We love receiving student reviews here at Penguin Teachers’, because ultimately, the most valuable feedback comes to us from the people the books are designed for.
Stephen James works tirelessly with students to provide reviews of children’s and YA books on the website YARR-A Young Adult Reader Reviews – Australia and share their thoughts and opinions with all of you. The YARA-A website is a valuable resource for teachers and librarians to use when trying to keep up to date with the many books available for young adults and children.
Today we feature some of the best examples of students reviews with you here at Penguin Teachers’. A big Thank You to Stephen and all of your amazing reviewers!
The Kane Chronicles: Survival Guide –Rick Riordan
The Kane Chronicles Survival Guide, by Rick Riordan, is an encyclopaedia about everything in The Kane Chronicles world. It describes the characters, gods, and creatures you wanted to know more about. The book is descriptive about everything, and has good pictures to portray information. The book was not as advanced reading as the series books, it seemed to be intended for ages 9 to 12, when the books in the series look intended for ages 10 to 15. The book was rather short at 141 pages, with half of each page having a picture. The book was a good with interesting information about key events and characters, and included great pictures.
Jaiden, age 13, Canberra, Australia
Beautiful Redemption is the fourth and final book of the fantasy young adult series The Caster Chronicles written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. In it, Ethan Wate, the protagonist has just died and is trying to find his way back into the mortal world where his love Lena Duchannes lives.
As with any book started halfway through the series, I found it rather hard to understand, but I still loved it. The plot is rather long and overstretched, however, it managed to build and sustain a certain level of anticipation and tension, something which other books have trouble doing. The romance was sweet yet strong, however, it never really seems to control or dominate them. It is clearly the most important part of their life and who they are, but it does not define them. The writing style is lovely, with vividly beautiful descriptions, yet it never gets dull or sappy. The ending is absolutely stunning and makes up for all the frustrating moments in between. This is by no means a perfect book, but is still a worthwhile read that I would happily recommend to any of my teenaged friends.
Amber, Year 9, Canberra, Australia
A serial killer is murdering people in Manhattan and the teenage boy Joss is sent from his quiet home to Manhattan to help find the killer. When he arrives he is given a team of four friends to catch the killer. His mind is off task as he struggles to overcome the grief of his sister, Cecile’s, death. Cecile haunts him at night, digging Joss’ grave in their backyard and trying to kill him. And soon Joss realises the suspects in the Manhattan case know something about Cecile that he doesn’t. Joss’ leadership is put to the test as he tries to catch the serial killer with only a group of four. If he fails to catch the killer in time, his own friends will kill him.
The genre of this book is horror, mystery and teen issues. The story was fast passed, easy to read and made you want to read more without stopping. It was suspenseful and exciting from the very first chapter and had just the right amount of personal problems. Joss had an amazing way to view his case and had flashbacks that helped give you an idea about what Joss is going through. This book would be suitable for 10+.
Jelena, age 12, Canberra, Australia
Under Wildwood is the second book in The Wildwood Chronicles. It is a mostly fantasy novel and is written by Colin Meloy.
Prue McKeel has returned from rescuing her brother in the Impassable Wilderness and her ordinary life has been very dull. She misses her friend Curtis, who is back in Wildwood, training to become a bandit. But soon they will meet again and be off on another adventure. Meanwhile, Curtis’ parents have gone off to look for their lost son, and left their two daughters, Rachel and Elsie, in the care of the local orphanage. It turns out not to be what they expected, and they embark on an adventure involving Wildwood as well.
I hadn’t read the first book in the series and at times I felt that I wasn’t quite getting the full meaning of a part, but mostly I don’t think this was a problem. The illustrations that are dotted through the book are lovely and complement the text well. There is some nice character development shown and there is a nice balance of humour with seriousness. I found that the pace dragged at times, though it was interesting to see the plot unfold as I read.
Under Wildwood is an imaginative, sweet story about courage and friendship. I think it would appeal largely to older children and younger teenagers, but people of all ages will enjoy it. I recommend Under Wildwood to ages 10 and up.
