The Wonderling

Author/Illustrator – Mira BartokThe Wonderling (HB)

Age – 10+

Arthur lives a troubled life in an Orphanage called ‘The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures.’ These creatures are groundlings (mixed-up animals) like Arthur (a foxling who walks on two legs and with only one ear).

Arthur tries to avoid the bullies and Miss Carbunkle who believes groundlings only exist to serve and suffer. But there is a light in Arthur’s life – a new friend called Trinket, who shares her songs and stories with Arthur, igniting hope in his heart for something different outside the Home’s damp, grey walls.

They are soon on an adventure, as Arthur seeks his destiny with only an address stolen from Miss Carbunkle’s filing cabinet. Along the way, he meets many other groundlings of every mix, shape and size and is taken in when he reaches the city, by a rat called Quintus. Quintus is very much like Fagan in Oliver Twist, teaching, feeding, and sheltering Arthur in return for stealing.

But this is a very different world from Oliver Twist, with the High Hats (Humans) just as tough as Miss Carbunkle – who has her own evil plans in mind. Can Arthur and Trinket stop her and her evil manticore from ruining the world forever?

The Wonderling’s world is a little steampunk, a little fantasy, a little Cruella Deville and as Arthur finally discovers within himself, a lot wonderful. Beautifully told with rich description and multiple sub-plots afoot. And as the reader will discover in the gorgeous illustrations – Arthur’s best friend Trinket is not only an amazing inventor but a Kiwi Bird!

(Steampunk, Destiny, Journey, Quest, Creatures, World building, Fantasy, Orphan, Kiwi, Friendship, Courage, Bravery, Crime)

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Tui Street Tales

Author – Anne KayesImage result for tui street tales image

Age – 8+

Jack, Tim, Ella, Harry, Gemma, Louie, Lucy and Terri live on Tui Street. Here are 7 separate tales of their daily lives of school, family and friends, but all with a touch of fantasy, fairytale, or maori legend.

They are all great characters, sometimes dealing with things on their own, pushing their  boundaries a little, helping each other, and learning about others in the street without any sign of preachy morals or corny outcomes.

Winner of the NZ Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a debut author, Tui Street Tales would make a great Read a Loud for class or home reading.

(Award winner, New Zealand, NZ, Fairy tale, Fantasy, Maori Legend, Friends, Neighbourhood)

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

Author – Megan Shepherd31108732

Illustrator – Levi Pinfold

Age – 9+

Emmaline lives in a grand mansion that has been converted to a hospital for sick children. She too is one of the sick, but is still able to explore and go places the other children don’t dare. She is a bit of a loner, as it seems she alone sees the magnificent winged horses in the many mirrors of the hospital. Putting it down to imagination, the nuns that look after them all shrug it off. But the other children aren’t so kind.

One day while exploring places she shouldn’t go, Emmaline finds a real winged horse in the garden behind a wall. It is injured and shy and she is fascinated. But this winged horse is there for a reason. She is hiding from the Dark Horse who is looking for her – a horse with evil intent.

When Emmaline begins finding letters from the Horse Lord about the winged horse (named Foxfire), she learns she is Foxfire’s only hope. She needs to find all the colours of the rainbow to scare the Dark Horse off before he is back at the next full moon.

Whether it be Emmaline’s imagination or something that really happens to her is up to the reader. Emmaline is a feisty, courageous little girl with an inquisitive mind and a sad past. This story is beautifully told and exquisitely illustrated by the exceptional talented Levi Pinfold. Gorgeous!

(WWII, Horses, Animals, Mystery, Quest, Bully, Illness, Hospital)

Out of Heart

Author – Irfan Master33786395

Age – 12+

Adam’s family is struggling. They have just lost his grandfather and learned that he donated his heart – given to someone else who needed it after he died.

Adam’s mum hasn’t cried yet, and he’s worried about that.

Adam’s little sister Farah still doesn’t speak, preferring to sign instead.

Adam blames himself.

This story could be bleak. It could be dark and depressing and leave you wishing you never picked it up. It is the opposite.

