A thought provoking adventure story set in wartime

TITLE = PENNIES FROM HITLER

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = WAR, WW2, PREJUDICE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8,9

Jackie French describes this book as a companion novel to her earlier book “Hitler’s daughter”. Once again the horror of WW2 forms the background to this story and again an unusual perspective is provided in this new story. Georg is a German boy enjoying life with his parents until his English father’s Jewish background upends his life. This Jewish link is enough to destroy Georg’s world when he is forced to flee Nazi Germany and take refuge with his aunt in London.

But war follows him to the English shores. Whilst trying to pretend that he is an English boy (George rather than Georg) he and his aunt soon find themselves living through the frightening time of the Blitz, with daily air strikes from German planes that destroy London’s buildings and take the lives of their neighbours.

So Georg finds himself being sent off to Australia with a shipload of other children; torn away from their families in a desperate attempt to keep them safe. And so we follow George’s adventure with his new Aussie family, who themselves have a much loved son fighting in Africa. Can George maintain the deception that he is a British lad? And what will happen if his new family and friends learn the truth that the enemy is in fact, living in their midst.

A captivating story about prejudice, war and the power of friendship. No wonder this book was shortlisted for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers).

Recommended (dma) ****

A haunting, mesmerising tale

TITLE = THE CHILDREN OF THE KING

AUTHOR = SONYA HARTNETT

GENRE= WAR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 12

This is an unusual novel. The cover looks decidedly old fashioned, no doubt because the tale itself is set in a time long ago. Three children have been evacuated from London during the war so it is no wonder that 3 children in old fashioned clothes grace the cover of the book. However, whilst the cover may look a little like an Enid Blyton story of old, it is certainly far more than this.

For these 3 children are not facing smugglers and mysteries with their pet dog; instead they are battling with the harsher realities of war: being separated from parents, losing loved ones in battle, fearing that London itself may be lost! And how are children meant to understand this crazy, frightening world? How are they meant to fit in? Young Jem wants to be seen as a young man not a child, he yearns for a noble role… but will he just put his own life in danger?

And what about clumsy, thoughtless Cecily and the self-sufficient May? Will they become friends or will their different backgrounds and differing sensibilities, stand in their way? Whilst the 3 children struggle to come to terms with their war-affected lives, Uncle Peregrine tells them a tale about power and betrayal, a tale which seems to reach across time to their own lives.

This is a beautifully written novel with intriguing and complex characters and a sense of mystery underlying the main action. A novel which is slow moving and occasionally rather didactic but nonethless quite enchanting for those willing to look behind the old fashioned cover.

No wonder this book was shortlisted for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers).

Recommended (dma) ***

Monsters of Men

Monsters Of Men

TITLE= MONSTERS OF MEN

AUTHOR=PATRICK NESS

GENRE=WAR

INTREST LEVEL=YOUNG ADULT

The awesome conclusion to the most heartbreaking series.

Todd and Viola have survived everything the planet can throw at them for six months. This is the end. But what end? Overwhelmed by an alien force tens of thousands strong. The battles being fought by the Answer, led by the fierce and harsh Mistress Coyle, and New Prentisstown, ruled by President Prentiss, deadly and mysterious lord of the planet, are swept away. The two merciless warlords must band together to defeat the threat. But when a settler scout lands, bringing a spaceship’s awesome firepower into the mix, only one side will win, and Todd and Viola are on opposite sides. The Spackle are unstoppable, President Prentiss is cunning, Todd is lying, Viola is dying and the world is ending.

Time travel with action and danger

TITLE  = TIMERIDERS

AUTHOR = ALEX SCARROW

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 AND UP

This is the first book in an exciting new time travel series by Alex Scarrow. Join Liam, Maddy and Sal in a wild ride as they come together from the past and future to try and protect the present. They must travel back in time – never to change the past, only to protect history from change. But what will happen if others also ride time for less honourable purposes? Will Liam be stuck in a brutal dark past? Will the present-day be damaged forever? Can newbies Sal and Maddy rescue Liam and save the day?

This book is a deserved winner of the Calderdale Children’s Book of the Year.

Highly recommended (dma) *****

Why not check out the following book trailer to learn more about this great book:

All images from the Animoto site. Music also selected from the Animoto site (“Battle Song” by Vaeda). Text provided by booklover.

