Tag Archives: Intermediate Fiction

2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: My Brother’s War by David Hill

My Brother’s War by David Hill is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  This was one of the books that I hadn’t read at the time it was released, but I read it recently as part of my challenge to read all of the 2013 finalists. 

I’ve been a huge fan of David Hill since I was a kid.  I remember See Ya Simon being read to me at school in Year 6, laughing out loud one minute then crying the next.  One of the things I love about David is that he hasn’t stuck to one type of story.  He’s written historical stories, hilarious school stories, thrilling adventure stories, and even some science fiction (Bodies and Soul is one of my favourites).  David is a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards with his novel, My Brother’s War, which offers a different perspective on the Great War and the New Zealanders who went to fight.

My Dear Mother,

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve joined the Army!

Don’t be angry at me, Mother dear. I know you were glad when I wasn’t chosen in the ballot. But some of my friends were, and since they will be fighting for King and Country, I want to do the same.

It’s New Zealand, 1914, and the biggest war the world has known has just broken out in Europe.

William eagerly enlists for the army but his younger brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector and refuses to fight. While William trains to be a soldier, Edmund is arrested.

Both brothers will end up on the bloody battlefields of France, but their journeys there are very different. And what they experience at the front line will challenge the beliefs that led them there.

My Brother’s War is a compelling story about two brothers who have very different opinions and experiences of the First World War.  William feels very strongly that he needs to play his part in the war and so he enlists in the army.  The people in his town commend him for being brave and doing his part.  He believes he is doing what is right to protect his country and the people he loves.  He can’t understand his brother and thinks that his refusal to enlist is ‘wrong and stupid.’  His brother, Edmund, is a conscientious objector who believes it is wrong to go to war and kill other people.  The story switches between their two points-of-view so you see the huge differences in their experience of war.  The story is mainly told in the third person, but each of the characters write letters to their mother which gives more of an insight into their thoughts and feelings.

You experience the build up to the fighting and the horrible conditions of the battlefield through William’s story, but it was Edmund’s story that shocked me.  I knew a little about conscientious objectors before reading this book but Edmund’s story really opened my eyes to how horribly they were treated.  Conscientious objectors like Edmund were labeled cowards and treated like second-class citizens.  Edmund constantly refuses to obey army orders, but in the end really has no choice.  He’s put on a boat and taken to France where he is forced on to the battlefields.  In the training camps he is locked away with little food and water, and he also faces excruciating punishment for not following orders.  Edmund is incredibly strong-willed though and stands by his principles.

A quote from Edmund towards the end of the book sums up war perfectly , ‘I never knew some men could do such dreadful things to one another, and I never knew some men could be so kind and brave.’

My Brother’s War presents a view point of war that hasn’t been dealt with before and it’s a story that all older children should read.  It would be a great book to share as a class text in Year 7/8 as it would create a lot of discussion.

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The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes

Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and girl named (respectively) John and Abigail Templeton.

Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh, please. It would so.

Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and who enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and anyone who likes a story with lots of mystery, adventure, and tight spots to get out of.  It’s clever, witty and funny, but also a little bit crazy.  The story is told by the Narrator, a rather strange fellow, who is always trying to convince us (the Reader) how wonderful he is.  It takes the Narrator quite a few tries to actually get the story started, but when he does he keeps you on your toes.  The Narrator helps to point things out to the Reader, but also throws you off track by asking bizarre and random questions, like ‘Can you spell moustache?’  At the end of each chapter the Narrator has some Questions for Review, to test what you can remember about the story or just help to boost his ego.

You meet some curious characters in the story.  The twins themselves are quite unique – Abigail is very clever with words and John is extremely clever when it comes to devising plans and putting them into action.  These skills, as you can imagine, come in very handy throughout the story.  The villain of the story is Dean D. Dean, who accuses the twins’ father of stealing his idea for an invention.  Dean D. Dean is good at hatching plans, which involves kidnapping the Twins to hold for ransom.  If you think his name is silly, it only gets worse when he tells the children he wants to be a university dean.

Abigail said, “But that would make you Dean Dean D. Dean.”

“Exactly!” the man said with a wild, crazed smile.

“Dean Dean D. Dean?” Abigail said. “It sounds silly.”

“It sounds like ‘Here Comes the Bride,'” John said.

The book is illustrated throughout by Jeremy Holmes, with diagrams of inventions by the twins or their father, explanations of schemes that they have cooked up, and pictures of the characters.  There is some little illustration on each page, whether it’s Cassie the Ridiculous Dog or just the cog around the page number.  I think the illustrations will really appeal to boys and hook them in, especially if they’re not big readers.

Visit the very cool Templeton Twins website, where you can learn more about the book, the author and the illustrator, and watch the book trailer.

