When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

At 11-years-old, Tamsin is living next to the distinguished author, Edie St. Clair, and is used to seeing the flash of her red shoes among the boring grey sneakers. Edie is under pressure from journalists, readers and her publisher to finish her tenth and final book in the series, so, when Tamsin see’s her run past her window on her way to the town garden, later than usual, she decides to give Edie a drawing of one of her characters for moral support. Her talent sparks an unbelievable relationship between the two artists. Edie trusts Tamsin with with a bizarre secret, and when Edie disappears without a trace, Tamsin knows that she must be the only one able to find her. Can Tamsin find Edie St. Clair? Can she give everyone a happy ending?

Ideal for children 9+,’ When This Bell Rings’ is a definite must-read for fans of Allison Rushby books, aka ‘The Mulberry Tree’, ‘The Turnkey’ and ‘The Seven Rings’. I specifically admired how the author wrote this book about another book, always a hard thing to do, and, on top of all that, added just enough plot twists to keep the reader on their toes. The only problem I had with this novel was that there wasn’t more of it!

Nevertell by Katherine Orton

11-years-old, Lina has never seen life outside the prison wire. Having been born there, she can only dream about life beyond the gardening in the greenhouse, eating black hunks of bread for meals and sleeping in a crowded room with older women that has occupied her life so far. Only able to imagine her grandmother’s house in Moscow from what her mother had told her, warm and secure, unlike the bleak icy wilderness of the camp, and Lina longs to be there, not stuck at the prison. So, when the chance comes to escape, Lina agrees without thinking. But, outside the camp fence, it is dangerous. Cold, tired, and hungry, they must face shadow wolves, ice witches and a mysterious girl who only whispers the word ‘Nevertell’.

From the masterful mind of Katherine Orton, this superbly worded narrative is ideal for children around the age of 10. I particularly appreciated the plot twists that are embedded in the complex storyline, ensuring that the reader never knows what is going to happen next. I would absolutely rate it 5/5 stars!

Bindi by Kirli Saunders

11-year-old Bindi is not into math, but loves art class and hockey. Living in Rural Australia, she has her own horse, Nell, and her most favoured thing to do is roam around her country town, adventuring with her friends. After the Summer Holidays, her new school year starts just as it always does, new teachers, new class, new shoes and new bottle green and gold uniform. It seemed like this was going to be your average, run-of-the-mill year, but it didn’t go to plan at all. There was a broken wrist, a drought, a huge art assignment, the scariest bushfires her town had ever seen, and, to top it all off, a little baby black cockatoo with a broken wing. Can Bindi and her family make it through this colossal year?

As a shortlisted book in the CBCA, and winner of the Western Australian Premiers Book Awards, Bindi is Kirli Saunders third book, and her second verse novel. I would heartily recommend this 5/5 star book to readers 10+ who enjoy poetry and books with a strong meaning of hope and friendship. Credit must also be given to Dub Leffler, who’s illustrations are simply divine and really add meaning to the story.

Shockingly Good Stories by R.A. Spratt

From tall tales passed from mother to daughter about everyday happenings, to Friday Barnes logical schoolgirl mysteries, and legends of Nanny Piggins’ relatives inspiring Greek myths, fairy tales and events in history, this side-splitting, entertaining cluster of stories are made to be read aloud in silly voices, or in your head. This collection of twenty hilarious stories is perfect to be read before bedtime, in the morning, at lunch, or any other time during the day. Based on her amazing podcast ‘Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt’ this newly released book is designed to make you burst out laughing at random times, much similar to R.A. Spratt’s other bestselling series’, Friday Barnes, Peski Kids and Nanny Piggins.

I absolutely adored this collection of flawless fantastical fiction, R.A. Spratt has also done an incredible job of turning the ordinary things in life such as fairy tales, school and going for walks, and turning them into extraordinary things, providing the targeted audience (9 year-olds to adults with an absurd sense of humor) with the perfect must-read. As a bonus, she also has put some tips for reading aloud scattered throughout the novel. I would definitely rate this gut-busting book 5/5 stars!

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

10 year old April’s Father is an important researcher, and his current project is analysing the temperatures in the Arctic, which has sent them off to Bear Island. Bear Island is a remote arctic wilderness where, until the ice caps melted, Polar Bears used to thrive. April believed her Father that Polar Bears no longer existed there, until she saw a strange shape on the horizon. The great, big, loping shape of a bear. Intrigued, April investigates, and meets Bear, lonely, sick, injured and hungry, the last Polar Bear on the island. Will she be able to help him, and nurture him back to health? Will she discover the courage in herself to help Bear get home?

This wholehearted story is absolutely brilliant! Set on Bear Island, Norway, I loved how April is described so well she feels absolutely real, and Hannah Gold makes you really feel how April would at that time. The Last Bear is perfect for any adolescent 8+ who love novels about nature and friendship. Of course, a special mention must be made to the illustrator, Levi Pinfold, who’s images of Bear and April really tie the book together, and one of the many reasons why I would definitely rate this book 5/5 stars.

