Posts Tagged ‘Middle grade fiction’

Skandar and the unicorn thief

By A. F. Steadman

ISBN 9781398512429

Simon & Schuster

Skandar is 13 and a bit of a loner. He has no friends, just his sister and his dad and all he wants is to be a unicorn rider. Not your stereotypical pretty-as-a-picture unicorn, but real, scary unicorns. It is all that matters to him but first he must pass his Hatchery exam, that is if he gets the chance. Each student must hatch their own unicorn, and tame them in order to become riders but not everyone will make it.

Action unfolds quickly for Skandar, and he soon finds himself on an island and pushed into danger. There are other riders his age but the biggest problem, is who to trust. Who is telling the truth, and who might betray him? Scandar has a secret, a life-threatening one that he needs to keep hidden. Bullies are found everywhere, but here the risk to Skandar’s safety and secrets could be deadly if his secret is revealed.

The unicorns are strong-willed, definitely dangerous, bloodthirsty and potentially wild killers. The new riders are people Skandar’s age and they come with their own personal issues and fears but also kindness and loyalty. Working out who will stand together is one of the book’s theme. Family, friends, honesty, bravery, it’s all here in this action-packed debut novel. I love the action of the fierce sky battles where unicorns and riders fight to win, but where survival is not guaranteed. I love the friendships and teamwork.

As well as the ferocious unicorns, there are four elements that tie riders, unicorns and elements together, or perhaps there is more, but that would be too revealing, and no one wants spoilers in their reviews. I can tell you, there is a lot to like. The characters, with all their flaws, the fantasy and storyline, good against evil, descriptive language and general pace of the story. The story is well written and I have already seen a number of students reading this at school and it has quickly become their favourite book, which is high praise indeed.

I’ve finished the first book and now hanging out for book two.

What about Will

By Ellen Hopkins

ISBN 9780593108642

Penguin Random House

Ellen Hopkins name is synonymous with verse novels. Her ability to take you inside the thoughts of her characters is well known and well respected. Writing mostly for the young adult audience, her latest book What about Will is aimed at the younger, middle grade readers.

Trace Reynolds is 12 and the younger brother of 17 year old Will. They were tight once. Good friends as well as brothers but after Will suffers a brain injury at a football game, everything changes. Will becomes angry, depressed and antisocial. Their mother has not long since left the family and now Trace sees Will slipping away from him too. Things begin to disappear and Will mixes with a new group of teens, and they are not the best people to be around.

Throughout the novel we feel Trace’s pain. He is caring and kind and and worries about Will. He misses his mother who he hasn’t seen in months. We feel his confusion as he becomes conflicted with trying to find out what is wrong with Will or waiting to see if Will will come right. He covers for his brother, trying to protect him but only he can decide, if it is the right thing to do. But Will doesn’t come right and things begin to spiral out of control.

This novel, in verse form, deals with many issues. Family breakdown, little league, trust, betrayal, brothers, head injuries, drug addiction. It’s all in here and woven together thoughtfully, with careful consideration to the reality of Trace and Will’s lives. Their characters and their situations offer an insight to what many families are going through. The things that happen here, happen in real life.

Friendship is a theme running through the book and one that highlights the importance of having someone who listen when you need them.

Highly recommend this book. A good solid story, authentic characters and great writing.

The way I say it

By Nancy Tandon

ISBN 9781623541330

Charlesbridge

What do you do when your name is Rory and you’re going into sixth grade and you can’t even pronounce your own name. Rory is a smart, musical kid with a speech impediment. He has difficulty saying the letter r. It doesn’t matter if it is at the start of a word, or snuggled up inside a word, the letter r trips him up, and according to some people, makes him sound like a baby. He is made fun of because of the way he talks. A fall out with his former best friend, Brent, also adds to his troubles. Bullying is a strong contender in this middle grade novel. You can feel Rory’s pain and frustration. He really wants to get his letters and words right. He wants to sound like everyone else.

Rory regularly sees a speech teacher, Mr Simms, at school and it is this relationship which holds the key to making things right. Both are fans of the boxer Muhammad Ali, and both fans of good music. Both of these things play a significant role in helping Rory overcome his speech problems and his understanding and dealing with issues concerning Brent.

When an accident happens and his used-to-be best friend, but now enemy and bully number one is seriously hurt in hospital with a brain injury, Rory becomes confused about his feelings and struggles with doing the right thing.

