The Last Days of Archie Maxwell

Author – Annabel Pitcher36170364

Age – 16+

Archie is reeling after a family announcement. His father is leaving. His mother doesn’t even seem mad about it, and his big sister knows more than she’s letting on. When Archie learns the whole truth, his whole world implodes.

What if his the guys at school find out? His life won’t be worth living. They will show no mercy. And that’s when Archie begins to think about that guy who ended it all on the train tracks behind his house.

Archie likes a girl at school – who just happens to be the sister of the guy on the tracks. She blames herself and is trying to understand why her brother did it. When Archie offers her some relief from her guilt, they become a little closer. But she has her own secrets too. Is Archie strong enough to resist a final solution for himself and protect her from the same?

This is an easy read/novella for not only dyslexic teens, but those who may find larger texts daunting or unappealing. It was gritty, true to life, showing the no-filter language of teen boys amongst themselves and about girls. Fantastic read.

(Dyslexic, Homophobia, Suicide, Bullying, Mental Health, School, Family)

 

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They Saw Too Much

Author – Alan Gibbons38318466

Age – 14+

John is on the beach with a girl called Ceri James from school. They have been teamed up to do a photography project together. John is enjoying using the school’s expensive camera and is aiming at everything around him, getting the feel of it.

A car pulls up near them and John is instantly on alert. Things in his past have made him aware of anything looking a little shifty, and the two guys inside the car ring alarm bells.

He watches them in the camera viewfinder and uses the zoom on them when they follow a man out onto the beach. What he sees next sends him and Ceri on a pell-mell, dash from place to place – trying to find somewhere to hide. The men saw them with a camera and will do anything to stop them from taking any pictures taken, to the police.

Not sure who to trust, realising his own father is connected somehow, and trying to protect Ceri who has her own secrets and past swirling just under her skin; John is angry, confused, and scared. They are running for their lives.

(Murder, Crime, Trust, Hostage, Gangster, Witness, Family, Foster, Action)

Who Killed Darius Drake?

Author – Rodman PhilbrickImage result for darius drake

Age – 9+

It all begins with a letter – written in, could it be…blood? When Arthur Bash is shown this letter by oddball, sticky-up haired, orphaned, brainiac, weirdo Darius Drake, he’s not sure whether he wants anything to do with it. Arthur might look big and scary and mean, but it’s all just for show.

Arthur is available for hire to anyone at school. If you want anyone to leave you alone, or you want to scare someone, Arthur is your man, well at least, 12 year old boy. Payment is in chocolate bars.

With three Snickers bars up for grabs, Arthur says yes to helping Darius figure out who sent the mysterious letter. But there is so much more to be discovered, and a mystery that deepens the more they dig.

A spooky house. A disfigured man. A convicted felon. A pretty step-sister. A man who looks like a movie star. And a very famous lost diamond necklace. Were three Snickers bars worth it?

(Mystery, Friendship, Blended Family, Secret, Bully, Humour, Funny, Crime)

Mr Penguin (1) and the Lost Treasure

Author/Illustrator – Alex T SmithMr Penguin and the Lost Treasure

Age – 6+

Mr Penguin has just set up an Adventure/Mystery Agency and advertised it in the local newspaper. On his first day he is keen to get started on solving mysteries and going on adventures! But his phone doesn’t ring. He’d paid a lot of money to set up his Adventure Agency, and if he didn’t get a job soon, he would have to go home to the Frozen South, leaving behind crabsticks and his favourite sandwiches (fish fingers of course).

Just as he’s really beginning to worry – the phone nearly rings right off his desk. There is a mystery at the local museum. Boudicca Bones needs his help URGENTLY to find hidden treasure within the museum.

Mr Penguin is very excited, but soon is wondering whether this whole adventuring thing was a good idea after all? With an X marks the spot, pitch-black passages, and a kung-fu expert spider side-kick named Colin, Mr Penguin’s courage, smarts and rumbling stomach are put to the test as he investigates.

The intricate pencil illustrations add to the fun format of white, orange and black pages of this new series. Mr Penguin is trying to do his best, and is lucky his spider side-kick is along for the adventure. This slapstick action mystery is a little Indiana Jones and a lot funny. Would make a great read-aloud/bedtime story.

