One book about children surviving in the conflict of war that has always remained with me was Journey into War by Margaret Donaldson. It was one I used often with upper primary children and it offered so much scope for discussion and reflection. I have long lamented that I don’t have a copy of my own as it is out-of-print. Now at last I have a truly worthy alternative.
The Wolf family must leave their home and everything they know as the Russian army swarms into East Prussia. Carrying as much as they can Mother, Liesel, Otto, baby Mia and their grandparents join a long procession of refugees in an arduous trek in search of safety. But such escapes are rarely easy and when the children find themselves completely alone and lost, they must do whatever they can to survive and for Liesel, protecting her little brother and sister is her primary concern. Surviving in the depths of winter is a nigh-impossible task for any children but to do so with the last violence of a war raging around is another entirely.
So the Wolf children become indeed wolves. Living like wild creatures, often without shelter, stealing food and clothes, raiding where ever they are able just to stay alive. They are not the only child casualties of the terrible war that has ravaged their country and, at times, they join forces with other wildlings. When they are caught up by Russians things look very grim for them but fortunately one of the soldiers becomes their friend and helps them along their way.
Eventually the children find themselves in Lithuania where they are taken in by a kindly elderly couple and finally have some respite and safety. They grieve desperately for their family – parents and grandparents – but are at least able to feel secure and cared for. Even in the darkest times miracles can happen and the outcome for the Wolf children proves that hope, warmth and kindness can exist in the worst of circumstances.
Young readers will be mesmerized by the gripping adventure and the challenges faced by the children and will be uplifted by their grit and resilience. Katrina Nannestad has wrought a novel that will hold its place for many years.
Highly recommended for your collection and if your teachers are searching for a fresh and engaging class read this would make a perfect suggestion.
In a tweet when I mentioned I was reading this – and reading WAY past my bedtime because I was so engrossed – Anna Morgan replied “This book will disturb your sleep schedule” is an excellent review!
Well all I can say is that it definitely will!!! Right from the get-go this one will have your YA readers hooked and tuned out to all that’s going on around them as they become drawn into a schoolies week like no other.
Grace has been a very committed Christian since an early age but when it comes down to schoolies week she realises that the prejudices and intolerance of her church friends are not what she wants for a whole week away. Instead she decides to tag along (and be the chauffeur, organiser and carer) for her brother Casper and his two great friends, Noah and Elsie. Casper is procrastinating on getting his portfolio for art school put together, Noah’s anxiety over ATAR and his future, fueled by pressure from his parents, is consuming him and Elsie, who knows she’s no stellar academic, is just trying to hold their friendship group together.
On the first night of their trip at a fairly typical schoolies beach party the group encounters a beautiful but mysterious girl who seems to have some kind of persuasive power that is irresistible. Sienna convinces the friends to go camping with her on the uninhabited island not far offshore. But the camping sojourn soon unravels into increased uncertainties, negative emotions and friendship fractures for them all – worse, it becomes increasingly apparent that Sienna’s motives are far from friendly and the mystery that surrounds her past is sinister in the extreme. Soon it is not just their friendships that are in danger but their very existence. These characters are very believable and the action flows so beautifully as the plot, and the mystery, unfolds.
Drawing on legends of the sirens and the powers they held over travelers, this is a coming-of-age story that combines suspense and thrilling action with the qualms that all school-leavers have and provides a very satisfying reading experience for those students who are facing the future with their own questions.
Earlier in the year I reviewed what I have said was my read of the year – The Constant Rabbit – and while I knew of Jasper Fforde and the huge impact he’s made along with the rave reviews particularly from my Welsh friend, that book was my introduction to this author’s delightfully absurdist fantasy style. So naturally, his other titles promptly went on my TBR list.
The first is this, Fforde’s debut novel, which was in our library collection and I have just spent my compos mentis bedtime reading enjoying every word and phrase for the past week.