Morgan, age 15, Canberra, Australia
It’s the future and human blood eating monsters (Ticks) have invaded the human population. Scientists discover that Ticks are attracted to the hormone rich blood of teenagers. All people aged 13 to 18 are sent to farms for their protection. Twins Lily and Mel are 17; living on a farm and quickly approaching their 18th birthday – unfortunately something happens at the farm when you turn 18. What is it? No one knows because no one has ever returned. Lily and Mel devise a ‘foolproof’ plan to escape from the farm and their almost certain death. All is going smoothly until Lily’s former crush Carter from the pre-Tick days appears and carries a mystery with him. Can Carter help Lily and Mel to escape or is he not to be trusted?
This book The Farm by Emily McKay fits very smoothly into the teenage romance vampire genre. Although the idea of the book is good, the storyline is at times predictable and the situations that the characters find themselves in are somewhat too good to be true. It is unquestionably a vampire/scary monster love story type of novel and anyone looking for that type of read will most certainly find it here.
Claudia, Year 8, Canberra, Australia
Andy Roid is starting to settle into his new life when his Mum and Dad send him to Camp Howl to protect him from Dr Baffi and the Triple S – they couldn’t be more wrong.
This is the third book in a series and is in the action/adventure genre. It is suitable for readers aged 7 to 10. I really enjoyed the action parts of the book, for example when his friend is drowning in the river and Andy Roid dives in to help him. He then discovers that his friend is not all he seems. The story made me laugh because there are lots of funny bits. There are small illustrations at the beginning of each chapter which are pretty good. I found the book very easy to read because it has big text and not a lot of tricky words to read.
Seth, age 9, Canberra, Australia
This book is about a boy called Andy Roid. Andy looks like an ordinary boy, but after being involved in a terrible accident his parents rebuilt him with robotic parts which gives him special abilities.
This book is the 4th in the Andy Roid series. In this book Andy and another special agent, Judd, are on a mission to rescue the General who works with Andy’s scientist parents. The General has been captured by an evil man called Zloy.
As secret agents on a dangerous mission, Andy and Judd face lots of danger throughout the book. At the same time they have to act like normal school boys so no one suspects they are secret agents. The book also deals with the difficulties Andy has in keeping his agent identity secret from his best friend Reggie which he finds frustrating.
Although I have not read the first three books in the series I still found that it was easy to follow the story. It was not the type of book I would normally read but I still enjoyed it. I would recommend it mostly for boys who like secret agent type books.
George, age 9, Canberra, Australia
Genre: sci-fi, adventure
Andy and his parents are on the run from Dr Baffi and his Triple S agents. They want to catch Andy and use him as a human lab rat. His parents are in safe houses and Andy, who’s turning 13, is on his own and has to make his own decisions. He’s got lots to worry about, plus Gabriella Lopez, one of the prettiest girls in Renfrew High, has a huge crush on him.
After a terrible accident Andy was rebuilt using bionic technology. He’s kept it a secret up until now but has a technical problem in the classroom, so his secret may have been revealed. The government has put in place special agents to protect him but he still feels very alone. He misses his parents and hasn’t stopped thinking about Molly Robinson, they only girl he ever really liked.
I think the Andy Roid series is mostly for boys aged 8 to 10, and this book is the fifth in a six book series. I found the book fairly easy to read. The chapters were not too long and the book was well written. I will be reading the rest of the books in this series.
Rohan, age 8, Canberra, Australia
The Boy Who Grew Into A Tree is the story of an old couple who live alone in the bush. Following a storm which refreshed the land the old woman finds herself expecting a child “…new life comes from old. As in rotting leaves, so too in humans.” When the child is born he is nut-brown and they call him Arbour. He is a strange boy who does not speak instead makes the sound of the whisper of wind in the trees, he smells like dead leaves and does not eat, simply drinking water. Over time as Arbour grows older he spends more time alone standing outside in isolation, arms outstretched, legs together…like a tree. When Arbour was five a terrible heatwave came, followed by flames…
A new work by Gary Crew is something I always look forward to and this graphic novel does not disappoint. In fact, it is one of my favourites. It is a tragic tale but one which is also filled with hope and explores the power of nature and the renewal of life. From the beautiful endpapers of bark to its small square size, and the evocative illustrations by Ross Watkins this is a book which is quite amazing. It should appeal to anyone who has an interest in visual literacy and environmental themes.
Stephen, Canberra, Australia
The Dreadful Fluff is written and illustrated by the award-winning author of Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, Aaron Blabey. The Dreadful Fluff is a ridiculous and funny story about a young girl, Serenity Strainer, whose life was perfect. Perfect that is until she finds some evil belly button fluff and realises that her life is not as perfect as she first believed. The evil belly button fluff creates mayhem and devastation throughout her house – nothing and no one will get in its way. Watch out baby!
