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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Red Edge by Des Hunt

September 8, 2020 Comments off

Red Edge by Des Hunt. Pub. Scholastic 2020.

This eco adventure novel for middle school readers is one of Des Hunt’s better novels. It is easy to read, contains lots of tech talk with drones and K4 cameras and it concentrates on the smuggling and exploitation of New Zealand’s endangered species particurlaly the weta and the gecko.

Cassi lives on the edge of the Red Zone, near the Avon river in Christchurch. She runs through the Red Zone every day and forms a friendly relationship with an ex journalist and whitebaiter, Jim. Jim knows everything that goes on in the area and Cassi wants to know about an abandoned earthquake damaged house.

A mysterious woman called Raven Black is up to mischief in the house and a man called Lou Watling with his yellow Ferrari is acting furtively.

At school Cassi meets a fat boy named Quinn who is bullied and has few friends but he has a great knowledge of technology and plays a key role in trying to find out what is going on. At school Cassi befriends three girls Kaylin, Emma and Harmony all of whom are to play parts in the mystery.

The climax comes in earthquake ravage Kaikoura where a trap is set by Cassi and Co to catch the culprits who are trapping weta for export. A thrilling climax with drones heavily involved.

Excellent reading and adventure with good values, plus the descriptive passages of the Red Zone and Kaikoura are superb.

The Ghosts on the Hill by Bill Nagelkerke.

August 17, 2020 Comments off

Ghosts-on-the-Hill-cover-webThe Ghosts on the Hill by Bill Nagelkerke. Pub. Cuba Press, 2020.

Near the end of this superb story for primary and intermediate readers, Elsie, an 11 year old girl says the lines”stories are to make sense of things that seem to make no sense at all”. It was a line that her father told her and it describes this story perfectly.

In early Christchurch April 3 1883 two boys, Davie and Archie bunk school walk to Heathcote and take the train through the tunnel to Lyttelton. They are hungry, tired and cold but need to walk over the Bridle Path to get back home.

Elsie meets the boys, can’t help them with money but gives them food to eat. The weather turns foul and the boys go missing and are later found dead. Elsie is haunted by their death and one year later on April 4 1884 she vows to face her fears and walk the Bridle Path.

Read this story and see what happens.

This is old fashioned writing in which every word has been carefully chosen and fits just right. Old sayings that were used when I grew up  litter the descriptive text. I wonder how many people still lick their middle finger and hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing?

The descriptive prose sometimes has a Dickensian feel about it and the story while sad is told in a caring way. I read it in less than an hour while tucked up with a hot water bottle and it left me with a good feeling.

Based on a true story but Bill manages to get some Maori legend and myth into the story especially with reference to those Maori fairy folk the Patupaiarehe. One of my stories of the year.

Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards.

August 16, 2020 Comments off

thandi2Saving Thandi by Kate S Richards. Pub.Green Room House 2020.

Thandi is a baby rhinoceros that accompanied Jabu, a teenage orphan who left his shanty in Soweto for Durban. They were unwittingly in the same truck together and neither forgot the experience.

Now Jabu is a famous surfer and runs a Trust for young black surfers particularly Alexia a teenage surfing sensation. Surf and rhinos come together in

the private game reserve Umfolozi which is part of the Kruger National park on the Mozambique border.

Alexia is to have a photo shoot with the baby rhinos at Umfolosi but her and her friend Billie and Jabu get involved with a battle against poachers that extends from the game parks to the Mozambique coast.

Also entering the fray is Ice, a boy who became crippled while train surfing and now has lost his job and any hope again. He is a friend of Jabu and he is to learn that there is always hope.

Excellent adventure both at sea and on the game reserve.

Very well written  with spaces between paragraphs for the reluctant reader to pause while reading. The descriptive writing is also a feature and the characters worth knowing. The sequel to Train Surfer also reviewed on this blog

The Rise of the Remarkables Bk1. Brasswitch and Bot by Gareth Ward.

August 7, 2020 Comments off

brasswitchThe Rise of the Remarkables Bk1. Brasswitch and Bot by Gareth Ward. Pub. Walker Books, 2020.

This is a steam punk novel for intermediate and High school readers of science fiction and fantasy, that will blow your mind. If you have read Gareth Wards other novels you will know what I mean. Highly imaginative, full of weird creatures and situations and full of action that will leave you breathless. AND it is only part 1.

Wrench is a teenage girl who feels responsible for her parents death in a train accident. She lives in York and is an apprentice machine operator. She believes in machines, the laws of Physics and the science of engineering but she doesn’t realise that she is a Brasswitch. A Brasswitch is someone who has the power touch a machine, get inside it and knows how it works and if anything is wrong with it. She also needs to get to grips with magic.

Then she is held captive by a regulator called Flemmington, who hunts weird creatures in this weird world including brasswitches. He puts her to the test in which she either reveals her powers or dies.

Bot, a robotic Automaton comes to her rescue. He is powerful, has swagger and tends to wade into any situation with guns blazing. He needs a Brasswitch to help him fight Aberrations or weird and dangerous creatures from other dimensions who have entered the World through a Rupture over the city of York. The Rupture has been sealed or has it?

