Archive for the ‘Intermediate’ Category

Cloudburst

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.

Rebound

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.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

By Suzanne Collins

ISBN 9788427220287

Scholastic

 

Not a review, but sharing the trailer for a book I am very keen to read.

I loved the Hunger Games trilogy and now there is a prequel and it is very much anticipated by fans all over the world. So much so, that on all searches I did to find out more about this book, I never got further than writing the word Ballad and the novel popped up. Could be any ballad at all but Collin’s one came up first every time which just goes to show how much interest and demand there is for this book.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.”

This time we focus on President Snow as a young man. Looking forward to reading this one soon.

 

Robin Hood

By Robert Muchamore

ISBN 9781471408618

 

Cover by Alessandro Taini

Very cool cover.

Author Robert Muchamore knows how to begin a good story and keep you reading.

Guy Gisborne is a gangster and not very nice at all. In fact, he is a thug. Robin Hood’s father speaks out about corruption in the town of Locksley and as punishment, he is framed with a crime and thrown in jail.  Robin’s mother died some time ago so with his father in jail, he and his brother Little John have no choice but to run. They become separated and 12 year old Robin ends up in Sherwood Forest where bandits, bikers and other groups live. There is danger at almost step.

This is a modern day Robin Hood and the first book is the gathering of the group. The book has everything. Pace, suspense, and plenty of action. There is computer hacking, heists and arrows. Lots of arrows. Secrets are revealed and friendships made.

Guy Gisborne is out for revenge after Robin attacks him. I won’t say what he does as I don’t like spoilers, but Gisborne got what he deserved. Robin is also out for revenge, for his father being in jail for a crime he did not commit.  There are good guys and bad, corruption and greed and a little humour too, in this first book in a new series by Robert Muchamore.

A thoroughly good and energetic read and I am already waiting for the next book. Sadly it’s not out until next year but I’m sure the wait will be worth it. A very good series for 10 up.

Check out the author’s page to find out more about the characters from this book

I love the trailer!

Ice Breaker

By Maria Gill

Illustrated by Alistair Hughes

ISBN 9781869665364

New Holland Publishers

 

I have always been a fan of explorer Frank Worsley. His photo hangs proudly in our school foyer as he is deemed a past pupil hero, his determination something to aspire to. As books on Antarctic explorers go, most focus on Sir Ernest Shackleton so it is wonderful to see Frank Worsley getting the attention he so rightly deserves. If it wasn’t for his incredible navigation skills there would have been no survivors from this dangerous journey.

In 1914 an attempt by the crew of the Endurance to traverse the Antarctic continent began well enough. Unfortunately the ship became stuck in the ice and eventually sunk. This is the story of that  extraordinary journey and how all the men survived because of Frank Worsley and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

It is hard to believe that everyone survived given the constant setbacks they endured. It was bad enough being shipwrecked but the freezing cold temperatures, bitter winds and treacherous conditions that hounded the crew is beyond our imagination. The journey is well recorded here in Maria’s creative non-fiction picture book. Again, as with all of Maria’s books, the subject is well-researched. It is hard to believe that no lives were lost or that the men did not just give up in such unbelievably harsh conditions. This book shows the depth of character these men had and their resilience and determination to stay alive.

The illustrator captures this determination in the faces of the men. The bitter cold and harsh reality of their situation is also wonderfully captured in the illustrations. A great record by author and illustrator of one of New Zealand’s true heroes.

Suitable for all levels as a well documented account of one of New Zealand’s true heroic explorers.

 

 

Today in New Zealand History. Updated edition

By Neil Atkinson, David Green, Gareth Phipps, and Steve Watters

Exisle Publishing

 

 

This is one of those books that should be in every school in New Zealand, if not every home.  The pages are full of dates and information but in a very accessible way. Easy to read, not too wordy but enough information to give readers an understanding of important historical events in New Zealand’s history. There is a mix of black and white photos as well as colour ones.

The layout is perfect for dipping into and reading interesting snippets. The headings and dates are bold and easy to read when searching for particular dates. The book covers so much; disasters, politics, famous people, sporting events and much, much more. The book includes the 15th March 2019 Mosque shootings which is still so very fresh in everyone’s minds. As someone who lives in Christchurch and was in lockdown in a school while this devastating event took place, it is good to know that it is included in the updated edition.

NB Thanks to Exisle publishing for allowing me to share these copyright sample pages.

The book also includes happy events, such as when our Silver Ferns netball team won the 2019 World Cup. Exciting times.

Grab yourself a copy of this detailed, informative and authoritative look at our history from way back in the past right up until now.

 

Avis and the Promise of Dragons 

By Heather McQuillan

ISBN 9780995119758

The Cuba Press

 

Love the cool cover with the mysterious eye peeking out from the bush. The first thought is why is it hiding, and what is going to happen? It is an easy well-paced read so won’t take you long to find out the answers.

Avis has a dream to work with animals, so when a scientist with a witchy-looking house offers her a job as a pet-sitter she jumps at the chance. But it turns out Avis is not looking after pets at all – the animals in Dr Malinda Childes’ backyard are as eccentric as she is and Avis has to promise to keep them a secret.

