Author – Amy McCulloch

Age – 11+

Imagine your cellphone is now outdated tech. Its replacement is a companion called a baku – invented to stop us spending all our hours looking at a screen and totally in sync with your likes and dislikes, friend and business connections and so much more. It is also much nicer to have around as it it is in the form of an animal.

The more money you have, the more high-tech your baku. A level 1 baku may be an insect, still beautiful in construction but simple compared to a level 3 eagle or wolf.

Lacey Chu lives in this future world, with a dream of going to the prestigious Profectus Academy. From there she wants to be a companioneer – an engineer who designs new bakus.

Despite her years of hard work and excellent grades, she receives a rejection from the Academy. Wandering and despondent, she is out walking when she finds a wrecked baku in some scrub. She’s determined to repair it, (calling it Jinx), and as she does her future turns around.

Profectus suddenly say she’s in, and she begins her dream towards being a companioneer like her father before her. Soon however, she realises other things aren’t adding up. Jinx doesn’t behave like other bakus and someone powerful seems to be looking for him.

Lacey is a likeable character, driven to making life better for her mum. When her life-time goal is suddenly overshadowed, she is true to her new feelings, sending her and her new friends into a tail-spin of intrigue and action. With just a touch of romance and a ending in the middle of the climax, this series will definitely be one to follow.

(Future, Technology, Friendship, Scholarship, University, Study, Determination, School)

A Boy Called Bat

Author – Elana K Arnold

Age – 7+

(Bixby Alexander Tam) or Bat for short, loves animals and knows already he’s going to be a vet like his mum. When she brings home a tiny baby skunk, Bat is determined to convince her they should keep it, and not give it to the animal shelter in 4 weeks time.

He wants to be with the tiny kit constantly, not wanting to go to school, or to his dad’s house ‘every other Friday’ with his big sister Janie.

Little does Bat know that school and Janie may help him on his journey to achieve his goal and he may even make a brand new friend along the way.

A wonderful portrayal of a young boy on the autism spectrum keen to have the important responsibility of looking after a baby wild animal. Should he keep it, or should he let his mum take it to the shelter? Should he name it or will he get too attached? Bat has to work through these problems (with a little help from his teacher and mum), to decide what’s best for the kit. Everyone is surprised at his inner growth along the way.  Sweet but honest.

(Family, Autism, Pet, Wild animal, School, Siblings, Determination, Animals)

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)


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)

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)

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)

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Author – Philip C SteadA Sick Day for Amos McGee

Illustrator – Erin E Stead

Picture Book

Amos McGee is a caring zookeeper who catches a bus every day at 6am to go and care for the zoo animals. But one morning he feels unwell, and stays home. The animals miss him and decide to return his kindness.

Soft, mutely coloured illustrations in a story about kindness and friendship.


The Gift Horse

Author – Sophie SiersThe Gift Horse

Illustrator – Katherine White

Sophisticated picture book

Olivia is still grieving the loss of her mum. She feels like there is a balloon inside her, squashing everything out, right up against her throat. She can’t seem to fit in with her friends anymore and just wants to stay in bed.

But her dad won’t let her, being patient and kind. One day he brings a horse to their farm and asks Olivia to look after him. He’s beautiful and Olivia calls him Amigo. But he’s angry too, and won’t let her near him even after hours and hours together alone.

In her frustration the balloon inside finally pops, letting out all her emotions. But this is just what she needed – for her and Amigo.

Stunning illustrations and a moving story about the process of grief.

(NZ, New Zealand, Grief, Losing a parent)


Author – Alex LatimerWoolf

Illustrator – Patrick Latimer

Picture Book

Woolf is half wolf and half sheep. He shaves his wool to fit in with the wolves, but soon gives up doing that. He flattens his ears to fit in with the sheep, but it grows too uncomfortable. When his parents find him upset, they assure him he is something special and can just be himself. Which he finally does, finding friends in other places.



