Jane Doe (1) – And The Cradle of All Worlds

Author – Jeremy Lachlan

Age – 11+

Jane Doe has grown up looking after her bed-ridden father and told she brings bad luck to her town of Bluehaven. Not knowing any different, or even if her name is even Jane, she is tough, resourceful, and fiercely protective of her father.

There is a special place in Bluehaven, called The Manor. It will only let someone in when it chooses, often with decades in between. When Jane sees her father climbing the steep steps to the Manor and vanishing inside, she is shocked, but knows she has to follow. A wise woman, known for her adventures inside The Manor, helps her find her way in and gives her a special key. Jane is told she has to find another key and she is Bluehaven’s only hope. Confused but worried for her father, she enters the ever changing world of The Manor.

Inside she discovers room upon room upon room, some with ceilings too high to see, some filled with snow, sand or terrible creatures. What is this place? After some time and near death, she is saved by a strange man. But is he really who he says he is?

She knows only two things for sure – 1) find her father and    2) find the other key. Her adventures have her riding trains, fleeing from tin dogs with slashing teeth, slithering water creatures and even worse.

Will she discover the answers to all her questions, find her father and escape the dangers they face? Through all her struggles she concentrates on the advice given to her in the beginning, “Forward is the only way.”

(A little Indiana Jones, a little The Keepers, The Cradle of All Worlds is the first in a duology that will have you on a wild ride of danger, deception, good, and evil (lots of evil!). The world-building is awesome, taking you places that seem familiar and others that will push your imagination to the edge!)

Magic, Fantasy, Strange creatures, Courage, Action, Series, Good, Evil, Alliances, Tunnels)

The Raven Boys

Author – Maggie Stiefvater

Age – 12+

Blue lives in a house full of psychics, her mother being one of them. Blue doesn’t share her mother’s gifts but she has learnt early that she enhances other’s gifts, just by being in the room.

When she receives a warning that she will kill her true love with a kiss, she is intrigued but saddened at the same time. How can this be, and how is it fair? She’s never had a boyfriend, preferring to keep to herself and her family – especially avoiding the rich, loud, confident boys who attend the local private school. They are known as Raven Boys.

Despite the warning and her dislike of the rich kids, she is soon caught up with a group of them after getting to know a boy called Adam – a local trailer-park resident who works three jobs just to attend the school.

Adam’s friends – Roman (seeming angry and devastated at the same time), Noah (quiet and trusting) and his best friend Gansey (rich, handsome, driven), soon become her friends. Gansey is the leader, and he leads them on a quest to find a buried Welsh King’s bones, thought to be buried on an invisible, spiritual ley line. But someone else is looking too. Someone else is determined to receive the power the King will release when found.

(Told in third person but multiple viewpoints, the reader gets to know the characters well. The search for the elusive ley-line brings these unlikely characters together while weaving being the supernatural and realism. 1st in a series) 

(Magic, Spiritual, Secrets, Ley line, Quest, Determination, Abuse, Bully, Family, Friendship)

Fire Watcher (1) Brimstone

Author – Kelly Gardiner

Age – 8+

Christopher Larkin is in a London bomb shelter in the middle of the Blitz, while his mum is outside serving as a fire watcher for the city. Looking for a spot on his own, Christopher ventures down a tunnel he hasn’t been before. He finds a thick wooden door and pushes it open…

Earlier that week while searching with his friend for war memorabilia, Christopher found a ring engraved with a picture of a phoenix. He feels it warm and cool as he wears it, and his teacher said it may even be Roman.

…the ring glows as he pushes open the tunnel door. He finds London, but not as he knows it. There is an orange glow in the sky in the distance and a small girl in rags sitting nearby. Christopher is shocked when he asks the date. 1666. He knows that date from his history lessons – the year of The Great Fire of London.

Keen to get home, but worried for his new friend, he has to decide to escape or explain what is about to happen to her city.

He is quickly caught up in the chaos of thousands of people trying to flee, a religious zealot who believes he summoned the fires, a family who believe he’s a ghost of their son, and the one man who actually believes who he really is.

