Fiction Books to support teaching and learning in the Middle Years Programme   March 2016

In September 2014, the IBO made some changes to the guidelines for the Middle Years Programme. Teaching and learning in context is still the focus of the programme but the specific Areas of Interaction are no longer outlined.

The curriculum of the Middle Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate comprises the study of eight subject groups. However the MYP also aims to help students develop their personal understanding, their emerging sense of self and responsibility in their community. In order to assist with this, the MYP has outlined their approach to teaching and learning, explaining that this approach is underpinned by the following concepts.

Teaching and Learning in Context
Conceptual Understanding (there are 16 key interdisciplinary concepts)
Approaches to Learning
Service as action through community service.

We have adapted the previous list of fiction books we developed for the MYP so that it is more appropriate for the above concepts. We have also included new titles. We hope this list of books will be a useful resource for teachers and librarians. We have included picture books, poetry, drama and traditional stories. We have tried to choose books which do not have a narrow focus but which are trans-disciplinary in concept. The list will gradually be added to and improved as we have time to add to it and as we get more feedback from teachers and librarians. We have given an indication of reading levels to each of the titles.

Please Note All prices are in Australian dollars and include the 10% GST tax. However this GST does not apply to exports from Australia.

If you would like to order any of the books on the list, send the orders to Austral Ed by post, fax or by email. Payment can be made with bank cheques in Australian dollars, by direct bank transfer or by Credit card. Freight is sent by the most economical method within Australia or overseas, depending on urgency.

Please note that titles newly included in this list are marked •

Recommended by Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke

Teaching and Learning in Context – encouraging exploration of:

Identities and relationships

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie art by Ellen Forney pb 9780316013697 $27
This is an amazing story told through a narrator who speaks so clearly and vividly to us and also draws cartoons for us. He tells the story of his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation with its massive problems of alcohol, and despair and where he was regularly beaten up because he was nerdy and wore glasses. He decided the only way he was going to do something was to get to a better school and so he decides to go to a white school miles away. This brings additional problems as he is the only Indian at the school and the people on the Reservation treat him as a traitor. There is a lot of pain as Arnold tries to grapple with rejection by the Reservation. His parents care for him (although they have no money and are constantly drunk) but with his growing skill at basketball, he comes through triumphantly. The book grips our attention. Sherman Alexie does performance poetry and comedy and it shows in his writing. This story is very revealing of the complications of human relationships and of the incredible toll of alcohol abuse on the Reservations. (13 – 16 years) KS

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd pb 9781849920056 $17.99
Holly has had enough of her life as Holly, a foster child and so puts on a blonde wig and becomes two years older and bold and determined as she sets off to make her way to Ireland to find her Mam. This is a marvellous story – so convincing with characters who really come to life. Life is tough living in care but Holly does meet people who care about her. However there is so much that Holly has to work out about herself and her early life and about other people and this she does on this road trip. Holly is gritty and has a sense of humour and this shines through in this exceptional novel. (13 years up) KS

Two Weeks with the Queen by Morris Gleitzman pb 9780330426220 $14.99
This is one of Morris Gleitzman’s best novels in which he interweaves humour and tragedy as Colin seeks a cure from the Queen’s top doctors for his brother’s cancer. Australian (9 – 13 years) KS

Deadly Unna? By Phillip Gwynne pb 9780141300498 $19.95
This is a perceptive and highly entertaining book describing the growing friendship between Blacky, a white teenager and Dumby Red an Aboriginal young man from out of town and how it is affected by the narrowness and pervasive racism of a country town. In the sequel Nukkin Ya, pb 9780141309439 $19.95, Blacky falls for Dumby’s cousin but it seems that the whole town has objections to them going out together. Blacky does succeed in making a statement to the town on how he feels about racism. Australian (13 years up) KS

Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair by Steven Herrick pb 9780702228780 $18.95
A highly successful verse novel. Humorous, engaging, sad and full of vitality this is the story of 16 year old Jack and his friends, his family, his hopes and his fears. (13 years up) Australian KS

