ReadPlus is a collection of selected books and films arranged under themes. This web site provides lists, reviews and resources for librarians, teachers and parents about books for young people aged 5 to 18.
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Latest Review

Jun 21 2017

Beyond the wild river by Sarah Maine

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Hodder and Stoughton, 2017. ISBN 9781473639683
(Age: Senior secondary-adult) Recommended. This is a terrifically well researched novel, and the story, and indeed the plot, are finely wrought. I was captivated by the settings, described in rich detail, from the new city of Chicago to the wild lands and rivers of northern Ontario. Responding with violence to a burglar, one dark night on a Scottish estate, a man is killed, a story is constructed, and a very young Evelyn Ballantyre learns one version of events that she accepts but with both a sense of having been told what was best for her to know and a feeling that this version was not the true story.
From a Scottish estate to the wilds of Ontario, Maine captures a world of change, taking us from Scotland, on a sea voyage to the United States in 1893, where the characters visit the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, described in rich and fascinating detail, and then go into the wilds of Canada to inspect, we deduce, an investment of Evelyn's father. This is a fine section, introducing us to a little known area and history for most readers outside of Canada or the USA.
The story that ensues is a sequel, in a sense, to that terrible night on Evelyn's father's estate in Scotland. Strangely, and indeed oddly, it seems that the characters who were at the estate on the night of the murder have come together for a journey up the Nipigon River, in Northern Ontario, 13 years later. We realize that Ballantyne has controlled all of this, with the characters of the past all in close proximity for a trip that will be challenging.
Whilst it is not clear to us just what will happen, we are given plenty of clues so that we are aware that some kind of dramatic event will take place as the tension builds up day by day on that journey. The terrain is described in wonderful detail, the atmosphere of the Nipigon River and the campsites particularly featuring as places of wonder for the European visitors. We read about the way that campsites were positioned near the river, how the fish were caught, and we learn something of the indigenous people of that region. All of this is absolutely captivating.
That the conflict would be resolved is expected, but somehow the resolution is just a little tawdry, and the characters involved in it demeaned by the decisions. Yet in a sense the decisions and actions are consistent with the characterization. Just as we readers might have liked a happy ending, her resolution is consistent with her characterization. Her strengths are in this narrative consistency, in her richly detailed settings, and in her capacity to create a story that is reminiscent of its time, its place and the characters that she has created. This is a fine adult and older adolescent romantic and historical novel.
Elizabeth Bondar



More Reviews

Jun 21 2017

Margherita's recipes for love by Elisabetta Flumeri and Gabriella Giacometti

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Simon and Schuster, 2017. ISBN 9781471162695
(Age: 15+) Well, this is a delicious read, a feast for the senses. The writers almost dare us to not relish or enjoy the food, the convoluted love stories, the solving of issues of love, loyalty and friendship all set in the delightful towns...
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Jun 21 2017

The curious case of the missing mammoth by Ellie Hattie

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Ill. by Karl James Mountford. Little Tiger Press, 2017. ISBN 9781848694484
Bong! Oscar is woken by the town clock striking midnight and strange noises in the street. As he looks out his window he sees a huge, hairy woolly mammoth. Instead of being scared, he is dressed and outside in a...
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Jun 21 2017

Bring me the head of Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp

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Ill. by John Kelly. Ivy Pocket series; book 3. Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408858721
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Themes: Orphans and orphanages; Jewellery; Ghosts; Supernatural stories; Mystery and suspense stories; Ghosts; England - Social life and customs - 19th century. This...
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Jun 21 2017

The Mysterious Mr Jacob : Diamond Merchant, Magician and Spy by John Zubrzycki

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Transit Lounge Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9780995359437
(Age: 16+) This story, claimed by William Dalrymple to be 'one of the most exciting narrative histories to come out of India', is indeed utterly fascinating. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the story is centred on Alexander...
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Jun 20 2017

Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons by Gary Northfield

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Julius Zebra series. Walker Books, 2017. ISBN 9781406373721
(Age: 8+) Ancient Rome. Animal stories. Gladiators. Humorous stories. Champion gladiator Julius Zebra returns in another crazy adventure accompanied by his zany animal friends. Life for the People's Champion should be...
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Jun 19 2017

Under the same sky by Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari and James Knight

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Hachette, 2017. ISBN 9780733637827
(Age: 15+) At a time when more than 20 million refugees seek shelter in countries which wrestle with questions regarding asylum, this story simply tells of the lives and experience of Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari, two young people from...
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Jun 19 2017

Double take! a new look at opposites by Susan Hood

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Ill. by Jay Fleck. Walker Studio, 2015. ISBN 9781406377293
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Opposites. Perspective. Points of view. More than a look at opposites, this interesting picture book is also a challenge for the reader to ponder and delve into what an opposite really means and to...
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Jun 16 2017

The girl guide by Marawa Ibrahim

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Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9781847809483
(Age: 10-15) Highly recommended. Star rating: 5/5. This is the book I wish my mum put on my bedside table instead of 'Where did I come from?'!!
Growing up is a tough gig, especially in a society where advertisement and media...
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Jun 15 2017

Goodly and Grave: in a bad case of kidnap by Justine Windsor

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HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780008183530
(Ages: 10+) Highly recommended. Magicians. Kidnapping. London. Nineteenth century. The Penny Dreadful is full of the stories of missing children in London, with dire predictions of what has happened to them. Lucy Goodly meets her match at the card...
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Jun 13 2017

The Diamond Horse by Stacy Gregg

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HarperCollins Children's Books, 2017. ISBN 9780008124403
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. This book has two main characters, each with their own unique story to tell, each with a challenge that they need to overcome to be able to move on. These two characters are connected in a way even...
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Jun 13 2017

13 reasons why by Jay Asher

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Penguin Random House, 2017. ISBN 9780141387772
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Suicide. A gripping story that you can't put down, you need to know what comes next. The way the story is written helps to keep you intrigued and wanting more, needing to know how the various characters are...
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Jun 13 2017

A true story: Ballerina dreams by Michaela and Elaine DePrince

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Faber and Faber, 2017. ISBN 9780571329731
(Age: 7-10) Recommended. At first, with its pink background and cute dancer on the cover I thought this was another ballerina story for young girls but Ballerina dreams is a lot more than that. Written by Michaela DePrince and her adoptive...
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Jun 12 2017

Stargazing for beginners by Jenny McLachlan

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408879757
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended, Stars, Family, Competition, Space, Responsibility. The first line of her speech says it all. 'Space to me is about being free'.
When Meg goes to school she can leave her messy life behind: her mother who still lives...
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Jun 12 2017

Space Jackers: The Pirate King by Huw Powell

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Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781408847664
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Space Jackers: The Pirate King finds Kid Cutler as the only survivor of a bombing that has killed many leaders who came together to discuss their futures. Kid Cutler (also known as Jake) vows to go...
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