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Year 9: Literature Circles

Literature Circles

Literature Circle Titles

Retrospect: The Beginning  
Tim Harris   

Genre:  Dystopian fiction

Themes: Corruptive power of Science and  Technology, Big Brother, Friendship, Teenage relationships, Quest for eternal life

                                     

A fast-paced dystopian fiction novel set in Brisbane 15 years into the future, written by our very own Mr Harris. The plot delves into a number of key societal issues, giving the story a strong dose of reality. The consequences of humans trying to play GOD through Science and Technology exploitation are explored, as well as the quest for eternal life, and the power of 'Big Brother'. The protagonist is  15-year old  Noah, and the story unwinds through his conversational narration. As the plot unwinds, we discover the antagonist (Setag) has systematically hijacked an entire population using his manipulation of the Technological age. Through his cruel dictatorship, he obliterates anyone who stands in his way. Children also disappear in large numbers, leading those surviving on a mission to uncover the 'truth'. This leads to a number of shattering discoveries and sends the story to the University of Queensland Campus itself.   (from Trove - 100 copies available).

Tim Harris Homepage - Retrospect Notes

Gizmodo - 10 Mindblowingly Futuristic Technologies That Will Appear by the 2030's

Tomorrow, When the War Began
John Marsden

Genre: Australian Dystopian Fiction

Themes:  Friendship, Love, War, Self-Discovery, Courage, Sacrifice, Survival, Teenage relationships

World War III becomes an unstoppable reality in this action-packed adventure. When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they're leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong--horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured--including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight. (from Book Depository - 20 copies available).

Schmoop - Tomorrow, When the War Began Notes

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
John Boyne

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes:  WWI, Holocaust, Racism, Friendship, Lies and and deceit,  Morals and ethics

Berlin, 1942 : When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences. (from Good Reading - 15 copies available).

Schmoop - The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Notes

Don't Call Me Ishmael!
Michael Gerard Bauer

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes:  Bullying, Identity, Self-Acceptance, Friendship, Resilience, Hope

By the time Year 9 begins (at a thinly-disguised Marist Ashgrove school), Ishmael Leseur knows it won't be long before Barry Bagsley, the class bully, says, "Ishmael? What kind of wussy name is that?” Ishmael's perfected the art of making himself virtually invisible. But all that changes when James Scobie joins the class. Unlike Ishmael, James has no sense of fear—he claims it was removed during an operation. Now nothing will stop James and Ishmael from taking on bullies, bugs, and Moby Dick, in the toughest, weirdest, most embarrassingly awful...and the best year of their lives. (from Inside a Dog - 20 copies available).

Pacific Lutheran College - Don't Call Me Ishmael! Notes

Hatchet
Gary Paulsen

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes:  Survival, Courage, Perseverance, Man versus the Natural World, Coming-of- Age, Resourcefulness
 

13-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present -- and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent's divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair -- it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.For twenty years Gary Paulsen's award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. (from Book Depository - 25 copies available).

SparkNotes - Hatchet Notes

Auslander   
Paul Dowswell

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes:  WWII, Nazi policies, Holocaust, Racism, Identity,  Risk-taking, Conformity

 

 

When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. Then German soldiers take him away to be measured and assessed. They decide that Peter is racially valuable. He is Volksdeutscher: of German blood. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and acceptably proportioned head, he looks just like the boy on the Hitler-Jugend poster. Someone important will want to adopt Peter. They do. Professor Kaltenbach is very pleased to welcome such a fine Aryan specimen to his household. People will be envious. But Peter is not quite the specimen they think. He is forming his own ideas about what he is seeing, what he is told. Peter doesn't want to be a Nazi, and so he is going to take a very dangerous risk, the most dangerous risk he could possibly choose to take in Berlin in 1942. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available). 

LibrisNotes - Auslander Notes

Unwind
Neal Shusterman

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Themes: The value of human life, Morality and ethics, Betrayal, Rights of children, Rules and order, Consciousness and existence, Lies and deceit, Identity and Sacrifice

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them. Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their 18th birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, 18 seems far, far away. In Unwind, award-winning author Neal Shusterman challenges readers’ ideas about life — not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive. (from Storyman - 5 copies available). 

