Hilda and the Hidden People (1)

Author – Stephen Davis
Hilda created by Luke Pearson
Age – 7+

Hilda lives in a magical valley inhabited by trolls, deer-fox (half deer, half fox), little wooden men and giants. She has managed to live there happily with her mum for her entire life. But lately they have been receiving messages telling them they must leave their valley.

They ignore these notes to their peril and are soon attacked! Hilda manages to save them with a broom and some determination, but soon learns why her and her mum are a problem in the valley.

She meets even more magical creatures from tiny to terrifically tall in her effort to solve the problem. But in doing so, her own life is drastically changed. Will they have to leave the valley after all?

Hilda and the Hidden People has morphed from the magical, quirky series of graphic novels which share Hilda’s adventures. Hilda’s world is like nothing you’ve read before, and her adventures perfect for imaginatives 7+.

(Magic, Family, Magical Creatures, Courage, Series)

There’s a boy in the girl’s bathroom

Author – Louis SacharThere's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom

Age – 8+

An intriguing title which instantly makes you think of school, and this is where this story is set. A boy suddenly appearing in the girl’s bathroom is scandalous to 9-10 yr olds, and this pops up throughout the novel.

The key character is Bradley Chalkers. The teachers dislike him, the kids hate him. He doesn’t listen in class, is rude, surly, destructive and has been kept behind to do the year again because of it. Then a couple of things happen that change everything for Bradley.

A new kid called Jeff Fisher joins his class, and a new counselor has come to his school. Bradley balks when his teacher organises an appointment with his mum, then some visits with the new counselor, Carla.

It’s not all plain sailing by any means. Making friends, losing friends, refusing to listen, then learning new things, insisting he’s right, and the toughest, the strongest and then discovering otherwise – all things Bradley Chalkers must learn for himself. The most important lesson of all being, self esteem, believing in yourself, and being open to change.

A wonderful story. The school theme, inspirational adults and strong-minded younger characters reminded me much of a classic school title – Frindle. If you loved Frindle, you will enjoy Bradley’s journey too.

(School, Friendships, Bullying, Bullies, Confidence,



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)


Author – Alan Gratz33118312

Age – 11+

Three children. Three different times in history. They are all fleeing their countries, looking for freedom, safety and a new life.

There is Joseph, his little sister Ruthie and his parents, leaving Germany on a ship called the St Louis in 1939 before WWII. They are Jewish and Joseph’s father has already spent time in Dachau Concentration Camp, and been ordered to leave Germany with his family and never return. They have high hopes of a new life in Cuba, after applying and paying for papers to allow them to settle there.

But when they reach Cuba, there is a problem. They are not allowed to enter the country. Will they be sent back to Germany?

There is Isabel, her father, grandfather, pregnant mother and her neighbours – all dreaming of leaving Cuba in 1994. But Fidel Castro has always forbidden anyone trying to escape his country. Until now… The neighbours have secretly been building a boat. Now is their chance! They risk their lives out on the open ocean, heading for the US. They face storms, sharks, and giant ships in the shipping lanes. Will they ever get to Miami?

It is 2015, and Mahmoud’s beloved city of Aleppo in Syria has been bombed again and again, the civil war tipping their lives upside down. When they finally decide to leave, to head for Germany, he and his family have no idea what they will face along the way. Smugglers, gunman, thieves, soldiers, camps, hunger and exhaustion. Will they ever be free?

All three stories are cleverly connected at the end of the novel, by the characters themselves and what they faced on their flights for freedom. Topical. This is an important and fantastic read.

(Sea crossing, Ocean crossing, War, Historical, Syria, Cuba, Germany, Refugee, Asylum, Racism, Hate, Courage, Mental Illness)

The Survival Game

Author – Nicky SingerImage result for the survival game

Age – 13+

It is a world of spreading deserts and unbearable heat. Millions are pouring out of Equator Central, to the North – cooler and more liveable.

But there are even more rules than before. More borders and soldiers with guns. You must have your papers and if you are 15 or older, you are deemed an adult, with consequences so much worse for breaking any rules.

