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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Alice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey.

June 19, 2020 Comments off

MirandaAlice-Miranda in the Outback by Jacqueline Harvey. Pub Puffin Books 2020.

This is an adventure mystery novel for middle school readers set in the outback of Australia and it is the latest in 19 books about the same characters set in other parts of the World.

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones is a pre teen girl with a vivid and enquiring mind. She likes to solve mysteries and with her friends Millicent and Jacinta,  and cousin Lucas and others she sets about solving mysteries on a huge outback station near opal center Coober Pedy.

Something has gone wrong with the water supply around Hope Springs Station,  outback legend  Taipan Dan has gone missing, his friend an fellow character Sprocket McGinty is kidnapped and a ginger cat Junie turns up at Hope Springs Station where Miranda and her friends and family are staying. Then a young deaf girl goes missing, a mystery map is found and there rumours of a lost opal mine start circulating. Plenty for Miranda to get her teeth into and she does.

Easy to read with the Outback being a major character in this book. I read it quickly and so will you. Good family values.

The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman.

June 13, 2020 Comments off

length stringThe Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman. Pub. Puffin Books, 2020.

This novel for middle and senior school students is one of the most moving, emotional and compelling novels I have ever read.

Anna is 12 years old when the Germans invaded Luxembourg in 1941 and started identifying all the Jews with the yellow star and stripping them of any human dignity. In August 1941 it was still possible for Jewish people to escape Luxembourg to Portugal and get a ship to America but it was dangerous and expensive.

Anna leaves her twin sister Belle, plus the the rest of the family, at the insistence of her parents and goes to live with Hannah and Max in Brooklyn New York. Anna keeps a diary of her feelings addressed to her twin sister Belle and writes letters to her family. She gets no reply but remains positive about life and seeing them again.

In today’s World, Imani is 12 years old and facing her Bat Mitzvah. She is a black girl who has been adopted by Nordic parents in New York and has been brought up Jewish along with her also adopted brother Jaime. Imani wants to know who her parents were but finds it difficult to bring this fact up with her adoptive parents who have been loving and caring all her life.

When Anna dies she leaves her books to her grandchildren and Imani finds the diary Anna wrote in 1941 and reads it as part of her presentation for her Bat Mitzvah. What she and her friend Madeleine read brings out all the emotion and reality of the Holocaust.

Beautifully written with Anna’s diary entries and Imani’s life in the modern World. It will have you in tears.  It is also current as Imani tries to find her own identity as a black girl living in today’s world.

If you miss this you will kick yourself. Wow! What an ending.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins.

June 4, 2020 Comments off

songbirdsThe Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. A Hunger Games Novel by Suzanne Collins. Pub Scholastic, 2020.

When I talked about the Hunger Games trilogy in schools when it first came out, the kids were riveted but their teachers were appalled that it involved children killing children. This sequel  addresses that concern and the rest of the inhumane treatment  that is meted out to the children and inhabitants of the 12 Districts by the rulers of Panem in the Capitol.

The civil war that resulted from the Hunger Games is over and the rebels from the Districts were defeated but not eliminated. Cassus Snow the Capitol leader is killed and there is a new guard, but Capitol has inflicted severe and more inhuman control over the Districts. The  10th Hunger Games are to take place and one of the most vile and sadistic characters I have read in children’s literature, a woman named Dr Gaul, is in charge of presenting the games. She is a Dr Mengle type who experiments on animals and humans.

A boy and girl from each of the 12 Districts are to take part in the games they are called tributes, but this time they each have a Mentor from Capitol to guide them. Coriolanus Nash son of Cassus Nash is to mentor Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 where Katniss came from. The relationship between Coriolanus and Lucy is at the heart of this novel but it is not the only one of importance.

The relationship between Sejanus Plinth, the son of a wealthy family and Coriolanus is of equal importance as Sejanus is also a mentor of a competitor in the Hunger games. It is Sejanus that heads the argument against the inhumane and barbaric treatment of the Districts and in particular the tributes in the games supported by Coriolanus in his relationship with Lucy. Can they change the way Capitol regards the District people?

