Archive for July, 2020

City of secrets

By Victoria Ying

ISBN 9780593114483




This is exciting. A new graphic novel for middle grade readers who like mysteries and adventure. The storyline sounds exciting and the trailer is very, very cool. I have added it to my list to get a copy for our library ASAP. Graphic novels are always in high demand and I can tell you already that this particular book will definitely have our students lining up to read it. The illustrations are top-notch.

Ever Barnes is an orphan with a secret. While some people look out for Ever and try and keep him safe, others want to know what he knows and they are after him. This book promises lots; mystery, adventure, danger, friendships and twists and turns everywhere. I am completely intrigued.






Clap when you land

By Elizabeth Acevedo

ISBN 9781471409127

Hot Key Books


Elizabeth Acevedo knows poetry. She knows how to make words sing and dance on the page. Knows how to make those words haunt you and leave you in awe. I loved her book Poet X and now I’m in love again, with her latest verse novel Clap when you land. 

All these lies that we’ve all swallowed,

they’re probably rotting in our stomachs.

Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic with her aunt; her mother long since passed away, while her father lives in New York. He returns each summer to spend time with her but this time his plane crashes and Camino is left an orphan. He sent money for her schooling but now that he is gone, she worries what will happen to her and her dreams of being a doctor seem pointless. There is also an unwanted male and danger not far from her door.

Yahaira Rios lives with her mother in New York and her father is also killed in a plane crash on his regular summer trip away. The father, is the one and the same. Neither girl knew of the other’s existence but the fate of that plane crash draws them together after secrets are revealed that they are in fact sisters.

Beautifully written in verse, each daughter tells their own story, their own fears, and struggles to cope with loss, grief, and the secret that shatters their worlds but ultimately draws them together.

The language flows beautifully and is succinct.

Tio Jorge knows how to listen.

                Even if all he hears is silence. 

There is so much to unpack in this novel, so many thoughts and feelings.  The girls share many physical features of their father but live in totally different worlds. I love how the author draws us into Camino and Yahaira’s worlds and inner thoughts. Their shared story is moving, gritty and powerful. I am so glad the sisters find each other. Loved this book!


I would love to listen and watch Elizabeth Acevedo live. Poet and performer!

Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775436447

Scholastic NZ


Schoolboy, Spy, Assassin; Joe is all these things and more. Award-winning author Brian Falkner’s latest book is a must-read. It is full of action, heroism, and definitely intense. It is a solid read with strong characters and one of those stories you just have to keep reading to see what happens next. Joe’s world is turned upside when his father is taken away by the Gestapo, leaving Joe and his mother on the run. Separated and left on his own, Joe finds himself in danger at every turn. He meets a number of different people, some become great friends; people he can trust with his life, but others put him in even more danger. The story is very well written, and well-researched with lots of detail creating a very believable setting and time for Joe and his story. Between each chapter there is a page from adult Joe’s memoir providing further insight into Joe and his time as spy during World War Two

The reality of war is brutal and inescapable but 12 year old Joe copes with everything that is thrown at him with a growing maturity.   The story shifts between occupied Paris and the bombed ruins of London. As the son of diplomats Joe speaks fluent German and this may be his greatest asset.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book with its edgy, seat-of-the-pants pace. I totally believed in the characters, their different personalities, flaws and all. I so want there to be more books about Joe.

This really is an excellent read.

At the back of the book there is a very useful glossary and some photos of the times.


Joseph St George is a young New Zealander, the son of diplomats in 1930s Berlin. But the Nazis are on the rise and the world is on a spinning path to destruction. Joe’s world is about to change, violently.

After a narrow escape from Germany with his mother, Joe is recruited by British Intelligence and given a mission to infiltrate the Hitler Youth movement.

From vital convoys across the frozen North Atlantic, to the terror of the London Blitz, to the shadowy world of the French Resistance, this is Joe’s world.

Inspired by true events, Katipo Joe is a story of incredible heroism, unlikely friendships and unbearable tragedy, set against the backdrop of World War II.

Mission Girl: The writings of Atapō , Paihia, c.1840

By Fleur Beale


Scholastic NZ

Mission Girl is a re-release with an exciting new cover.

“Even though you are a prisoner, a slave now, you are the descendant of chiefs. Never forget …”

When her tribe is defeated in battle, Atapō is captured and becomes a slave of her enemies. Freedom seems impossible; the penalty for runaway slaves is death. But when sickness strikes the village, Atapō is blamed – and now it is even more dangerous to stay. To save her life, she escapes to the Pākehā mission station at Paihia. There, Atapō is taught to read and write, and learns of the threat to Māori by some unscrupulous settlers greedy for land. 


There are so many important aspects to this story. We look at the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori beliefs and tikanga, the impact of Christianity on Maori, clash of cultures, as well as slavery. When reading  about Atapō and her story, I realised how little I really know of our past. There is so much more to know and for primary school and intermediate age students, the My New Zealand Story series is a great way to discover our history.

Atapō is a young Maori teen on the run. So much has happened in her young life, including being a slave and losing most of her family. The threat of being caught and killed is always present.  However, she is strong and determined which I found admirable. Her thirst for knowledge and learning is certainly one of her strengths. I loved how excited Atapō was after learning to read and write and the joy she felt at owning her own book to record her thoughts.

