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What We Are Reading Right Now: The Chapter Book Edition…

October 23rd, 2016 · 3 Comments

We have been writing a series of reviews for a while now, the latest and greatest picture books, fabulous fact books for children, easy chapter books, chapter books and now at last the tween/teen reads. We have split this post into books that are appropriate for tweens and half way down the post, books for teens. My older kids (age 19, 17 and 15) would consider a book a teen read if for some reason it had a trace of fiery language or if there was a little bit more than just a “boy meets girl” relationship… or if the book i just a harder read than they think their middle school siblings would enjoy reading. To be honest, a good book is a good books and I read the books myself, I especially loved The House on Hummingbird Island, and Hour of the Bees…

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Se7en + 1 of the Latest and Greatest Tween/Teen Reads

The House on Hummingbird Island by Sam Angus: It just so happens that Sam Angus is one of our favourite authors ever… she wrote and we have reviewed Soldier Dog, Hero and Captain. It is our tradition to read Sam Angus novels as a family, nobody wants to miss a word and there is nothing that my younger children can’t listen to in them.

To begin with The House on Hummingbird Island has the most delightful cover, to match the delightful heroine of the tale, Idie Grace. Idie Grace very quickly stole our hearts and became part of the family. At the age of twelve Idie is sent from a very crisp and formal England to live on a large plantation that she has inherited in the Caribbean, she is a truly wild and precocious child and will not be anyone’s puppet and she certainly isn’t brought to heel by any silly colonial class rules. She moves into her estate at just the right age to realise that she doesn’t have to listen to all the nay-sayers, she could indeed be her own boss… and with this realisation comes a whole menagerie into her home. She keep s a mongoose in her pocket, her horse on the veranda and don’t forget the cockatoo. As the animals literally settle in and Idie grows up there is the underlying mystery of who her mother really was and where Idie fits into the scheme of things.

A lot of the story is told to us through letters written to and fro between Idie and her English cousins, and Idie and friends who are drafted into the war. It is a really interesting way to introduce your readers to a whole lot of themes, while keeping the attention on the main character. Another theme that is a common throughout Sam Angus’books, apart from animals playing a lead is that all her books are set during a World War. This is an author who always manages to introduce big issues, without allowing them to take over the story… and she brings to light the plight of the West Indian soldiers during WW1, the racial discrimination, the unfairness of class structure and colonialism. The issues are there to think about and certainly deserve our attention… but they don’t take away from the main story, which is and always will be, “What happens to Idie?” There are highs and lows, there will be tears, heart wrenching in places… and as usual we feel richer for having read a Sam Angus book. You can meet Sam Angus on her website here.

The Hour of Bees by Lindsay Eager: I loved this book and read it from start to finish in a sitting, it is slow and lilting and beautiful. It is the story of twelve year old Carol from Albuquerque, who together with her family heads out to the desert for the summer to help to relocate her Grandpa, who suffers from dementia, into and a care home. Carol may never have met her Grandpa before, but there is a tie that binds and a love that conquers generations and and a rolling story within the story that winds its way through the pages. Her Grandpa keeps saying the bees will bring the rain and break the drought and everyone assumes that that is his “salad brain” or dementia speaking, and nobody else can hear the bees… nobody except Carol. She hears the bees. He reminds Carol again and again “not to spit on her roots.” It is a true coming of age story… Carol learns to embrace her heritage. This story is poignant, and beautiful, there may be tears… and I have to ask, why are there not more books written about families who have to care for their elderly grandparents, why are there not more books to read where the main players suffer from dementia… this book is beautiful and understanding and lovely. You can meet the author, Lindsay Eager here.


Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples: This story set in the Middle East after 911, it follows the life of a young girl in Afghanistan, who loses everything within the first few chapters of the book and an American teacher in Pakistan, who teaches refugee children under the Persimmon tree in her garden, while she waits for her missing husband to return. Their stories follow side by side and one feels compelled to read on… the story is slow and lilting, despite flashes of violence, as you follow their separate journeys hoping that everything will turn out just fine for them… there lives do collide, but how can it. This is a heart wrenching book and an important read, so many lives were destroyed, so much was lost by so many during this crazy time and not nearly enough has been shared… while this book is clearly fiction, it is true to life and portrays the plight of the people on the ground, people who lost their homes, their families their lives, people whose stories will never be told. You can meet the Author, Suzanne Fisher Staples on her website, here.

