Author – Ele Fountain
Age – 10 +
Shif and his best friend Bini are smart. Smart enough to be put up a class in school. Bini wants to be a doctor and Shif an engineer. They enjoy maths and chess and trying to outdo each other in everything. Life is good.
But life around them is changing. Bini suddenly stops coming to school. Government soldiers are appearing more often in their town, looking for children avoiding compulsory military service. Shif’s mum tells him the truth about his father, who he always thought was dead. The unthinkable happens and Shif and Bini are arrested.
The friends soon see another side of life in their country. One of soldiers, cells, mistreatment and force. Will they ever achieve their mother’s dreams of escaping their corrupt country for England?
The cover does not do this book justice. Boy 87 is set in an un-named Middle Eastern Country, where many people are doing what they can just to survive, and/or planning their escape. They can’t trust anyone, always watching out for soldiers, slave traders or those who wish to trick them out of their hard-earned savings to enable fleeing from their homeland. A great read to kick off class discussion about the courageousness of refugees in our world.
(Refugee, Middle East, Courage, Conscription, Military Service, Family, Friendship)
Author – Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Age – 10+
Grace and her little sister Bee became orphans 5 years ago, losing their mother to an illness and their father two days later. Their sun-loving, travelling Uncle Freddy returned immediately to become their guardian. Soon after their grandfather moved in too.
Five years on and they’ve done ok. Uncle Freddy forgets to pay the bills sometimes and housework isn’t his top priority, but the girls feel loved and cared for. If only they could talk about the not-to-be-mentioned subject. The loss of their parents and in turn, their grief.
Now Grace is older, she’s become embarrassed by her little sister’s quirkyness and insistence on imaginary things being real. According to Bee, their parents are still around, their dog talks to her, and there is a magical hotel at the top of tall cliffs nearby.
When Grace wants to be part of the ‘top group’ at school, she fears Bee will spoil it for her, and she does everything she can to prevent that – with terrible consequences.
Another wonderful story by this author. This is a tale of a blended family all dealing with a great loss all in their own way, and a special little girl who sees things differently. Beautiful.
(School, Popularity, Blended Family, Family, Grief, Love)
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 – Fleur Beale
Age – 10+
Lyla had already been through a large earthquake in Christchurch, but nothing prepared her for another one – with much more damage to the city, private homes, schools, landmarks and devastatingly – 185 lives are lost.
Lyla and her friends are outside in the city when this earthquake hits in the middle of the day. The air is thick with dust, people are running, crying, and injured. Lyla helps an elderly gentleman with a deep gash on his head and is worried where her parents might be. She makes her way home along streets torn up and flooded by the all too familiar liquifaction.
As Lyla and her neighbours gather together in their fears and worries for other family members, they learn more about their ravaged beloved city. A boy from school who has always been a thorn in her side is suddenly on her couch, her lounge is full and she is trying to hold everything together at home and within herself. But as life changes around her, she struggles with her inner turmoil more and more. Will she ever be able to relax and feel normal again?
This story expresses the fear and horror of the Christchurch earthquakes through the life of a 14 year old girl. It gave me a clearer understanding of not only the devastation of the city itself, but also the terrible toll the continuing earthquakes (some as nearly as big as the first two) takes on it’s citizens.
(Earthquake, Fear, Empathy, NZ, New Zealand, Christchurch, Aftershocks, Friendship, PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Author – Michael Morpurgo
Illustrator – Michael Foreman
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)
Author – Jen Storer
Illustrator – Mitch Vane
Age – 6+
4 more stories about a young boy called Danny Best. Danny is full-on and always first to do anything. He is always after a challenge and keen to beat everyone and then crow to the world!
1) Tongue Tied – Danny is determined to beat the World Record at talking with his tongue hanging out. And if it annoys his big sister, it’s a bonus!
2) Old Yellow Eye is a revered fish in Danny’s town, so when the annual fishing content rolls around, Danny is keen to catch this cunning creature. But when the time comes, he has to choose between Old Yellow Eye and someone close to him.
3) Bum-Free – Danny’s teacher gives his class a task. Write a story about a wholesome family – keeping to the class rules of course. No exploding bums, monkeys with guns, squashed kittens etc. So Danny begins with a very angry vacuum cleaner…..
4) Boy Vs Wild – Danny is bored. So he ventures out into the baking Aussie outback (his backyard), to brave any creatures (the chickens) that come along, and try and find water. His friends are watching through the fence as he acts out his adventure, and he soon has more water than he knows what to do with!
Anyone funny set of stories about this crazy kid. There are quizzes along the way to make sure you’re paying attention!
(Funny, Humour, Full-on, Friends, School, Fishing, Sibling, Series)
Author – Robert Cormier
Age – 15+
Archie Costello is an enigmatic, handsome, popular senior at Trinity College, a private Catholic Boys School. He is also cunning, devious, narcissistic and the leader of a group of boys calling themselves The Vigils.
Everyone, including the Brothers (teachers) knows they exist within the school, and that they control by fear. Archie doesn’t condone violence, but controls by psychological means, getting students to play pranks on others and the teachers.
Brother Leon who is in charge of the school in the sick Principal’s absence, has asked for the ínfluence’ of the Vigils in the school’s Chocolate Selling project. All is good until someone says no – to both The Vigils and Brother Leon.
This boy will have to be made an example of….
This book won several wards and was also banned because of its content. It is a no-punches pulled account of life within a teen boy’s school – bullying, control, power, unwritten rules and standing up for yourself. A classic.
(School, Power, Growing up, Bullying, Power-play, Catholic, American Football)