Schmoop - Unwind Notes

Mao's Last Dancer (Younger Reader's Ed.)
Li Cunxin

Genre: Memoir; Autobiography

Themes: Life in Mao's Communist China, Cultural Revolution, Poverty, Family, Resilience, Determination
 

At 11, Li Cunxin was one of the privileged few selected to serve in Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution by studying at the Beijing Dance Academy. Having known bitter poverty in his rural China home, ballet would be his family's best chance for a better future. From one hardship to another, Cunxin demonstrated perseverance and an appetite for success that led him to be chosen as one of the first two people to leave Mao's China and go to American to dance on a special cultural exchange. Ultimately, he defected to the West in a dramatic media storm, and went on to dance with the Houston Ballet for 16 years and now lives in Brisbane. This compelling and inspiring story of passion, resilience, and a family's love captures the harsh reality of life in Mao's Communist China and the exciting world of professional dance. (from Booktopia - 5 copies available).

Pegi Williams' Bookshop - Mao's Last Dancer (Younger Readers) Notes

The Giver
Lois Lowry

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Themes: Rules and order, Memory of the past, Conformity over individuality, Security before freedom, The value of the individual

It is the perfect future Utopian world. There is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in The Community wants for anything. Everyone is provided for. Each Family Unit is entitled to one female and male child. Each member of The Community has their profession carefully chosen for them by the Committee of Elders, and they never make a mistake.  Jonas, a sensitive 12-year-old boy, had never thought there was anything wrong with his Community, until one day when he is selected as the Receiver of Memory at The Ceremony, his life is never the same. Jonas discovers that The Community is not as perfect as it seems. Although they appear to have everything, they are missing something of great importance. It is up to Jonas, with the help of the Giver, to find what long ago had been lost. And so Jonas embarks on an adventure to save the world as he knows it. (from Book Lore - 5 copies available).

SparkNotes - The Giver Notes

Lost Riders
Elizabeth Laird

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Child slavery, Child trafficking, Poverty, Exploitation, Courage, Family  

 

A powerful and thought-provoking novel about separation, child slavery and the strength of family. Sold from their home in Pakistan to work in Dubai, eight-year-old Rashid and his little brother Shari cling to each other. Then they are separated and forced to become jockeys in the popular and lucrative camel-racing business, as the fastest camels run best with little jockeys. Rashid is starved and worked to exhaustion by harsh supervisors. Boys are regularly injured by kicks, and some even died. Any laziness or ineptitude earns a beating from the trainer.  Despite all this, Rashid has a talent for racing and quickly becomes his stable's star jockey. Soon he begins to forget what life was like when he had a proper home. He almost begins to forget about Shari. (from The Book Bag - 5 copies available).

National Centre for Research in Children's Literature - Lost Rider Notes

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan

Genre: Fantasy

Themes: Greek mythology, Identity, Courage, Friendship, Teenage relationships

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Rick Riordan - Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Notes

Crossfire
James Moloney

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes: Gun control, Courage, Maturity, Divorced families, Loyalty, Split families

An exciting and thought-provoking read. Luke doesn't live with his dad, but he still idolises him. Dad is a hunter, a hard man who knows everything about guns. When Luke is suspended from school for hiding a gun in his locker, Luke's mum is horrified, but Luke thinks she's over-reacting. He needed the gun to practise his shooting in the bush after school. When Mum is unexpectedly hospitalised, Luke finds himself able to accompany his father on a pig-shooting expedition. He's the only lid with a group of men - men who will, it seems, shoot at anything that moves. Luke starts to see the other side of shooting and killing, and when the expedition turns dangerous, he wonders whether all this is worth the thrill of the chase. (from University of Queensland Press - 25 copies).


