Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall

Robin Hood meets Daredevil with werewolves in this medieval fantasy origin story. Shadow of the Wolf is exactly as violent, disturbing and dark as you would expect. What makes this book exceptional is the role of Marion as the real driving force in the story, she's not waiting to be rescued, instead she's masterminding the attack. Shocking and compelling and although this is the first in a series, I can honestly say I have no idea what will happen next.

For ages 14+

Published by David Fickling Books May 26, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Close to the Wind by Jon Walter

When we meet Malik and his grandfather, they are escaping a war zone. They've made their way to the port under cover of darkness and they can see the humanitarian aid ship in the dock. Malik believes his mother will need a ticket too, even though no-one has seen her since she was taken by the soldiers three days ago. Fortunately, Papa has a plan, although it's going to take some courage, money and connections to get his grandson to safety. 

Close to the Wind shows us war from the perspective of a modern 10 year old boy, not battlefields or bodies, just the frightening and confusing reality that many urban refugees continue to face during political upheaval. The book does not name the country that Malik is escaping from, nor the details of the source of the conflict, this allows us to concentrate on Malik's tender-hearted character and his responses with the detail he and others like him deserve.

Published by David Fickling books May 26, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Corinne lives on a Caribbean island with her father, the other people in her village believe in evil spirits called Jumbies who live in the forest, but Corrine doesn't think they're real. At least she doesn't until she meets them. This book uses Haitian folklore to weave a really great fairytale coming of age story, laced with horror and peril, but ultimately about the power of one young woman. 

For ages 10-12.

Published by Algonquin Young Readers April 28, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Water and the Wild by K E Ormsbee

Charlotte G Fisk is a lonely girl whose imagination and eccentric behavior often get her into trouble. She has one friend; but he has only a few weeks left to live. When her favorite apple tree opens its roots and sends her plummeting into the fairyland of New Albion, Lottie's only thought is to get back to her friend, when she learns that one of the sprites has a magical medicine for "otherwise incurable" afflictions, she becomes ever more determined to get back to the real world and put that medicine to good use. Unfortunately the king of the fairies is also sick, he and his minions will stop at nothing to get that potion and destroy Lottie, who is much more important than she would ever guess. 

This book is an exciting magical adventure for kids aged 10 and up, but it also deals with some complex issues of political power and its abuse. These are not clean and pretty fairies, but more like the dangerous and vindictive sprites of folklore.

Published by Chronicle Books April 14, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Firstborn by Tor Seidler

Maggie the magpie is curious about the world, but she fears she might be limited to the area around the farm where she was born. When her friend the intellectual raven is shot, Maggie decides the farm isn't the safe haven she'd assumed it to be and she sets off in search of new experiences. This is an excellent nature story, told by a clever magpie who runs (or maybe flies?) with a wolf pack. There are lots of scenes depicting the brutality of the wild but Siedler tenderly balances this with moments of conciliation and loyalty. A deceptively simple and really interesting animal story.

For ages 8-10

Published by Simon & Schuster March 3, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Ferals by Jacob Grey

Caw is a boy who only just remembers his parents. He was raised by crows on the rooftops and trees of a rundown city. It never seemed strange to him that they communicate with him, what he doesn't understand are the other humans living their normal lives. Caw's life is turned upside down when he witnesses a prison breakout by three sinister characters with the ability to control animals. These vicious criminals are linked to Caw, in a way he cannot imagine.

This is a really dark, urban drama about superpowers and the fear of trust. It has some bright moments, but it is definitely not for the fainthearted. A thrilling and dangerous read.

For ages 8-12 (with strong stomachs)

Published by HarperCollins, April 28 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Keepers - The Box and the Dragonfly by Ted Sanders

The first book in a new series of magical adventures where children are chosen as Keepers of arcane magical objects, only to discover themselves in danger from the monstrous Makers of those objects who want their creations back at any price. 

This book takes a welcome step away from the "magical school" plot that has been holding sway over kids magical books for some time. The Keepers have the support of one another, the magical powers of their objects and some rather haphazard advice from a few magical adults. Meanwhile they are responsible not only for protecting themselves, but also their families, even though some of those families are less than perfect. I loved how the fantasy and the very real life situations stand side by side in this book. 

