Author – Adriana Mather
Age – 13+
Sam (Samantha) and her step-mum Vivian have moved to her dead grandmother’s house in Salem, a small town where Sam’s dad grew up. She is instantly disliked at her new high school and she knows why. Her ancestor Cotton Mather was largely responsible for the Witch Trials in Salem centuries before.
‘The Descendants’ (a group of 5 teens always dressed in black, and true descendants of the so-called witches that died) are scathing of Sam and make life difficult. If it wasn’t for the neighbours, handsome Jaxon who sticks up for her and his mum; Sam would be just like she’s always been – friendless and feared.
People around Sam often end up hurt and she’s felt cursed since small. When this ‘curse’ follows her to Salem, it becomes much more serious. Is it all her fault? Where did this curse come from? Can she defeat it?
How to Hang a Witch is not only a fantastic read, it makes the reader aware of how close the 17th century witch trials were compared to the cyber-bullying of today. The phrase ‘Witch Hunt’ is applied to people in all sorts of conflict and this novel makes it clear why.
The other fascinating fact is the author is a descendant of Cotton Mather herself. Salem is a real town in America and she wanted to know more about both the Witch Trials and her own family history. Loved it!
(History, Witches, Ghost, Spell, Curse, High School, Popularity, Romance)
Author – Zach King
Illustrator – Beverly Arce
Age – 7+
Zach is home schooled as he is part of a magical family. But when his magic still hasn’t arrived at the age of 11, his parents believe he has beeen ‘skipped’ and the best thing for him is to go to middle school and learn to be ‘normal’ like other non-magical kids.
His first day at Horace Greeley Middle School finds him inside a vending machine in nothing but his boxers. But how did it happen? When an online video of ‘the trick’ goes viral, his new friend Aaron is keen to know how he did it, and for him to do more tricks like that. That’s not his only problem – the coolest kid in school has decided to make him look a fool – as often as possible.
When Zach does finally find his magic, it’s way cooler than he ever dreamed, but how does he hide the truth from his new friends when they are keen to see more of his ‘tricks’ online?
Zach soon finds a way, but has to face the bully, his parents and an alligator!
This is the 1st in a new series, made up of both text and full page, full colour illustrations. Set mostly in Horace Greeley Middle School, it’s a fun read.
(School, Bully, Friendship, Magic, Secret, Series, YouTube, Popularity)
Author – Chae Strathie
Illustrator – Anna Chernyshova
Age – 6+
Tommy can’t wait to start Pirate School. This means sailing on the Rusty Barnacle, captained by Pirate Captain Firebeard, for the whole school term!
Once aboard, he learns about all things piratey including sea monsters they may encounter on pirate escapades. Between their lessons, the apprentice pirates can visit the tuck shop for on board sweets and treats – until they start to go missing. Who is stealing the lollies from under their noses?
Suspicion instantly falls on Spiky Spencer and his gang including Muttonhead Max and Greta the Grouch, but maybe the thief isn’t quite so obvious. It’s only when Tommy and the entire crew are in grave danger that the thief is revealed.
A simple, fun, pirate story for young readers with lots of ‘Aaaaaarrrrr!’
(Pirates, Sea Monsters, Pirate School, Nemesis, Theft)
Author – Claire Hennessy
Age – 15+
Lauren is 16, a student at a Catholic Girls School and increasingly angry. It doesn’t help that her mum is the principal and seemingly too busy to notice what Lauren is going through. And she is going through a lot.
Her best friend Steph is now Evan, coming out to Lauren and the world. This is confusing because didn’t they have a night of something special together? Lauren thinks about her boyfriend Justin a lot, until she realises he is just using her.
School is a disaster as the school play has been announced and it includes boy characters. But much to Lauren and her friend’s dismay, they won’t be working with the local boy’s high school, but playing all the boy parts themselves.
Suddenly Lauren is dealing with a life-changing decision all on her own. She’s alienated her friends, her favourite teacher and stolen from her family. Reaching for alcohol, it numbs her for a while, but results in hours missing in her memory. Lauren is a mess. How will she climb out of the hole she has dug for herself?
This was a challenging read, but I was right there with Lauren and her confusion, pain and sense of hopelessness. Being a teen in 2017 is tough, and many issues they face are tackled with authenticity and courage. A great read.
(Sexuality, School, Friendship, Abortion, Trans, Bi, Lesbian, Choices)
Author – Philip Ardagh
Illustrations – Jamie Littler
Age – 7+
Jane is very excited to be starting work at Lytton House. ‘House don’t describe it. It looks more like a palace,’ exclaims Jane in her diary. Despite a page full of rules she must soon learn, the mistress and master are good employers and the many other staff friendly.
All is well until a jade necklace is stolen from the mistress’s bedroom. One of the maids is under suspicion, but is too well thought of to be blamed outright. Jane decides to try and figure out who stole it. After checking drainpipes, looking for footprints and thinking through the staff schedules she finds a real clue. Will she unmask the culprit?
This story set in Victorian times was something different. Jane speaks just as she would do as an uneducated maid, and as the story unfolds, footnotes are added at the bottom of the page for the reader to understand Victorian terms or behavior. It added so much more to the story for those who are interested, or they can be skipped at the reader’s choice. This is part of the ‘Only the facts are true‘ series.
(Victorian, Maid, Mystery, Diary, Series)
Author – Jay Jay Burridge
Illustrator – Chris West/Jay Jay Burridge
Age – 10 +
Beatrice Kingsley can’t understand why her grandmother (nicknamed Bunty) has brought her halfway around the world to look at the Raptors of Aru. Sure they are said to be beautiful and elusive but it was such a long way to go. Along with them was Theodore, loyal to Bea and Bunty after being ‘adopted’ into the family many years before.
But there is another reason for them to visit the wild Islands of Aru, and Bunty isn’t ready to tell Bea why just yet.
But this island has more secrets than they know, and as they enter the jungle with the help of a plucky nine year old porter and his father, they encounter many dangers. This island may have the most beautiful raptors, but it also hides very dangerous ones too. Not to mention the arrogant, vicious leader of the island, Christian Hayter, who isn’t happy about strangers in ‘his’ jungle.
What they find is beyond their imagination, but worth fighting for. But first they have to survive!
This is the 1st in a series of 6 books – with two more out 2018. If you’re after Dinosaurs, Courage, and Action, this story has bucket loads. Both Bea and Bunty are brave and determined, despite all Bunty’s rules on behaving like a lady. Jam-packed with luscious B&W illustrations, this adventure is going to popular!
(Dinosaurs, Courage, Adventure, Jungle, Orphan, Grandmother)
Author – Gillian Mears
Illustrator – Dinalie Dabarera
Age – 6+
The Cat with the Coloured Tail is no ordinary cat. Not only does its tail change colour, it guides his friend Mr Hooper and his moon-cream van, seeking out unhappy people who just might need one of their magical moon-creams. These moon-creams are no ordinary ice-cream, spun with just the right colours that the person needs to cheer them.
When they’re not selling moon-creams, or making special ones for those in need, they both love to look for heart shapes around them. One day, the cat’s tail turns black, and Mr Hooper knows something is terribly wrong. Can he help return his cat to it’s colourful self?
Shortlisted for many Australian Awards. A story of kindness, hope, song and love.
(Love, Animals, Cat, Icecream, Kindness)