James Moloney - Crossfire Notes

Zafir: Through My Eyes
Prue Mason

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Effects of war on children, Syrian Civil War, Trust and loyalty, Courage and resilience, The price of freedom, The place of refugees

A gripping story of one child's experience of the brutal and devastating civil war in Syria. Six months after Zafir has moved to Homs from Dubai with his parents, the excitement of living in a new city has worn off. But then he sees a body thrown from a moving car, and when no one stops to help - and he's told to forget what he's seen - he realises there's a lot he doesn't understand about life in Syria. A lot that no one will tell him. Soon after, the campaign for revolution in Syria begins, and Zafir's parents argue about their country's future. Things get worse when his father is arrested and his mother must leave Homs. As the conflict in the city escalates, everyday life becomes dangerous for a boy alone. Will Zafir survive long enough to be reunited with his friends and family? (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Teacher Notes from Allen & Unwin

Two Wolves
Tristan Bancks

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes: Moral choice between good and evil, Family, Inner strength, Resilience

One afternoon, police officers show up at 13-year old Ben Silver’s front door. Minutes after they leave, his parents arrive home. Ben and his little sister Olive are bundled into the car and told they’re going on a holiday. But are they?  It doesn’t take long for Ben to realise that his parents are in trouble. Ben’s always dreamt of becoming a detective – his dad even calls him ‘Cop’. Now Ben gathers evidence and tries to uncover what his parents have done. The problem is, if he figures it out, what does he do? Tell someone? Or keep the secret and live life on the run? (from Inside a Dog - 5 copies available).

 Penguin Books Teacher Notes - Two Wolves

The Ink Bridge
Neil Grant

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes: War in Afghanistan, Intolerance, Refugees, Asylum seekers, World Heritage vandalism, War, Role of women

A remarkable and gripping story about Omed, a refugee boy on a desperate journey from Afghanistan, and Hector, the Australian boy who befriends him. After making an enemy of the Taliban on the day the Buddhas of Bamiyan are destroyed, he undertakes a perilous journey to seek asylum in Australia. Hector is a grieving Australian boy who has given up on school and retreated into silence. Their paths meet at a candle factory where they both find work. But secrets fester behind the monotonous routine of assembling wax and wicks - secrets with terrible consequences. And, ultimately, it is up to Hector to see how the story ends. (from Allen & Unwin - 5 copies).

Allen & Unwin - The Ink Bridge Notes

The Machine Gunners
Robert Westall

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes: WWII and effects on the home front, Futility of war, Trust, Friendship

14-year old Chas McGill has the second-best collection of war souvenirs in his English town during WWII, and he desperately wants it to be the best. When he stumbles across the remains of a German bomber crashed in the woods - its shiny, black machine-gun still intact - he grabs his chance. Soon he's masterminding his own war effort with dangerous and unexpected results as the novel highlights the war experiences and their effect upon juveniles in Britain. With this backdrop of the Second World War looming over the entire novel, Westall is able to highlight the futility of war and the reality of human nature in war – as violence brings forth more violence. (from Book Depository - 16 copies).

BBC - The Machine Gunners Notes

 

Came Back to Show You I Could Fly
Robin Klein

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes: Drug addiction, Relationships, Love

A poignant, heartwarming story of the unlikely friendship between bored, lonely, timid 13-year-old Seymour and  affectionate, effervescent, but seriously troubled 20-year-old Angie, showing how addiction to drugs can affect all those who come into contact with the addict. Angie is older, confident, and cool, and treats Seymour with the affection of an older sister. Seymour is captivated, because through Angie he is awakened for the first time in his lonely, drab life to some fun and adventure, even though Angie has a dark side that threatens to destroy her. It is also a portrayal of relationships and love, and of ordinary people battling against the odds. (from Text Publishing - 5 copies).

KYDYAC - Came Back to Show You I Could Fly Notes

Pagan's Crusade
Catherine Jinx

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes: Middle Ages, Crusades, War, Growing up, Survival , Relationships, Friendship

Catherine Jinks spins a colorful tale loaded with action, down-and-dirty details of medieval life, and a healthy helping of sarcasm sure to appeal to teen readers - especially boys.  Down on his luck and kicked in the pants one too many times, 16-year-old Pagan Kidrouk arrives on the doorstep of the Templar Knights in medieval Jerusalem, looking for work as a squire. He finds himself hard at work for Lord Roland de Bram - an exciting life of polishing Lord Roland’s armor, laundering his garments, and even training to fight by his side.  But as the Infidel Saladin leads his army to Jerusalem, it becomes more and more difficult for Pagan and Lord Roland to discern what action to take or whom to trust. Neither Saladin’s army nor the Christian Crusaders offer easy answers. Is a bloody battle for control of the Holy City inevitable? (from Good reads - 10 copies). 