Writer Heather McQuillan provides an entertaining, yet informative read for those who enjoy a mix in their reading. We have fantasy, bullying, secrets, family issues, as well as lots of environmental concerns. Would be a good read aloud in schools as there is much to consider in the story of Avis, a young girl who is left in charge of some very unusual pets.

All begins well for her pet-sitting job until a storm changes everything and Avis is faced with many challenges, including the consequences of keeping secrets. Avis doesn’t always manage to do the right thing but she is prepared to make amends and learn from her mistakes, which is not always an easy thing to do. Avis also learns to accept changes and finds the strength to make some changes herself. Seeing growth in a character is always the sign of a good book. And anyway,  who doesn’t love a story with dragons?

White Bird

By R. J. Palacio

ISBN 9780241397244

Penguin Books

Penguin Random House

I read the book Wonder a number of years ago and loved it. I have it as year six book club title and the children love it too. So it was a no brainer to buy a copy of White Bird which shares with us the backstory of Julian’s grandmother. For those who read Wonder, you will remember that Julian was a bully and very unkind. While there is no excuse for such horrible behaviour, we can see in Whitebird that Julian later regretted his actions. For homework Julian has to write an essay about someone he knows and he chooses his grandmother. At first she is reluctant to share her story but she goes ahead and we are taken back to the 1940’s and a world at war.

Wow! Where to start? I loved this book so much. I cried so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Julian’s grandmother Sara Blum, was a young Jewish girl living in occupied France, who believed her life was good and a bit like a fairy tale. Her family had nice things, food, a home, and spent time together as a family in the fields of bluebells. One day the Nazis came to school wanting to collect all the Jewish children. They ran through a forest trying to escape but Sara hid in a room upstairs in the school where a crippled classmate found her and led her to safety. Together, this boy Julien, and his family helped hide Sara in a barn and kept her safe.

Throughout the story we see bullying, kindness, trust, and mistrust, courage, hope, the futility of war and the impact it had long after the war was over. We meet strong, kindhearted people risking their lives, as well as nasty ones, ready to shoot on sight. Throughout the years in hiding, it is the friendship between Sara and Julien that is most moving of all.

This is powerful and at times uncomfortable to read but it’s a must read.
Written and illustrated as a graphic novel by R. J. Palcio you can see that the author knows exactly how her characters respond to situations, she knows their stories, their thoughts and fears and captures them in her illustrations so well, that we also know and can relate to them. We can feel Sara’s sadness and we can feel Julien’s frustration at his disability, especially as he remembers how fast he could run before polio ruined everything.

This is ideal from middle grade right through to secondary. There is so much to consider, so much to unpack and just so much more than a story about a young girl hiding and trying to survive in Occupied France. It is a story of hope.

Julian’s grandmother has a message for us all “Never again”.

 

 

 

You can read White Bird as a stand alone but if you want a little more out of it then read Wonder if you haven’t already.

Nevertell

By Katharine Orton

ISBN 9781406385182

Walker Books

 

A world of magic is only a whisper away…

 

I was hooked from the first page where there is immediate tension. It is followed by more action and suspense. The pace is just right for keeping readers wanting to know what happens next.

Lina has only ever known the prison world she was born in and the harsh, snowy winters of Russia. Lina is only eleven but she is pushed by her mother, who is also a prisoner, to escape and try and find her grandmother in Moscow. Her best friend Bogdan also escapes and the two of them find themselves facing many dangers. Food and warmth are in short supply and what are the noises and creatures that keep following them.

This is a good read. It has heaps of action, and is paced well with lots of new characters along the way. Some good, some not so good. Each chapter heading has mystical illustrations adding to the story.

Trust, forgiveness, friendships, family, freedom, and hope, are all themes throughout the novel for middle grade readers. Throw in survival and courage with a good dose of magic and a whispered voice repeating the phrase “nevertell” and you have a mystery as well as a fantasy story. Fairytales are an important feature here where they offer hope but also fear as they bring warnings of danger. A good read. This is a debut novel but I will certainly be looking out for further reads from author Katharine Orton.

 

 

The night the moon fell down and other poems

by Bill Nagelkerke

ISBN 9780473489212

The CopyPress NZ

 

 

Bill Nagelkerke’s book of poetry is full of poems to delight the reader. His poems appeal to young readers for their cleverness, humour and fun. Many have been published before in the School Journal and various publications and books.

The haiku on the back cover shows us his ability to take an everyday image and give it a fresh new look so that we are caught surprised by its depth and beauty.

 

plane trail

ruling a line beneath the moon

brush-stroking the sky

 

Some poems fit perfectly in the New Zealand landscape and others reach beyond time and space. Each poem is carefully thought out; words have been chosen for their meanings and impact, whether for fun or to leave the reader thinking beyond the end of the poem.

Each poem comes with its own illustration.

My favourite is the poem Rain but I’ll leave that one for you to read when you look for a copy of this book. A good book for teachers to use in class, not just for reading poems aloud, but for encouraging student’s own creative writing. Different styles, different subjects, different poems, all worth reading and sharing.

A great choice for school libraries.

