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)

The Great Big Book of Feelings

Author – Mary HoffmanImage result for the great big book of feelings

Illustrator – Ros Asquith

Picture Book

Happy, sad, angry, bored, interested, silly. These are just some of the feelings we have, sometimes all in one day. This book of feelings explores them all, and explains why we might be feeling that way.

Bright, fun illustrations add to the sensitive text – a perfect way to spark conversations about the things we all feel.

(Feelings, Frustration)

 

The Great Big Book of Friends

Author – Mary HoffmanThe Great Big Book of Friends

Illustrator – Ros Asquith

Picture Book

There are all different types of friends. Best friends, groups of friends, imaginary friends and more. There are great things about friendships and some not so fun things too.

This book talks about friendships in their many forms – good, and not so good, and how to tackle any problems that may occur along the way. With lots of questions and jokes, this book can start conversations between a parent, teacher or relative and their young person.

Fantastic!

(Friends, Making Friends, Falling out, Arguments, Quarrels,

Ruby’s Worry

Author/Illustrator – Tom PercivalRuby's Worry

Picture Book

Ruby is a happy young girl, swinging on her swing, exploring her garden and going to school. But one day she found something. It was a worry. Only small at first it soon became even bigger than her, stopping her being herself.

When she saw a boy sitting alone in the park with his own worry perching next to him, realises she’s not alone and they find the solution to them together.

A fabulous way to show how worries happen, and how to tackle them.

(Fear, Worry, Worries, Confusion, Sharing problems)

Felix’s New Skirt

Author – Kerstin BrichzinFelix's New Skirt (HB)

Illustrator – Igor Kuprin

Picture Book

Felix loves his big sister’s dresses, and especially skirts. When he wants to wear a red skirt on his first day of school, his parents suggest maybe pants would be best as some people won’t understand.

When Felix does get to wear his skirt to school, he’s the happiest he’s been. But the other kids laugh and the boys won’t play with him anymore.

Felix’s dad has the perfect solution. He wears his own skirt when he takes Felix to school. The parents and other children are so surprised. But it’s just the thing Felix needed to help his self-confidence and others intolerance.

(Diversity, Choices, Self-belief, Family, School)

The Pink Suitcase

Author – Susie Morgenstern34735174

Illustrator – Serge Bloch

Picture Book

When a baby boy is born, he is showered with gifts. But the one gift that causes the most consternation in the house is also his favourite. No matter how many ways his mother tries to hide it, baby Benjamin finds the bright pink suitcase his grandmother has bought him.

Years pass, and the bright pink suitcase travels through Benjamin’s life with him, giving him support and the strength to be different.

A celebration of diversity and being true to yourself.

 

 

The Peski Kids

Author – R A Spratt40798280

Illustrator – Erica Saleedo

Age – 7+

The Peski kids aren’t like other kids. Joe is the oldest, with a terrible stutter for no apparent reason who avoids any situation where he may have to talk and embarrass himself. His younger brother Fin seems normal until he’s anywhere near their younger sister April. They fight constantly. April is a firm feminist, argumentative, abrasive, rude, opinionated and keen on wrestling anyone who annoys her, (mostly Fin), and setting her dog on everyone else.

When they are told their mother isn’t at all who they think she is, and then asked to pack their bags in less than a minute or they may die, things start to get really interesting for the trio. They are sent to live with their father in a tiny town called Currawong. A jittery wreck with paranoia after learning who is wife really is; their dad has no idea they are coming, and no idea how to look after them.

The kids soon discover the town is even crazier than they are, worshipping cockroaches for the annual races and training them for the event. But someone is killing them off and the trio are soon under suspicion.

A zany, crazy, funny story about family, fears and how many ways you can kill a cockroach!

(Series, Siblings, Family, Secrets, Spies, Mystery, Humour, Funny, Crush)

 

 

Our Granny

Author – Margaret Wild

Illustrator – Julie Vivas

Picture Book

There are all different types of grannies. Round ones, wobbly ones, fast ones and busy ones.

This beautiful picture book with its clear, fun pictures of all types of grannies – what they enjoy, where they live, what they do, or how they look, is perfect for young children. The plain, white backgrounds make the colourful grannies pop on the page.

Gorgeous!

(Grandma, Gran, Nan, Granny, Nona, Nana, Grandmother, Love, Differences)

Liars – The Truth App

Author – Jack HeathThe Truth App (Liars #1)

Age – 9+

A brown ute comes out of nowhere and smashes into Jarli and his dad in their car. To make things even worse, they quickly realise it wasn’t an accident when it comes at them again. The driver is an old guy with thick black glasses.

But when Jarli tries to tell the police afterwards, no-one believes him. They are all more interested in the throngs of media outside the hospital. Jarli has released his new app to some testers, who in turn released it to the world – with horrifying consequences.

The app detects a lie when spoken aloud, and it is causing havoc everywhere. Did the old man have something to hide and the app exposed it? Will there be more angry people out there keen for Jarli’s skin?

He and his friends are suddenly on a pell-mell flight from a killer who just won’t give up. It’s not only the app exposing people’s lies, there are more just under the surface of Jarli’s life, closer than he can imagine.

By the author of Countdown to Danger series and many more action filled books for children – this is the first in a new series of heart pumping titles. Each page is rimmed in a shaded grey and the text is interspersed with text-speak and technology.

(Action, Technology, App, Assassin, Car Accident, Family, Friends, Boxing, Series)

Unpacking Harper Holt

Author – Di Walker40608923

Age – 11+

Harper is on the move again. Every six months or even less, Harper’s father’s work takes them to a different place. When she was younger, her parent’s catch-cry of New place-New adventure was exciting, but now Harper is at high school, moving no longer has the same appeal.

Even with her mum’s amazing skills at settling them in – finding a new favourite coffee spot, sorting out the best school, and tracking down the local dance studio, Harper is already reminding herself that they won’t be there for long, so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Harper wants her life to change, but when it is tipped upside down, she would do absolutely anything to have it back how it used to be.

Harper is an authentic character, living a different kind of life. This was instantly appealing as I wondered where the story would take me. I felt for Harper as she was now wanting to make some real friends, those she could keep and enjoy. Her frustration soon turns to grief and then anger throughout the novel, trying to keep herself strong. I love the cover too! 

Believable. Heartbreaking.

(Moving, Dance, New School, Bullying, Bully, Friendship, Grief, Loss, Change, Realism)