In 1947, India gained its independence from British rule and was split into two countries, India & Pakistan. This change created a huge amount of tension between Muslims & Hindus. As people desperately tried to run for safety, thousands were killed. Nisha is twelve and is half Hindu, half Muslim. She doesn't understand why her family is suddenly in danger, but her physician father bundles her and her younger brother and their grandmother up and make a run for the Pakistan border where they hope they'll find safety.
Along the way, Nisha writes diary entries to her deceased mother, whom she never knew. Nisha chronicles the heartache and danger the family faces as they walk towards Pakistan, desperately hoping they will find her mother's brother who has agreed to take them in. Faced with dying of starvation, crazed killers and unfathomable conditions, Nisha's story is as heart breaking as it is exhilarating.
I really couldn't put this novel down, Nisha's letters to her mother are funny, sad and poignant. She is a brave voice in an uncertain world. The novel also educated me on a time period and place I hadn't really paid attention to before. It's a tragic moment in history that is made interesting and heartfelt through this compelling novel. I really think all students ages 10 and up should read this fantastic book.
In the eerie town of Suds, children are disappearing. Some of them come back, unable to speak, their eyes turned grey, their hair turned white, their spirit sucked from them completely.
Poppy is visiting her Gran for the summer, her Gran has funny rules like all washing has to be in before 6pm, no sugar is to be left lying around the house and never, ever clean any windowsills.
When Poppy meets Erasmus, an odd boy who doesn't seem to have a filter, they start to unravel an ancient, terrifying secret that hides just under the town's sleepy veneer.
As they get closer to discovering the truth, Poppy realises that her Gran, her friends and her own life are in horrible danger.
I loved this novel, the writing is crisp and clear and Poppy is an amazing protagonist. She's clever, stubborn and doesn't back down from a fight. The great thing about this story are the secondary characters who really jump off the page with grit and spirit. Erasmus is hilarious, loyal and headstrong as is Poppy's Gran. Poppy's dynamic with her absentee father is very realistic and touching. The villains in this novel are truly terrifying, stuff that creeps into your dreams and spins them into nightmares. It's a fantastic tale that will become a modern classic in my opinion. Don't miss it!
Amal lives a simple life with her family in Pakistan. She dreams of becoming a teacher in a culture that doesn't look kindly on girls trying to escape the traditional role of housewife. Still, Amal is unfazed and ensures she keeps up with her studies despite the fact that she is told by her father she must stay away from school in order to take care of her younger siblings.
One day in a crowded market, Amal is hit by a car. She's relatively unhurt, but the person who hit her is a dangerous crime lord.
After speaking back to this man, she is ordered to leave her home and become his mother's servant until her debt to him is paid off. Once in the compound, Amal finds others who are desperate to pay off their debt and get back to their families. It's a hard life, but the gangster's mother is kinder than most and they find common ground in the fact that they are from the same area.
Without spoiling the novel, Amal hatches a plan to once and for all remove herself from the clutches of the crime lord.
I loved this novel, Amal's steady, smart approach to every challenge was fascinating to read. I could not put this story down, I simply had to know if she made it out of the gangster's compound or if everything blows up in her face. Amal is a heart breaking character with guts of steel, an inspiration to children everywhere. I'd highly recommend this novel to ages 9+!
Kiranmala has just turned 12 but instead of a standard birthday party in her home city of New Jersey, her parents disappear and a snot-gushing hell demon has appeared on her front lawn.
Luckily, she's helped by two princely brothers who defeat the creature and tell Kiranmala to come with them on their magic flying horses if she wants to find her missing parents. Yes, not a typical birthday party. Kiranmala joins the brothers in what turns into an epic quest filled with terrifying demons, bizarre relatives and cosmic danger. Traveling into a new dimension, Kiranmala must discover her hidden killer instinct and mental fortitude if she's got even a chance to survive.