 

The steampunk adventure bounds along to a fitting end

TITLE = THE LEVIATHAN TRILOGY 3: GOLIATH

AUTHOR =SCOTT WESTERFELD

GENRE = STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

The rollicking action continues in this brilliant final instalment of the steampunk Leviathan trilogy. The war between the Clankers and the Darwinists rolls on and once more, Alek and Deryn on board the Leviathan airship, seem to be in the thick of things. Alek is determined to stop the war at all costs, even if that means aligning himself with the eccentric and possibly mad, Nikola Tesla, against his own Clanker country. And Deryn is determined to help Alek, the young man she secretly adores. But when Deryn’s secret identity is revealed, will their friendship be destroyed? And is Tesla to be trusted?

With a cast of characters that includes newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa and Toyota magnate, Sakichi Toyoda, Scott Westerfeld has again marshalled together a delicious blend of the real and the alternative in this steampunk extravaganza. The action rockets along with a terrific sense of fun and is beautifully complemented by Keith Thompson’s glorious illustrations; once more this book is a complete package of exciting story, humour and imaginative design.  Perhaps Westerfeld’s finest creation in this delightful novel is the persipicacious lorus, Bovril, a beastie who always seems to have the last (and most ironic) word!

As the plot thickens and the cliff hangers abound, Westerfeld shows a masterful touch in bringing the different plot strands together and providing a satisfying conclusion to both this instalment and the series as a whole. The author’s notes at the end provide further illumination about the background to the story and Westerfeld’s alternative take on historic events. While the series may have ended, with the inventiveness he has shown in this series it is to be hoped that Westerfeld hasn’t finished with the steam punk world just yet.

Read more about the series here on Scott Westerfeld’s blog – includes more of Keith Thompson’s great art work, too.

Read reviews of an earlier books in the series here .

Selected as a Notable book for the CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) ******

Action right up to the last page

hour of need 2TITLE = HOUR OF NEED

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = STEAMPUNK, ADVENTURE, FANTASY, HUMOUR, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8+


The final instalment of “The Laws of Magic” series has finally arrived. Check out the book trailer below and you will want to check out the book too – it provides adventure, humour, fun and romance right up till the last page!!



Recommended (dma) ****

(Note: all images in the book trailer courtesy of the Animoto site, music also provided from Animoto – Artist: Parade Of Lights Song: Again. Text created by dma)




Are some memories best forgotten??

the memory cageTITLE = the memory cage

AUTHOR  = RUTH EASTHAM

GENRE = WAR, MENTAL HEALTH, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

A powerful and emotional journey awaits the reader in this book. As the cover suggests, young Alex is close to his grandfather and when the novel opens, Alex is worried. His grandfather is becoming increasingly forgetful and putting his own life and that of his family in danger. Alex is worried that his parents will put Grandad in a home. So Alex sets out to create a scrapbook of photos to help Grandad remember his past. But what if there are some things that Grandad doesn’t want to remember? Why does he refuse to talk about the war and his beloved brother who died then? What part could Grandad have played in his death? Whilst he tries to stimulate his Grandad’s memories of war, it seems that Alex is trying to bury his own past. Alex is a Bosnian refugee, a survivor of terrible conflict, who has been adopted into this large, boisterous family. And not all his step-siblings are happy about his adoption.

So Alex has his work cut out for him: trying to avoid his step-brother’s dislike, trying to keep Grandad safe whilst also digging up his mysterious past and all the time, trying to ignore flashbacks from his own war-torn past. Gradually these stories merge together and Grandad, Alex and their entire family, will learn that it is better to face some truths, however, painful rather than live a lie. Memories may bring pain but they need not be a cage. This is an engaging story with many layers for the reader to unravel. There is plenty of action, mystery and high drama as the story unfolds. Readers will learn about the horrors of war (on those involved and those left at home) and the pain of Alzheimer’s disease. However, readers should be warned to have the tissue box handy in the final chapters : although a satisfying ending is provided it is quite a moving one as well, and many readers may find a tissue or two will be needed.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Loyalty, betrayal and war

the bridgeTITLE = THE BRIDGE

AUTHOR = JANE HIGGINS

GENRE = WAR, REVOLUTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Action packed from the opening page, this is an exciting tale of a future world that bears striking similarities to our own. A world which is at war and divided – by race, by religion, by a lack of compassion and understanding. So it is not surprising that betrayal and loyalty lie at the heart of this novel.