To the Boy in Berlin
by Elizabeth Honey and Heike Brandt pb 9781741750041 $15.95
This is the story of an intriguing email correspondence between Henni who lives in Melbourne, Australia and Leo Schmidt in Berlin. The emails fly backwards and forwards providing much amusement and also glimpses of the difference and similarities between their lives. They both become involved in working on Henni’s school project which involves fascinating historical documentation about early German immigration to Australia and the treatment of Germans in Australia during the two World wars. We also learn incidentally about some of the problems of immigration in Germany and Australia today. I especially liked the humour, in particular humour concerning the difficulties of translation and also some of the extraordinarily long German words that exist. This is an excellent book for discussion on a variety of topics. Australian (10 – 14 years). KS

• The First Third
by Will Kostakis pb 9780143568179 $17.99
Just thinking about this book again makes me smile. It captures so beautifully the love a family of Greek background has for their Yiayia, their very expressive Greek grandmother. The family has their problems but it is their grandmother who provides the core. It is her love and vitality, not to mention her food, that keeps the family together. She explains to Billy, the narrator, that life is made up of three parts. In the first third you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second you make a family of your own and in the end you just embarrass the family you’ve made. She has given Billy her bucket list of wishes before she dies and now it is his job to glue the family back together again. The book is at times very funny and also very sad but it has wonderful characters who shine and of course Yiayia shines the brightest of all. (12 – 16 years) Australian KS

• Talk under Water by Kathryn Lomer pb 9780702253690 $19.95
Will and Summer each have their problems in coming to terms with the loss of a parent but they are intrigued by each other and although there are a few glitches, they delight in getting to know each other better. Both Will and Summer have great admiration for Jessica Watson; in fact it was through Jessica’s facebook page that they got to meet on the internet. Will is also a sailor and Summer is thrilled when he offers to take her sailing. There are many beautiful descriptions of sailing out to Bruny Island on the eastern coast of Tasmania and of the sea, sky and wildlife. However the main interest of the book is the way communication between Summer and Will develops. Summer is deaf, but Will finds that Summer can express herself in so many ways. There is AUSLAN (the Australian sign language which Will learns), and writing notes and her face and gestures are extraordinarily expressive. There is much to like about this book; the main characters are believable, there are beautiful descriptions and there are also insights into the very expressive world of the deaf. Australian (12 - 17 years) KS

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta pb 9780140360462 $19.95
It has been a bestseller with adolescents and adults because of its vitality and exuberance. Josephine is an Australian, of Italian background and this is the story of her final school year. Winner of the CBC Award 1993. Australian (13 years up) KS

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta pb 9780143000976 $19.95
The most enjoyable story of Francesca and the ups and downs of her Year eleven at a Catholic Boys school which is accepting girls into Year eleven for the first time. It is fascinating look at the effect of girls on the culture of a boys’ school and also the way the girls are changed. Australian (13 years up) KS

Town by James Roy pb 9780702236372 $19.95
Thirteen short stories are told by thirteen different adolescents over the course of a year in an Australian country town. The stories are linked because they often deal with the same characters but through the various stories they are described from different viewpoints. It makes for a fascinating portrait of the young people in this town. Some of the stories are humourous, others are sad; some deal with grief and loss, others with love and hope. The book won the Golden Inky in the 2008 Inky Awards which are chosen through internet voting by teenage readers themselves from a short list of books put up the website Australian (12 - 17 years). KS

• The Protected by Claire Zorn pb 9780702250194 $19.95
Sixteen year old Hannah’s story is set one year after a terrible car crash which took her older sister Katie’s life. Devastated by their loss, Hannah’s parents are struggling; her mother is severely depressed, rarely leaving the house, and although her injured father, like Hannah, can’t remember the accident he blames himself. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Hannah and her sister had a conflicted relationship, as Katie ignored the bullying that plagued Hannah’s existence. Since Katie’s death, however, everyone leaves Hannah alone as she deals with her grief and she becomes isolated both at school and at home, until she strikes up a friendship with Josh, also a bit of an outsider. Through this relationship Hannah feels what it is like to be accepted for who she is, and the school counsellor aids Hannah in discovering the truth about the lead-up to the car accident, the accident itself and the tormenting guilt that she experiences in the aftermath. A beautifully written book that deals with issues of grief, bullying, fractured families and healing. The character development and the complexity of the relationships give the book an authentic and very raw sentiment. Australian (14+ years) JH

Personal and cultural identity (or expression)