Mhairi Anne Bain is 14. She was born in Scotland but has been with her parents in the Sudan. Her mother is a scientist. The last time Mhairi saw her was at a checkpoint, where she told Mhairi that she must stay alive.

Mhairi is alive, making her way back to Scotland to her grandmother. Mhairi has memories hidden behind high walls in her head. Memories shut deep inside a ‘castle’.

When she comes across a small boy, she tells herself he will slow her down. She is not to think about him, or even consider taking him with her.

Her journey has been a long one. She thinks often of her father and the way he showed her how the world is beautiful. The stars above, the cool, refreshing water of a stream, and any small acts of kindness she encounters, remind her of his words.

But the world’s overpopulation rules of compulsory death at 74, bulging refugee camps, riots, and things she has learnt and done to honour her mother’s last words to her, have taken their toll. This is a game of survival and she has learnt how to play the hard way.

(Future, Survival, Hunger, Steal, Cunning, Detention, Flee, Escape, Run, Walk, Rules)

My Name is not Refugee

Author/Illustrator – Kate MilnerMy name is not Refugee COVER.indd

Picture Book

A small boy talking with his mum about having to leave his home and the journey they will have to make. A lovely story for young children to learn about refugee children and what they have to go through to find a home and safety.

(Refugee, Immigrant, Mother and son, Journey)

After the lights go out

Author – Lili Wilkinson

Age – 14+

Imagine it – suddenly, without warning or reason, there is no electricity. Anywhere. Modern cars are useless and even pacemakers fail.

The isolated Australian outback town of Jubilee begin to struggle with this after a few days, and even more so when their men don’t return from the mine where they work.

After she finds an old Holden to travel in, 17 yr-old Pru Palmer decides to go to the mine to look for her father. They have a secret. Her father Rick is a doomsday prepper and they have a bunker not far from their house packed with supplies to last years underground. Pru and her sisters have been trained to survive in almost any situation. But Pru is now in charge. She always thought her dad would be there too.

Along with a stranger in town (whose mother was facilitating a safety seminar at the mine), Pru finds disaster at the mine. They return to Jubilee to find her usually docile community beginning to attack eachother – just like her father said they would. But can she just walk away and leave them all to starve?

Her dad always said “Family first,” and Pru is torn between how she was raised and the people in town.

This story drew me in early and surprised me again and again. Pru is an authentic character, suddenly dealing with so much responsibility and guilt. She feels surrounded by anger, fear and even death and has to find solutions. But realistically, she doesn’t have to cope all on her own – until the unthinkable happens.

(Doomsday prepper, Apocalypse, Bunker, Romance, Siblings, Twins, Family, Courage, Australia, Outback, Secret)

Fahrenheit 451

Author – Ray Bradbury

Age – 16+

It’s not until firefighter Guy Montag meets his new 17 yr old neighbour, Clarisse McLellan, that he begins to think about his life. She seems strange, taking pleasure out of simple things and asking personal questions. The toughest of these being, ‘Are you happy?’

This gets Guy thinking, and he realises he hasn’t just sat and thought for a long time. When he discovers his wife has tried to commit suicide, and doesn’t even remember doing it – just waking up and asking for another full wall TV screen (they are already trying to pay off the third they purchased only 2 months ago), Guy really starts to look at his life.

He is a firefighter – no, make that a firestarter. He works shifts at a firestation, responding to alarms that tell them someone, somewhere, has books that need to be disposed of – burnt, by him and his crew. They spray kerosine, not water, from their pipes, then throw a match.

It’s not until he witnesses a woman preferring to die amongst her books that he realises what he has become. Almost a robot. Just going through the motions of life, not thinking or asking questions. Will books help him make sense of his life. Will they wake him up?

He can’t talk to his wife. She’s only interested in the TV programs and radio broadcasts she is addicted to. Who will help him in his quest?

His firestation Captain seems to understand his confusion – at first. But soon Guy’s life tips upside down, and he can’t return to how life was before, even if he wanted to…..

This classic was written in 1953 and has been classed as Dystopian, Futuristic, and a story about Censorship. But the author said simply, it was about too much TV turning people into morons. This story fascinated me in the fact that the author seems to have looked into the future (our now), and seen our TV and screen addictions, and often ‘sameness’ culture.


