This section contains some information and resources to support you in using the novel to engage with the learning outcomes in the new English subject specification.
Please note that some texts contain adult themes and language.
This section contains some information and resources to support you in using the novel in first year to engage with the learning outcomes in the Junior Cycle English Specification.
This section contains some information and resources to support you in using the novel to engage with the learning outcomes in the Junior Cycle English Specification.
It is 1974. The Finnertys, an ordinary, boisterous family of twin brothers Dom and Pat, baby sister Dee, and their parents and grandma, set off from Dublin to their annual summer getaway by the beach. The family’s holiday drive is “vivid with fresh grass, diesel fumes, and the crusty-bright smell of the sea.”
Upon arrival, Pat thinks the cosy house seems shabby, dark, and stale; he knows something is wrong. We soon find out what it is; a goblin of sorts is haunting Dom, and Pat is the only one who knows it. We share his mounting horror as he watches his brother go where the ghoul leads him, helpless to do anything about it.
Themes: The supernatural/ fantasy, loss, family.
A supernatural thriller challenging in parts which will hold the attention of the reader with its imaginative narration.
Student Voice: “I found this novel very enjoyable, full of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat.” Olivia, aged 15
Celine Kiernan Interview: Celine Kiernan is an accomplished, award winning Dublin born, Irish writer.
In 2012, 'Into the Grey' won both the CBI Book of the Year and The Children’s Choice Award. In 2013, the novel also won The Reading Association of Ireland Award and in the same year Robert Dunbar named it as one of the best books of the past twenty five years in the Irish Times.
In our interview with Celine Kiernan which was filmed in her own home in Virginia, Co. Cavan the novelist shares her insights about her novel 'Into the Grey'.
The interview below is divided into seven short clips and you can also watch a further interview with Celine Kiernan where she talks about her experiences as a writer in our Reading and Writing section.
Lord of the Flies is an allegorical tale about the conflict between “civilization” and “savagery”. In the midst of a nuclear war, a group of school boys become abandoned on an island when their plane goes down. Separated at first, but through the use of a conch (shell), Ralph, a twelve year old summons the boys together and we soon learn that they are of all age groups, toddlers and adolescents. They learn that there are no adults on the island and initially this gives cause for some general enjoyment. Without adult supervision they must work together to survive and they elect a leader, the boy Ralph: ‘the being that had blown that (conch), had sat waiting for them on the platform with the delicate thing balanced on this knees, and was set apart.’
However, seeds of rivalry are sown early in the novel as this election disheartens the more ambitious Jack who gradually builds his own team and rebels against Ralph. Piggy, a fat boy who is a sharp thinker but is physically weaker than the others, is a central character in the novel. He is shown as the voice of reason, someone who counsels Ralph and possesses a strong revulsion for Jack. As the novel progresses, we soon learn what can happen when reason is replaced by ambition and greed.
Themes: Civilisation v savagery, evil, violence, power, relationships, fear, rules and order, the loss of innocence.
While challenging to some readers Lord of the Flies will yield good rewards in the exploration of its themes.
“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?.”
Interview with William Golding:
The Outsiders is a classic American novel set in the city of Oklahoma in the 1960s that tells the tale of a group of boys that survive in a world where their social status is a way to get them terrorised on a daily basis. It is the story of two gangs: the Greasers (the poor and underprivileged section of the city) and the Socs (the high society rich kids) and their constant war with each other. The Socs go around looking for trouble and Greasers to beat up, and then the Greasers are blamed for it, because they are poor and cannot influence the authorities. Curtis a 14 year old Greaser, tells the story as he brings us into a world where belonging and survival are the twin desires for all the boys.
Themes: Society and class, violence, isolation (as linked to the title of the novel), friendship/loyalty,
The novel has 218 pages and will be enjoyed by all readers.
“…the hand at the back of my neck was strong. I’m drowning,
S.E. Hinton on Location in Tulsa
In 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Harper Lee uses memorable characters to explore civil rights and racism in the segregated Southern United States of the 1930s. Told through the eyes of Scout Finch, you learn about her father Atticus Finch, an attorney who hopelessly strives to prove the innocence of a black man, Tom Robinson, unjustly accused of rape; and about Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbour who saves Scout and her brother Jem from being killed.
Themes: Racism/prejudice, justice, childhood/growing up, life in a small town community, integrity.
While challenging in parts, students will benefit greatly from an exploration of the themes in the novel.
“You never really understand a person until you
consider things from his point of view… Until you
climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
CBS Report on To Kill a Mockingbird
Homeless on the streets of London, 16 year old Link feels he has become an invisible outcast. When he meets streetwise Ginger, life becomes more bearable and he learns the tricks of survival. However, when Ginger goes missing, Link feels a sickening sense of foreboding....
The first person narrative of the novel switches between Link, as he adjusts to life on the streets, and 'Shelter', an ex-army officer scorned after being dismissed from his job and now determined to rid society of 'street people'.
Themes: Homelessness, loneliness/ isolation, friendship, growing up
Soldiers of the Kashmir Freedom Fighters are in search of new recruits at nine-year-old Rafiq’s school in rural Kashmir. They scrawl a line in chalk on the schoolroom wall. Any boy whose height reaches the line will be taken to fight. Rafiq is tall for his age and becomes the first boy to cross into a life of brutality and terrorism. So begins Rafiq’s transformation from child to boy soldier, indoctrinated into a cause of fanatical belief. But even when he no longer recognises himself, his family remembers the boy he was and hopes he will return.
