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 – 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 – Julie Leung
Age – 8+
Two stories in one that entwine as the lives of two kingdoms are at stake.
Calib Christopher is a shy, quiet mouse – nothing like his father or grandfather who were brave mouse knights in battle, and strong rulers of their kingdom – under the floors of Camelot.
Calib wants nothing more to be a honoured knight and carry on the revered Christopher name, but courage is something he hasn’t found yet. When there is an attack on one of their leaders, their kingdom is quick to blame the Darklings – another band of animals they signed a truce with years before.
But the clues left by the assassin weren’t left by a Darkling. Calib tries to convince the knights, but no-one will listen. Can he stop a war with the wrong kind? Can he discover who the true assassin is?
Galahad is a young boy returning to Camelot without his famous father Sir Lancelot. He is scoffed at by the other pages and squires who know he has been living in a nunnery for protection. He is soon banished to the kitchens when unsuccessful at early knight training. When he discovers a mouse that seems to be trying to talk to him, he knows that something important is happening. Can they work together to save Camelot?
A fantastic story! A cross between Narnia and The Knights of the Round Table with a quest to achieve, courage to find and epic battle scenes. Loved it! 1st in a series.
(Series, Knights, Bravery, Magic, Courage, Camelot, Assassin, Revenge, War, Animals, Mice)
Author – Jason Reynolds
Illustrator – Chris Priestley
Age – 13+
When Will’s big brother Shawn is gunned down in front of him, Will remembers what Shawn has taught him.
No crying. No Snitching. Get Revenge.
Will knows he has to follow through with these rules – no matter what. But on the elevator ride down his building, people from his past step inside from each floor. They all have something to say, something to share, something to tell him about the past.
Will he go through with it?
Shocking. Heartbreaking. Stunning.
Told in verse format, Will’s story is about the terrible waste and toll on lives and families through gang warfare. Winner of the US National Book Award 2017. Just read it.
(Honor, Family, Guns, Gang, Grief, Ghost, Crime, Murder, Shooting)
Author – Ella West
Age – 12+
Annie lives in a small town called Westport (west coast, Sth Island, NZ). Westport has endless rain, struggling coal mines and small town gossip. When Annie’s neighbour’s house is surrounded by armed defenders, it is the most exciting thing that’s happened for a while.
Annie doesn’t believe her neighbour Pete did any of the things they say he did. He’s always been friendly and quiet. But he’s gone missing and the longer he’s gone, the more suspicious he looks.
A police detective from the city arrives from Christchurch for the case, and his son Jack has come with him. Jack loves horses as much as Annie, and they meet by chance on the beach in the rain. More horse rides on the deserted beach build something between them. But surely it’s just for fun?
Annie’s comfortable life is turning on its head. There’s Jack and his smile, the local coalmine upsetting whole families by laying off staff, and Pete still on the run. Will things ever be back to normal?
I felt I was right there in Westport with the rain and the worries Annie and her family faced. I learnt about the dwindling coal mining industry and the upheaval it caused, and also a little about the mining disasters that have occurred there over the years. Rich with horse lore, animal lovers will enjoy this story. The mystery woven throughout the narrative will keep you guessing.
(Coalmine, Mystery, Romance, Fugitive, West Coast, Horses, Murder)
Author – Sally Gardner
Illustrator – Nat Barlex
Age – 13+
Jazmin’s best friend Becky has gone. She jumped off a building with her boyfriend. But moments after they jumped they vanished, leaving Jaz with the fallout, a devastating court trial, and her life shattered.
No-one believed her testimony at the trial. No-one would listen to her. But now, a man called Mr Jones has come to interview her. She can finally tell someone what really happened.
A line on the cover gives a clue to the reader that this is a story that contains something not of this world ‘They came to Earth to find love‘. And indeed it does include alien beings. But the entire story is still set on Earth as we know it today, through a series of interviews. This style and structure was intriguing and had to be followed closely as each person recounted what happened before Becky disappeared.
Something different from a multi-award winning author.
(Aliens, Friendship, Friends, Love, Romance, Sci-Fi, Action, Fear)