(Funny, Humour, Friends, Adventure, Baddies, Villains, Mystery, Secret tunnels, Museum, Slapstick, Series)

The Mapmaker’s Race

Author – Eirlys HunterThe-Mapmakers-Race_cover

Age – 8+

Sal and her twin siblings Joe and Francie, and little brother Humphrey are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives. They have been on map making adventures before with their Ma and Pa, but this time they are on their own.

Pa is missing and Ma has been accidentally left behind. With huge prizes up for grabs they decide to go ahead with the plan of entering a Mapmaker’s Race across valleys, mountains, ridges, and raging rivers – without their parents. A new railroad is to be built and the best route will win.

The stakes are high for their family, as their money has rapidly been running out. With a new friend along for the journey they are up against adult teams, some of which who will do anything to win.

First they must learn to do all the things Ma used to do. If they are going to reach their destination in the required 28 days, or even just survive, they must remember all that they have been taught and learn to work together as a team.

With their individual skills – Sal is a mathematician, Joe is great at plotting their way, and Francie has a other-worldly gift of seeing the landscape from high above them, and map-drawing prowess. Nearly-5-year-old Humphrey adds humour to their days.

Bears, wolves, mechanical horses, cowboys and constant challenges are thrown at the young group with a nail-biting finish.

The Mapmaker’s Race is a traditional adventure story with lots of action, family squabbles and sharing of stories. B & W illustrations are sprinkled throughout and Francie’s maps show their progress to the reader along their travels. Set in the time of early steam trains and traction engines but with a touch of magic and wonder.

(Maps, Adventure, Family, Race, Wilderness, Railway, Animals, Courage, Journey)

After the lights go out

Author – Lili Wilkinson

Age – 14+

Imagine it – suddenly, without warning or reason, there is no electricity. Anywhere. Modern cars are useless and even pacemakers fail.

The isolated Australian outback town of Jubilee begin to struggle with this after a few days, and even more so when their men don’t return from the mine where they work.

After she finds an old Holden to travel in, 17 yr-old Pru Palmer decides to go to the mine to look for her father. They have a secret. Her father Rick is a doomsday prepper and they have a bunker not far from their house packed with supplies to last years underground. Pru and her sisters have been trained to survive in almost any situation. But Pru is now in charge. She always thought her dad would be there too.

Along with a stranger in town (whose mother was facilitating a safety seminar at the mine), Pru finds disaster at the mine. They return to Jubilee to find her usually docile community beginning to attack eachother – just like her father said they would. But can she just walk away and leave them all to starve?

Her dad always said “Family first,” and Pru is torn between how she was raised and the people in town.

This story drew me in early and surprised me again and again. Pru is an authentic character, suddenly dealing with so much responsibility and guilt. She feels surrounded by anger, fear and even death and has to find solutions. But realistically, she doesn’t have to cope all on her own – until the unthinkable happens.

(Doomsday prepper, Apocalypse, Bunker, Romance, Siblings, Twins, Family, Courage, Australia, Outback, Secret)

The Mulberry Tree

Author – Allison Rushbyxthe-mulberry-tree.jpg.pagespeed.ic.lS1n_Kk90Y

Age – 10+

Immy has moved from Sydney Australia, to a small village in the UK. It’s a new start for them after something happened at her father’s work.

After seeing a few houses with a rental agent, they choose a cute little cottage with a large tree in the back lawn. But this isn’t just any tree.

The agent tells them of the tree’s history. A history where two girls who lived in the cottage mysteriously vanished on the eve of their 11th birthday. The entire village blames the tree. But that’s ridiculous – isn’t it?

Immy tries to make friends but the tree’s history affects everyone around her – even Jean, the kind old lady who lives next door. She says her best friend Elizabeth was one of the girls who disappeared many years before.

Immy has been hearing a creepy rhyme being sung – even when there is no-one nearby. Could there be some truth in the legend? While she keeps her fears to herself, she is also dealing with her dad’s depression, and the feeling that the tree is watching her and mirroring her feelings. She is determined to learn the truth – which means staying home on the eve of her 11th birthday…..

I loved this story! It was sad and beautiful, and intriguing and creepy.  I couldn’t read the last few pages fast enough. I closed the book with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. Fans of Emma Carroll will love it too.

(Mystery, School, Magic, Secrets, Friends, Depression, Nature)