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 – Lucy Adlington
Age – 12+
Ella is a designer. She loves clothes and fashion, after being taught everything she knows by her no-nonsense but loving grandmother. She is hurrying to the nearby Upper Tailoring Studio who are looking for a new seamstress.
But this is no normal sewing shop. There is no pay, no breaks, and an armed guard by the door who can shoot you at any disturbance. This is Birchwood – better known as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Ella makes a friend at the Studio in funny, book-loving Rose whose mother is a Countess. Together the girls bond over their sewing skills as they work for the camp commandant’s wife and female guards. They learn to barter, steal, and fight to keep themselves alive while Rose tells stories and they both dream of opening a dress shop together – the hope helping to keep them going.
A hidden red ribbon, although causing a vicious beating, helps keep that dream alive, even when they’re separated.
When a human has hope, it can keep them alive, filling their thoughts with wonderful things as they are starved, beaten, humiliated, terrified and shocked to their core. The Upper Tailoring Studio was real at Auschwitz and this story shares another side of this terrible time in history.
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 – Fleur Beale
Age – 10+
Lyla had already been through a large earthquake in Christchurch, but nothing prepared her for another one – with much more damage to the city, private homes, schools, landmarks and devastatingly – 185 lives are lost.
Lyla and her friends are outside in the city when this earthquake hits in the middle of the day. The air is thick with dust, people are running, crying, and injured. Lyla helps an elderly gentleman with a deep gash on his head and is worried where her parents might be. She makes her way home along streets torn up and flooded by the all too familiar liquifaction.
As Lyla and her neighbours gather together in their fears and worries for other family members, they learn more about their ravaged beloved city. A boy from school who has always been a thorn in her side is suddenly on her couch, her lounge is full and she is trying to hold everything together at home and within herself. But as life changes around her, she struggles with her inner turmoil more and more. Will she ever be able to relax and feel normal again?
This story expresses the fear and horror of the Christchurch earthquakes through the life of a 14 year old girl. It gave me a clearer understanding of not only the devastation of the city itself, but also the terrible toll the continuing earthquakes (some as nearly as big as the first two) takes on it’s citizens.
(Earthquake, Fear, Empathy, NZ, New Zealand, Christchurch, Aftershocks, Friendship, PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Author – Amie Kaufman
Age – 8+
Twins Anders and Rayna live in a world of dragons and wolves – ice wolves to be exact. These wolves that can morph from human to wolf in a matter of seconds protect their city of Vallen from the dangerous dragons who also morph from human.
With Rayna’s savvy street smarts the twins live on the streets, pick pocketing and stealing to survive. But when something goes wrong they are caught up in a sacred ritual in front of hundreds of people. They find themselves on opposite sides of the age-old conflict, and Anders is alone for the first time in his life.
How will he find Rayna, let alone get her back? Anders has to learn to stand on his own two feet among people he’s not sure are friend or enemy.
This is the first in a new fantasy series by acclaimed author Amie Kaufman. It is chocka full of intrigue, action and wonderful world building.
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 – AnH Do
Illustrator – Jeremy Ley
Age – 7+
Nelson Kane lives in a junkyard with his mum, weird inventor grandma and cousin Kenny. When he wakes on his 10th birthday, he has no idea his whole world is about to change.
Nelson is a klutz, petrified of spiders and has often been in tricky situations with Grandma’s gadgets. But today is different. Mum and Grandma have something to tell him. He is a ninja, just like his father before him. Nelson is in shock, but has to step up to his new skills as his town is attacked by mutant spiders!
Any fans of The Bad Guys, Pirate Blunderbeard and Pocket Pirates Series will love this fun format full of B & W Illustrations.
(Series, Family, Humour, Funny, Action)