We want to help create motivated and engaged young readers. This blog is about children's and YA literature (especially New Zealand), literacy research, and ways to get, and keep, kids reading.
Samuel is a boy growing up in Apartheid South Africa. He knows the memory of the massacre of his parents and sister will never leave him. However his life changing experience begins when his Uncle Sabata recognises his talent for running. His uncle fills his mind with inspirational stories of other people, who like himself have gone on to win laurels at the Olympics in spite of encountering racial prejudice. This motivates him to achieve even higher goals.
Blood Runner is the story of Samuel who makes a decision to fight racial prejudice as a runner even though, at that very time his brothers join the anti-Apartheid movement. James Riordan’s historical novel very cleverly encapsulates Samuel’s endeavour to physically and mentally prepare for his marathon, which in his mind he is running for the freedom of his people. The brief note on Apartheid at the end of the book provides an adequate amount of background for the novel.
I would highly recommend Rebel Cargo and The Sniper also written by James Riordan.
review by Janice
Image by JP-Flanigan
This revised and updated edition is not just a tell-all about the ills of modern slavery. It is a handbook on how you and I can make a positive stand to become abolitionists.
David Batstone systematically goes through all of the regions of the world (sadly, most countries) where some form of slavery operates in the form of sex trafficking, human trafficking, child soldiers, working in factories without pay and being held against one’s will.
This book has a plethora of information that we can call upon to do our bit to be abolish slavery. It is a clever mix of real life anecdotes, contemporary examples of what others are doing and facts and figures from governments to support his argument. Batstone offers several options of how we can contribute to the ‘Not for sale’ campaign which makes the reader feel that however small their efforts are, they count. I hope mine will.
Recommended for intermediate upward.
review by Melissa
Image by TheIRD
Dom has just finished school and is engaged in a painting job at his father’s advertising agency before he starts university. One morning he walks into his father’s office to ask for the keys to his car. Here he gets drawn into a conversation on the benefits of advertising and next thing he knows he’s being thrown a challenge to come up with a pitch to sell toothpaste. Dom’s philosophy it that it is easy enough to write an advertisement and that any ‘monkey’ could do it.
What follows is Dom’s process of due diligence on the campaign. The question raised is why does Dom really want to beat his dad at his own game? The story deals with the serious and humorous side of advertising, a father son relationship and Dom’s learning curve of where he wants to be in terms of a career.
Leonie Thorpe has done a brilliant job of keeping the story light, youthful and purposeful. Also noteworthy is the exposure to the world of advertising which is insightful for anyone wanting to pursue this line of a career.
review by Janice
Image by owly9
George Larson is an 18 year old school boy from Otago, with aspiring dreams of becoming a musician. But everything changes when George notices a spider crawling over his homework book in a repeating pattern - spelling out the word “soul”. His dead granddad starts turning up at night with strange messages that someone is after him, and to try not to get killed! And that George is apparently the only one who can save the world by turning off the “lighthouse”. A Tibetan monk (who likes to “high five”) turns up at George’s house wanting to go on a journey with him. George has so many questions. What is this lighthouse? Why does his dead Granddad keep turning up? Who are the people after him? Where are they going? Why does the Tibetan monk say he has known George for a long time? Can George and Kaisa become more than friends?…
The author, Fredrik Brouneus, was born in Stockholm, but now lives in Dunedin with his family. The Prince of Soul and the lighthouse is his first book in English.
review by Michelle
Image by alijava
The History of Surfing is a product of surfer and surfing writer, Matt Warshaw. Four years of researching and writing on top of an already extensive knowledge on the subject, gives the reader an exhaustive collection of information from the first surf, board design, as well as changing surfing culture and trends, World Championships and leading figures.
With a massive page count, incorporating text, photographs and related images we can (safely) follow the sport from pre-1900’s period to the commercial era of modern surfing.
review by Natasha
Image from collections of the National Library of NZ
Readers of Twilight will find many familiar features in Telesa- a strong supernatural element, beautiful young people, school romance, students with cars – and potential for a lot of chaos. But with a difference: here the mythology and school are Samoan. Telesā are powerful women who manipulate elemental forces, sometimes for good, but often not. Males are expendable.
When Leila Folger’s American father dies, the 18-year old insists on going to Samoa to learn something of her mother who, she believes, died when she was an infant. She is puzzled by her aunt’s cool welcome. At school she is drawn to head prefect Daniel but sparks fly. And a fiery response to a hostile youth at an interschool rugby match brawl leaves him with burns and her in confusion.
