Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil

By Maureen Tai, 3 December 2018

“You have to be patient in war. I learned that the last time, when we fought against Iran. It’s not only about battles and bombs. There’s a lot of just waiting.” – Ali

IMG_0697Ali is an eleven year old half-Kurdish middle grader who lives with his family in Basra, near the Iraq-Kuwait border. It is January 1991. A US-led United Nations coalition of 35 countries is about to launch an attack against Iraq for its invasion and annexation of neighbouring Kuwait.  Saddam Hussein is Iraq’s dictatorial president, a brutal, power-hungry tyrant in both the eyes of Ali’s family, and the world.  Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is the story of Ali’s survival over the ensuing 43 days of Operation Desert Storm.    Continue reading

Homecoming by Michael Morpurgo

By Maureen Tai, 30 November 2018

“A lot would never have happened if I’d handed over a lemon sherbet that day.” – Michael.

img_0506.jpegWhen a place and a time are suffused with equal measures of gladness and sorrow, should one, when the opportunity arises, revisit it? Or leave the past well alone, buried in the hazy mists of memories?  In Homecoming, a middle-aged man struggles with this decision, only to be drawn back into his boyhood days from fifty years ago, to the village where he and his mother used to live, and where, by the edge of a wild and glorious marsh, he made an unlikely friend in Mrs. Pettigrew.  As he reminisces, he wistfully recounts the unusual but ultimately tragic story of lives irrevocably altered by that fearsome weapon of humankind known as Progress.

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The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

By Maureen Tai, 1 September 2018

IMG_7673“Human beings have two names, a first name and a surname, but I’m a gorilla and I just have the one name – Sally Jones.” – The narrator, an anthropoid ape.

The beauty of this book is what strikes me first. It has a bright turquoise framed cover, gorgeous maps as endpapers, detailed black and white illustrations throughout the almost 600 pages of uncoated paper, and pleasing fonts.

Then I get stuck into Sally Jones’ story – an old-fashioned murder-mystery that is chock-full of fabulous characters, sea travel to exotic locations and suspenseful moments – and I am captivated. Continue reading

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson

By Anna, 30 August 2018

“It was a wonderful feeling, soaring and swinging, as free as a bird. I remembered Mum pushing me on the swings at the park when I was very little.” – Katy

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Katy is the oldest, so she gets to boss her siblings around. She is great at inventing imaginary games for her to play with her brothers and sisters. Katy loves swinging as high as she can go on swings, skateboarding and tree climbing. But when a tragedy occurs, she wonders if she will ever feel like flying again. Continue reading

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

By Maureen Tai, 17 August 2018

“I shake my head. 
I say, This America is hard work.”  – KekHome of the Brave

Kek is a Sudanese boy adrift in the world. He witnesses the murder of his father and brother. His mother’s whereabouts are unknown. A bewildering stint at a refugee camp is followed by an even more unsettling relocation by “flying boat” to America. Burdened by his losses, Kek learns to keep his hope alive as he adjusts to life in America.

Home of the Brave is Kek’s story.  Continue reading

The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams

By Ben, 27 July 2018

IMG_6358B: Are you going to write about The Boy in the Dress on the blog?
M: Do you think it’s bloggable?
B: Yeah, it’s good.
M: Ok then. It was fun reading this together, wasn’t it? Actually, I read this with your sister four years ago, and it was pretty good then too.
B: So you’ve read this two times now? You must really like it.
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Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

By Maureen Tai, 6 July 2018

img_5678.jpg“There is always something to miss, no matter where you are.” – Sarah

Anna and Caleb live in a lonesome house in the prairies back in the days before electricity and piped water and telephones. They pine for their Mama, who died a day after Caleb was born, and their Papa silently longs for a wife. So Anna and Caleb’s father, Mr. Jacob Witting, decides to put an advertisement in the newspapers for such a companion. And Ms. Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton responds.

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