Tag Archives: Family

Pax, Journey Home – Sara Pennypacker

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Harper Collins

September 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008470289
  • ISBN 10: 0008470286
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD
So many readers have been waiting for a sequel to the book that captured thousands of hearts with its tender story of a boy and his orphaned fox. Now a year has gone by since Peter and Pax were separated (oh the tissues required!) and each has followed their own path. Pax has a mate and a new litter of kits to protect as they wander the wasteland to find a safe haven. Peter, now orphaned himself, has been taken in by the warm and generous Vola far away from his home but he cannot settle, despite the sanctuary she offers.

When Peter joins the Water Warriors, a group determined to repair the ravages of the war, his primary intention it to work his way back to his old home, although he knows there is nothing left for him there. He desperately tries to put Pax out of his mind but still there’s a part of him that yearns to know his fox is safe. At the same time as Peter draws nearer to his old house, Pax is trekking across the dangerous landscape with his youngest kit, the feisty the little girl pup, who is becoming weaker and weaker. Despite the fox’s sharp senses he has no way of knowing that the water the little vixen drinks so thirstily is slowly poisoning her. When their paths finally intersect again, the pair’s reunion is bitter-sweet but as they part once more, both have experienced a healing transformation.

Again Sara Pennypacker has crafted a book that is full of exquisite tenderness and real emotions, with no trace of cloying over-sentimentality. The beautiful re-defining of ‘family’ and the transcedent power of pure love will linger with readers well after they turn the last page.

An absolutely magical book which was one-sitting read for me as I once again dipped into the world of Peter and Pax.

My highest recommendation for readers from around 10 years upwards.

Kensy and Max #8: High Voltage – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

September 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760898557
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

Get ready for your kiddos to clamour to be the first – and then the next – to borrow Jacqueline Harvey’s newest book in the dynamite Kensy and Max series! This is another knock-out episode in the thrilling adventures of the twins and their family and friends – though, ostensibly, in this book everyone is meant to be on a happy relaxing family holiday.

After some tense action over the school term, Granny Cordelia decrees a holiday for the entire family in a picturesque Portuguese villa with loads of sunshine, beach, delicious food, time to chill and absolutely no phones, devices or espionage! Their holiday villa just happens right next door to the epicentre of all the action surrounding the E-Prix Championships, Wolf Motors, and an innovative new vehicle called the Wolf Electra. Soon it seems that everyone in the family is secretively investigating something as strange and disturbing incidents start to rapidly escalate. Of course, the twins and their buddies, Curtis and Autumn, are right in the thick of things and doing their very best to unravel the intricacies of kidnapping, sabotage and family secrets.

This newest mission takes the family spy business a step further as the twins’ mother, who had declared herself to be no longer interested in being an active agent, revises her position and takes an active guiding role in their investigations. Also adding more depth to characters, who have been somewhat on the periphery, readers will enjoy finding out more about Mim, and her past relationship with James Wolf – not to mention his former association with the family.

High-powered race cars and the glamour of the sport combined with the spy antics of Pharos are an intoxicating combination, and the tension and threats around the championships, the reveal of a game-changing new SUV and the evolving status of family and friends certainly will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

My readers eagerly anticipate each new title so I know this one will most definitely be in high demand as soon as it hits our shelves, particularly as we approach the holidays. No doubt many of you will already have it on pre-order but if not, then add it to your shopping list at high speed or suffer the consequences (that will be strident nagging most likely I predict).

It’s not often that an author manages to keep her dedicated fan base once they move on past the intended audience, in my experience – they often seem to ‘grow out’ of certain favourites but that is most definitely not the case with Jacqueline’s works.

My highest recommendation goes without saying for this new cracker in a highly successful series – the joy her creativity brings to readers is inspiring.

Sofa Surfer – Malcolm Duffy

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9781786697684
  • ISBN 10: 1786697688
  • Imprint: Head Of Zeus – Zehpyr GB
  • RRP $16.99

On any given night in Australia 116,427 Australians are homeless. 27,680 of these are young people aged 12-24 years. Most of the homeless youth aged 12–18 years in 2016 were living in ‘severely’ crowded dwellings (61%) or in supported accommodation for the homeless (26%).

