The Traitor and the Thief (1) The Sin Chronicles

Author – Gareth Ward35296530

Age – 10+

Caught stealing at Coxford’s Corn Market, 14 yr old Sin is hunted across the city. But his street skills can’t evade his pursuers. They want Sin to join their Covert Operations Group (COG) and train to become a spy. Used to his life of crime on the streets he’s not sure of these people, (but he does enjoy a nice warm bed and plenty to eat for a change.)

Wary to begin with, Sin soon makes a friend in Zonda Chubb, and an unlikely alliance with the school bully Velvet Von Darque. But there is an assassin among them, and he’s not sure who he can trust. Is his own life in danger?

A rip-roaring steampunk adventure by the winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Writing Competition for Young Adults in 2016! With rich writing, well developed characters and awesome world building, The Traitor and the Thief is a fantastic read and not to be missed!

(Series, Friendship, Spy, Assassin, Courage, Conflict, Adventure, Action, Betrayal)

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An Unexpected Hero

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Author – L P Hansen

Age – 12+

Matt Turner has gone to stay with his grandparents on their dairy farm. His mum is on bed rest in hospital for her baby and his dad is away on business. Matt enjoys the farm, and is attending a new school. He quickly makes friends with the few kids in his year but is soon unsettled by an old man called Cedric who takes offence to him as soon as he learns his name. To make things worse, his teacher announces a term project – prepare a speech about a war hero in your family. Public speaking, no matter how small, is Matt’s biggest fear.

When he tells his grandfather about Cedric, he learns that Cedric himself was a war hero, but he hated ‘Conchies’ (Conscientious Objectors) and that someone in their family called Archibald Baxter was one of NZ’s bravest pacifists – standing up for what he believed in no matter how harshly he was treated by the army and his own home town.

A thought provoking story about standing up for what you believe in no matter what and gaining courage from others who have done just that. Archibald Baxter is a well-known NZ pacifist and it’s fantastic there is a story for Year 6 up that can share that.

(New Zealand, WWI, Archibald Baxter, Conchie, Conscientious Objector, School, Courage, Family, Stutter)

Stargirl

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Author – Jerry Spinelli

Age -10+

(This has teen characters but is perfectly suitable for 10+)

A girl comes out of nowhere to school. They say she’s been home schooled. She has a pet rat she calls Cinnamon who goes everywhere with her. She sings happy birthday to people in the cafeteria on their special day and leaves anonymous gifts for people in town. At first she’s mysterious and intriguing. Then she’s captivating in her caring, kind ways. Instead of watching her, students begin following her, copying the things she does. But soon the positivity that was so infectious in the beginning, becomes negativity after events they unjustly blame on her. Stargirl hardly seems to notice, calm and content with her magical individuality. And then she’s gone….

Another spellbinding story from this multi award winning US author. If only we could all be like Stargirl….

(Individuality, Friendship, Crush, School, Popularity)

The Book of Pearl

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Author – Timothee de Fombelle

Age – 12+

This story is something special.
Part fairy tale, part historical (WWII), part present, and part love story, The Book of Pearl isn’t just a story.

The book that you hold in your hands as you read is actually part of the character’s story.

The structure of the novel is skilfully pieced together, which would be the only thing I would worry about with younger readers. As an adult I found it pleasantly challenging to follow the strands of the three main characters until they had woven together completely at the end of the story, but young readers may struggle with this.

But if you are 12+ and a keen reader – it’s well worth the effort. I’ve never read anything like this before. And guys…it’s not just for girls either. Most of the characters are men.

Truly and cleverly magical.

(Fairies, Fairytales, WWII, War, Tyrant, Hate)

Wolf Hollow

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Author – Lauren Wolk

Age – 11+

A spiteful, mean, girl called Betty.
A caring, thoughtful, smart girl called Annabelle.
A man suffering the after effects of a war where he believed he’d done terrible things.

These are the key ingredients of this novel with a story that spirals from hatred and spite down through to forgiveness and love – but at what cost?

Wolf Hollow made me gasp, sigh, smile and wipe my eyes. Eleven year old Annabelle is brave, but no matter how many truths or lies she tells to try and help, things soon twist away from her again.

Shocking, beautiful and sad all at the same time.

(Family, Bullying, Prejudice, Hate, Advanced Young Readers)

Enemy Camp

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Author – David Hill

Age – 13+

This story is told in diary format by a young 12 yr old boy (Ewen) in 1942-1943, when New Zealand is fearful of Japanese invasion, American troops are training nearby, (meeting the locals and going out with the girls), and the home guard is made up of inexperienced teens and old men.

Ewen isn’t happy about having to write a diary for school. His teacher says they are living through ‘special times’ and they should record it. But the more Ewen writes, the more he realises how much is happening around him in normal family life in NZ in the 1940’s.

Ewen is a realistic character – a typical kiwi kid. He’s a good mate to his best friend Barry, a loving son to his mum and dad, concerned about Barry’s little brother who has polio, and not impressed with snobby Susan Proctor at school.

But Ewen does some growing up throughout the novel, learning about the Japanese POW’s at the camp his dad works in, and one prisoner in particular.

Lt Ito is a proud, stern soldier who teaches Ewen and his friends not only about Japan and their language, but about inner strength, humility and honour.

As tensions rise within the camp, those tensions flood through the community, and Ewen and his mates also learn about prejudice and hate. When things reach breaking point, they see what these emotions can do. A terrible event but understandable in such times and circumstances. There is a distressing scene when the boys see the tensions explode and bullets fly.

Another great book by a a multi award winning New Zealand Author, based on a real event and a Japanese POW camp that was near Featherston in early 1940’s, that held up to 800 Japanese prisoners of war.

(War, Conflict, Family, Friendship, Historical, School, NZ, New Zealander, Kiwi)

Hour of the Bees

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Author – Lindsay Eager

Age – 12+

12 year old Carol (Carolina) isn’t impressed about having to spend her last summer before junior high away from her friends. While they are at pool parties and having fun, she is stuck in the desert with her Mum, Dad, toddler brother Lu and her just turned 17 half sister Alta. They are helping tidy up Carol’s Grandfather’s house for sale, as he has worsening dementia.

They’ve all read the brochures about Alzheimer’s and Carol can see all the signs in the grandfather she’s never met before. At first Grandpa Serge is prickly and Carol groans about how long the summer is going to be – oppressive heat, an obvious gulf between her dad and his dad, a selfish, lazy, obnoxious teen sister, not to mention the rattlesnakes.

But through it all, Carol and Serge build a relationship – with his stories about a tree and a beautiful lake and a couple in love. Serge’s ‘word salad’ is sometimes confusing, but Carol is patient and starts to wonder whether the story Serge tells could be true…? Could the bees that follow her everywhere, be proof?

This was a beautiful story within a story. The relationship story between young and old is not new but this was touched with a little magic, patience, determination, love, and story itself. Carol is a mature 12 year old, having to mind her young brother a lot and tip-toe around her teen sister’s explosive personality, but still young enough to believe in something magical.

If you loved Tuck Everlasting, Holes, or Being Here (Barry Jonsburg), you’ll love this too

(Family, Grandfather, Desert, Story, Family Roots, Alzheimers, Dementia)