While Rafiq’s story does not shy away from the horrors of his new life, Mitchell ensures that the novel is not too graphic for its intended audience. Endorsed by Amnesty International, this book will give readers an understanding of human rights issues while experiencing Rafiq and Jameelas’ world.
Themes: Conflict, death and loss, human rights, education, gender equality, family and friendship.
Chalkline is a novel which will hold the interest of all readers. Very clear cross-curricular links include C.S.P.E and R.E.
Student Voice:“Mitchell creates a captivating and emotion-filled novel which allows the reader to connect to the characters.” Oísin, aged 15
“Rafiq’s turn came and he stepped up to the chalk line. It reached the top of his ear.
“This one is big enough. He goes to the truck. He’s our first.”
Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat.
The Weight of Water is a startlingly original piece of fiction; most simply a brilliant coming of age story, it also tackles the alienation experienced by many young immigrants. Moving, unsentimental and utterly page-turning, we meet and share the experiences of a remarkable girl who shows us how quiet courage prevails.
Themes: Bullying, racism, friendship, family, isolation, young love.
Further support on the work of Sarah Crossan can be found here.
The Weight of Water is a novel written in poetic form which will appeal to all young readers.
“My body moves like a wave:
There is a violence to it
And a beauty.”
Student Voice: The Weight of Water
At the start of the school holidays, Danny Delaney is looking forward to a trouble-free summer. But he knows that something terrible has happened when his mother returns home one afternoon with two policemen….
In The Dare John Boyne (author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) tells the story from the point of view of a twelve-year-old boy. The Dare is about how one moment can change a family for ever.
Themes: Family, guilt, trust, growing up.
The Dare belongs to the ‘Quick Reads’ series of books and the story is complete in just over 100 pages. A novel that will appeal to all readers of all reading abilities.
Student Voice: “You can’t hide that this novel is a good read and was attention grabbing from the get-go.” Kate, aged 15
“No one was in when I got home, which was strange.”
John Boyne talk at the Wimbledon Book Festival
Derry in the 1970s: teenager Joe Logan is growing up in the teeth of the Troubles, having to cope with embittered parents, a brother who has been away and come back with money and a gun in his pocket, harsh school teachers, and the constant awareness of the military presence in the background. Central to the story is the friendship that tentatively grows between Joe and Kathleen, a young school-teacher who brings a fresh perspective to his familiar world.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the late 1970s, Shadows on Our Skin is the story of an unlikely friendship between a Catholic schoolboy and a young female Protestant teacher set in Derry, Northern Ireland during the Troubles..
Themes: Coming of age/growing up, war, (The Troubles), relationships, religion and politics.
Shadows on our Skin is a novel accessible to all readers which captures a real sense of Northern Ireland during “the Troubles”.
“Now we’ve got time to kill,
Kill the shadows on our skin.”
Interview with Jennifer Johnston:
Torn from her Bohemian homeland, Ántonia must embody the traits of endurance and determination, both when her father commits suicide and later when her fiancée abandons her and she must disguise an unplanned pregnancy.
Yet this is no ‘lurid melodrama’, crafted instead, as Willa Cather herself observed, out of “the little, every-day happenings and occurrences that form the greatest part of everyone’s life and happiness”. My Ántonia is a deeply nostalgic coming of age story celebrating the friendship of narrator Jim and his Ántonia and powerfully evoking the terrible beauty of the American prairie landscape. At times tragic, the novel also examines the way our past and our environment shapes us as human beings and celebrates the human capacity to flourish despite the hardships life throws at us all.
Themes: memory and the past; landscape and environment; social class, gender and ‘otherness’; endurance in the face of hardship; growing up
While the episodic plot structure and rich prose may present a challenge for reluctant readers, the tapestry of themes it explores have made this a literary classic many students will enjoy.
“Just as the lower edge of the red disc rested on the high fields against the horizon,
a great black figure suddenly appeared on the face of the sun.”
Fictional Interview with Willa Cather
In this novel by Malorie Blackman, the population is divided into two main groups; the white Noughts who are seen as inferior and are second-class citizens, and the black Crosses who are highly respected and seen as the superior race.
15-year-old Callum is a Nought, and his best friend, Sephy, as well as being a Cross, is also the daughter of one of the most powerful and ruthless politicians in the country. In their hostile world noughts and crosses do not mix. When Callum and Sephy’s childhood friendship grows into a deeper love, they are determined to find a way to be together. The story focuses on their relationship, which is frowned upon by society, and explores the discrimination they meet as a result.
By reversing traditional racial stereotypes and presenting the white population as the oppressed race, the novel depicts racial prejudice from a different perspective. As well as being a story of love and friendship, this is a thought-provoking look at the futility of prejudice.
Themes: Racial injustice, conflict/violence, relationships, family, courage, class in society.
Noughts and Crosses is a novel that will appeal to most young readers and is suitable for intermediate to advanced readers. Possible cross-curricular areas include C.S.P.E and R.E.
“You’re a Nought and I’m a Cross and there’s nowhere for us to be, nowhere for us to go where we’d be left in peace…”
Noughts and Crosses Q&A
High up in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to blend together. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
Themes: Childhood, loss of innocence, death, family, the role of the imagination.
A challenging but rewarding read for more advanced and independent student readers.
Student Voice:“I would recommend this novel to students who like novels about fantasy worlds and fairy tales.” Olive, aged 13.
“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in
every child there lies the adult that will be.”