As the games start inside an arena, not in an outdoor environment as with the first series, and the killing starts, all hell breaks loose.

If you are a new reader of this series do not worry you will not be all at sea, but if you have read the first series you will be totally absorbed in the new circumstances and at the more severe inhumane and barbaric treatment of the tributes in the Games

No characters from the earlier Trilogy are in this novel.

Stunningly written but not for the faint hearted. From Intermediate to YA in appeal. Over 500 pages long.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling, illus. Olivia Lomenech Gill.

May 4, 2020 Comments off

FantasticFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling, illus. Olivia Lomenech Gill. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

A magnificent piece of work this and a companion to the Harry Potter stories for primary secondary and young adult readers.

It is told by Newt Scamander a graduate of Hogwarts and close friend of Albus Dumbledore. He specialises in Fantastic magical beasts and developed policy to hide the beasts from muggles for the protection of both. he gives a brief history of this project then gets down to tell you about the magical beasts themselves.

Some of my favourites were The Demiguise a sort of orangatan with a white hairy coat from which invisibility cloaks are made. There are ten different dragons plus the Unicorn, the centaur, the Sphinx and my next favourite the Runespoor. This is a three headed snake – the left head is the planner, the middle head the dreamer and the right head the critic. In many cases the right head is missing, killed by the other two heads.

Star of the show are the illustrations. Absolutely superb. Each magical beast is drawn with a bio underneath. This is a book you can pick up and put down again, get engrossed in the beast then move to another once you have fantasised but the previous one.

A very classy publication.

Wayside School. Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar, illus. Tim Heitz.

April 17, 2020 Comments off

wayside schoolWayside School. Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar, illus. Tim Heitz. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

This short, easy to reader novel for primary and intermediate kids is crazy from the first to the last page. It is funny, it is serious, it is absurd, it is honest and it is always entertaining.

Wayside School is in a 30 story building. The headmaster is wacky, the teachers are eccentric and the pupils have every quirk and difference that society can muster. Still they get on well together with a lot of tolerance of each others behaviour.

Mrs Jewls class want to know what a million looks like so they start collecting toe and fingernails in an attempt to get a million. Will they do it? Then a large dark cloud they call the Cloud of Doom settles over the school and doesn’t move.

The cloud affects everybody’s behaviour and culminates on the day that the Ultimate school test finishes. Totally bizarre but very entertaining.

Tim Heitz’s illustrations help you picture the characters and the action.

Fabio. The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Peril at Lizard Lake.

April 15, 2020 Comments off

flamingoFabio. The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Peril at Lizard Lake. Pub. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020.

Fabio and his sidekick giraffe Gilbert are back on the pink lemonade again and out to solve the reason why the water has dried up in a small village beside Lake Laloozee.

There is a smooth talking Lioness called Molly who owns the local garage, a furtive armadillo called Arthur and a sinister scorpion called Mungo to contend with.

A bottling company selling water with a heart shape logo has set up. Are the two events linked? See how Fabio uses his silky detective skills to solve this one.

Other Fabio books are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.

Superbly and simply illustrated and written story often on pink pages. For newly confident readers of primary age and less confident readers of intermediate age. Great humour and values

My NZ Story. The Wahine Disaster by Shirley Corlett.

April 6, 2020 Comments off

wahineMy NZ Story. The Wahine Disaster by Shirley Corlett. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

This novel was originally part of the My Story Series titled Abandon Ship published in 2003 but it has been redesigned and I have just read it in the week that the Wahine went down 52 years ago.

It is powerfully written in diary form by 12 year old Debbie who was aboard the ship and saved the diary by wrapping it in plastic before going into the sea and being rescued at Seatoun.

The novel is skilfully linked to another sinking in Wellington harbour of the Birmin one hundred years before, on which one of Debbies relatives was doctor. This provides a spooky side to the story when Debbie was in the water, freezing cold and barely able to hang on, she feels she was assisted by her grandfather relative.

Lots of pictures in the back plus a portrait of life in 1968 the year that Martin Luther King was shot and the Beverley Hillbillies was the most popular TV show.

