Author – Rowena House
Age – 9+
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)
Author – Geraldine McCaughrean
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)
Author – Katherine Paterson
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 Girard
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)
Author – Maria Gill
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!
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)