Imagine that every private thought you’ve ever had was immediately broadcast to everyone in the vicinity. The characters in this novel call it their ‘Noise’, they have had to accept that all their banal observations, unkind thoughts, intimate reveries, anxious ruminations, and long held obsessions are out there for public scrutiny. This is the world in which our protagonist Todd Hewitt lives. We meet Todd the month before his 13th birthday and join him and his dog on a walk through their strange womanless town. Patrick Ness builds an atmosphere of disquiet; a heartbeat of dark untold secrets throbs through the opening, intriguing the reader as we see Todd’s world abruptly descend into violence, propelling him out into the world alone, pursued by malevolent townspeople.
He is soon joined by a mysterious silent girl called Viola. The menace and urgency of the novel is tempered with moments of humour and humanity. We find ourselves empathising with the teenage Todd’s embarrassment as all his thoughts are broadcast to the first girl he’s ever met, only to be met by an unnerving silence from her. Their journey is an eye-opener for Todd, shaking many of the beliefs he once saw as certainties and making him question the actions and motives of his guardians back in Prentisstown. This novel is the first of a trilogy and ends on a cliff-hanger.
Themes: Loss of innocence, loss and death, power and oppression, relationships.
A challenging but gripping read.
“The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”
The book is told from the perspective of various characters but our first narrator and where the heart of the story lies is with Raphael. Raphael lives with his aunt and various family members on the Behala dump in an unspecified city and country. Mulligan said he was inspired by the dump he saw when he visited Manila in the Philippines. Raphael has always lived on the dump and makes his living by finding and selling paper, plastic and other materials that can be sold on. The story begins when Raphael finds something out of the ordinary amidst the rubbish, a bag with a wallet and letter inside. When the police visit the dump later to ask if anyone found anything, Raphael realises he has discovered something important and with his friends Gardo and Rat, sets out to find out what he has found.
Given the subject matter, this book has some disturbing scenes. It is plot driven.
Themes: Poverty, violence, political corruption, childhood, family.
Trash is a novel which will hold the interest and attention of all readers. It has cross-curricular links with C.S.P.E and R.E.
Student Voice:“I would recommend this novel to students who prefer real life stories with mystery in them.” Tony, aged, 13.
“With the right key you can bust the door wide open.
Because nobody’s going to open it for you. ”
The Wind Singer is the first book in the ‘Wind On Fire’ trilogy. It is a fantasy novel set in the mythical meritocratic city of Aramanth, where each family is judged entirely on their ability to perform in examinations, and to be unsuccessful in these is seen as a great source of shame. Every citizen must abide by the ‘Oath of Dedication’, meaning that they must constantly ‘strive harder to reach higher.’
The Hath family believe more in ideas and dreams than the system of endless work and grades dictated by the ‘Oath of Dedication’. Their daughter Kestrel Hath rebels against the system and as a result, the family are sentenced to the harshest punishment. Desperate to save them, Kestrel and her twin brother Bowman decide to risk everything. Together with their friend Mumpo, they leave their family and embark on a perilous journey in search of the secret talisman that will make the iconic ‘Wind Singer’ sculpture sing again, thereby restoring normality to their world. Their epic quest is narrated by Nicholson using a perfect balance of drama and tenderness, woven with a touch of humour.
Themes: relationships, family, courage, class in society.
This novel is an engaging and enjoyable read for both boys and girls.
Student Voice:“This novel is full of excitement and the author certainly captures emotion in his words. It is truly a page turner and I gave a well-deserved 4 stars out of 5.” Áine, aged 15
“I hate school! I hate ratings! I won’t reach higher! I won’t strive harder! I won’t make tomorrow better than today! ”
Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she encounters a number of unsavoury types in her path.
The novel is the basis of the famous 1969 John Wayne movie and Coen brothers remake in 2010.
Themes: Revenge, violence, visions of an America past, justice and judgement.
A novel in a western setting with a heroine as its narrator. Accessible to all readers. A number of setting specific references which may need a little explanation for the student.
Student Voice:“True Grit is a great novel. The story is told in such an authentic western tone and really transports you to the west. It’s funny and action packed, for those looking for a short, great read.” Shane, aged 14
“You must pay for everything in this world one way and another.
There is nothing free except the Grace of God. You cannot earn that or deserve it.”
Of Mice and Men is a touching tale of the friendship between two men set against the backdrop of the United States during the depression of the 1930s. Subtle in its characterisation, the book addresses the real hopes and dreams of working-class America. This short novel raises the lives of the poor and dispossessed to a higher, symbolic level.
Its powerful ending is climactic and shocking to the extreme. But, we also come to an understanding of the tragedy of life. Regardless of the sufferings of those who live it, life goes on.
Themes: Loneliness, friendship, strength and weakness, the impossibility of the American dream, fate and destiny, nature, the corruptible power of women.
A novel to be enjoyed by all students.
“Curley’s like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. He’s alla time picking scraps with big guys.
Kind of like he’s mad at ‘em because he ain’t a big guy.”
The drunken farm owner of Manor Farm, Mr Jones, arrives home and forgets to feed his animals. Old Major the eldest of the pigs gathers the animals together into the barn and tells them of a dream he has had about what the earth will be like when man has vanished. He outlines how man is the only creature that consumes without producing and encourages the neglected animals to rebel and run the farm themselves, with one important qualification: everyone should be equal. The rebellion takes place with the pigs being the smartest animals, naturally taking the leadership role. The animals succeed and the initial excitement of their actions has a unifying effect on them and a set of rules is drawn up which seem to offer equality for all animals. All too soon, the unity begins to break up and two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, vie for control. As time passes, the rules begin to change and the newly named Animal Farm becomes a place of fear and terror.