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Form selected by Paul B Janeczko illustrated by Chris Raschka hardback 9780763606626 $29.95 pb 9780763641320 $14.95
A delightful selection of poems which are examples of 29 different poetic forms. The author explains that knowing the rules makes the writing of the poem more challenging, more exciting, more like a game. Each poem is imaginatively illustrated and the poems are chosen for their wit, beauty and as examples of their particular form. There is a detailed description of the forms and how it works at the end of the book. (10 – 14 years) KS

Kensuke’s Kingdom
by Michael Morpurgo pb 9781405221740 $14.95
When Michael is washed up on an island he struggles to survive on his own. He is about to give up when food appears. He is not alone. This is a wonderful story of survival and about Kensuke, an elderly Japanese man who lives on the island and has survived for many years using traditional Japanese skills and crafts. (9 – 15 years). KS

This Same Sky A collection of poems from around the world selected by Naomi Shihab Nye pb 9780689806308 $29
An excellent collection of poems from round the world. A very impressive range and choice of inviting poems from a truly wide range of countries and cultures. (8 years up). KS

D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture by Krach Maywan Shen illus by Hongbin Zhang pb 9784805310755 $27
An exceptional picture book which gives an insight into the pictographic nature of the Chinese language through 25 Chinese words and phrases. It gives a fascinating historical and cultural background through well known words such as kungfu, feng shui or more complex words like “ai” meaning “love” where the explanation shows some of the cultural differences between Chinese and western ways of thinking. Wonderful illustrations in the style of Chinese folk art. (9 years up) KS

Orientations in space and time

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay hb 9780670077564 $19.99 pb 9780143004554 $24.95
This book has been an international bestseller and is extremely popular in particular with Year 9 boys. (14 years up) Told by an excellent story teller, it is the story of a young boy who learns from the boxing ring that small can beat big and sets out to be the welterweight champion. It is set in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred and has a strong message against racism. The Power of One - Young Readers’ Edition pb 9780141304892 $19.95 is the story of Pekay’s life till he goes to high school. Australian (11 - 15 years) KS

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Cushman pb 9780547722177 $14
A homeless young girl is given food and shelter in return for helping the village midwife. However she shows such determination and perseverance that she is finally accepted as the midwife’s apprentice. (10 – 14 years) KS

Zap by Paul Fleischman rev ed (2015) pb 9780763680138 $14.95
Paul Fleischman is well known as an author and poet but this is his first play. He decided to write it because so many schools seemed to put on the same plays and he thought he would try something different. He liked the idea of using the idea of the “zap” of the remote control to be able to switch back and forth between various types of plays. He decided to use Richard III and then to write six other plays all modelled on familiar categories or type of plays. There is plenty of action for as soon as the action appears to wane a little the scene flicks back and forth between each of the plays. There are many very funny contrasts. I think it would be a wonderful play for discussion and to illustrate the different conventions of various plays and their contrasts and similarities but best of all would be to perform it. (14 years up) KS

The Goat who sailed the World by Jackie French pb 9780207200779 $14.99
This book has two narrators, a young twelve year old boy called Isaac Manley and a much travelled and superior Goat. This is a narrative device which gives us two very different perspectives on Cook’s voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. The Goat views the voyage from her position on the high quarterdeck near the officers for whom her milk provided much needed nourishment. She was a remarkable creature as is testified by the honours heaped upon her on her return to England, including a State pension from the Admiralty. Jackie French has taken the story of the voyage from various diaries such as those by Joseph Banks and Captain James Cook where there is much information about the actual voyage but very little on the interesting details of day to day life. These details Jackie has made up herself and they make this voyage of discovery, when Australia was discovered and the ship almost wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, an extremely interesting story. Jackie also includes notes on the history and websites where journals of the voyage can be accessed. I think this book could inspire much original historical reading by young readers. Australian (8 - 14 years) KS

Macbeth and Son by Jackie French pb 9780207200342 $15.95
This book deals with a most unusual topic for a novel. Jackie French has written about the truth in history and whether it really matters. Her complaint is with Shakespeare who wrote about the Scottish King Macbeth who was by all accounts an honourable king but was turned into a villain in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. Jackie uses the dreams of a modern-day boy, Luke who is studying the play at school to show what really or possibly happened to Lulach and his father Macbeth in eleventh century Scotland? She uses a time-slip device to contrast events in the lives of both Luke and Lulach. Jackie vividly describes the battles and difficulties Lulach faces. But the most fascinating aspect of the story is the theme of whether the truth really matters and whether Shakespeare was justified in making Macbeth a villain for the sake of the play. This would make a fascinating book for discussion. Australian (11 – 14 years) KS

