The Mapmaker’s Race

Author – Eirlys HunterThe-Mapmakers-Race_cover

Age – 8+

Sal and her twin siblings Joe and Francie, and little brother Humphrey are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives. They have been on map making adventures before with their Ma and Pa, but this time they are on their own.

Pa is missing and Ma has been accidentally left behind. With huge prizes up for grabs they decide to go ahead with the plan of entering a Mapmaker’s Race across valleys, mountains, ridges, and raging rivers – without their parents. A new railroad is to be built and the best route will win.

The stakes are high for their family, as their money has rapidly been running out. With a new friend along for the journey they are up against adult teams, some of which who will do anything to win.

First they must learn to do all the things Ma used to do. If they are going to reach their destination in the required 28 days, or even just survive, they must remember all that they have been taught and learn to work together as a team.

With their individual skills – Sal is a mathematician, Joe is great at plotting their way, and Francie has a other-worldly gift of seeing the landscape from high above them, and map-drawing prowess. Nearly-5-year-old Humphrey adds humour to their days.

Bears, wolves, mechanical horses, cowboys and constant challenges are thrown at the young group with a nail-biting finish.

The Mapmaker’s Race is a traditional adventure story with lots of action, family squabbles and sharing of stories. B & W illustrations are sprinkled throughout and Francie’s maps show their progress to the reader along their travels. Set in the time of early steam trains and traction engines but with a touch of magic and wonder.

(Maps, Adventure, Family, Race, Wilderness, Railway, Animals, Courage, Journey)

 

 

 

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Soldier Dogs (1) Air Raid Search and Rescue

Author – Marcus Sutter36137568

Illustrator – Pat Kinsella

Age – 8+

The bombs have begun to fall and Matt and Rachel have been separated from Matt’s parents. It seems everywhere they run, the fires are burning and the rubble exploding. The air raid sirens are shrieking and the drone of more German bombers fill their ears. Where will they be safe?

Meanwhile, Chief; a German Shepherd who belongs to Matt’s big brother has also been separated from them. His smell guides him through the rubble where there are people looking for others in the devastation. One after another he helps to find humans in the rubble. But where are the young human pups? They need him to find their way home!

While Chief is busy rescuing people, Matt and Rachel are involved in a rescue. But is it worth it?

This is the first book in a new series about the brave dogs who helped save hundreds of people in human wars. Told in both Matt and Chief’s viewpoint, the action never stops! Will Matt forgive his parents for what they did? Will he finally accept Rachel, the refugee living with them? Will they survive the endless bombing of Canterbury England (June 1st 1942).

The end pages of the book show real dogs who were awarded bravery medals for their work in wartime, Q & A pages, an interesting, easy-to-read timeline of World War II and stats about the Canterbury Blitz where this story is set.

(War, Canterbury Blitz, German Bombers, Courage, Refugee, Family, Shelter, Bombs, Bravery, Dogs, Animals, Search and Find)

 

The Mouth of the Wolf

Author – Michael Morpurgo40031098

Illustrator – Barroux

Age – 10+

Francis has just turned 90. A party is thrown for him by his whole French village. He enjoys it, goes home, is helped into bed and lies there remembering his life and all the people who couldn’t be at his party.

His brother Pieter who died in the war at 21.

His father who he adored.

His wife Nan (short for Nancy) who made him laugh before the war and put their family back together after it. He remembers others too.

His friends in the French Resistance, and all the missions and danger they faced. Especially Christine who snatched him and his friends from the mouth of the wolf.

Brother, Father, Teacher, Spy. Francis Cammaerts was also a pacifist and Michael Morpurgo’s uncle. This is a sad, wonderful, courageous story about a humble man who was a hero dozens of times over. One of my favourite’s of Michael Morpurgo’s yet!

(War, French Resistance, True story, Historical, Friendship, Bravery, Courage, Family)

 

Finding

Author – David HillFinding

Age – 10+

Two families – one maori, one Scottish (and new to New Zealand), come together in this novel. They learn about one another, from hearing the strange bagpipes for the first time, to learning about land and how sacred it is.

Lifelong bonds develop and family stories between the two cultures are soon inextricably woven together down through the generations with tales of war, hardship, friendship and belonging. The land they live on and the river that runs through it, is as much a part of them and their shared history, as family members and neighbours.

This novel is separated into sections across these generations, with different members from the 1800’s through to the present, sharing a piece of their life as it is now – all aware of how their family history relates to them as a person.

Finding would make a fantastic reading resource for NZ history or Social Sciences, as the family’s stories show how New Zealand has changed across the generations from early settlers to now. Farming, our people, and our attitudes to many issues that have faced us as kiwi’s over the years are portrayed in an interesting narrative that will promote discussion in the classroom and inform interested readers.

(NZ History, Settlers, Scottish, Generations, War, New Zealand, Kiwi, Friendship, Greenstone)

Where the World Ends

Author – Geraldine McCaughrean33148519

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)

 

 

Break Your Chains (The Freedom Finders – 1)

Author – Emily Conolan39890850

Age – 9+

It is 1825. You are a young Irish girl who has lost her Ma to small pox and your father to English gaol. He was an Irish rebel and you fear you will never see him again. But now living on the harsh streets of London, you face life and death decisions every day.

You are given a secret treasure for helping a wealthy lady, but have to try and avoid gaol yourself. You make a dear friend but have to choose whether to leave her behind or escape.

But then there is months of travel on a thunderous ocean. Will you survive or die in the bowels of a ship with hundreds of others?

This is a Choose Your Own Destiny book like none other I’ve read. The 1st book of four in a new series, you live the life of a poor Irish girl in the early 19th Century, making decisions that will impact not only your life but others you meet on your journey. It reads just like a novel, but with choices to make that lead you further.

If you wish you can read more about the time in the Fact Files at the end of the book. eg. Smallpox, Prisons, Pickpockets, Child Labour and Tasmanian Aboriginals, before you make your decision. I perished a few times before I reached the end. Look out for other titles in this series. Loved it!

(Historical, 19th Century, Victorian, London, Pickpocket, Irish Rebel, Van Dieman’s Land, Convict, Choose Your Own Adventure, Choose your Own Destiny, Pick-a-path)

My Brigadista Year

Author – Katherine PatersonMy Brigadista Year
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.