While driving home one evening with his parents, Kofi sees something on a roundabout. It's dark and furry and rolled up in a ball.
He thinks it might be a hurt animal, although his gut tells him it's not, and he's right.
At first, Kofi thinks it's an alien, but after he speaks and introduces itself as Rorty Thrutch, Kofi isn't so sure.
As Kofi gets to know Rorty, he realises that Rorty possess extraordinary powers, like copying things with his mind and making them appear out of thin air.
Since Rorty can copy things, he can also delete them. After Kofi takes Rorty in, it becomes clear that dangerous people are hunting him. Kofi and his friends must devise a plan to keep Rorty hidden and uncover where exactly he's from before it's too late.
I enjoyed this novel, I thought the description of the bullying and back and forth between Kofi and the other school children was genuine. I know the school children I work with will really enjoy the adventure and friendship elements of the Starman and Me. If you're looking for a book with a lot of heart with children outwitting the adults, this is for you!
When I was a kid I was obsessed with UFOs.
My dad witnessed the unexplained object streak across the sky at his home in Clark's Harbour Nova Scotia in 1967. It would be known as the Shag Harbour UFO incident because many locals claimed to have seen a craft crash into the ocean. Some told stories of thick orange foam covering the top of the water and Russian ships suddenly converging on the area.
Whatever it was, it was an experience shared by others and the stories remain to this day.
Encounters is all about a shared experience. Based on the Ruwa, Zimbabwe UFO incident when dozens of school children claimed to have seen silver discs land behind their school, Encounters follows the journey of six children that have their lives changed forever because of the alleged alien encounter.
The most fascinating UFO experiences that I have read about are the ones where the witnesses share some kind of collective unconscious aftermath - they have recurring nightmares that are eerily similar to each other, they daydream about the same thing and they often have an almost indescribable feeling of never being alone.
Wallace captures this experience perfectly. In Ruwa, the school children drew pictures of what they saw. The pictures that were drawn were almost identical to each other. In Encounters, The school children draw the same images and each have the itchy feeling that the creatures that they saw emerge from the ships were warning them about something.
For each of the six children, all suffering from turbulent home lives in some for or another, the warnings mean different things.
If you're fascinated with stories about people who've claimed to see UFOs, you simply can't ignore this book. Its tone is pitch perfect, a dream-like haze mingles with the boiling heat of the African sun, creating an eerie atmosphere that will stick in your guts for a long, long time.
Moonbeam is a teenager on the edge.
At 17, she's just survived a deadly invasion from the FBI & the ATF as they stormed her home - the Lord's Legion in Texas.
Now she finds herself in between the hospital and an interrogation room as the shrinks and the police try to piece together what exactly went on behind the barbed-wire fences of the strange religious compound in the desert.
What went on will send icy fingernails up your spine.
The Lord's Legion is commanded by Father John. Father John believes he is the new Prophet, the mouth of God. In his mind he must prepare his followers for the upcoming apocalypse. This includes training fourteen year olds how to shoot automatic rifles, marrying teenage girls and cracking down on the unbelievers within his "Family" with punishments so harsh they'd make Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction proud.
The story rotates between Moonbeam's discussions with a psychologist and an FBI agent & her flashbacks from her time living with the Lord's Legion.
Hill acknowledges that he drew inspiration from the siege at Waco, Texas in the early '90s when over 80 people from the Branch Davidians died after a standoff with the authorities. Father John is David Koresh, Jim Jones, Alex Jones and almost a Manson-type character all rolled into one in my opinion. He never strays from the "True Path" yet abides by a separate set of rules for his own behaviour. He hands down punishments in a sadistic manner that belies his stoic appearance.
Growing up in Eastern Canada, I was obsessed with cults as a kid and early teen. There was a small group of religious militants that lived thirty minutes from me that attempted to build an ark to prepare for the end times. They never finished it and it laid stranded like a rotten wooden sea monster for years on the beach until waves of half-drunk teens destroyed it over the years.
After the Fire reminded me of them, how obsessed they must have been to get started on an endeavour like that. Hill's Legion is no different, led by Father John they blindly move towards an end that they know must come, because John says it will, end of argument.
