Well-known globally for her adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, A. L. Tait brings another entertaining and engaging series to middle years readers with the introduction of Maven and Reeve.
Maven, youngest daughter of an impoverished and dispossessed noble family, is companion and maid to Lady Cassandra who has been betrothed, unwillingly, to Sir Garrick, highly regarded warrior knight. Reeve, also from a noble family, and without any family support, has been sent as squire to the famous knight. The whole marriage hinges on the possession of the fabled jewel, the Fire Star, passed down through many generations to Lady Cassandra. Airl Buckthorn, Cassandra’s uncle, is liege lord over them all and strongly desires the jewel to be in the hands of his unpleasant and wayward daughter, Anice – and therefore, to all intents and purposes, his own hands.
When the jewel goes missing, Maven and Reeve find themselves thrown together to solve the mystery. Much hinges on their success including their own personal fates. In a kingdom rife with corruption and unrest, there are undercurrents of treason, intrigues and dark deeds on all sides.
This is an adventure/mystery that will immediately capture the imaginations of middle grade readers with immensely likeable heroes as well as thoroughly unpleasant villains.
Maven and Reeve make a terrific pairing as both bring their own backgrounds, upbringing and personal standards to a narrative that is fast-paced and full of excitement.
Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.
Read an excerpt here and you can check out A. L. Tait’s website here.
Huzzah! It has finally arrived! We’ve all been waiting with great impatience but at last the next instalment is here. And what a corker it is! Not only is it gripping and full of new revelations but has most uncanny parallels to our current parlous circumstances.
Morrigan is looking forward to her new studies at Wunsoc and the delicious anticipation of her second Christmas in Nevermoor as well as many other delights but there is a dread development overtaking her adopted home.
As Morrigan is introduced to deeper studies as part of her Wondersmith training by virtue of insights into long-gone but carefully preserved lessons, a bizarre and deadly illness is infecting Nevermoor’s Wunimals. Normally peaceable and productive members of society, the affected Wunimals are becoming wild and vicious unnimals attacking without reason anything and anyone in their path and eventually succumbing into a sort of ‘hollow’ torpor losing all traces of their unique ‘wunimal-ness’.
As the mystery virus takes hold with more and more Wunimals becoming infected and causing grievous bodily harm and even deaths, the residents of Nevermoor become violently divided in their reactions. Some vociferous in their protests that the Wunimals one and all are a menace to society, some in complete denial that the illness exists while others work as hard as possible to find a cure and save all lives – sound familiar?
Morrigan begins to see that it is going to be up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox but doesn’t quite bargain on her arch-enemy Ezra, the disgraced and feared Wondersmith, being the one who will lead her to it – though by very convoluted and mysterious ways.
As the young Wondersmith grows in her mastery of the Wretched Arts she is able to see more, do more, achieve more and manipulate the world around her more and while she still faces dire challenges and dangers, as she weaves her wundrous way through each new obstacle until she attains success, she is able to attain success, despite all odds.
This is not simply a new adventure filled with thrilling and and tense episodes but a very revealing insight into human nature and an ‘en pointe’ comparison to much of the disparate, and often extreme, responses we have all witnessed in recent times.
Fans, young and old, will relish this latest in the lives and events of Nevermoor and Morrigan and, like me, will be unable to put it down until they are done. And immediately, we will all be waiting with bated breath until we are able to re-visit Nevermoor, Morrigan, Jupiter and Fen – along with all the other marvellous and rich characters we have all grown to love so much.
Naturally it needs no recommendation – most of those I know have had their copy on pre-order forever!!
What a double bonus for me! First to be part of the Book Blog Tour to launch Rebel Gods – the gripping conclusion of Will Kostakis’ Monuments series. Second to be able to introduce you all to an amazing young woman, Tiarna Georghiou – Year 12 student, blogger, reporter, talented performer, passionate reader and, I’m proud to say, one of my students! You can treat yourself to Tiarna’s reviews at her blog The Book Mermaids as well as finding her on other social media platforms but in the meantime here is her thoughtful review of Rebel Gods and her Q&A with Will.
