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)
Author – Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator – Michael Foreman
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)
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 – Jay Jay Burridge
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)