TeenReads - Pagan's Crusade Notes 

Chalkline
Jane Mitchell

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Child soldiers, Effect of war on children, Death and loss, Fundamentalism, Human rights, Gender equality, Family and friendship

The moving story of a Kashmiri boy soldier. Soldiers of the Kashmir Freedom Fighters are in search of new recruits at Rafiq’s school in rural Kashmir. They scrawl a line in chalk on the schoolroom wall. Any boy whose height reaches the line will be taken to fight. Rafiq is tall for his age and becomes the first boy to cross into a life of brutality and terrorism. So begins Rafiq’s brutal, brainwashed transformation from child to boy soldier, indoctrinated into a cause of fanatical belief. But even when he no longer recognises himself, his family remembers the boy he was and hopes he will return. Even when he can no longer recognise himself, his family, especially his sister Jamella, remember the boy he was, and reach out a hand of redemption as he spirals towards a final act of atrocity. (from GoodReads - 5 copies available).

Amnesty International - Chalkline Notes

Deadly Unna
Phillip Gwynne

Genre: Contemporary Australian fiction

Themes: Race relations in Australia, Reconciliation, Identity,  Values, Belonging, Friendship, Courage, Overcoming adversity

 

The story of a small South Australian town, a footy team, a 14-year-old white boy called Gary Black (Blacky) and black/white race relations. The white kids live in town, the Port, and the Aboriginal kids live at the Point, but they come together every winter for football season. Dumby Red and Blacky don’t have a lot in common – Dumby’s the star of the footy team, he’s got a killer smile and the knack with girls, and he’s a Nunga who’s always saying ‘Deadly, Unna’. Blacky’s a gutless wonder, needs braces, never knows what to say, and he’s white. But they’re friends ... and it could be deadly, unna? The year they finally win the premiership, Gary notices there’s something very wrong when the prize that ought to go to the team’s star player, Dumby Red, goes to a white boy instead. The novel’s a gutsy rite-of-passage story about Blacky’s gradual realisations about the racism rampant in his community and the small stands he makes against it. (from Good Reads - 5 copies).

Wikispaces - Deadly Unna Notes

 

 

Legend
Marie Lu

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Themes: Totalitarian rule, Betrayal, Revenge, Poverty, Family, Lies and deceit, Patriotism and power

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, 15-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, 15-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Schmoop - Legend Notes

Trash
Andy Mulligan

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Street kids, Poverty, Friendship, Corruption, Hope 

"A slumdog, feel-good treasure find." (Daily Mail). In an unnamed South American, in the not-so-distant future, three 14-year old “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city. One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious - so mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their corrupt pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong. Andy Mulligan has written a powerful story about unthinkable poverty—and the kind of hope and determination that can transcend it. Has twists and turns, unrelenting action, and deep, raw emotion. (from Random House - 5 copies available).

Mermer's Reads - Trash Notes

Sektion 20
Paul Dowswell

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes: Totalitarian control; State brutality; Family; Relationships

 

 

 Alex Ostermann lives in an apartment block with his family in East Berlin. He hates the totalitarian regime and his parents are worried that Alex and his sister, Geli, aren't displaying the correct 'socialist attitude'. After school they are often followed. Friends suddenly break off relations. The final straw comes when Alex is arrested. With the help of professional 'escape assistants' the whole family make a dramatic escape to the West. Although their driver and his accomplice are killed in the attempt, the family all make it alive. But Alex soon discovers that in a bid to save Alex and Geli, their father has cut a secret deal with the Stasi, agreeing to become a spy in West Germany - a deal that places Alex and Geli in even more danger when their father's Stasi handler realises that Alex and Geli have found out. With the CIA and West German Secret Service on their trail too, powerful forces converge for a terrifying showdown. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Bloomsbury Publishing - Sektion 20 Notes

