Author: Helen Chebatte
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
About the book: In a school divided into racial gangs, there are three unspoken rules:
- Stick with your own kind
- Don’t dob on your mates (or your enemies)
- Respect the family.
But fight clubs, violence and racial prejudice get in the way of these rules. Romeo Makhlouf knows to follow these rules, but when he gets into a fight with another boy, the rules become so much harder to follow.
What I thought: This confronting book feels like a modern-day version of The Outsiders, with its gangs, love and engrossing plot line. Set in Australia, it feels realistic and very close to home.
I didn’t really connect with a lot of the characters, possibly because they were the tough guys of the school, who started a lot of fights, but I still really liked the book. It was an interesting insight into racism in teenagers.
I think a lot of boys would really enjoy Bro, although Romeo is in year 10 so it feels like an older book. I would recommend it for ages 14+. Anyone who enjoys reading books by S.E. Hinton, or very Australian books, would like this one.
Buy Bro here.
Author: Lizzie Wilcock
About the book: Fourteen-year-old Karanda Hooke is on her way to her sixth foster home when a crash leaves her stranded in the Central Australian desert with a backpack, a bottle of water and an old picture of her mother.
She realises that this could be her escape from the foster system, but there is one slight problem. Eight-year-old Solomon wants to tag along.
What I thought: I thought this book was really well-written, because it kept me interested, unlike most ‘wandering through the desert’ books. I hesitated before picking it up, because I thought it might be long and boring. But I was hooked before I knew it because the writing was so good.
I particularly liked the character of Solomon, with his knack for survival and vast knowledge of plants and animals.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+ as some themes in it might upset younger children.
Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Publisher: The Chicken House
About the book: Four children with unusual gifts and talents are called in to do a top-secret mission after completing an elaborate and difficult test, set by the mysterious Mr Benedict.
They must infiltrate a prestigious and secluded school to find out why secret messages are being sent out.
What I thought: This book was full of twists and turns and had me engaged right from the start. It kept me interested throughout the whole book and there were no dull bits – I couldn’t wait to get home from school and read it in bed.
I liked all of the characters, even though they are very different. The book was easy to read, but had sublte undertones of more serious themes. It’s shelved under junior fiction, but it feels more grown up than that.
I would recommend this book for ages 11+ because I feel that younger readers may not stick with the long book of nearly 500 pages.
Buy The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Title: The Amateurs
Author: Sara Shepherd
Publisher: Hot Key Books (Allen & Unwin)
About the book: It’s been five years since Aerin’s sister disappeared, and a year since she was found dead in the forest near her house. Police have long-since closed the case but her murderer was never caught. Then she meets, via an amateur sleuth website, Seneca and Maddy, amateur crime solvers, who turn up and put the case on its head.
What I thought: This book was full of so many secrets and twists, it was impossible to know who the murderer was until the end. I really enjoyed having that element of trying to match your wits against the characters to see who could solve the crime first, but I admit I didn’t see the twist coming!
I really liked how all the voices sounded very real and contemporary, and how the point of view changed, so you could see every character’s perspective on the case.
This book contains very strong themes, coarse language, references to drug use and strong violence. It’s definitely not for readers under 14.
Buy The Amateurs.
Title: Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
Author: R. A. Spratt
Publisher: Random House Australia
About the book: When 11-year-old Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery, she uses the reward money to send herself to the most exclusive boarding school in the country.
Friday is shocked to discover that the school is full of crime. Soon students are paying her to investigate everything from missing memorial clocks to a Yeti running around the school.
What I thought: I thought that this book was a very interesting, easy read. I could relate to the character of Friday because I, too, love detective novels. The story seemed to move along and there were no boring bits.
This is an entertaining, enjoyable read for both boys and girls of 9+ and fans of Encylopedia Brown will like it. There are six books in the series, with book 7 due out later this year.
Buy Friday Barnes Girl Detective.
Title: Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library
Author: Chris Grabenstein
Publisher: Yearling (Random House)
About the book: Kyle has never loved libraries, but he has always loved boardgames. When he discovers that the world’s most famous game maker has designed the town’s new library, and the winners of an essay contest will get to stay overnight in the library on opening night, he is determined to win.
