Ruby West's world is about to change forever. The Traditional Party, or Trads as they are called, have been voted in. Their political stance is hardcore, they want to "clean" up society using fascist methods.
Ruby and her family belong to the Core Party, who are eventually rounded up in the middle of the night and brought to an unused army barracks in what has become a makeshift concentration camp.
Confused, stunned and hungry, Ruby, her sister, her mother and her step father are thrust into a living nightmare.
At first, they tell themselves that they'll be let out soon, that the Trads can't possibly keep them there against their will. But then more buses arrive with more Core supporters, then the food rations start to dwindle, then the guards get more violent and the prisoners more desperate. Ruby's fate is intertwined with the rest of the camp as she and her family tries to endure the unthinkable.
I Am Not A Number gets dark, and then it gets darker. I was completely engrossed in this tale of terror featuring fascist politics, propaganda and the desire to control populations at all costs. In today's fragmented political climate, it's a potent reminder of the horrors of the past and of what could be our future if we allow alt-right parties to continue to spew their garbage online and in the streets. I Am Not A Number will undoubtedly be a huge hit at Glenthorne High School and I really look forward to getting it into the hands of our teens!
Thank you to Andersen Press for this advanced reader's copy.
It's the first day of 6th Grade for Carter Jones and it's pouring rain outside. His sisters are causing mayhem and his mother is overworked. His father is deployed overseas in the U.S. military, so times are stressful.
That's why Carter is shocked to hear the doorbell ring just before he's off to school to see a butler standing on his doorstep.
The Butler, or Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick as he asks to be called, has been sent to Carter's house on the request of Carter's late grandfather. Carter is as confused as we'd all be to have this happen, especially when The Butler politely demands that Carter walk their dog Ned as soon as he gets home, do his homework and speak proper grammar. He also ensures Carter looks after his sisters and help his mother with the washing up, cooking and cleaning. Carter knows these are things he should be doing, but always found time to do other things like eat cereal and "crash". Now he's got a butler making sure he does them on a daily basis.
That's not all, The Butler introduces Carter to the game of cricket, and soon it's not just Carter who is playing, it's everyone at his Middle School. Carter eventually learns to love the game and with The Butler's help, starts to come to terms with his father's absence and the death of his brother.
This book hit me hard, I lost my brother recently and it has been a huge blow to my family. Reading the passages that deal with this, how Carter learns to keep going despite knowing his life will never be the same, was like a punch to the guts. It's very true, what Carter goes through, some days you think you're going to be alright and then you see something or hear a song or whatever and you are laid low. It's comforting to know that even a fictional character can stand up to this kind of thing.
I've always loved Gary D. Schmidt's writing, there's always a lot of humour and a lot of laughs. It's a wonderful novel with both of these things and it helped quite a lot.
Jam Gallahue has just joined The Wooden Barn, a specialist school for teens who have experienced trauma. She's there because Reeve, her boyfriend, someone she knew for less than two months, is gone.
Upon her arrival, she's put into a class called Special Topics in English, with the firm yet matronly Mrs. Q at the helm. Mrs. Q gives the small group The Bell Jar to read. She then hands them all blank journals and tells them to write down what they are feeling twice a week.
This is where things get weird. Writing in the journals transports Jam to Belzhar, an alternate universe of sorts where she can be with Reeve again, if only for a short time.
Jam is blown away by this revelation, she's desperate to know if anyone else in Special Topics has had this happen before. Does Mrs. Q know? What happens when her journal is full? Jam has questions, and it will take a lot of digging to find the answers.
I really enjoyed Belzhar, I felt it was a great novel that highlighted the power of writing and reading in general. I really loved that they chose The Bell Jar to analyse as it was the perfect text to accompany this story of heartache and pain.
I do feel that Jam's reaction to certain events (no spoilers) needed to be fleshed out a little more, I think she'd be lacking in the friend department if she behaved this way in any kind of authentic situation.
Each of Jam's friends have hidden trauma, secrets and desires which makes the story telling all the more interesting, though. It's a very unique story with a twist and I couldn't bring myself to put it down as I had to know what happens.
Makepeace is 12 years old and has the ability to harbour ghosts within her body. The problem is, she doesn't know it. It's a secret her mother has been keeping from her throughout her life.
When she's separated from her mother, she inadvertently inherits the spirit of a recently deceased bear. It is wild and angry, hungry and confused and it's in her brain and trying to control her body.
After a series of devastating events, Makepeace is sent to live with her father's ancestors. They are a strange group of people who have secret powers. They see Makepeace as a troublesome girl with only one use, a use that won't be revealed to Makepeace until much later therefore I won't spoil it here.
What Makepeace does know is that she needs to escape the clutches of these people. What follows is an epic adventure where Makepeace must befriend ghosts and those of the living whom she doesn't really trust. The country is engaged in a civil war, it's the 17th century and Makepeace must gather every ally she can if she is going to survive.
I really loved this novel, there are multiple plot twists and side adventures to keep readers of fantasy fiction with some history thrown in engaged for hours. Makepeace and Bear are an unlikely yet amazing duo, and with each turn for the weird, I was on board.