Set in an alternative UK, 1985, where the Crimean War still rages, extinct species are cloned as domestic pets and Wales is a fiercely independent and closed republic, the reader meets Thursday Next and a cast of wonderfully bizarre characters most of whom are heavily involved in either pursuing the criminals intent on making money from the lucrative literary market but also those intent on milking it. Specifically, one Acheron Hades, a strange and shadowy figure who is totally committed to evil for its own sake is bent on disrupting the entire canon of classic English literature by kidnapping fictional characters for ransom and altering plots.
It is totally bonkers, hilarious, at times poignant and ultimately a thoroughly satisfying adventure of epic proportions. You can read more about Thursday and Spec Ops on Jasper’s website. I, for one, now am on the trail of my next Fforde read.
If you want something completely different (thanks Python!) why not try out some of Jasper Fforde’s writing as a NY resolution!
Stacy Gregg’s horse stories have constantly been some of the most popular loans in my libraries, mostly primary but I also have several lower secondary girls who just love these books. This new stand-alone novel introduces readers to talented young artist Maisie, who has always loved horses and drawing them. In fact, her teacher finds it very frustrating that all Maisie seems to do is draw horses and calls the girl’s father in for a discussion. Contrary to the teacher’s intention, Maisie’s dad is pretty indignant that his daughter’s talent is perceived as a problem rather than a talent to be nurtured. Taking matters into his own hands he applies on his daughter’s behalf to a prestigious Parisian art school for a term’s scholarship and soon Maisie finds herself in the City of Lights staying with her very kind and welcoming patron.
What seems to be a golden opportunity is soon a terrible disappointment to Maisie when she finds her tutor to be both scornful and supremely critical of her art. She has no idea how she is going to find the heart to finish the scholarship until she discovers in a secret cache the long-lost diary of her patron’s ancestor – the famous horse artist Rose Bonifait. As the separate stories of the two young girls, both passionate about their art and horses, unfolds secrets, tragedies but also hope and warmth are revealed.
Maisie takes her courage and determination from Rose’s history and gradually her artwork finally begins to please her tutor technically but it is her attachment to a horse name Claude that breathes the life and emotion into her painting.
Like her other books, this will appeal to both the ‘horsey’ girls but also the ones who love adventure and mystery stories. Recommended highly for readers from around 8 years upwards.
ISBN: 9781760651947 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Release Date: September 2, 2020 Australian RRP: $17.99 New Zealand RRP: $19.99
I have many fans of Allison’s books – The Mulberry Tree, The Turnkey and The Seven Keys – who have already been pouncing on this latest of the author’s mysteries. Once again the narrative takes the reader into an almost recognisable parallel world when young Tamsin offers her literary hero Edie St Clair her help in finishing the final of her best-selling series London of the Bells.
Tamsin lives next door to the celebrated author and often watches her comings and goings while drawing, with passion, the colourful characters from the books. In fact, she has drawn them all so many times she feels she knows them intimately and would love to be counted among their number. To her great astonishment she discovers that Edie can literally draw herself into the books and when the author goes missing, Tamsin realises she must be actually caught up in the unfinished final book. Burning to prove herself a worthy friend, Tamsin draws herself into the narrative and finds herself right in the thick of all the dangerous action alongside her beloved character friends. She quickly realises that she is perhaps the only person in London who can help Edie find the perfect ending to the last book – one that will satisfy both readers and more importantly to Tamsin, her fictional friends. Young readers will be turning the pages eagerly to discover all the secrets, twists and turns and surprising developments as the plot unravels.
Many of you will have already added this new title to your collection but in case you haven’t it’s a great addition to your 2021 orders list for readers, both boys and girls, from around ten years upwards. I highly recommend it for your lovers of strange mysteries.
Whatever it is you might expect to happen after your death it is not likely to match Lauren James’ latest supernatural thriller. Harriet Stoker has been raised strictly, protected and, truth be told, controlled by her grandmother since both her parents died of an unexplained food poisoning episode.
