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...

Lion by Saroo Brierley (non fiction)

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Wow, this is an incredible story, which, like all the best true stories, makes you think that truth is stranger than fiction!

Five year old Saroo is part of a poor, but loving Indian family.  One day he heads off with his big brother to find food, but they are separated and so begins the most incredible unbelievable journey. He ends up in Calcutta after getting stuck on a train, where he has to fend for himself, whilst trying to find his way back home. What he doesn't realise that he is many hundreds of miles from home... a place that he can remember vividly, but he can't remember the exact name.  As a result he can't get home.  

Eventually he is picked up by an orphanage and he is adopted out to an Australian family. 
His new family love and nurture him, but eventually he feels the need to try and find out about his past... and so begins another amazing journey, which he embarks on with the help of Google Earth and Facebook. 

This is a stunning read... and there is a movie as well...

Kiwis at War : 1915 by Diana Menefy (senior fiction)

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Kiwis at War is a great series, taking the reader through from 1914 to 1918 by means of five different stories, told by five different kiwi authors, all looking at a different aspect of World War 1, but all linked in some way. 

1914 was written by Susan Brocker, a great choice for the first book as Brocker loves writing historical faction, and she also loves animals, so her story focuses on the horses which went to war. 

1915, by Diana Menefy, has as its focus the nurses who went to war and worked to keep the troupes alive.  The book is a fascinating insight into the horrors of war, but also the camaraderie which abounded. 

I am yet to read 1916 by David Hair, but I imagine it will be pretty action-packed.  

1917 by Brian Falkner and 1918 by Des Hunt are definitely to be looked forward to with anticipation!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (senior fiction)

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Flavia de Luce is 11 and she is curiously passionate about poisons, as well as being something of an amateur detective, who features in a series of books by Alan Bradley. 

I am Half-Sick of Shadows is actually the fourth book in the series, but I just picked it off the shelf because I liked the look of the cover.  Whilst the book does refer to things which have happened in previous books, I don't think that it spoilt this story. 

It is Christmas and Flavia wants to capture St Nicholas by using her love of chemistry.  But when a film crew arrive at her decaying family estate to shoot a movie, she becomes distracted. International film star, Phyllis Wyvern, is the main attraction... and the whole village turns out in a snow storm to watch her perform.  

But things take a shocking turn when a body is found - and Flavia finds herself trying to solve the mystery of how it happened. 

This had a real Agatha Christie feel about it and it would definitely appeal to fans of Ruby Redfort.