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin pb 9781405277037 $20
This story has an assuredness and depth of compassion and of reality in character portrayal beyond any of Jamila Gavin’s other books. The book won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award in 2001. Set in eighteenth century England, the story is woven around the “Coram Man” who collected unwanted babies or children for a fee while assuring their desperate mothers that they would be taken to the Coram Hospital and Orphanage where they would be cared for. However the children were often sold into slavery and the babies were disposed of. A number of absorbing interlocking stories are woven around this horrific backdrop making a novel of great intensity, emotion, love and courage. (12 years up) KS

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson pb 9780330538817 $14.99
A splendid story about a young orphan girl who at the turn of the century goes on a long journey with her governess to the Amazon. The town of Manaus is a place of horror to some because of its all pervasive insects, wildlife, heat, fearsome Indians and steamy lushness but for others like Maia and her governess, it is a place of endless wonder, of amazing creatures, plant life and people. Maia, the young orphan girl is a most resourceful heroine who shows her ingenuity time and again as she struggles to live in the same house as her thoroughly obnoxious relatives. This is a richly satisfying adventure story which has warmth, humour and a sense of the fantastic. (9 - 14 years) KS

No Gun for Asmir by Christobel Mattingley pb 9780140367294 $16.95
Set in war torn Sarajevo. A Muslim mother and two children escape to become refugees without knowing what has happened to the father left behind in Sarajevo. This moving story is told from the point of view of Asmir, the elder boy and is based on a real life story. Australian (9 – 13 years) KS

One Minute’s Silence by David Metzenthen & Michael Camilleri (illus) hb 9781743316245 $29.99
A class of Year 11 or 12 students is asked to imagine, in one minute’s silence, the ANZAC soldiers landing at Gallipoli and struggling to advance under very heavy fire. The students are also asked to imagine the Turkish soldiers, looking down on the invading soldiers, and to imagine the Turks’ determination to defend their villages and their country. To imagine both sides of this conflict is in itself very moving. However, Camilleri has added another dimension by taking the young students in the Year 11 or 12 class and embedding them in the scenes of fighting among both ANZAC and Turkish soldiers. It is very effective and gives the illustrations a relevance and immediacy while making us really imagine what it would have been like to be there. I found this an exceptional book, bringing vividly to mind as it does the horror of the loss of so many young men sacrificed, on both sides, in this devastating war. Text, illustrations and the design of the book are perfectly integrated to give this picture book its powerful narrative. The book ends with the extraordinary quotation from Ataturk when he says that “there is no difference between the johnnies and the mehmets” and that the fallen “having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well”. Australian (10 years upwards) KS

• The Year It All Ended by Kirsty Murray pb 9781743319413 $16.99
There are quite a few books written from the point of view of the young girls and families left behind when their men folk went off to fight in World War 1. However this book has added interest since the mother of Tiney Flynn, her three sisters and her brother who went off to fight, was born in Germany. Their cousin was in Germany studying when war was declared. He was conscripted and so fought for Germany. The book is set in Adelaide where there was a considerable German population of whom many were interned during the war. The additional trauma caused by this situation and the devastation of both families when both sons are killed is vividly described. Murray also brings to life the difficulties of families coping with the return of soldiers damaged often in mind and body and also with the impact of the deadly influenza which killed so many. Tiney is a small but determined character and when her sisters all move away from home, she is determined to travel to France and Germany to see the graves of her brother and cousin. There she experiences the devastation the war caused in both countries. This is a well-written novel bringing to life its characters and also the period just after the end of the First World War. Australian (13 – 17 years) KS

Daughter of Venice
by Donna Jo Napoli pb 9780440229285 $13.00
Set in C16th Venice, this is an intriguing portrait of a young girl who is intensely curious about the world and its workings and who longs to know more about everything. As a young noblewoman, her life is very circumscribed until she comes up with an audacious plan that enables her to leave the palazzo and explore the city. It is a novel which succeeds in incorporating fascinating historical detail into the fabric of the story. (11 – 15 years) KS

The Ruby in the Smoke
by Philip Pullman pb 9780439943666 $19.99
Sally Lockhart is a most memorable heroine in this absorbing mystery set in Victorian London. As well as being a gripping and exciting mystery with connections to the exotic Far East, the book also gives a vivid portrayal of the seamier side of London in Victorian times, especially of child poverty and of some of the vices such as the opium trade in Victorian times. (13 up) KS