The Serpent's Secret is part of a new series that combines a lot of sharp, funny dialogue and almost non stop action. It's been promoted as a must have for fans of Percy Jackson and I have to agree, it involves a lot of traditional Indian folklore and a protagonist that I can imagine gets more and more headstrong with each novel. I really recommend it for ages 10 and up!
Marinka is 12 and lives in a house with chicken legs. This is how I promote this book to students. It always makes their heads perk up that half inch that every Librarian looks for when they try to get them interested in a book. The house picks itself up at random a few times a year and travels around the world, settling down to let Marinka and her grandmother do their important work.
That work is guiding dead spirits from the land of the living to the land of the stars, or the afterlife.
Marinka doesn't want to have this gig, she wants to be "normal" with regular friends who aren't ghosts. Then Marinka starts to break the rules, she starts to defy her grandmother and bad things start to happen. The worst being that her grandmother vanishes out of thin air and the house starts to slowly crumble. Desperate, Marinka puts a plan into action that will either save her and the house or plunge everyone she knows into certain peril.
There's not much to say about The House With Chicken Legs that hasn't already been said before. It's beautifully written, Marinka is smart, stubborn and determined to live her own life despite the plan that's laid out for her. She makes mistakes and has a good heart, she's a great protagonist. I tell the students she's someone you'd want to be good friends with because you'd know you could trust her. It's a stunning debut that deserves all of the praise that it's getting, makes sure you get it into the hands of anyone in your life ages 10 and up as soon as possible.
All Alastair wants is to escape. He wants to be free of the pet shop he's stuck in and fly away with his sister Aggie.
Alastair was born in the pet shop, in the back with some other animals. He knows there's more to life outside the front door but he's never seen it. His days are spent plotting different ways to get out.
When Aggie is purchased by a 12 year old bit named Fritz, Alastair spirits fall. It's a heart breaking scenario that is very powerfully written.
Fritz wants to be a doctor, and we see his perspective through his medical journal where he tracks his own ailments. Fritz is a really unique and loveable character that brings a funny and interesting voice to the novel.
Alastair is soon adopted by the eccentric Mrs. Plopky and he finds a glimmer of hope in finding his sister and having a life together. Along the way he discovers he loves poetry and chewing the pages of great classic works. Again, it's another very unique look at an animals' voice in a novel that hasn't really been done before.
Mrs. Plopky is another heart warming yet gut wrenching character in that she writes letters to her now deceased husband. She's a lonely character who hasn't lost her fight and you know there are scores of people out there like her, looking for a friend to keep the darkness at bay. Together all of the characters make a truly great novel that I'd recommend for ages 10 and up. It's funny yet carries with it a kind of heaviness and melancholy that made you need to know what happened to these characters. Don't miss it!
Susan is new to Canada and lives with her mother in Ontario. She's not used to the cultural freedoms in this new country, she's used to live in Saudi Arabia. Susan is reserved, wary of boys and determined not to get her driving license. Susan is very bright and her parents have high expectations of her. They want her to be a doctor although in secret she wants to be an artist.
Her father is still in Saudi Arabia, making excuses as to why he can't join them in Canada. As her fear about her parents' relationship grows, Susan decides to bury herself in her studies.
Then she meets Malcolm, a brooding, somewhat troubled teen. Malcolm's mother died of cancer, previous to this he found out his father was having an affair. This drove Malcolm to drink and use drugs on a regular basis. The abuse he experienced at the hands of his father didn't help. Now, though, he's trying to get on the straight and narrow. Fresh off of a hard breakup, Malcolm isn't sure what he wants anymore.
When he meets Susan, Malcolm knows he's found someone truly unique. Their friendship grows and soon becomes something bigger. Malcolm breaks through Susan's protective barriers and gets her to act out in ways she's never experienced before, skipping school for one.
As they begin to feel deeper feelings, people from Malcolm's past begin to haunt him and disrupt their relationship.
Told from Susan and Malcolm's perspective, The Beauty of the Moment is a very nuanced look at teen life. The characters posses a moral duality that is present in everyone but hyper realised in teens in my opinion. Susan's overbearing parents aren't one dimensional, they waver, they try to see things from Susan's perspective and they sometimes admit when they are wrong, just like a lot of parents.