Now Harriet’s at university and enjoying her first taste of relative freedom. In the pursuit of exceptional images for her photography assignment, Harriet has broken into the derelict building that was Mulcture Hall. The long-abandoned building was once filled with the bustle of uni students until a mysterious event caused the simultaneous deaths of dozens of them.
As soon as Harriet, feeling daring and intrepid, forces her way into the grim ruins of the former boarding house she begins her search for her interesting shots. Working her way up the dark staircase she suddenly and shockingly catches her foot and falls – into the void created by five stories of nothingness.
So Harriet dies on the mossy concrete floor of an old student hall with a huge hole in the back of her head…and ‘wakes’ up to find herself surrounded by other students. There is just one problem. These other students are all dead as well. They are the ghosts of those who died in the mysterious event years earlier. Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah are just a few of the ghosts of Mulcture Hall but they are the ones who try their best to welcome Harriet and help her find her way in the confusion of her new afterlife. Her disbelief quickly turns to rage and when she discovers that each ghost has a special power, she is determined to unleash her own no matter the cost to return to the life left behind. The chaos Harriet creates is nothing compared to that in store when much older entities and powers than hers are set free.
Narrated in turn by each of the main ghostly characters as well as an unknown voice whose identity is shrouded until the very end this is both gripping and intense. Each of the characters is dealing with unresolved issues, some from their living days and some acquired since and their long friendship becomes severely tested as they bear the impact of Harriet’s heedless actions.
This masterful paranormal narrative will hold readers spellbound as the intricate plot unravels exploring themes of love, loyalty, courage, sexuality, lust for power, revenge, deceit, greed and self-sacrifice.
This series is so utterly charming and original that it has been such pleasure to read and review each of them. Tilly and Oskar continue their adventures with the ongoing quest to thwart the horrible Underwoods who have usurped the British Underlibrary. Book wandering has been prohibited and stories at large are under very real threat of being lost for all time.
Tilly has some clues gathered from story friends and others which she strongly believes might provide a sort of map to the Archivists – the legendary protectors of all stories and imagination. With her mother’s help Tilly and Oskar are off to America to meet up with Orlando and Jorge, her mum’s old friends and the best lead for the first signpost in Tilly’s possession. But the plan goes quickly awry when the pair find that even in America the Underwoods’ influence is infiltrating every layer of story.
It takes all their resourcefulness and courage to navigate their way through the intricate maze that their clues reveal but Tilly and Oskar are determined to not only save the world of stories but their very dear fictional friends. They are not unused to danger but this adventure, with its meandering journey, ultimately presents them with their biggest challenge yet. Can these two intrepid bookwanderers save story and imagination from complete annilhilation?
As with the first two books there are moments of real humour woven into the tension of the plot and readers will particularly find the appearance and help of William Shakespeare himself to be highly amusing.
I absolutely adore this series and have recommended it to many young readers who have all enjoyed it equally. If you’re late to the party I’d suggest you put all three on your orders list for the new year.
Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.
Oh Sir Terry how much poorer are we for your departure! This is our final offering from the master and one which will set many young readers on a journey of discovery for more of his completely anarchic and often absurd writing.
Previously unpublished this collection of stories originate from Sir Terry’s early days as a junior reporter writing for his local papers and are little gems in their own right.
Over a dozen stories have been unearthed and polished up to delight and entertain readers with a short introductory preface providing insight.
A crazy neighbour’s home-made rocket ship and a trip to Mars, a talking horse, an invasion of Britain by the little know Tropnecian nation, the titular time-travelling caveman and more are all bound to keep your kiddos in fits of snort laughing.
Ably illustrated by Mark Beech (in a style reminiscent of Quentin Blake) this lovely hardback edition would make a very splendid and welcome gift for a young reader of your acquaintance – or indeed, a TP fan of any age.
Highly recommended for readers from around 7 years upwards.