The Raven Boys

Author – Maggie Stiefvater

Age – 12+

Blue lives in a house full of psychics, her mother being one of them. Blue doesn’t share her mother’s gifts but she has learnt early that she enhances other’s gifts, just by being in the room.

When she receives a warning that she will kill her true love with a kiss, she is intrigued but saddened at the same time. How can this be, and how is it fair? She’s never had a boyfriend, preferring to keep to herself and her family – especially avoiding the rich, loud, confident boys who attend the local private school. They are known as Raven Boys.

Despite the warning and her dislike of the rich kids, she is soon caught up with a group of them after getting to know a boy called Adam – a local trailer-park resident who works three jobs just to attend the school.

Adam’s friends – Roman (seeming angry and devastated at the same time), Noah (quiet and trusting) and his best friend Gansey (rich, handsome, driven), soon become her friends. Gansey is the leader, and he leads them on a quest to find a buried Welsh King’s bones, thought to be buried on an invisible, spiritual ley line. But someone else is looking too. Someone else is determined to receive the power the King will release when found.

(Told in third person but multiple viewpoints, the reader gets to know the characters well. The search for the elusive ley-line brings these unlikely characters together while weaving being the supernatural and realism. 1st in a series) 

(Magic, Spiritual, Secrets, Ley line, Quest, Determination, Abuse, Bully, Family, Friendship)

Fire Watcher (1) Brimstone

Author – Kelly Gardiner

Age – 8+

Christopher Larkin is in a London bomb shelter in the middle of the Blitz, while his mum is outside serving as a fire watcher for the city. Looking for a spot on his own, Christopher ventures down a tunnel he hasn’t been before. He finds a thick wooden door and pushes it open…

Earlier that week while searching with his friend for war memorabilia, Christopher found a ring engraved with a picture of a phoenix. He feels it warm and cool as he wears it, and his teacher said it may even be Roman.

…the ring glows as he pushes open the tunnel door. He finds London, but not as he knows it. There is an orange glow in the sky in the distance and a small girl in rags sitting nearby. Christopher is shocked when he asks the date. 1666. He knows that date from his history lessons – the year of The Great Fire of London.

Keen to get home, but worried for his new friend, he has to decide to escape or explain what is about to happen to her city.

He is quickly caught up in the chaos of thousands of people trying to flee, a religious zealot who believes he summoned the fires, a family who believe he’s a ghost of their son, and the one man who actually believes who he really is.

(Series, Action, Historical, History, Friendship, Family, Time-travel, Time travel, Secret, St Pauls, Religion, Bible passages)

The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty (1)

Author – Rhys Darby

Age – 7+

Buttons McGinty’s parents have gone missing! His nana is too old to look after him, so after saying goodbye he is shipped off to a boarding school (called Riefglum) on a remote island. All too soon, Buttons notices weird goings on in the ship and then again at Riefglum.

When he tries to investigate he says he’s been caught on CCTV. But there isn’t any CCTV. Weird. Is there a spy among them? What are the giant cages he saw, for and why does the lunch lady keep giving him secret signs?

With the help of his new friends Silky, Traktor, Lilly Beth, Ahu and Dave, Buttons is determined to solve what’s behind the mysterious goings-on at Riefglum. And maybe, just maybe, find some clues to his parent’s disappearance.

The first in a new series by kiwi comedian Rhys Darby, this story is written in notebook form, sprinkled generously with funny diagrams, maps, lists and drawings. Buttons McGinty will be perfect for those readers ready to step up from Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid, Shouty Kid or Big Nate, but not quite ready for full text chapter books. It’s a quirky, funny read and leads brilliantly to the next part in Button’s quest to find his parents.

(Kiwi, NZ, Humour, Funny, Silly, Zany, Boarding School, Friends, Mystery)

Girltopia

Author – Hilary Rogers

Age – 11+

Clara Bloom and the girls at school think it’s a bit weird at first. Soapy the lollipop man isn’t on the crossing, when he’s always been there. The traffic is a lot thinner too. When they get to school, there’s not one boy in class or any class, and their teacher, Mr Jackman hasn’t arrived.

