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!
It's 1944 and Jakob is hiding from the Nazis in a horse stable in Austria. When they come to investigate the possibility that Jakob's guardian is harbouring a Jewish boy, the SS officer is angered that he can't locate him.
To compensate, he shoots and kills one of the guardian's acclaimed Lipizzaner horses.
Fearing they will return, Jakob and his guardian escape in the night with the remaining horses. Their goal is to reach a village across the mountains where they feel it will be safer.
Along the way they meet Kizzy, a Roma who has her own tragic story to tell. Kizzy is an adept rider and great at hunting and fishing and makes a valuable companion. To reach safety, the trio must enter Nazi held territory and areas crawling with Nazi sympathisers. To make matters worse, they aren't even sure what will be waiting for them on the other side of the mountains.
Flight is a harrowing tale of survival, cunning and adventure. Jakob and Kizzy make a great pair as they try to outwit and out-manoeuver the many threats to their safety. When Jakob's guardian becomes seriously injured, the hope of saving the horses becomes even smaller. It's a story of desperation and grit that any 10 year old will love. Fans of WWII, horses and friendship will really sink their teeth into it!
Shif and Bini are best friends. They challenge each other to chess, excel at school and stand up for each other.
Neither boy has a father in their lives, their mothers work and take care of them the best they can.
When soldiers start arriving in their town, Shif's mother knows what's about to happen. The boys are going to be "recruited" to military school - a loose code word for forced labour and confinement.
Desperate to save Shif, his mother tries to smuggle him out of the country but fails.
Shif and Bini then find themselves locked in a shipping container in the desert with other poor souls the military deems to be dangerous. The conditions are horrendous, freezing at night and boiling hot during the day, they are allowed out only for a short walk around the camp. Anyone who speaks up or acts against the soldiers' orders is beaten or taken to the dreaded punishment container.
Exhausted, malnourished and terrified, the boys hatch a plan to escape with the help of the older men in their container. They know the border is only a few kilometres away, they know that if they can reach the border their chances of survival rise from 0% to "just slightly above zero."
With the certainty that they won't see their families again, Shif and Bini decide to escape the containers and make a run for it. What follows is a gruelling survival story.
We're never told what country Boy 87 takes place in, but it's a refugee story that many people endure. Shif's tale is devastating, and Fountain tackles the grief and guilt he suffers through with simple yet brilliant writing.
If you're a fan of Refugee by Alan Gratz or the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or The Bone Sparrow, this is the book for you, I highly recommend it for ages 10 and up!
Muzna Saleem wants to be a novelist. Her parents want her to become a doctor and are oblivious to Muzna's actual dreams.
When she moves to a new school, Muzna's low self esteem is thrown into overdrive. She feels she is too big, too ugly and will never become popular.
However, when high school heartthrob Arif starts up a relationship with her, Muzna begins to think that all of her self doubt was for nought.
Muzna becomes completely devoted to Arif, and when Arif's strange and serious brother becomes involved in their relationship, a tiny worm of doubt begins to wriggle into Muzna's brain.
She's right, not only is Arif harbouring a very dark secret, his brother is hiding an even more sinister one. As Muzna finds herself tangled into a dangerous web of lies and deceit, she begins to wonder if she can make it out of this nightmare alive.
I've never read a book like this, coming from rural Canada, this is not the perspective I grew up with or learned about. Working in a Library in South London, I have been fortunate to meet students and staff from all races and religions which is why I was very happy to see a book focusing on this topic.
I'm being wary because I don't want to spoil anything. What I can say is that I learned a lot reading this novel, specifically the pressure that teen Muslims face on a daily basis. Not to mention the every day struggle of being a teen. Throw in casual racism, ignorance and societal and religious expectations and you have all the ingredients for a mental health catastrophe.
I feel like this novel opened my eyes up to what many of the students I interact with may very well be going through. Reading makes you a more empathetic person, and I Am Thunder is evidence that this statement rings very true.
If you'd like to learn more about the novel you can join us on Twitter on Thurs 26 April at 8pm GMT when the author, Muhammad Khan, will be discussing it with anyone who wants to join in. Just follow #OHYABOOKCLUB to take part! I'll be giving away 2 copies of the novel that evening as well, hope to see you there!
Three children, all from different time periods, all trying to escape the horror of war.
This is refugee, a meticulously researched historical fiction about Josef, a boy escaping Nazi Germany with his family, Isabel, a girl escaping Castor's Cuba for Miami in a makeshift boat and Mahmoud, a Syrian refugee desperately trying to get to Germany through whatever means necessary.
Each story is woven against the backdrop of brutal confrontations and callous, uncaring governments more concerned with political manoeuvring than the plight of people who have reached complete rock bottom. Each story is connected, separated only by a few decades.
This is an important read, one that forces you to see the plight of refugees from their perspective. Through this novel we see the desperation, fear, shame and hopelessness that they face on a daily basis.
I'm excited to promote this in the library, I plan on purchasing several copies to ensure my book club gets their hands on it, highly recommended!
It's going to get dusty in whatever room you're reading Pax in right now.
When his family is killed as a kit, he's rescued and raised by a boy named Peter.
When Peter's father enlists in the army he forces him to live with his grandfather and abandon Pax in the forest.
Wracked with guilt, Peter runs away from his grandfather's home and starts to make the trek back to where left Pax - more than three hundred miles away.
Along the way Peter gets injured and is helped by Vola, a recluse living in the woods. One-legged and eccentric, Vola teaches Peter to stand up for himself, to listen to his heart and to fight for what he believes is right. In turn, Peter teaches Vola a few things about forgiveness and moving on.
