Tag Archives: Secrets

Here in the Real World – Sara Pennypacker

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Harper Collins Australia

February 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008371692
  • ISBN 10: 0008371695
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

At present we (as a collective global community) are having a great deal of reflection and discussion of what it means to be a hero and for many young readers their perception and definition of this might be relatively narrow. This beautiful new narrative from the author of the highly-acclaimed Pax encourages children to re-think their ideas around this.

Ware is an only child, somewhat over-protected and ‘different’. He’s not the kid who wants to join in, he is content in his own world and his passion is medieval history and all that goes with it: castles, chivalry, fanfare and brave deeds. He’s looking forward to spending summer with his grandmother, happily in his own world,  while his parents work double-shifts desperately pulling together the money to buy their rented house but when Big Deal, his gran, becomes unwell the plans for summer fall apart.  He is, instead, enrolled in the dreaded vacation program at the ‘Rec’ where he supposed to have ‘meaningful social interaction’ and be forced to participate in mind-numbingly boring activities.  After only one day Ware explores the abandoned and demolished church next door to the Rec where he encounters a very fierce and very prickly girl, Jolene, who appears to be quite obsessed with growing plants in tin cans.

Initially the two are at odds, both wanting the space within the old church grounds but as Ware continues to skip Rec and investigate the lot and its potential they begin to find a common ground. While Ware begins to create his own castle from the ruins and Jolene fusses over her papaya plants, they both come to accept each other and the fact that the lot is, for both of them, a refuge from their troubles.   It’s an unlikely friendship but one that, like the little plants, slowly but surely grows and bears fruit that will nourish them both.

The two misfits’ summer proves to be one of teamwork, mutual acceptance and understandings, problem solving, loyalty and purpose. When their sanctuary comes under real threat they must devise a plan to save not only their space but Jolene’s plantation which, for her, is her ticket to a better life.

Woven throughout are the nuances, difficulties and at times hostilities that can permeate family relationships and friendships and the slow but careful resolution of some of these is a truly moving aspect.

I loved this book and read it quickly over two nights. While essentially gentle in its narrative the interaction between all the characters and particularly the two protagonists is very engaging. Not to do it any disservice by comparison but it really put me in mind of Bridge to Terabithia with its similarity in the scope of imagination and the unlikely pairing of the two children. It’s a tremendous read and one that will be very well received by thoughtful readers from around 11 years upwards. It’s certainly one I will be recommending highly to my Choclit group (Year 7-12) as I think many of them will appreciate both the quality of the writing and the premise of the plot.

Click to access Here-In-The-Real-World-Teachers-Notes.pdf

 

Mercy Point – Anna Snoekstra

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Harper Collins

June 2019

ISBN: 9781460709887

ISBN 10: 1460709888

RRP: $19.99

For so many the teen years are times of angst, struggling for self-identity and confidence and feeling that one ‘fits in’. For a group of five young people in the Blue Mountains it’s even more fraught as all of them suspect they may be adopted and yet no one is telling them that it’s so.

Bonding anonymously on an online chat page, the group has no idea that in real life they not only know each other but to all intents and purposes dislike individuals in the group.

When they all decide to meet up and investigate their suspicions together, there is a good deal of shock involved when they realise just in whom they have been confiding. But their need for the truth overcomes personal prejudices as each begins to uncover long held secrets and they come together to discover their true origins.

No one would suspect that their small town could hide so much deception: the terrifying truth that awaits them is something that none of them could ever have imagined.

Told turn about by each character the group gradually bond as a team and the mysterious ‘outsider’ Sam begins to reveal more and more to aid them – and shock them

For those of us who know the mountains there are many references to well known places and events which makes the reading all the more accessible. I understand there is already a plan to make this into a tele-movie or series and it really is a highly suitable vehicle for this with its surprise twists and turns.

Despite my habitual resistance to sci fi this is a great read and aside from my knowledge of the area I found it highly engaging and thoroughly engrossing.

Highly recommended for discerning readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check out teaching notes here.

The Book of Answers: an Ateban Cipher novel (Book #2) – A. L. Tait

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Hachette

Mar 27, 2018 | 9780734417695 | Rrp $14.99

The intrepid outlaw girls and boys are back in the next exciting instalment of the Ateban Cipher – Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett along with Gabe and now Eddie (aka Prince Edward) are on a quest to deliver the Book of Secrets to the rightful recipient.  When Gabe first took charge of the mysterious book he knew nothing about it except that it was dangerous in more ways than one. Now with the help of his new comrades some progress has been made and the group are on their way to the isolated Hayden’s Mont and Lord Lucien where they hope to rid themselves of the book (and their deadly pursuers) and be able to get on with other business.  But more than answers about the book are in store at Hayden’s Mont – Gabe receives a shock regarding his birth origins, they are all in a quandary about what to do next when Lucien says he cannot take charge of the book and Eddie still needs to reach his father the King with the proof of his identity – not to mention Gwyn’s determination to save her own father from his unjust and false imprisonment.  While some threads appear to be tied up, others are just unravelling – what is in store next time for this brave band?

This is the kind of thrilling adventure that has readers turning the pages as fast as they can devour the story along the way discerning many important themes about trust, loyalty, ingenuity and courage.

A .L. Tait’s knack for creating these gripping and often tense exploits has been well demonstrated in her Mapmaker Chronicles series (as a reader said to me in the last week of school – “I just LOVE this series – it keeps you on the edge of your seat!”) and now continues the success with this new series.

Hear A. L. Tait talk about the inspiration for this new series here.

Highly recommended for Upper Primary/Lower Secondary readers both boys and girls.