Tag Archives: England

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long. March 28, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763689957.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

What if you found out your life has been threaded with secrets — ones that rocked you to your core? An affecting page-turner written in a brave, memorable language all its own.

Some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud. But if you bottle them up, you might burst. So here’s my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.

Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. She and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five, but she’s fourteen now and has never been sure why they left England in the first place. She loves her international school, adores her friend Comet, and is protective of her little brother, Hercule. But it’s hard to feel carefree when her mom never leaves the apartment — ordering groceries online and blasting music in her room — and her dad has a dead-end job as a car mechanic. Then one day Sophie makes a startling discovery, a discovery that unlocks the mystery of who she really is. This is a novel about identity and confusion and about feeling so utterly freaked out that you can’t put it into words. But it’s also about hope. And trust. And the belief that, somehow, everything will be OK. Sophie Someone is a tale of good intentions, bad choices, and betrayal — and ultimately, a compelling story of forgiveness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 6-9. Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to put something into words, particularly if the experience is traumatic. For 14-year-old Sophie, a recent discovery about her past sets her world reeling, and in an effort to make sense of it—and of who she is—she puts her pen to paper to tell her story in her own language. English-born Sophie and her parents moved to Brussels when she was five, which, according to her father, is where his family is from. But as the years pass, clues and memories surface that make Sophie begin to doubt her parents’ story. When a school letter arrives asking for copies of Sophie’s passport and birth certificate, her parents can’t satisfactorily explain why they don’t have them. Convinced that her parents are keeping a secret, Sophie starts digging for the truth, growing increasingly angry and confused the more she finds out. Long weaves an inventively written and entrancing story filled with good intentions, poor decisions, meaningful friendships, and complicated but loving family relationships. It takes something of a leap of faith on the reader’s part, as Sophie’s peculiar writing style seems somewhat nonsensical at first glance; however, those who persevere will quickly understand her true meanings. The result is an original narrative that zigs and zags in inspired ways, with a sympathetic heroine leading the way.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
Sophie Nieuwenleven has lived in Belgium for most of her life; now 14, she’s beginning to wonder about the odd things her parents say when they’re fighting, not to mention certain hazy and mysterious childhood memories that don’t add up. Her mother is a rap-loving recluse and her father a garage mechanic who claims a Belgian ancestry. Yet despite giving Sophie’s younger brother the uber-Belgian name Hercule Tintin, both parents seem thoroughly English. Still, Brussels is such a cosmopolitan city that a white, sort-of English, sort-of Belgian girl with a black best friend from the Democratic Republic of the Congo flies under the radar at her international school. Poking around online one day, Sophie uncovers a clue that begins the unraveling of all the lies she’s been told. Or, as Sophie puts it in her cryptic yet strangely comprehensible way, “You probably think I lost my helix.…[C]hasing off to a foreign country to meet a pigeon I’ve just met on the Introvert isn’t anything I’d normally do. But this wasn’t a normal situation.” Sophie and her circle of family and friends are sympathetic and appealing in all their flawed humanity. Her peculiar way of speech soon reads as clearly as plain English and perfectly mirrors her internal turmoil as she navigates her parents’ shift from just mambo and don to people with a past she never imagined—which, to some extent, is a transformation every young person will understand. A creative and memorable story about secrets, lies, and moving on. (Fiction. 11 & up)

About the Author

Hayley Long is the author of several award-winning books for teenagers, including What’s Up with Jody Barton? and the Lottie Biggs books. She also works as an English teacher. Hayley Long lives in England.

Her website is hayleylongwriter.blogspot.co.uk.

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Sophie Someone on Amazon

Sophie Someon on Goodreads

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Sophie Someon Publisher Page

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A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby. September 27, 2016. Scholastic Press, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545817844.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

Fear the living more than the dead.

It’s London 1888, and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing the people of the city. Evelyn, a young woman disfigured by her dangerous work in a matchstick factory, who has nowhere to go, does not know what to make of her new position as a maid to the Elephant Man in the London Hospital. Evelyn wants to be locked away from the world, like he is, shut in from the filth and dangers of the streets. But in Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, she finds a gentle kindred who does not recoil from her and who understands her pain.