Once Upon a Wild Wood

Author/Illustrator – Chris Riddell

Sophisticated Picture Book

Age – 6+

Green has received an invitation to a party. She sets off through the Wild Wood with a strong stick, a good book, her clumpy boots and some breadcrumbs.

Along the way she meets all manner of creatures and characters (from fairy tales) as she travels to the party. Dancing bears, singing harps, a lonely beast and a sticky toffee doormat are just some of the things she encounters along the way.

Will she ever get to Rapunzel’s party?

Sumptuously illustrated and cleverly tangled fairy tales will ensure this becomes a classic itself. The Hardback format with the cutout in the cover just adds to its charm.

(Fairy Tales, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel,derella Snow White, Three Little Pigs, Jack & Jill, Cinderella)


The Snow Lion

Author – Jim Helmore34324832

Illustrator – Richard Jones

Picture Book

In Caro’s new house, everything is white. Ceilings, walls and even the doors. But something is hiding in all that white. A new friend called The Snow Lion. He helps her settle in and encourages her to play with other children she sees outside. A gentle story about fitting in and meeting new people.

(Fitting in, Friendship, Brave, New places, New people)


Author/Illustrator – Sandra Diekman34381468

Picture Book

When a Polar Bear arrives in the forest, all the other animals are suspicious. Who is he and why is he there? Shouldn’t he be on the ice somewhere? This Polar Bear has moved to his own environment eroding due to Global Warming. He is looking for acceptance by the new creatures he meets, and does amazing things to achieve it.

(Animals, Environment, Global Warming, Acceptance, Friendship)



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)


Bigfoot and Little Foot (1)

Author – Ellen Potter
Illustrator – Felicita Sala

Age – 6+

Hugo is a young Sasquatch eager for adventure and maybe to even become a sailor! But his big sister Gigi says he could never become a sailor because it would break their most important rule – never be seen by a human.

One day while out on a school trip practising their sneaking and camouflage, that very thing happens. A small human wanders into the same area and Hugo is so surprised by him that he bursts out with a laugh. The boy sees him and his teacher rushes them to safety. Hugo is in serious trouble. But his curious nature has been fuelled even further. The human didn’t look dangerous at all.

When an opportunity to explore presents itself, Hugo grabs his chance…

A fun story about friendship and feet, told from a young bigfoot’s point of view.

(Bigfoot, Friendship, Multiple POV, Curiosity, Bravery, Series)

Wedgie & Gizmo (1)

Author – Suzanne SelforsRelated image

Age – 6+

Wedgie is a welsh corgi and he LOVES his house, his stick, the dog-beach and the park. He’s happy almost all of the time and loves taking his humans for a walk, and when they pet and praise him.

He’s not sure about the ‘furry potato’ that has just moved into his house with his boy and man, and he wants to sniff and check him out.

Gizmo is a guinea pig. But he detests such a name. Do humans not know that he is not a pig at all? He is from the rodent family and not just any animal. Gizmo believes himself to be the most amazing creature – in fact…. an EVIL GENIUS.

While Gizmo is plotting to take over the world where his kind will have everything they want and he is king, Wedgie is enjoying barking at the neighbour’s dog Brutus, burying his new bone (hoping he’ll remember where he buried it this time), and protecting his family.

The furry potato’s boy (Elliot) thinks Wedgie wants to eat Gizmo, and Gizmo thinks the elderly lady also living in the house, wants to eat him too. After all, she’s from Peru and they eat his kind, don’t they? Gizmo is constantly adjusting his evil plan as family events unfold.

This tale is told in the viewpoints of positive, happy bouncy Wedgie, and selfish, greedy, narcissist Gizmo. It’s entertaining to see the world from their eyes and how they perceive their human’s behaviour. Fun read!

(Animals, Dogs, Guinea Pig, Evil Genius, , Blended Family, Birthday, Pets, Animal POV, Series)


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)

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)