During the lock-in, he will need all of his smarts, courage and determination to escape from Mr Lemoncello’s library.
What I thought: This book had me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what would happen next and how the clues fit together. It’s a mystery and an adventure all wrapped up together. I particularly liked the character of Mr Lemoncello because he reminded me a bit of Willy Wonka.
I also liked the literary references scattered throughout the book. Let’s just say, the book was so interesting that I struggled to put it down and read it very quickly.
I would recommend this book for ages 11+. If you like mystery stories, adventure stories and puzzles, you will love this book.
Buy Escape From Mr Lemoncello’s Library.
Book Boy Jr (aged 10) is back this week to review a very funny book by David Walliams.
Title: Gangsta Granny
Author: David Walliams
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
About the book: This is a crime novel but with a twist because the criminal is none other than a Granny. Ben finds himself trapped in a world of surprises and mystery after he discovers his Granny is a thief.
What I thought: This book twists and turns from page one to the very end. It is very enjoyable because a) it’s good to find a new author that I like and this is the first David Walliams book that I have read (not the last!) and b) it is VERY funny.
There are some illustrations, to help keep things even more interesting, and the story is very fast-paced. My favourite character is Granny, because she reminds me of my Gran (not because my Gran is a thief but because she’s very exciting and fun to be with).
I would recommend the book for boys and girls who are aged 8-10. If you liked Artie and The Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh, you would like this book.
Buy Gangsta Granny.
Title: The Yearbook Committee
Author: Sarah Ayoub
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
About the book: Five teenagers from different walks of life are thrown together in their final year of high school to work on the school yearbook. There’s Matty, a loner; Ryan, the school captain; Tammi, the popular girl by association; Charlie, the newcomer; and Gillian, the MP’s daughter. Together, they learn that the Yearbook Committee is more than just about putting together the yearbook – it’s about forming friendships.
What I thought: I thought this book was funny, emotional and, at times, sad. I really connected with all of the characters because they felt so real – like you were in the room talking to them. Each character narrates throughout the story, giving different perspectives to events that unfold. I liked how each character told their own part of the story because it helped develop the characters more and show who they really were.
I would recommend this book for ages 14+ as it contains coarse language, adult themes and drug use. If you’re looking for a starkly realistic but also entertaining novel about friendships, hardships and contemporary Australian teenage life, then this one is for you.
Buy The Yearbook Committee.
Title: The Doctor
Author: Dr Karl Kruszelnicki
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
About the book: Have you ever wondered why alcohol makes you speak louder? Or how to tell which part of a movie the audience is watching – without looking? Well, Dr Karl is your man.
This collection of random science facts and questions, answered in an easy-to-read and understandable format, is sure to amaze you and leave you awestruck!
What I thought: I really loved how approachable this book was. It is not set out like a textbook or a big boring scientific volume. Instead, it is set out in sections, with each describing and explaining one concept.
Dr Karl has brought his signature humour to an otherwise not-very-funny subject, making it entertaining and informative. He is one of my favourite non-fiction authors, alongside Adam Spencer.
I would recommend this book for ages 12+ as younger readers may find it hard to follow or be disinterested in the subject matter. If you’re looking to learn something new, or you just love science, you will enjoy this book.
Buy The Doctor.
Title: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette
About the book: Newt Scamander is on a trip to America with a case full of magical beasts. When some of the animals from the case escape, it is up to Newt, his non-magical friend Jacob and Tina from the American Ministry of Magic to find them.
This screenplay is about what happens next.
What I thought: I thought that this screenplay flowed very easily, although I didn’t think it would due to its format. J.K. Rowling has brought many of her famous writing elements to this screenplay, making it truly feel like another wonderful Harry Potter story.
I read this before I saw the movie, and it felt like I’d read a Harry Potter book and then watched the movie, not like the whole story had been given away in advance. I think that doing this showed me how much a filmmaker’s imagination develops the story.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+, as younger readers may find the story and format a little bit confusing.
Buy Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.