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon 

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Asperger's Syndrome, Being different, The struggle to become independent, Coping with loss

15-year old Christopher John Francis Boone has Asperger's Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum). He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructed universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

SparkNotes - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Notes

Little Brother
Corey Doctorow

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Themes: Fear, Friendship, Identity, Rules and order, Freedom and confinement, Power of technology, Terrorism

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only 17 years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Schmoop - Little Brother Notes 

Fat Kid Rules the World
K. L. Going

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Themes: Obesity in teenagers, Importance of self-esteem, Suicidal thoughts, Friendship, Family support

His name is Troy, but to the world — and in his internal dialogues — he is the Fat Kid. Really Fat. At almost 130 kilos of sweating, unhappy insecurity, 17-year oldTroy is the ultimate fat kid, the kind whose every move, every thought is predicated on what it is like to wear a coat of blubber. Then out of a moment of despair comes magic. As Troy considers whether to splatter himself on a subway track, Curt MacCrae, an emaciated charismatic punk rocker/homeless kid/dropout, comes along and stops him. For the price of a meal, Curt befriends Troy, and he sees something under all those layers: a potential musician, a friend, and someone with the ability to see through life’s bull. Soon, Curt has recruited Troy as his new drummer, even though Troy can't play the drums. Together, Curt and Troy will change the world of punk, and Troy's own life, forever. (from K.L. Going.com - 5 copies available).

BookRags - Fat Kid Rules the World Notes 

K. L. Going - Fat Kid Rules the World Notes

The Sky So Heavy 
Claire Zorn

Genre: Australian Dystopian fiction

Themes: Horrors of nuclear warfare and nuclear winter, Enduring power of love, family and friendship, Survival, Courage, Nature of spirituality, Ethics

A dystopian novel set in Sydney’s Blue Mountains in the present day. For 17-year old Fin, it’s just like any other day – racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class and trying to remain cool in front of Lucy, the most sophisticated girl in his universe. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated. When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learnt in school could have prepared him for this. With his parents missing and dwindling food and water supplies, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must find a way to survive in a nuclear winter … all on their own, and try to reach the supposed safety of the city and their mother's protection. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

University of Queensland Press - The Sky So Heavy Notes

 

More Literature Circle Titles

The Knife of Never Letting  Go 
Patrick Ness

Genre: Dystopian fiction

Themes: Feelings of isolation; Political manipulation; Distrust of authority; Parent-child relations; Loss of innocence; Loss and death

 

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is. An unflinching novel about fear, flight and the terrifying path of self-discovery that won won both the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the Booktrust Teenage Prize. (from Amazon - 5 copies available).

Schmoop - Knife of Never Letting Go Notes

Mark of the Plague
Kevin Sands

Genre: 
Historical fiction


Themes: Bubonic plague; Friendship; Loyalty; Kindness; Moral compass 

 

 

An exciting medieval adventure story where the plot unfolds against a backdrop of the unimaginable bubonic plague that decimated so much of the medieval world. Teenage protagonists facing dangers and struggle to solve new mysteries in 1665 London, as they suffer beatings, stabbings, poisonings, and more in their efforts to discover and unmask a murderer. One mystery: Who is this stranger who seems to be able to cure the bubonic plague that's ravaging the city -- and what's in his medicine? Another: Where (and what) is the mysterious treasure left to 14-year-old Christopher by his late master?  The teens  suffer beatings, stabbings, poisonings, and more in their efforts to discover and unmask a murderer. The story delivers swashbuckling adventure, brain-teasing puzzles, several explosions, and assorted gun-brandishing and sword-wielding. This narrator gives the recipe for gunpowder, and there are brief gory descriptions of injuries and plague symptoms as well as dead bodies. A a strong moral compass exists, with frequent but non-preachy messages like doing the right thing even when you're being strongly pressured to do the wrong one. (from CommonSense Media - 5 copies available).

Thoughts and Afterthoughts - Mark of the Plague Notes

The Alchemist
Michael Scott

Genre: Fantasy

Themes: The supernatural; Good and evil; Family; Fate and free will

Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time. (from GoodReads - 5 copies available).