When the murders begin, however, Joseph and Evelyn are haunted nightly by the ghosts of the Ripper’s dead, setting Evelyn on a path to facing her fears and uncovering humanity’s worst nightmares.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Sexual assault; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. After a fateful stint in Bryant and May’s match factory leaves 17-year-old orphan Evelyn Fallow with “phossy jaw”—and the scars that come with it—she seeks refuge within the supposedly secure walls of the London Hospital. Assigned to attend the notorious Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, Evelyn is both boundlessly grateful and fiercely frightened. Though the two bond almost instantly, their friendship is swiftly punctuated by the arrival of late-night apparitions, which they soon recognize to be victims of “Leather Apron’s” concurrent murders. With the nightly return of each—first, the tormented Polly Nichols; second, the shrieking Annie Chapman; third, the inconsolable “Long Liz”; and, finally, the self-destructive Catherine Eddowes—Mr. Merrick’s fragile condition worsens. In order to save him, Evelyn will have to appease each spirit, inevitably confronting the squalor she escaped, as well as Jack the Ripper. While the anachronistic prose can be distracting, Kirby’s character development, particularly his portrayal of the extraordinary Mr. Merrick, is consistently impressive. Austen devotees are sure to appreciate Kirby’s commitment to the gothic entanglements of Northanger Abbey.

Publishers Weekly (June 27, 2016)
In this grisly fantasy from Kirby (the Dark Gravity Sequence), the year is 1888 and London’s slums are soon to be terrorized by Leather Apron (later known as Jack the Ripper), who murders prostitutes in the most gruesome manner possible. In a nearby East End hospital resides a monster of a gentler sort: Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who has a new maid, 17-year-old Evelyn Fallows. Some would label Evelyn a monster as well, her jaw destroyed by phosphorus necrosis from working in a match factory. Evelyn is initially repulsed by Merrick’s deformity, but she soon recognizes him as a gentle soul. After the murders commence, the ghosts of Leather Apron’s victims begin to appear in Merrick’s room. Concerned about the effect of these monstrous apparitions on Merrick’s health, Evelyn ventures into the slums in an attempt to put the suffering ghosts to rest. Evelyn-all grit, anger, and distrust-is a complex and engaging character, the slums and slang of Victorian-era London are carefully delineated, and the eventual revelation of Leather Apron’s identity and fate will leave readers gasping. Ages 12-up. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary.

About the Author

Matthew Kirby was born in Utah, and grew up in Maryland, California, and Hawaii. As an undergraduate he majored in history, and then went on to pursue an M.S. in school psychology. For ten months out of the year he works with students, and during the rest of the year he writes. He and his wife currently live in northern Utah.

His website is www.matthewjkirby.com.

Teacher Resources

Jack the Ripper Activities and Questions

Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man) Biography

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A Taste for Monsters on Amazon

A Taste for Monsters on JLG

A Taste for Monsters on Goodreads

 

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy. Septmber 15, 2016. Holiday House, 224 p. ISBN: 9780823436941.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 820.

