The Red Ribbon

Author – Lucy Adlington35681404

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.

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Rabbit & Bear (3) – Attack of the Snack

Author – Julian Gough38192711

Illustrator – Jim Field

Age – 6+

Rabbit & Bear are swimming in a lake, enjoying the summer, when a THING whizzes past their heads. It screams, hits a tree and lands in the water.

What is it, they wonder as Bear plucks it from the lake. It’s unconscious. It’s small. Its face is flat. It has bird feet. Suddenly Rabbit recognises it. It’s a creature that he’s always been told to avoid. They are 6 ft tall and will terrorise you! They eat you alive and burp up your bones!

I don’t think so, says Bear having a closer look at the small, still, fuzzy bundle.

As always, Rabbit gets himself all worked up in a tizz, while Bear looks on figuring things out properly. Slowly but surely they work out the truth as the thing awakes, and Rabbit learns that he actually may have something (embarrasing) in common with it.

Just as good as the first two stories – Funny, thoughtful, and endearing, as these two friends learn about acceptance, no matter what they’ve always believed.

(Animals, Humour, Funny, Series, Acceptance, Prejudice)

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author – Jesmyn WardSing Unburied Sing

Age – 15+

Jojo is 13 and lives with his grandparents, his drug addicted mother and his toddler sister, Kayla. Jojo’s father Michael is in prison for ‘cooking’ drug offences, so as Jojo’s grown, he has looked up to his steady, dependable, hardworking Pop on how to be a man.

Life is hard in their Deep South household, with Mam (Jojo’s grandmother) dying of cancer, his mother Leonie not being the mothering kind, and little Kayla dependent on him. Leonie is black, his father is white, and his father’s parents have never had anything to do with them.

When Leonie gets news that Jojo’s father has finished his sentence, she packs the kids in the car with her equally drug addicted friend Misty and they head to Parchment Farm – the state prison, to pick him up.

Jojo has heard tales of Parchment from his Pop. Tales of violence, death, working drudgery and a 12 year old boy called Richie. But Pop never finishes Richie’s story. It’s not until after their stressful, hot, uncomfortable journey to Parchment and back that Jojo learns the truth.

This is a teen/adult crossover, and winner of the US National Book Award 2017. The language is lyrical, almost literary, but it’s a gripping read about a black family in the deep south, set just after Hurricane Katrina. Prejudice and racism are still ruling and ruining lives, as families do their best to survive.

(Mississippi, Award Winner, Prejudice, Racism, Family, Neglect, Road Trip)

Letter from the Lighthouse

Author – Emma Carroll32721821

Age – 9+

Olive and her little brother Cliff are evacuated from London after a close call with a bomb. The same night of the bomb, her older sister Sukie went missing. There has been no sign of her and Olive is still trying to figure out what she saw. Sukie was meeting a man. This man gave her something and then held her hand. Was it a secret boyfriend?

They are sent to a small seaside town where Sukie had a penpal. But the supposed penpal doesn’t seem to know a thing about Sukie. Olive has noticed other strange things and behaviour in town and also a coded note in the lining of the coat Sukie was wearing on the night she disappeared. It was all she had left of Sukie from the rubble of the bomb.

With a mystery to solve, friendships to make and suddenly many lives at stake, Olive and Cliff are caught up in a plot of courage and determination. But where is Sukie?

Another great story from Emma Carroll with a twisting and turning plot to keep readers engaged in a young girl’s quest for answers. Along the way she builds her own courage amongst prejudice, distrust and broken hearts from a war that never seems to end.

(Historical, WWII, War, Family, Jews, Courage, Mystery, Evacuee, Siblings, Refugee)

Four Perfect Pebbles

Authors – Lila Perl & Marion Blumenthal Lazan28259146

Age – 10+

Marion’s story is another testament to the bravery, courage and determination to live, by a family persecuted for nothing but their religion. This book also explains Hitler’s rise to power in simplistic terms and can be read by anyone 10+

(Holocaust, War, WWII, Jew, Courage, Determination, Prejudice)

We Come Apart

Authors – Sarah Crossan / Brian Conaghan25310356

Age – 13+

Jess is tough, caring about nothing or no one – at least that’s what she wants people to think. She resents authority, steals and bunks off school, thinking it doesn’t matter. Jess believes her life with her abusive stepfather and punching-bag mum will never change for the better. It never does for people like her.

Nicu is from Romania. His family has moved to the UK to make enough money to ‘pay’ for a wife for him. This is a Romanian custom and he believes there is no way out of getting married young to someone he has never met. Despite constant racial abuse from fellow students and teachers alike, Nicu wants to learn English, do well and stay in the UK for a chance at a proper life. But his father rules with his fists.

Both are sent to community service for shoplifting, and this is where their story begins to entwine. At first Jess ignores the boy with the strange name. Nicu thinks Jess is pretty and ignores her initial negativity towards him. But he is kind and helpful and so different from the others on their ‘punishment’. His broken english is endearing and she begins to try and teach him how to talk properly. An uncertain friendship builds as the tension builds in both Jess’ and Nicu’s homes. Can they escape their lives?

Written in a poem format, this story is succinct, powerful and compelling. The use of language in this format shows the changes in Nicu’s speech with just the right word at just the right time. It portrays Jess’ anger, frustration and ever-so-slow softening and letting down of her walls. Their characters are full, real and heartbreaking in the briefness of poem, with their feelings, speech and thoughts seamlessly interwoven. Two award winning authors = Fantastic!

(Immigrant, Romania, Abuse, Trust, Arranged marriage, Custom, Poem, Poetry)

The Hypnotist

TEEN – ANH23548144

Author – Laurence Anholt

Age – 13+

When Pip is bought and paid for at an orphanage, he is worried for his future. But the worn, skinny old man called Mr Zachary who ‘adopts’ him seems kind enough on the long drive back to his farm, as he explains what he wants Pip to do. Since Pip was the only boy who could read at the orphanage, he was the perfect candidate to read to Zachary’s bed-ridden wife Lillybelle.

Pip is shocked when he meets her but they soon build a positive relationship as he covers her every need and reads from his copy of Great Expectations – a gift from his mother before his parents died in a car accident.

There is another young teen at the farm. Beautiful, mute Hannah – an American Indian, who Pip thinks is the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.

But life on Dead River Farm isn’t all sweet. The Zachary’s have a son called Erwin – an angry, Negro-hating, Vietnam vet and also a leader of the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. His parents warn Pip to stay out of his way and Pip does just that, at least until the day Erwin finally catches him…..

This story is told in two viewpoints – Pip’s story (in 3rd person), and the Zachary’s neighbour Jack Morrow (in 1st person). Jack is a university professor from Ireland and an excellent hypnotist. He’s been watching the goings on next door with increasing worry. Can he help?

Let Mr Morrow hypnotise you with this story, and see how Pip, Hannah and the Zachary’s cope with the evil of the Ku Klux Klan.

Brilliantly written. Absolutely loved it. A bit ‘Mocking Bird’ a bit ‘Shawshank’ – Love, Hope, Friendship and Prejudice – a great piece of story ‘hypnotism.’