• The Sapling

Book Awards: junior fiction finalists

Where do we usually get our recommendations for books to read? The bookshop, of course. We've asked people from five bookshelves to sell us our stunning array of junior fiction titles.



Tunnel of Dreams, by Bernard Beckett (Text Publishing, 2020)

Multi-award-winning NZ Author Bernard Beckett has done it again, captivating young readers with his new novel Tunnel of Dreams.

Did you know identical twins have a special gift, able to open portals to other dimensions? Arlo and Stefan discover this after going to the aid of a stranger. Alice’s twin has been kidnapped, and asked for their help.

In an alternate version of their home town, the brothers face a plethora of challenges and tests. They must become Royal Guards if they want to find Alice’s sister in this strange place.

Motivations of power and greed and a banished malevolent force are slowly revealed.


With the help of talking native NZ birds, sibling courage, loyalty and friendship, this story is gripping and imaginative.

Harry Potter fans will love this tale of twins, magic, competition and clever thinking, to defeat an evil entity bent on controlling the world.

Sold by Adele Broadbent, a Children’s and teens book reviewer (What Book Next.com), a Children’s author and a Children’s bookseller at Wardini Books in Napier.

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Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea, by T.K. Roxborogh (Huia Publishers)

Not that this is at all a necessity for any book, but I really think Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature from the Sea could be recommended safely to any intermediate-aged young person.


It’s got it all—emotional depth, fantastical adventure, mystery, humour, gods, and natural disasters.

The characters are wonderful—no one's too perfect or powerful—and there's a terrific balance of action and emotion, the earthly and the godly. Thirteen-year-old Charlie and his rascally brother Robbie find a strange kind of mermaid on the beach, and that's just the beginning. You can almost taste the love and care that went into writing this book. I’m rooting for you, Tania!


Sold by Jane Arthur, manager and co-owner of Good Books in Wellington


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The Inkberg Enigma, by Jonathan King (Gecko Press)


The Inkberg Engima is set during the summer holidays in a small seaside fishing town that could be somewhere in NZ. Two teens—inquisitive photographer Zia and introverted rare-book obsessed Miro are thrown together when they witness some strange happenings down at the harbour. They are soon embroiled in a mystery which goes back to the age of polar exploration and is dangerously intertwined with the local fishing industry.


This is a great read with teen characters who are real, and easy to like, and (in Miro’s case reluctantly) brave and adventurous. The original plot which features scary sea creatures keeps you in suspense the whole way through and ends on a surprising and slightly disturbing note. Expressive pictures in a sombre blue, green and purple palette enhance the ominous feeling of the story. Being a Gecko Press book, it is also beautifully designed and published. This book has it all and I think it’s a winner!


Sold by Helen Wadsworth, co-owner and manager of The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop

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red edge, by Des Hunt (Scholastic NZ)


Fitness fanatic 12-year-old Cassi, who fancies herself as a bit of a sleuth, is alerted to suspicious activity in the derelict house next door.

Having just moved with her dad into the neighbourhood on the edge of Christchurch's Red Zone, Cassi has been busy exploring and getting to know the locals, including tech-geek Quinn.

Unlikely allies at first, the two loners bond over the trauma they still suffer after the quake, and when they find money in the overflowing letterbox and evidence of endangered species being used in herbal beauty and health products, they are convinced they are on to a wildlife smuggling crime. But their efforts to alert the authorities are thwarted at every turn.


Des Hunt always delivers a cracking eco adventure and this one is brimming with tension, danger and the most villainous villains.


Sold by Ruth McIntyre, owner and manager of The Children’s Bookshop, Kilbirnie


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Across the Risen Sea, by Bren MacDibble

This middle grade adventure with an environmental focus is set in a small community living on high ground. They live ‘gentle lives’ in tune with nature, giving back as much as they take, until an ominous visit takes loyal friends Jag and Neoma away from their secure lives towards a dark new world across the ‘Risen Sea’.

We have been big supporters of Bren’s work ever since How to Bee arrived on the scene… in fact, you could track it back a few months earlier, since In the Dark Spaces came out first! Her thoughtful yet adventurous work has resonated with young readers and adults alike, and there is always clamour among Little Unity staff to get our hands on the reading copy of a new Bren MacDibble when it arrives. Beyond the compelling and timely storytelling in Across the Risen Sea, there is also an excellent crocodile and shark fight!


Sold by Little Unity manager Angela Travers


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Check out our coverage of the other Book Awards for Children & Young Adults categories: