When a new boy named Ahmet joins the school, people initially think he's strange because he doesn't speak or join the other children on the playground during break times.
They soon learn that Ahmet is a very special student because he's come to the UK from Syria. He has a foster mother who is taking care of him as he was separated from his parents when he arrived.
As the students learn more and more about Ahmet, a group of clever and resourceful friends hatch a plan to reunite Ahmet with his parents. It might just be the greatest plan ever devised, or it might completely backfire and cause a lot more trouble than the students are prepared for.
I absolutely loved The Boy At the Back of the Class. We don't know the narrator's gender or name for the majority of the novel and it really woks, having that kept a secret as their identity is slowly revealed. The novel tackles some serious issues including the refugee crisis of course but also home grown casual racism that in my opinion is rampant in UK society. There are cruel students who are mimicking their parents' bigotry and apathetic teachers who allow bullying to occur under their watch. It also sheds light on the generosity and kindness that will hopefully prevail in the end. It's an important book that I think should be required reading in Year 6 or 7!
Penelope Lumley has just landed a job as governess at Ashton place, a formidable looking estate in the countryside.
Right from the start Penelope can tell something is a little off about the entire place. The people act funny and the children she is supposed to be caring for are nowhere in sight.
When she is shown them, she discovers the truth, that they are actually feral children discovered by Lord Ashton himself during a hunting party.
At fifteen, Peneloe has never experienced anything quite like this, but she is a headstrong and resourceful teenager and decides to plunge ahead with the daunting task of bringing the children into the "civilised" world.
Penelope teaches them basic manners, like not chasing squirrels (this will become a huge task late in the novel) and learning poetry and Latin.
To add to the pressure, Lady Constance has instructed Penelope to get the children ready for the biggest Christmas party in the land, something that fills Penelope with dread.
To make matters even worse, Penelope has the sneaking suspicion that not all is right with Ashton Place. Mysterious characters like Old Timothy roam the grounds trading whispers with the others and she doesn't like the vibe coming off of Lady Constance in general.
I can't believe it took me this long to get to this series. Anyone who ever grew up watching Mary Poppins or the Sound of Music and reading Harry Potter or any Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie will really dive into it. Penelope is a tremendous force of nature yet in a quiet way which only makes her more likeable. The children, Beowulf, Cassiopeia & Alexander will tug at your heart strings from the second you discover them huddled under a pile of hay in the barn. Then there's the mysterious Frederick & Lady Constance, perfect villains set in a strange estate that seems to breathe and act on its own.
One of the best books I've read this year, I'm really excited to promote it to my students in the Library!
When Winnie finds out that Raj, her boyfriend of three years has dumped her for another girl, she never expected to find out via Facebook. To make matters worse, her and Raj were meant to be together as per her family's Hindu's priest's predictions.
Somehow, things get even worse for Winnie when she finds out that Raj has been made chair of the student film festival when film has always been Winnie's passion, not Raj's.
Winnie is a Bollywood film fanatic, and sees her life reflected in those glossy, flamboyant films and is having a hard time decipher this new turn of events.
Working within the festival, she meets Dev, a boy she's always known but never really spoken to that often. It turns out that Dev loves film just as much as she does and they soon form a close bond. However, she still feels like Raj should be the guy because for her it's been written in the stars. She starts to feel something towards Dev but can't seem to put her finger on what is holding her back other than her priest's predictions. With help from her family and friends, Winnie navigates the minefield that is love and high school.
My So Called Bollywood Life is a fast paced dramedy that taught me a lot about Bollywood and Indian culture in general. I really like Winnie and her friends, they felt genuine, as did her relationship with Dev and her frustrations with Raj. This will be a huge hit with the students in the high school Library that I manage, I'm excited to promote it to them!
Felix Knuttson lives with his mum Astrid in a VW Westfalia van in Vancouver. They are part of the hidden homeless, people who become homeless but stay with other people, live in automobiles or other places they can find. In short, they aren't living on the sidewalk...yet.
Felix is desperate to keep this secret hidden from his friends at school. Astrid has issues with authority and can't keep a job held down for more than a few weeks. She resorts to shoplifting, something she tries to brush off as a necessity but it's not for Felix. For him things are as bad as they seem. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the new game show that's in town for kids. It's a trivia show and the winner will receive $25,000. That money would get Felix and his mum off the street and into a place of their own. But as the tension mounts, and the teachers and friends start to suspect something's up with Felix's living arrangements, the likelihood of Astrid not being reported to social services gets smaller and smaller.
No Fixed Address is in my opinion Susin Nielsen's best work yet. It's hilarious, sad and has a cast of amazing characters. Felix is an adorable 12 year old with a knack for trivia. He's tough yet sensitive at the same time. His mother is someone who will cause debate for a long time after you've read it. Astrid lives by her own moral code, she wants Felix to call her by her first name, she encourages him to shoplift and she doesn't expect him to follow all of societies' unspoken rules. At the same time you know from the start that she loves Felix more than anything and would jump in front of a bullet for him without hesitation. Together they make a really interesting duo. Felix's friend Winnie starts off as a know-it-all nuisance but soon grows on Felix and I found myself liking her more and more as she begins to bond with Felix and defend him throughout the latter half of the novel.
It's a book that will spark a lot of discussion about parenting, survival and how we treat those on the fringes of what we consider "normal" society.
I loved every page of it and I know our students are going to really eat this one up, can't wait to promote it to them. I recommend it for ages 11 and up!
One thing Tomas enjoys doing is gardening with his grandfather. When he discovers a weird looking tree, he almost gets rid of it but decides at the last moment to keep it. He takes the even weirder looking fruit from the tree and brings it into his house. Something about it tells Tomas that it's special but he can't figure out what.
He gets a huge shock when the fruit bursts open and a dragon flies out.
Tomas names it Flicker and tries his best to hide it from his family and friends. The problem is, Flicker does things like set fire to almost everything and poops everywhere.
To make matters even stranger, Tomas finds that more and more dragonfruit are growing from the tree. He is officially growing dragons, but can he keep his secret for long?
The Boy Who Grew Dragons is a very touching tale about friendship, standing up for yourself and much more. It's full of great laughs (exploding poo, toothbrushes that have been burnt by dragon fire) and sinister villains. Tomas' neighbour is a mean, grumpy man that doesn't like Tomas or his grandfather. You can see where this is going, and it's pretty great. The illustrations in this novel are amazing. It's the first in a series which I highly recommend for anyone 9 and up!
Tilly is eleven years old and is in love with books. It's no surprise considering her grandparents own and run the magical Pages & Co. bookshop in London.
Pages & Co. is a magical place because of the love and literary energy that surrounds it but it's also magical in strange and to Tilly, bewildering ways. She sometimes sees her grandparents speaking to customers who are standing there one minute and are gone the next.
When she turns a corner and comes face to face with a girl who looks exactly like Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, she's not sure if the bookshop is responsible or her own mind.
Then she meets Anne of Avonlea and eventually uncovers the secret: Book characters are travelling from the world of novels to Pages & Co. through a magical process called Book Wandering.
Tilly soon discovers that she also has the ability to Book Wander, but that there are strict rules to follow. With the help of her friend Oskar she sets out on a quest to discover what happened to her long lost mother. Her journey will take her through her favourite children's literature and features a host of amazing characters and villains.
Pages & Co. can be read anywhere but it deserves to be read on a cold, rainy day in a bookshop cafe because it will warm your soul. Tilly is a smart, stubborn and sometimes fiery character with a good heart, she's a great new character that you'll want to follow through the pages of any book.
There are many new novels being published for children and teens in the UK in the Fall of 2018 but make sure you don't miss Pages & Co. because it will be on at the top of the list of any student ages 9 and up.
Olive is not feeling her absolute best. She's standing on the edge of a cliff after a bout of severe depression. Talked down by the police, she's convinced to attend a Camp Reset, a trial facility for those suffering from a wide array of mental illnesses.
At the camp she meets many other teens: Jamie, a wannabe rock star with an attitude and good looks. Then there's Lewis, the quiet, shy boy who knows Maths better than anyone she's ever met. Sophie, who is fragile and quiet and delicate in Olive's eyes becomes a quick friend, but Olive's not there to meet friends, she's there to get her brain back to whatever normal is supposed to be.
Halfway through the program, she has an epiphany: What if the teens in the camp aren't the problem? What if society is the problem. If Olive and her friends can figure out a way to infect the world with kindness, there wouldn't be mental illness, right?
Olive becomes convinced she's got it worked out, she starts sleeping less, working out algorithms with Lewis and a plan with the rest of the crew in order to create a kindness revolution of course.
I won't spoil the novel any more but what follows is a detailed look at mental illness and the hope, humour and devastation that is wrapped up in it.
I really loved this novel. Last school year our book club, The Booklings, hid messages of kindness and well being in novels around the Library and this story has inspired me to try and make it a bigger event in Sept.
