A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. Imprint HarperCollins, 2017.
This is a senior Young Adult novel from a brilliant writer who knows how to unlock and discuss serious emotional and mental conditions in young people. It is positive.
When Mel was thirteen her older brother who lit up her life died. The family shifted house, the parents separated and Mel never told any of her friends that she had had a brother.
Mel had a breakdown and now takes a whole lot of drugs including ritalin to level her out. Now she is sixteen in a new school with new friends and working in an old peoples home called Silver Sands.
Every chapter is headed by the same four headings of animals beginning with H. Hamster describes her head condition, Hummingbird her heart, Hammerhead her physical condition and Hannigananimal whether she is up or down.
Mel sees herself as an antisocial underachiever, but she is not. Her manner at the Silver Sands retirement home is outstanding. She is caring and perceptive and she is going to get better.
Mel narrates the story of her life at school and with her friends and family and between these chapters there are chapters written in italics that tell about her brother and her arguements with friends that get to the heart of her mental state.
Battles are never won. Only survived. The dialogue between characters and the relationships between teenagers and adults are excellently handled.
Beautifully written in short sharp chapters that will keep you in the book. I couldn’t put it down. Eric Lindstrom also has Not If I See You First reviewed on this blog.
Frankie Potts & the Postcard Puzzle by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris. Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
Part three in this mystery and detective series for 7-10 year olds. Frankie Potts has red hair, a super dog called Sparkplug and a very good friend called Mac. They love mysteries and with a family like Frankie has there is always a mystery.
The family has hidden secrets and when Frankie finds a postcard sent to her mother saying “dearest Tania I do think we should give it another try, don’t you? Gideon xxx” Frankie’s methodical brain goes into over drive.
Frankie and her friends take a bus to Giggleswick to search for Gideon and what they find is going to unleash a hoard of family secrets.
All is revealed at a family dinner with the Marvellous Mildred, Frankie’s grandma and an array of animals including a parrot called Firefly who says “Potamus-otamus-hippo-whatamus”
There are other mysteries too. Great reading for newly confident readers.
Frankie Potts & The Wicked Wolves by Juliet Jacka, illus. by Phoebe Morris, Pub. Penguin, imprint Puffin, 2017.
This is part 4 and since the above part Frankie has found her long lost grandad, Sparkplug’s girlfriend has had 7 puppies, The Marvellous Mildrid has entered a competition with her dogs and Frankie’s mother is expecting twins.
Frankie doesn’t want the puppies to be sold so she sabotages her mum’s attempts at selling them. Then a group called The Wicked Wolves let people know that they are coming to get them.
Who are the Wicked Wolves? Is Frankie’s arch enemy Ralph Peter- McGee behind it all and will the puppies go to good homes?
There is much to ponder in this part which as always is superbly illustrated by Phoebe Morris. Her pen and ink drawings of all the characters and the animals enhance the stories.
These two parts are released on February 1st 2017 and reviews of parts 1&2 are also on this blog.
They really are great reading for young readers and are a must for primary school libraries.
The Devil You Know by Leone Norrington. Pub. Allen & Unwin 2009.
Amazingly the Australian author who wrote this novel is hardly known in New Zealand but she should be. I have heard of the Barrumbi Kids but never read it.
I guess she writes about Australian stuff but the themes of this novel are universal and powerfully presented by Leone Norrington. So powerful in fact that some adults may balk at giving it to their intermediate and high school kids to read. They shouldn’t.
Damien lives with his mother, he is about 12 years old, they live in rough household conditions in the Northern Territory where the pub is the centre of life and a host of weird characters coast around. Damien’s mom is terrific with great values and a big heart. Damien loves her to bits and is very protective of her.
Damien’s father is a different kettle of fish. He is a biker with the number 88 as his monika. He rides a Harley and has just come back into Damien’s life after a separation caused by physical abuse of Damien’s mother.
Damien hates him but has to adjust because his mother says his father has a good heart and it was the booze that caused the problem. She has a drink problem too
But 88 wants to give it a good shot and seems to be doing the right thing. Damien is not so sure and his art work throughout the novel reflects his anxieties.
For Damien his life is centered at school and issues like bullying are big here. The teachers and Principal are mostly terrific but there is the issue of sexual abuse to contend with. Brilliantly written and easy to read. I was intrigued from start to finish. It starts and finishes with superb art work. Boys will love it and it has a positive ending.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Pub. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016.
This excellent novel for intermediate and junior secondary students is one that will evoke every emotion that you have. You will by happy, sad, joyful, angry, frustrated, disbelieving and everything else.
Set in London and the countryside between 1939 and 1940 during the phoney war in which not much happened, until the retreat from Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain.
Ada is 10 years old although she doesn’t know this. She has a clubfoot which has never been treated and gives her enormous pain. She cannot walk and gets around on her backside and her knees. Her mother is a horrible woman who says she is cursed by the devil and that she is too disgusting to mix with other people. She is not.
Ada has a brother Jamie who is about six and goes to school. Ada looks after him although she can never leave the house. Both children are physically and emotionally beaten and are traumatised by their poverty and treatment from their mother.
When the children of London are evacuated to the country by Government decree Ada and Jamie are allocated to a wonderful woman called Susan who has to deal with their trauma. She educates them and heals the wounds in this stunning story that will eat into your soul. Not unlike Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mr Tom.
Easy to read with short chapters and you can’t help but be with the children all the way. This book was recommended to me by Elizabeth Cross from St Margaret’s College and everything she told me about this book was true. Thank you Elizabeth.
Middle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein
Middle School. Treasure Hunters: Peril at the Top of the World by James Patterson, illus. Chris Grabenstein. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2016.
Book 4 in the Treasure Hunter series from prolific writing duo James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. Sure they are formulaic but hell they are good reading for middle school kids.
They are funny, informative, action packed with both male and female heroes who are flawed but essential well meaning. The Kidd family of Treasure Hunters are a together family and this time they are with their recently found parents trying to solve a great conspiracy by a secretive group who like to toy with eggheads and do-gooders like the Kidd family.
They call themselves the Enlightened Ones and they are stealing and have already stolen some of the World’s greatest works of art and this time it is set in Russia and the North pole under the Aurora borealis or Northern Lights.
It isn’t going to be easy and they are going to be imprisoned in some of Russia’s most notorious prisons. Narrated by twin Beck there is lively dialogue, informative information from Russian trivia expert Larissa and clues to solve to find the missing art collections.
Chris Grabensteins illustrations and oddball comments are a highlight.
Losing William by Jenni Francis. Pub. http://www.jennifrancis.com 2004.
A short easy to read novel about the effects that parents separating have on the whole family and friends.
Keri is a self assured intermediate school girl who is good at art and netball. She is enthusiastic about life, reads books and has a BFF in Jessica. Jessica moves away to New York, Keri wins a scholarship to a private school and her parents tell her that they can no longer live together.
Can it get any worse? yes it can but you will have to read the book to find out how.
Many families split and the children in particular become more vulnerable. Keri has to cope with jealousy and bullying from her former netball friends, has to learn to accept and cope with dad’s new girlfriend Beth and to understand her younger brothers and mother are hurting too.
It’s not going to go away and it is not going to be easy. Keri has to find a way and move on. See if she does. The ending has a sense of adventure and is exciting.
Well told with the family scenarios inch perfect. Although chiefly aimed at girls of intermediate and junior secondary age there is much in this novel for everyone.
Shooting Stars by Brian Falkner. Pub. Scholastic, 2016.
“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.
Would be a great text for students from year 9 – 11 and great reading for everyone else. My book of the year so far.
NB this novel will be released for standing orders in October 2016 with general release November.