(Series, Action, Historical, History, Friendship, Family, Time-travel, Time travel, Secret, St Pauls, Religion, Bible passages)

Jinxed

Author – Amy McCulloch

Age – 11+

Imagine your cellphone is now outdated tech. Its replacement is a companion called a baku – invented to stop us spending all our hours looking at a screen and totally in sync with your likes and dislikes, friend and business connections and so much more. It is also much nicer to have around as it it is in the form of an animal.

The more money you have, the more high-tech your baku. A level 1 baku may be an insect, still beautiful in construction but simple compared to a level 3 eagle or wolf.

Lacey Chu lives in this future world, with a dream of going to the prestigious Profectus Academy. From there she wants to be a companioneer – an engineer who designs new bakus.

Despite her years of hard work and excellent grades, she receives a rejection from the Academy. Wandering and despondent, she is out walking when she finds a wrecked baku in some scrub. She’s determined to repair it, (calling it Jinx), and as she does her future turns around.

Profectus suddenly say she’s in, and she begins her dream towards being a companioneer like her father before her. Soon however, she realises other things aren’t adding up. Jinx doesn’t behave like other bakus and someone powerful seems to be looking for him.

Lacey is a likeable character, driven to making life better for her mum. When her life-time goal is suddenly overshadowed, she is true to her new feelings, sending her and her new friends into a tail-spin of intrigue and action. With just a touch of romance and a ending in the middle of the climax, this series will definitely be one to follow.

(Future, Technology, Friendship, Scholarship, University, Study, Determination, School)

Max Einstein (1) – The Genius Experiment

Author – James Patterson & Grabenstein
Age – 10+

Max loves anything and everything to do with Albert Einstein. She even has his surname. but she’s not really sure it’s really hers. Max doesn’t remember her parents or anything about her past, but talking to Mr Einstein when she’s alone and lonely helps her not only think through a new idea she has, but chase away the loneliness.

Max also doesn’t know that two wealthy organisations have been watching her – one keen to do good in the world, and one keen to make the most of Max’s brilliant mind for nothing but greed.

She soon meets other kids with super high IQ’s and scientific interests and for the first time in her life, she has true friends. But together they have to deal with world-wide problems. The first is helping save children from Cobalt mines in the Congo. Not only do they have to sort mathematical, scientific and mechanical problems, they have to deal with a terrifying warlord.

The first in a new series, particularly empowering girls within the sciences, Max Einstein will go on to tackle other world issues. Fun, interesting and timely in our swiftly changing world.

(Action, Adventure, Courage, Friendship, World Problems, Climate Change, Environment, Child Labour, Science)

Hilda and the Hidden People (1)

Author – Stephen Davis
Hilda created by Luke Pearson
Age – 7+

Hilda lives in a magical valley inhabited by trolls, deer-fox (half deer, half fox), little wooden men and giants. She has managed to live there happily with her mum for her entire life. But lately they have been receiving messages telling them they must leave their valley.

They ignore these notes to their peril and are soon attacked! Hilda manages to save them with a broom and some determination, but soon learns why her and her mum are a problem in the valley.

She meets even more magical creatures from tiny to terrifically tall in her effort to solve the problem. But in doing so, her own life is drastically changed. Will they have to leave the valley after all?

Hilda and the Hidden People has morphed from the magical, quirky series of graphic novels which share Hilda’s adventures. Hilda’s world is like nothing you’ve read before, and her adventures perfect for imaginatives 7+.

(Magic, Family, Magical Creatures, Courage, Series)

The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty (1)

Author – Rhys Darby

Age – 7+

Buttons McGinty’s parents have gone missing! His nana is too old to look after him, so after saying goodbye he is shipped off to a boarding school (called Riefglum) on a remote island. All too soon, Buttons notices weird goings on in the ship and then again at Riefglum.

When he tries to investigate he says he’s been caught on CCTV. But there isn’t any CCTV. Weird. Is there a spy among them? What are the giant cages he saw, for and why does the lunch lady keep giving him secret signs?

With the help of his new friends Silky, Traktor, Lilly Beth, Ahu and Dave, Buttons is determined to solve what’s behind the mysterious goings-on at Riefglum. And maybe, just maybe, find some clues to his parent’s disappearance.