Themes:A novel with political themes and moral messages which is accessible to all readers. Will need some direction from teacher to explain the context but will engage.
This is a brilliant little 95 page novel that young people will enjoy, as it seems, on the surface, to tell a simple imaginative story that will arrest their interest and pose many questions. On a deeper reading, it will allow them to explore the idea of satire and the corrupting influence of power.
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Once is the first in a series of children’s novels about Felix, a Jewish orphan caught in the middle of the Holocaust.
Morris Gleitzman is one of Australia’s bestselling authors. Once is the story of a young Jewish boy who is determined to escape the orphanage he lives in to save his Jewish parents from the Nazis in the occupied Poland of the Second World War.
“Once I escaped from an orphanage to find Mum and Dad. Once I saved a girl called Zelda from a burning house. Once I made a Nazi with a toothache laugh. My name is Felix. This is my story.”
Themes: The Holocaust/anti-Semitism, war, family, childhood.
Once is a novel which will appeal to all readers and abilities. It is a similar novel to John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Students will find the story funny in parts but the novel does deal with how Felix experiences the unspeakable horrors of war, and what was really going on in Poland in 1942.
It has possible cross-curricular links with history, C.S.P.E and R.E.
Student Voice:“I would recommend this novel to students who enjoy the topic of war and history.” Lauren, aged 13
“Everybody deserves to have something good in their life.
At least Once.”
Interview with Morris Gleitzman
Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre (1847), is the famous tale of an orphan, who must overcome seemingly overwhelming odds to survive. This gothic novel ventures into the nature of love, religion, an awakening, an exploration of the place and treatment of women and children, and much more—all in the form of a vivid adventure as Jane Eyre finds her way.
Themes: Social class, gender, relationships, love, the supernatural/the gothic.
A classic novel at 545 pages, it is suitable to more advanced readers who read independently.
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility:
they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”
Digging for peat in the mountain with his Uncle Tally, Fergus finds the body of a child, and it looks like she's been murdered. As Fergus tries to make sense of the mad world around him - his brother on hunger-strike in prison, his growing feelings for Cora, his parents arguing over the Troubles, and him in it up to the neck, blackmailed into acting as courier to God knows what, a little voice comes to him in his dreams, and the mystery of the bog child unfurls.
Coming of age, mystery, sacrifice
Imaginative narration and an accessible read. The central mystery will hold readers’ attention.
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life–until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father’s prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
Hope, love, freedom, sacrifice, family.
A beautifully told piece of historical fiction. A challenging read.
Ruta Sepetys talks about her novel:
Mysterious and utterly mesmerizing, this graphic-novel-within-a-novel pairs the extraordinary prose of David Almond with the visual genius of Dave McKean.
Blue Baker is writing a story — not all that stuff about wizards and fairies and happily ever after — a real story, about blood and guts and adventures, because that’s what life’s really like. At least it is for Blue, since his dad died and Hopper, the town bully, started knocking him and the other kids around. But Blue’s story has a life of its own — weird and wild and magic and dark — and when the savage pays a nighttime visit to Hopper, Blue starts to wonder where he ends and his creation begins.
Loss, bullying, hope and healing.
This is an accessible read, evocatively told. Set in Newcastle, Blue Baker is a character that will appeal to all students.
Further supports on engaging with graphic novels can be found in our webinar here.
Everyone has a dark side.
Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego.
It seems he is master of his fate.
It seems he is in complete control.
But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price…
Themes: good vs. evil, duality of human nature,
This 19th century, gothic horror, will appeal to readers who like a complex and challenging read.
Blurb: Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have visited Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this year is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis. This graphic novel is an investigation into the mysterious world of adults.
Pretty soon everything is messed up. Rose’s father leaves the cottage and returns to the city, and her mother becomes more and more withdrawn. While her family is falling to pieces, Rose focuses her attention on Dunc, a teenager working at the local corner store. When Jenny, Dunc’s girlfriend, claims to be pregnant, the girls realize that the teenagers are keeping just as many secrets as the adults in their lives.
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki speak about their collaborative writing process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODS7znhendE
Themes: Coming of age, identity, friendship, family
This graphic novel will appeal to many teenagers. Evocatively told, it deals with difficult subjects in a relatable way.
Things Fall Apart is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe's critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a classic narrative about Africa's cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior of Umuofia in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man's futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British political and religious forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.
Conflict, culture, power, identity
A challenging read that deals with complex subjects.
Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love - and its threatened loss - the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
Themes: love, relationships, family
This 19th century novel is a complex and challenging read.
Andrew "Ender" Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.
Themes: Love, hate, prejudice
An accessible piece of science fiction, all readers will find Ender and engaging character.
A run-down street in an old Chicago neighbourhood populated mostly by immigrants, mainly Mexican, is the setting for Cisnero’s gritty, poignant, realistic novel. Narrated by twelve-year-old Esperanza, the reader glimpses snatches of lives, fleeting images of poverty, hope, despair and joy chronicled through a variety of characters. The female characters, such as Sally and Marin are seduced by advertising, by images of the ideal, perfect romance, marriage, house, only to face betrayal and disappointment. Sally is beautiful but her father beats her, she marries young to escape home but it’s a loveless union. Ashamed of their ‘sad, red’ house and weary of her parents’ dreams of winning the lottery, Esperanza realises that she must get out, and leave this despairing, patriarchal environment. Her ticket to escape is her writing, her education and the hope embodied in her name and her spirit.
