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)

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)

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)


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)

The Wild Robot (2) Escapes

Author – Peter Brown34219841

Age – 8+

The Wild Robot’s story continues in this sequel. Ros wakes up to find herself on a farm. She has been reprogrammed to do farm work, and acting like an assistant manager to the farmer, she ensures all the tasks on the farm are completed. This includes looking after the cows, machinery, buildings etc. The farmer looks after the accounts etc.

The farmer also has to look after his two children. He lost his wife in a farming accident, and that’s why he bought Ros – second hand, scratched and dented.

Ros surprises the animals around her when she begins to speak their language. She makes firm friends of the cows and the children, especially after she has told them many stories about a wild robot who adopted a gosling egg. They are fascinated by the stories, but thinking about her son Brightbeak makes Ros homesick for the island and her old friends.

Over the months on the farm, Ros’ stories spread far and wide between the birds and then animals, across the countryside and into the cities far away. Ros doesn’t realise it, but her stories will be her answer. She has been thinking about nothing but escape since she arrived on the farm. But getting to know the children and cows, she is now reluctant to leave.

When the children learn the truth about the stories, they may be just what Ros needs to decide her future. Ros must face a tornado, a wolf’s revenge, brave pigeons, recon robots searching for her and much more before her story ends.

I enjoyed this sequel even more than the first in the series – The Wild Robot. Roz grows even more ‘Human’ around the farmer and his children. She is kind and careful with the farm animal’s welfare, is torn between staying with them or leaving to find her son Brightbeak, and weighs up each situation she finds herself in, with all the options. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book. Though the text seems simple, the ideas behind not so. Fantastic!

(Technology, Robot, Animals, Geese, Journey, A difficult choice, Farm)

The Dragon Defenders (3)

Author – James RussellAn Unfamiliar Place (The Dragon Defenders #3)

Animations – Courtney White

Age – 7+

The Pitbull is intent on claiming his revenge. Paddy & Flynn have made him look a fool, outsmarting him yet again. But these brave island boys are not the only ones to receive The Pitbull’s wrath. His own niece has been imprisoned in a stark cell after Pitbull discovers she helped Paddy & Flynn.

Pitbull knows he will never outwit the boys on their own island. He wracks his brains for a solution and finally figures out a way to lure them to his own domain – the city.

Paddy & Flynn have never left the island, but they have no choice. Family members are in danger! Will they be able to defeat The Pitbull again in An Unfamiliar Place.

Part 3 in this heart-pounding adventure is sure to please Dragon Defenders fans. An Unfamiliar Place pounds the young brothers with new challenges, but with their feathered accomplice (Lightning the falcon) along for the ride, they battle through and never give up! The story stand on its own but the digital side of this great Kiwi series is a wonderful bonus.Loved it!

(Dragons, Series, Siblings, Action, Family, Challenge, Ocean, NZ, Kiwi, New Zealand)

And the Ocean was our Sky

Author – Patrick Ness36979356

Illustrator – Rovina Cai

Age – 10+

This is a tale of Moby Dick tipped on its head.

Bathsheba is the key character in this story. She’s a whale – part of a team of three apprentices under the leadership of Captain Alexandra. This whale Captain is renown in the oceans for her hunting prowess, her prey – man. Loaded with their own harpoons, this is just one pod of whales hunting their enemy who sail the Abyss (what the whales call the sky above the water).

This war between man and whale has consumed both to the point of obsession. Captain Alexandra believes her pod are part of a prophecy to kill the worst man of them all, the infamous Toby Wick. They are on the lookout for him and his white-hulled ship.

When they come across a lone survivor of a man’s ship, they capture him and it is Bathsheba’s job to interrogate him then kill him. But the more she talks to him, the more she ponders his answers and her own destiny.

Even this man calls Toby Wick the devil. Have they all become just as bad as him, swimming the oceans intent on slaughter? Have they all become devils in their own way? Will they even find him, let alone defeat him?

The illustrations are swirls of greys, whites and the blood of war. Seemingly gruesome and beautiful at the same time. Suspension of belief is needed to get your head around whales building their own ships, firing their own harpoons and tying humans up to interrogate them, but the meaning underneath this whale tale is too good to miss!

(Whale, Ocean, Classic, Moby Dick, Retelling, War, Destiny, Prophecy)

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 showing 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)

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)

Soldier Dogs (1) Air Raid Search and Rescue

Author – Marcus Sutter36137568

Illustrator – Pat Kinsella

Age – 8+

The bombs have begun to fall and Matt and Rachel have been separated from Matt’s parents. It seems everywhere they run, the fires are burning and the rubble exploding. The air raid sirens are shrieking and the drone of more German bombers fill their ears. Where will they be safe?

Meanwhile, Chief; a German Shepherd who belongs to Matt’s big brother has also been separated from them. His smell guides him through the rubble where there are people looking for others in the devastation. One after another he helps to find humans in the rubble. But where are the young human pups? They need him to find their way home!