The first in a new series by kiwi comedian Rhys Darby, this story is written in notebook form, sprinkled generously with funny diagrams, maps, lists and drawings. Buttons McGinty will be perfect for those readers ready to step up from Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid, Shouty Kid or Big Nate, but not quite ready for full text chapter books. It’s a quirky, funny read and leads brilliantly to the next part in Button’s quest to find his parents.

(Kiwi, NZ, Humour, Funny, Silly, Zany, Boarding School, Friends, Mystery)

A Boy Called Bat

Author – Elana K Arnold

Age – 7+

(Bixby Alexander Tam) or Bat for short, loves animals and knows already he’s going to be a vet like his mum. When she brings home a tiny baby skunk, Bat is determined to convince her they should keep it, and not give it to the animal shelter in 4 weeks time.

He wants to be with the tiny kit constantly, not wanting to go to school, or to his dad’s house ‘every other Friday’ with his big sister Janie.

Little does Bat know that school and Janie may help him on his journey to achieve his goal and he may even make a brand new friend along the way.

A wonderful portrayal of a young boy on the autism spectrum keen to have the important responsibility of looking after a baby wild animal. Should he keep it, or should he let his mum take it to the shelter? Should he name it or will he get too attached? Bat has to work through these problems (with a little help from his teacher and mum), to decide what’s best for the kit. Everyone is surprised at his inner growth along the way.  Sweet but honest.

(Family, Autism, Pet, Wild animal, School, Siblings, Determination, Animals)

Girltopia

Author – Hilary Rogers

Age – 10+

Clara Bloom and the girls at school think it’s a bit weird at first. Soapy the lollipop man isn’t on the crossing, when he’s always been there. The traffic is a lot thinner too. When they get to school, there’s not one boy in class or any class, and their teacher, Mr Jackman hasn’t arrived.

Thinking they all have called in sick, their favourite relief teacher arrives and they enjoy a boy free morning and recess. But it’s soon realised, there is something much more important happening. ALL the men and boys in Melbourne have been struck down by some sort of sleeping virus.

Clara’s dad left has recently left her and her mum, but she is immediately worried about him. When they can’t contact him, they believe he has gone on a fishing trip with a mate of his. But many men and boys have been moved to hospitals or emergency centres where they can be monitored. What if her dad is lying somewhere asleep and unprotected or dangerously dehydrating?

Clara and her friends come up with a plan, even if it is against the rules – both her mum’s and the police. Will her dad be okay? Will they even make it to the camping ground, and what difference could a few Instagram pictures make to the whole situation?

A great story for 10+ girls about all sorts of changes they may be experiencing. Parents arguing or even separating, liking a boy who she’s not sure likes her back, having a bestie who she relies on, breaking rules and the excitement of that, but the possible consequences showing themselves.
Clara’s road trip helps her work through these things, all with the perplexing problem of what’s happening to all the males of Melbourne.

(Courage, Virus, Divorce, Family, Friendship, Road trip, Crush)

Doctor Dolittle

Author – Hugh Lofting

Age – 5+

Dr Dolittle lives in a little town with his sister and many animals. He is a popular doctor until his house is so over-run with his growing menagerie that people stop coming. When the money runs out, his sister leaves in a huff, and he has nothing to feed his animal friends, his wise parrot called Polynesia suggests he become an animal doctor instead.

Little did he know as he learnt all the animal languages, that he would be soon on an incredible adventure to Africa. His fame had spread that far and the monkeys were sick. With his animal friends along for the journey, they encounter pirates, an Africa king, incredible birds, a lost uncle and the strangest animal anyone has ever seen.

This wonderful classic intrigued me as a child and made me smile as an adult. Imaginative, fun, and with action aplenty, it would make a perfect read-aloud (day or night, just before lights out), or for a young reader. The language use is of the day (first published in 1920)  and peppered with rich vocabulary that will stretch young inquisitive minds. Re-released for 2018, young animal lovers will be thoroughly entertained.

(Classic, Animals, Fun, Action, Pirates, Africa)

 

Louisiana’s way home

Author – Kate DiCamillo39217633

Age – 8+

A companion novel to Raymie Nightingale, this continues the story of Raymie’s friend, Louisiana Elefante, daughter of travelling trapeze artists. She was told this by her granny who has raised her from infancy, after never knowing her parents.

