Author – Ele Fountain
Age – 10 +
Shif and his best friend Bini are smart. Smart enough to be put up a class in school. Bini wants to be a doctor and Shif an engineer. They enjoy maths and chess and trying to outdo each other in everything. Life is good.
But life around them is changing. Bini suddenly stops coming to school. Government soldiers are appearing more often in their town, looking for children avoiding compulsory military service. Shif’s mum tells him the truth about his father, who he always thought was dead. The unthinkable happens and Shif and Bini are arrested.
The friends soon see another side of life in their country. One of soldiers, cells, mistreatment and force. Will they ever achieve their mother’s dreams of escaping their corrupt country for England?
The cover does not do this book justice. Boy 87 is set in an un-named Middle Eastern Country, where many people are doing what they can just to survive, and/or planning their escape. They can’t trust anyone, always watching out for soldiers, slave traders or those who wish to trick them out of their hard-earned savings to enable fleeing from their homeland. A great read to kick off class discussion about the courageousness of refugees in our world.
(Refugee, Middle East, Courage, Conscription, Military Service, Family, Friendship)
Author – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Age – 10+
Grace and her little sister Bee became orphans 5 years ago, losing their mother to an illness and their father two days later. Their sun-loving, travelling Uncle Freddy returned immediately to become their guardian. Soon after their grandfather moved in too.
Five years on and they’ve done ok. Uncle Freddy forgets to pay the bills sometimes and housework isn’t his top priority, but the girls feel loved and cared for. If only they could talk about the not-to-be-mentioned subject. The loss of their parents and in turn, their grief.
Now Grace is older, she’s become embarrassed by her little sister’s quirkyness and insistence on imaginary things being real. According to Bee, their parents are still around, their dog talks to her, and there is a magical hotel at the top of tall cliffs nearby.
When Grace wants to be part of the ‘top group’ at school, she fears Bee will spoil it for her, and she does everything she can to prevent that – with terrible consequences.
Another wonderful story by this author. This is a tale of a blended family all dealing with a great loss all in their own way, and a special little girl who sees things differently. Beautiful.
(School, Popularity, Blended Family, Family, Grief, Love)
Author – Mary-anne Scott
Age – 10+
Wolf (Wolfgang – named after Amadeus by his musician mum) hasn’t been very focused lately. His marks at school have declined and he’s dropped out of his sports and activities. Wolf’s worried about his brother Davey. Davey has been diagnosed with the rare Addison’s disease, requiring injections, hospital visits and rest.
When Wolf gets the chance to go hunting with an experienced uncle, his parents are dubious, but with Davey’s help he soon earns the right (and fitness) to go.
Excited, Wolf can’t wait to get out there among the action of a pig-hunt. He’s not disappointed, but by the end of his adventure he’s been scared, exhausted, embarrassed, angry, thrilled, and just plain terrified. It wasn’t what he expected and just about everything that can go wrong – does.
I loved the character of Wolf. He was very believable as he tried to shake the ‘townie’ label, impress a girl and his uncle, all with the thought of Davey stuck at home and unable to experience what he was doing. This story had no ‘boring bits’ as Wolf came across one challenge after another. Great kiwi lingo and reluctant reader heaven.
(Hunting, Siblings, Brothers, Courage, Pig, Boar, Tramping, Family)
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 – Melissa Albert
Age – 13+
Alice and her mum have always been on the move. Bad luck seems to plague them wherever they try to settle, and it’s only now that Alice is 17 that she realises there is something eerie about their particular bad luck.
Alice’s grandmother was famous for a book she wrote of very dark fairytales. This book is now impossible to find so she never got to read it. She’d hoped her entire childhood that she would meet her grandmother but it never happened. Her mother was adamant about never returning to The Hazel Wood where her mother lived.
Alice’s mum marries and they seem finally settled – until her mum vanishes. Was she kidnapped? Did she run away from an unhappy marriage? The strange things that have happened through her life manifest into even stranger creatures and events and the only person she can turn to is a boy from her school. Finch is ridiculously wealthy and also a huge fan of her grandmother’s tales.
After avoiding fans for years, Alice has no option but to ask for Finch’s help. He knows the tales inside out and she finds she is connected to one in particular. Despite a warning to the contrary, Alice knows she has to find and then search the elusive Hazel Wood if she is ever to see her mother again.
The writing is superb, the intrigue all encompassing, and the place Alice finds herself in – VERY Alice in Wonderland – but even weirder!
Author – Victoire Dauxerre
Age – 14+
When approached by a stranger in the street, 17 yr old Victoire couldn’t believe her ears. He told her she was beautiful and he worked with Elite, a fashion agency that could make her into a supermodel. After giving his business card and urging her to call him, Victoire and her mum burst out laughing. Was that for real?
Victoire was in the middle of exams and stressing whether she will pass, when she decides to call this stranger. After a meeting with a photographer, she was asked if she’d like to meet important people at Elite. “Yes”. And her short but intense time in the fashion world begins.
Size Zero tells the story of a young family-orientated girl showered with attention, glamourous clothes, shoes and makeup. But then there’s the waiting around at photo shoots, the hair products and makeup that burns, the arrogant photographers, hair stylists and designers who bark instructions. And worst of all, the constant pressure to be thinner than your competition.
This book shines a light on the behind the scenes cut throat fashion industry. Models are often seen as clothes racks and nothing more and are as disposable as plastic cutlery. The ‘new look’ can change in an instant, the fashion agencies screaming for new, fresh girls constantly, with no regard for their welfare. Illuminating.
(Biography, Fashion, Anorexia, Weight loss, Dieting, Depression, Photographer, Designer, Clothing)
Author – Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator – Chris Van Dusen
Age – 7+
Eugenia Lincoln is a no nonsense kind of lady, unlike her sister Baby Lincoln who loves fun and joy and music. When they receive a large unexpected package one day, all the neighbours come to see what it might be.
Eugenia is unhappy. She didn’t order it, doesn’t want it and will just about do anything to get rid of it! On her way to do just that, something unexpected happens.
Another tale from the multi-award winning Kate DiCamillo which will make a fantastic Read Aloud for Year 3-4’s (7-8 yr olds). Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Tale of Despereaux and the popular Mercy Watson series. This story involves characters from that series.
(Neighbours, Mystery, Music, Series, Humour)