Blabey wants the reader to think what they would do if their perfect life was turned upside down. Blabley says, “Perhaps the way we deal with life is more important than trying to always be the best.” (8 Oct 2012) His illustrations are incredibly detailed and full of humour. With its deeper meaning and messages and bursting with ‘ghastly’ bits, The Dreadful Fluff will appeal to kids 8-12 years. This is a highly entertaining picture book.
Kylie, Canberra, Australia
The Gobbledygook Is Eating a Book is the debut children’s book written by Playschool presenter Justine Clarke and co-authored by Arthur Baysting. Australian illustrator Tom Jellett provides bright, collage looking drawings that make you fall in love with the little furry monster named the Gobbledygook.
The story is about a little girl who takes on the challenge of introducing the curious little critter to the joy of reading books rather than consuming them. The text is simple and rhythmic and perfectly pitched to the target audience of preschoolers. The authors have used many literary devices including onomatopoeia and alliteration to help the flow of the text.
The Gobbledygook Is Eating a Book takes the reader on wonderful adventures into the world of dinosaurs, space and the circus. It has a strong message that there is a book out there to suit everyone’s interests.
The Gobbledygook Is Eating a Book is a gorgeous and fun book that kids and adults will enjoy.
Kylie, Canberra, Australia
Genre: Children’s fiction/Age Group: Year three to Year five
Synopsis: This story is about a girl called Daizy Star who has three best friends named Murphy, Willow and Beth. Every year Grade 6 has a special function to celebrate the end of primary school. Miss Moon announces that this year they will be going to Paris! Daizy Star is excited about the trip. Daizy’s dad just got a new job but the downside is that he has to dress up as a giant red squirrel! Daizy hasn’t found her star quality and believes that she will find it in the romance city of Paris. When Daizy gets to Paris it doesn’t work out as well as she dreamed it would. Her friendship group doubts that she has star quality and are breaking away from her and Murphy has a secret that he can’t tell Daizy or it will break her heart! Will Daizy’s life be ruined because of her Paris trip, friends and her Dad’s new job?
Recommendation: This book is a good story because it is about friendship. The illustrations are positioned well and help add to the narrative because they are connected to the text. It is easy to read.
Abigail, age 11, Canberra, Australia
Thai-No-Mite! is a story about a boy named Lengy. Lengy’s parents own a restaurant called ‘Thai-riffic’ but Lengy prefers to eat pizza and chips. One day, Lengy’s dad announces that the family are going home to Thailand for a holiday. This is confusing for Lengy because he thinks of Australia as home.
But before they get there, Lengy has to survive Dr Needle Mouse, visit Dreamworld, catch a red-back spider, fight off a bat attack and then celebrate Christmas.
I recommend this story for children between the ages of 8 and 14 years. The illustrations were funny too and really helped capture the scenes. I really enjoyed reading this book.
Victoria, age 13, Canberra, Australia
Join this classic Australian book about seven naughty but very likeable children set in the early 1900’s, Sydney town. The seven Woolcot children, Meg, Pip, Judy, Nell, Bunty, Baby and the General get into lots of adventures and mischief! Their step mother Esther has her hands full with her only child, the General. This means all the hard work and responsibility for the other children goes to Meg, who at 16 is only 4 years younger than Esther. The carefree days come to an end when Judy is sent to boarding school. Nothing seems to be the same without her. As the story progresses, you will get to know all of the children very well and their unique personalities.
I quite enjoyed reading The Seven Little Australians. It was a very tricky book to read because of the old-fashioned way of writing and use of words that are not much said today. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to work out what the author was meaning. The book cover is very simple and endearing, especially in the hardback version that I read. This interesting book would attract advanced 11 year old readers and over who likes a book with drama, a little bit of romance set in an historical setting. Even without illustrations, the descriptive text gives you a good image of living at ‘Misrule’ (the name given to their family home).
Julia, age 11, Canberra
In a parallel bronze age, where sorcery is common knowledge and animals communicate with humans, the unlikeliest friends meet. Hylas, a goat-herder orphan from the mountains, is fleeing his homeland after he, his dog and his sister are attacked by vicious foreigners, the Crows. Pirra, the daughter of a high priestess, is running from a marriage to a lord in another country. Fate (and a Goddess) brings them together with Spirit, a friendly dolphin, in search of Hylas’s sister and the answer to the question: What do the Crows want?