Rebel Gods, the final instalment of The Monuments series by Will Kostakis is an exciting new middle-grade / young adult novel. The novel follows the lives of three teenagers; Connor, Sally and Locky who are learning how to lead their parallel lives as newbie Gods, and ordinary teenagers. It is up to the adventurous trio to stop the rebel gods from reducing the world to ruin, however, they don’t know where to start. The three ‘newbie gods’ are faced with many challenges and difficult questions such as; who should decide the fate of the world? This novel is gripping and exciting, while still being heartfelt and emotionally driven at times.
I was drawn in to the story from the very first page, and was swept up in the writing style and the beautiful descriptions. The novel is told from a very authentic YA voice, which many children and young adults will be able to identify with. The book features a diverse cast of characters who are all humorous and fun. The book was adventure filled, and action packed, but still had lots of romance and friendships for the readers to invest in! I recommend this book for everyone who loves adventure stories, and wants to read a fun and exciting story!
Q1) You were extremely young when you started writing novels, what childhood experiences led to you discovering your love of writing?
My pappou (grandfather) wanted us to be avid readers and writers, because he struggled with both, so he would wait outside newsagencies before they opened to buy exercise books and watch us fill them as kids. He instilled in me a love of reading and writing, and I carry that with me to this day.
Q2) What does the Monuments series mean to you personally?
I launched into the Monuments duology after writing my heaviest contemporary novel, The Sidekicks, which was an intensely personal reflection on the death of a friend in high school. That took an emotional toll on me, so I needed to write something fun and light – I didn’t realise just how much I needed to until I wrote it. Monuments was my escape, and writing Rebel Gods to escape Hellscape 2020 … So the books will always mean a lot to the author side of me.
But I wrote Monuments for that fifteen-year-old version of me who loved fantasy novels, but wished there were more than unfolded in his city, and that featured people like him as their heroes. I centred a gay, Greek protagonist, and instead of giving him identity angst, I let him be the star of a laugh-a-minute adventure.
Q3) What do you hope your writing to achieve?
Firstly, I hope my writing entertains. Secondly, I hope my books show their teen readers that there’s a place in the world for them, whoever they are, and that they are remarkable, just as they are.
Q4) Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
I draw from my life, the media I consume, and my surroundings. So, the Monuments series was equal parts inspired by my evolving relationship with my friends and family, and the media I loved as a teen – videogames like The Legend of Zelda and TV shows like Alias.
Q5) Who are your favourite authors?
I have way too many to list, but the ones who never let me down are Terry Pratchett (a childhood favourite I still revisit, and am still surprised by), Barry Jonsberg (he really kickstarted my love of contemporary YA), Ellie Marney (Australia’s queen of YA crime writing – her latest None Shall Sleep is so creepily wonderful), Melina Marchetta (her YA and adult books are so honest and real), Lili Wilkinson (I’m jealous of everything she writes – her latest is The Erasure Initiative), and John Corey Whaley (the final scene of his Where Things Come Back is a masterclass in writing).
Q6) What is your process for writing books? Do you plan them all before you begin, or do you just let the creativity flow?
I usually start with an opening scene that illustrates what a character wants, or establishes what the key theme is (in The First Third, the family breaking apart set the scene for a story involving the protagonist bringing it back together). I like to have five or six key scenes established and a clear end point before writing a book, so there’s room to experiment as I write, and let the creativity flow as you say, but I’ve realised I work best with some guard rails to keep the story moving in the right direction. My second draft is when I get very strict with structure, and if a scene or character doesn’t add to where the story is ultimately going, they get the chop. Then it’s a matter of fleshing scenes out and refining the book until it’s ready for release.
While it’s always sad when something wonderful, like this magical series, comes to an end it’s also exciting when the conclusion is so supremely satisfying. Just as she did with the magnificent How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell has combined exciting magic, with dangerous and thrilling adventure and a very healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humour with quirky and loveable characters.