(Dystopian, Censorship, Friendship, Books, Book-burning, Future, Classic)

Girl Mans Up

Author – M-E Girard28217802

Age – 14+

Pen loves hanging out with her friends, gaming, wearing her brother’s clothes and just being herself.

She hates being called Penelope, people thinking she dresses and acts the way she does because she wants to be a boy, her mother wanting her to be a pink, sparkly, princess type of girl, and guys acting like douche bags.

Her best friend (since age about 9) is Coby. He’s popular, good looking, shares her love of gaming (even though she can thrash him at it), but he can be a douche bag to girls.

Coby is always talking about loyalty, so when Pen learns about a girl he has treated badly and tries to help, he calls her out on it. Pen is torn at first. She’s already angry at people who just won’t let her be herself, always trying to stick a  label on her. Bi, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. Pen just wants to be Pen – it’s that simple.

Her parents are always talking about respect, but the only person in her family Pen has respect for is her brother Johnny who has come to her rescue multiple times. She feels she can look after herself, but their bond is what keeps her sane.

Dealing with family pressures, toxic friendships and new relationships, Pen finally finds her own identity, her own tribe (without Coby), and a deeper understanding of the people who share her life – at home and high school.

I loved Pen. She was strong, brave and determined. She loves her parents but has to come to terms with the fact they may never understand who she really is. The friendships were real, the banter convincing and the relationships (both toxic and supportive) were intense. I wanted to climb into the book and slap some of the characters. You’ll have to read it and find out who!

(Diversity, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, School, Friendships, Secret, Relationships, High School, Family, Portuguese)

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 Goose Road

Author – Rowena House36357681

Age – 10+

It’s 1916. Angelique is 14 and is not sure how she should feel after hearing the worst news about her father fighting in WWI. Her mother is grief-stricken but Angelique only remembers her father’s anger. Her fears for her beloved brother Pascal overshadow her guilt over her father, and she vows to make sure their farm will be just as it was when Pascal left to fight. He must have somewhere safe and loving to return to.

But doing everything herself is almost impossible, and when Nature takes a swipe at them, and then the Army take even more, Angelique is at breaking point.  There is even worse news to come – they will lose the farm if they don’t pay her dead father’s debts.

It’s a heart-breaking choice, but Angelique decides to sell Pascal’s Toulouse Geese. But the only way to get the best price is to take them to where the money is – the officers in the army. This means a long, cold and dangerous journey closer to the front.

Along the way they meet many people just as desperate to live as they are. She must keep her wits about her, and sum up all the courage she has.

The idea for this story came from a photograph the author saw on a TV documentary about the Spanish Flu pandemic – blamed on domestic birds like geese, chickens or ducks in 1916. It spread through the army who then spread it further when they returned home. (Angelique has no idea what is making her birds unwell along their journey.) Through thorough and meticulous research by the author, this story gives yet another face to war – that of those left behind, trying to hold onto hope for their loved ones while holding everything together at home. War took their fathers, uncles, brothers and sons, then their stock, their livelihood, farms and homes. Stunning.

(War, Family, Courage, Geese, Goose, France, WWI, Soldiers, Journey)


Author – Denis Wright                   KIWI!
Age – 13+

Lucy (Lucinda) and her friend have noticed the creepy guy following them and the strange lady’s ramblings at the bus stop, but being kidnapped from the school play is the last thing Lucy expected. She wakes in a small room to be told she is the chosen one. She is to marry their leader and have his child who will be the next Jesus for the world.

She fights for her freedom, thinking about how her father and grandfather will be coping – not knowing how or where she disappeared to. She has seen glimpses of newspapers where she fills the front pages.

The weeks pass and although she doesn’t admit it to herself at first, she is relaxing within the group of people who took her. She is beginning to believe what they say. Life seems so much easier with others making the decisions. But as her wedding looms nearer she has to make a choice. Stay or escape?

 Lucy is already dealing with the way she looks, drawing attention from guys at school and men her father knows. Girls are jealous of her looks and she is a caretaker for her alcoholic dad and aging Poppa, so the calm of the cult soothes her, finally making her a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. A believable character within a NZ setting and a religious cult.

