Author – Adriana Mather
Age – 13+
Sam (Samantha) and her step-mum Vivian have moved to her dead grandmother’s house in Salem, a small town where Sam’s dad grew up. She is instantly disliked at her new high school and she knows why. Her ancestor Cotton Mather was largely responsible for the Witch Trials in Salem centuries before.
‘The Descendants’ (a group of 5 teens always dressed in black, and true descendants of the so-called witches that died) are scathing of Sam and make life difficult. If it wasn’t for the neighbours, handsome Jaxon who sticks up for her and his mum; Sam would be just like she’s always been – friendless and feared.
People around Sam often end up hurt and she’s felt cursed since small. When this ‘curse’ follows her to Salem, it becomes much more serious. Is it all her fault? Where did this curse come from? Can she defeat it?
How to Hang a Witch is not only a fantastic read, it makes the reader aware of how close the 17th century witch trials were compared to the cyber-bullying of today. The phrase ‘Witch Hunt’ is applied to people in all sorts of conflict and this novel makes it clear why.
The other fascinating fact is the author is a descendant of Cotton Mather herself. Salem is a real town in America and she wanted to know more about both the Witch Trials and her own family history. Loved it!
(History, Witches, Ghost, Spell, Curse, High School, Popularity, Romance)
Author – Zach King
Illustrator – Beverly Arce
Age – 7+
Zach is home schooled as he is part of a magical family. But when his magic still hasn’t arrived at the age of 11, his parents believe he has beeen ‘skipped’ and the best thing for him is to go to middle school and learn to be ‘normal’ like other non-magical kids.
His first day at Horace Greeley Middle School finds him inside a vending machine in nothing but his boxers. But how did it happen? When an online video of ‘the trick’ goes viral, his new friend Aaron is keen to know how he did it, and for him to do more tricks like that. That’s not his only problem – the coolest kid in school has decided to make him look a fool – as often as possible.
When Zach does finally find his magic, it’s way cooler than he ever dreamed, but how does he hide the truth from his new friends when they are keen to see more of his ‘tricks’ online?
Zach soon finds a way, but has to face the bully, his parents and an alligator!
This is the 1st in a new series, made up of both text and full page, full colour illustrations. Set mostly in Horace Greeley Middle School, it’s a fun read.
(School, Bully, Friendship, Magic, Secret, Series, YouTube, Popularity)
Author – Chae Strathie
Illustrator – Anna Chernyshova
Age – 6+
Tommy can’t wait to start Pirate School. This means sailing on the Rusty Barnacle, captained by Pirate Captain Firebeard, for the whole school term!
Once aboard, he learns about all things piratey including sea monsters they may encounter on pirate escapades. Between their lessons, the apprentice pirates can visit the tuck shop for on board sweets and treats – until they start to go missing. Who is stealing the lollies from under their noses?
Suspicion instantly falls on Spiky Spencer and his gang including Muttonhead Max and Greta the Grouch, but maybe the thief isn’t quite so obvious. It’s only when Tommy and the entire crew are in grave danger that the thief is revealed.
A simple, fun, pirate story for young readers with lots of ‘Aaaaaarrrrr!’
(Pirates, Sea Monsters, Pirate School, Nemesis, Theft)
Author – Claire Hennessy
Age – 15+
Lauren is 16, a student at a Catholic Girls School and increasingly angry. It doesn’t help that her mum is the principal and seemingly too busy to notice what Lauren is going through. And she is going through a lot.
Her best friend Steph is now Evan, coming out to Lauren and the world. This is confusing because didn’t they have a night of something special together? Lauren thinks about her boyfriend Justin a lot, until she realises he is just using her.
School is a disaster as the school play has been announced and it includes boy characters. But much to Lauren and her friend’s dismay, they won’t be working with the local boy’s high school, but playing all the boy parts themselves.
Suddenly Lauren is dealing with a life-changing decision all on her own. She’s alienated her friends, her favourite teacher and stolen from her family. Reaching for alcohol, it numbs her for a while, but results in hours missing in her memory. Lauren is a mess. How will she climb out of the hole she has dug for herself?
This was a challenging read, but I was right there with Lauren and her confusion, pain and sense of hopelessness. Being a teen in 2017 is tough, and many issues they face are tackled with authenticity and courage. A great read.
(Sexuality, School, Friendship, Abortion, Trans, Bi, Lesbian, Choices)
Author – Sophie Siers
Illustrator – Judith Trevelyan
Age – 6+
9 yr old Rosie Joy lives on a farm with her older brothers and parents. She loves animals, climbing trees and dreaming of fantastical things and places. When her mum tells her it is time to find some eggs for her broody hen Henny Penny to sit on, Rosie Joy is fascinated in the possibilities. Together they decide on what breed of chickens they would like to hatch and this story follows that journey.
But there are other things happening in Rosie Joy’s world. School, friends, the seemingly impossible task of convincing her brother that girls can be famous explorers too, and the joy of making something with her own hands and determination, that she hopes Henny Penny and her yet-to-be-hatched chickens will enjoy.
From Award winning Author of the Allis the little tractor series, Rosie Joy – Here, there and Everywhere is a gentle story, about NZ family farm life, older siblings, animals and that when sometimes when things don’t quite go as planned, there could be a reason or a happy solution. The pencil sketches throughout are adorable.
Little girls both rural and urban, will love this!
(Farm, Animals, Knitting, Determination, Friends, Chickens, Vocabulary)
Author – M A Bennett
Age – 12+
Greer MacDonald has a scholarship to the exclusive British School S.T.A.G.S.
She doesn’t have any friends, so when she is invited to Longcross Hall, the home of one of the most popular prefects; she believes her luck is finally changing.
Wined and dined along with two other ‘unpopular’ students, Chanel and Shafeen, Greer enjoys the attention. But something’s not quite right. The Hunting, Shooting and Fishing weekend they have been promised turns macabre, and Greer is swimming for her life…
A thriller that twists and turns. Who is on Greer’s side? Who can she trust? With references to movies throughout the novel (Greer’s father is a cameraman), this novel contrasts between the now (technology) and the then of the Aristocrat (servants, and an age-old order). Great read.
(Popularity, Change, Technology, Suicide, Cult, School)
Author – J C Jones
Illustrator -Serena Geddes
Age – 8+
Pip’s birthday hasn’t gone to plan at all. Just as she’s about to have some cake, her carer Sully falls to the ground taking the cake with him. “He’s had a stroke,” say the ambulance men, and he’s taken to hospital.
Sully is the only family Pip knows. She was left as a tiny baby on his doorstep inside an apple crate, with a note from her mother. She’ll be back when she’s settled – but she never returns. Pip is what Sully names her.
But with Sully in hospital, Pip knows she will be placed in welfare. She’s been warned about welfare by her friend Ginger, who has been mistreated in different foster homes. So, with a bag packed she avoids police and welfare and looks after herself, keeping one step ahead of the authorities while she waits for Sully to get well.
Pip is polite and thoughtful of others and a diligent pupil, but also tough and resourceful on the streets. This street savvy gets her through some tricky situations, but it’s the people who care for her that eventually help her through. Great story for 8+
(Poverty, Love, Grief, Family, Friendship, Foster care)