Youth HomelessnessSalvation Army

121,000 16-24 year olds were homeless or at risk of homelessness in the UK in 2020 Centrepoint UK

Over the past year I’ve read some cracking teen books from the UK, and this is right up there with the very best. It’s engaging, often funny, extremely poignant and tackles a social issue of the gravest concern not only in the UK but also here in Australia.

When Tyler’s family moves from London to live in the spa town of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, the 15-year-old is well ticked off and prepared to resent absolutely everything about their new lives. He misses their old house and his friends, and he hates the ‘small town-ness’ of Ilkley. The fact that his parents have opted for renovations to their new house rather than their usual summer holiday somewhere exciting is, as far as Tyler is concerned, the nail in the coffin. His resentment continues to build, and his only outlet is taking his dog Dexter for long walks where he can vent his feelings on a blissfully unaware canine.

Desperate for something to fill the empty days, Tyler goes to the local lido (that’s the local public pool to us!) where at least he can enjoy his swimming prowess. To his great surprise he’s approached by an awkward gangly girl, whom he estimates to be around 18, with an almost unintelligible Geordie accent, long skinny limbs, baggy swimmers and gawky specs who asks him to teach her to swim. Of all the things he might have expected to happen this was certainly not one of them but ‘Spider’ as she is known is surprisingly persuasive and, being keen to earn himself some money for headphones, Tyler takes on the challenge.

And challenge it is – Spider is not the most confident of pupils and certainly not the most physically adept but she does make progress even though she’s not always reliable with Tyler’s payment for lessons. As the lessons progress, Tyler begins to realise that Spider’s life is one fraught with anxiety and difficulties as she ‘sofa surfs’ at a resentful cousin’s place, tries desperately to find some work and sense of self-worth. Tyler faces the opposition of his parents who are not at all keen on him becoming embroiled in any way with such a person and when local girl Michelle fixes her sights on him in a very possessive way, his life becomes even more complicated.

What starts out as simple swimming lessons, becomes a friendship marked by true empathy and compassion and as Tyler works his way through helping Spider, he also works his way through his own (relatively inconsequential) family problems and begins to realise how fragile family relationships can sometimes be. It is such a relief that at the end of some harrowing moments there is a good outcome for Spider but sadly, the statistics reveal that this is not always the case especially for young women. Tyler’s shock when he learns Spider is only 16 – so a year older than himself – is very confronting and will certainly give teen readers some pause for thought.

It is a sobering thought that in so many affluent Western countries the incidence of youth homelessness is on the increase and not only can support agencies find themselves overwhelmed but can also be perceived as contributing to some of the problems. You can read more about youth homeless in Australia here and check out agencies such as the Salvation Army, Mission Australia or Homelessness Australia. The novel concludes with the contact for Centrelink in the UK – the leading youth charity in that country.

I know my readers who love the work of writers such as Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan are going to love this book and it will certainly be top of my book talking list at our next ChocLit meeting.

My highest recommendation for teens from Year 7 upwards.

The Valley of Lost Secrets – Lesley Parr

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Bloomsbury Australia

February 2021

ISBN:9781526620521
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

Omg, I can’t tell you how much I loved this read during the week!! It completely reminds me of two much-loved favourites, Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (both of which I own and have re-read many times), but with its whole new take on the situation of evacuee children in WWII.

Jimmy and his little brother have been evacuated from London to a Welsh valley – traditional, coal-mining families and either open welcomes or suspicion of ‘foreigners’. Mr and Mrs Thomas are warm and caring, and little Ronnie is quickly comfortable with both, but Jimmy is both distrustful and resentful. He’s already lost his mum, who took off leaving the brothers with their dad and grandmother, and he’s certainly not ready to treat this temporary stay as ‘home’. The entire London contingent seem different here. Jimmy’s best friend, now lodged with the local minister’s family, has turned into a nasty bully like the Reverend’s son and Florence, uncared for and abused at home, blossoms into a true friend.

Jimmy is to realise that even a temporary family can be a solace but first there are difficulties to overcome and these are complicated when the boy discovers a human skull hidden in the hollow of an old tree. Enough to scare even an adult, this find has Jimmy scrambling for someone to trust and sometimes an ally can be found in the most unlikely quarter. The secrets of the valley are gradually revealed as Jimmy and his little tribe work together to solve a decades old mystery, and bring much needed comfort to a long-held grief.

