Archive for the ‘Secondary’ Category

Sage Alexander and the Hall of Nightmares

By Steve Copling

 

 

 

Cool cover and so good to see such a lengthy book trailer to entice us readers into the world of Sage Alexander

It is always a good sign when the bulk of reviews are positive as it all adds to the desire to read new books. My current TBR pile is enormous and there are not enough hours in the day to read, but I do want to read this one. There are more books in the series being written and planned for publication which is also another good sign. So, do enjoy the trailer and see what you think.

After the Seven Princes of Hell escaped the underworld, becoming gods became their obsession. Spawned from the angels banished from Heaven, the Seven have lured the soul of man into their influence since the beginning of time. Supernaturally gifted angelic-human warriors – the Angelic Response Council – have been disappearing over the past thousand years, and their ranks grow thin.

Prophecy holds that in the Council’s darkest hours a boy will emerge, Sage the Warrior, divined to possess all twenty-two angelic gifts and become the Council’s ultimate warrior. He will seek out and destroy the Seven Princes of Hell one by one, and lead humanity away from the brink of their own annihilation.

 

 

 

 

I have been pondering writing this post for a few weeks now as I consider my blog to be mostly about books, book trailers and reviews and I tend to shy away from anything else. However as reluctant as I was to share this post I now feel compelled to.  So, for what it is worth, these are my thoughts on the current discussions surrounding the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and the lack of the Children’s Choice category this year.

Along with many librarians up and down the country we received the official statement regarding the reasoning for not having the Children’s Choice category. And I get it. I totally get where the committee are coming from and appreciate their reasoning but there is one side of the argument I want to share as I do feel the need to stand up for schools and librarians.

One of their reasons was that they “have witnessed a marked decline in the number of schools participating in the past few years”. I don’t dispute this at all but here is something to consider. 

These are my own thoughts based on being a school librarian, a writer and someone who has worked in a children’s bookshop for ten years.

Sadly, schools are not obliged to provide a library or a librarian, qualified or not. At secondary level the majority by far employ a full time librarian and can get behind events such as the book awards. I am in the minority as a primary school librarian who very fortunately gets to work full time. Many work less than 25 hours per week, and there are those where a librarian is employed for only an hour a day and that is to cover the lunch break only. How on earth are they going to try to organise voting for children’s book awards with so little time. It is completely out of the question. Emails from places like the book awards people don’t always make it to the librarian if they are only there 2-3 days a week with limited hours so they miss out on information. Working such limited hours also means they are reluctant to attend network meetings with other librarians so again miss out on information. We also know there are schools without a librarian at all and those without even a library. This breaks my heart but that’s another post!

Surely if our education system wants us to focus on literacy, then a well-staffed, well-stocked library is a must. It should be funded by government and not one of those things that gets left behind when schools try to juggle budgets. 

As a librarian with a limited budget I do not, nor ever have, just gone and bought all the books on the finalists lists. I buy the ones that I believe children will enjoy and the ones I can afford. In the past I encouraged children to vote. I had big displays and discussed the books with my students. We posted off the postcards and in later years the library computers had the voting pages bookmarked for easy access. What the children loved about the awards was their chance to vote, to have a voice. Their voting they knew, could make a difference.

In the bookshop where I worked, again we had displays, voting forms.  We always had a night put aside and held a public panel discussion on the award books and picking our own winners. I was also a committee member for the Christchurch area in the days of NZ Post Book awards and we organised many events, one time even making it on to the national television news with an event.

As a writer with a novel in the Children’s Choice category a few years ago, I can tell you, that the fact that children had chosen my book themselves meant more than anything in the world. It didn’t win but it didn’t need to, because in my heart, the fact that children had chosen my book as a finalist and put me in the finals, was more than enough, more than a dream come true.

So I do feel for the current situation and understand why the choice may have been made, but I think it isn’t always clear cut why schools might not participate and that does matter. It matters because children’s voices determines what actually gets read and at the end of the day, isn’t that what is most important, our readers.