When Granny wakes Louisiana at 3am one morning, saying they must leave immediately, Louisiana isn’t surprised. Granny does this sort of thing often. It all has to do with the curse upon her family, stemming from when her magician great grandfather sawed his wife in half and then vanished without putting her back together.

Louisiana believes every word Granny says, and is very matter of fact about life. Granny has taught her to be resourceful and clever, how to speak to people to gain what you need and to see things how they really are.

When Louisiana’s life is tipped even further, she is left wondering who she really is? She is suddenly doubting all that she knows, and where she fits in the world. A new friend, Burke Allen, (whose father and grandfather have the same name) has sworn to help her, but Louisiana has to make some big choices.

A beautiful story of belonging, and forgiveness. How do you go forward when everything behind you is untrue? This character’s spirit and courage helps her discover her own compass in life. Only then can she move forward. Reminded me a little of Anne (of Green Gables), as she too had the same spirit and outward confidence, even if not so inside.

By the author of Because of Winn-Dixie, The Magician’s Elephant, The Tale of Despereaux.

(Curse, Lies, Family, Small-town kindness, Belonging, Friendship, Road trip, Truth)

 

Six of Crows

Author – Leigh BardugoSix of Crows (#1)

Age – 13+ (Violence)

Six teens are pulled together by their leader Kaz Brekker to perform the most dangerous, outrageous, death-defying theft. Are they stealing money? Gold or Jewels? No. It’s something much more important. Something that will plummet the world into war, and tear trade, people and lives to shreds. And they will be paid more than they’ve ever dreamed of.

Kaz – 17 years old, with the mind of someone much older. Kaz Brekker is also known as a demon. He has no sympathy for weakness, no empathy for others, and a brilliant calculating brain that has built him a ruthless gang and cut throat business of underhand deals, thefts and knowledge about all those around him. When offered a deal too good to refuse, he needs only the best to accompany him on his quest.

Jesper – Has worked for Kaz for some time, and after a betrayal in their ranks, becomes as close to a right-hand-man Kaz will allow. Jesper is skilled with guns and loves the thrill of his life on the line, but has an expensive gambling streak he cannot deny. This quest may be the answer to all his problems.

Inej – Also known as The Wraith, Inej has the power of appearing out of nowhere, climbing anything, and all the while having a calming influence – especially on Kaz. Friction builds between these two throughout the story, until they realise the truth. Will this heist finally give her the direction and purpose she has been searching for?

Matthias – Tall, strong, blond and incredibly angry after being set-up and flung in a hell-hole prison to rot. Little does he know the person who put him there is doing everything to get him out. The quest he is offered turns him inside out. Does he protect his country and all he has trained for, or let his true feelings decide?

Wylan – Son of a rich merchant, who has fled his privileged life to forge his own way. He is determined to prove himself useful in this gang, and not just be collateral if things go wrong.

Nina – Nina is a Grisha – a race hunted down over decades in order to eradicate them and their special powers. There are Tidemakers who can draw blood from their enemies, Fabrikators who design and build, Healers, and Heartrenders like Nina who can stop an enemy’s heart with one flick of a wrist.

A fantasy world set in a time of thieves, con men, pickpockets, blades and guns (with an early Victorian flavour), Six of Crows is told from the viewpoint of these six young men and women. Their back stories are woven into the narrative, explaining their actions, desires, dreams and separate agendas. Absolutely brilliant!! Can’t wait to read the sequel Crooked Kingdom.

(Fantasy, Betrayal, Loyalty, Courage, Quest, Heist, Magic, Fighting, Theft, Historical, Hate, Love)

 

The Restless Girls

Author – Jessie Burton

Illustrator – Angela Barrett

Age – 10+

There once were twelve princesses, loved by their parents and all who knew them. Their mother was an adventurous queen, loving driving her race car every chance she could. She encouraged her daughters to be free thinkers and to pursue their dreams.

When tragedy occurs, the grieving king can think of nothing but protecting his daughters – even if it costs them their true desires.

Frida the eldest princess, hates seeing her sisters so unhappy. She tries to find a way to lift their spirits, not realising a huge portrait of their mother holds the answers. Finally there is light in their lives again, with peacocks, lionesses, music and dance – until the king discovers something. Dozens and dozens of worn out shoes.