Told in diary format, this story is a thoughtful insight to an earlier time in New Zealand’s history and like many in the My New Zealand Story series, this is a must-have in school libraries.  Our history, our people.




Daphne and Velma : The vanishing girl

By Josephine Ruby

ISBN 9781338592726

Scholastic Inc

Almost everyone knows Scooby Doo and the team of young detectives. I fondly remember the cartoon series from my childhood and the mysteries and antics Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Scooby got up to each week. This recent release is the first in a new series focusing on Daphne and Velma with guest appearances from Fred, Shaggy and Scooby. I’m guessing book two might see more involvement of these three.

I really enjoyed listening to the audio of this book and getting to know Velma and Daphne. Once they were best of friends but then the sharing of a secret pulled them apart. For a number of years the two girls didn’t even talk to each other but now they have been thrown together and they must solve a mystery. This is very much the old type of mystery and detective story but in a modern time.

Daphne’s best friend Marcy goes missing; the Police believing she is runaway but Daphne knows Marcy would never do that without telling her first. So Daphne starts investigating Marcy’s disappearance. There is talk of ghosts and a few suspects too. The timing is 100 years after other people went missing so everyone in Crystal Cove is worried that something supernatural is happening but the girls work together to solve the mystery.

Shaggy plays his part too, although the focus really is on Daphne and Velma and their relationship.

There was a sense of nostalgia as I listened to the story, and a feeling that I was reuniting with a couple of old friends. I’m certainly going to be looking out for the next book in the series. Though aimed at Young Adult readers, I see no reason why younger tweens wouldn’t enjoy this book.


Pie in the sky

By Remy Lai

ISBN 9781760651626




Eleven-year-old Jingwen and his younger brother Yanghao have recently moved to Australia with their mother. Still coming to terms with the loss of his father, Jingwen struggles to fit in and finds himself falling behind in school. Learning English is hard and it feels as though he has landed on Mars and everyone is speaking Martian. Jingwen often looks after his little brother, who one minute is annoying him, and the next bursting into tears. As a way to deal with the tears and everything else going wrong in his life, Jingwen and Yanghao secretly begin baking cakes. Jingwen wants to bake all the cakes from the Pie in the Sky menu, which their father had planned for a bakery he intended to open, but sadly because of his death, never happened.

They bake in secret while their mother works nights but a series of incidents leads to disasters. He disobeys his mother and lies to her and this creates even more trouble for Jingwen who, as oldest brother, should know better.

Pie in the sky is a delightful mix of story and graphic novel aimed at middle-grade readers.

This is a humourous, yet well-written emotional book dealing with sibling rivalry, disobedience, family issues, loneliness, sadness, loss and so much more but it is a very good book that needs to be read.

I personally think that teachers should include this for their own reading. Jingwen’s experience reminds us just how hard it must be to fit in at a new school, in a new country and not know the language. While Yanghao seems to pick up the language and make friends easier than Jingwen it just helps demonstrate the struggle is real and different for everyone and that immigrants need all the support we can offer them.

If you are a teacher, then it is worth checking out the teacher notes here.

A must-have for school libraries.


By Wilbur Smith

ISBN 9781848128545

Piccadilly Press


This pacy, adventurous, mystery is the first in a new series aimed at readers nine years and up. I for one, am already looking forward to the second book, having thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Jack Courtney travels with his parents and his friend Amelia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a gorilla conference. They are met by Xander, Jack’s old boarding school friend and then meet up with Jack’s cousin Caleb.  Things change very quickly when Jack’s parents go missing, possibly kidnapped by mercenaries, and instead of going on a Safari trip, the teens find themselves in a heap of danger themselves as they try to find Jack’s parents and the reason for their disappearance. The jungle is full of danger and Jack’s experience has only ever been London and city life. He has a tough road ahead if he and his friends are to make it out alive.

The pace of this story has you turning the pages to keep reading to see what happens next and what new dangers or threats follow. There is an overall environmental theme happening, alongside themes of trust and betrayal.

A good book to read to a class, or just enjoy by yourself.


By Kwame Alexander

ISBN 9780544868137

HMH Books for Young Readers



I love verse novels but I’m not particularly a fan of sports so I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself totally absorbed with this book. Rebound is a coming-of-age story where Charlie/Chuck learns to deal with his grief over the loss of his father and to deal with the consequences of his own actions. Unless something changes, Charlie could very well find himself in a heap of trouble, from which there is not always a way back. And yes; there is a girl in there. I loved reading his gradual realisation that she might just be more than his best friend.

Grief does hang heavy for Charlie and he spends his summer with his grandparents, giving him and his mother some time apart. Relationships is a strong theme throughout the book; the good and the bad. Communication is also a strong theme. On and off the court, Charlie learns to deal with life.

The writing is full of energy and keeps you turning those pages. I was so caught up in Charlie’s life that suddenly I was wiping away a few tears. It was one of those moments that sort of just creep up behind you and take you by surprise. And as for the basketball, I was very much on his side, fingers crossed as he played.

Try it but also look out for The Crossover to fully get the picture. Check out the book trailer too and for more info check out the author’s website.