Xar and Wish, those misfits in their respective families and very different worlds, are in the final chapter of their self-appointed mission to rid both Wizards and Warriors of the dreadful and destructive Witches. They must destroy the long-imprisoned Witch King and save their people, the magical creatures and, indeed, the Wildwoods and the world from total annihilation.
They have found the Spell-to-get-rid-of-Witches and now they have to track down the Cup of Second Chances, rescue poor little Squeezjoos as well as navigate the heinous Mine of Happiness, defeat the dread Tatzelwerm, deal with their irate parents, protect their companions, find their way to the Lake of the Lost – and a whole lot more.
How exciting for all the fans of this series that the film option has already been picked up by Dreamworks and given the success of the How toTrain Your Dragon franchise we can all expect this to be transformed as excitingly in their hands.
Of course it’s not just the magic and adventure that makes this such a wonderful read of a series. The themes of loyalty, diversity of characters, overcoming difficulties, resilience and ultimately the acceptance of differences are all very much a part of what makes this series such a stand-out.
If your readers have not yet caught onto this series, my best advice is start talking it up and do at least a ‘First Chapter’ read-aloud to hook them. They will be hungry for more without doubt!
My highest recommendation for another of the current Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate’s amazing creations that will capture the hearts of readers from around Upper Primary upwards.
In my opinion it’s a rare middle-age novel that can transcend reading interests, age groups and genders but this is most definitely one that can. Certainly your middle grade readers will love it but it is just as appealing for older readers, including adults, as well as competent younger readers with its blend of whimsy and fantasy, strong conservation theme, friendship and family, humour and adventure.
Kate’s wealthy estranged uncle is considered ridiculously eccentric and irresponsible by her parents and really she knows very little about him. Certainly when she writes to him on a whim and asks for a birthday present she doesn’t expect to receive one. She definitely doesn’t expect the gift of a full-sized steam locomotive which appears in her back garden.
While her parents wrangle over what to do with such an unwanted and cumbersome gift, Kate and her younger brother Tom ignore parental doubts and distrust and board the engine in the middle of the night. The journey that ensues is both a revelation and a test of the children’s resilience, initiative and bravery.
To their complete astonishment the locomotive takes off through the night and guided by the engine’s own ‘voice’ they soon arrive at a station where a curious assortment of animal passengers wait patiently with valid tickets to board. The children do not take long to realise that their job is to ensure that each of these creatures, endangered due to various impacts on their natural habitats, are safely delivered to new homes where they can have some certainty of survival of their species. From the sweetest baby pangolin to a very cantankerous porcupine, a beautiful mamba to a sad and lost half-starved polar bear, the Silver Arrow has a mission – one that is filled with moments of danger and near-misses but ultimately the trip of a lifetime for all.
Readers will be thrilled by the excitement of the adventure and adore the laughs to be had but will also learn a great deal about the plight of many of the world’s most threatened animals. Like Kate and Tom, one might hope that they will also take action to do what they can to preserve and conserve the wonders of nature against loss of habitat, introduced invasive species and of course, humans.
I cannot recommend this highly enough for your readers from around 7 or 8 years upwards. It is both a joy and an inspiration and, in my opinion, destined to become a modern classic.
Elizabeth Wein continues her stellar historical novel series with another look at a fascinating aspect of World War II, this time weaving a wonderful tale around the famous Enigma code.
This exciting story revolves around three very diverse main characters: Louisa, orphan of a mixed marriage (English and Jamaican) who is habitually judged unfairly due to her race and culture, despite the fact that she has raised in a very ‘English’ manner; also subject to prejudice is Ellen McEwan, a Traveller, who is working as a driver for the RAF at the nearby airfield and Jamie Beaufort-Stuart, young pilot in the locally stationed squadron.
