Book Reviews: new fiction for eager young readers

The first two books reviewed are mostly based on stories from WWII. The stories are believably woven around snippets of true stories to illustrate particular historical events.

Running with Ivan
by Susanne Leal, pub. by HarperCollins. P/B RRP$17.99 Ages 10+

Leo’s mother is dead, and his father remarried to Julia, mother of two bullying boys.

Leo has to start a new life with his new family and share a room with Cooper, his new stepbrother, who insists on drawing a line around his half of the room they share.

Luckily for Leo, he excels in running and starts training at night to get away from Cooper.  Yearning to be by himself, he uncovers a dusty music box in a sealed off room in the house and turning the key in the box he is  magically transported to Prague just prior to the Second World War.

Inspired by true stories from WWII told to the author by her neighbours who spent time during the war imprisoned in the ghetto of Theresienstadt.


Waiting for the Storks
by Katrina Nannestad, illus by Marina Heiduczek, pub. by HarperCollins H/B format. RRP$19.99 Ages 12+

This new novel from award winning Katrina Nannestad, follows the theme of her previous war-time related stories We are Wolves and Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. In Waiting for Storks Katrina follows Zofia’s life as an eight year old from her home in Poland (1941) and her loving family and friends, to a German orphanage where she has become part of Himmler’s notorious Lebensborn Program, Dr Engels plan for a German Aryan race. Kidnapped for this program, she is indoctrinated and adopted by wealthy and loving German family.

For older readers, this book looks at the Lebensborn program through the eyes of young Zofia, right up until the end of the war and although it is fiction, it beautifully presents this terrible program and the effect it had on thousands of young children during WWII


The Travelling Bookshop’s Mim and the Disastrous Dog Show and Mim and the Anxious Artist.

Also by Katrin Nannstad, illus by Cheryl Orsini pub. by HarperCollins ABC imprint. P/B RRP$14.99 Ages 7+

Two more books in the fantasy adventure genre, for mid primary school readers in this series.

Mim travels the world in a travelling bookshop with her dad, brother and a horse called Flossy, who takes the adventurous group to where ever they are needed. In the Disastrous Dog Show, Mim is taken by Flossy to Puddling Muddlebury, to eventually help Lord Melville-Timms save a dog-show disaster.

Easy to read with lots of funny illustrations and wacky names scattered throughout.


The Hats of Marvello
by Amanda Graham, illus. by Lavanya Naidu pub. by HarperCollins H/B RRP$19.99 Ages 8+

An English Magic shop owner; a thieving magician; a Marvello Top Hat and Robbit the black rabbit. An inviting tale!

In Mount Dry (Australia) a young girl called Olive needs a costume to wear for the school play as she has a big part as the narrator. At the local OpShop she finds what she needs to wear and to go with that suit, she adds a shaggy hat, in a hat box full of rabbit poo!

At home in Mount Dry, rabbits are a pest to her farming family, so what should she do to protect the hundreds of rabbits that have magically appeared (via her Marvello Top Hat) including the talking black rabbit called Robbit?

Beautifully written to flow magically between Olive’s farm and the town of the English Magic shop, where the owner was knocked out and robbed of his special Marvello Top Hat. This imaginative story is full of rabbits who mysteriously time travel via the “rabbit-way” from England to an Aussie farm and need to go back home!