A Magic Steeped In Poison
– Judy I. Lin –
The Book of Tea #1
Feiwel and Friends
Published 22 March 2022
Like Mulan but more focus on the tea ceremonies. That’s how i think of this book. And don’t get me wrong, that makes it an awesome book. Imagine all of Mulan’s fight and guts and “I have what it takes” and take that energy and put it into making tea that can bewitch and enchant. It is super cool and unique and just the start of an exciting series.
Ning’s sister is dying. Poisoned by the same poison that killed their mother. Ning knows the only way to save her sister’s life is to lie to everyone she cares about and risk everything. Ning enters the competition to find the next shénnóng-shi, master of the ancient and magical art of tea making. The winner will be bestowed a favour from the princess and Ning plans to win and get the best healers available to tend to her sister. Ning was once trained by her mother, who was a master shénnóng-shi once, but she knows if anyone in the imperial city discovers her true identify, her life will be forfeit. But she has only just arrived in the city when she is drawn into the mystery of The Shadow, court politics and a corrupt competition. Winning and escaping with her life seem more and more unlikely, but Ning is determined to not give up.
– Tori Sharp –
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Published 18 May 2021
I’m enjoying diving into some new graphic novels and Just Pretend is delightful, with bright panels and a heartwarming story of growing up. It is actually part memoir, as the author shares her own teenage story within the pages.
These Deadly Games
– Diana Urban –
Published 1 February 2022
I’m not entirely sure if I am super impressed with this book, super annoyed or impressed that it both intrigued me and annoyed and horrified me at the same time. Can one be so conflicted about a book? I’m going to lay out the good and the annoying.
These Deadly Games is a thriller that leads its main character Chrystal on a wild game that very quickly turns deadly. No end of twists, puzzles, dares and tasks that might seem innocent but quickly turn deadly. This mystery thriller is high stakes and there are some very serious consequences.
For Chrystal, her focus is completely set on winning a spot in her friends’ esports team. The prize money would ensure her family could stay in their home. But when she receives a text with an image of her younger sister tied up with a message – complete the dares or she dies. Chrystal must decide – her sister or her family’s future? Can she do it all and make sure her friends never learn the truth?
An Earth-Bot’s Solution to Plastic Pollution
Kids Can Press
Published 7 September 2021
An Earth-Bot’s Solution to Plastic Pollution is a simple and straightforward picture book that addresses themes of pollution and easy steps we can take to protect our planet.
Plastic water bottles are the main target of this book. The end papers and large expanses of water in the illustrations are printed with the repeating pattern of plastic bottles. It’s a clear message and speaks to the enormity of the problem.
This book doesn’t hide its message of protecting the planet behind metaphors or subtext. It is clearly stated – we have a problem with pollution and there are things we all need to do.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara, Judit Orosz (illustrator)
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Published 21 September 2021
The Little People, Big Dreams has become a well recognised and much loved series of stories about famous and influential people. These beautifully packaged books are as beautiful to look at as they are to caress in your hands. Children love reading their approachable stories as much as adults do. When I saw the latest publication featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg I knew it was a title I wanted to read before passing it onto our students.
While RBG might be a bit of a social phenomenon, I didn’t know much of the details about her life and her story. Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara does a wonderful job of pulling out the highlights from Ruth’s childhood and career. She often refers to her as Little Ruth and reflects on the impact of her mother and her encouragement to learn as much as she could. The soft illustrations and childlike appearance of the characters, even into adulthood, by Judit Orosz are the perfect offset to the story.
Can You See Me? A Book About Feeling Small
– Gokce Irten –
Kids Can Press
Published 7 September 2021
Can You See Me is a beautiful picture book that introduces perspective to young readers, as well as conveying a lovely message about fitting into a big world full of small worlds.
The artwork is stunning and works perfectly to convey the concept of size and perspective. Photographs, mixed media and collage work together. There might be a photograph of a building net to a drawing of a orangutang. Zooming in and out on consecutive pages is used to great effect. I love how you might assume an illustration is one thing, but zooming out on the next page reveals something else entirely. Continue reading
The Endless Skies
– Shannon Price –
Published 17 August 2021
If you are looking for a unique fantasy novel, then check out The Endless Skies by Shannon Price. The Endless Skies invites readers into a world where shapeshifting warriors who live on a city that floats in the sky and a community of shapeshifting magical beings protect themselves from the humans who seek to destroy all they know.
You might assume Endless Skies is all about Rowan from the book’s synopsis, but Endless Skies is actually written from three characters’ perspectives. Rowan is a narrator and she is joined by her sister and her best friend. Rowan is a warrior-elect. She has completed years of rigorous training and is about to be sworn in by the king to become an official warrior. Shirene is Rowan’s older sister. She is a sentinel and has just been named as the King’s Hand – a prestigious position of respect and authority. Rowan’s friend Callen is a warrior. He has long hidden his true feelings about Rowan from her, but now he fears it might be too late. On the eve of Rowan’s warrior oath-taking ceremony, the warriors learn of a deadly disease that is targeting the children of Heliana. Teams of warriors are called and sent down to the human world to look for a cure before the prince falls ill, which could be the literal downfall of Heliana. Left behind by her friend and sister, Rowan learns there is far more at stake than what the citizens are being told about the disease and the long-held feud between the Leonodai and humans.
