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.’

When Michael Met Mina

ER – FAT29753111

Author – Randa Abdel-Fattah

Age – 12+

Michael is Aussie-born and bred and proud of his parents and their stand against ‘boat people’ invading Australia. His dad is trying to grow his organisation called Aussie Values, keen on ‘opening debate’ on how more and more refugees and asylum seekers are hitting their shores illegally.

Mina is from Afghanistan, after surviving a sea voyage from her home, her father murdered, her baby brother dying along the way. This past haunts her dreams, but she has grown up and studied hard in her new land. Her mum has remarried and Mina has received a scholarship to an expensive school. The same school Michael attends.

When Mina ends up in some of Michael’s classes, they don’t know each other’s past, but they soon get to know their present and they clash. But Mina has captured Michael’s interest like no girl before. Despite his parent’s beliefs he tries to get to know her and understand where she has come from. What he finds surprises and confuses him – are his parents right or wrong, and is it time to stop following blindly and make up his own mind about his future?

I loved the lively debate between the characters of this book. No one was definitely right or wrong – showing why it’s so hard to find solutions to this topical subject. Despite the tough subject, I found the main characters full of hope not hate. Told in both Michael and Mina’s point of view, it would be a great book to invite class discussion on both sides of this global problem.

(Immigration, Predjudice, Refugee, School, Friendship)

The Bone Sparrow

ER? – FRA30654009

Author – Zana Fraillon

Age – 13+

The refugee camp is all that Subhi has ever known. Born there 9 years before, he has lived in tents with his Mum and sister Queeny ever since. He has grown up, taught to read by Queeny, taught the power of story and imagination by his Mum and policed by the ‘Jackets’ (soldiers), learning the way of the camp with help from his elder friend Eli.

One day Subhi meets a young girl called Billie. He can’t believe she is from ‘the outside’. She has found a gap in the fence and crawled under it. She has lost her mum, her dad is always working and her older brother slack in his care of her. She has her mother’s stories in a book but can’t read. But Subhi can, and they find a place away from the camp cameras and he reads to her while they sip hot chocolate and eat treats that Billie has brought.

Subhi’s reading makes Billie feel closer to her dead mum and they become good friends.

But change is coming. Queeny grows angrier by the day, his mother sleeps more and eats less every day and the camp is becoming restless.

Suddenly Billie’s life is in danger, the camp’s restlessness explodes and Subhi’s world is tipped upside down. But he can make a difference. He can tell people what he saw.

Due to a violent scene in this novel I think it’s best for 13+

This is a story of imagination, friendship, poverty, control and prejudice. Subhi’s and Jimmie’s story’s are told in separate chapters. Subhi – 1st person and Jimmie -3rd person, making this novel a wonderful tool to learn the dynamics of different points of view. 

(Refugee, Friendship, Family, Hope, Story, Imagination, Prejudice, Hate)

 

Wolf Hollow

ER – WOL26026063

Author – Lauren Wolk

Age – 11+

A spiteful, mean, girl called Betty.
A caring, thoughtful, smart girl called Annabelle.
A man suffering the after effects of a war where he believed he’d done terrible things.

These are the key ingredients of this novel with a story that spirals from hatred and spite down through to forgiveness and love – but at what cost?

Wolf Hollow made me gasp, sigh, smile and wipe my eyes. Eleven year old Annabelle is brave, but no matter how many truths or lies she tells to try and help, things soon twist away from her again.

Shocking, beautiful and sad all at the same time.

(Family, Bullying, Prejudice, Hate, Advanced Young Readers)

The Road to Ratenburg

ER COWThe Road to Ratenburg

Author – Joy Cowley

Age – 7+

This is the story told by a rat, in the view of a rat. Spinnaker; the proud father of 4 rats, and husband of the lovely Retsina, talks directly to the reader.

He tells the story of his family’s quest to travel to the holy grail of rats – Ratenburg. It is said that Ratenburg is safe with no Ratophobia, plenty to eat and drink and comforts that they’ve only dreamed of. Ratenburg is the place that the famous Pied Piper led all those rats of long ago – or is it?

This was a wonderful story of courage, determination, prejudice, relationships and family, by NZ’s own Joy Cowley. This is Joy Cowley’s 80th year, and out of the many dozens of chapter books – one of her best so far.

(Animals, Family, Courage, Family, Love, Predjudice, Rats)