Thinking they all have called in sick, their favourite relief teacher arrives and they enjoy a boy free morning and recess. But it’s soon realised, there is something much more important happening. ALL the men and boys in Melbourne have been struck down by some sort of sleeping virus.

Clara’s dad left has recently left her and her mum, but she is immediately worried about him. When they can’t contact him, they believe he has gone on a fishing trip with a mate of his. But many men and boys have been moved to hospitals or emergency centres where they can be monitored. What if her dad is lying somewhere asleep and unprotected or dangerously dehydrating?

Clara and her friends come up with a plan, even if it is against the rules – both her mum’s and the police. Will her dad be okay? Will they even make it to the camping ground, and what difference could a few Instagram pictures make to the whole situation?

A great story for 9+ girls about all sorts of changes they may be experiencing. Parents arguing or even separating, liking a boy who she’s not sure likes her back, having a bestie who she relies on, breaking rules and the excitement of that, but the possible consequences showing themselves.
Clara’s road trip helps her work through these things, all with the perplexing problem of what’s happening to all the males of Melbourne.

(Courage, Virus, Divorce, Family, Friendship, Road trip, Crush)

The Playbill (Circus Quest 1)

Author – Maureen CrispImage result for the playbill maureen crisp

Illustrator – Irina Burtseva

Age – 7+

Kestrel and his best friend Skye are part of Circus Charles with their families. They have been working hard preparing for the next circus season when their ringmaster Monsieur Charles calls the entire circus together.

He has some news that may drastically change their lives, possibly even closing Circus Charles for good. They have been invited into a competition to find the best circus. But the last time they competed, the clues they needed to solve to enter, were stolen!

Will they be able to keep the clues hidden this time? Can Kes and Skye help keep Circus Charles together and work out the answers to enable them to compete in the ultimate Circus competition?

A new, fun series set in the lives of circus performers. Young readers will discover what goes on behind the scenes of all the acts. There are routines to be learnt, tricks to perfect, hard work to be done preparing the equipment and safety gear, not to mention the packing, erection and unpacking of the Big Top itself.

But there are devious people among them. Kes and Skye could be in real danger as they try to work out who is causing the circus’ troubles. Intriguing and exciting, drawing the reader from chapter to chapter; this will be a popular series for emerging readers.

(Series, Kiwi Author, NZ, New Zealand, Circus, Family, Friends)

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,

 

 

Sea Witch

Author – Sarah HenningSea Witch

Age – 12+

Nik, Anna and Evie are best friends. They are all different, Anna a beautiful little blonde girl and of high birth, Evie, the opposite with her dark hair and humble roots, and Nik, Prince of Havnestad.

One day while playing on the beach, there is a terrible accident and Nik and Evie lose their beloved friend Anna.

Years later, Evie remains Nik’s best friend, despite the whispers and taunts of the town who know she is beneath him.

Just before the Havnestad Annual Festival and on the year of Nik’s 16th birthday, a girl arrives, strikingly similar to Anna. Evie is taken aback at the resemblance, but the girl claims her name is Annemette. When Evie takes Annemette under her wing for the festival, Annemette reveals a secret involving Nik.

Evie, stirred by the memory of Anna in this girl, does everything she can to help, but the results cost lives, with devastating results for Evie and Annemette.

Sea Witch tells the back story of Ursula – the villain of The Little Mermaid. We learn where Ursula came from – her life above the waves before she became the tentacled creature we know from the story. Sea Witch is a love story, a tale of revenge, magic, suspicion, and loyalty. Fabulous!

(Fairytale, Fable, Ocean, Sea, Love story, Princes, Magic, Witch, Octopus, Revenge, Friendship, Secret)

The Great Big Book of Friends

Author – Mary HoffmanThe Great Big Book of Friends

Illustrator – Ros Asquith

Picture Book

There are all different types of friends. Best friends, groups of friends, imaginary friends and more. There are great things about friendships and some not so fun things too.

This book talks about friendships in their many forms – good, and not so good, and how to tackle any problems that may occur along the way. With lots of questions and jokes, this book can start conversations between a parent, teacher or relative and their young person.

Fantastic!