The puzzle infuriates the king already going mad with grief, and he makes two terrible decisions. How will the princesses live with his decree? It’s only the free and determined spirit their mother nurtured within them that helps decide their fates.

A retelling of the Grimms Brothers fairytale – The 12 Dancing Princesses, with a modern, feminist spin to it. A wonderfully magical tale which is much more satisfying to today’s readers, young and old.

(Fairytale, Magic, Dancing, Trickery, Feminist, Strong-minded, Strong willed, Siblings, Love, Family)

Tilly and the Book Wanderers (Pages and Co 1)

Author – Anna James

Age – 8+

Matilda Pages loves living with her grandparents next to their popular bookshop Pages & Co. She also loves curling up in her favourite sofa in the store with a favourite title and getting lost in it. Her only heart ache is wondering why her mother left her behind as a baby, and never knowing her father.

Now Matilda is eleven, she has even more questions about her parents. Her grandparents have been loving and wonderful her whole life, but Tilly can’t help wondering about them. When odd people start showing up in the store, Tilly is confused. There is something familiar about them. The next time she sees them, she learns the truth. They are in fact Alice from Wonderland and Anne from Green Gables. But how is that possible?

Her grandparents explain the world between Pages & Co and books and the ability to move back and forth between them. But there is another strange man lurking around. He’s no character Tilly has seen or read before. What does he want?

With her best friend Oskar alongside, Tilly delves deeper into this new world and discovers even more secrets. This world can be dangerous, even life-threatening – but it could also hold the answers she has been looking for.

An exciting premise, which all book lovers will devour, Pages & Co takes us to a place we all wish we could go – inside our favourite books. Connections were made between me and the story every time I recognised a character or lines from books, drawing me even further into the tale. Purely magical! 

(Magic, Books, Reading, Favourite characters, Mystery, Secret, Villain, Bookshop, Grandparents, Series)

Magician’s Moustache (Circus Quest 2)

Author – Maureen CrispMagician's Moustache (Circus Quest Book 2) by [Crisp, Maureen]

Illustrator – Irina Burtseva

Age – 7+

Circus Charles has arrived on the island of Papenton. It is the first stop in the Circus tour and also the first place to look for more clues needed to attend the Circus Challenge Convention. Once there, they not only can enter an important competition to help Circus Charles stay together, Kestrel may find his missing mother.

The first clue is among the town clocks, but Papenton is famous for them, with nearly every building sporting one. Kestrel’s best friend Skye is hard at work looking for the clue they need while Kes and the circus perform in front of their first audience of the tour.

Things are still going wrong within the circus. Are they really accidents or is someone responsible? Tension rises as Kes and Skye are left with a puzzle to unravel and a broken mirror bringing 7 years of bad luck. Will they be able to keep their clues safe, and will Kes ever see his mum again?

The 2nd in this series, emerging readers can follow Kes and Skye’s quest and try to solve the clues themselves. Not only are there puzzles in the books, the back covers hold another.

(Circus, Clues, Mystery, Family, Friendship, Series)

The Playbill (Circus Quest 1)

Author – Maureen CrispImage result for the playbill maureen crisp

Illustrator – Irina Burtseva

Age – 7+

Kestrel and his best friend Skye are part of Circus Charles with their families. They have been working hard preparing for the next circus season when their ringmaster Monsieur Charles calls the entire circus together.

He has some news that may drastically change their lives, possibly even closing Circus Charles for good. They have been invited into a competition to find the best circus. But the last time they competed, the clues they needed to solve to enter, were stolen!

Will they be able to keep the clues hidden this time? Can Kes and Skye help keep Circus Charles together and work out the answers to enable them to compete in the ultimate Circus competition?

A new, fun series set in the lives of circus performers. Young readers will discover what goes on behind the scenes of all the acts. There are routines to be learnt, tricks to perfect, hard work to be done preparing the equipment and safety gear, not to mention the packing, erection and unpacking of the Big Top itself.

But there are devious people among them. Kes and Skye could be in real danger as they try to work out who is causing the circus’ troubles. Intriguing and exciting, drawing the reader from chapter to chapter; this will be a popular series for emerging readers.