Of course, there is a seed of dissention within the Legion, a little seed on the verge of being drowned in rhetoric and fear but it's there. If it survives is another thing, you'll have to read this startling thriller to find out!
Alex Petroski is on a mission. He and his best friend, Carl Sagan (his dog, not the actual astronomer) are headed to the biggest science and rocket festival around.
The problem is, Alex is only 11 and he's headed out on his own. His mom, according to Alex, is having one of her "quiet days" and didn't seem to mind that he left the house. Alex's older brother Ronnie lives in L.A. because he's a talent agent so he can't help either.
So, armed with a train ticket, Alex decides to head to New Mexico on his own. He's taking with him his prized possession, his Golden iPod because he's going to launch said iPod into space with the rocket that he built.
For ages he's been recording his voice into the iPod, explaining what Earth life is like so that when his iPod is picked up by aliens, they'll have a ton of information about Earth before they visit.
Along the way Alex meets a cast of characters that will eventually take him to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and back to Colorado. Alex's innocence is undercut but his inquisitiveness and general toughness as he learns things about life that no 11 year old should have to cope with.
Written primarily from Alex's perspective, we as the reader slowly become aware of Alex's situation. Although he's clever and tough, Alex can't quite come to terms with his home life.
Sweet and hard-hitting at the same time, I know fans of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and We Are All Made of Molecules will really sink their teeth into this story!
Things are gonna get rough.
Beck is the product of a loveless and brief encounter between his poor mother and an African sailor in Liverpool in the early 1900s.
After his mother dies Beck is sent to Canada to a group called The Catholic Brothers which is just as terrifying as it sounds.
Abused at the home, Beck is sent to work as a farmhand where he's treated like one of the animals.
Beck powers through, though, and what follows is a beautifully written tale of extreme hardship and true grit.
Eventually, Beck finds Grace, a woman that understands at least part of his hardships. With Grace Beck finds a glimmer of hope in what has been a cruel and heartless world.
I loved this book, even when it was hard to read sometimes. Peet creates a character that survives against all odds and projects volumes without barely saying a word.
There's been a lot of controversy about this being nominated for the Carnegie Award and the graphic description of abuse and sex. I get that, I wouldn't hand this to an 11 year old. It's for older teens in my opinion. Some have said it's just for adults and I disagree. If an older teen reads this they'll still be here in the morning and they'll be better off for reading it. An amazing tale that should not be missed.
Queen Kelsea's about to take a walk on the wild side.
If you haven't read the first instalment of this series, "The Queen of the Tearling," this review might include spoilers or make absolutely no sense.
Kelsea's in charge of the Tearling, a society on the verge of collapse as the dreaded Red Queen and her army of Mort soldiers prepare their attack.
To make matters worse, Kelsea has been going into fugue states (did we know about fugue states before Breaking Bad?) that take her to a time before an event known as The Crossing. In this time she follows a woman named Lily, who is abused by her husband and living in a world of strict government surveillance, 1984, essentially.
Kelsea's also being visited by a terrifying creature that materializes out of fire. This "dark thing" promises to give her the secret behind the Red Queen's demise if she hands over her necklace, a powerful blue sapphire that appears to grant Kelsea magical powers.
On top of this, she's still gotta run the kingdom as best as she can.
I enjoyed this book, for me it took a darker turn than the first and for me that's always a good thing. There were a lot of passages that I feel were influence by Stephen King, people finding tears in their reality and influencing people in other dimensions or times, it was really well done.
I can also sympathise with some of the criticism, the sapphire necklace appears to work as a deus ex machina, solving all of Kelsea's problems whenever they arise. Also, there are horrifying rape and self harm passages written in explicit detail that might act as a trigger. In the first book, Kelsea is obsessed with how "plain" and "un-pretty" she is but in the second book her magical sapphire necklace solve that problem by making her beautiful. The fact that becoming "beautiful" for Kelsea involves losing a lot of weight is also problematic.
All of those criticisms aside, what I enjoyed the most is the feeling of family and camaraderie that is created within the Tear base. You genuinely feel for their plight and root for them the entire way along, which in my mind is the sign of a well written novel. I will be reading the third one in this series because I couldn't stand not knowing what happens.
