Author – Scot Gardner
Age – 15+
Merrick is 18 and there is only 2 weeks left before his final exams and the end of his school life. He has always been a good student, but lately his school is concerned that he’s ‘lost his mojo.’
Merrick is struggling with the loss of his grandfather to a sudden heart attack. Grandad taught him how to surf, and how to cope with both his parents remarrying and giving him several stepbrothers/sisters, all the while giving Merrick gems of wisdom along the way.
One morning Merrick makes a sudden decision to get on his beloved motorbike (he calls Brunnhilde) and just ride, leaving behind his friends, study and blended family. On his journey he meets Victor, an old, bearded, homeless man, a girl called Felicity, a dog with no name and…himself.
This is not just another ‘road-trip’ story. Merrick is grieving for his lost friend and mentor – his grandfather. He’s trying to figure out where he fits in his family, what the future might hold and how to deal with its expectations of him. He learns about relationships; no matter how long or fleeting, his habits that seemed entrenched and necessary but are not, and what’s important to him. The banter between Merrick and Victor is brilliant, the journey both inner and outer – superb.
(Road-trip, Relationships, Quest, Friendship, Grief, Motorbike, Australia)
Author – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Age – 10+
Grace and her little sister Bee became orphans 5 years ago, losing their mother to an illness and their father two days later. Their sun-loving, travelling Uncle Freddy returned immediately to become their guardian. Soon after their grandfather moved in too.
Five years on and they’ve done ok. Uncle Freddy forgets to pay the bills sometimes and housework isn’t his top priority, but the girls feel loved and cared for. If only they could talk about the not-to-be-mentioned subject. The loss of their parents and in turn, their grief.
Now Grace is older, she’s become embarrassed by her little sister’s quirkyness and insistence on imaginary things being real. According to Bee, their parents are still around, their dog talks to her, and there is a magical hotel at the top of tall cliffs nearby.
When Grace wants to be part of the ‘top group’ at school, she fears Bee will spoil it for her, and she does everything she can to prevent that – with terrible consequences.
Another wonderful story by this author. This is a tale of a blended family all dealing with a great loss all in their own way, and a special little girl who sees things differently. Beautiful.
(School, Popularity, Blended Family, Family, Grief, Love)
Author – LM Montgomery
Adapted by – Mariah Marsden
Illustrator – Brenna Thummler
Age – 8+
When brother and sister Matthew and Marilla decide to take in an orphan boy to help on their farm, little did they realise their world would be tipped upside down by a fiery, red-headed, freckle-faced, highly imaginative 11 year old girl.
At first they were disappointed to find Anne, but very quickly her constant chatter and the way she wears her heart on her sleeve, wins over first Matthew then his no-nonsense sister. Anne then sets out to find her first ever bosom friend in neighbour Diana Barry.
Anne’s forthright ways and vivid imagination transforms lives around her, and this graphic novel adaptation takes Anne right through until adulthood.
I haven’t read or watched Anne of Green Gables for many years, and was looking forward to diving into this modern version of this classic. It was as wonderful as I hoped.
(Classic, Graphic Novel, Friendship, Family, Orphan, Imagination, Adventures)
Author – Caryl Hart
Illustrator – Sarah Warburton
Age – 6+
Nell and her best friend Freddie are The Invincibles – not scared of anything, and keen to try everything.
When Nell’s big brother Lucas plans to camp out in the back lawn with a campfire and marshmallows, Nell uses her Pester Power to convince her dad that they should be allowed to join them. Bramble Woods is right behind their house and they’ve seen an article about a strange black hairy creature spotted by a local in the woods.
After ghost stories by the fire, The Beast is clear in their imaginations – but is it real? They are soon to find out!
A fun story about siblings, getting your parents to say yes, and vivid imaginations!
(Blended family, Friends, Scary, Monster, Camping)
Author – Katherine Paterson
Age – 10+
Galadriel (Gilly for short), is a foster child who has sabotaged herself from one foster home to the next, especially since one particular foster family left her hurting. When she’s placed in Maime Trotter’s care, Gilly chooses to hate this new ‘mother’ just as much as the others in her past. There is a small shy boy also in Trotter’s care, (William Ernest) who Gilly enjoys frightening.
As usual she has no friends at her new school, but has kudos for fighting six boys at once on her first day. One girl seeks her out, keen to be friends. But Gilly keeps this girl at arm’s length, along with Trotter, her teacher Mrs Harris, and anyone else who offers her understanding or help. All Gilly wants is her real mother to come and get her. She left Gilly at three years old, and Gilly has wanted nothing more than that reunion ever since.
But this time, Gilly’s usual sabotage tricks at home and school don’t seem to be working. Trotter and Mrs Harris seem oblivious to them, so Gilly steps things up to achieve her usual success at bending people to her will. The results are heart breaking.
This is an American Classic first published in 1979. It has popped up on many must-read lists for the past 16 years, as I learned the craft of writing. The only thing I wish is that I read it earlier. It was refreshing to read something without any technology in it, being able to concentrate on the main character and her journey. It’s still relevant today as Gilly could be any of our students or children dealing with the tough stuff in life.
(Foster kid, School, Blended Family, Family, Abandoned, Growing Up)
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 – Will Hill
Age – 13+
Moonbeam survived. She is full of grief and guilt that many of her brothers and sisters didn’t. Even Father John didn’t make it out, and he was their whole world for so long. But was he telling the truth about the outside?
The Holy Church of the Lord’s Legion has been Moonbeam’s home her entire life. She is promised to Father John as one of his future wives, which she once thought was a great honour.
But she’s not so sure anymore. Things are changing in the compound. Harsher rules and penalties are being dealt until Moonbeam can’t stand back with her head bowed any longer.
But the result is nothing like she could ever imagine.
From the talented Will Hill (Author of the Department 19 Series), After the Fire is completely different but just as intriguing. Moonbeam’s story is told in two different times. Before the fire that claimed many of her friend’s lives, and after as she is interviewed by the FBI and a psychiatrist. Loved it!
(Cult, Religion, Belief, Family, Blended family, Truth, Lies, Guilt)