Louisa’s loss of both her parents in rapid succession means she needs to find work – not easy for a girl of colour – but is hired by the owner of a pub in Windyedge, Scotland, to be carer for an elderly aunt, herself a colourful and feisty character of German descent. It is in the small village, most notable for the airfield close by, that Louisa encounters Jamie and Ellen, who have known each other for years.
All three are desperate to fight back against the enemy and when the trio find themselves in possession of the mysterious Enigma code machine by means of an even more mysterious German flier, they use the machine to the advantage of Jamie’s squadron to inflict as much damage as possible on the relentless German assault by air.
It’s a deadly and dangerous course for the young people but they are all made of stern stuff and are determined to wreak havoc on the despised Germans.
The interaction between all the characters, both primary and secondary, is fascinating and eminently engaging and for young readers this is a superb way to ‘learn history’ that might otherwise be quite dull while also reflecting on attitudes and intolerances, sadly still all too prevalent today.
This was a gripping read which I thoroughly enjoyed and I truly warmed to these young characters, each so very different yet united in their unwavering determination and strength of character.
I highly recommend it for young readers from around upper primary onwards and would be certainly advocating it for a ‘read around your topic’ program.
This is one impressive debut novel with an unusual and interesting time-slip which will take readers into a rarely explored world of the past.
Charlie Merriam and his parents have been eagerly awaiting the birth of little Dara and when the baby arrives just as Charlie turns twelve it would seem that their joy is complete. But all is not well with little Dara who has been born with a heart defect and the emotional distress for Charlie is so unbearable that he runs off from the hospital to his favourite place – the ancient forest on the edge of town just near the family home. This is the place of joy for Charlie and his friends and is always full of mystery, adventure and discoveries. In fact, just the day before Dara’s birth Charlie had unearthed an ancient deer tooth with curious scratched markings.
In the midst of his anguish, stumbling without thinking in the depths of the forest, Charlie comes across an injured boy and immediately tries to help him. But this is no ordinary boy. Dressed in not much more than an animal skin and barely able to communicate with Charlie, it appears that the two boys have connected across the ages and Charlie has found himself in Stone Age Britain where dangers abound and life is hard.
This a wonderful adventure which readers will eat up with relish as Charlie and Harby help each other and in the process discover what each thought they had lost: hope, courage, family and their way home.
It is certainly different from the usual time-slip genre and while the reader needs to suspend disbelief significantly to grasp that Charlie and Harby can speak to each other with understanding it is not so much as to detract from the overall narrative.
I would recommend this for your middle school readers who enjoy both time-slip and adventure stories with a difference. Pre-order your copy now!
There is something about stories set in Holland that I find particularly appealing. Perhaps it is just the vicarious sight-seeing but for some reason they are always engaging and often quirky. This one is no exception. Combining adventure and mystery, family life, loyalty and very unusual entrepreneurship this will find an enthusiastic audience with readers from around ten years upwards.
Five babies were left at Little Tulip orphanage each one in direct contravention of the ‘baby abandonment rules’… one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket. Twelve years after the shocking flouting of the conventions, Milou, Sem, Fenna, Lotta and Egg are known as the ‘unadoptables’ but they have an unbreakable bond with each other. Though each yearns for a conventional family their more unusual bond surpasses this desire in each as they remain determined to stay together, even when that means having to stay in the orphanage under the tyrannical rule of Matron Gassbeek.
When a sinister stranger appears late one night and decides to adopt all five it can only mean one thing – something particularly nasty is in store for the children. This in turn means another one thing – they must escape from the home and find their own place in the world.
The amazing adventure of the Unadoptables as they flee Amsterdam and follow some sketchy clues to what they believe might be Milou’s original home and what follows is a roller-coaster ride filled with puppets and abandoned windmills, pirate ships, clockwork mechanics and suspicious locals not to mention the pursuit of one very dogmatic Kinderbureau representative.
This is at times hilarious and at others poignant with a very hefty dose of creepiness and suspense included. In other words, kids will lap it up!