4 out of 5 stars

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The Crystal Code by Richard Newsome

What do you get when you mix Tintin, James Bond, and The Famous Five together?  You get Richard Newsome’s Billionaire Series.  So far in the series we’ve followed Gerald, Ruby and Sam to England, France, Greece and India, trying to stay one step ahead of the notorious Mason Green.  In their latest action-packed adventure, The Crystal Code, we join our favourite characters as they make new friends and enemies.

Gerald, Ruby and Sam are meeting up with Alisha and Gerald’s Australian school friend Ox for two weeks of snowboarding in the mountains of California. It’s a dream vacation.

But soon after they arrive—by helicopter, with Gerald’s butler Mr Fry at the controls, of course—the private chalet is attacked. Gerald and the gang escape through a secret passage, only to be pursued on snowmobiles by men with guns across frozen lakes and into the path of a cascading avalanche.

Could this be the work of Gerald’s nemesis Sir Mason Green, recently escaped from prison? Or is someone else behind the attack?Does the old dry cleaning ticket Gerald found amongst Green’s belongings hold the key?And how does an invitation to join the secretive Billionaire’s Club land Gerald in so much trouble?

The Crystal Code is Richard Newsome at his best!  It’s chock-full of everything I love about the Billionaire Series – chases, fights, close calls, awkward situations, sarcastic remarks, laugh out loud moments and memorable characters.  From the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, to Prague, and a tiny island in Sweden, Richard Newsome takes us on a wild ride where the action never lets up.  Whenever I read one of Richard’s books I feel the absolute joy that I remember feeling the first time I read Tintin’s adventures.  They make you wish that you were a billionaire with a crazed mad man threatening your life.  As the characters grow up, their relationships change, so things become a bit awkward between Gerald and Ruby (especially when another girl, Felicity, gets thrown into the mixture).  I really liked the dynamics between the characters, and by introducing new characters into the original trio, Richard has refreshed the series and made it even more exciting.

Richard has also taken the series in a different direction by introducing some new villains.  At the center of the story is a centuries old manuscript that nobody has been able to decipher, and there are two characters that are desperate to get their hands on it.  Tycho Brahe, the mysterious man with the silver nose, is a fantastically sinister character who will stop at nothing to carry out his plans.  There is a lot of mystery surrounding him and Gerald and his friends don’t believe that he can be the man he says that he is.  Then there is Ursus, the man with many names, a shadowy character whose motives are unknown.  They’re both really intriguing characters and I have a feeling we’ll meet them again.

The Crystal Code, and the rest of the Billionaire series, are a must read for anyone, young or old, who love action, adventure and mystery stories.  Grab it from your library or bookshop now and dive into the adventures of billionaire boy, Gerald, and his friends.

5 out of 5 stars

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Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne

Rick Riordan brought Greek and Egyptian mythology into the present day in his Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles series.  In her Takeshita Demons series, Cristy Burne, brings Japanese fairy tales and folklore into modern day England, and introduces us to some creepy Japanese demons, called Yokai.

Miku Takashita always had a close relationship with her grandmother, Baba, who taught her all about the yokai all around us.  When Miku and her family move from Japan to England, she has no idea about the trouble that follows her family.  She knows she’s in trouble when her releaving teacher turns out to be a nukekubi, then mysterious strangers turn up at her home, and Japanese demons kidnap her baby brother.  It’s up to her and her best friend Cait to break into their snow-blocked school and get him back.

Takeshita Demons is an exciting and creepy story that young readers will gobble up.  There is something for everyone, with plenty of action, mystery and chills, all wrapped up in Japanese folklore. Children will relate well to Miku because she’s just an ordinary girl who gets caught up in a battle with with Japanese demons who believe that her family is special.  Miku doesn’t believe that she is special but does what she needs to to protect her family.  Cristy Burne introduces us to some creepy yokai (demons) like the Noppera-bo who can look like anyone they choose, and Nukekubi whose head can fly off when its body is sleeping.  Cristy even gives you some extra information about the yokai in Takeshita Demons at the end of the book, and you can learn more about them on her website.

I really like Takeshita Demons because it’s short but scary.  It’s a perfect introduction to myth and folklore, and would be especially good for those girls who’ve outgrown fairies and want more of a challenge.  I think it would also be a great stepping stone to the Percy Jackson series, or even a series to recommend to those who have already read them.  I certainly can’t wait to read more in the Takeshita Demons series.

The next book in the series is The Filth Licker and you can learn more about it later this week.

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My Most Anticipated July New Releases

  • Pop! by Catherine Bruton (Young Adult Fiction)
The first round of auditions was a bit mad. All these wannabe popstars sitting around trying to look wacky/soulful/tragic (delete as appropriate) to catch the attention of the TV cameras.At least we had a cracking back story. The story of me, Agnes, Jimmy and baby Alfie; the tears, the tragedy, the broken homes and feuding families, the star-crossed lovers. And only some of it was made up.