 

 

Pieces of you

By Eileen Merriman

ISBN 9780143770473

Penguin Random House

Lots of favorable reviews for this young adult book. Faces lots of different issues too which add to its appeal. I love how you can even try before you buy with a link to reading the first chapter.  Themes of mental health and self-harm are part of this novel so be warned that because of these themes this is for readers aged 16 and up. That said, I am keen to read this book very soon. Gritty, real and current.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party,              but that’s when things really fall apart.

             I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

              ‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
              ‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
               And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .

 

I do love books that tackle difficult subjects as this one does. Check out the trailer and perhaps go and read the first chapter in the link above.

Never say die

By Anthony Horowitz

ISBN 9781406377040

Walker Books

Loved this series. Can’t wait to get a copy now that it is out. At the school I work I have had to replace this series many times as the books get read over and over and never go out of popularity. I think what I especially love is that the mix of adventure and being a teenager make Alex a very realistic character. The right mix also means that this series is appropriate for a younger audience as well as teens. Some content in similar type series limits their reading audience because of content but this series is perfect so that ten year old students and up can enjoy.

In this brand new, explosive adventure in the number one bestselling series, Alex Rider is trying to get his life back on track after the traumatic events of his last mission. But even Alex can’t fight the past … especially when it holds a deadly secret.

If we go back to the very first book book in the series Stormbreaker you have what I think is one of the best opening sentences ever. I know that is all I need to read to my students and they are hooked.

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.

 

Check out the very cool trailer from Walker Books for Never Say Die

Jake Bailey: What cancer taught me
By Jake Bailey
ISBN 9780143770862
Penguin Random House NZ

 

None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have.’
Only one week after being told he had cancer, student Jake Bailey was wheeled on stage for his end-of-year speech as head boy at Christchurch Boys’ High School. None of us can forget seeing him on television, brave and determined. His words moved everyone and spread quickly around the world so that people everywhere knew of this young man from Christchurch. A young man who had the biggest battle of his life ahead of him.
In his biography we share Jake’s journey, his illness, his treatment and recovery. Jake’s story is one we all need to read. While aimed for the adult market I believe this is one of those perfect cross-over books and will be a must-have for secondary school libraries. Such an honest and inspirational young man, I can’t wait to read his book.

 

1917 Machines of War

Kiwis at War series

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775432807

Scholastic NZ

It is 1917 and the Great war is a jagged scar across the face of Europe. Soldiers cower in mud-filled trenches, hurling bullets across the war-torn landscape. Above them flies 17-year-old New Zealander Bob Sunday, of the Royal Flying Corps. Before long, Bob finds himself flying against the great German air aces, including the infamous Red Baron, as their warplanes whirl above the battlefields of Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

Over the years, I have read many children’s and young adult war war books but none have focused on war from a pilot’s point of view. It is illuminating to see how World War 1 played out in the skies above the battlefields, from the eyes of pilot Bob Sunday. There were so many things I didn’t really know about. I was surprised by the debate over parachutes which becomes part of Bob’s many conversations. The descriptions of the different planes and the people involved provides a well-researched account of the events at the time.

It is great how we get to see the impact of war from pilots from different sides of the war. Enemies at times, showing a sense of respect for each other as they battle for the skies.  Bob Sunday arrived fresh from New Zealand with revenge in his heart but over the year you can see his growing maturity and change of ideals.  Author Brian Falkner tells it straight but I did find myself smiling a few times over clever and witty dialogue. We know from our history books that war was brutal and a tragic waste but through Bob Sunday’s eyes we see it first-hand.

A smell began to assail my nostrils. An unbreathable stench of death and decay. I held my breath as long as I could, trying not to gag, but eventually I had to breathe in and waves of nausea and dizziness almost overwhelmed me. I don’t know what I was crawling through …

Bob is a believable and likable protagonist facing up to his fears and living in incredible times.

I think this would make a great read for a novel study for older students or a book club choice. Do make use of the teacher notes here.

This is the fourth title in the Kiwis at War series with a final book to be published in 1918. Each book looks at a different year of the First World War.

Allegedly

By Tiffany D. Jackson

ISBN 9780062668653

Katherine Tegen Books

An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

 

I have just ordered this book and can’t wait. The blurb for this new YA novel is intriguing. A psychological thriller, a gritty read and somewhere in the middle is the truth. As soon as it arrives I will be reading and reviewing this debut novel from Tiffany D Jackson. 