Scientific and technical innovation

Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey pb 9780702237256 $17.95
Cantherine is an outsider, a nerd as she says, but at fifteen years old she is resigned to it as she loves science and maths. She writes letters to Richard Feynman who was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist because it gives her more of a focus, and she describes her many frustrations, enthusiasms, lack of confidence and scorn at the behaviour of others. It is at times very funny. (14 – 17 years) Australian KS

Fairness and development

Free? Stories Celebrating Human Rights Anmesty International pb 9781406318302 $17.95
I was pleased and surprised that I found this collection of stories so enjoyable. I guess I was surprised at the number of stories which are humorous. The stories are all very different; a couple are written in verse, one has a dialogue like a play, some emphasise clever word play while others are more heartfelt and they are set in many different countries. There are fifteen authors and they include Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Theresa Breslin, Michael Morpurgo and Margaret Mahy but the stories I like best were written by authors I didn’t know at all, authors such as Sarah Mussi and Meja Mwangi. There is a brief biography of all the authors at the end of the book as well as a simplified version of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All royalties of the sale of this book go to Amnesty International. (11 years up) KS

For Every Child The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in words and pictures text adapted by Caroline Castle pb 9780099408659 $17.50
A beautifully illustrated picture book which restates in simple language fifteen of the most important Rights of the Child. Each Right of the Child is illustrated in a very different style by a different artist from round the world. There is much to discuss. (7 – 12 years) KS

• The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour pb 9780141356686 $17.00
I had heard that a young woman from Saudi Arabia had made a film called the Green Bicycle and that it had had glowing reviews. It was so good to hear that she had also written a book of the story of the film. Wadja is a young 11 year old girl living in a town in Saudi Arabia. She is mischievous, lively and intelligent and is struggling to retain some of her independence under the ever-increasing restrictions placed on her, especially at school. Wadja earns some money by selling bracelets and music that she makes to the other girls at school even though this is not permitted. However when she sets her heart on buying an expensive, beautiful green bicycle, she knows that this will require a very special effort, especially since the bicycle is forbidden by both her mother and father. Wadja is a well-drawn believable, spirited character and we feel for her as she struggles against the rigid school regulations. Through her story, we learn about her family and we gain an insight into the very different positions of boys and girls, and of men and women and also of the role of religion. Her mother has a lovely voice and loves to sing poetic love songs at home. These are written out for us to appreciate and we are also introduced to verses from the Koran, some of which are disturbing but others are quite beautiful in their poetry. This picture of the everyday life of a family in Saudi Arabia will be a revelation to many western students. Her mother’s long commute with other women in a bus to the school where she teaches in the outer suburbs is especially disturbing. Since women are not allowed to drive, the women depend on a surly and unreliable driver to get them to their work through the heat and dust of the chaotic traffic. Wadja’s story is based on Haifaa’s own childhood in Saudi Arabia and also on the experiences of one of her nieces. The story is vivid and is told with warmth and humour. (10 - 15 years) KS

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo pb 9780141304762 $16.99
This is a moving story about a young girl and her brother who are smuggled into Britain after their mother is killed by gunmen because of their journalist father’s outspoken newspaper articles against corruption in Nigeria. Beverley Naidoo describes the bureaucratic procedures involved in becoming considered for refugee status and we start to understand just how traumatic the whole procedure must be for the children and their father. (10 - 15 years) KS

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett pb 9780552552028 $14.95
This is a wonderfully entertaining and continually surprising story of Maurice, a streetwise tomcat who suddenly has acquired the gift of talking and thinking. He wants to put these skills to ever more inventive money-making scams with the assistance of his unlikely friends the educated rats who also acquired the skills of speaking and thinking at about the same time. However as a natural consequence of being able to think, some of the rats begin to struggle with the question of what is right and what is wrong (especially in relation to some of Maurice’s schemes) and also with the stirrings of a conscience. This is a hilarious skit on the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, however it could also be used as a challenging and very entertaining introduction to the subject of ethics. (10 – 16 years) KS

