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Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold (general fiction)

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I loved A.F. Harrold's The Imaginary, and I love the cover of this book, so I really had to read it. 

A.F. Harrold writes beautifully and his slow, lyrical style isn't going to suit all.  But this a lovingly crafted take which takes the reader on a most unusual journey. 

Frank is unhappy.  She is bullied by a most unpleasant character, and his two dumb sidekicks, and her best friend  has gone away for the summer.  But when the strange Nick Underbridge rescues her from the bullies one afternoon she doesn't quite know how to react. No one likes Nick. He's big, he's weird and he smells.

And yet, there's something appealing about Nick's house. Frank can hear strange music, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

Frank goes investigating and she finds out that there is more to Nick than she first thought. Soon Frank realises she isn't the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help...

Friday, 27 January 2017

Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner (Year 8 only)

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Wow... what a read... this story was truly un-put-downable. 

This is the review from Bob's Books Blog which I feel says it all really...

"You who are on the road must have a code that you can live by” these lyrics from a 1970 Crosby Stills and Nash song ran through my mind as I was reading this superb novel.
Egan and his Moma have lived in the remote forests and bush of the Coromandal Peninsula for 15 years since Moma fled from an abusive husband with Egan as a baby. She taught him well, bringing him up on a code that is not unique- based on the Golden Rule, and written by every philosopher from Socrates to Fred Dagg. Egan is well read and wants to be a writer, Hemmingway and Steinbeck are favourites. Some of his stories are spread throughout the novel. The Code works well in the bush where there are no other humans, until Egan meets D.O.C. deer culler  J.T. Hunter.
Egan and his dog Jack like J.T. and they learn much from each other, then Moma goes missing. Egan looks for clues in his mother’s papers and this takes him to Auckland. This is part 2 of the novel with Egan describing  Auckland as a bonfire that needs constant feeding. He learns to live with the street kids and finds violence and love. He could survive anything but The Code by which he has lived is sorely tested.
Part 3 tells the father’s story and Egan learns what celebrity status means. The Code is further tested and broken. I would ruin it for you if I told you anything else.
Falkner narrates the story in diary form through Egan from December to March and it is totally compelling. The wit, the humour, the characterisation and the flow of the novel are strong traits of all Falkner’s novels, this is no exception. I was mesmerised from start to finish and you will be too. It is a triumph for motherhood.
Mention must be made of the cover, it is outstanding, any reader can see what the novel is going to do from the cover. The best I have seen for a long time."
I think it would make a great readaloud for Year 8s - as there is plenty of scope for discussion, and some gritty issues to grapple with...

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The war that saved my life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (senior fiction)

Image result for The war that saved my life Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

This is a fabulous read. 

Ada is nine and has never been allowed to leave her one-room apartment. Her mother is too embarrassed by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. She watches the goings-on of her little lane from a window.

But when her younger brother Jamie is evacuated out of London to avoid the bombing which is threatened, Ada decides to sneak out and join him.

The children are taken in by Susan Smith, who has been forced to do the job after suffering her own personal tragedy.  
Ada is captivated by Susan's pony and teaches herself to ride.  As she does so she begins to trust Susan - and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. 

But what will happen when Ada and Jamie's cruel mother reappears?

An absolutely captivating story which has you cheering for Ada all the way!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

One Day in Oradour by Helen Watts (senior fiction)

One Day in Oradour

There are some books which just have a massive impact, for whatever reason. 
This story is one of those. 

It is based on the true, and truly horrifying, story of the village of Oradour in France which is invaded by the SS during World War 2, under the dubious premise that the inhabitants have had something to do with a Resistance kidnapping of a high ranking SS official. 

The story is sensitively told, but it doesn't pull any punches, particularly when the SS are doing their worst. Hence why it is in Senior Fiction. 

Highly recommended to those who like Morris Gleitzman's Once series. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell

Shiverton Hall

The opening chapter of this book is genuinely a little freaky, and it really makes you want to read on. Master Frederick Shiverton is a nasty piece of work and his legacy is the somewhat unsettling boarding school, Shiverton Hall.  

Arthur Bannister is unexpectedly given a scholarship to the school and as he is hating his current school, he grasps the opportunity.  But Shiverton Hall is not your usual school, with its strange tales of ghosts and off happenings. 

If you like Harry Potter, or you don't mind a little freakiness in your reading, give this a go! You won't be disappointed...

Friday, 13 January 2017

A Skull in Shadows Lane by Robert Swindells (general fiction)

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When I started reading this book I thought it had a real Famous 5 feel to it... a certain post war innocence and a shallowness to the story.

But in fact, this story has a number of interesting twists and turns which surprised me, and which made it much more memorable than a Famous 5 (sorry, Enid Blyton!!!)

Here is the plot profile from Good Reads...
The war has just ended in the tiny village of Coney Cley, and Josh and his gang are desperate for some excitement. When they head for the eerie, abandoned Shadows Lane to explore a deserted house, they find more than they bargained for—a human tooth. Then a creepy, skeletal face appears at a dark window. Believing there's a skeleton haunting Shadows Lane, the children are shocked to learn the truth about "Boney"—he's an escaped prisoner of war. But someone else is also hiding in the village, someone much more dangerous. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Fox and the Ghost King by Michael Morpurgo (general fiction)

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Michael Morpurgo is a legend... he can reel off wonderful stories, seemingly at will. They tend to be a compelling mix of a simple idea, but with a rich complexity that makes the stories so satisfying.  

They can be read by younger readers, but they aren't patronising or simplified.  I love them. 

The Fox and the Ghost King takes a couple of wonderful true stories and performs a bit of a What if... on them. 

The body of Richard III was discovered buried under a car park in Leicester, from where it was exhumed and given a proper burial.  About that time, the fortunes of the Leicester City football team (The Foxes) started to improve... ultimately leading to them winning the 2015 Premiership.  A family of six foxes were often spotted at the games - and Morpurgo weaves these ideas together to tell a wonderful story.  

It would make a great read aloud for about Year 3 and up...