Kasia is a house-bound teen. Suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), she can't go down the stairs without feeling completely wiped out let alone go to school, meet friends and lead an average teenage life.
She spends her days in her room, listening to podcasts and audio books, doing homework and watching the world from her window.
Across the street and number 48, she swears she sees a figure in the window of a young girl. This seems strange to Kasia because she never sees her leave the house. Then one evening a car pulls up on her street, a man exits the vehicle and drags a screaming girl into it before stepping on the pedal and driving off.
Kasia is shocked and phones the police. Across the street, she sees the shadow of the girl in the window, watching everything unfold.
The police have nothing to go on. No one else has reported a missing person and there's no other witnesses. Kasia knows there is another witness but the police tell her that a young girl doesn't live across the street.
Is Kasia losing her mind? Has she been cooped up in her room for too long?
Kasia makes a new friend when a boy named Nav and his mum move in on the street to make amends with Nav's grandmother. Nav is sympathetic to Kasia and her medical condition, when many teens her age are not. Together, Nav and Kasia try to piece together the mystery of the shadowy girl in the window next door and the abduction that Kasia swore she saw. I won't spoil the novel any further, you'll have to read it!
Peny Joelson's writing is fast paced and concise which is what I love in a YA novel. It's also informative without delving into the info-dump that many authors fall victim to. I learned a lot about ME reading this book and I never once felt like i was being dictated to. I've only met one person in my life with ME and only briefly so I was interested in learning more. The frustration that Kasia feels when people in her school don't really believe her that she suffers from a real medical condition and is just trying to get out of school is tough and I can't imagine how that feels.
Girl in the Window covers some tough issues but I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a twelve year old student at Glenthorne. I really loved it, fans of mystery thrillers and even books like Everything, Everything will be wanting to read more from Penny!
Ralph, Jojo, Noel, Persephone, and Cammi are in the 6th grade (Year 7) and play a table top role playing game called Reign of Dragons.
They create magical stories and submerse themselves in a fantasy realm full of orcs, kobolds and other deadly creatures.
One day, while playing with a special golden D20 die, the kids summon the characters they have created for the game into modern day Brooklyn.
One minute they are flat pieces of paper and the next they are living and breathing, standing in the kids' kitchen.
What follows is a hilarious and heartfelt tale of a group of very confused fish out of water. Completely overwhelmed by their new surroundings, the Reign of Dragons characters rely on the children to guide them through the ways of the world.
With a Reign of Dragons convention happening soon, and the creator of Reign of Dragons in attendance, it seems their only option is to bring them to the convention and try to figure out how to get them back home.
There are some truly funny moments in this novel, like when the Rogue plays a cup and ball game with hapless New York tourists and is forever flabbergasted as to why he can't simply pickpocket anyone he sees. And when the party tries to figure out the magic of an iPhone weather app.
Anyone who has ever played Dungeons and Dragons will really love this story, but you don't have to be a D&D fan to enjoy it.
There are some really great messages in the novel and it's great to see the children gain their confidence and figure out the challenges with their Reign of Dragon counterparts.
Denis Markell's first novel, Click Here to Start is without question one of the most popular books at the Glenthorne Library. Game Masters is no different in that I know it's going to be a hit with boys and girls alike. If you are a school Librarian you need to pick up these two novels as they will fly off the shelves.
I recommend it for ages 9 and up!
Mo needs to escape. Her mum's new boyfriend, Lloyd, is an abusive brute who has a dark past, the boy she likes, Sam, has his heart set on a new girl and life in Crongton in general can be outright dangerous.
When Lloyd goes too far and reveals a horrible secret her mum has been harbouring, Mo vows revenge.
As she gets more and more involved in the criminal element of Crongton's toughest residents, she begins to wonder how she got so deep, and if she can ever get out.
Straight Outta Crongton is a unique novel in that Wheatle has created his own rhythm and in some cases words that his characters use to describe their situations. It reminded me a lot of A Clockwork Orange in that respect. I never once felt like the language was shoe-horned in, it flows as natural as the concrete pillars in the tower blocks that line Crongton.
I really loved Mo, she's a complex character that does some deeply wrong things yet I never once stopped rooting for her throughout the entire novel. She never once stops fighting for her right to be happy and to be respected by everyone around her. She demands that her mother provide a safe place for both of them and when that doesn't happen she storms out. Mo is a fighter and I really enjoyed following her through this journey.
I would highly recommend this and the other books in Wheatles' South Crongton series, check them out!