The Arrival by Shaun Tan hardback 9780734406941 $29.99
This extraordinary picture book has amazed and delighted everyone I have shown it to. It is textless and depicts many strange things and a world that we do not understand and yet at the same time the book is not difficult to understand. It shows the experience of an immigrant when he or she comes to a country where they know no one and understand very little. Shaun Tan wants us to understand the feelings of apprehension as a young man leaves his young wife and daughter and his country to travel a vast distance to a completely different country where he can’t speak the language or read any signs. A country where the landscape and the creatures and even the pets are very different and where he doesn’t understand how things work or what is the purpose of so many strange things. However on his arrival in this new land, he meets new friends who show him how to get to places and how things work and they also tell him the stories of how they too came to this new land. And so we get the very moving stories of a number of immigrant families. The illustrations are meticulously drawn in detailed panels of illustrations or sometimes full-page illustrations in black and white or various shades of grey and sepia. It is a very evocative and moving book. It could be used with children from about 9 years up I think but it would be especially effective when used with older students in upper elementary and middle school. It is especially helpful for discussion with any study concerning immigrants. Australian (9 years to adult) KS

The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson pb 9780440868538 $17.99
Charlie is doing a project on the Victorians and is sure that it will be deadly dull. However when she starts writing the diary of Lottie, a girl about her own age who works as a nursery maid for a family in Victorian times, Lottie and the family come to life for Charlie. The book is written in alternate chapters. We learn about Charlie and her life with her mum and her friends and this alternates with the chapters that Charlie writes for her project about Lottie and her very difficult life. Charlie and Lottie are both called Charlotte and there are many fascinating parallels. The book is extremely revealing about our own times and about life for young girls working as servants in the Victorian period and the contrast between the working class and their employers. A very helpful book to use as an introduction to the Victorian period or as a way of thinking about history. (10 – 14 years) KS

Globalization and sustainability

Village by the Sea
by Anita Desai pb 9780141312712 $18.95
A moving story by this well-known author showing some of the problems facing families trying to escape from the poverty of village life in India. It shows some of the environmental problems facing villagers as the population increases and resources are threatened. (12 years up) KS

The Other Facts of Life by Morris Gleitzman pb 9780140325751 $16.95
Originally written for a television series called The Winners, this book is simply written with a racy text. However at times there is biting satirical humour on an environmental theme. Australian (11 years up) KS

The Rabbits by John Marsden illus by Shaun Tan hb 9780734410788 $28.99 pb 9780734411365 $17.99
A sophisticated picture book for middle & secondary students. A powerful allegory which surveys, aided through extraordinarily innovative illustrations, the impact rabbits (and human rabbits) have had on the Australian land Australian (9 – 15 years) KS

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen pb 9780330439725 $14.95
This is a story of survival. Brian is travelling in a plane over the Alaskan wilderness when it crashes. With nothing but a hatchet rescued from the plane Brian survives for 59 days alone before being rescued. It is a fascinating exploration of his thoughts and feelings towards himself and the environment as he struggles to find ways to survive and the change he feels in himself as he realises that he can. (10 – 15 years) KS

My Place by Nadia Wheatley illus by Donna Rawlins pb 9781921150654 $19.95
By moving backwards in decades from 1989, this sophisticated picture book shows how a particular neighbourhood in Sydney has changed from an urban street to the first white settlement and before to the time when the Aborigines lived there. The story is told through the eyes of the various children who lived there. An innovative book which inspires students to work on similar projects wherever they are in the world. Australian (8 years up) KS

Blueback: A Fable for all Ages by Tim Winton pb 9780143304333 $17.99
An environmentally conscious story about Abel and his mother who live by the sea and whose lives revolve round the ocean. They endeavour to protect their bit of ocean and the creatures living in it from anything harmful. Australian (9 years up) KS

Conceptual Understanding

(The 16 key interdisciplinary concepts follow)

Global Interactions
Time, space and place

Approaches to Learning

Don’t call Me Ishmael! by Michael Bauer pb 9781862919327 $19.99
This book is written with a flair and vigour and love of language which is invigorating and very, very funny. Ishmael Leseur is bullied at school but describes his humiliation in a very funny self-deprecating way. He is amazed when James Scobie comes to the school and shows no fear of the class bully but wins encounters time and again through a very clever wit and fast thinking. When Ishmael becomes involved with James Scobie and an attempt to set up a debating team, it looks disastrous but is hilarious as the team attempts to work on a topic from totally different perspectives. However the team does learn to work together and their thinking and communication skills improve greatly. Very enjoyable . The equally entertaining sequels are Return of the Dugongs 9781862917644 pb $18.99 and Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel 9781862919174 pb $19.99 Australian (11 - 16 years) KS