(New Zealand, Cult, Kiwi, Stockholm Syndrome, Kidnap, Family)

Where the World Ends

Author – Geraldine McCaughrean33148519

Age – 13+

Quilliam (Quill) is kissed goodbye by his mum, never knowing he will never see her again. He and 8 other boys and 3 men from his village are about to travel by boat and be dropped off on a group of tiny islands which are nothing more than rocks jutting out of the treacherous ocean around them.

These rocks are sanctuaries for gannets, puffins, storm petrels, fulmar and guillemot – birds that provide feathers for bedding and clothing, oil for medicine and fires, and meat for the approaching harsh winters. The boys and men work hard, scaling the rocks, slippery with bird droppings and seawater that relentlessly thrashes against them.

When the boat doesn’t arrive to pick them up, they aren’t worried. They carry on with their work, believing it will be out soon and they might as well make the most of the ‘harvesting’ of birdlife. But when it hasn’t arrived a week, a month, several months later, they begin to despair for their lives. The bird carcasses that they’ve collected for their family’s winter are soon dwindling and conflicts between them building. Have they been forgotten?

This story is based on a true story set on a cluster of islands and sea stacs called St Kilda. A group of men and boys were left to kill as many birds as possible to pay rents to their landlord and supply food and supplies for the coming winter in 1727. They were left there for 9 months only to be finally picked up and taken home to their village where something even worse had befallen their families. Despite the harsh setting, the author’s use of language makes this story almost beautiful.

(Historical, Courage, Friendship, Growing up, Religion, Insanity, Island, Sea Stac)



My Brigadista Year

Author – Katherine PatersonMy Brigadista Year
Age – 9+

Lora lives in Havana, Cuba, and she has just shocked her parents into tears and anger. It is 1961 and Lori wants to join Fidel Castro’s army of teachers to go and live in the rural areas to teach literacy. She will become a Brigadista.

Lora is excited to be joining 1000’s of others in the quest to make Cuba a illiteracy free nation. She is to live with a rural family and after working alongside them in their fields each day, she is to teach them at night. At first she has to overcome the men’s feeling of losing their status in their homes, but when they realise their children and wives will be able to read and write and they not, they soon join in the lessons at night.

All is going well until they learn of armed rebels in the jungles around them. Brigadistas are their target. Should she go home?

This was a simple story about the 250,000 volunteers who left their homes of comfort to help their fellow citizens to read and write. 100,000 were between the ages of 10 and 19. The rear of the book has a timeline of Cuban history which taught me much about this nation.


Author – Geoffrey Girard28486039

Age – 14+

Katie Wallace’s dad isn’t much of a dad these days. As she has grown she has watched him get high, drunk and unconscious. When official looking people arrive on her doorstep she’s not surprised.

But it’s not what she expected. Her dad has been hospitalised for random threats against the vice president and he’s telling lies about the government. She is swept quickly into foster care.

When she finally gets to see her dad he is heavily drugged in a guarded hospital room. But he fights through his haze to tell her something. Something she never expected and cannot ignore. This is where her fight to free her father begins.

This novel has received some negative feedback because of its main topic – 9/11 conspiracy theories. The people who believe these theories and/or others call themselves Truthers. I for one, much enjoyed the story and the way it was written. Although in third person I was reading other character’s point of view without knowing who they were yet. Very intriguing! The author specifically states he means no disrespect to anyone with this novel and I appreciated that. I liked the characters who drew me in and had me wondering who telling the truth. Great read.

(Twin Towers, Conspiracy, 9/11, Lies, Truth, Mental Illness, PTSD, Soldier, Government, Mystery, Murder, Family, Trust)

Anzac Animals

Author – Maria Gill39668161
Illustrator – Marco Ivancic
Age – 7+

Hundreds of thousands of animals were part of WWI and WWII. Horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, a tortoise, donkeys and pigeons all helped with the war effort, either with carrying goods and the injured, sending messages, finding the injured, boosting morale or even saving thousands of lives.