For fourteen-year-old Alix, life on Hayling Island off the coast of England seems insulated from problems such as war, terrorism and refugees. But then, one day at the beach, Alix and her friend Samir pull a drowning man out of the incoming tide. Mohammed, an illegal immigrant and student, has been tortured by rebels in Iraq for helping the allied forces and has spent all his money to escape. Desperate not to be deported, Mohammed’s destiny now lies in Alix’shands, and she is faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Underage drinking; Smoking; Racism and racist epithets; Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2016)
A British teen comes face to face with anti-immigrant xenophobia. It’s 2007. Alexandra “Alix” Miller is nearly 15 and admittedly “Number One Nerd in Year 10” when she diverts town bully Terrence Bellows from harassing Samir, an Iraqi refugee new to her school. But Terrence isn’t alone: many people on Hayling Island say and do Islamophobic things, from Alix’s classmates and her boss to her best friend; even Alix herself thinks of Samir and his brother, Naazim, as “foreign,” worries they might be “terrorists,” and jokes that Samir’s a “suicide bomber.” Alix’s opinions—and Samir’s affection—shift as they rescue Mohammed, an undocumented Iraqi immigrant escaping torture and seeking asylum, from drowning and hypothermia, then strive to keep him safe. Unfortunately, in her efforts to bring understanding to Britain’s immigrant crisis and the country’s role in the Iraq War, Halahmy (whose husband is Iraqi) indulges in other stereotypes, such as the broken English of Samir’s Chinese neighbor. Even more unfortunate in a book specifically about cultural awakening, only people of color are described explicitly; all other characters, including narrator Alix, are assumed to be white, an assumption that undercuts the book’s effectiveness and limits its reach. While Alix eventually works to address her cultural cluelessness, her proprietary actions with Mohammed have a whiff of the white savior about them. This all-too-timely book means well, but it may not be the age-of-Brexit corrective it clearly wishes to be. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
Gr 6-9-When teenager Alix and her new friend, Samir, see a man tossed out of a speeding boat into the churning waters off the coast of their small English island, they leap into the strong current to pull out the battered man. When they realize he’s an Iraqi refugee seeking asylum, Alix is hesitant to help him, but Samir-who himself was once a refugee fleeing Iraq-begs Alix to help harbor the stranger. Over the course of the novel, Alix confronts her own perceptions and prejudices, as well as those of her friends, family, and neighbors. Her development from a self-involved child to a broad-thinking and selfless young adult is gradual and realistic, with Alix making plenty of mistakes-and actually learning from them-along the way. The writing is simple and straightforward, and though it won’t challenge strong readers, this novel will appeal to younger teens as well as to reluctant readers. VERDICT An engaging, fast-paced story that pushes teens to consider all sides of the immigration issue, this is a great choice for middle school libraries or for struggling readers.-Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

About the Author

Miriam Halahmy is a novelist, a former special needs educator and a poet. She writes for adults, teens and children and has published five novels, three poetry collections and many short stories. Miriam is inspired by social and political issues in both contemporary lives and in the recent past. Her writing highlights the dilemmas ordinary young people are often faced with and how they tackle the difficulties in their lives. Miriam is married with two children and two grandchildren. She lives in London, England but she loves to travel and has a great interest in different cultures and languages.

Her website is www.miriamhalahmy.com.

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Hidden on Amazon

Hidden on JLG

Hidden on Goodreads

 

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

The Creeping Shadow: Lockwood & Co. Book 4 by Jonathan Stroud. September 13, 2016. Disney-Hyperion, 464 p. ISBN: 9781484709672.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0; Lexile: 690.

After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative, hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency wants them–and only them–to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover. What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. But, in a shocking cliffhanger ending, the team learns that someone has been manipulating them all along….

Part of Series: Lockwood & Company

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Murder; Violent imagery; Cannibalism; Suicide

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. Though Lucy’s making a go of it as a freelance psychic investigator, when Lockwood knocks on her door, asking for help with a case, she’s willing to work with the old firm again. Their tasks escalate from eradicating the ghost of a cannibalistic Londoner to descending, unarmed, into a den of brutal thugs and thieves. Soon the four young Lockwood agents stumble upon their most alarming and momentous challenge yet. Dispatching a vicious ghost is one thing, but uncovering a vast scheme of calculated evildoing is quite another. While the novel’s epic climax will please any lover of chills, thrills, and explosions, the simultaneous conversational counterpoint is not to be missed. A revelation in the concluding pages will leave readers wondering what dark secret lies behind the plague of spirits terrorizing England for 50 years. The wry first-person narrative is a pleasure, relating the story with an impeccable, understated sense of drama. Appearing at chapter headings, Adams’ dark, richly atmospheric, and often ghostly vignette drawings can make even a sandwich look downright sinister. Stroud’s scene setting and storytelling are second to none, but it’s his ability to create credible, idiosyncratic characters and relationships that makes avid fans of the Lockwood & Co. series.

About the Author

Jonathan Stroud is an author of fantasy books, mainly for children and youths.

Stroud grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.

Stroud lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire, with his two children, Isabelle and Arthur, and his wife Gina, an illustrator of children’s books.

His website is www.jonathanstroud.com.

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The Creeping Shadow on Amazon

The Creeping Shadow on JLG

The Creeping Shadow on Goodreads