A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly pb 9780747570639 $16.95
This is a beautifully written book, fascinating in its portrait of a small community in the Adirondack region in the early 1900s. The story is based on the real murder of a young pregnant girl who is found drowned in a lake and her story is linked to that of Mattie, about the same age, who is torn between her sense of responsibility to look after her family, her first romance and her intense desire to write and to be independent. There are many wonderful insights into Mattie’s feelings and desires and the difficulties that beset so many women of that time who wanted an education and independence. (13 years up) KS

The London Eye Mystery
by Siobahn Dowd pb 9780552572316 $16.99
The book is written in the first person by Ted who, as he says, has some sort of syndrome (perhaps Asperger’s) and the book is absorbing. Ted is very bright but is unable to understand why people behave in a particular way and is generally unable to read body language. He is a fascinating character and through his descriptions, we gain such an insight into his view of the world and also into his family and the way in which they behave. Moreover the plot involves a genuinely intriguing mystery about what happened to Ted’s cousin when he disappears while riding on the London Eye, the huge Ferris wheel in London. The mystery is doubly intriguing because of the way in which Ted puts his unique brain to work in trying to understand what could have happened. (11 – 15 years) KS

Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow pb 9780143006916 $19.99
This was obviously great fun to write. Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow have written this story in tandem and it is about an assignment that Joel and Cat (who have developed a strong antipathy to each other) have to write together. They are in their final year at school and have to write the story writing assignment by alternate emails and without discussion. There have been a number of misunderstandings in the past and Joel and Cat discover to their surprise that they don’t really hate each other. In fact they find themselves increasingly attracted to each other. It is fast moving, witty and enjoyable. Australian (12 – 16 years) KS

Flour Babies by Anne Fine pb 9780140361476 $16.99
A very entertaining novel in which a class is given a lesson in responsibility when they have to care for their “flour babies” which are really six pound bags of flour, as if they were real babies. (9 – 13 years) KS

The 10 PM Question
by Kate De Goldi pb 9781741757354 $15.99
Frankie is twelve going on an old man as he worries incessantly about everything. At 10 PM he wanders in to his mother to check on his latest list of anxieties. Are the smoke batteries flat? Will bird flu strike and ruin their lives? There is a very amusing eccentricity about his concerns and also about his whole family. However when a new friend Sydney comes to the school her relentless, unavoidable questions gradually reveal deeper problems threatening to unravel Frankie’s world. I found Frankie an engaging character but I am not sure how 12 year old boys would find him. Perhaps they would find him and his catalogue of fears just too embarrassing? Or maybe the humour would be enough to sustain their interest. There is hope that everything can be sorted out because that is what life is – a series of happenings which have to be sorted out and hopefully with lots of fun and learning and relationships along the way. Australian (11 – 15 years) KS

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
by Mark Haddon  pb 9780099572831 $19.99
Written from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome, this is a very moving story. Christopher is brilliant at maths and science but is unable to respond to or to give affection. He keeps his own rules which he has invented to make sense of his life. When he finds his neighbour’s dog dead on his front lawn, he is determined to find the culprit and following his own internal logic he investigates the crime. (13 years up) KS

Sing to the Dawn by Minfong Ho pb 9789812610010 $12.95
Set in a marginal rice growing area of Thailand this short novel would be an excellent introduction to a discussion of the effect of climate and geography on village life in parts of Asia. Some of the frustrations, difficulties and injustices of village life are revealed in this story of Dawan, a 12 year old girl who strives to continue her education at a high school in Thailand in spite of competition from her brother and opposition from her father. (10 years up) KS

• The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney pb 9780732299941 $16.99
James Moloney is such a reliable author of well-written and engaging fiction for teenagers. Here his main character Jacob, struggles with his cp (cerebral palsy) and also with trying to work out just how much he can achieve on his own. Jacob is a complicated but likeable character. He has a lot of support from friends and also from family but at times he wonders if the support is a help or hindrance to his finding out just what he is capable of. A terrible crime provides the means by which Jacob takes a stand apart from his friends and family. Because we become so involved with Jacob and his day-to-day struggles we also learn about cerebral palsy and the difficulties it causes to someone who has only a milder version. An enjoyable read for 12 to 16 year olds. Australian KS