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Doesn’t this sound so cool?

 

Saving Red

By Sonya Sones

ISBN 9780062370280

Epic Reads

 

bk_savingred

 

I love how verse novels have the ability to pack a punch using few words. Saving Red, Sonya Sones latest verse novel packs many punches. The old saying that less is more is never more true than in Sone’s novels.

Molly is almost 15 years old and filled with guilt as she begins suffocating in a family on a down-hill slide to nowhere. Molly’s guilt eats away at her and it is this guilt that compels her to help Red, a teenage runaway with problems of her own. The unlikely pair form a strong friendship.

Red is quirky yet delightful, brave yet fearful, alone, yet not alone, as she has the Duke and Lana for company. Molly soon realises the truth about Duke and Lana and so begins a gutsy, determined effort to help Red and return her home to her family for Christmas. And of course there is a boy in there too, for good measure. I must confess, if I was quite a bit younger, I too would be very keen on the cute Cristo.

The characters are real, their dilemmas are real, creating an honest and thought-provoking novel which I couldn’t put down. So caught up in their world, I just wanted to hug them both and make sure they were okay. 

 

Carve the mark 

By Veronica Roth

ISBN: 9780008157821

HarperCollins 

This is one I am looking forward to when it is published next month. A well-produced and atmospheric book trailer has me already intrigued.

Surely just reading the publisher’s blurb below and knowing how successful the author’s Divergent, Insurgent and Allegent books have been, then it is safe to bet this will be fantastic too.

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favoured by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not – their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power – something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive – no matter what the cost.When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive – or to destroy one another.

Shooting stars

By Brian Falkner

ISBN 9781775433606

Scholastic NZ

November release.

5

Egan Tucker is fifteen and has been in hiding his entire life. But things are about to change. Forced to leave his home, he must venture out into a world that is unlike anything he has ever known. He is not ready for this world. And the world is not ready for Egan.

Egan has lived his whole life hidden from the world, protected by his mother who snatched him away when she ran from an abusive husband. For fifteen years they have lived in the forest, surviving on the wilds of nature. He knows the bush and forests of the Coromandel Peninsula so well. It provides all their needs. He spends much of his time scouting the bush, hunting pigs with CrackerJack, his faithful dog. On one of these hunts he meets DOC deer culler J. T. Hunter and this encounter changes everything for Egan. They become friends and for Egan who has known no-one else except his mother, this relationship becomes an important aspect of the novel. Then Egan’s mother goes missing and he finds himself in Auckland searching for his moma. Auckland is a world of noise and people, cars and technology. It is a world he has only read about and his adjustment is both difficult and intriguing. The language of the street kids he encounters is foreign to him but he is determined.

He may be well-educated from the books he has read, mostly from second-hand classics his mother has bought him over the years but he is also very naive. These books are the reasons he wants to be a writer and the reason he writes his diary.  I love how Egan is both gullible and strong which comes through perfectly in his diaryand his relationships with the street kids he meets.

His mother has taught him a set of codes to live by and these codes guide him whenever he faces different or difficult situations.

I was totally swept away with Egan and his life. Falkner’s quality writing made these people very real.

This is certainly a story with a difference and one that will be enjoyed by many teen readers for its action and great characters.

After reading this book, the thought occurred to me that this would make a good movie.

 

Small things

By Mel Tregonning

ISBN 9781742379791

Allen&Unwin

9781742379791-2

 

I have had this book at home for some time now but I have struggled to write this review. I struggled to find words  that would adequately do justice to this book’s beauty. It is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. It is a wordless graphic novel for older readers and throws such a punch that I was left breathless. This book hits us with everything it has. Quality, beauty, sadness, hope all woven together with the most stunning illustrations.

Mel Tregonning’s illustrations capture feelings with such honesty that it is at times confronting. A young boy  is obviously so overwhelmed by his feelings of inadequacy and isolation that his world begins to fall apart. Indeed, it is the young boy himself who begins, bit by bit to crumble. His growing sense of sadness and loneliness is so raw and real it begins to eat away at him. At times when he is desperately trying to fit in, he fumbles, feeling others laughing at him and starts blushing. Despite the illustrations being black and white, Mel Tregonning captures his embarrassment through clever shading and we can feel his pain acutely. 