Malcolm's relationship with his sister is heart warming and one that I really enjoyed reading about. His father is a silently brooding character that is the focus of Malcolm's rage. This dynamic really packs a punch and makes for intense reading.
The Beauty of the Moment is a brilliant sophomore novel from Tanaz Bhathena. Fans of John Green, Jandy Nelson, Nicola Yoon and Jennifer Niven will love this story.
Ilyas is under a lot of pressure. At fifteen, his father wants him to take over the family-run shop. He's got exams looming, his sister is an internet sensation & the jewel of the family, leaving him feeling pretty low.
His friends, Imran, Daevon & Noah are part of a loose-knit gang called DedManz, but Imran wants the gang to become bigger, more legit, more dangerous. Meanwhile, Ilyas just wants to get lost in his art, specifically creating a comic book character he can be proud of. He can't be himself, though, with all of these external pressures surrounding him at all times.
The tension boils over when Imran gets more and more aggressive, forcing Ilyas to spray graffiti when and where he doesn't want to. Imran also speaks very poorly about women in Ilyas' life, women he respects.
When Imran decides to seduce Ilyas' best friend on a whim, he takes things too far. However Ilyas soon learns that standing up for yourself, like superheroes do in the comics, is easier said than done, especially when dangerous people like Imran are involved.
I connected with Kick the Moon on many levels. Growing up I saw how the powerful the pressure was on youth to act a specific way, view the opposite sex a certain way and to simply follow the pack. It creates a culture of "one-up man ship" which can escalate into dangerous territory, which is exactly what happens in Kick the Moon. Ilyas is caught between being himself and protecting himself, which is a very tricky and complicated place to be, especially when you're a teen and you're trying to work out your own identity. When you have a black hole of negative energy like Imran, and those people exist, hovering over your social life, day to day activities can becomes very difficult and stress-inducing. Kick the Moon is a powerful look at toxic masculinity with some really devastating passages. I know it's a book that will be hugely popular at Glenthorne High School, don't miss this one!
When Theo's photographic exhibit is vandalised, there are five suspects. To get to the bottom of the mystery, all five along with Theo take part in a Justice Circle during the last week of vacation to get to know each more and try and figure out who committed the dastardly act.
Theo has it in his mind who committed the crime, and has preconceived ideas about every single student. You've got the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Weirdo, and the Screw-Up. He's got them all pegged, and he thinks the Justice Circle will be a waste of time.
However, as the week moves along, the stereotypes start to crumble. Theo isn't sure who did the deed and even worse, he starts to like every single one of the students. The matter stands though, someone in the room destroyed his work, someone in the room hates him.
I really enjoyed this novel, it's all about not knowing what people are going through behind the façade they put on in public. As Theo and the other students start to reveal their secrets, their fears and their hopes, we are kept guessing till the very end as to who did the act. It's a great middle grade novel that our students will really love.
When 12 year old Alex receives an old toy robot from his eccentric grandfather, he doesn't know what to think. His grandfather's always coming in and out of his life in weird and wonderful things.
There's something off about this toy, though, something Alex can't quite pinpoint. When strange things begin to happen, Alex and his grandfather end up in whirlwind adventure full of dangerous creatures and dastardly villains who are hell bent at gaining power no matter what the cost.
This novel has many great aspects to it, robots, golems from Jewish folklore stemming from the city of Prague and it also has some genuinely frightening scenes which I was surprised at but really enjoyed. There is a ton of action as Alex discovers that the robot he was sent holds the key to a centuries old mystery, one that can give the owner of the robot immense power over other people. Even with his brief encounter with it, Alex is able to use the robot to briefly control others and I liked how it was disturbing yet alluring to him at the same time, as it would all of us.
I think the students at Glenthorne will really enjoy this unique novel, I hope a sequel is in the works. I recommend it for ages 12 and up!