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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky.

March 18, 2017 Comments off

blue catThe Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2017

This novel for Intermediate and junior secondary readers is set in Sydney after the fall of Singapore in 1942 to the Japanese when great grey warships sat in the harbour like a herd of tired elephants.

It is an absorbing and lyrically novel with a sense of dread about it and ends in a surrealistic way. It recreates Australian life before World War 2 that prompted the then Prime Minister of Australia to observe “Australia is a British land of one race and one tongue”

Columba and her best friend Hilda are about 11 years old and they live on the North Shore of Sydney. Their neighbours are two elderly sisters Miss Hazel and the harp playing Miss Marguerite who say things like “people are ignorant they don’t know any better”.

Daylight saving has been introduced and it is lights out after dark to stop the enemy seeing in the dark. Darwin is bombed in the middle of the story.

Ellery a young boy from You-rope comes to town with a watch on his wrist, a bearded father and without a word of English.

At the same time an archangel blue cat wonders into the lives of Columba and her neighbours. This cat sees all and is important in providing the serendipitous ending to this story.

Easy to read with primary sources of literature, advertisements and Government directives of WW2 Australia spread throughout the novel that will intrigue the reader and provide an insight into life at that time.

I have never read a children’s novel like this before.

 

 

Too Clever by half by Aaron Moffat.

March 15, 2017 Comments off

clever by halfToo Clever by half by Aaron Moffat. Olympia Publishers, 2016.

I enjoyed reading this school story for middle and intermediate students because it dealt with a lot of social and economic issues that reflect the equalities and inequalities of today’s society. Plus it would be a great read-a-loud for years 5/6, 7/8 students.

Septimus is a bright boy, top of his class, a little out of condition, well nourished but with a father who is of the born to rule class who looks down on Septimus’s class mates whom he labels riff raff.

Septimus is bullied at school until there is a split in the ranks amongst the alleged riff raff. The nasty Jasper and Rico think Jamie has snitched on them, so he is pushed to the outer and develops a friendship with Septimus. This relationship is awkward at first because Jamie is a foster child but Septimus is glad of the company.

Difficulties arise when Septimus’s father meets Jamie and becomes determined to take Septimus out of school and put him in a Private school where he can mix with children of his own class. Septimus’s mother takes the opposite point of view and this conflict is one of the key sub plots within this novel.

Trouble with a neighbour who is reported to be a witch and a broken window polarise positions within Septimus’s family. Then the school enters the Krypton Kids TV  competition with Septimus, Rico and a saucy young girl called Antonia entered.

You will have to read the rest yourself if you want to know what happens.

Well written but the chapters may be a bit long at times. I call it lofty writing with all the social differences well argued. Some may be deterred by this but the school matters will be familiar to all students.

Interested parties can contact the author at  astmoffat@gmail.com

 

If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones.

March 14, 2017 Comments off

if i had elephant If I Had an Elephant by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.

The imagination of a child is limitless and this team of Terry Jones, Richard Fairgray and colourist Tara Black exploit the desire of a young boy to have an elephant to the fullest.

A young boy hanging upside down from his bunk bed looks at a picture of an elephant on his wall and proclaims “I wish I had an elephant”. If he had one he would never have to ask for a cookie again and he’d win every water fight. he would get the best seats at the circus and could build a time machine and visit elephant’s grear great great….grandfather.

But he doesn’t get an elephant for his birthday but what he does get inspires his imagination further.

Simple text in large black font make easy reading but it is the illustrations that blow your mind. The elephant has expressive eyes and the boy has bewilderment and joy all over his face.

The colouring is superb and not a page is wasted.The front inside cover has the shadow of an elephant hanging over a pit of peanuts and it finishes on the back cover with a contented elephant who clearly has had his fill.

A joyous and imaginative picture book for everybody.

Spy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson

March 1, 2017 Comments off

spy-toysSpy Toys by Mark Powers, illus. Tim Weeson. Pub. Bim UK imprint Allen&Unwin, 2017

I am very impressed with this new series that is designed for reluctant readers both boys and girls of primary/intermediate age.

In a phrase it is like the cartoon network without the cartoons. Bizarre, witty with a tight and sharp dialogue exchange between the highly imaginative characters.

The plot and characters revolve around rejected and defective high tech toys  from the Snaztacular Ultrafun toy factory. Dan is a cuddly bear who is so strong he can crush a tractor with his cuddles, Arabella, a rag doll with an attitude to burn and sympathy for no-one and Flax a highly aggressive rabbit with a down beat wit.

The toys are all discarded because they are defective but escape into the World and are captured then hired by Auntie Roz from the Department of Secret Affairs to bodyguard the Prime Ministers son from Rusty Flumptrunk a very bad half Elephant half human nasty.