The power of this novel is seeing the growth in characters. They are believable and I found myself drawn to them all, even the bullies. Writing that connects you to the characters, is good writing. Rory’s friend Tyson brings lots of humour to the story too, and just like in middle grade school, there are crushes and mixed emotions and even mixed up crushes.

A good solid read, with a mix of humour, bullying, being different, brain injuries, and friendships. Really enjoyed this read.

The Danger Gang

By Tom Fletcher

Illustrated by Shane Devries

ISBN  9780241407462

How cool is this? Very keen to get my hands on a copy of Tom Fletcher’s new middle grade novel.

The story sounds very exciting and the trailer is super cool.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tom’s Christmasaurus book (and very excited to see it will be a picture book later this year) so I know, based on his writing, that I will enjoy this new book too.

‘Check out the blurb below.

Franky can’t wait to move to his new town – although he wishes he didn’t have to leave his best friend Dani behind.
But everything changes after the storm, when strange green lightning and powerful thunder crash down on the town. From that night on, the kids who live on Franky’s street start to change. One by one, they become a little odd. A little unusual. A little… magical.

Franky’s always wanted to be part of an amazing gang – just like his hero, super-spy Zack Danger! And soon, he realises that there’s real danger in store for himself and his new friends.

And so the Danger Gang is born…

Everyone needs to belong somewhere, and I think (and hope) Franky has found the people he needs and who need him too. And the trailer is just too good not to share. After lockdown, I will be hunting this book out at my local bookshops. I know I could order it online, but I do like to support local businesses when I can.

How NOT to stop a kidnap plot

By Suzanne Main

ISBN 9781775434801

Scholastic NZ

 

Michael is on a mission. It is one he is unprepared for and actually doesn’t want, especially as the mission is to save his sworn enemy, Angus, from being kidnapped. In his attempt to avert the kidnapping, Michael and his best friend Elvis follow whatever leads they can find. Some of the leads get them in to trouble and involve breaking a few laws. While not exactly wanting to end up as criminals, they do have to decide how far they will go in order to keep Angus safe from the kidnappers. They do of course have to work out who the kidnappers are and that could be almost anyone. 

This is a great read with lots of action, a little bit of revenge that doesn’t quite happen the way Michael wants it to happen, humour and most importantly, likable and believable characters. Michael is not perfect, but he is genuine and a good friend to have. Despite some initial bullying and a definite dislike of Angus, Michael realizes that sometimes the best thing to do is the right thing. A good read for ages 8 plus. Thoroughly enjoyed the journey and meeting Michael and his friends.

Michael and Elvis have had other adventures in Suzanne’s previous novel How I alienated my Grandma. I confess it is a book I haven’t read yet but after enjoying this novel, I will definitely be looking to read their other adventures.

Impyrium

By Henry H. Neff

ISBN 9780062392053

HarperCollins Childrens Books

 

This is such a brilliant trailer. I love it! So much time and energy has gone in to this top quality trailer.  This book is definitely on my “must get hold of a copy now” list.

“In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core.

For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall.

Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.

One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.”

Look out for this one. I know I will be!

Raymie Nightingale

By Kate DiCamillo

ISBN 9781406363135

Walker Books

 

 

 

5

 

Raymie Clarke had her world turned upside when dad ran off with the dental hygienist. However, Raymie does have a plan to get him back again. If she can learn to twirl a baton and enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and then win it, her father might see Raymie’s picture in the paper and come home to Raymie and her mother.   Criteria for the competition also includes doing good deeds. Her attempts at good deeds doesn’t go so well and actually creates other problems for her to deal with. Alongside all this, Raymie has to contend with Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background and therefore could be tough competition, and Beverly Tapinski who is strong but troubled and is determined to sabotage the contest.

This is a moving tale of three girls, each with their own problems, who discover the true value of friendship. As they learn to support each other it leads each of them to discover difficult truths they had been avoiding. Friendship, honesty and acceptance are strong themes throughout this novel but rather than being in your face, these qualities come slowly as the girls learn to trust each other. This is sweet and moving and great for middle grade readers. Loved it! But then I love all of Kate DiCamillo’s works. Read this one and then look for more of her books. They are all quality writing and wonderful stories.