Anzac Animals is a celebration of all those animals with 20 of them showcased and displayed under sections WWI and WWII. Helpful extras to aid understanding of the information include easy-to-read fact boxes on each page, timelines for both wars with the animals as their focus, maps of Europe showing the conflict directions and separate sections on veterinary care and animal welfare, awards, and a glossary to pull everything together.

Creative Non-Fiction. Stunning full colour illustrations and captivating text, not only animal lovers will enjoy this one!

The Children of Blood and Bone

Author – Tomi Adeyemi

Age – 13+

Orisha’s lands are made up of Kosidan (nobles and non-magical people) and Maji (those with powers to heal, bring fire, move water or summon spirits.)

But the Maji with their all-telling white hair and sometimes strange eyes have had their magic taken from them by force with much bloodshed and murder.

Zelie lost her mother in ‘The Raid’ that extinguised Maji magic, leaving her with an intense hatred of King Saran and his regime. But one day she comes closer to his regime than ever before and is drawn into a quest to take three magical objects to an island. This island and these objects have the power to bring magic back to their people. With magic comes power, and a way to strike back at those that have repressed them with tyranny.

With her brother Tzain at her side, she is forced to overcome her prejudice of their enemy and she encounters many unexpected things on their journey – including love. Can she get to the island? Will her own new magic be powerful enough to stir the gods or will Saran defeat them once and for all?

An epic 1st part of a trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone is a gripping African Fantasy. Told in the viewpoints of three strong characters, the story has great pace, power and intrigue as to whether they will achieve their quest. Brutal in parts with much blood spilled, this book captured me right to the last page, which left me wondering and wanting more.

(Fantasy, Series, Africa, Quest, Magic, Siblings, Romance, Power, Kingdom)

Lucky Button

Author – Michael Morpurgo

36584192Illustrator – Michael Foreman

Age 7+

Jonah has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders at home and is bullied at school. This school used to be The Foundling Hospital – a place children were taken to save them from the 18th century streets of London.

Jonah loves music, and humming the songs his mum used to play on her piano always lifts his spirits. But one day after more bullying, he hides in the school chapel. He finds a small gold button on the chapel floor then hears beautiful music coming from the organ. He is entranced.

Out of nowhere, an ghostly old man approaches him. At first Jonah is petrified but soon realises the man means him no trouble. All he wants to do is tell Jonah about the Lucky Button he has found, where it came from, and how important it is.

Another gentle tale of family, and friendship from this popular author. Among the colour and black & white illustrations scattered through the text, the reader will meet Mozart as a boy and learn about Handel too.

(Family, School, Bullying, Music, History)

The Great Gilly Hopkins

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.

Definite must-read.

(Foster kid, School, Blended Family, Family, Abandoned, Growing Up)

Raptors of Paradise (The World of Supersaurs 1)

Author – Jay Jay Burridge34460118

Illustrator – Chris West/Jay Jay Burridge

Age – 10 +

Beatrice Kingsley can’t understand why her grandmother (nicknamed Bunty) has brought her halfway around the world to look at the Raptors of Aru. Sure they are said to be beautiful and elusive but it was such a long way to go. Along with them was Theodore, loyal to Bea and Bunty after being ‘adopted’ into the family many years before.

But there is another reason for them to visit the wild Islands of Aru, and Bunty isn’t ready to tell Bea why just yet.

But this island has more secrets than they know, and as they enter the jungle with the help of a plucky nine year old porter and his father, they encounter many dangers. This island may have the most beautiful raptors, but it also hides very dangerous ones too. Not to mention the arrogant, vicious leader of the island, Christian Hayter, who isn’t happy about strangers in ‘his’ jungle.

What they find is beyond their imagination, but worth fighting for. But first they have to survive!

This is the 1st in a series of 6 books – with two more out 2018. If you’re after Dinosaurs, Courage, and Action, this story has bucket loads. Both Bea and Bunty are brave and determined, despite all Bunty’s rules on behaving like a lady. Jam-packed with luscious B&W illustrations, this adventure is going to popular!

(Dinosaurs, Courage, Adventure, Jungle, Orphan, Grandmother)