(Series, Kiwi Author, NZ, New Zealand, Circus, Family, Friends)

There’s a boy in the girl’s bathroom

Author – Louis SacharThere's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom

Age – 8+

An intriguing title which instantly makes you think of school, and this is where this story is set. A boy suddenly appearing in the girl’s bathroom is scandalous to 9-10 yr olds, and this pops up throughout the novel.

The key character is Bradley Chalkers. The teachers dislike him, the kids hate him. He doesn’t listen in class, is rude, surly, destructive and has been kept behind to do the year again because of it. Then a couple of things happen that change everything for Bradley.

A new kid called Jeff Fisher joins his class, and a new counselor has come to his school. Bradley balks when his teacher organises an appointment with his mum, then some visits with the new counselor, Carla.

It’s not all plain sailing by any means. Making friends, losing friends, refusing to listen, then learning new things, insisting he’s right, and the toughest, the strongest and then discovering otherwise – all things Bradley Chalkers must learn for himself. The most important lesson of all being, self esteem, believing in yourself, and being open to change.

A wonderful story. The school theme, inspirational adults and strong-minded younger characters reminded me much of a classic school title – Frindle. If you loved Frindle, you will enjoy Bradley’s journey too.

(School, Friendships, Bullying, Bullies, Confidence,

 

 

Small Spaces

Author – Sarah EpsteinSmall Spaces

Age – 14+

It’s been 10 years since it happened. When Tash was 8 years old she saw her imaginary friend (who she named Sparrow after he appeared on her windowsill one night), lead a 6 year old girl away from the town carnival. The girl re-appeared 5 days later, mute, dirty and wandering in the bush alone.

Since then, Tash’s life has been a whirl of therapy, accusations of attention seeking, confusion and tension. And now the girl’s family have moved back to town. Tash thought she was better, but now she’s beginning to see Sparrow in the shadows. She can’t tell anyone because they’ll think she’s crazy again. All Tash wants to do is go to Uni and escape it all.

But when she is at breaking point, she forces herself to look deeper and into places she never thought to look. Is Sparrow real or not? Is the girl’s brother involved? The deeper she digs, the more real everything becomes, until lives are on the line – including hers.

A YA thriller that swaps between Then – showing therapy sessions and police reports, and Now – Tash’s journey back into the nightmare of her childhood. But she’s not a child anymore, and this time she fights back. Gripping!

(Imaginary Friend, Fears, Claustrophobia, Family, Aunt, Drugs, Secret, School, Loyalty, Thriller)

Sea Witch

Author – Sarah HenningSea Witch

Age – 12+

Nik, Anna and Evie are best friends. They are all different, Anna a beautiful little blonde girl and of high birth, Evie, the opposite with her dark hair and humble roots, and Nik, Prince of Havnestad.

One day while playing on the beach, there is a terrible accident and Nik and Evie lose their beloved friend Anna.

Years later, Evie remains Nik’s best friend, despite the whispers and taunts of the town who know she is beneath him.

Just before the Havnestad Annual Festival and on the year of Nik’s 16th birthday, a girl arrives, strikingly similar to Anna. Evie is taken aback at the resemblance, but the girl claims her name is Annemette. When Evie takes Annemette under her wing for the festival, Annemette reveals a secret involving Nik.

Evie, stirred by the memory of Anna in this girl, does everything she can to help, but the results cost lives, with devastating results for Evie and Annemette.

Sea Witch tells the back story of Ursula – the villain of The Little Mermaid. We learn where Ursula came from – her life above the waves before she became the tentacled creature we know from the story. Sea Witch is a love story, a tale of revenge, magic, suspicion, and loyalty. Fabulous!

(Fairytale, Fable, Ocean, Sea, Love story, Princes, Magic, Witch, Octopus, Revenge, Friendship, Secret)

At the End of Holyrood Lane

Author – Dimity PowellCover image - At The End Of Holyrood Lane

Illustrator – Nicky Johnston

Picture Book

Flick loves her home at the end of Holyrood Lane. She dances with butteflies, plays in the autumn leaves and soaks up the sunshine.

But sometimes a storm comes. Sometimes they aren’t too bad, but sometimes she hides from them to feel safe. It’s not until she decides to be brave and try something different that the storms seem to fade away.

A sensitive story about the ‘storms’ young children often face under domestic violence. Gorgeous.

(Domestic violence,  Fear, Family, Courage, Brave)