Then a beautiful woman introduces Leila to the fractious and ruthless sisterhood of telesā. Life itself is at stake. But Leila is strong, has loyal friends and elemental support, and gives a good account of herself. These are great stories and The bone bearer, due in 2013, will complete the series. The author has written other books, including one on the 2009 Samoa-Tongan tsunami.
review by Rob
Image used with permission
My first question when reading this novel for young adults was: is this fact or fiction? It was written in such a compelling real way. Ruta Sepetys has been diligent in her research, visiting Lithuania and basing this fictional book on an extremely dark point in world history. It is set in the 1940s when the Baltic region was devastated by double genocide. First by Nazi Germany, then by Soviet Russia, Its basis in historical fact makes for compelling reading. But as harrowing as the hardships endured are, the story is of love and survival, written with grace and heart. It made me cry, but it gave me hope. The endurance of the human spirit is just so uplifting.
16 year old Lina is typical teenager living with her family in Lithuania. Her life is suddenly changed forever when the Soviet secret police invade her home and forcibly abduct her family…. ”they took me in my nightgown”.
Her mother, brother and Lina are transported in horrific conditions in cattle trucks to remote Siberia. Here they are forced to work in labour camps under appalling conditions.
Lina sustains her hope through her artwork—she secretly draws pictures which she believes will somehow reach her father, who was also arrested by the secret police.
This dramatic and moving story covers her long and harrowing journey of 6,500 mile and spans years. Lina fights for survival for herself and those around her while maintaining human dignity and learning heartfelt compassion from her mother. In spite of seeing the horrifying ordeals through which they suffered, it is her incredible strength, love, and hope that stayed with me well after I had turned the last page. I was left wanting to know more……
This book is truly a must read and not just for a young adult audience.
review by Glenda
Image by M1K3Y
David Riley is a teacher and Head of Dance-Drama at Tangaroa College in South Auckland, and has a background in journalism. He was aware of a lack of appropriate resources and decided to write this book when Niuean students told him they did not know of role models from their culture. He wrote it “to encourage and inspire students”.
He writes about people like Che Fu, Pero Cameron, Stephanie Tauevihi and NRL player Dene Halatau. As most of them had mixed ancestry- Pacific, Māori and Pakeha- this is a book with a broad appeal. Other profiles are from mythology and history.
Themes in the book include achievement, leadership, believing in yourself, overcoming obstacles- always a popular subject- and issues to do with culture. David has a deft writing style that will appeal to students from mid-Primary to Secondary levels.
You can see some sample chapters on his website.
review by Rob
Image used with permission
Twinship… what a fascinating concept. Jerry Spinelli explores the reality behind the concept through the eyes of 12 year old twins Jake and Lily as they grow through the physical and emotional changes of puberty and struggle to establish their own identities.
This book would have equal appeal to boys and girls as there is equal page space given to the voices of both Jake and Lily. I can imagine it being read aloud on a boy/girl shared basis. They speak in alternating short chapters. There is enough action, intrigue and emotional involvement to sustain the interest of a class of students (8 – 12 years).
On their sixth birthday, Jake and Lily both awaken to find themselves holding hands at the train station, surrounded by the smell of pickles. This happens every birthday thereafter and this marks both their significant railway birth and the development of a special sixth-sense that the siblings refer to as goombla. This is their term for a twin communication that either of them can explain. They know when the other is hurt, where they are hiding and how the other is feeling. Having goombla means that they are never truly alone because they always have each other.
Lily defines herself as a twin first and foremost and struggles to see herself as an individual girl in her own right. Therefore she is particularly devastated when her parents make her sleep in a separate room when she turns 12, and when Jake prefers to spend his time bike riding with a group of boys. Not only this, but the boys “gang” is lead by Bump Stubbins, Lily’s nemesis. He invents the pastime of following goobers and supergoobers and Jake is more than happy to tag along.
Many sub stories keep the intrigue, underpinning the main plot of Jake and Lily’s relationship. Each character is well drawn and totally believable. Highly recommended.
review by Glenda
Image by bambibabe48
There will be few teachers or library staff who are not familiar with Chris Van Allsburg’s work – Jumanji; The Polar Express; Z was zapped; The widow’s broom; and others. My favourite amongst his work is The mysteries of Harris Burdick (1984), which I have used in the classroom numerous times. The introduction alone is a great read-aloud (especially if you read it with a bit of sombre mysteriousness…) and the starter for the many journeys of the imagination on the following pages.
His wonderfully atmospheric drawings with their deceptively simple titles and accompanying quotes have jump-started some very productive classroom writing sessions, and the same drawings have now been submitted to some well-known authors for their interpretation. Louis Sachar; Stephen King; Walter Dean Myers; Lois Lowry; Jon Scieszka; Kate DiCamillo are just some of the famous names telling their version in The chronicles of Harris Burdick (2011).
Last word to Lemony Snicket, who writes the introduction to this volume:
“…the mysteries of Harris Burdick continue, and if you open this book, you will likely be mystified yourself. As you reread the stories, stare at the images, and ponder the mysteries of Harris Burdick, you will find yourself in a mystery that joins so many authors and readers together in breathless wonder.”
A must-buy for all school library collections.
review by Linda
Image by gruntzooki
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