I like to tell stories. I am going to tell you a story about a girl who didn’t want to belong.
Set in 1960s Swaziland, South Africa (bordering Mozambique), Adele looks forward to returning to her mixed-race boarding school hanging out with the popular clique of wealthy girls. Suddenly, however, her best friend Delia dumps her for a new girl who is wealthier, and Adele is forced to share a room with poor, tough, gritty Lottie Diamond. What Lottie lacks in wealth she more than makes up for in courage, determination, and common sense. The two girls gradually become friends, bonding over a copy of Jane Eyre and surviving against bullies, prejudice and a fire that ravages the school. Adele grows in awareness and understanding of injustice, inequality, racial divisions, and the true meaning of friendship. This is a beautifully written, fast-paced story narrated in the first-person.
We play dumb. We try to disappear. That’s the way we survive
Are you ready for a road trip? This story takes the reader on a journey of unexpected ups and downs as the main character, Sal (full name-Salamanca Tree Hiddle), travels with her grandparents from Euclid, Ohio to Lewiston, Idaho, to visit her mother's grave and retrace her beloved mother’s final journey. To pass the time and also to avoid thinking too much about her mum, Sal tells her grandparents all about her new friend Phoebe. Phoebe is deep, intense, prim, and proper. She feels certain that some sinister connection exists between her next-door neighbour Mrs. Cadaver and the mysterious notes that keep appearing on Phoebe’s doorstep. How does the strange boy, whom Phoebe calls the lunatic, fit in to the story? Phoebe’s mother suddenly disappears, Sal falls for Ben and the road trip becomes perilous as gradually the truth is uncovered.
We take turns pretending we are walking in someone else’s moccasins.
This is the second book in Cooper’s fantasy series, the first one being Over Sea, Under Stone. Will Stanton is a clever, likeable 11-year-old boy, enjoying Christmas with his family unaware that he’s about to be plunged into another time, and faced with battling the Dark to protect the real-time world. He is charged with finding six signs in order to defeat the evil forces, represented by the Rider. Who can he trust? Is the tramp a friend or foe? Is there time to learn the powers that he needs from the Book of Gramarye? The unexpected disappearance of his sister Mary exacerbates his fraught quest. An intense, engaging story if you like fantasy fiction.
This is a heart-warming graphic novel about Jim’s nomadic experiences moving from place to place, making and losing friends, finding love with Kit, overcoming bullying and obeying his mother’s mantle, ‘don’t go digging up troubles’. Kit teaches Jim to read, and gradually she comes to understand the conflict between the settled ‘buffers’ and the travelling ‘pavees’. Illustrated by Emma Shoard, the deceptively simple style exposes deep issues worth exploring.
The thought of Kit and the fishes and the new words was like bread rising with the yeast.
It is ironic that a novel about struggles with words, has such a wonderful way with them. A Seven Letter Word is a quirky but thought-provoking novel about courage and resilience, entwined at its crux, in a mystery. The main character – Finlay – is a young teen with a talent for Scrabble. Finlay is a truly likeable character, whom the reader really comes to appreciate and admire.
Finlay is determined to recover his absent mother’s affections and escape the attentions of a bully in school. Finlay's mother left two years before, and ever since the stutter he struggles with, has become almost unbearable. His mother had been his main Scrabble playmate. Now bullied at school, and ignored by his father, the only outlet for his words is writing long letters to his mother, which he knows she will never read, and playing Scrabble online. When playing Scrabble, Alex, a stranger, starts talking to Finlay, and coincidentally mentions that his new step-mum walked out on her family, two years before. Finlay wants to investigate- could this be his mum?
I need to find my voice - before it's too late.
A dark but humorous catch-me-if-you-can story begins on Pepper Roux’s 14th birthday. When Pepper was born his pious Aunt Mireille foretold he would not live past 14 years of age. Can Pepper sidestep fate?
Pepper turns 14 and, finding himself alive and kicking, decides to set off for the sea, to try and avoid death, for as long as he can. Pepper's heightened sense of death makes him more alive than many of the people around him. As time goes on, Pepper takes on various personas – a drunken sea captain, a journalist, a telegram boy, a foreign legionnaire - and has many colourful adventures. He meets sailors, scoundrels, prostitutes, and a cross-dressing First Mate. But no matter where he goes, death loiters. Can he stay one step ahead of the Grim Reaper? And, if he does, which of his many lives will Pepper then adopt?
This novel is a riot of character, setting, story and action.
Pepper thought. He flicked his way back through the story of his life.
Are your students familiar with the kind of settings Shakespeare is famous for? If they are, they will feel right at home in these Discworld novels. Discworld novels can be read standalone or as part of a series of 41. In this sixth novel, we are taken back to the Kingdom of Lancre and reacquainted with Esmeralda Granny Weatherwax – and two other witches - Getha Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick. Gathered on a lonely heath, the King has been cruelly murdered, his throne snatched by his obnoxious cousin. During the mayhem, a servant has managed to escape with the king’s infant son. Realising the danger, the three witches hide the boy with a group of travelling actors, trusting that when the time is right, destiny will bring the rightful King back to Lancre to overthrow the imposter. Pratchett gives each character a unique voice, but it is the witches’ interactions and thoughtful value judgments that really embolden the action.
Wyrd Sisters intertwines fairy tales with well-known, glossy themes and plots from literary texts and pits them against the down-to-earth, hands-on, rough-and-ready interventions of the witches. But it’s the Wyrd Sisters’ interventions in royal politics that prove a lot more complicated than certain playwrights would have us believe!