We do know, of course, that not all the evacuated children had happy experiences and we cannot begin to comprehend how overwhelming or unnerving the whole exercise would have been even for those who did. In those times, many city children had never had any experience of wide open spaces, nature and the reality of rural living – some didn’t even know that milk came from cows!

Young readers, particularly those who are fond of such stories set in wartime, will find much to love about this narrative. The strong themes of family, friendship and bravery are very inspirational and will give many children finding our current circumstances difficult some insight in dealing with similar events.

Highly recommended for your readers from around ten years upwards.

The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency : The Edge of the Ocean Book #2 – L. D. Lapinski

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Hachette Australia

APR 13, 2021 | 9781510105959 | RRP $16.99

Now that Flick is officially a member of the StrangeWorlds Travel Agency, and with one exciting adventure already under her belt, in which she demonstrated some unexpected and remarkable powers, she and Jonathan Mercator are summoned to help another world. This time they are joined by Jonathan’s distant cousin, Avery, to whom Flick takes a strange instant dislike.

The urgent request for help has come from Queen Nyfe, who rules as a pirate chief over a motley crew of almost skeletal ships, in a world called The Break. This strange watery flat world is used to ships disappearing over the edge but in recent times, it’s become apparent that the world is breaking up and so the dangers have increased exponentially for Nyfe, her crew as well as the other mariners and the mer-people who also inhabit the once vast ocean.

Flick, Jonathan and Avery face more than just the pressure of saving The Break’s peoples. The various inhabitants are fighting amongst themselves and navigating the subterfuge on all sides is tricky indeed. Added to this is the shocking realisation that Jonathan’s lost father appears to be indeed dead and his grief renders him almost helpless in the struggle to work out how to transport ships, gigantic mer-people and pirates through a suitcase to a new and suitable world – even if they can actually find one that will fit the bill. And then there is the (to Flick’s mind, weird) way her feelings towards Avery and what seems to be a reciprocal feeling change as the quest unfolds.

Once again, this series delivers amazingly rich narrative with characters with whom readers will fall in love. I, for one, will eagerly anticipate the next instalment and your readers from around middle primary upwards will adore this new instalment.

The Storm Keepers’ Battle: Storm Keeper Trilogy 3 – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2021

ISBN:9781526607966
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

I have loved this series from the very start! The premise is so fresh and different, and full of so many wonderful themes, characters and fabulous magic.

Fionn and the Arranmore islanders are under siege from the evil Morrigan, her heinous brothers and her army of SoulStalkers. Black Mountain looms ever more menacingly over the island, threatening all with total annihilation. As the new Stormkeeper, Fionn knows that it is up to him to find some solution but how to do it? His best plan is to find the ancient sorcerer of old, Dagda, but that seems like an impossible ask.

To his aid comes old Rose, who it seems has been hiding her true identity for long ages. She is Róisín, First and Fearless, who fought alongside the mighty Dagda in the battle against Morrigan years and years ago. She tells Fionn how to find the Whispering Tree and thus be led to Dagda, an adventure fraught with tension and danger in itself. To Fionn’s utter astonishment, though he finds Dagda in one sense, it is not so that the ancient sorcerer can come to the island’s aid once again. That it would seem is entirely up to Fionn, as he is pronounced the new sorcerer and the islanders’ sole hope for salvation.

Fionn must learn to control his magic (which is, to his immense surprise, powerful indeed), empower the islanders as Stormkeepers themselves, each to their own clan and wield this combined force to defeat the darkness that is so near to engulfing them. Losing both his friend, Shelby, and his sister, Tara, to Morrigan almost proves his undoing but he digs deep into his newly found magical strength and with the aid of the clans and Róisín, the overwhelming odds are reduced and Fionn is revealed as the great sorcerer Dagda predicted.

The ongoing themes of family, loyalty, tradition, self-belief and selflessness, with references to Irish legends woven throughout, make for a thrilling and marvelous narrative and I am only sorry that we have reached the end of this trilogy.