Brilliant stuff with Tim Weeson’s animation filling in the gaps.

I was spellbound and read the short book in one sitting with a smile all over my face. It is great.The first chapter about Dan is called If Hugs Could kill and it sets the tone of the book immediately. Big font makes reading easy.

If you want your reluctant readers particularly boys to read, these are a great start.

What Not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford.

February 21, 2017 Comments off

turn-invisibleWhat Not to do if you turn Invisible by Ross Welford. Pub. HarperCollins, 2017.

One of the funniest and most interesting children’s novels I have read for some time. It is for pre – teens and teens and once you start you will not put it down.

Thirteen year old Ethel lives in the North of England with her Gram. Her mother died when she was three and her father left in mysterious circumstances and Gram has never talked to her about it. Ethel is going to find out who and what they were in bizarre circumstances that involve trying to find a cure for her facial acne.

The combination of an on-line purchase of a Chinese remedy and a sunbed cause Ethel to become invisible. She is however only invisible when naked. She panics of course and has various absurd situations that will crack you up.

Then on a visit to her 100 year old great grandmother the old dear calls her Tiger Pussy. Who or what is Tiger Pussy? Well you are going to find out if you read the book.The mystery deepens with the visit of a man who smells of cigarettes and the discovery of a tin box with newspaper articles about an Amy Winehouse type pop singer called Felina. This will rattle Ethel’s cage at a time when her invisibility is causing problems.

Brilliantly written in three parts with 96 short chapters, this novel goes along at a rate of knots that will thrill you. There are sub plots involving bullying from twin brother and sister Jarrow and Jesmond Knight that will make you angry and gleeful at the same time. Ethel’s friend Boydy a cockney living in geordie country is a revelation, but the character of the book is Gram who is full of old fashioned wisdom and says things like “it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

A very satisfying read.

My New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh.

February 18, 2017 Comments off

bastion-pointMy New Zealand Story: Bastion Point, 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.

Imagine you are a young girl who has just been given a horse that she adores then  her dad and mum decide to go and live in a tent on a piece of land jutting out into Waitemata Harbour Auckland called Takaparawha or Bastion Point.

Erica Tito finds this is happening to her and she keeps a diary of what happened in the next 507 days during the Ngati Whatua occupation of Bastion Point that divided New Zealand under the Muldoon Government.

It is a stunning account of a confrontation between Government and Maori that set the pattern for the next 40 years and asked the crucial question of “Are we as New Zealanders a racist society”? and “have the Maori got a fair deal in their land deals with the Government?”.

Tania Roxborogh examines these questions through the eyes of Erica and her experiences  and her relationships with those on Bastion Point and the children at the school at which she attends during the occupation.

The burning question for Erica is – those that want to develop the land say the land is theirs but do they have a receipt to say that is so, and why do her tribe the Ngati Whatua say it is theirs? One thing is for sure ” no-one laughs at Maoritanga”

Conditions on Bastion point were primitive. No running water, no electricity, a long drop for a toilet and tent accommodation that was exposed to the elements. A child could be excused for hating this situation and wanting to be back home with the horse that she loved. But when mom and dad say we stay what can you do? Over the next 507 days Erica’s opinions and resolve change.

As time passes to over a year and nothing is resolved the eviction of the occupiers at the end,is a traumatic and moving occasion. Read this excellent account and find out why.

Another gem from the My New Zealand Story series many of which are reviewed on this blog.

For primary, Intermediate and junior secondary readers.

Horizon. survival is no game. by Scott Westerfeld

February 14, 2017 Comments off

horizonHorizon. survival is no game. by Scott Westerfeld. Pub. Scholastic, 2017.

This can only be the beginning of a new series because the end is inconclusive and elusive to the reader who is kept guessing all the way through the novel.

It is a science fiction/adventure novel with survival a major theme and is aimed at intermediate, junior secondary readers.

The novel begins with an unusual airplane crash by an aircraft en route from USA to Japan. In mid flight over the Arctic the aircraft is sliced through from nose to tail by something weird and crashes in a lush and dangerous jungle. How could this be?

Furthermore during the ripping of the fuselage all 500 adults disappeared leaving behind 8 teenagers and there seemed to have been some sort of electric selection system that decided who survived. Could this be true?

The teenagers wonder where they are. The plants and animals seem to indicate they are on Earth but two moon like lights in the sky suggest another planet. As the teenagers face what has happened to them they find an anti gravity device which allows them to explore the surroundings and they encounter a flesh eating vine and birds with razor sharp beaks that hunt in a flock.

Cool heads are needed to get out of this because if they got there, there has to be a way back. Read it and find out.

Imaginatively written by Scott Westerfeld, this series will be a winner.