Destiny is important, see, but people go wrong when they think it controls them. It's the other way around.
An engaging fantasy, set in a post-apocalyptic world, sparking thought on the power of words and language. John Noa leads the community in Ark, a grim, cheerless city that is the last safe place on Earth. Art and music are banned. Everyone in Ark must speak ‘List’, a language of only 500 words, because language and words are seen as evil and the cause of the ‘Melting’. Words like ‘love,’ ‘hope’ and ‘freedom’ are banned. Letta is an apprentice wordsmith. Her job is to collect words and distribute them to people who need them. Benjamin, the Master Wordsmith, has been Letta’s family since her parents were lost. When Benjamin dies and Letta discovers that John Noa is suppressing language, she must stop him. But how? She's only a young girl and he’s the commander controlling the city, the eco-warrior who takes things too far.
The words hung there in the air between them sparking with electricity.
Alem Kelo is a young boy living in war-torn Ethiopia. As an act of love, this 14-year-old is abandoned by his father in London, after they travel there on ‘holiday’ because it’s far safer than home. Disconnected from his family, Alem struggles as an outsider. Helped by Maraim and Pamela from the Refugee Council and by Sheila a social worker, Alem is then fostered by the Fitzgerald family. He goes to school, immerses himself in reading and bravely defends his case in court. Letters from his dad offer some connection to home but tragedy strikes. It’s not easy to make one’s own way in a strange new country. In this moving read, performance poet and novelist Benjamin Zephaniah teaches us all a lesson in humanity, more relevant than ever today.
This planet is for everyone, borders are for no one. It's all about freedom.
Grace is a witty, resilient fifteen-year-old girl struggling with typical teenage issues- first love, appearance, conflict in school, sibling rivalry and family tensions. Her best friends are her horse Mabel and Anna, her school pal. In this absorbing story, Grace also reveals what life is like from the perspective of someone with autism. In social interactions she tries not to stare blankly, wonders if she’s giving the right ‘look’ in certain situations, tries to deliver ‘appropriate’ responses but at times it’s so draining that Grace needs to zone out from the world. "I need to be quiet, somewhere, and just let myself settle, like a snow globe. But it's hard to make people understand that." Grace is smart and tough, endearing the reader to cheer her on against the ‘mean girls’ and to win over Gabe, the new heartthrob in school.
Set in the future, Lowry’s dystopian novel is an award-winning classic. Part adventure, part coming-of-age, the novel is as relevant now as it was when first published in 1993.
Jonas lives in a seemingly perfect community where there is no war, hunger, or pain. Aged twelve, Jonas has never questioned this before. But when he, like all other twelve-year-olds in this community, is given his profession by the Committee of Elders, things change. Selected as the Receiver of Memory, Jonas discovers that the community is not what it seems. He must get help from the Giver to discover what has been lost and find the strength and courage to put things right.
The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.
A wonderful ‘laugh out loud’ thoroughly enjoyable read. What would you do if a bag of cash, over 200,000 pounds/euros fell into your lap, and you only had two weeks to spend it all? Brothers Damian and Anthony buy pizza, clothes, give money to the poor, to school friends and even resort to flinging cash into random letterboxes to get rid of it before the thieves who originally stole it, catch up with them. Damian’s obsession with saints adds hilarity to the story. Desperately trying to please his dad and excel in school Damian views saints as role models and is an expert on them. Older brother Anthony is wiser and more grounded. The contrast between the world view of adults and children provides much of the comedy in the novel. The brothers realise that being rich isn’t so easy after all, especially when time is running out before the money becomes worthless and the crooks are on your trail.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a series of 12 short stories in the detective genre. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson try to discover ‘whodunnit’ in various mysterious and puzzling circumstances. “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” has Holmes trying to prove the innocence of James McCarthy, whose father was found dead under odd circumstances. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” is a challenging mystery for Holmes to solve, as one woman’s sister dies under the most unusual and remarkable circumstances. “The Man with the Twisted Lip” centres on Neville St. Clair who has disappeared without trace. The detective is at the height of his powers also in the first story in the collection, “A Scandal in Bohemia.” This story made Holmes a household name. In it, Holmes uses disguises in his attempts to find a photograph that could ruin the potential marriage of the King of Bohemia. Holmes’ methods of deduction are fascinating and entertaining, while Watson makes for a great sidekick and ally.
Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt in 1929. Her family moved to Amsterdam in 1934 but during World War II, as the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, the Frank family, who were Jewish, were forced to flee their home. Along with four friends, the family went into hiding in the attic of her father’s office. Anne kept a secret diary of their experiences over a two-year period until they were discovered by the Gestapo. Her diary is poignant, moving, at times humorous, as the thirteen-year-old narrates the difficulties of eking out a monotonous existence in fear and deprivation. Anne’s diary has become a classic, offering an insight into the resilience of the human spirit as well as being a reminder of the horrors of war. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen, in February 1945, at the age of 15.
The Red Pony published in novel form in 1937, is set on a ranch in California charting 10-year-old Jody Tiflin’s coming of age experiences. Used to hard work and responsibility on the ranch, tending horses, cows and pigs, Jody respects his father Carl who is strict, and he learns much from Billy Buck, the hired hand. The novel is divided into four stories. The first story sees Carl give Jody a gift, a red pony. Jody names him Gabilan, brushes him early in the morning before school and tends to him again in the evening. Excited about training and riding the pony, Jody’s joy is dashed when the pony suddenly becomes severely ill. Faced with tragedy, longing also to explore what lies beyond the great mountains, and dealing with family conflict, Jody learns harsh lessons about life, about man and about nature.