Nik is a clever student and expects to be selected for training as an ISIS soldier so he feels understandably hurt and betrayed when things don’t go to plan. So when his school is bombed and ISIS questions his loyalty Nik is puzzled. Why does his surname cause such anger?? Nik knows little of his parents, having lost them as a youngster – his sense of family lies with his close friends and he risks his life to help them.

Even crossing the bridge to the Southside to try and rescue his friend Fyffe’s 8 year old brother. The sense of threat and peril in the Southside is all too real as Nik and Fyffe struggle to stay alive and find her brother – whilst putting their own lives at risk.

There are many twists and turns in the plot and Nik (like the reader) is not quite sure who to trust. Strategy and plotting (and counter plotting) become important. And loyalty – to a cause and to one’s friends.

Finally Nik must question everything he has ever believed in – and discovers that sometimes physical frailty belies inner strength.  Against the backdrop of war, Nik learns who he can trust and what to trust in himself. This is an action packed adventure story with a powerful and credible ending which will leave readers with plenty to think about long after the last page has been read.

A worthy winner of The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, 2010

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

The plight of child refugees

no safe place TITLE = NO SAFE PLACE

AUTHOR = Deborah Ellis

GENRE = Growing up, Survival, War, Refugees

INTEREST LEVEL = Years 8 and up

This is another powerful novel from an acclaimed author, Deborah Ellis. Once again Ellis brings the spotlight to bear on injustices in the world and how they impact on children’s lives. In this novel, she moves her focus to Europe and tells the stories of 3 young teens, from varied backgrounds, who have been brought together as refugees struggling to find safe passage to England, where they hope they will find the safety and security that they have failed to find in their homelands. Abdul has seen first hand the toll the war in Iraq takes on innocent families, women and children. Rosalia is escaping the harsh life of a Roma child sold into prostitution and Cheslav, too, has been abandoned in Russia when his Mum sought a new life as a mail order bride. All 3 children have learned how to survive against the most horrific of circumstances and this makes them cautious about trusting others, even each other. The first half of the novel is especially powerful as it conveys the harsh life of a refugee child and the skill and stamina needed just to stay alive. We learn about each child’s back story via flashbacks which allows the reader to sympathise with each of the children. However, some of the action in the second half of the novel seems a little too tidy and convenient (especially in the children’s ability to steer a large yacht) so the sense of compelling action is diminished. Perhaps not Ellis’ best work but still this novel provides an eye opener to world events that Aussie children may know little about. Those who have enjoyed reading the Parvana trilogy will find this novel to be a worthy and interesting read.

Read more about Deborah Ellis and her books on her publisher’s website

Recommended (dma) ****

WHO DO YOU TRUST??

ask-and-answer_pbTITLE = THE ASK AND THE ANSWER

AUTHOR = PATRICK NESS

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION, DYSTOPIAN FUTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 AND UP

A gripping sequel to “The Knife of Never Letting Go”, although the focus shifts slightly in this novel. Todd and Viola have been separated from each other but they still yearn to be together and to fight alongside each other. Their feelings for each other provide them with an inner strength and a determination to go on, but it is also used as a weapon against them by ruthless leaders on either side of the war that gradually escalates in this novel. No longer are Todd and Viola on the run but now their enemy is even harder to determine and who to trust (outside of each other) becomes difficult, too. Whereas “The Knife of Never Letting Go “ was about personal identity and integrity, and what it takes to be a man, this novel is as much about leadership and the struggle for freedom, as it is about Todd and Viola’s developing sense of self and their determination to hang on to some sense of morality. Although the novel is set in some indeterminate world there are echoes of real wars, especially the Holocaust, in the treatment meted out to the Spackle and Todd’s reaction (excuse?). The cliffhanger ending brings a real sense of dread to the next novel: are past sins going to haunt Todd as the war takes a new direction??

Patrick Ness has created a cruel world where brutality seems to be both the Ask and the Answer. Characterisations are again brilliantly real and the growing tension facing both Todd and Viola will have the reader on the edge of the seat. A truly gripping and thought provoking read. A powerful sequel to a powerful first volume.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****