You'll really fall in love with Makepeace and be rooting for her every step of the way, she is defiant, brave, clever and cunning, yet she is honest and honourable throughout. The villains in this tale are many, and they are truly evil and disturbing. Makepeace's father's ancestors are about as dastardly and dark as they get, they have harnessed a power that has made them mad-drunk and desperate at the same time. They will stop at nothing to secure their name in the history books, this makes them very dangerous, as many characters in the novel find out the hard way.
Another triumph from Frances Hardinge, I really recommend it!
Samkad wants to be a warrior, but he's told he's not ready. His friend Luki also wants to be a warrior, but she's told she'll never be one because she's a girl. It's 1899 in the Philippines, and big changes are in the air.
When Samkad's long lost brother reappears and brings with him a strange American visitor, Samkad's entire life is thrown upside down.
A gritty story about truth, family, war and loss. I really loved Bone Talk as it is steeped in history. I had no idea of the American invasion of the Philippines and even if I had, the stories out there are primarily from a U.S. perspective.
Bone Talk allows the reader to see things from the point of view of those having their entire lives taken from them, their choices taken away by foreign invaders who say one thing and do another, who do not keep promises, who bribe and lie and steal. It's a damning and fascinating look at political meddling and war but told through a very human lens.
Samkad is a wonderful character who wants to be tough and brave like his father but who harbours very real fears and anxiety just like anyone. Luki is brave and fearless on the outside but deep down wants nothing more than to be friends with Samkad, that is her biggest fear. She is tough and loyal and a great character as well. When the Americans arrive, prepare for some really tough scenes that will make your blood boil, it's a riveting story that taught me a lot, loved it.
Lily lives in a perpetual nightmare. The bullying she faces in and outside of school is horrific.
The bullies take photos of her, attack her and call her names like pig, fatty and much, much worse.
Lily's mum is morbidly obese and hasn't left the house in years out of fear and embarrassment. She's dealing with her own family trauma, her brother Ray is a cop, but not a cop you can really trust at all.
Lily's dad works long nights at a tough job to keep things together at home. He's furious at those who are destroying Lily's life, but feels powerless to do anything about it. Meanwhile, Lily is spinning into a pit of despair.
Then, her father has an idea, he brings out his old boxing equipment and starts to show her some moves. At first she thinks it's a ridiculous idea but when she gets to imagine she's punching the faces of the people that hurt her, her attitude changes. This leads Lily to a boxing gym, I don't want to spoil any more of this novel because it's so amazing you should read it yourself.
Gloves Off is told in verse and alternates between Lily's perspective and occasionally her mother's. It's a very powerful look at fat shaming and the consequences that it has. Fat shaming is often overlooked as a "real" bullying issue, primarily based on the ridiculous claim that it will help the person being bullied to lose weight.
It's known that high school students who believe themselves to be overweight or obese are more likely to suffer depression and attempt suicide. (source)
There are other issues at play here as well. Lily's family can't afford to eat healthy. A report submitted in Sept 2018 by The Food Foundation showed that 3.7 million children in the UK live in households that earn less than £15,860 / year and are unable to afford the diet that is recommended by the government in order to stay healthy.
As a School Librarian, I haven't really come across a novel that packs this much punch (pun intended). It's an important story that needs to be told. It's not just the message that rings home, the story is beautifully told. It's raw at times and so heartbreaking you'll need to read it in private unless you don't want to be blubbering mess in front of strangers.
I can't recommend Gloves Off enough, it's published in August 2019, go get it.
London is melting under an oppressive heatwave. Nik & Norva live in the Tri, a high-rise building where their father is the caretaker.
When one of the residents, Hugo, is found murdered, Nik & Norva are on the case.
They loved Hugo, he taught an art class in the common area of the Tri and always had interesting information about the Tri and surrounding community.
It's summer, so Nik & Norva have a lot of time on their hands to devote to the case, to the annoyance of the local residents and police. However, for the most part, the police aren't trusted in the Tri. This gives the detective duo more access to conduct their thorough and (sometimes) reckless research into who committed the horrible crime. As the suspect list mounts, Nik & Norva find themselves in a race against time to find the killer before their lives are turned completely upside down.
High Rise Mystery is an amazing new series by author Sharna Jackson. I loved following Nik & Norva's adventure through the Tri as they unwraveled the crime. They are smart, curious, stubborn and not against bending a few rules to get the job done. They are the perfect team to solve the case and I'm excited to know that they will be back with new stories and new cases to solve in the future.
The supporting characters in High Rise Mystery are just as strong. Nik & Norva's friend George is hilarious and more clever than he lets on. Mark is a potential love interest but also a suspect. Nik & Norva also don't like the way Jane has been acting, in fact, everyone in the building is a suspect.
Good thing they are organised and ready to take on whatever is thrown at them. It's funny, smart and a great who-dunnit that should not be missed.
Sharna recently spoke to the BBC on the importance of young readers seeing their lives, their cultures, religions, backgrounds and communities reflected in the books that they read. You can read the article here.