The Boy who Stepped Through Time By Anna Ciddor

While on holiday in France, Perry wanders into an old ruin while at a Roman Market, definitely not expecting to be whisked away into the past, 1700 years back, when the Villa Rubia is at its former glory. While searching desperately for away back home, he must try to blend in as a slave, eating mice, snails, and figs for every meal. Eventually, Perry gets used to the absurd routine that the Villa Rubia’s slaves have, and makes a new friend, who happens to be the daughter of the house, Valentina. But Perry knows he has heard her name before, and upon suddenly realising his newest friends awful fate, he is determined to save her. Will Perry go home to his family, all safe and sound, or will he stay and defend his friends life, risking getting stuck in her absurd world forever?

This historical fiction book is the ideal novel for children 10+. One of a kind, Anna Ciddor has done an amazing job of adding just the right amount of humor, embarrassment and shocking in this action-packed story. I cannot wait to see what she whips up next!

The Wolfs Howl By A.L. Tait

Maven and Reeve are sent to the distant, miserable Gawn Castle, under cover on a mission to seek support for rebellion against King Bren. If they are found out, they will be killed, likewise to anyone else that are supporters of their aim. Things are bad enough, but on their arrival, their is news of a cook going missing, on the very day of the feast. Then, instead of what they would habitually do, leaving the woman out in the moors to die, Airl Riding Guards take personal interest, sending out a search party, despite the fact that they could -and would- easily get another. Will Maven and Reeve be able to face the danger of their search for support? Or will they be exposed, sentenced to treason and hanged?

The Fire Star by A. L. Tait

Maven is the maid and companion of Lady Cassandra, travelling to Rennart Castle because her Lady, much to her displeasure, was to marry the knight protector of the Castle, Sir Garrick Sharp, and give her precious stone, the Fire Star, to the Airl. Reeve is the 16-year-old squire of Sir Garrick, and is determined to be a knight, although being 16, he is 2 years older than most young squires begin training. But somehow, the Fire Star got stolen, a few days before the wedding, and Maven and Reeve have only three days to solve the mystery, or all their hopes and dreams will be destroyed. Can they find it in time for the wedding? Or will they never achieve their dreams?

Like most books, I would doubtlessly rate The Fire Star 5/5 stars.

I was up way past my bedtime finishing The Fire Star! An absolute must-read, I adored the plot-twists and discoveries featured in this elaborate adventure novel. It has everything, from thieves and murderers, to grudges and secret societies. It is perfect for children 10 years old and a good way older. The next book in the Maven and Reeve Mystery series has just come out, The Wolfs Howl, as well, and we can be expecting another one in a couple of years.

The Mulberry Tree By Allison Rushby

After moving from Australia to a pocket-sized town in Cambridgeshire, England, 10 year old Immy, Mum and Dad were searching for a new home. Along with the help of a relocation woman, Helen, they look at many houses, the first, too dark and mouldy, the second to much like Star Trek, with everything blue, a third that was too neat, like the Dursleys, and the fourth was too small. The fifth was perfect, called lavender cottage, with a giant mulberry tree in the backyard, even with all the furniture! However, Helen didn’t even stop the car, and Immy had to yell at her to stop the car, to let them see it. Helen hadn’t stopped the car because of a story that was almost as old as the town. In this very house, many years ago, a little girl had gone missing on the eve of her 11th birthday. Then, many years later, another little girl went missing, from the same family. The day after each girl disappeared, a knot in the giant mulberry tree appeared the next morning. According to the townspeople, the mulberry tree had taken the girls. Of course, Immy and her parents don’t believe a word of it. But then, as her 11th birthday draws closer, Immy begins to hear a song in her head…

“The Mulberry Tree” is the perfect birthday present for any mystery lover, book enthusiast, or Allison Rushby addict (I’m all three!) Along with three of her other younger readers books, the Turnkey, the Three Keys and When This Bell Rings, it looks a treat on anyone 9+ years old bookshelf.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty follows the life story of a beautiful black horse that encounters many people and answers to many names. Born to a Mother that was their Masters pride, Black Beauty is determined to be good, so he lets himself be broken in and sold, meeting new friends such as Merrylegs and Ginger. Black Beauty learns about the horrors other horses have endured, working as a cart horse, taxi cab and many other hard, tedious jobs as well, sometimes with good, kind and gentle Masters that Black Beauty was happy to serve, and sometimes with mean and harsh masters. But no matter what, Black Beauty is always loyal and kind, no matter what.

I adored this heartfelt book, and although I don’t usually enjoy books from the first-person point of view as much, I found this novel to be right up there on my favorites list. I would recommend it to farm and horse lovers of 8 years old and over. I loved how Anna Sewell managed to make it feel like Black Beauty was standing next to me, telling me his life story, and when I turned the final page and closed the book, I was sorry for it all to have come to an end.