'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 9 August 2011

KBR Recommends: YA and Older Junior Fiction, August 2011

Have a junior reader careening into young adult? This glorious selection of recent release books should scratch a serious literary itch of kids aged 9 to 18. And adults will love them, too.

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper (Bloomsbury, $15.99, June 2011, ages 12+)

Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant's body in a rich lady's coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper's grave.

Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace's life.

But Grace doesn't know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food.

A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.

The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh (Chicken House, $16.99, July 2011, ages 9+)

In this second Crowfield adventure, it is March 1348. Evil lurks in Crowfield Abbey and the building is starting to collapse. Fay creatures have fled the surrounding forest in terror.
Repairs begin and William is given the job of lifting floor tiles in a haunted side chapel. There he finds a box from an earlier pagan time containing a small wooden bowl, covered with strange warnings and symbols.

The bowl is cursed and a hideous demon is unleashed within the Abbey’s walls, that will wreak unspeakable havoc. Can Will and his friends summon help in time or is it the end of Crowfield forever?

Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel by Michael Gerard Bauer (Omnibus, $19.99, July 2011, ages 10-14)

Ishmael has made it to the Senior School and things are really looking up. His nemesis and chief tormentor Barry Bagsley has finally decided to leave him alone, while his dream girl and chief goddess Kelly Faulkner has finally decided not to.

Has he broken free of Ishmael Leseur's Syndrome at last? Could his remaining two years at St Daniel's College actually be described as 'normal'?

Absolutely not. Ishmael's mates critique the Ishmael books: Ignatius Prindabel: "I found 37 factual errors." Scobie: "Harry Potter for those with an IQ higher than the mean." Bill Kingsley: "Funnier than the Arcturian Grendel-Worm." Razzman: "Short on chicks, that's all I'm saying."

Edsel Grizzler Book 3: Ghostly Shadows by James Roy (UQP, $16.95, August 2011, ages 10+)

Edsel and his friend Jacq are digging a hole under the blazing Widen sun but they know why.  And when they finally make their way to Grand City, the list of things they don't know just gets longer and longer.  Everything they see, everything they're told, just makes them more confused.

So can Edsel keep the promise he made to Ben and the children of Verdada to rescue them?  Why is the usually feisty Jacq suddenly so pale and forgetful?  And who are the strange, ghostly figures that form wispy dreams with their bare hands?

In the final, thrilling instalment of the Edsel Grizzler trilogy, Edsel must not only find answers to all this and more — he must also search deep within to discover who he really is once and for all.

The Grasshopper's Run by Siddharta Sarma (Bloomsbury, $15.99, August 2011, ages 9-18)

1944. The Imperial Japanese Army, undefeated everywhere on the Asian mainland, finally invades British India from the east. And their fortunes are about to change! A dramatic, award-winning tale of friendship, war and community.

Just as the invasion begins, an ambitious and vicious Japanese officer orders the massacre of a village of the Ao Naga tribe. Among those killed is Uti, grandson of the eldest Ao chief.

Gojen is his best friend, and on hearing the news of Uti's death he is unable to stay in school in Calcutta and so returns to the ancestral home, where he embarks on a gruelling journey of revenge.

As the war unfolds and Gojen finds himself ever more embroiled in the battles and struggles for survival, it soon becomes clear that he is fighting for more than his homeland and the memory of his dead friend.

Cryptic Cravings (The Vampire Kisses series) by Ellen Schreiber (Pier 9, $12.99, June 2011, ages 13+)

The morbidly monotonous Dullsville has finally become the most exciting place on earth now that Raven is madly in love with her hot vampire boyfriend Alexander and a crew of vampires has taken residence in Dullsville's old mill.

Then Raven discovers Jagger's plan to open a new club, The Crypt, right here in Dullsville. But is it her dream come true, or her worst nightmare? Raven and Alexander have to figure out what the nefarious vampire has in store for Dullsville's teen and vampire population.

With cryptic secrets and cravings, this eighth installment in the Vampire Kisses series is a romantic and mysterious thrill ride.

The Shattering by Karen Healey (A&U, $17.99, June 2011, ages 14-18)

Summerton is perfect: gorgeous weather, stunning scenery, cute out-of-towners to hook up with. But sharp-tongued Keri is immune to her hometown's charms. Her older brother's sudden death has left her shattered by grief and with too many unanswered questions.

When Keri discovers that childhood friend turned rock-chick Janna and seriously smart rich-boy Sione have also lost brothers in unusual circumstances, she begins to suspect that sunny Summerton holds some very dark secrets.

As the three investigate, the answers they uncover become more and more frightening. Can the teenagers save Summerton's next victim? Or will they succumb themselves to its strange summer magic?

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley (Bloomsbury, $16.99, August 2011, ages 13+)

At the Old Inn, which clings precariously to a cliff top above a storm-lashed ocean, two sick children are left alone while their father fetches the doctor.

Then a visitor comes begging for shelter, and so begins a long night of storytelling, in which young Ethan and Cathy, who have an unnatural appetite for stories of a macabre persuasion, sit out the last throes of the storm in the company of a sailor with more than enough grisly tales to satisfy them.

But something about this sailor puts Ethan on edge, and he becomes increasingly agitated for his father's return. Only when the storm blows itself out can Ethan relax - but not for long, for the new dawn opens the children's eyes to a truth more shocking, more distressing than anything they heard the night before.

Not for the faint-hearted, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a novel packed with chills, thrills, nail-biting suspense and heart-stopping revelations.

Also in this series: Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth. The Tales of Terror series is being published from 1 August at a special introductory price of $12.99 (for a limited time).

Ravenwood by Andrew Peters
(Chickenhouse, $16.99, August 2011, ages 10+)

Fourteen year-old Ark has the most squeamish job on Arborium, the last forested island in the future. A poor plumber’s boy, he unblocks toilets in the city where he lives – a breathtaking, mile-high world carved out of the vast upper branches of a giant canopy of trees.

He believes his forest kingdom to be the dullest but safest place on earth. But while at work, he over hears a plot between a powerful councillor of the island and a secret envoy from Maw, a superpower of glass and steel, that intends robbing Arborium of its wood, a natural resource now more precious than gold.

Ark is plunged into danger and soon he finds himself on the run, fighting for his life. Together with new found friends, he must travel from the highest tree-tops to the darkest roots of Ravenwood to save his home and his people.

Harry's War by Andrew Peters
(Omnibus, $19.99, August 2011, ages 10+)

Grandpa talks about his war adventures all the time. And Harry loves listening. His father was a soldier too, in a different war.

But Harry never knew his dad, and his mother won't talk about him. In finding out why, Harry discovers a deeper truth, one that will change his life forever.

Some wars don't just happen on a battlefield . . . 

Teachers' Notes for Harry's War