I so wanted to grab this boy, pull him out of the dark pages and his dark world, hold him close and hug him forever. He situation is so real and sadly all too common. However, there is also hope and the lovely sense of a friendship just starting to bud. 

I strongly believe this book is bound for all sorts of awards and deservedly so. It is with such sadness that the illustrator who died in 2014 will not be around to see the impact her beautiful book has had.

Much has been made of the fact that Mel Tregonning took her own life but rather than focus on this I want to point out that the author and illustrator Shaun Tan illustrated the last three illustrations to complete this book. For me, this highlights the fact that at times we all need help and is one of the most powerful messages in this book. 

Yes, this book moved me to tears but it is a book and story we need to read. We need to talk about depression, loneliness, sadness and how to deal with these issues. It is not for young readers. I will restrict this book to year six only (10 years up). There is so much to unpack and discuss with this book. For teachers and parents it is a great book to use to begin those awkward conversations that if left unspoken, could become worse. Sometimes, all we need to know is that we are not alone and that others feel the same way we do.

I love this book for so many reasons but mostly for its gutsy honesty and the message that we need to reach out, either for help, or to help.

Teacher notes available here for both primary and secondary schools.

1916 Dig for Victory

By David Hair

Kiwis at War series

ISBN 9781775432784

Scholastic NZ

5-2

While obviously there are no longer any soldiers left alive from the First World War to talk about their experiences, I do believe David Hair has captured their time realistically and honestly. This novel is well researched and covers daily life in the trenches.   We witness the young men digging the trenches, dealing with attacks from the German side and the very real day-to-day threat of injury or death.

As the Maori contingents join up with the Otago lads (many who are actually young Scots with a fierce sense of being New Zealanders) we see a definite clash of cultures.  The racist overtones of some of the men have the potential to damage the morale and therefore their ability to work well as a team.

Leith McArran is part of the group shovelling dirt to make the trenches when he is teamed up with an obviously under-age young Maori boy Tamati Baines. I loved watching the relationship between these two young men and how it grew from strength to strength. Their relationship highlights the need to have someone you can count on in the worst of times and as this book shows so well, these were the worst of times.

A  solid account of the First World War and life on the Somme battlefield.

In a letter to a nun back in New Zealand Tamati sums up  poignantly the feelings of many of the soldiers.

I can feel the darkness closing in. One by one, the colours leave us. Gone is yellow, gone is green. Blue is fading, turning to grey. Only brown remains, a brown world of dun-clothed men, whose bodies turn slowly to mud. The night awaits.

What more can I say? A must have for intermediate and high school libraries.

Lies I live by

By Lauren Sabel

Lauren Sabel’s latest book is out now. It offers a little of everything, spies, danger, romance of the complicated kind and secrecy at all costs.

As the government’s youngest psychic spy, Callie finds valuable information for top-secret missions without ever leaving the office. Her work is fascinating and keeps her headaches at bay, but it means she must lie to everyone she loves. She can’t move to New York with her boyfriend Charlie no matter how much he begs; he’ll never know the real Callie and that wouldn’t be fair to him. Besides, she has a job to do…

…and a new partner to do it with. Jasper’s psychic abilities are impressive, as is the way he keeps up with her witty remarks. Callie can’t help but flirt; Jasper knows her in a way Charlie never will.

But as her love life gets more complicated, so do her visions. People halfway around the world seem to be in danger…and people in her own backyard, too. When an oddball billionaire takes interest in Callie’s talents, it’s clear that if she can’t find a way to alter future events, she could lose the people she loves—and her mind. Literally.

 

If you are in or near Christchurch on 27th September do come and listen to these award winning authors and illustrators talk about their children’s war books. Wonderfully told and researched, beautifully illustrated this is a night not to miss.

what-lies-beneath-author-christchurch-tour1

The dark crowns

By Kendare Blake

ISBN 9781509804559

 

 

I absolutley loved Anna dressed in blood so I am certainly looking forward to this new book by Kendare Blake. Her writing grips you and drags you in to her worlds. Take a look at her website too with a very cool front page illustration. Suitably creepy and intriguing.

“Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends

Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.”