It also references a new report published by BookTrust, the UK's largest reading charity. The report states that "over the pas 11 years, fewer than 2% of all authors and/or illustrators of children's books published in the UK were British people of colour."
This is why BookTrust has launched #BookTrustRepresents, a campaign to promote and support these authors who are severely underrepresented in the UK.
It's 1984 & Jo Kwan has just moved with her family to Coventry, UK to start a new life. However, it's not the life Jo had imagined for herself. She's going to live above the Chinese takeaway that her family owns and operates. She hasn't seen her older brother Simon for a few years because he was sent to live with their grandparents for reasons that are unknown to Jo. She has a younger sister Bonny who has taken to smoking and stealing money from the cash register in the shop. Jo also takes money but only when she really, really needs it.
Jo's mother speaks little to no English, her father speaks both English and Chinese but rarely speaks. Throw in the fact that Jo and her sister can't understand Chinese and it makes for a very interesting family dynamic.
Chinglish is told through Jo's diary entries and doodles. The story track's Jo's attempts to fit in at school and how she experiences casual and not so casual racism from both children and adults in her neighbourhood. Jo starts her diary by saying she is only going to include the nice memories. As the diary continues, more and more of the "bad stuff" creeps in, and man oh man there is a lot of bad stuff. I wanted to jump into this novel on several occasions and take Jo and her sister as far away from her parents as possible, more on that later.
There are some genuinely hilarious moments in this novel which are always tinged with sadness. Jo never receives Christmas or birthday presents from her family, yet she's convinced that she did receive a chair shaped like a teddy bear when she was six years old. There's no evidence of the chair existing and her parents don't acknowledge that the chair was ever purchased. It's one of those moments that slowly burns inside your brain, it's terribly sad but I had to laugh at it because Jo has to ask herself if she's going insane, why would her parents decide to lie to her about buying a teddy bear chair? Who does something like that?
Then there are the animal stories, many of which can be considered animal cruelty, which Jo fully recognises. I won't spoil any of them but one of them involves goats and again, made me laugh out loud and then wonder if I should be laughing but it's so tragic and bizarre that I just couldn't help it.
Jo becomes needed more and more in the takeaway, and she has to experience real problems in there. Racist customers, drunk customers, customers who demand refunds and many other issues. Her school work slips, she starts taking more and more time off because of her life is simply spiralling out of control. Her father becomes increasingly sullen, despondent and abusive. As we learn more and more about his past (the little that Jo can piece together) Jo begins her quest to remove herself from the family. With the help of her friend Tina, she starts to trust herself and have a little self confidence, especially when it comes to her only respite: art. Jo's love of art transcends the absolute madness that is her home life.
I really loved this story, it's hilarious and really heart breaking at the same time. Jo's life is completely unique and fascinating, it's like watching a car crash over and over again. You will definitely feel for her and her family, it's a story of tragedy, abuse, neglect and hope. I think it's amazing and can't wait for it to come out in September.
Vera wants to be what she thinks is a "regular" person. But it's hard as a Russian girl living in the U.S. suburbs. All of her friends seem to have way more money than her and they get to go to cool summer camps. Vera? She's sent to Russian summer camp.
Determined to fit in, Vera soon discovers that she once again starts to feel left out. There are cliques, boring history lessons and disgusting bathrooms that make life unbearable for her.
Still, Vera puts her head down and tries to make the most of it, only the strong willed can survive, and she's a survivor. I really loved this comic from Vera Brosgol (Anya's Ghost), its her own memoir of her time at a Russian summer camp and you can feel the authenticity oozing off of every page. It's funny, sad and awkward all rolled into one great story. Any fan of Raina Telgemeier will absolutely love this amazing tale of adventure, hardship and outhouses from Hell. Loved it, don't miss it.
AJ wants to be different. As it stands, he doesn't feel special, he hasn't grown over the summer holiday, he doesn't have anything that makes him stand out from the crowd and the girl he has a crush on has absolutely no idea that he exists.
When he finds out that his crush, Nia, is in love with a popular teen vampire series, AJ takes matters into his own hands. Then the stars align and he and Nia are paired up to do a group project on, you guessed it: Transylvania!
This is AJ's time to shine, if he can convince Nia that he's as into vampires as she is, she might actually notice him and see how much he cares for her.
Not all is as it seems, though. Not only is Nia harbouring a deep secret, there's something seriously off with their new teacher from the UK. He acts strange, takes his phone out in class and has urgent, hushed conversations and gets agitated really, really quickly. As the mystery unfolds, AJ has much more on his plate than the social hierarchy at school.
I really loved FAKE BLOOD, it's like The Lost Boys, only cooler, funnier and more interesting. There are tons of nods to vampire pop culture and teen literature. It's a hilarious parody that is really fun to read. I work with students who are going to absolutely love this, I can see them existing in this comic, they talk like this, they are the kids who come to the Library to escape the madness that can exist in the hallways on the outside. All Librarians should buy this and have it on display immediately, loved it.