Gods and Warriors is an unusual piece of modern young adult fiction. The typical vampire love story has met its match; Michelle Paver weaves an intriguing web of conspiracy, magic and adventure in a time that often is overlooked. The view into other characters’ minds, including Spirit’s, is invaluable, and the text perfectly flows, making it easy for the reader to completely forget they are reading words on a page, and instead finds themselves in Hylas’s world. The novel is aimed at older readers from high school onwards, and is a fantastic way to not pay attention in class (please ignore that last bit if you are a teacher or parent!). I would definitely recommend it to any adventurous teen!
Ronja, Year 11, Canberra, Australia
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Sarah never really believed that she would find the right guy; her three best friends would often tease her for her lack of experience with boys, which most girls would know of by the age of seventeen. But when she meets Joe on a nice beach in Spain, she eventually clicked and knew she had fallen for him. But is he really the right guy for Sarah? Or is he just the first of many future guys who will just and only be a temporary fling? Nothing good ever lasts forever, or does it?
This novel was written in a first person point of view, so it was very easy to read and to get into, the plot and concepts are very entertaining and keeps the reader interested in where the next chapter is going to lead. The illustration is very cute and chic, and fits the type of teenage realistic fiction novels. It’s a great novel for anyone interested in the ‘Girl heart Boy’ types of books.
Kataleeya, age 15, Canberra, Australia
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, Teen, and Drama.
Quintana of Charyn is the last and third book in the Lumatere Chronicles. The book takes place straight after Froi of the Exiles. At the start of the novel Froi recovers from his wounds that Quintana assumed where fatal, and he sets out to find and save Quintana, but throughout his journey he’s forced to take a few detours and he discovers more secrets about his past and the past of those that he loves. Many decisions made by those that he respects will also alter his and his loved one’s future. This last novel to the Lumatere Chronicles is very intense and powerful.
Once again Melina Marchetta has written a beautiful mind blowing novel, the length of the novel is astonishing seeing that all the plots and cliffhangers were all resolved in such a small amount of pages. The plots are so fantastically thought out and constructed that it keeps my mind thinking over and over again about every tiny, but significant detail, and wanting to re-read every word to hold onto that moment. Just everything about this novel and trilogy is captivating and exquisite. The characters are just amazing and brilliant; they are written in a way and portrayal that truly makes them feel alive. The inspiration and setting for the novel really brings out the possibilities for this book and I hope that in the future this trilogy will become a successful book to film adaption.
Kataleeya, age 16, Canberra, Australia
Genre: young adult fiction, romance, teen
Rumour Has It is the second novel in the Girl Heart Boy series. The protagonist Ashley, meets the dark and mysterious Dylan and falls head over heels for him, though since she’s a player she is good at hiding her feelings, though she does not fool her friends, yet there is a lot more going on with her circle of friends and her family life is taking on a new direction with everyone’s demands for Ash.
The style of writing is set from the protagonist’s point of view, which makes the reading much more enjoyable and easy. The character development is nice and simple; it is easy and quick to warm up to the characters and settings in the novel. The themes and plots in the novel are fun, complicated and easy going.
Rumour Has It is a good read, and I recommend it for readers who want a simple book to have with them whenever they get bored, so they can indulge in someone else life by becoming captivated in this hilarious and heart warming novel.
Kataleeya, age 16, Canberra, Australia
Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian is the 8th and final book in the series. It is a dramatic book which starts in the fairy city, which is in chaos, and leads back to the human world. If you haven’t read any books in the series before, this book is still great. The plot is quite good and even though I haven’t read any of the other books, I could understand it easily.
The evil mastermind Opal Kobai has returned. Her plan involves killing herself (her clone) to create enough power and black magic to open some legendary locks. The first lock unleashes legendary warriors for her to command. These warriors inhabit the nearest lives, making them stronger and harder to kill. Next she intends to open the second lock to destroy humanity and, in the confusion, crown herself fairy queen.
Challenging Opal are Artemis and his friends. Artemis is also a mastermind, the smartest kid in the universe. His friends are Butler, his bodyguard (he lives in a rich family, Artemis may be smart but he is NOT athletic, other than running for his life), and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements police. Opal’s plan not only endangers the human race, it has a more than 90 per cent chance (by Artemis’ calculations), to make all things the Opal clone has made or influenced, explode!