Yes, life is tough. Mum has to work two jobs. They are grieving. Adam likes to be alone even more now, spending all his time drawing in his sketch pad or writing down words to make some sense of the world. His exceptional talent at drawing is also shown in tagging, but unlike other taggers he knows, he is working alone on a bigger project. One that takes months of being out in the cold, bit by bit, revealing something important.

And then there’s William. He’s different. He’s tall and white and just appears one day on their door-step. He has something to tell them. Who is this stranger?

Out of Heart is all about – HEART. All the different types of heart. Kind-hearted. Hard-hearted. Broken-hearted. Cold-hearted. And luckily for Adam’s sake, a Sweet-heart. And with interesting quotes from books, and poems, or facts about the heart sprinkled through the book – it was nothing but heart-warming. LOVED IT!

(Abuse, Grief, Family, Tagging, Friendship, Relationships, Blended Family, Courage, Conflict)

Fish Boy

Author – Chloe Daykin32490590

Age – 10+

Billy has got a lot on his mind – things he’d rather not think about. To escape he likes to swim in the sea not far from his home. Another escape has been David Attenborough videos as Billy is an avid nature lover, fascinated in the quirkyness of animals.

One day while swimming, a mackerel swims up to his face and speaks to him. “Fish Boy,” it says. Billy is shocked and surprised and mystified and when he finally blurts it out to his new friend at school (Patrick), he thinks Patrick will begin treating him like the rest of his classmates – because he’s weird.

But Patrick isn’t like the others. Patrick believes him and encourages him to swim again to see what happens. As his life seems to spiral downwards (school bullying and a sick mum), Billy wants to escape to the sea more and more. But Patrick is looking out for him – even putting his own life at risk.

This isn’t just another ‘sick parent’ story. It’s so much more than that with a touch of magic and wonder. The voice of Billy is brilliant and believable and his relationship with his father heartwarming.

(Friendship, Illness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Family, Worry, Bullying, School, Differences)

Orbiting Jupiter

Author – Gary D Schmidt30335557

Age – 12+

This isn’t a long read and would be great for those teens who are a little reluctant at the thought of reading one of the doorstops they regularly see on library or bookshop shelves for teens. But just because it’s only 192 pages, doesn’t mean it won’t pack a punch – because it sure does.

I felt so much for Joseph, who at only 14 had experienced prison for attempted murder of a teacher, found an all consuming wonderful first love then lost it again, and learned that he was a father but was forbidden to ever have any contact with his baby daughter (called Jupiter.)

Now in foster care with 12 yr old Jack and his parents, Joseph is quiet, deliberately and instantly misunderstood by some of his teachers and the school bus driver, and the target of some school bullies.

But Jack quickly finds that Joseph is none of the things he is labelled with and he stands by him, just like he would an older brother. Jack’s parents treat Joseph as if he is their son, and Joseph responds to that – but his past soon catches up with him, with terrible results. Joseph has to make a choice. A sad but beautiful story of friendship, family and belief in someone you love.

(Family, Foster Care, Bullying, Prejudice, School, Young father, Love, Trust)

A Different Dog

Author – Paul Jennings34628938

Illustrator – Geoff Kelly

Age – 9+

A boy gets up one morning from the floor of his room. His bed was burnt for firewood the night before, just to keep him and his mum warm. The boy has a plan to improve their lives, but first he has to climb a hill on this frosty morning. But on the way up he sees an accident and he is the only one who is there to help.

He tries to sound the alarm but his voice doesn’t work. It hasn’t for some time, and he’s teased about it at school. But he can do something. A dog has been thrown from the vehicle and the boy is determined to save it. But this dog is special and the way out is treacherous. Can he get them to safety and then save the dog from its past?

By the renowned author Paul Jennings, A Different Dog has been written with reluctant readers in mind, but still gives any reader a story about bullying, poverty, courage and survival.

(Animal, Dog, Courage, Poverty, Bullying, Accident, Reluctant Reader)