Easy to read and a great lockdown story of another tragedy in another time.

 

Katipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner.

March 31, 2020 Comments off

katipoKatipo Joe: Blitzkrieg by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2020.

This action filled war story of World war 2 is a novel to rival the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. I make this comparison because it is totally world class writing from, in my opinion the best action writer in New Zealand.

Based on true events it is set in Berlin in 1938 as the Nazi machine was taunting the world with threats and it’s anti Jewish programe. Joe is 12 years old and his parents work as diplomats and also spy on the Nazis. Joe goes to school in Berlin and mixes with Martin Borman’s nephew Klaus. Joe is a blue eyed blond youth and speaks fluent German , a fact that makes him a target for espionage.

When his father is arrested by the gestapo, Joe and his mother escape from berlin in a thrilling piece of action.

The scene shifts to London during the Blitz with Joe living in the ruins of the city looking for his mother. he meets friends on the street and the tragedy of wartime Britain. He gets involved in a Nazi spy ring that involves his mother and when his mother is allegedly  killed in a Nazi bomb plot, Joe is seconded by MI6 special forces and trained to be a spy.

The scene then shifts to occupied Paris with Joe flown into France to infiltrate the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth movement to effect an assassination of a prominent Nazi general. The action is thrilling.

Splendidly written by Brian Falkner who is at the top of his game. The action is astonishing and tragic. War is like this. Don’t miss this one it is superb.

For readers between 12 years and 16 years. Adults will love it too. Photographs in the back plus a glossary giving all the aircraft, guns and Nazi terms. Easy to read and compelling.

Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz.

March 10, 2020 Comments off

alex rider (2)Nightshade by Anthony Horowitz. Pub. Walker books, 2020.

Released 2 April

This is book number 13 in the Alex Rider series and this time it is serious. Alex is a little out of his depth as he tackles a secret organisation called Nightshade which uses children who have been kidnapped at age 4 or 5 years.

These children have been brainwashed into forgetting their past and trained to be ruthless and efficient killers. One of their number known to MI6 as Freddy is captured while assassinating an agent in Brazil but shuts down and cannot be broken. MI6 know that there is a secret plan to destroy London and that Nightshade are the culprits.

Freddy who is a heartless killer is locked away in a secret high security prison on Gibraltar and Alex is given the identity of another villain from the past called Julius Grief with the job of befriending Freddy in order to find out when and how the destruction of London is to be achieved.

How Alex attempts this is astonishing and beggars the question is he finally out of his depth. To make things personal Mrs Jones, Alex’s master at MI6, had her two children kidnapped at ages 5 &6. Could they now be members of Nightshade? Alex also has his doubters in MI6.

Brilliantly conceived story, action packed and thrilling to read. I can tell you no more but if you are a fan you will relish this novel and if you are discovering Alex for the first time live long and prosper.

The best action novel you will read this year.

 

 

The Inkberg Enigma by Jonathan King.

March 7, 2020 Comments off

InkbergThe Inkberg Enigma by Jonathan King. Pub. Gecko Press, 2020.

This is one of the best graphic novels for readers 8-14 years that i have ever read and it is by New Zealand film maker and comic book writer Jonathan King.

Miro  is a smart lad with a green hat and glasses who is a reader. He loves books. Zia his friend is a photographer and between them they unravel a mystery that affects all the people who live in the small fishing town of Aurora.

The origin of the mystery that enabled Aurora to become a wealthy fishing town is the Antarctic adventures akin to those of Shackleton of a man called Danforth who built a castle on the cliffs across the water from the town.

As his men hauled a lifeboat across the ice that crushed their ship they come across a dark ink coloured ice peak sticking up from the sea through the pack ice. They discover  an abundance of sea life beneath the black peak and have an encounter with a huge squid like creature. Danforth keeps a diary written in the ink from the dark peak and discovers it has a power that is very dark indeed. Read it and see what it is.

Comic book styled images and believable characters make this a sound reading gem for readers who are visual. It would make a wonderful film.

Don’t miss this you will kick yourself.