The novel alternates between Peter's story and Pax's. Pax encounters Bristle & Runt, two sibling foxes trying to survive in the war torn area in which they live. Pax, having never lived in the wild, is on the brink of starvation and must rely on the help of other foxes in order to live. on top of this, Pax must not stray too far from where "his boy" left him because in his heart he knows that he will see him again one day.
Pax is a powerful novel, it's anti-war message with humans who are "war-sick" ravaging the natural beauty of the world is a recurring theme.
Peter's story of redemption and coming of age with the equally damaged and self-loathing Vola was, in my opinion, a great read. Pax's encounters with other animals and their style of communication wasn't clunky or forced, Pennypacker made it come across as natural and urgent. You can tell she has done her research on red foxes.
I'm late to the game with Pax but it's definitely a modern classic that can be revisited over and over again. Don't miss it.
The future sound of London is an air raid siren.
Lex lives on The Strip. No not the area of Las Vegas which according to everyone who goes there "has been ruined since the mob left".
The Strip is what's left of London after a series of brutal wars between the government and an organisation known as The Corps.
To the government, The Corps are terrorists, plain and simple. To those in The Corps, the government's 24-hour drone surveillance, lies and disorder has left them no choice but to fight back.
Lex's father is a member of The Corps, and therefore a target. Their family does their best to survive in an anxious, bombed-out reality.
Lex wants to do something meaningful with his life, but he doesn't know what that means yet.
Alan is climbing the government ladder, he controls a surveillance drone and watches Lex's father for any suspicious activity. Alan lives with his mother, who disapproves of his career choice. Alan's plan is to make enough money to move out and never see his mother again.
Although Lex and Alan never meet in person, their lives are tied together through government policy and fear and the horrible nightmare that is everyday life in The Strip.
We See Everything is a tight thriller that is all-too real given the current climate in the United States and around the world. It's a book about choosing which side you're on when you don't really want to choose a side at all. It's about trying to survive the ignorance of those who hold power in our world and it's about protecting those that are important to you.
I really enjoyed this novel, check it out!
It's the early 1900's in the UK and women still can't vote.
That's the reality that I hope teens take away from this novel right away. It's something I constantly stress in the library when I teach responsible researching skills to students using WWI as a backdrop.
Speaking of research, Nicholls has done hers and in the process created a thrilling and engaging tale about a topic I've never before come across in a YA novel: the plight of the Suffragettes and women's rights in general during World War One in the UK.
Seventeen year old Evelyn comes from a wealthy family but is filled with frustration at the fact that she can't go to university. Women were expected to stay at home and raise families, and although she could apply to go to Oxford, her father forbids it. Evelyn decides to join the Suffragettes and is immediately plunged into a dangerous and exciting world filled with police brutality, hunger strikes, protests and serious jail time.
Fifteen year old May comes from a Quaker background, already part of the Suffragette cause, she rallies against violent protests that some parts of the movement get involved in. When May meets Nell, a girl who has known nothing but hardship her entire life, something awakens in May that she never knew was there before.
Nell has always known she was different, she dressed, looked and acted unlike any of the other girls she grew up with. Her life is taking care of her siblings in their tiny flat in London. Starvation and extreme poverty is always on the horizon. With May, Nell finds a temporary release from the misery.
Set against real-life events that changed the lives of women everywhere, Things a Bright Girl Can Do will anger you, bring you to tears and enlighten you to the extreme hardship brought to the UK because of the foolhardy decision to engage in a ridiculous war that nobody won.
Nicholls also brings to life the effects of PTSD on soldiers that returned home and the pain, confusion and frustration felt by those left at home to pick up the pieces.
I can't wait to talk about this book to teens at the library, it's an important topic that has been handled with grace, wit and a razor sharp insight into history.
It's 1945 and the Nazi army is crumbling.
Four teenagers are on the run from the advancing Soviet army. Tales of their brutality have preceded their arrival.
Each teenager is from a different country but their lives have all been shattered by the war.
Together, they travel across a frozen wasteland towards the only thing that gives them hope: a ship that is evacuating refugees away from the Soviets.
They are frostbitten, starving and terrified. Not only that, they are each carrying with them a dark secret.
As they near their destination, they come to realise that not everything is as it seems within their motley crew of survivors.
This is by far one of my favourite books that I've read in a long time. Based on a nautical disaster that I had never heard of, it is chalk-full of brutal scenes that will make you angry, sad and unable to put the book down.
It's a book about the absolute brutality of war and how it whittles people down to their very core. But it's also a book about how strongly people hold onto hope in the middle of Hell.
I highly recommend this book to ages 13 and up!
You had me at Nazi motorcycle race to the death.
It's the 1950s and the Nazis have defeated the Allies in WWII. To celebrate, Hitler holds a deadly motorcycle race for teenagers that spans the newly minted Axis continents. The winner meets Hitler on live television at a grand ball held in Tokyo.
Yael is a survivor.
In the camps, she was an experiment for sadistic Nazi doctors. Injected with toxins, she was given an amazing ability, one that ultimately helps her blend in to Nazi society without getting caught.
Now, she must impersonate the best Nazi motorcycle rider in the land. Why? Because she needs to win the race across the continents. She needs to get to that ball in Tokyo, she needs to meet Adolf Hitler so she can assassinate him.
This book is pretty amazing. It has a strong female lead that kicks some serious butt. It has intrigue, danger, history and love all wrapped up into a pedal to the metal motorcycle race that combines threats and dangers worthy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I loved it, I read it in a day. You will fall in love with Yael and you will be there with her on the back of her bike, rooting her on, picking the dust out of your teeth and watching a darn good story unfold.
I recommend this book to Year 8 and up!