(Friends, Making Friends, Falling out, Arguments, Quarrels,

Unpacking Harper Holt

Author – Di Walker40608923

Age – 11+

Harper is on the move again. Every six months or even less, Harper’s father’s work takes them to a different place. When she was younger, her parent’s catch-cry of New place-New adventure was exciting, but now Harper is at high school, moving no longer has the same appeal.

Even with her mum’s amazing skills at settling them in – finding a new favourite coffee spot, sorting out the best school, and tracking down the local dance studio, Harper is already reminding herself that they won’t be there for long, so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Harper wants her life to change, but when it is tipped upside down, she would do absolutely anything to have it back how it used to be.

Harper is an authentic character, living a different kind of life. This was instantly appealing as I wondered where the story would take me. I felt for Harper as she was now wanting to make some real friends, those she could keep and enjoy. Her frustration soon turns to grief and then anger throughout the novel, trying to keep herself strong. I love the cover too! 

Believable. Heartbreaking.

(Moving, Dance, New School, Bullying, Bully, Friendship, Grief, Loss, Change, Realism)

 

The Wild Robot (2) Escapes

Author – Peter Brown34219841

Age – 8+

The Wild Robot’s story continues in this sequel. Ros wakes up to find herself on a farm. She has been reprogrammed to do farm work, and acting like an assistant manager to the farmer, she ensures all the tasks on the farm are completed. This includes looking after the cows, machinery, buildings etc. The farmer looks after the accounts etc.

The farmer also has to look after his two children. He lost his wife in a farming accident, and that’s why he bought Ros – second hand, scratched and dented.

Ros surprises the animals around her when she begins to speak their language. She makes firm friends of the cows and the children, especially after she has told them many stories about a wild robot who adopted a gosling egg. They are fascinated by the stories, but thinking about her son Brightbeak makes Ros homesick for the island and her old friends.

Over the months on the farm, Ros’ stories spread far and wide between the birds and then animals, across the countryside and into the cities far away. Ros doesn’t realise it, but her stories will be her answer. She has been thinking about nothing but escape since she arrived on the farm. But getting to know the children and cows, she is now reluctant to leave.

When the children learn the truth about the stories, they may be just what Ros needs to decide her future. Ros must face a tornado, a wolf’s revenge, brave pigeons, recon robots searching for her and much more before her story ends.

I enjoyed this sequel even more than the first in the series – The Wild Robot. Roz grows even more ‘Human’ around the farmer and his children. She is kind and careful with the farm animal’s welfare, is torn between staying with them or leaving to find her son Brightbeak, and weighs up each situation she finds herself in, with all the options. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book. Though the text seems simple, the ideas behind not so. Fantastic!

(Technology, Robot, Animals, Geese, Journey, A difficult choice, Farm)

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Author – John Corey WhaleyHighly Illogical Behaviour

Age – 14+

Solomon is 13 when whilst at school, one of his panic attacks is so bad, he sought the only thing he can think of to calm him – water. He strips down to his boxers and sat in the school fountain.

Now 3 years later, he hasn’t been to school (or anywhere outside) since, preferring the company of his parents and funny and wise real estate agent grandma, who comes for dinner often.

Then there is Lisa. She is a highly organised, hard working, student who has an ultimate goal – to attend a prestigious university psychology programme. To do this she must get the scholarship they offer to one student. She has to write an essay about her personal thoughts/journey on someone with mental illness. She was at school the day ‘The Fountain Kid’ was pulled out. By chance she finds him and knows he is her ticket to the scholarship.

At first, with only the scholarship in mind; she tells him by letter she wants to be his friend. But Sol is so funny and down-to-earth that’s exactly what happens – they become good friends. Lisa introduces her boyfriend Clark to Sol and the three of them see each other almost every day – inside Sol’s house.

Clark and Sol share an addiction to fantasy stories, particularly Star Trek. Their friendship grows even stronger and Clark threatens to tell Lisa’s secret. Will he tell? Does he even love her any more? Lisa is torn. But Sol is stronger than he was before Lisa and Clark, and when it counts he may just surprise them.

(Agoraphobia, Friendship, Home-school, University acceptance, Secret, Star Trek, Family)

We Forgot Brock

Author/Illustrator – Carter GoodrichWe Forgot Brock!