For ages 8-12

Published by HarperCollins, March 3 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gorillas in Our Midst by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones

Just from the title, we know this is going to be a silly picture book and we are not disappointed. Apparently, you should always carry a banana with you because there are so many gorillas hiding in plain sight amongst the human population. The comic book style artwork underlines this theme by giving the Gorilla characters more detail than the human characters. But the thing to really look out for are the jokes in the illustrations, for example a gorilla reading a book on a train entitled "How to Read on a Train" or another Gorilla wearing a t-shirt that says "I Am Not a Gorilla". 

The perfect gift for little monkeys or for the ape in all of us.

For ages 3-8

Published by Sky Pony Press April 14, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Pearce and Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett is a young girl who lives in a world very like ours, but with one huge difference, in Pip's world, magical creatures are real. People keep Griffins as pets and show unicorns competitively, there are special vets for magical creatures and a supposedly definitive guide book by Jeffrey Higgleston. Pip is really excited when she gets to spend the summer with her aunt who is a magical creatures vet. Pip loves all the magical creatures, plus she can talk to them (although no-one believes her). Unfortunately, Pip arrives in town at the same time as an infestation of Fuzzles. Tiny adorable creatures who burst into flames at the slightest hint of excitement. Can Pip get to the bottom of the mystery of where all the Fuzzles are coming from? And will there be enough time to save the Fuzzles before they are exterminated?

I love this book. It's packed with humor and crazy but simple illustrations. The characters are very easy to love and although the concept is simple, the language is complex enough to make this a stretch for some younger readers. A hit waiting to happen.

For readers aged 8+

Published by Scholastic April 28, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger Deep approaches mental illness through the medium of a non-linear pirate adventure. Yes, you read that right. What's even more astonishing, is that it works. The small moments of pure reality or pure fantasy are engaging enough in themselves, but when taken together as an uncomfortable maelstrom of thoughts and emotions, the book feels like an accurate portrayal of a mind in disarray. And that's not all. Mental illness does not have a tidy end point, a solution or even an easy cause, Challenger Deep recognizes this and does not offer any easy solutions. In so doing it breaks all the tropes. All of them. 

This book is a sensitive work of genius for clever readers aged 14+.

Published by Harper Teen April 21, 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

This is the story of Ariel who escapes from a warzone, to be adopted by a "normal" American family and sent off to camp for the Summer. However, the family is far from normal, neither is the camp and as Ariel shares the unsettling stories of his past, it becomes apparent that this is not a happy ending. A depressed bionic reincarnated crow, a failed arctic expedition in the 19th century and a schizophrenic bomber all converge in this story, which manages to also be real and surprisingly funny. 

Published by Dutton Books, March 10, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Silvers rule the world. Their silver blood marks them apart and their super human abilities ensure that they keep their positions of power with force. Those with red blood are pressed into servitude or outright slavery. Red blooded Mare Barrow is destined to become a palace servant, but on her first day away from home she discovers that she also has a special ability. The Silver royalty adopt her as a lost Silver princess and the color of her blood becomes a secret she must keep to survive. 

Plenty of intrigue, rebellion and action keep you turning the pages as this well written fantasy plot unfolds.

Published by Harper Teen February 10, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

It's 1849 and a small group of young cowboys are on the Oregon trail heading to the gold fields. They encounter all the terrors and trials you would expect, but two of them are also keeping a huge secret and they're on the run from the law. It's not often you find a YA western, even less often when the protagonists are two female outlaws. This is a fast, fun read packed with historical detail and adventure with a touch of romance to keep you guessing.

Published by G P Putnams March 17, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

On a basic level, Mosquitoland is about a teenager running away from her father and step-mom in Mississippi and toward her sick mother in Ohio. Along the way she writes letters to the mysterious Isabel and meets some strangely interesting new friends. But that's just the basics, this book has so much more to offer, mostly in the form of Mim the runaway. Mim has such a complex and developing character with such a perverse world view that it's easy to forget this is a road trip book.

Published by Viking Books, March 3 2015