Book Reviews: Interesting books for older readers

It’s always hard to find interesting books for older readers because as they grow, they develop different interests and reading levels. It’s also important to keep them interested and enjoying reading, particularly for older boys.

by Sharon Kernot, pub. Text Publishing, p/b RRP$ 22.99. Ages 13+

Maddy is mute, brought about by ‘an incident’ which is not revealed until page 52. Until that point, you wonder what has happened and why she, her mother and her brother have moved into an isolated farmhouse ‘to recover’. From what exactly? When you do find out, it is shocking, and you can understand why Maddy rarely speaks. That is until she forms an unlikely relationship with an old lady, Alice, whose daughter, Birdy, suddenly disappeared many years ago. Alice believes she is still alive and is waiting for her to return. Maddy feels that she can find out what happened in Birdy’s diary.

Birdy is an unusual story told in free-form poetry. It is an excellent novel to read and digest. Using this form of poetry, the story is well-formed, as if Maddy is speaking to you, the reader.  Also, the use of words by the author conveys the pain of Maddy’s mutism, the lonely life of an isolated old lady not knowing about her daughter, and the close relationship Maddy has with two special friends. Birdy is a mystery woven on many levels and a delight to read, especially if you are not a fan of traditional poetry.

Harper CollinsAndromache Between Worlds
by Gabriel Bergmoser, pub. HarperCollins p/b RRP$19.99 Ages 11+

Fourteen-year-old Andromache is finding it hard to fit into her boarding school, where she has been placed by her ‘world-renowned’ adventurer mother after her heroic father had gone missing suddenly when she was 2. She is teased about her famous family and has few friends, but one, Rylee, is an outlier like her. Andromache is expelled from school for something she didn’t do. Once home, she starts to investigate this mysterious person called Cavanagh Rogers, whom her mother seems to think is involved in her father’s disappearance. A run-down factory in an industrial area of London leads Andromache to Dr Cavanagh Rogers and his son Tobias, whose explanation of her father’s disappearance sounds implausible. She decides to enlist Rylee to help her break into the factory again to investigate further. There, they find the ‘Locksmith’, a mysterious machine that opens doors to differing Universes where she suspects her father has gone. Rylee is snatched through the Locksmith’s mysterious door, and Andromache is forced to learn more about the machine so she can locate Rylee and find her father, who is locked in a parallel universe.

Finding Bear
by Hannah Gold & illus. by Levi HarperCollins h/b RRP$19.99 Ages 8+

April Wood has returned home from her adventure on Bear Island, Hannah’s previous book. ’The Last Bear’. It’s been over a year, but she can’t stop thinking about Bear, her very special polar bear. She can’t settle down to her more suburban life; she is very concerned about climate change, and although her mother died, her father has already struck up a new relationship with Maria. It’s all unsettling. She misses Bear.

After hearing about a shooting of a polar bear in the Arctic, north of Norway (Svalbard Island). She knows deep down that it’s her Bear, and the compulsion to go immediately and find out if it is, is the start of this follow-up story by the author. April’s adventure in this frozen snowy land is eye-opening for those unfamiliar with its harshness. Her adventure is woven into interesting information about life in the Arctic zone and how the change of climate is affecting humans and animals. The story of April facing her deepest fears and her love for Bear is heart-warming and sad at the same time. The exquisite pen and ink illustrations by Levi Pinfold are achingly beautiful, of Bear and April and the harsh landscape of the Arctic.

The Lost Library
by Rebecca Stead & Wendy Mass, pub. Text Publishing, p/b RRP$16.99. Ages 8+

It’s interesting that books about mysterious libraries or bookshops are popular for this age group. Perhaps it’s familiarity of the library? This ‘Lost Library’ of the story was burnt to the ground many years ago and was deemed accidental. But was it? The library cat Mortimer and Al, the ghost from the old Library, weave this story around the two young boys who discover a link between two old books and the mystery of the Lost Library.

Reading novels with many different points of view can be disorienting, especially for young readers! This chapter book clearly labels each character’s point of view, so you can always check back if you become disoriented. It is an easy read for this age group.

The Travelling. Bookshop Mim and the Vicious Vendetta
by Katrina Nannestad, illus. by Cheryl Orsini, pub. ABC Books imprint, p/b RRP$16.99 Ages 7+

Katrina Nannestad has written some of the best and most awarded books for children over the past couple of years. We Are Wolve; Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief; Waiting for the Storks and The Travelling Bookshop series are our favourites.

Mim and the Vicious Vendetta is number 4 in The Travelling Bookshop series. This time Mim, her dad, brother and a horse called Flossy take their bookshop to Venice, where they’re needed to settle a feud between two important families.

The Wonder of Little Things
by Vince Copley (with Lea McInerney) pub. HarperCollins. Young readers edition. p/b RRP$22.99 Ages 10+

This is an autobiography of First Nations elder Vincent Copley, born on a government mission into poverty in 1936 (died in 2022). Whilst in an Aboriginal boy’s home, he struck up enduring friendships with future leaders in the First Nations world (Charles Perkins, John Moriarty and Gordon Biscoe) and found that sport helped him move out of poverty after drifting around country towns shearing and driving farm machinery. Descended from an early mixed-race marriage (1848), racism always reared its ugly head for much of his life. How he managed it and how he grew his friendship with Charles Perkins and joined him as he organised key organisations and movements in the contemporary Aboriginal world brought him honours and recognition from the Australian people through an OAM.