The prelude to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is one of the best-known and best-loved fantasy books. First published in 1937, it has been translated into over 50 different languages and sold over a 100 million copies. The first sentence "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit" came to Tolkien while he was ‘correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task’. Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of the story, is a Hobbit quite content at home and averse to adventure until one day the wizard Gandalf persuades Bilbo to accompany him and thirteen dwarves on a mission. They plan to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large, dangerous dragon. Bilbo, our reluctant hero, discovers that he is brave, loyal and cunning as the group encounter elves, goblins, eagles, danger and near-death on their way to the Lonely Mountain. The Hobbit was written by Professor Tolkien for the reading pleasure of his own children, it is a more light-hearted tale than The Lord of the Rings and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Cirque du Freak is the first of twelve novels in the vampire series, The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan, published in January 2000. The main character has the same name as the author and the series recounts his terrifying transformation from human to half-vampire and to vampire prince. In book one, Cirque Du Freak, Darren and his best friend Steve, sneak off to a banned freak show encountering weird half-human/ half-animal creatures. Darren determines to steal an enormous tarantula owned by Mr. Crepsley so that he can train it to perform amazing deeds. But his daring theft goes horribly wrong forcing Darren to make huge choices. From an ordinary boy, Darren is transformed into half-vampire as he tries to save Steve in this gruesome, terrifying world where the vampires are in fact alive.
This is a graphic, fantasy novel set in a graveyard! One dark, eerie night a toddler wanders out the front door after a murderer kills his family. The baby ends up in a graveyard nearby, the ghosts name him Nobody Owens or Bod and promise his dead mother that they’ll take care of him. Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. There are perils and adventures within the graveyard but outside it, in the land of the living there’s also the murderer searching for Bod, intent to kill him. This is an intriguing story with beautiful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Dave McKean.
This fantasy adventure is the first book in the Nine Lives Trilogy. Ebony Smart is an orphan who lives with her grandfather. He dies on her twelfth birthday and Ebony, with her pet rat Winston, is forced to go to Dublin and live with her eccentric Aunt Ruby whom she never knew existed. Aunt Ruby’s rambling house is full of secrets, shadows, sealed windows, and a mysterious locked room. Ebony is bewildered when she finds a book with her name on it. She steals the book and gradually realises that she is part of the Order of Nine Lives, a special group of people who reincarnate. Fearful of the dangerous Icarus Bean, unsure of who to trust, Ebony has only one week in which to break a terrible curse or else die.
Orphaned at two years old, Denizen Hardwick lives in Crosscaper Orphanage until at thirteen years of age, an aunt that he never knew he had, whisks him off to another world. Mysterious Serephin Row is where he learns about the Knights of the Borrowed Dark, a secret army protecting the world from a race of shadowy monsters. Shadows are doors, shadows are monsters, magic and mystery abound in a world beyond the only world that Denizen knows.
A vivid contemporary coming of age tale told through verse. Narrated poetically from the perspective of 15 year old Xiomara as she struggles with the unwanted attention her body draws and the pressures that society and religion place on her as she tries to find her voice and her own identity. She has learnt quickly to fight fiercely with her fists but still feels she goes unheard, until she finds Slam Poetry as an outlet to express herself.
Setting: Contemporary Harlem, New York
Genre: Contemporary coming-of-age verse novel
Some Themes: Identity, misogyny and sexism, self-acceptance, coming of age, religion.
Live performance and interview with the author (courtesy of Epic Reads) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH4gIM6TZkQ
Setting: 1960s Tulsa, Okaloma, USA
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Some Themes: Society and class, violence, isolation, friendship/loyalty
Audiobook available from ESL
Setting: Albion, a society based in an alternate Britain
Genre: Alternate history
Some Themes: Racial injustice, conflict/violence, relationships, family, courage, class in society
Possible cross-curricular areas include C.S.P.E and R.E.
Free audio version courtesy of fullenglishaudiobooks.com
Setting: Set during World War Two, the story largely takes place in Elsewhere, a magical land accessed by the protagonist through a crack in a garden wall
Genre: Coming of age novel
Some Themes: Childhood, loss of innocence, death, family, the role of the imagination.
Sample audio extract courtesy of SoundCloud
Setting: The English city of Coventry
Sample audio extract from Audible
Setting: The novel is set in 2115 AD with the action taking place in several settings including North Carolina, Battle School and the Colony
Genre: Science fiction
Some Themes: Love, hate, prejudice, virtual reality, control and manipulation
Audiobook from fullenglishaudiobooks.com
Setting: 1980s Northern Ireland
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Some Themes: Coming of age, mystery, sacrifice, morality
Sample audio extract from AudioBooks
Setting: 1941, Kaunas, Lithuania during the Soviet occupation
Genre: Historical fiction
Some Themes: Genocide, hope, love, freedom, sacrifice, family, the role of women
Setting: Set during the late 19th century in Igboland, Nigeria
Some Themes: Conflict, culture, power, identity, masculinity
Setting: Burgess Woods, outside the fictional English town of Saltwell
Genre: Graphic novel
Some Themes: Loss, bullying, hope and healing.