Readers with a love of high fantasy and thrilling action, both boys and girls, from around 10 years upwards will absolutely love this series and I highly recommend it to you as a remarkable addition to your collection.

The Golden Tower – Belinda Murrell

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Penguin Australia

  • March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760897093
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

 

Belinda Murrell’s time-slip adventures have always been thrilling and captivating and this new one does not fail to do the same.

Sophie is feeling a little down. Though she loves her English grandmother dearly, she’s a little bored with her extended stay while her mum and younger brother are in Oxford at Archie’s camp for super-smart kids. Sophie has far too much time to think about her problems with bullying Indigo, back at her Sydney school, and her struggles with dyslexia, always feeling a failure, and aside
from all that the English summer is very wet – as is usual – and so pretty dull in all senses. Dull that is, until she’s out walking in the muddy fields and follows a very disreputable looking cat into a mysterious cave, which turns out to be an old Roman ruin. In less time than a cat takes for a quick groom of its whiskers, Sophie has stumbled into a strange but beautiful land and finds herself almost accidentally saving the life of a little girl from a rampaging wild boar. And so, Sophie finds herself caught up in the Tuscian world and embroiled in a complicated family situation, where she is the only one who can help siblings Isabella and little Bia escape the horrible plans of their stepmother – a truly wicked stepmother, in the very best fairy tale tradition.
In this mysterious world full of beauty and magic such as talking cats, flying horses and funny little mischief-makers, the muzzamurelli, Sophie discovers within herself a strength and resilience she had no idea she possessed as well discovering a very special secret.

Drawing on Italian folktales and motifs of traditional stories, Belinda Murrell has also been inspired by the history of Renaissance noble families and the daughters who were raised to be skilled, intelligent, well-educated, and influential as well as by music, art, architecture, and culture. Thus, this beautifully exciting narrative becomes more than just a fantasy-adventure but a delightful excursion into a fascinating, though often cruel, historical period.

When I say I had to force myself to stop reading over the past few nights because the story was so completely engrossing, I guess you can safely assume that I give this my highest recommendation for your readers from around 10 years upwards. I know I will have many young readers in my own library who will be leaping for this first-rate magical adventure. 

Oh and just look at that stunning cover design! It’s a triumph! click here for links to pre-order

 

Kensy and Max #7: Take Down – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Australia

March 2 2021

  • ISBN: 9781760898533
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

The countdown to Take Down is on! The kiddos are going to be wild with excitement to read this new adventure with the spies-in-training, as they set off for the World STEM championships in exotic Singapore. The team from the Central London Free School are thrilled to be in the finals for the world’s most prestigious STEM competition but when their grandmother, Dame Cordelia Spencer, falls victim to a poison attack, Kensy and Max are not so keen on going ahead with the trip. However, they are persuaded by their parents and friends that not only will they be safer in Singapore but that their obligation to the team is more important than sitting around in a hospital waiting room. Naturally, that proves dead wrong as the twins and their friends become embroiled with an illegal animal smuggling operation, the very dangerous villain who has been pursuing their family and the mystery surrounding their friend Autumn’s missing parents.

Once again Jacqueline Harvey has hit on a winning combination, combining the growing concerns around the illegal trade in exotic species and STEM, which is arguably the hottest topic in education at present, not to mention the reference to the dangerous nerve drug which was the subject of a recent (and huge) political attack. Kensy and Max prove themselves to be increasingly resourceful and creative and the growing emphasis on their friends’ skills and aptitudes, and their developing teamwork, will provide fans with more rich fodder for discussion and engagement. This underlining of family and friends being vital to our overall safety, success and achievements (no matter how talented we may be as individuals) is a valuable point of reflection for readers.

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting Singapore it is a thoroughly delightful vicarious tourist experience, highlighting the best of the iconic sights and experiences to be found in this amazing city/country. Though the Kid has spent a week there, I’ve only had the brief encounter with a stop-over in the airport, sadly, and would love to see more of this vibrant and beautiful place – maybe one day!

There is never any need to ‘sell’ Jacqueline’s books, but this comes with my highest recommendation for your readers from around Year 4 upwards as the series gets edgier, more exciting and more in-depth with each new volume. Available for pre-order now, so don’t miss out – your kids will be waiting very impatiently for it to hit your shelves!!