While Chief is busy rescuing people, Matt and Rachel are involved in a rescue. But is it worth it?

This is the first book in a new series about the brave dogs who helped save hundreds of people in human wars. Told in both Matt and Chief’s viewpoint, the action never stops! Will Matt forgive his parents for what they did? Will he finally accept Rachel, the refugee living with them? Will they survive the endless bombing of Canterbury England (June 1st 1942).

The end pages of the book show real dogs who were awarded bravery medals for their work in wartime, Q & A pages, an interesting, easy-to-read timeline of World War II and stats about the Canterbury Blitz where this story is set.

(War, Canterbury Blitz, German Bombers, Courage, Refugee, Family, Shelter, Bombs, Bravery, Dogs, Animals, Search and Find)


The Price Guide to the Occult

Author – Leslye Walton35879387

Age – 13+

Nor Blackburn likes being invisible. As much as possible anyway. She never joins teams or groups at school and doesn’t have lots of friends. She likes to run alone on the island where she lives with her grandmother and her aging wolf hound Antiquity.

But her island isn’t any old island. It has a long history of witches who bore only daughters to bewitched island men. Nor is a fifth generation witch, keeping her skills a secret – even from her grandmother.

Nor’s memories of her mother are cruel and pain-filled and she is just as shocked as the rest of the island to see her mother (Fern) on TV talking about her new book – The Price Guide to the Occult. Suddenly Fern is everywhere, casting amazing spells, healings and fortunes to anyone who will pay. And pay they do. But Nor knows her mother well. She knows what skills her mother has and that someone else is ‘paying’ in blood for them.

A thrilling tale of family, black magic, good witches and bad. Although Nor is keen to blend into the background, she must face up to who she was is born to be – a nemesis to her powerful mother. Loved it.

(Witches, Thriller, Romance, Action, Curse, Island, Control, Family, Conflict)


The Wild Magic Trilogy (1) Begone the Raggedy Witches

Author – Celine Kiernan

Age – 10+36131823

Mup’s great-aunt told Mup she must tell her if she ever sees any witches. She is not to say a word to her parents about it.

But Aunty has just passed away, Mum is grieving and weary as she drives them home from the hospital, and Dad is far away working on an oil rig.

When Aunty appears on the end of Mup’s bed as a ghost, Mup tells her what she saw – and their entire world is changed forever. Mup’s mum is someone special. Someone taken from another realm as a young child, to save her from her own mother, Mup’s grandmother – an extremely powerful witch who rules her lands with hate, suspicion and cruelty.

The raggedy witches Mup saw following them home from the hospital have been sent to take her mother back with them now Aunty isn’t around to prevent it. But Aunty’s ghost is still powerful. When the witches’ plan to take Mup’s mother fails, they snatch her father instead, to use him as bait.

Mup’s mum is shocked to learn the truth about herself, but is determined to get her husband back. Mup’s family is thrown into an epic battle of good against evil, with crows that must talk in rhyme, women who morph into cats and witches who revere their evil queen.

This story grabbed me very quickly and held on until the end. Mup is a brave and kind character, determined to find her father and increasingly proud of her mother. Mup not only looks out for her younger brother (who has been transformed into a young dog), but also stands up for a boy called Crow who has lost his own father to the queen. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

(Morphing, Magic, Family, Determination, Bravery, Courage, Witches, Action, Conflict)

Embassy of the Dead

Author – Will Mabbitt39875529

Age – 7+

The most exciting thing Jake Green was supposed to be doing was attending a school camp. But when a ghost unexpectedly hands him a strange package, life becomes far more exciting than he thinks he can handle.

Curiosity overwhelms him and he opens the package – which is the worst possible thing he could have done. A secret organisation called The Embassy of the Dead has now issued a Death Order against him, unleashing one of the worst Grim Reapers. Oh yes, there’s more than one, and they love following through with a Death Order!

Jake never knew he was a ‘sensitive’ – someone who can see and hear ghosts. But soon, they are the only ones who can help him avoid the reaper, get the package back to the Embassy and keep it away from a creature wanting to take over the Land of the Living.

The first in a series, this was a fast-paced, funny story about a boy getting caught up with ghosts of every kind and their ruling organisation that has more paperwork than a tax department; all while trying to pretend to his parents that he is at a school camp. Looking forward to more in the series!

(Series, Secret, Ghost, Friendship, Funny, Humour)

White Rabbit, Red Wolf

Author – Tom Pollock

Age – 14+

Pete has terrible anxiety. He has mechanisms to help him deal with it, taught to him by his scientist mum. One of these is using maths, numbers, probability, etc to help determine the likelihood of something happening and find some level of calm.

But he’s still anxious about an upcoming award ceremony recognising his mother’s work. There will be so many people and just about anything triggers his crushing panic attacks.

