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Malkin Moonlight, Emma Cox       Age 8+

Malkin is a Hero. He just doesn’t know it yet. On his third life, Malkin falls in love with a Domestic, Roux. Together they explore the night and have adventures. But when her owners decide to move away Roux chooses to become a Wild and live with Malkin.  Setting out to find a new home, they stumble across a recycling centre full of cats – at war.  Can Malkin realise his destiny and find a way to bring peace to the land?


Malkin Moonlight has a difficult start to life but is blessed and encouraged by the Moon, who helps him realise he is destined for greatness.  Danger is never far away but when he is rescued by Roux, Malkin falls head over heels in love and their romance blossoms.  Malkin proves his heroic nature time and again, helping out animals in distress and befriending all he meets.  Learning from each other, both Roux and Malkin discover bravery and new skills – Roux even teaches Malkin to read! Their perfect union is blessed by the Moon who gives them the mark of a wedding ring on their paws.  But Roux is a Domestic and not used to the ways of the Wild; it’s only her love for Malkin that draws her to his side and leads them on the path of adventure.  The call to the Wild is strong and finally Malkin and Roux search for a place they can call home.  On finding the recycling centre, they make many new friends each with their own story. But all is not what it seems and Malkin will have to confront his greatest fears and formidable enemies if he is to save the one he loves, unite the warring cats and create a peaceful home for all.


This is a lovely classic adventure story, with a gentle narrative that draws the reader in to the wonderful world of cats.  Malkin is a delightful character, full of charm and very humble about his heroic deeds.   The Moon has seen Malkin’s heart for helping others and bestows on him a beautiful white fur ring around his neck.  You can see why Roux would instantly fall for this wonderful cat who is so kind and fearless, even when he himself is in peril.  The author cleverly weaves the belief that cats have nine lives and a sixth sense into the story, creating some heart-breaking moments.  The romance is very sweet, but balanced with scenes of danger and daring. The cast of characters includes a wonderful seagull named Horatio and an array of remarkable cats. I particularly enjoyed the fabulously French blue cat, Marmelade and the very aptly named baddie cat, Toxic.   It turns out Malkin’s destiny is to bring peace to two warring tribes of cats, a theme which will draw parallels with many of the events in today’s world. Malkin’s reluctance to use violence is very noble, a sentiment all will appreciate.   Friendship, kindness, bravery and family are central to this story as is the importance of looking after our environment.  A must read for anyone who likes cats!


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Goodbye Stranger, Rebecca Stead     Age 13+

‘Thirteen broken bones and a punctured lung. You must have been put n this Earth for a reason, to have survived it.’


Bridge is an oddball.  She is a doodler. She wears black Halloween cat ears every day. And she survived a serious accident when she was younger.  Ever since she missed a year of school to recover, she’s found fitting in with her best friends Emily and Tabitha difficult.  They promised never to fight, but that’s hard when they start keeping secrets from each other.  Sherm wants to get to know Bridge better. But he’s also hiding a secret. And then there’s another mystery girl, who is struggling with an even more serious problem....A bittersweet story about friendship, fallouts and finding your own way.


Except that she survived a hideous life threatening accident, you’d never know there was anything ‘different’ about Bridge. She has happily married loving parents, an irritating but good-natured older brother and a nice group of friends.  School is okay except she hates French.  And yet Bridge is slightly eccentric and when she starts wearing a cat ears headband, it’s clear she doesn’t feel ‘normal’.  Is this just because of the accident she wonders? Or does everyone wonder what their purpose is?  As Bridge and her friends embark on the precarious journey of growing up change is inevitable.  Boyfriends; friends who are boys; friends who are girls; sexting; bullying; feminism; family relationships: no area of their lives remains unaffected.  Will Bridge be able find her ‘purpose’ in amongst the day to day agony & ecstasy of growing up?


Bridge is a lovely character, who technically ‘should’ have died in the accident she had, but miraculously survived with very little scarring (aside from the night terrors and occasional panic attacks).  Her childhood friends Emily & Tabitha are brilliantly portrayed; each with their own foibles and personality traits, each with their own set of worries. All the friendships in this story are so real, perfectly describing the fickle nature of some, the fierce loyalty that can exist between others and the importance of forgiveness.  The ability to be yourself is essential for friendships to thrive; Sherm and Bridge demonstrate this beautifully. I love Sherm’s character, the insight into his home life and the way he and Bridge become ever closer. The awkwardness of recognising whether you’re just friends or something more is palpable!  The mystery girl is the added ‘extra’, her story unusually told in the second person, which keeps you guessing right until the end. After committing a terrible deed, she goes into hiding for the day and it seems her fate is linked to that of Bridge and her friends.  Add to this Bridge’s family members, the cafe waitress-come boxer, Adrienne, school teachers, the horrible ‘friend’ Alex, you have a cast of characters that bring together the threads of the narrative, creating a picture of teenage life that will be familiar to many.


The best thing about this wonderful story is that nothing is dwelt on too deeply, but just enough to make you think.  It is light-hearted, but not without meaning.  It is fun, but not without seriousness.  And it is real, perfectly reflecting the world in which young people are living today.  


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Also reviewed for the Reading Zone

Goodbye stranger