Summoner Book One: The Novice by Taran Matharu: This book went straight onto Hood #2’s list of best books ever. The book is set in a fantasy world, there are orcs, and elves, dwarves and Summoners with their pet like demons. This is the story of Fletcher, an orphaned blacksmith, who quite by chance discovers that he has magical gifts… when he is charged with attempted murder he has to flee for his life. Fletcher’s demon is a salamander like creature called Ignatius, who is there on Fletcher’s shoulder on the cover. Together they go through intensive training at the Vocan’s Academy, where he learns through a series of deadly tests, to control and use his power. The question is will he be able save the empire, when so many things are against him. Really the author does well to create an entire universe as the stage for this epic adventure… and then because this is the first in a trilogy, it ends as a complete cliffhanger. Luckily book 2 in the series has been recently released and is ready to read… You can meet the author, Taran Matharu, on Wattpad where the series began.

Teen Reads

Notes on Being Teenage by Rosalind Jana: This non-fiction book is geared for teen gals. Not tween gals so much, but definitely a fabulous source of info for teens who are always looking for information about who they are and how they look, whats going on on the internet, and of course relationships. I for one don’t want my kids to learn everything about the world from their not necessarily that knowledgeable friends and I really wasn’t born yesterday, I get that there are some things they really don’t want to ask their mothers. So Rosalind Jana is the older sister your daughter wishes she had, she talks about things that are contemporary, topical, sometimes awkward and just plain practical… So many really practical tips on how to be a good friend, how to get your blog started, and so on. The style is conversational, intelligent and funny, she talks about alcohol and drugs, eating disorders and taboos… there are tons of inserts for dipping into the book quickly, lots of suggestions and resources for digging deeper. The author backs up her opinions with research and interviews from professionals, like designers, photographers, writers and poets. Some of the topics might be ones you would really rather not talk about, but that doesn’t mean that your teen doesn’t want to know about them… and they certainly are great conversation starters, there is a lot to learn for moms and their daughters in this book. This is the kind of book that I would choose to read alongside my teen, it is funny, easy reading, some issues will be tricky to talk about for her or for me, or even both of us, and some topics will be really just fun, not every teen issue has to be an actual issue. This is a great realistic read about the world your teen is living in and the more informed your teenager is the better they will be able to cope in it. Honestly, where was this book when I was a teen? You can meet the author Rosalind Jana over here on her blog.

Girl Out of Water by Nat Luurtsema: This is the story of Lou, who has trained and geared her entire life to becoming an Olympic swimmer and then doesn’t qualify in the trials. Her best friend does qualify and Lou is left friendless, somewhat goal-less not to mention very unpopular at school. Lou has plenty of personality to go with her ambitions and it is her funny quirky attitude, not to mention her bizarre family that makes this book laugh out loud funny… She meets three lads desperate for a place in a talent competition and suddenly she finds her swimming skills helping her be the coach she needs to be to train this very unlikely synchronised swimming team. This book is funny, its quwerky, and the crazy characters are all people that you might now in real life. You can meet the author, Nat Luurtsema over here.

Vango by Timothée de Fombelle, Book 1: Between Sky and Earth and Book 2: A Prince without a Kingdom: Hood #1 loved these books and puts them right up there with the best adventure books written ever. His story – which is revealed over both books, which fit together seamlessly – begins in a small island near Sicily, where the main character, Vango, is introduced as an orphan being raised by a priest, called Zefiro. The first book begins with Vango, who wants to be a priest, but on the night of his ordination things go awry and Vango spends the rest of the book on the run, in and out the European history of the day, traveling in a zeppelin from place to place. In book 2, the saga continues… running across Europe, Vango starts to uncover the truth about who he is and where he is from. A shroud of mystery covering his identity and past, he discovers characters who have always been lurking in the background, half forgotten memories start to lurch to the forefront as the world he lives in begins to collide with his origins in ways he would never have expected. These books were originally written in French and have been translated into English by Sarah Ardizzone, the rich language and beautiful words add to the depth and artistic feel of the saga. There are places where so much is happening, the pace so fast and complexities somewhat confusing, that is all part of the drama, read on, read on and discover the truth.

Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for the copies of these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are as usual, our own.

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