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.
All those aspiring ballet dancers who long to dance with style and grace will certainly be enchanted and inspired by this chapter-book.
Often when things do not go right, we all long for a magical element to show us the way. For Briana it is an elf that shows her that dancing is a joy not a chore.
Self-belief, sacrifice and practice all help Briana attain her dream to become a graceful dancer and to make her dreams come true.
I enjoyed this high interest story because, regardless of age, we can all work to achieve our dreams just as Briana does. This is another popular title from the Go for it series. See also the book review on Jamie and the Half-Wolves by Charlotte Kieft.
review by Fiona
Image by Magnolia5777/Phyllis
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
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
Looking for a title to create a genre jumper, well Shadow and Bone is a great place to start.
Orphaned by war, Alina and Mal grow up with nothing but each other. As adults they join the army and are sent on a perilous mission into the Shadow Fold, a cloud of darkness populated by hideous monsters. When they are attacked, Alina surprises everyone (including herself) by discovering a powerful ability that saves their lives. She may even be able to save the entire kingdom, but only if she can figure out how to control her power and work out who to trust.
This is a great book to give to students who are stuck in a genre rut. The story and setting will appeal to fantasy lovers, but Alina’s voice is very modern (and a little bit snarky) and will pull in students who generally shy away from books set in other worlds. There is something here for every reader: a quest to hunt a mythical stag, flesh-eating monsters, a magical make-up artist, gruelling martial arts training and a dramatic love triangle.
Set in Ravka, a mythical land inspired by Russian history and folktales, the book has inspired a new genre: Tsarpunk! Bardugo defines this as “fantasy that takes its inspiration from the aesthetics, culture, politics, and social structure of early 19th century Russia.” To learn more check out this interview or go to the author’s website.
A sequel is coming out in 2013, but in the meantime you can direct your students to The Witch of Duva, a Ravkan folktale that they can read for free online.
review by Caroline
Image by Badly Drawn Dad
First published in 1954 and long out of print, this new edition was my first introduction to the work of author Palmer Brown. It shares a timeless quality with some of the best fantasy stories, and while there is much that is sweetly quaint about it, the adult characters all had a definite edge to them which made me sit up and take notice. Anna Lavinia herself is as dauntless and practical a child hero as you could hope to meet. Her triumphant return home with long lost father, treasure and knowledge should leave any reader well satisfied.
Even better, another Anna Lavinia adventure is waiting in The silver nutmeg. Palmer Brown’s own delightfully wacky pen and ink drawings set both stories off perfectly.
review by Pamela
Image by Rob Innes
If you have ever wanted to tell your Poseidon from your Perseus with no idea where to start then this is the book to read. Each chapter is titled with the name of a Greek mythological character and their role or what they are known for. For example; ‘Perseus -the ill fated hero.
Stunning artwork brings the stories and characters vividly to life and helps maintain the reader’s attention while sidebars also place the stories into a historical and cultural context.
I appreciated this book because its intention is not to just tell stories about mythological characters but to differentiate one from the other and to find answers to many of the questions humans long to understand. In reading these myths we see that the Gods, Goddesses, heroes and monsters feel love, hate and jealousy like mortals. They are blessed and cursed with the same emotions that hurt and hinder ordinary human lives. Recommended for intermediate up.
review by Melissa
Image by SeeMidTN.com (aka bBrent)
Ten year old Stuart and his family move back to village of his father’s childhood. Instead of being the dull experience he expects, Stuart discovers a forgotten family secret. His great uncle was a famous magician and inventor of marvellous mechanisms, until his workshop was lost in a fire.
Stuarts adventure begins when a series of clues are revealed to him as to the workshop’s location in the village. With the help of the bossy triplets who live next door he goes about solving the riddles. There’s plenty of adventure, lots of cliff-hangers with a number of zealous competitors for the secrets, making this a great suspenseful read for 8 -10 year olds.
review by Suzanne
Image by Pressbound
A new story from one of my favourite authors – fantastic! Many of the ingredients I’ve come to expect in a D.W.J book appears in this one. A quirky cast of characters, of which Earwig herself is the undisputed star. An amazing house which holds much more than meets the eye, and there’s magic by the bucketload, of course.
If you are use to the lengthy novels with highly convoluted plots which this author has crafted over the years, you might be tempted to dismiss this little chapter book as a throwaway effort. But don’t be fooled – the tale of Earwig’s battle of wills with Bella Yaga and her fearsome neighbour, the Mandrake, is every bit as satisfying as any of Diana Wynne Jones’ bigger books. Loved the wickedly spidery illustrations by Marion Lindsay, also.
image by gnack gnack gnack
Frank Boyce wrote the extremely popular novel, Millions. Here he blends his trade mark humour with knowledge of the Apollo mission and teenage parenting messages.
Liam is a whiz kid computer games player who looks older than he is. When he wins a competition to visit the world’s greatest ever fun park he has to prolong a charade of being a father. Eventually Liam is selected by the other kids as the ‘father’ to accompany them on the Big Ride. There is a lot of adult role play as Liam and ‘daughter’ Florida rather unbelievably get what they want, a trip into outer space. Some of the other crew members persist right to the last in thinking the outing is just one huge game park ride.
Some of the questions for discussion at the end of the book would make interesting follow-ups by teachers.
Any Year 6 - 9 reader with an interest in computers or space travel would find this story very entertaining.
review by Phil
image by Sweetie187
Cas Lowood is in the family business. He hunts dangerous ghosts and kills them, just like his father used to do. Anna Dressed in Blood is supposed to be his most important case yet, especially after she murders one of Cas’s classmates right in front of him. So it should be easy for Cas to hunt her down, but something about Anna makes him want to spare her.
As Cas learns more about Anna’s story he discovers that she is tied to whatever killed his father and that she just might be the key to solving the mystery of his past.
This will be a popular title for readers who like to be spooked (and don’t mind sleeping with the light on for a few nights). Fans of paranormal romance will also enjoy watching Cas and Anna’s relationship develop.
This book is garnering some great buzz, and blurbs by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black mean it is only likely to get bigger, especially as it is the first of a planned series. Recommended for readers who don’t scare easily in Year 9 and above.
review by Carrie
image by Sam Breach
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