Bel is Pete’s twin sister – older ‘but only by eight minutes’ reminds Pete constantly. Bel is his comforter, protector and pusher of boundaries – trying to help him overcome normal everyday things that terrify him.

Just before their mother’s ceremony, hell breaks loose. He is in the custody of armed, professionals, Bel is missing and their mum has been stabbed and is being raced to hospital – or is she?

This story is a lie – that’s the premise – and the reason I was torn this way and that throughout the story. It tipped me forward and back, through time, thoughts and an endless stream of lies to the last page. Who is telling the truth? Who can Pete trust? Each betrayal shocked me as Pete discovered them. A densely packed read. A page turner from the very first page. Brilliant!

(Twins, Science, Maths, Fears, Anxiety, Panic attacks, Action, Betrayal, Trust, Lies)

The Promise Horse

Author – Jackie Merchant40191001

Age – 8+

Harry wasn’t happy about moving away from all her friends, pony club and all the memories she had made with her older sister Sissy before her illness. The one thing that eases the move (besides being closer to her loving grandparents), is the promise of a horse of her very own.

Little do her parents know, but Sissy has come with them, even if only in spirit. Harry has been to therapy about ‘hearing voices’ so now she keeps Sissy a secret. After all, if she was just imagining her older, bossy, strong sister’s voice, wouldn’t she make her less annoying?

When an impressive Appaloosa called Marksman is offered to her in her new town, Harry isn’t sure she can handle such a big horse. But with Sissy’s constant pushing, and her grandparent’s support, maybe it is something she can achieve for herself. If only Mum didn’t regret the promise made in the first place.

This story isn’t just about horses, pony club, friendship and family. Harry’s family is still dealing with their grief at the loss of Sissy, but all in their own way. A boy called Billy from school has his own problems, and Harry has to find her own courage (without Sissy) to hold onto what she loves.

(Animals, Horses, Pony Club, Gymkhana, Friendship, Fitting in, Moving)


Not if I save you first

Author – Ally Carter35238072

Age – 12+

Maddie and Logan were best friends. She is the daughter of the President’s top security agent, and he is the President’s son. But that friendship dies after a failed kidnapping and someone gets shot.

Now all Maddie has for Logan is anger. He never once replied to the weekly letters she sent him from Alaska where she now lives with her dad. How could he call her his best friend then cut her off like that?

Then suddenly after 6 years, he is in her house, taller, stronger and undeniably and infuriatingly more handsome. Maddie has become tough in her years in Alaska. And she will use all her strength to remain angry at him. Until his life is in danger. All her skills will be needed to help them escape their pursuers and survive in the wilderness.

Told in both viewpoints of Maddie and Logan, this is a thriller wrapped around a love story. It’s not mushy though, full of action, twists and turns right until the end. Great read.

(Action, Romance, Alaska, Thriller, Trust)

The Invasion (The Call 2)

Author – Peadar O’Guilan38592818

Age – 13+

Nessa may have returned from ‘The Grey Land’, but her battle isn’t over yet. She is instantly under suspicion. How could she survive with her bent and twisted legs? How could someone so weak return unscarred when bigger, stronger, better trained children and teens do not?

She is labelled a traitor – someone who has made a deal with the S’dhe in order to survive. There are now government agents searching for such traitors, and they will find them at any cost.

Something terrible is happening to Ireland. More terrible than The Call itself, with nothing to stop it.

Told in different viewpoints of Nessa, Anto, and others from the survival school Nessa attended, there is action at every turn, choices to make or believe and survival an even thinner thread than before.

Be careful what you promise, and who you promise to, as they are assembling out there, and coming for you….

(Fantasy, Violence, Fairy Folk, Legends, Myths, Ireland, Love, Friendship, Courage, Trust)


Author – Liz van der LaarseCuz - Liz van der Laarse

Age – 10+

River is enjoying catching up with family, even though his uncle reminds him so much of his absent father. He’s also reminded how close his cousin Huia is to their Nan, who has taught her their Maori language, customs, protocols and medicine for much of her life.

Her knowledge is annoying, but he puts his grumbles aside when offered a trip on her dad’s trawler. They soon enjoy each other’s company and he relaxes, thinking about what it would’ve been like to have his own dad around through his life.

Then the unthinkable happens. Icy ocean. Remote beach. Isolation. Freezing rain, no food, shelter or communication. They are on their own.

Along with River’s strength and determination, Huia’s knowledge is now the only thing that could save them. Is his uncle still alive? Is anyone looking for them and if so where will they be looking?

Like Hatchet, Cuz is a story of survival, strength, courage and determination. It’s also more than that – a tale of family connections through past generations, to the land and nature who will provide if you know her secrets. 

Cuz is a New Zealand story which will be enjoyed by both kiwi and international readers alike. In the back of the book is a section on the plants etc that River and Huia rely on for their lives. Cracker Kiwi fiction!

(Kiwi, NZ, New Zealand, Survival, Courage, Determination, Cousins, Family, Action, Journey)