It is a dangerous World and their are some stupendous battles. At the heart of this first part is for Wrench to find out who and what she is and find out the truth behind her parents death. Fortunately she has an ally in Bot but also a tentacle ridden woman with soothing powers called Octavia and a boy with magic called Plum.

This novel won the sir Julius Vogel Award for children’s literature in NZ this year. You would be mad to miss this one.

Across the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble.

August 2, 2020 Comments off

risen seaAcross the Risen Sea by Bren MacDibble. Pub, Allen & Unwin, 2020.

An adventure novel for primary and intermediate readers full of action, sharks and crocodiles.

The scenario is an Australian like territory that has been flooded because of a rise in sea level. The sea has broken through to the interior and formed an inland sea with small islands  which are inhabited by communities that do not deal in money, live on fishing and scrounging and diving for materials left behind in drowned cities.

The characters in this feel like Aboriginals with their gentle and community minded ways. Noema and Jag are friends but when strangers from a place called Valley of the Sun arrive on their island and without permission build a power plant that flashes a red light, the whole community is bemused. Noema who is a feisty girl pulls the wires out.

This sets off a most thrilling series of action events in which Jag is unfairly taken away by the Valley of the Sun people and Noema steals the family boat to pursue and free Jag. She encounters sharks, a crocodile that hangs around, a bizaare almost indestructable pirate name Pirate Bradshaw and a tough ally Saleesi.

It’s thrilling adventure and it is about law and order, accountability and community. Easy to read in short chapters.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile.

July 19, 2020 Comments off

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illus by Dawud Anyabwile. Pub. Anderson Press, 2020.

This is the most powerful graphic novel  for high school students that I have ever read and it deservedly won the Newbery Medal. It is about basketball and it is about families and all the characters in this novel are black.

JB and Jordan are twins, they are 13 years old and a very gifted basketball players. They live and breathe basketball and they are fans of rap music. Their father was a pro baller and won a championship ring as “da man”, but he is not a well man. Their mother is Principal of the High School the boys attend and both parents are highly involved with boys lives.

The boys compete, the father coaches them and the mother ensures that the boys education takes priority. Then a girl comes on the scene. She is beautiful, wears pink gym shoes and she makes a play for Jordan and they become an item. This upsets JB and the closeness the brothers once had starts to deteriorate to the point that it erupts into a violent act in the middle of a basketball game.

The family is wracked with problems, the boys become enemies and then tragedy. The ending is stunning.

There is lots of basketball talk most of it in rap verse. The book is divided into four quarters and there is a competition going on.

Easy to read with the illustrations superb. I read the book in about an hour and got emotionally involved with what was happening, you will too.

Reluctant boy readers and readers who like sports stories particularly basketball will love this novel. The rap prose is inspiring to as is the relationship between Jordan and the girl. Black Lives matter is also a strong theme of this novel.

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman.

July 14, 2020 Comments off

silver arrowThe Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman. Pub. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020.

September release.

This is superb storytelling for primary and intermediate readers. It is fantasy/adventure with a message for the modern world about endangered animals who are just trying to survive in a World that has lost it’s balance.

Eleven year old Kate and her nine year old brother Tom have never met their uncle Herbert. Their mother never mentions him but she did say that he was very rich and totally irresponsible. It is Kate’s birthday in a few days so she writes to her uncle Herbert and suggests he buy her a birthday present. Very brazen I thought.

On her birthday a flat decked truck pulls up with 102.36 ton steam train on it and it is put on some railway lines in Tom and Kate’s backyard. Uncle Herbert says it is for their enjoyment. Kate’s parents are not amused and use words that should never appear in a children’s book(they don’t in this book).

The children are sent to their bedrooms but in the night the train starts up, the children get on board and the train hurtles off into the night. At the first station a whole lot of animals get on board , they have been waiting ages for the train to come among them is a porcupine, a fishing cat and other endangered animals.

That’s all I am going to tell you you will have to read it to find out but it is thrilling. This is easy to read and would be a great read-a loud. The ending will have you on tenterhooks. The good thing is that Kate and Tom make mistakes, face responsibility and never give up sometimes in dire circumstances.

Starfell. Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale by Dominique Valente.

July 12, 2020 Comments off

StarfellStarfell. Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale by Dominique Valente. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020.

Its good to read children’s fantasy again and this is very suitable for primary and intermediate readers especially girls but not exclusively so.

It is set in a double sided land. Starfell is on top and contains such thought provoking places as the Mists of Mitlaire, the Lake of the Undead and Wisperia a place where you are never safe especially if you are a witch.

The bottom land and the dark reverse of Wisperia and Starfell is Netherfell. The answers to all Starfell’s problems lie in Netherfell which has the answer to the Forgotten tale.

Willow Moss is a witch with the talent of being able to find lost things but her magic has struck problems and things keep disappearing. Willow and her Kobold, a cat like creature with the habit of saying “my greedy aunt” set off with Willow’s broom stick Whisper to find a friend, Nolin Sometimes who has sent Willow a distress call. On the way she meets a boy called Sprig who can turn into a raven.

Their travels will take them into Wisperia through the Mists of Mitlaire to the Netherfell where they learn of the Forgotten Tale. Complicated in parts but the action keeps happening.

There is a map at the start so you can follow Willows journey. Willow is a good role model.

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.