If I say so myself, it was genius: a sure-fire golden ticket to stratospheric stardom. Or at least that was the plan…

  • 1.4 by Mike Lancaster (Young Adult Fiction)
It’s a brave new world. In the far future, people no longer know what to believe…Did Kyle Straker ever exist? Or were his prophecies of human upgrades nothing more than a hoax? Peter Vincent is nearly 16, and has never thought about the things that Strakerites believe. His father – David Vincent, creator of the artificial bees that saved the world’s crops – made sure of that. When the Strakerites pronounce that another upgrade is imminent, Peter starts to uncover a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment, a conspiracy that puts him into direct conflict with his father. But it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who controls all the artificial bees in the world.
  • Shadows by Paula Weston (Young Adult Fiction)

Love. Nightmares. Angels. War.

It’s been almost a year since Gaby Winters was in the car crash that killed her twin brother, Jude. Her body has healed in the sunshine of Pandanus Beach, but her grief is raw and constant.

It doesn’t help that every night in her dreams she kills demons and other hell-spawn. And then Rafa comes to town. Not only does he look exactly like the guy who’s been appearing in Gaby’s dreams, he claims a history with her brother that makes no sense.

Gaby is forced to accept that what she thought she knew about herself and her life is only a shadow of the truth—and that the truth is more likely to be found in the shadows of her nightmares.

Who is Rafa? Who are the Rephaim? And most importantly—who can she trust?

  • Ransomwood by Sheryl Jordan (Young Adult Fiction)

Spurned by her lover, and with her uncle threatening to marry her off to his odious widowed brother, Gwenifer is almost relieved to be sent away to escort the magistrate’s old, blind mother to Ransomwood, where the tears of the statue of the Holy Mother are said to have healing qualities.

Together with Harry, the village halfwit, who is escaping a sentence of hanging for being in charge of an ox that trampled a child almost to death, they embark on a perilous journey … each of them looking for a different kind of healing.

  • The Tribe: The Interrogation of Ashla Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (Young Adult Fiction)

“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below … And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.” Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe – the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

  • Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Children’s Fiction)

In extraordinary circumstances, people are capable of extraordinary things… It is 1944 and Florence is occupied by Nazi German forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though – and neither have Paolo and his sister, Constanza. Both are desperate to fight the occupation, but what can two siblings do against a whole army with only a bicycle to help them?

  • Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer (Children’s Fiction)

Is this Armageddon for Artemis Fowl?

Opal Koboi, power-crazed pixie, is plotting to exterminate mankind and become fairy queen.

If she succeeds, the spirits of long-dead fairy warriors will rise from the earth, inhabit the nearest available bodies and wreak mass destruction. But what happens if those nearest bodies include crows, or deer, or badgers – or two curious little boys by the names of Myles and Beckett Fowl?

Yes, it’s true. Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl’s four-year-old brothers could be involved in destroying the human race. Can Artemis and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police stop Opal and prevent the end of the world?

  • The Chronicles of Egg: Deadweather and Sunrise by Geoff Rodkey (Children’s Fiction)

Deadweather, a sweaty little pirate-infested island, is home to Egg, thirteen years old and prey to a pair of cruel and stupid older siblings. But when Egg’s family disappears in a freak accident, he finds himself living on Sunrise Island with the glamorous Pembroke family and their feisty daughter Millicent. Finally, life seems perfect.

Until someone tries to throw him off a cliff.

Suddenly, Egg is lost in a world of cutthroat pirates and powerful villains.

  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce (Picture Book)
Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets…
Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of story will save the day.
  • The Owl and the Pussycat and Other Nonsense, illustrated by Robert Ingpen (Poetry)

Jump aboard the pea-green boat and enter the enchanting world of Edward Lear. This collection of Lear’s best-loved nonsense verse is published to coincide with the Bicentenary of his birth in May 2012. Rediscover the Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies, and The Dong with a Luminous Nose. Learn what happened to The New Vestments of the old man from the Kingdom of Tess and take a stroll through Bong Tree Land. Lear’s verse and limericks have enthralled generations of families, but it is as an ornithological illustrator that he first made his name. His poems, and the original artworks that accompany them, form the heart of this beautiful book, but Lear’s sketches and drawings of birds, as well as a brief glimpse into the life of the man who declared: ‘Nonsense is the breath of my nostrils’ complete the tribute to an extraordinary and enduring talent. This specially illustrated Bicentenary edition provides not only a celebration of Edward Lear’s two-hundredth year, but a unique gift for adults and children to enjoy together for centuries to come. Every poem in this collection is brought to life with a series of stunning new illustrations by award-winning artist Robert Ingpen.

  • The Spook’s Blood by Joseph Delaney (Children’s Fiction)

For Tom Ward, the Spook’s apprentice, the pressure is now on. Having bound the Fiend’s spirit temporarily he now has to come up with a permanent solution – and quickly. The tenth installment in the chilling Wardstone Chronicles. Warning: Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s tales are not to be read after dark . . .

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Filed under books, children, children's fiction, Intermediate Fiction (11+), picture books, young adult, young adult fiction