Extract available on SoundCloud
Link to Webinar 6 from JCT English discussing The Savage and Graphic Novels
Setting: Late 19th century London
Genre: Gothic horror
Some Themes: good vs. evil, duality of human nature, repression, curiosity
Audio and text from ESL
Setting: 1930s era California during the Great Depression
Genre: Novella, tragedy
Some Themes: Loneliness, friendship, strength and weakness, the impossibility of the American dream, fate and destiny, nature, the corruptible power of women
Audiobook from fullenglishaudiobooks.com
Setting: Behala, a dumpsite in Manila, the Philippines
Genre: Young adult thriller
Some Themes: Poverty, violence, political corruption, childhood, family.
Publisher's guide for teachers from scoilnet.ie
Audiobook excerpt from podcasts.com
Rose and Windy are summer friends whose families have visited Awago Beach for as long as they can remember. But this year is different, and they soon find themselves tangled in teen love and family crisis. This graphic novel is an investigation into the mysterious world of adults.
Setting: Awago, a small beach town somewhere in Canada
Genre: Coming of age graphic novel
Some Themes: Coming of age, identity, friendship, family
Teacher's guide from Macmillan
Setting: Late 18th century England, predominantly London and Sussex
Genre: Romance novel
Some Themes: Love, relationships, family, women's role in society, wealth, class
Free audio version courtesy of Librivox
Project Gutenberg e-book
This novel opens in the 1830s in Barbados, introducing a young boy, called George Washington Black, nicknamed ‘Wash’. The story charts his life as a slave from age 11 to 18. Wash is in captivity in the opening scenes which are harsh and brutal. However, his mother, Big Kit, instills hope and resilience in Wash. This, along with his gift for art and his friendship with good guy, Titch, who is against slavery, sees him flee Barbados in a hot air balloon. Wash is now ‘free’ but on the run aided by Titch who is a dreamer and inventor. Exciting escapades follow in Virginia, the Arctic Circle, Nova Scotia, London, Amsterdam and Morocco. A whirlwind in terms of plot, it is a gripping read which gives an insight into slavery and the beginning of its demise.
Setting: Barbados in the Caribbean Islands on a sugar cane plantation,
Virginia, The Arctic Circle, Nova Scotia, London
Genre: Historical fiction
Some Themes: Racism, friendship, loyalty, love, hate, freedom, fate.
Interview with the author, courtesy of Waterstones -
British Foreign Office civil servant, Samuel Fennan, is accused of being involved with the Communist Party. After a security check, George Smiley clears Fennan of any wrongdoing, but the next day Fennan’s body is found in what appears to be a suicide. While interviewing Fennan’s wife, the phone rings and Smiley answers it, thinking that it’s for him. Smiley soon realises that things are not at all as they appear to be.
Setting: 1950's Britain
Genre: Cold War espionage, a spy thriller
Some Themes: Relationships, ageism, trust and deceit, history, human emotion
Full audiobook available for free from ‘BookAudio’ –
Hombre is a Western. John Russell has been raised as an Apache. Now he’s on his way to live as a white man. But when the stagecoach passengers learn who he is, they want nothing to do with him. That is, until outlaws ride down on them and they must rely on Russell’s guns and his ability to lead them out of the desert. He can’t ride with them but they must walk with him or die...
Setting: Arizona mining country - the typical western town of Sweetmary
Some Themes: Good versus evil, courage, belonging/acceptance, greed, corruption
Film trailer from 1967 courtesy of 20th Century Fox - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FCTES05FHw
Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules for writing
Having contracted polio at a young age, Nessa Doherty has been left with a permanent disability. Having learned the the terrible truth about the Call, she becomes a student at Boyle Survival College. Here she and her friends must now train for the fight of their lives. Only one-in-ten have a chance of getting through the terrifying ordeal alive.
Please note that this novel deals with issues of violence and contains some mild profanity.
Setting: An alternate Ireland in the near future
Genre: Dystopian adventure
Some Themes: Disability, determination, love, courage, societal expectations.
Click here to read an extract from The Call
The Old Man and the Sea revolves around an aging, Cuban fisherman, Santiago, who engages in a titan battle to catch a giant marlin. His young friend and former apprentice, Manolin, has been forced by his parents to abandon Santiago, and to work on a more prosperous fishing boat. However, Manolin continues to support Santiago in any way he can.
Preoccupied in his pursuit, Santiago has failed to catch any fish for 84 days. Convinced that his luck will turn, Santiago takes his small, flat-bottomed boat into the wide, deep waters of the Gulf Stream, where destiny will decide if the coveted marlin will be caught or not.
Setting: 1940’s Cuba, near Havana
Genre: A short, dramatic adventure story
Some Themes: Strength, courage, experience, resilience, wisdom, loyalty, friendship.
Short animation courtesy of Encore + https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNCxNntn2yc
Audiobook available from ESL
This semi-autobiographical novel sees the Mishra family emigrate from Delhi, India to Queens, New York in 1978. Narrated in first person by eight-year-old Ajay, the prose grows and matures along with Ajay, from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. His ten-year-old brother, Birju, settles into high school while Ajay struggles to make friends and to be himself in this new, foreign country. Bright, hardworking albeit slightly arrogant, Birju gains a place in a highly reputable third-level college. The Mishra family are thrilled. Disaster soon blights their joy when an accident in a swimming pool leaves Birju brain damaged. His mother Shuba refuses to believe that he will not get better. The family struggle emotionally and financially to care for Birju. Ajay is forgotten about and Mr Mishra becomes an alcoholic. This is a powerful and frank exploration of human nature and family life.
Setting: 1978 Delhi, India and Queens, New York, USA.
Genre: Coming of age story
Themes: Family relationships, love, grief, education, class, race
The author reads from the novel (courtesy of The British Library) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDm5-opSpac
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