I recommend this novel to ages 17 and up!
Joseph is 14 and just got out of prison.
He took a pill that made him go sideways and he attacked a teacher.
Now, as part of his rehabilitation he must stay away from his unstable father and join Jack and his parents as a foster child.
Living on a farm, Joseph works out his demons and tells his foster brother Jack, who's twelve, bits and pieces of his life story.
It turns out Joseph has a daughter named Jupiter, whom he's not allowed to see. Joseph's life revolves around finding where Jupiter is no matter what the cost.
Told by twelve year old Jack, Orbiting Jupiter is told in a short simplistic style that cuts like a razor. The scenes where Jack and Joseph are walking to school in sub zero temperatures reminded me so much of walking to school in Nova Scotia that I felt my bones go cold. I wish I had discovered this book sooner because it would've been my top book of 2016. A heartbreaker, don't miss it.
I recommend it to ages 11 and up!
Lizzie Summersall is gone.
Not just gone, she's dropped off the face of the earth. Vanished, poof. Nobody's seen hide nor hair of her for ages.
Aiden Kendrick has been spending a lot of time trying to forget about Lizzie, but what he can't forget is the day the police knock on his door and start asking him questions about her.
Scared to death, Aiden recruits the help of his friend Scobie to try and track down Lizzie. Rumours swirling around school say that she was meeting strangers through Facebook, that she might have run off with one of them.
To make matters worse, Lizzie's sister appears unfazed about her disappearance. The star of a reality tv show, she seems to be using Lizzie's disappearance as a way to further her career. However, as Aiden is about to find out, nothing is what it seems.
I really enjoyed Follow Me Back. It's got sharp dialogue that kicks you in the gut as you live through the Aiden's anxiety of being questioned by the police. On top of that, I genuinely had no idea what had actually happened to Lizzie right up until the very end.
If you're a fan of Gone Girl or GIrl on the Train you'll enjoy sinking your teeth into this one, I promise.
I recommend Follow Me Back to ages 15 and up!
June's life is hell.
Her stepmother Kathleen is abusive, both physically and psychologially. Even worse, she can't convice her dad to see the truth. June's stepsister, Megan, is a pawn caught in Kathleen's twisted game and goes along with the abuse.
June finds no respite in school. Her classmates bully her, frame her and treat her like garabge. Her teachers don't trust her. She's utterly alone.
One day, after escaping to the woods she meets Blister. Blister's not like everyone else, he doesn't go to school. In fact, neither does his whole family. They live slightly off the grid in a series of trailers. They welcome June with open arms, they don't judge, they don't question.
In Blister, June finds a true friend that will give her a brief release from the torment she experiences at home.
As the years pass and her homelife worsens, June's nerves reach a breaking point that will change the lives of everyone around her.
Gut-wrenching, taught and divisive, Paper Butterflies can be hard to read at times but is always engaging. I know this will be a top pick for several of our students. I recommend it for ages 14 and up!
Cameron and his mum are on the run.
Cameron's dad is a maniac, an abuser and all around psycho. That is, at least, what Cameron's been told since he was young.
After five years of jumping around, they settle on an old farmhouse in a place called Wolf Hollow.
Right away Cameron senses something's not right. He feels he's being watched from the cornfield, from the old disused barn, from the road, everywhere. He tells himself it's just his imagination, but with his mum filling his head with horror stories about his dad, he can't really be sure.
Then there's the boys at school, and the stories about the farmhouse that he's just moved into. The former owner went nuts, murdered his family and was eventually torn to pieces by his own guard dogs. Cameron can't figure out if this is true or just small town gossip.
It's when the voices come that Cameron starts to feel the ground cracking under his feet. They come at night, and they whisper of dark tales in the night.
Is Cameron losing his mind? Or is he being sent a message from beyond? It all leads to a thrilling, Shining-esque finale.
I really enjoyed this book, I felt the walls closing in on Cameron and couldn't wait to get to the end to find out what was real and what was in his imagination. I know fans of horror and mystery at my school will absolutely love this book.
I recommend The Dogs to Years 8 and up!