5 Reasons Why I Won’t See The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
written for ages 15-18 | not recommended
published in 2008 | Scholastic | 374 pages

A written review can be found at

Common Sense Media has a movie review at

Clare Cannon is the editor of and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

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Warriors of the Black Shroud

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Warriors of the Black Shroud
by Peter Howe
written for ages 9-12 | acceptable
published in 2012 | HarperCollins | 272 pages

Walker has always been embarrassed about the star shaped birthmark on his face, so much so that he avoids other kids at school. To make matters worse, his mother seems overly concerned with the fact that he has no friends. Thus, when Eddie shows up, literally out of nowhere, and demonstrates great respect for Walker because of the star, Walker is suspicious. Eddie claims to be from an underground world, where a star shaped birthmark is a sign of the Chosen One. Curious about Eddie's claims, Walker follows him to Nebula, a kingdom where the forces of light (the Lightkeepers) and darkness (The Black Shroud) are struggling to gain control. There Walker learns that his star is indeed a mark of honor, but also of great responsibility.

Younger readers will enjoy Walker's adventures beneath the surface of the earth. Although reluctant to become entangled in the underworld's conflict, Walker's sense of duty compels him to do what he can to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Video Review: 5 Novels for Teens that Build Character

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written for ages 13-16 | highly recommended highlights 5 books that will inspire teens:

1. Crash by Jerry Spinelli

2. Finally by Wendy Mass

3. A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith

4. As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

5. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Clare Cannon is the editor of and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

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The Mist in the Mirror

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The Mist in the Mirror
by Susan Hill
written for ages 13-16 | acceptable
published in 1993 (1992) | Mandarin | 192 pages

Sir James Monmouth returns from 35 years abroad to England, the land of his birth, which he left when he was five. He starts to research the life of Conrad Vane, an explorer whom he had admired and emulated, but finds himself haunted by strange phenomena, in particular the ghost of a small boy. Moreover, those people whom he approaches seem intent on dissuading him from his research. He learns of a surviving relative and goes to visit her at his ancestral home, realising finally the connections between all that has happened to him.

As a ghost story, it lacks a certain something: the tension is never quite there and the aspects of mystery and family secrets are not really gripping, nor, at the denouement, explained particularly well. However, it remains an enjoyable and readable book, if only as the story of a man who has spent most of his life in the east and who returns to his native… click here to read whole article and make comments



Latsch Valley Farm Books

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First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story
by Anne Pellowski
written for ages 7-10 | recommended
published in 2008 (1982) | Bethlehem Books | 183 pages

Although six-year-old Anna was born in Wisconsin, she longs to visit Poland where her immigrant parents used to live. She and her seven siblings speak the Polish language, eat Polish foods and maintain Polish customs. They also participate in the chores of the farm her father established before any other families arrived in their valley. The work is hard, but lightened by the help and affection of neighbors. The families throughout the Latsch Valley support each other through harsh weather, fires, diphtheria outbreaks and the birth of new babies. It is, however, their deep faith that sustains them as they face the challenges of the mid-nineteenth century. Anne Pellowski incorporates many stories from her own family's experience in this sweet book about Polish immigrants in the Mid-west.

Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.

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13 Gifts (Birthdays #3)

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13 Gifts (Birthdays #3)
by Wendy Mass
written for ages 11-14 | recommended
published in 2011 | Scholastic Press | 304 pages

This started well and then got better! After just finishing Finally it took me a while to accommodate myself to a few new characters and an altogether new storyline, but overall I really like that each book in this series focuses on a different character. Personalities from previous books are still around - and are impressively consistent with their former appearances - and it's interesting to see them from another perspective. 

Each of the tween/teen characters is quite different, but all of them are going through that arduous journey of growing up. 

Tara is the star of this story, and the first half of the book helps us to get to know her. She likes to 'live on the sidelines', lacking the confidence and motivation to be part of the main game. She doesn't have many friends, partly because her parents need to move house every other year. The relationship between Tara and her parents (especially her mother)… click here to read whole article and make comments



Mission Telemark

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Mission Telemark
by Amanda Mitchison
written for ages 11-14 | not recommended
published in 2010 | Walker | 272 pages

Four youngsters are sent into wartime Norway to destroy a Nazi heavy water plant, preventing the Germans from developing nuclear weaponry. Parachuted into a desolate and remote part of Norway in midwinter they have to survive with little shelter in blizzard conditions before entering the plant, detonating explosives, and escaping to Sweden 400km away.

The author, a British journalist, has clearly done her homework. She acknowledges assistance from all manner of people for helping her to set the Scandinavian scene. There are references to SOE training and survival techniques, Norwegian and Swedish geography and culture, ways to track the fauna of the Scandinavian forests by their tracks in the snow, and the setup of shelter huts in the high Norwegian mountains. Plus explanations of Heavy Water, the dangers of frostbite, and the nature of collaborators in wartime Norway. Wherever else the book fails, it doesn't fail in its educational value. It even has pull-out facsimiles of the training guides the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Summer of the Monkeys

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Summer of the Monkeys
by Wilson Rawls
written for ages 11-14 | highly recommended
published in 1998 (1976) | Yearling | 288 pages

Farm life in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains is never easy, but fourteen year old Jay Berry Lee has many reasons to be happy. He loves helping his father on the farm, wandering along the river bottoms with his dog Rowdy and visiting his grandfather at his general store. He does not even mind the teasing of his twin sister Daisy. Indeed, life seems actually quite peaceful for the Lee family, in spite of Daisy's crippled leg. Peaceful, that is, until 30 monkeys escape from a traveling circus into the forest surrounding the Lee's farm.

Although Mrs. Lee would like her son to leave well enough alone, Jay Berry is determined to find those monkeys and earn the reward for returning them. Then he'll have enough money to buy a pony and a rifle. With his grandfather's help and the assistance of Rowdy, Jay Berry concocts a series of schemes to outwit the animals. Unfortunately, those monkeys are more… click here to read whole article and make comments



Video Review 1: Don’t Judge These Books By Their Covers

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written for all ages | recommended

Everybody does it, but sometimes it just doesn't help to judge a book by its cover. Check out these books to see why.

Video courtesy of 

Clare Cannon is the editor of and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

click here to read whole article and make comments



The House of Special Purpose

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The House of Special Purpose
by John Boyne
written for ages 18 + | not recommended
published in 2011 (2009) | Anchor Canada | 432 pages

I am a fan of John Boyne's books for younger readers, and this was the first adult book of his that I had read. I hate to say this, but it was a disappointment. With such a talented author and such an interesting history from which to work, I was expecting more.

This is the tale of Georgy Jachmenev and his life as it was under, with and after the Romanovs. While it is arguable that the characters face their lives with grace, bravery, loyalty and eventually, love, they have little hope and much of their lives revolve around themselves. The romance was less real and more descriptive, sacrificing depth for emotion and passion. I will admit that I found the plot structure was very clever. However, the threads it drew together could have reached a more satisfying and meaningful end. Many points were begun but never fully developed or finished. The 'revelation' at the end of the book was… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at

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