If you are looking for something refreshingly different to tempt your lovers of such writers as Jessica Townsend, Neil Gaiman or Katherine Rundell, look no further. Highly recommended for middle primary to lower secondary readers.
ISBN: 9781760651930 Imprint: Walker Books Australia Australian RRP: $17.99 New Zealand RRP: $19.99
When I mentioned that I was reading this Pamela Rushby commented that she had written the sort of book she would have liked to read when she was eleven. She’s also written the sort of book that I would have liked to read when I was eleven! I’ve mentioned here before my somewhat non-fiction nerdiness as a child and reading about ancient civilisations, particularly Egypt, was one of my ongoing passions – so much so that I kept my (much older) brother’s ancient history textbooks when he finished school (and still have a couple of them) and often requested such titles from my mother who loved to buy me books.
This delicious story is really historical fiction doubled as it is set in Victorian times when the fascination with Egyptology was at it’s zenith. Young orphan Hattie/Hatshepsut Lambton has led a lonely life in the care of an always absent guardian uncle and when he is regrettably eaten by a crocodile she is sent to her great-uncle and great-aunt, relatives she’s never known before, who live in a very peculiar and ramshackle old castle. Hattie finds herself within a loving family circle at last with some quirky strangeness which young readers will find absolutely entrancing.
Of course there would be no adventure without some dark deeds and the Ravens, brother and sister, who are assistants to her great-aunt (who specialises in mummy unwrappings for fashionable society parties) are clearly up to no good.
Hattie is intrigued by her relatives’ passion for and knowledge of the ancient Egyptians but finds herself increasingly distressed by the whole concept of destroying the mummies. When the Egyptian authorities ban the export of ancient artefacts Hattie thinks perhaps the whole mummy unwrapping might come to a natural end but the Ravens are determined to keep Great-Aunt Iphigenia undertaking her career, as it serves their nefarious financial ends well.
An expedition to Egypt itself in search of mummies to smuggle is a revelation to Hattie and she encounters many new experiences and unexpected friends and allies.
Pamela Rushby has created a wonderful adventure weaving many fascinating facts about both these historical periods with characters both intriguing and likable as well as those repellent and villainous. The touch of fantasy throughout is a bonus which will appeal to all young readers who will long to meet the mysterious Sekhmet and her lively kittens (resident housekeepers at Crumblin Castle) for themselves and they will enthusiastically embrace Hattie’s determination to protect her new-found family.
This is an absolutely super story which blends fantasy and fact beautifully. The publishers recommend it for 8 years upwards. I am going to keep it in my secondary library where I know I will have many Year 7 and 8 readers who will love it. It will certainly feature in my next book promotions to these students as well as my book club kiddos.
Highly recommended for avid readers from around middle primary upwards.
Perfect for your middle primary to lower secondary kiddos this new adventure/mystery is just a great read with lots of excitement but also loads of great messages about the importance of connections with family and friends, self-belief, empathy and selflessness and being true to oneself.
Twelve year old Flick (Felicity) is very close to her big brother Jack and the two of them have always loved solving puzzles and being amateur sleuths together. When Jack goes off to Peru for a gap year adventure, Flick knows that she will miss him terribly and when an earthquake strikes the very location of Jack’s travels and there is no word from him, Flick and her family are devastated.
Flick is certain that Jack is still safe despite the lack of communication and begins to piece together his movements beginning with the smallest of clues – the discovery of Jack’s special tiny gold key necklace under his bed. From this tiny find Flick slowly unravels aspects of Jack’s life and personality of which she has no idea and at the same time finds herself making new friends and re-invigorating family relationships.
Parallel to the mystery of Jack’s whereabouts is Flick’s writing – the story within a story – and a strange legend of Inca gold both of which will intrigue readers who love this genre.
It’s a heart-warming story with wonderful characters throughout and readers will immediately be drawn to Flick and her friends, both new and old.
Highly recommended for readers from around 10 years upwards.