It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)



If we could talk to the animals what would we learn?

midnight zooTITLE = The Midnight Zoo

AUTHOR = Sonya Hartnett

GENRE = War, Animals, Injustice

INTEREST = All ages

This is only a small volume and it is neatly packaged. But beneath the bright blue cover is a story that packs a real punch. There is a magical quality about Sonya Hartnett’s writing in this fable; it is lyrical, and the imagery is often quite breathtaking in its originality. But despite this magic, there is a stark simplicity about the main story: three children travelling across a war torn country, take shelter from a bombing raid in what they realise is a small, private zoo. Over the course of the night they spend here, the animals and the children share their stories – stories that reveal man’s cruelty, persecution & oppression. The freedom that is sought by the animals is recognised by the children and there is real poignancythat such wisdom should come from the mouths of babes. This novel should have broad appeal because despite the central storyline, it is not bleak, in fact it is amazingly uplifting. This is accentuated by the bright blue cover with such noble animals on display – the fact that some of these animals are on the inside flaps or on the back of the book suggests they have a freedom belied by the zoos gates.

There are echoes of an earlier Sonya Hartnett novel (The Silver Donkey) in this book – and also echoes of the graphic novel: Pride of Baghdad, in which 4 lions gain freedom from the Baghdad Zoo during a bombing raid (See a review of this novel on the Graphic Shelf blog)

It is easy to see why the Midnight Zoo was shortlisted for the CBC book of the Year (OR) in 2011.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****