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel hardback 9780545229258 $32.00 pb 9781849920001 $17.50
Ben is part of Project Zan, a study which aims to bring up a baby chimp as part of Ben’s family in a psychological study to observe whether the chimp is able to communicate through sign language. Ben at first doesn’t want to be involved but he grows to love Zan as a brother and not as the interesting subject of a psychological experiment as his father does. As Zan grows, his animal instincts and rapidly growing strength as well as the growing interest from the media all cause increasing problems. This is a gripping, thought-provoking and moving story which poses many challenging ethical questions about family, humanity and love to which there are no easy answers. (12 – 16 years) K S

Service as action, through community service

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman pb 9780141308388 $16.95 also a play pb 9780868198071 $22.99
Gleitzman has succeeded in writing a comic/tragic account of a refugee family from Afghanistan. Jamal and Bibi are ordinary kids who love soccer and kids will relate to their plight as they are forced to flee Afghanistan, because their mother has been running a school for girls, which was of course forbidden. Their lives are often in great danger but amazingly enough it is often very funny. There is much that can be discussed. In the sequel Girl Underground, pb 9780143300465 $16.95, the children are now in a detention camp in Australia. Two Australian children attempt to help them to escape. Again humour and tragedy mixed and there is much to discuss regarding action which can make a difference. Australian (9 years up) KS

Shahana Through My Eyes series by Roseanne Hawke pb 9781743312469 $15.99
Shahana lives near the Line of Control, the border controlled by Pakistan and Indian soldiers that divide Kashmir in two. This is an area where there has been continual conflict since 1947. Fourteen years old Shahana and her younger brother Tanveer are trying to survive living in the forest after the death of their parents and older brother. Shahana earns a little through her embroidery and they have a goat. Islamic militants have a camp not so far away and there are soldiers on both sides of the Line of Control and there is often shelling or exchange of gun fire. Shahana is a vibrant, strong character who remembers the wise advice of both her parents and tries to do her best in extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances. Her story shines though but Rosanne Hawke also succeeds in giving us some idea of the extraordinary complexities of the situation in Kashmir. There is an afterword by the author, a timeline, a glossary and suggestions for further reading and a series website. Australian (11 – 14 years) KS

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson pb 9781447280040 $14.99
First published in 1997, this edition was published in 2006. It is a delight for those who like myself who are fans of Eva Ibbotson’s work, especially Journey to the River Sea pb 9780330538817 $14.99. The book has a little of the same touch of magic about the setting showing a very different world. The book is set between the wars and Ellen has been raised in an English family of independent and intellectual women. However, Ellen’s passion is the cooking of beautiful food. She leaves London to start her new job as a housekeeper at an experimental school in the Austrian countryside. Many of the teachers and the students are highly eccentric which makes for some very amusing incidents. However these take place against a backdrop of an increasingly menacing threat from Nazi Germany. This is also a love story as Ellen is attracted to Marek, an enigmatic man of many skills who acts as a gardener at the school. It is a highly engaging book, looking at a tumultuous time in Europe through different eyes. (12 – 17 years) KS

Parvana by Deborah Ellis pb 9781865086941 $15.95
This novel describes life under the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Parvana is an eleven year old girl who used to love going to school but under the Taliban was forced to stay at home. When both her parents lose their jobs and then her father is arrested, their plight becomes desperate since girls and women were not allowed to leave the house unless accompanied by a man. In order for the family to survive, Parvana disguises herself as a boy. It is a disturbing story but the emphasis is on a young girl’s courage and determination. (The original Canadian edition is called The Breadwinner.) The sequel is Parvana’s Journey pb 9781865089997 $15.95 and the third in the series is Parvana’s Promise pb 9781743312988 $15.99 (10 - 14 years) KS

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah pb 9780747550860 $ 17.95
Alem’s father is Ethiopian and his mother Eritrean and with both countries at war they are welcome in neither country. His father takes him to London and leaves him there in the hope that Alem will be granted refugee status so that his son can escape the persecution that the whole family has been suffering. The tension rises as Alem and his father try to negotiate the tortuous bureaucratic process of trying to gain refugee status. Finally it is Alem’s friends who organise a demonstration in support of Alem and more compassionate treatment of refugees. This is a powerful story of courage and friendship. (11 - 16 years) KS