I like how Eoin writes, using great imagination. Artemis Foul and the Last Guardian is suitable for ages 11 to 20, or maybe older, to read, and is in the fantasy genre. I probably shouldn’t tell you my favourite part because it will ruin a good part, but be ready for a shocker.
Jonathan, age 13, Canberra, Australia
Reached is the final installment in Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. The story picks up several months after Crossed and follows Cassia, Ky and Xander as they each do their parts in the rebellion against the society. Cassia, Ky and Xander must make some difficult decisions in order to survive everything that the society and even the rebellion throws at them. There are several themes shown throughout the novel, the main theme revolves around love and its power to set people free. It was the love that Cassia and Ky share that opens Cassia’s eyes for the first time.
Reached is an easy to read book full of romance and adventure, captivating its audience with unexpected twists and turns. Set some time in the unspecified future Condie has managed to create a whole new world parallel to our own. This unique setting is the main thing that drew me to the series in the first place and that with the story line I was soon hooked on the series. I would recommend that any potential readers of Reached to first read Matched and Crossed as without reading them the story can become confusing. Reached is a novel able to be read and enjoyed by a large age group from early teenagers to adults. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Reached and recommend others to read this epic finish to a fantastic trilogy.
Lauren, age 15, Canberra, Australia
This is the story of Sam Lee, who was a regular teenage boy until he discovers his superpowers. Now, with the ability of super-speed, he leaves behind his family and everything he knows and joins the association named Vanguard Prime. He is now surrounded by his childhood superheroes, but Sam is unhappy. He discovers that he can’t turn his power on and off like the other members of Vanguard Prime. It only comes on at irregular intervals. He becomes known as Goldrush and has to wear a skin-tight suit and a visor that has all sorts of extremely complex gadgets, like night-vision and talking without opening his mouth.
Sam thinks he isn’t ready to be in this group of superheroes yet. But not for long. When the telepathic criminal the Overman breaks free, Sam is convinced he will just get in the way. However, the technopath Machina talks to him and he realises he is not just a super-speedster who can’t control his power, he is someone with the potential to save the world.
One by one, the Overman takes down the members of Vanguard Prime until Sam is the only one left. How could a teenager stop someone who can lift a ship with his mind and is spreading a virus that will destroy the world? Fortunately, Sam devises a clever plan. The main question is: Will it work?
All in all, I thought this book was fantastic!
Dane, age 11, Canberra, Australia
This joke book has hilarious jokes; with over 500 of them, you can’t stop reading! There are lots of different categories of jokes, for example: creepy crawly jokes, fantastic animal jokes, genius jokes and phiz-whizzing witch jokes to name a few. (Note: ‘phiz-whizzing’means brilliant or really, really good!)
This book is fairly easy to read, but for some jokes you may need the ear of an adult if you don’t understand them. You don’t need to read it in any particular order, so you can open any page and have a good laugh!
There are some funny pictures and drawings by Quentin Blake alongside the jokes which make them funnier.
Roald Dahl created some new words in this book like ‘svollop’,which means to destroy something, and ‘buggles’,which means completely crazy! If you want to learn some mind boggling words you can read them in the book.
I would recommend the book to children between the ages of 6 and 11.
Joshan, age 10, Canberra, Australia
This novel is about a group of seven demigods, including Percy Jackson, son of the sea god Poseidon and Annabeth, the daughter of the wisdom goddess Athena. The group has been tasked with stopping Gaia and saving the world. Gaia is the Greek goddess of the Earth. The group is made up of both Greek and Roman demigods. The Greeks and Romans have been fighting each other for thousands of years. The two rival civilisations are now at war once again. This is giving Gaia the perfect opportunity to destroy human civilisation. Can Percy, Annabeth and the others save the world? Or will Gaia be victorious?
Rick Riordan has written an absolutely brilliant novel. He has taken the themes of action, drama and romance and turned it into an excellent read. The novel is written from the perspectives of a number of the main characters, which can make it a bit hard to follow at times. The describing words in the novel always allow me to paint a picture of the scene in my head. I recommend that you read the other books in the Heroes of Olympus series before reading this one. It does not, however, matter too much. This is one of my favourite novels and I cannot wait for the next instalment in the series.
Josh, age 13, Canberra, Australia