Author – David Hill
Age – 10+
Two families – one maori, one Scottish (and new to New Zealand), come together in this novel. They learn about one another, from hearing the strange bagpipes for the first time, to learning about land and how sacred it is.
Lifelong bonds develop and family stories between the two cultures are soon inextricably woven together down through the generations with tales of war, hardship, friendship and belonging. The land they live on and the river that runs through it, is as much a part of them and their shared history, as family members and neighbours.
This novel is separated into sections across these generations, with different members from the 1800’s through to the present, sharing a piece of their life as it is now – all aware of how their family history relates to them as a person.
Finding would make a fantastic reading resource for NZ history or Social Sciences, as the family’s stories show how New Zealand has changed across the generations from early settlers to now. Farming, our people, and our attitudes to many issues that have faced us as kiwi’s over the years are portrayed in an interesting narrative that will promote discussion in the classroom and inform interested readers.
(NZ History, Settlers, Scottish, Generations, War, New Zealand, Kiwi, Friendship, Greenstone)
Author – Cory Doctorow
Illustrator – Jen Wang
Age – 12+
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.
But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer – a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.
I took the blurb from the publisher for this review as it is so clear. I loved the illustration style and variety of design throughout this graphic novel which is such a current topic both in game worlds and real life. Gamers, young and old are becoming different people via their avatars (digital alter egos) online. But it’s just a game right? What is often forgotten by the players is that the characters in the game you are shooting, chasing, trapping or scheming with, are actual people in the next street, town, country or continent. Real people. And sometimes these people’s needs are as simple as food or shelter and if selling things to affluent players achieves this, this is what they must do.
(Gaming, Computer Game, Avatars, Game, Poverty)
Author – Lucy Adlington
Age – 12+
Ella is a designer. She loves clothes and fashion, after being taught everything she knows by her no-nonsense but loving grandmother. She is hurrying to the nearby Upper Tailoring Studio who are looking for a new seamstress.
But this is no normal sewing shop. There is no pay, no breaks, and an armed guard by the door who can shoot you at any disturbance. This is Birchwood – better known as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Ella makes a friend at the Studio in funny, book-loving Rose whose mother is a Countess. Together the girls bond over their sewing skills as they work for the camp commandant’s wife and female guards. They learn to barter, steal, and fight to keep themselves alive while Rose tells stories and they both dream of opening a dress shop together – the hope helping to keep them going.
A hidden red ribbon, although causing a vicious beating, helps keep that dream alive, even when they’re separated.
When a human has hope, it can keep them alive, filling their thoughts with wonderful things as they are starved, beaten, humiliated, terrified and shocked to their core. The Upper Tailoring Studio was real at Auschwitz and this story shares another side of this terrible time in history.
Author – Gareth Ward
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)
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)
Author – Jerry Spinelli
(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)
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)