Picture Book

Phillip and Brock do everything together. Phillip’s parents say that Brock is his imaginary friend – ‘…whatever that means,’ thinks Phillip.

One day at the fair, they leave Brock behind by accident. Phillip is distraught and looks everywhere for him.

Brock has made friends with a little girl and her imaginary friend. When Phillip finally finds Brock, he makes friends with them too.

Fun read with colourful watercolour illustrations for Phillip’s world and pencil sketching for Brock.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Author – Philip C SteadA Sick Day for Amos McGee

Illustrator – Erin E Stead

Picture Book

Amos McGee is a caring zookeeper who catches a bus every day at 6am to go and care for the zoo animals. But one morning he feels unwell, and stays home. The animals miss him and decide to return his kindness.

Soft, mutely coloured illustrations in a story about kindness and friendship.

 

Kevin

Author/Illustrator – Rob BiddulphKevin (PB)

Picture Book

Sid Gibbons is in trouble. He blames an imaginary monster for all the havoc he has caused. When he is sent to his room, that very monster appears from the hatch in his ceiling.

Sid climbs to Kevin’s brightly coloured land of purple trees and jelly leaves. He sees other strange creatures and is invited to Kevin’s to play.

Sid sees an opportunity to be as naughty as he’s ever been, with no-one to answer to. But when Kevin gets the blame for Sid’s behaviour, Sid finally realises the result of his actions.

(Friendship, Kindness, Responsibility)

 

Cinderfella

Author – Malachy DoyleCinderfella

Illustrator – Matt Hunt

Picture Book

Once there were three brothers. Gus and Gareth and their little brother Cinderfella. They called him this because they bossed him around a lot, making him do everything around the house for them – even clip their toenails!

They are invited to Kayleigh’s dance party and tease Cinderfella about it. But he finds an invitation, dresses up in a cool disguise and goes too. He is the best dancer at the party and Kayleigh enjoys dancing with him.

But he has to be home before his brother’s bedtime, before they see him missing!

A clever, contemporary twist on Cinderella.

The Warden’s Daughter

Author – Jerry SpinelliThe Warden's Daughter

Age – 10+

Cammie O’Reilly doesn’t have a mother. She lives with her father who is the warden of the prison in a town called Two Mills. Throughout her 12 years, there have been trustees (inmates on light sentences), who dust, cook, clean and look out for Cammie.

Cammie’s best friend is Reggie Weinstein – a bubbly, popular, pretty girl who is dabbling in make-up and nice clothes, and dreaming about fame on the stage. She is the opposite of Cammie who is a staunch tom-boy, riding her bike, playing base-ball and dreaming of playing in the big leagues.

The loss of her mother when she was just a baby has moulded who Cammie is. She is surly, challenging and acts tough a lot of the time, her nickname Cannonball. Now she is nearly a teen, Cammie feels the void where her mother should be more intensely every day. She hatches a plan to make her latest trustee, Eloda, treat her like a mother would. But Eloda doesn’t fall for it.

Events with her friends over the summer holidays and a sudden loss of someone else close to her, pushes Cammie even further until she is ready to snap. The solution to her growing anger and pain comes not a moment too soon.

It’s nearly four years later, when she learns that she was being watched closely by not only her father, as she tried to sabotage her friendships, family and herself as her anger and grief boil over. The one person she thought was ignoring her had a plan of her own.

A story about a soon-to-be teen finding her place in the world, grieving a mother she doesn’t remember and learning about the people around her who love her. Cammie isn’t a likeable character at first, but I got to know her, the prison, her best friend and the town of Two Mills like they were my own. Jerry Spinelli has done it again. Loved it!

(Prison, Grief, Growing Up, Friendship, Loss, 1950’s, Pre-teen, Acting up, Bandstand)

The Snow Lion

Author – Jim Helmore34324832

Illustrator – Richard Jones

Picture Book

In Caro’s new house, everything is white. Ceilings, walls and even the doors. But something is hiding in all that white. A new friend called The Snow Lion. He helps her settle in and encourages her to play with other children she sees outside. A gentle story about fitting in and meeting new people.

(Fitting in, Friendship, Brave, New places, New people)