Schmoop - The Alchemyst Notes

The Power of One (Younger Readers Ed.)
Bryce Courtenay

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes: Apartheid in South Africa; Racism, Loneliness of the individual; Revenge; Dreams, hopes and goals

 

A coming-of-age story covering 15 years in the life of a white boy born in Apartheid South Africa of the 1930s and 1940s. The narrator is raised in a confusing environment of violence, death, and racial and cultural hatred. Throughout the course of the story, he learns to rely on himself and believe that all people are equal in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred, little six-year-old Peekay learns that small can beat big. Armed with this knowledge, he resolves to take on the injustices of his country, and sets his heart on becoming the welterweight champion of the world. Peekay starts to take boxing lessons, makes new friends, collects cacti, and plays the piano. Above all, he learns to think with his head and then with his heart. Peekay discovers that nothing can defeat the determination to be true to yourself: this is the power of one. (from GoodReads - 5 copies available).

Valerie Andrews - The Power of One Notes

Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card

Genre: Science fiction

Themes: Survival; Difference between games and reality; Relationships between adults and children; Friends and enemies;What it means to be human

 

 Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast. But Ender is not the only result of the experiment. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway almost as long. Ender's two older siblings, Peter and Valentine, are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. While Peter was too uncontrollably violent, Valentine very nearly lacks the capability for violence altogether. Neither was found suitable for the military's purpose. But they are driven by their jealousy of Ender, and by their inbred drive for power.  Hiding their youth and identities behind the anonymity of the computer networks, these two begin working together to shape the destiny of Earth-an Earth that has no future at all if their brother Ender fails. (from Good Reads - 5 copies available). 

SparkNotes - Ender's Game Notes

Across the Nightingale Floor
Lian Hearn

Genre: Fantasy

Themes: Japanese feudal society, Japanese mythology; The search for identity; Gender equality; The importance of honour

 

A thrilling tale of love, violence, loyalty and betrayal, fast-moving and set in a far-away country long ago (which seems to be Japan). In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard. The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo's village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny... (from Good Reads - 5 copies available).

The Guardian - Across the Nightingale Floor Notes

Once
Morris Gleitzman

Genre: Historical fiction

Themes:Holocaust, Totalitarian control, Tolerance, Human rights, Racism, Survival, Morality, Friendship

 

Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only problem is that he doesn't know anything about the war, and thinks he's only in the orphanage while his parents travel and try to salvage their bookselling business. And when he thinks his parents are in danger, Felix sets off to warn them—straight into the heart of Nazi-occupied Poland. To Felix, everything is a story: Why did he get a whole carrot in his soup? It must be sign that his parents are coming to get him. Why are the Nazis burning books? They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage's outdated library. But as Felix's journey gets increasingly dangerous, he begins to see horrors that not even stories can explain. Despite his grim surroundings, Felix never loses hope. Morris Gleitzman takes a painful subject and expertly turns it into a story filled with love, friendship, and even humor  (from Booktopia - 5 copies available).

Penguin Books Australia - Once Notes

Jasper Jones 
Craig Silvey

Genre: Historical Australian fiction

Themes: Moral conflicts, Doing the 'right thing', Racism and scapegoating,  Being an outsider

Late on a hot summer night in 1965 Charles Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of 13, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushedand pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother, falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. (from Dymocks - 5 copies available).

LitCharts - Jasper Jones Notes

Lord of the Flies 
William Golding 

Genre: Dystopian / Classic

Themes: Civilisation vs Savagery, Individualism vs Community, The Nature of Evil, Man vs Nature

 

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable tale about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.” (From Good Reads - 10 copies available).

Spark Notes - Lord of the Flies Notes 

The Road to Winter
Mark Smith

Genre: Australian Dystopian fiction

Themes:  Survival, Courage and Conflict, The Environment, Community interest vs self-interest, Loss, Loneliness and Friendship

Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company.He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush.And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost. From Good Reads - 5 copies available).

Text Publishing - The Road to Winter Teacher Notes

TOTAL NO. OF TITLES

TOTAL NO. OF COPIES

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400