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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Lucky Button

Author – Michael Morpurgo

36584192Illustrator – Michael Foreman

Age 7+

Jonah has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders at home and is bullied at school. This school used to be The Foundling Hospital – a place children were taken to save them from the 18th century streets of London.

Jonah loves music, and humming the songs his mum used to play on her piano always lifts his spirits. But one day after more bullying, he hides in the school chapel. He finds a small gold button on the chapel floor then hears beautiful music coming from the organ. He is entranced.

Out of nowhere, an ghostly old man approaches him. At first Jonah is petrified but soon realises the man means him no trouble. All he wants to do is tell Jonah about the Lucky Button he has found, where it came from, and how important it is.

Another gentle tale of family, and friendship from this popular author. Among the colour and black & white illustrations scattered through the text, the reader will meet Mozart as a boy and learn about Handel too.

(Family, School, Bullying, Music, History)

The Wonderling

Author/Illustrator – Mira Bartok26046482

Age – 10+

Arthur lives a troubled life in an Orphanage called ‘The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures.’ These creatures are groundlings (mixed-up animals) like Arthur (a foxling who walks on two legs and with only one ear).

Arthur tries to avoid the bullies and Miss Carbunkle who believes groundlings only exist to serve and suffer. But there is a light in Arthur’s life – a new friend called Trinket, who shares her songs and stories with Arthur, igniting hope in his heart for something different outside the Home’s damp, grey walls.

They are soon on an adventure, as Arthur seeks his destiny with only an address stolen from Miss Carbunkle’s filing cabinet. Along the way, he meets many other groundlings of every mix, shape and size and is taken in when he reaches the city, by a rat called Quintus. Quintus is very much like Fagan in Oliver Twist, teaching, feeding, and sheltering Arthur in return for stealing.

But this is a very different world from Oliver Twist, with the High Hats (Humans) just as tough as Miss Carbunkle – who has her own evil plans in mind. Can Arthur and Trinket stop her and her evil manticore from ruining the world forever?

The Wonderling’s world is a little steampunk, a little fantasy, a little Cruella Deville and as Arthur finally discovers within himself, a lot wonderful. Beautifully told with rich description and multiple sub-plots afoot. And as the reader will discover in the gorgeous illustrations – Arthur’s best friend Trinket is not only an amazing inventor but a Kiwi Bird!

(Steampunk, Destiny, Journey, Quest, Creatures, World building, Fantasy, Orphan, Kiwi, Friendship, Courage, Bravery, Crime)

The Sky is Everywhere

TEEN – NEL23573399

Author – Jandy Nelson

Age – 16+

Lennie is grieving the loss of her vibrant, loving, carefree, older sister Bailey. When Lennie returns to school, trying to avoid all the sympathetic stares, she returns to band practice with her best friend Sarah. There’s a new boy at school called Joe Fontaine and he too attends the practice. He’s already caused a stir around school with his good looks and mystery, but he’s also a brilliant musician.

Lennie wonders how she can be so awestruck by Joe, experiencing feelings she’s never felt before, when she’s supposed to be grieving. And then there’s Toby – Bailey’s boyfriend. He too is grieving, trying to find a way to cope without Bailey in his life. When Lennie is with Toby they both feel closer to Bailey. But are they getting too close themselves?

Joe begins to seek out Lennie, at school and at home, until he becomes a regular visitor. Lennie slowly falls for Joe, all the while a tumult of grief, guilt, love, and happiness she’s never felt before. But then there’s Toby too…..

This novel with its love ‘triangle’ is beautifully written, with realistic, believable, quirky characters and emotions. It’s a complicated love story interspered with Lennie’s poetry, and sub-plot about her mother who left them when she was only one. Jandy Nelson is nothing short of brilliant!

Dear Charlie

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Author – N D Gomes

Age – 13+

Sam Macmillan looked up to his older brother Charlie. Sam loves music and Charlie loved art and they had a close bond. But Sam can’t figure out how his caring big brother could buy a black-market gun at 1am one morning, take it to school and shoot 14 people before turning the gun on himself.

Dear Charlie is a story about a family of the shooter dealing with the fallout after the event. Constant media attention, abuse, hate mail, and bullying follow the family for months until they are not only at breaking point as a family, but each of them all but consumed in their own pain, guilt and confusion.

But surprisingly, a group of teens at Sam’s new school accept him as one of their own, giving him a lifeline out of the darkness of what his brother did. Sam discovers more than friendship among this group, even as he battles his therapist who is trying to help, copes with his dysfunctional parents and his own anger at his brother’s actions.

This story portraying the aftermath on a shooter’s family was well written, travelling through all the emotions they would encounter. Each chapter of ‘Dear Charlie’ begins with a song that portrays the feeling of the chapter. From classical to popular music, the songs add something real to the story. These can be listened to before or after each chapter read. Compelling.

(School shooting, Guilt, Grief, Love, Family, School, Music)

Anomaly (Anomaly 1)

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Author – Krista McGee

Age – 12+

A cross between The Giver and The Divergent series….

Thalli is part of an underground world where children (including herself) have been genetically engineered. There is no sickness, no emotions, and no inquisitiveness. But Thalli knows she’s different – an Anomaly. And her life (and all she knows) is never going to be the same again.

A thinly veiled Christian religion theme runs through this story, but doesn’t detract from it.

(Action, Betrayal, Blended Family, Bullying, Conflict, Courage, Dystopian, Friendship, Future)

Beat the Band

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Author – Don Calame

Age – 15+

This is the 2nd in this series (can read on its own)

Cooper Redmond has one goal for his sophomore year. Hit third base with the girls. But his high (and amusing) opinion of himself is not shared by such girls. When he is paired up with the least popular girl (Helen) in school for a Health project – he is sure his chances with the girls have been dashed forever. When he sees a flyer for Battle of the Bands he decides that winning it will be the only way to claim back his kudos. There are a few problems with his idea. His mates don’t want to do it, they suck when they play, and there is no escaping the Health project. But… his (ex-band member) Dad vows to help, and Cooper slowly discovers Helen isn’t the girl he thought she was.

This was a hilarious, light, entertaining read. Although one-track minded, the main character does redeem himself in a brilliant way by the end of the book. This story makes me want to read more by this author. Guys and girls will laugh all the way through.

(Popularity, Relationships, Friends, School, Music, Series)