Bill, apart from being a poet and author, also a translates books from Dutch to English, most notably for Gecko Press children’s books. He was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Award for his distinguished contribution to New Zealand children’s literature and literacy in 2013.

 

The Rise of the Mythix: The Golden Unicorn

By Anh Do

ISBN 9781760525132

Allen & Unwin

 

The Soul Collector is a nasty man who collects everything he deems beautiful or unique. HIs most prized possession is Lucifer’s ring for the power it holds. He doesn’t care how he gets these artefacts or who gets hurt along the way, as long as he gets them for his collection.

Kelly Swift is an average teenager with a secret. She can outrun anyone and anything. Suddenly things change and she finds new strength and a lump growing in the middle of her forehead and for some strange reason she begins to hear people’s thoughts. The Soul Collector has been watching her and he wants Kelly for his own collection but she is determined not to be caught. So he takes her mother and Kelly will do anything to save her.

This is a quick read with lots of action, a prophecy, mythical creatures and an ending that leaves you hanging out for book two.

Characters are older teens but the reading is aimed at a younger audience who love a good adventurous read. Lots of illustrations give face to the characters but also break up the text. Ideal for reluctant teen readers too.

Thoroughly enjoyed the story and the references to myths and legends from the past. I’ll also be one those waiting in line for book two.

Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver

By Michael Morpurgo

Illustrated by Michael Foreman

ISBN 9780008347925

HarperCollins Children’s Books

Those that know me, know that Michael Morpurgo is hands-down my favourite author. His ability to weave stories from serious situations and make them accessible to young readers, is legendary. He is never afraid to tackle the hard truths, such as war, in War Horse, or even environmental issues like the impact of deforestation as in his book Running Wild.

In Boy Giant Son of Gulliver we are introduced to Omar and his mother as they leave war torn Afghanistan. They are on a boat headed for England when it sinks. Omar wakes to find himself on an island, tied up and surrounded by the tiniest, littlest people you can ever imagine. The little people eventually realise he is no danger and take him in, caring for and helping him to learn English. English will good for him, he thinks, for when he can finally find a way to be reunited with his Mother in England, if she is in fact, still alive.

There are several levels to this novel and they all deal with the issues of war and learning to trust one another. The story is inspired by the classic story of  Gulliver’s Travels. Omar, or Owzat, as he later becomes known as, learns to love being with these tiny people and their kindness but everyday he misses his mother, and pines for her and the England they were heading for as asylum seekers.

Omar has strength and patience. He is determined to keep peace at all costs but most importantly, he refuses to give up hope.

Another top novel for middle grade readers from award winning author Michael Morpurgo.

I adore Chris Riddell and his talent for storytelling and creating the most amazingly gorgeous illustrations. I continue to add his books to my school library but also to my own collection. I shall die poor! Today I have a guest reviewer with her views on his latest book. Hannah is 8 years old and loves his books too and we have neat discussions about his books.  This is a new series and we are already keen for book two. No pressure Chris! Thank you so much Hannah for your review. You did beat me to reading it first.
Three children, three objects, three places that results in to a thrilling story of mysteries and magic. This story has made my imagination fly because of its characters creative thoughts. It’s the most mesmerising book I have ever read because it’s full of surprises. It has taken top place of my Chris Riddell list because it’s a different structure to his other books and I prefer this type of structure. As soon as I opened this book my eyes fell in love with it. You have to read this book.

        “ A magical story awaits your eyes”.

A book review by Hannah H age 8

I go quiet

By David Ouimet

ISBN 9781786897404

Canongate Books

David Ouimet and his publishers have produced a stunning, imaginative sophisticated picture book. It deals with a girl who is extremely introverted. Shy and unassuming she doesn’t even have a name. She goes through life feeling overwhelmed and struggles to find a place where she can fit in. She longs to be heard. This is her journey.

I adore the fact that this solitary, nameless girl finds solace in books. 

“When I read

I know there is

a world beneath

my branches.”

Books and reading helps her and gives her courage. The illustrations are dark and moody but they are also beautiful and hopeful. It is for the more mature reader but this would be a great book to unpack with a class and delve into the depths of its beauty and meaning. Love it.

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By J. K. Rowling

Illustrated by Jim Kay

ISBN 9781408845677

Bloomsbury

 

This is another beautifully illustrated collectors edition from Bloomsbury Publishers.

It doesn’t matter that I already have the set in paperback and hardback, this is something I just have to have, especially as I have the others in this beautiful format. Actually the original copies in the house belong to my now adult son, these illustrated ones are mine. The story is still the wonderful world of magic and mystery, although in this particular book the series takes a more dramatic turn and becomes darker and scarier, and sad too. It doesn’t really matter how old you are because if you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you are a fan for life. It also doesn’t matter how many times you read the books, there is always something new to discover that makes you suddenly think, so that’s why such and such happened.

Jim Kay brings a whole new element to the stories with his magical illustrations. There are stunning illustrations both in colour but also black and white which add mood and mysticism. Stunning.

Play around on the Wizarding World website to see much more.

My cat Dusty protecting my copy bought yesterday, one day after publication day.