There is a very unique world in The Endless Skies and yet with so much action and so much going on in the book, I feel like I only saw snippets. There are four magical shapeshifting communities, the Leonodai being our main focus in this book. There was also a fifth, but they were wiped out by humans. Rowan is a Leonodai and can change from female human form to a winged lioness. Cool magic enables her weapons and armour to change with her. Her community values loyalty over all and Rowan, Shirene and Callen have committed themselves to serving their city and their king. Their city, Heliana floats above the ocean, protected from the human’s reach and they in turn protect the other shapeshifting communities. While the Leonodai fight with blades, arrows and axes, the humans fight with guns, bullets and late, planes and battleships, which gives a unique mix of modern (or at least the 20th century, the human world has a very WW1 timeline feeling to it) and ancient warfare and a great mix between reality and magic, that we don’t often see in fantasy novels.
– Carla Laureano –
Tyndale House Publishers
Published 3 August 2021
I always enjoy the work of Carla Laureano. I adored her The Supper Club series (food – yum!) and now she has created another fantastic Christian contemporary romance. Provenance is set in a small (very cold) Colorado town. The snow storms and mountainous setting are the perfect backdrop to this story about discovering your past and falling in love.
When Kendall Green learns that she is the beneficiary of a grandmother she never knew, only desperation for some cash to keep her interior design business and home in California afloat, prompts her to respond. She’s not sure she wants anything from the grandmother who let her grow up in foster care, moving from home to home and when Kendall learns that her inheritance are 5 historic Victorian homes, she is half devastated and half delighted. She is ready to sell to the highest bidder when the young mayor of the town, delightfully handsome Gabriel Brandt, asks her to consider another option to help save the town’s history and community from circling developers. Staying gives Kendall the chance to learn the truth about her mother, her grandmother and the reason she was abandoned when she was a child, but it also means growing closer to Gabriel, and with her life in California, Kendall’s not sure that’s a risk she should take.
In The Same Boat – Holly Green – Scholastic Press – Published 24 July 2021
Sadie Scofield is just a few days away from the race of a lifetime. The Texas River Odyssey may be 260 miles and multiple days of arduous canoeing where every turn of the river reveals new dangers-downed trees, alligators, pitch black night-but those dangers pale in comparison to going another year knowing that her father is ashamed of her.
Last year, Sadie caused a disastrous wreck that ended her father’s twenty year streak of finishes, and he’s never looked at her the same. Now, she knows that finishing the race with her brother, Tanner, is her one shot to redeem herself. She’s ready for anything…except Tanner ditching her for another team at the last minute.
Sadie grits her teeth and accepts that she has to team up with Cully, her former best friend turned worst enemy. It’s irritating enough that he grew up to be so attractive, but once they’re on the river it turns out he’s ill-prepared for such a dangerous race. But as the miles pass, the pain of the race builds, they uncover the truth about their feuding families, and Sadie’s feelings for Cully begin to shift. Could this race change her life more than she ever could have imagined?
I do so enjoy a good, lighthearted realistic YA novel with best friends falling in love, but with an enemies to lovers twist, and some really heartbreaking family drama. In The Same Boat ticks all those boxes, along with being a really epic story of strength, survival and athleticism. Let me just say I am never, ever getting in a canoe and paddling for 265 miles. Ever. I can’t even understand why someone would want to. Nope. But, I can appreciate a good story about a character who has the determination to do just that. And that’s exactly what In The Same Boat captures.
For Sadie, all her family members have finished the Texas River Odyssey. But when she and her dad partnered for her first race it was a disaster, with her being injured and her dad not finishing the race for the first time in 20 years. After a year of tension between them, Sadie knows finishing the Odyssey is the only way to fix her relationship with her dad. But when her brother abandons her to join another crew right at the last second, Sadie must partner with her ex-best friend or pull out altogether. 3 days, 2 nights in the same canoe as the boy who hates her in the toughest race of their lives. What could possibly go wrong?
The Whaler’s Daughter – Jerry Mikorenda – Fitzroy Books – Published 24 July 2021
In 1910, twelve-year-old Savannah lives with her widowed father on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia. For generations, the Dawson family has carried on a very unusual way of life there. They use orcas to help them hunt whales. But Savannah believes the orcas hunted something else—her older brothers, who died mysteriously while fishing. Haunted by their deaths, Savannah wants to become a whaler to prove to her father that she’s good enough to carry on the family legacy and avenge her slain brothers. Meeting an aboriginal boy, Figgie, changes that. Figgie helps Savannah to hone her whaling skills and teaches her about the Law of the Bay. When she is finally able to join the crew, Savannah learns just how dangerous the whole business is. A whale destroys her boat and Savannah sinks into the shark-infested waters. That’s when the mysterious spirit orca Jungay returns to rescue her, and she vows to protect the creatures. That vow tests her mettle when the rapacious owner of a fishing fleet captures the orca pod and plans to slaughter them
The Whaler’s Daughter caught my attention, despite the dull cover, as I knew it was similar to true historical events and I wanted to see how the author would combine history with fiction.
A message of environmental protection, the author does a great job of conveying the historic events and perspectives from an approach that it is relevant for modern readers.
Few might know the story of Eden and the orca’s that worked with whalers in Australia. This story, I hope, will bring that story into the light. While much of the story in The Whaler’s Daughter differs from what is recounted of the events in Eden, there is enough to align the stories.
Along with themes of protecting the environment, caring for and working with animals, The Whaler’s Daughter also raises themes around the roles of women. Savannah is a strong and headstrong character. She knows exactly what she wants and that is to ride in the whaling boats along with her father’s crew. As she fights for her place, she has more encounters with the orcas. She initially fears and hates them, holding them accountable for the death of her family members. But as she gets to know them more, learns of the plans of the nearby towns leaders and gets her first encounter on a whaling boat, Sav must change everything she thought she knew.