home and heart to the neighbourhood. Unlikely friendships are forged as people work together to support each other and cope day by day.

The third section of the story presents perhaps the most vulnerable topic focusing on the after effects of a young girl’s world turned upside down. As a result, this book could be used to address a number of the issues about post-traumatic stress and open discussions about the ongoing mental health challenges faced by many young people in today’s society.

However, it is also a story of resilience. By the end of the book, Lyla discovers she doesn’t have to face her fears alone, that she has her own strategies to deal with her anxiety and that there are support networks available to her. While the earth may continue to shake, her world is no longer crumbling.'
Kylie Pedler, EAL teacher and Literacy Consultant

'DISCLAIMER: This will be neither an impartial nor an unemotional review. For one who called Christchurch home for many years, particularly those formative years of my schooling and teacher education, and for whom so much that was so familiar is now gone, it is impossible to be objective when the places and events are so well-known. Although I was not there during the earthquake I have made trips back and I still can't get my head around it.

February 22, 2011 and life has returned to normal for Lyla and her friends Katie and Shona after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck - that's if having the earth move under your feet several times a day and making a game of guessing the magnitude can be considered normal. Even the daily reminder of the main block of their school, Avonside Girls' High, being damaged and unusable has been set aside as they try to do the things that 13 and 14 year old students do. Caught in town at 12.51pm when "the big one" hit, their lives are plunged into chaos as buildings collapse and people panic as the air fills with dust making visibility almost impossible.

While it is possible to watch endless news coverage, read articles and information it is impossible to know what a natural disaster such as this is really like unless you are part of it and experience it for yourself. So while I had watched and read and listened and learned, spoken to family and friends who were in the thick of it and even returned home and visited the backyard of such a major part of my life, it was not until reading Lyla that I got a real understanding of what it was to be in the moment. Beale has drawn on stories of the events of the day and the months following and woven them into a narrative that is both scary and un-put-downable that illustrates not just individual heroism but that sense of community among strangers that seems to emerge when humans are put under such duress - made all the more haunting when you can picture the reality of the setting which is a well–known as the face in the mirror.

In the beginning, there is the fear for family and friends as both Lyla's mother, a police officer, and her father, a trauma nurse, at Christchurch Hospital are unaccounted for and she is separated from Shona and Katie in the chaos as the SMS service goes into meltdown, and while they are eventually found to be Okay that need to know family is safe means that all families have an earthquake plan much the same as Australians have a bushfire plan. The theme of needing to be with others is strong throughout as neighbours have a need to eat and sleep and be together even if they have a habitable home to go to, and enduring and unusual friendships and bonds are formed.

There is also a strong thread of Lyla feeling powerless because of her age but finding things she can do that make a difference such as babysitting her neighbour's children so their mother can return to the medical centre where she works; helping shovel the oozing, stinking liquefaction for elderly neighbours; setting up a charging station for those still without electricity... seemingly minor things within the big picture but nevertheless critical to her mental health at the time.

But like so many then and now, the situation becomes overwhelming. Despite hearing the harrowing tales of others and the rising death toll, and the news of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and telling herself that compared to them she is in great shape, Lyla succumbs and needs qualified medical intervention. This is another strength of the story – given that seven years on the city still has not recovered, it was never going to have a happy, all-is-fine ending, so having Lyla denying help because the common thinking is that the people of Christchurch are somehow more resilient than others, that because her home isn't munted she should be okay, but nevertheless accepting it and going some way towards recovery shines a light on the okay-ness of needing assistance to get things back in balance. This particularly poignant in light of the subsequent increase in suicides, unprecedented demand for psychological help and the need for support as there has been a 73% increase in the number of children who need support for mental health issues in Christchurch.

While this has been an emotional read for me, it and the others in this series and its twin focusing on children living in conflict are essential elements of both the curriculum and the collection as they offer the "colour and detail" to the stark monochrome sketches of news reports, websites and other information-only sources. They are the blend of imagination and information that such fiction can offer that leads to insight and understanding.

Seven years on, long after the event has disappeared from the news headlines and faded from the memories of those not directly involved, the reality of that time is still in-your-face on every corner of Christchurch and will be for many years to come – Lyla and her friends will be 20 now, confronted by images and memories of that day still, just as anyone who has lived and loved Christchurch is. For now Rūaumoko, the Maori god of earthquakes, has settled a little (even though there were 25 quakes in the week preceding the anniversary, albeit peanuts compared to the 15669 on that day in 2011) but like her friends, family and all those who chose to remain in Christchurch to rebuild their lives and their city, one wonders when he will wake again.'
Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian

'Lyla, a student in her second year at high school, lives in Christchurch when a massive earthquake strikes and causes utter devastation in her city. With parents who are employed as a police officer and a nurse in caring and service careers, teenage Lyla rushes to help, displaying her own maturity, caring, compassion and sense of responsibility as she responds to the emergency and disaster. She refuses to sit back, inactive, but instead becomes a driving force, motivating others to work together in helping clean up the local area and supporting others in their losses. In doing so, she overcomes her own fears and concerns…or does she?

With a major focus on mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder, this powerful read is totally engaging as it reflects on life during and after a natural disaster. Written for young teenagers, it contains a realistic but not overly terrifying depiction of the earthquake, but the focus of the book is on the journey on which Lyla embarks, following the event.

Themes of resilience, determination, courage, compassion and mental health, as well as the obvious natural disaster focus, are strong and easily teased out. Along with the other Through My Eyes titles, the teacher’s notes are detailed and user friendly, enabling this series to be used as class texts for students in years seven to nine in either HASS or English. What made it more personally engaging to me is the fact that I have friends who lost their homes in the Victorian bushfires in 2007. Much of Lyla’s grief post disaster experience was echoed by my friends as they battled to come to terms with the new norm…missing friends, familiar landmarks and the feelings of panic they experienced afterwards.

I would highly recommend this title to my capable year seven students, secondary students and teachers looking for a meaty class novel.'
Jo Schenkel, Westminster School

'There are certain moments in history that stay in the mind, and when reminded of them, can reappear vivid and fresh. The Christchurch earthquake is one such moment. Reading this well-written novel certainly brought back those terrible images of a devastated city, but added the very real human challenges and costs. We have a student at our school who, along with their family, were caught up in the quake and who experienced the physical and emotional toll that this book captures so well.

This book would make a good accompaniment to discussions alongside Natural Disasters units. The timeline at the back of the book is very helpful for understanding the length of time is takes to recover from such a massive devastation. The description of not just the quake but the continuing aftershocks really helps to illustrate the terror that became part of daily life. I particularly liked the way that the author showed how everyone came together as a community, with even young people like Lyla doing things they would never have imagined they could do. The resilience and courage of people faced with unimaginable difficulty is very inspiring. I will certainly be recommending it to our Year 7-9 students.

This book is part of a really excellent series and would make a good class novel, or addition to the library collection.'
Debbie Williams, Library Technician