The Last Days of Archie Maxwell

Author – Annabel Pitcher36170364

Age – 16+

Archie is reeling after a family announcement. His father is leaving. His mother doesn’t even seem mad about it, and his big sister knows more than she’s letting on. When Archie learns the whole truth, his whole world implodes.

What if his the guys at school find out? His life won’t be worth living. They will show no mercy. And that’s when Archie begins to think about that guy who ended it all on the train tracks behind his house.

Archie likes a girl at school – who just happens to be the sister of the guy on the tracks. She blames herself and is trying to understand why her brother did it. When Archie offers her some relief from her guilt, they become a little closer. But she has her own secrets too. Is Archie strong enough to resist a final solution for himself and protect her from the same?

This is an easy read/novella for not only dyslexic teens, but those who may find larger texts daunting or unappealing. It was gritty, true to life, showing the no-filter language of teen boys amongst themselves and about girls. Fantastic read.

(Dyslexic, Homophobia, Suicide, Bullying, Mental Health, School, Family)

 

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The Mulberry Tree

Author – Allison Rushbyxthe-mulberry-tree.jpg.pagespeed.ic.lS1n_Kk90Y

Age – 10+

Immy has moved from Sydney Australia, to a small village in the UK. It’s a new start for them after something happened at her father’s work.

After seeing a few houses with a rental agent, they choose a cute little cottage with a large tree in the back lawn. But this isn’t just any tree.

The agent tells them of the tree’s history. A history where two girls who lived in the cottage mysteriously vanished on the eve of their 11th birthday. The entire village blames the tree. But that’s ridiculous – isn’t it?

Immy tries to make friends but the tree’s history affects everyone around her – even Jean, the kind old lady who lives next door. She says her best friend Elizabeth was one of the girls who disappeared many years before.

Immy has been hearing a creepy rhyme being sung – even when there is no-one nearby. Could there be some truth in the legend? While she keeps her fears to herself, she is also dealing with her dad’s depression, and the feeling that the tree is watching her and mirroring her feelings. She is determined to learn the truth – which means staying home on the eve of her 11th birthday…..

I loved this story! It was sad and beautiful, and intriguing and creepy.  I couldn’t read the last few pages fast enough. I closed the book with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. Fans of Emma Carroll will love it too.

(Mystery, School, Magic, Secrets, Friends, Depression, Nature)

 

A Song Only I Can Hear

Author – Barry Jonsberg40012192

Age – 12+

Rob Fitzgerald has a huge crush on Destry Camberwick. The problem with that is that Rob suffers from panic attacks, and is incredibly shy – only talking with his friend Andrew, his parents and his best friend – his grandfather.

Pop is funny, straight to the point and loves to swear. Rob sees him almost daily and can talk to Pop about anything. How will he get Destry’s attention? Rob’s mate Andrew has some suggestions, one being to impress Destry as a football goalie in the next inter-school game.

When Rob begins receiving strange text messages with more suggestions, he is intrigued about who they are from. Mum? Dad? What about Pop? No. He hates technology.

But Rob takes the text advice seriously and is soon in trouble again and again trying to make a good impression for Destry. And just as it seems to be working, things go terribly wrong.

It was so refreshing to read a teen novel that was true-to-life but had me bursting out laughing throughout the novel. Pop is the funniest character I have read in ages. This book made me laugh, cry and gasp in surprise. It’s about identity and believing in who you really are. Beautiful, funny, clever – pure Barry Jonsberg.
(Note: any swearing is replaced by the word blankety in the novel, which made some scenes even funnier.)

(Identity, Crush, Family, Grandfather, Grandparent, Anxiety, Counselor, Grief, LGBT, Funny)

Yours Troolie, Alice Toolie

Authors – Kate & Jol TempleYours Troolie, Alice Toolie

Age – 7+

Alice Toolie is mortified. Her arch enemy Jimmy Cook has found and read her diary. This is the final straw, and this means war!

But their teacher has decided that they need to put their differences aside and find out more about each other. Do they have anything in common? Could they be friends? They now must write letters to each other to find out.

Alice and Jimmy finally agree on something. This is the worst idea ever and their teacher must be bonkers! But the letters begin. Jimmy brags about all he knows about being a famous explorer, and Alice does all she can to pop his imaginative delusions.

But just as planned, they do find things in common – a ghost in the girl’s toilets, great ideas to make money for the school fete, and how to get their mothers to STOP being friends, and making them spend time together out of school as well!

It was great to see these characters in another story, after the hilarious Captain Jimmy Cook discovers Third Grade, and X marks the Spot. Alice loves sparkle, unicorns and positivity, and Jimmy is all about exploring, digging, and handling all the dangerous stuff. Their back and forth baiting banter is funny.

(Funny, Penpals, Letter, School, Nemesis, Enemy, School Fete, School Gala)

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)

Frindle

Author – Andrew Clements439173

Age – 8+

Nick has a reputation in school for making class interesting. He uses stalling tactics, or time-wasting questions to trick teachers into not setting homework, or to avoid more work in class.

But Mrs Granger is different. She is a 5th grade (Year 6 in NZ and UK) teacher, and at first his intended trick backfires. But something she says in class triggers an idea. Mrs Granger loves her dictionary and insists they all have their own personal copies for their homework. Nick decides he’d like to change a word and begins calling a pen a Frindle.

His friends follow his example. Mrs Granger isn’t happy. The school principal isn’t happy. But is it against school rules? Is it offensive? Is it really such a big deal?

Nick’s word soon becomes a HUGE deal, with run-away results.

I learnt about this book in the Kid’s Lit Quiz (An International Reading Competition run by Wayne Mills NZOM). I can see why it is a favourite of so many people, young and old. It would make a great read-aloud to 7-8 yr olds.

(School, Words, Dictionary, Language, Humour, Teaching, Teacher, Self-belief)

 

 

Girl Mans Up

Author – M-E Girard28217802

Age – 14+

Pen loves hanging out with her friends, gaming, wearing her brother’s clothes and just being herself.

She hates being called Penelope, people thinking she dresses and acts the way she does because she wants to be a boy, her mother wanting her to be a pink, sparkly, princess type of girl, and guys acting like douche bags.

Her best friend (since age about 9) is Coby. He’s popular, good looking, shares her love of gaming (even though she can thrash him at it), but he can be a douche bag to girls.

Coby is always talking about loyalty, so when Pen learns about a girl he has treated badly and tries to help, he calls her out on it. Pen is torn at first. She’s already angry at people who just won’t let her be herself, always trying to stick a  label on her. Bi, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. Pen just wants to be Pen – it’s that simple.

Her parents are always talking about respect, but the only person in her family Pen has respect for is her brother Johnny who has come to her rescue multiple times. She feels she can look after herself, but their bond is what keeps her sane.

Dealing with family pressures, toxic friendships and new relationships, Pen finally finds her own identity, her own tribe (without Coby), and a deeper understanding of the people who share her life – at home and high school.

I loved Pen. She was strong, brave and determined. She loves her parents but has to come to terms with the fact they may never understand who she really is. The friendships were real, the banter convincing and the relationships (both toxic and supportive) were intense. I wanted to climb into the book and slap some of the characters. You’ll have to read it and find out who!

(Diversity, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, School, Friendships, Secret, Relationships, High School, Family, Portuguese)