Dear Martin

Author – Nic Stone24974996

Age – 14+

Justyce is 17. He is the top of his class, an excellent debater and is aiming for Yale. All is good in his life until one night when he is helping his drunk ex get into her car. The police arrive, see a young black male with a drunk girl and assume the worst. He is immediately put in cuffs and read his rights.

Although released (hours later), Justyce has now experienced the racial profiling he’s heard and read about. He’s shocked when he realises he could have easily been just another police shooting accident involving a young African American man.

Justyce has been working on a personal project, studying the speeches and teachings of Martin Luther King. He has been writing letters to him in a journal – trying to work out the world around him.

His new awareness of the racial profiling around him makes him angry. Even his friends and classmates’ comments are getting under his skin. But it’s cruising around with his best friend one morning when the unthinkable happens. Bang! Bang! Bang!

This is a powerful story about prejudice, blatant racism in schools, courts, businesses and homes, and a young man trying to come to terms with it all. Gritty and gripping.

(School, Racism, Prejudice, Friendship, Family, Grief, Crime, Gang)

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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)

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.

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)

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 Trap

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Author – Alan Gibbons

Age – 12+

With short chapters and only 186 pages, this story about an English family almost torn apart by terrorism (from the inside) will capture many who aren’t that keen on reading, or haven’t been able to find a book that grabs them.

The Trap deals with an issue that can destroy families on both sides of terrorism. Majid is training to be a doctor in the UK. His family fully support him in his education and dreams to help people, but when he begins spending more and more time with a man who talks of UK infidels, war, martyrdom and glory, they are worried for him. But Majid feels he has to make his own decisions.

This story follows those decisions and Majid’s path to war and back.

The tension rises throughout this novel, to a thrilling conclusion – or is it the end?

(War, Conflict, Crime, Family, Racism, School. MI5, Agent, Extremist, Muslim)