Tag Archives: fantasy


If you manage to put the right book into the hands of a young reader, fiction can get them hooked on reading. Below are some wonderful new novels that really draw the reader into a new world. Whether it is fantasy or realistic fiction, these books will be valuable additions to any (classroom) library.

Out of the Valley of Horses by Wendy Orr is a magical story. Young readers who like magic, adventure and horses will love it! Orr is a skilled storyteller and has expertly woven real elements into a mystical tale. The author has created a fascinating new world that will captivate readers’ imagination. A family, a camping trip in a van, a pandemic which changes the world, and a valley from which there is no escape. The book’s main characters are children who are strong and smart and solve the main problem – all the ingredients needed for a spellbinding tale. Honey and her brother Rumi are the heroes, assisted by horses with superpowers that seem as real as the valley in which they live. A touch of Pippi Longstocking combined with a setting as magical as that of Orr’ popular book Nim’s Island, with a sprinkling of ancient fairy tale dust and plenty of magical horses, make this a must-read.  ISBN 978-1-77278-311-7, Pajama Press

Nish by Isabelle Picard is told in an authentic voice that places this novel in a refreshingly real setting that has been missing in children’s books. ‘Nish’ means ‘two’ in the language of the Innu, the people of northern Quebec. Eloise and Leon are 14 year old twins. People in their aboriginal village speak French and Innu and some English. Each of them tells their own story in alternating chapters. The teens have adventures that are realistic and interesting to read, both for children who will finally recognize their own setting in a book, as well as for young readers who can learn what life is like in a different place in North America. 

Leon loves hockey. He and his friends take part in regional competitions and have to fly to the big city for a tournament. Eloise films around her village as she and her teenage friends make a video for a school project. An interesting read based in a place that is rich in stories but not often used in contemporary books. ISBN 978-1-4431-9723-6, Scholastic

The Party Diaries’ Top Secret Anniversary, written by Mitali Banerjee Ruths and illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel, is fun chapter book for early readers with lots of illustrations. Priya, the returning main character from other books in the series, has started her own Party business. While planning a secret anniversary party, she has to do research, make invitations, plan decorations and much more. All the while, Priya keeps notes and shares her crafts with readers so that they, too, can plan special parties. In addition to just having fun, she also raises awareness and support for manatees, an endangered species. ISBN 978-1-338-79990-3, Scholastic

A Bucket of Stars by Suri Rosen is a wonderful novel for young teens to sink their teeth in. Written in a powerful voice reminiscent of Susin Nielsen or Kate Di Camillo, this is the story of Noah and his older brother. They move to their father’s home town not long after losing their mother. Their father has lost all interest and has given up on his passion: the stars in the night sky. Noah misses how his father used to teach him about constellations and galaxies. While his brother hooks up with new skateboarding friends, Noah meets Tara who loves to make films. Unwittingly, the two encounter a crew of unscrupulous characters, get blamed for the destruction of a heritage home and find evidence of much wrong doing in their new home town.

This is a wholesome page turner sprinkled with amazing true facts about our solar system. A great book to put in the hands of students or to use as a classroom read aloud in grade 5 and up. ISBN978-1-4431-9279-8, Scholastic Canada

Margriet Ruurs writes books for children and conducts author presentations at International Schools. She is now taking bookings for the 24/25 school year.



Summer is a good time to curl up with a novel. These newly released, as well as slightly less new, novels are great reads for all ages.


Berani by Michelle Kadarusman is a perfect book for international schools. This is a novel takes place in Indonesia and is told in 3 voices. One is a girl who attends a private school and completes a school assignment that gets her into trouble. The other one is a local boy lucky enough to receive an education through sacrifices of his family. The third voice is that of a captive orangutan kept in a cage by the boy’s uncle to entertain visitors to his restaurant. Each one of them needs courage to stand up for their convictions and follow their hearts, despite the consequences this may have. A fantastic read that shows kids (and readers of all ages) to believe in their values and that they, too, can change the world. ISBN 978-1-77278-260-8, Pajama Press

The Last Mapmaker

One of my latest favourite books is The Last Mapmaker by Newbery Honor Book author Christina Soontornvat. The map on the first page shows the fictional land and seas where Sai lives. She is apprentice to a mapmaker and hopes to climb the ladder in her society to escape the slums where her pick-pocketing father lives. Unexpected adventure whisks her away aboard a sail ship to the fabled Sunderlands. Do dragons truly live there? And what is the impact explorers have on “new found” lands and their environment? A fascinating blend of fantasy with a sprinkle of historic fiction, adventure and the passion to follow an uncharted path. A great page turner that shows, especially girls but any reader, that they can be anything they wish. ISBN 978-1-5362-0495-7, Candlewick Press

These Are Not the Words

These Are Not The Words by Amanda West Lewis is a poetic novel for middle grade readers or older. If a book allows you to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, then this book can be an eye opener. Missy has a loving but abusive father who struggles with drug addiction. Her mom struggles to get her life on track and keep Missy safe. Written as an (almost) biographic story, the text is lyrical and sweeps the reader along to 1960’s New York. Because so much of the story really happened, the details and descriptions are vivid and realistic as is the resilience of a child. The book almost feels like a free verse novel complete with poems written between father and daughter. I think adults will also enjoy reading this ‘memoir’. ISBN 978-1-77306-792-6, Groundwood Books

Cress Watercress

Gregory Maguire is already pretty famous. He wrote Wicked, a fairy tale told from the point of view of the wicked witch, which got turned into a musical. Now he has written Cress Watercress, a book for middle schoolers about Cress, a rabbit whose father didn’t come back from his honey-gathering trip. Cress’s mother has to move everyone to an apartment in an oak tree with a bunch of funny neighbors who are also animals: owls, mice, and squirrels, and Cress has to make the best of it. This book also has many beautiful illustrations by David Litchfield that really make it different and even more enjoyable. It feels a bit like The Borrowers and a bit like Redwall but it is also unique. Anyone who likes books with animal characters, a lot of humor, and a lot of heart will love this book.  ISBN 978-1536211009, Candlewick (reviewed by 10 year old Beatrix Colvin)


And finally a novel for highschool students and educators. If you are a teacher (or any booklover!) looking for a good read during your summer holidays, try Mythos by Stephen Fry. I had always wanted to read the Greek myths but never managed to struggle through them. British actor Stephen Fry has managed to retell these important stories in common, every day language that shows their origins, their relationships and their morals. I loved finally getting to know Zeus and his crazed behavior, learning more about Pandora and Psyche and their lasting effects on our lives today. Did you know that words like Atlantic, Titanic, Europe, crocus and hyacinth come straight from these Greek myths? Couldn’t put it down! ISBN 978-1-405-93413-8, Penguin

Margriet Ruurs is a Canadian author who conducts author presentations at international schools. www.margrietruurs.com


Discovering a ‘new’ favourite author can be a great classroom tool. Their books can be part of a series or they can be very different from each other. Today I’d like you to meet Wendy Orr. Born in Canada, she lives in Australia and writes award winning books.

Nim’s Island is a heartwarming tale of a spunky girl living (almost) alone on a deserted Pacific Island. Reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking, Nim is self sufficient and, together with her closest friends – a sea lion and an iguana –  saves the day when her scientist father is lost at sea. This book can be followed up by watching the movie starring Jodie Foster as Alex Rover, the adventure author who joins to help Nim.

ISBN 978-0385736060

There are two more titles in the series: Rescue at Sea – which deals with animals in captivity and a mad professor who trains them and wants to use them for research. Nim travels on a cruise ship as stow-away and makes new friends in the process. ASIN : B00166YC9C

In Rescue on Nim’s Island, she discovers a rare fossil and has to defend her island from exploitation. All three books make for good elementary classroom readings and discussions. ASIN : B00YVBQXFU

Very different from Nim’s Island, is Wendy Orr’s Bronze Age series. Dragonfly Song was inspired by a drawing, a found flint, and Wendy’s interest in archeology. This fantasy novel is aimed at upper middle grade readers. As I read the suspense full tale of Aissa whom the villagers see as cursed, and who is mute, I kept thinking that this is a bit like the Hunger Games for slightly younger readers. It’s a real page turner and won a long list of awards.

Swallow’s Dance takes us to Greek Islands and an era where people paid tribute to the Goddess as directed by the Oracle. Any reader interested in myths, legends and ancient history will be enthralled by this series – each book of which can be read independently.

The newest title, being released in March, is Cuckoo’s Flight – a coming-of-age story in which Clio battles the political power of the palace and her own feelings of inadequacy to save her town, her horses, and perhaps even herself. All three novels in this series are skillfully written in a blend of prose and free verse.

Panama Press ASIN : B08KYNQGJJ