Magrit

By Lee Battersby

Illustrations by Amy Daoud

ISBN 9781925081343

Walker Books Australia

magrit

 

What a treasure! This is a very special and beautifully produced novel for readers from nine up.  Heart-warming, touching and sad all rolled in to a wonderful story where the truth is the hardest of all things to find. Beautifully written, I was hooked from the very first page. I just wanted to take Magrit home with me. I sat in the sun reading this today and just didn’t want to put the book down or do anything else. I had to keep going until I found out how the story ends. So I did just that. Sat and read until I knew Magrit’s truth. While I think this would be great for parents to read to children, I am also inclined to think this is one of those special books that readers will love for themselves and make their own connections to Magrit, Bugrat and the Master Puppet.  I bought this book for the school library where I work and I know it will be a hit – but the thing is – I have to return it to school for others to read but I really don’t want to. I actually want to read it all over again. Hmm – late night coming on!

“Magrit lives in an abandoned cemetery with her friend and advisor, Master Puppet, whom she built from bones and bits of graveyard junk. She is as forgotten as the tiny graveyard world that surrounds her. One night as Magrit and Master Puppet sit atop of their crumbling chapel, a passing stork drops a baby into the graveyard. Defying Master Puppet s demands that the baby be disposed of, and taking no heed of his dire warnings, Magrit decides to raise the baby herself. She gives him a name: Bugrat. Magrit loves Bugrat like a brother, friend and son all rolled into one. But Master Puppet and the newly discovered skeleton girl know all too well what will happen when Bugrat grows up – that the truth about them all will be revealed. Something Magrit refuses to face”

Flying Furballs Book 1 Dogfight

By Donvan Bixley

ISBN 9781927262535

Upstart Press

furballs

I love a trailer that makes me want to run out and buy the book and this trailer makes me want to do that right now.  This has it all, adventure, humour, Paris and a cat pilot just for starters.

I know this is one book the children at school and I will be fighting over to get to read first when it comes out. As the book buyer for the library I like to think I will be the first but I can never resist their pleas when the children beg to be the first to read a new book. I think the queue for this one might be long judging by this very cool trailer.

While you wait for the book to be released  (any day now) do take time to check out Donovan’s website, especially his links to some cool free downloads.

‘Flying Furballs’, a hilarious action-packed adventure series, captures the romance and excitement of the era at the dawn of aviation — set in a world of cats verses dogs. Put simply, Flying Furballs is pussycats, planes and Paris. Our hero is Claude D’Bonair, a young pilot in the cat air corp, keen to prove his worth to the older pilots and live up to the memory of his father. Will cats and dogs ever live in harmony again? Will Claude survive with his nine lives intact?

In Book 1: Dogfight, Claude must fly a secret and dangerous mission deep into the heart of Dogz held territory to save the air corp’s most famous dogfighter, Major Tom, who is being held prisoner in the Dogz castle HQ. If he fails it could spell cat-astrophe for the whole of katdom.

The knot impossible

 4th book in the quartet of A tale of Fontania

By Barbara Else

ISBN 9781776570041

Gecko Press

knot.jpg

While this is the fourth book of tales from Fontania it is like the others, a standalone novel with its own stories. Each book can be read on its own but what does connect the books is the place itself. Fontania is a place of mystery and magic with a bit of mayhem in-between.

The knot impossible is the story of  Rufkin a young boy for whom so much seems to be going wrong.  His complete and utter fear of performing leaves his acting family with no choice but to leave him in the care of the Mccacks, while they tour.

A sense of abandonment weighs heavy on his mind but soon he is drawn in to a great adventure of his own, rescuing a little boy and sailing heavy seas. He meets many characters on this journey, some are good and others downright bad. There are cave-lizards to be avoided and just what is it that is lurking beneath the sea. A little fantasy, a little steampunk and a whole heap of thrills. Rudkin’s biggest problem, is deciding whom to trust! And of course he needs to work this out before “the end-of-days”. This is another great read from author Barbara Else and of course beautifully packaged by Gecko Press. Barbara’s use of language is creative and quirky with its own little idiosyncrasies which adds to the story. It is great to see a character grow and Rufkin does. He finds courage where he least expected to find it so to me  – that is just wonderful.

There is still plenty of summer holiday here in the Southern Hemisphere to find a copy of this book and enjoy reading before school starts up again. A great book for middle grade readers.

I love the supporting map on the inside cover.

Crenshaw

By Katherine Applegate

ISBN 9781250043238

23310699

 

 

One of my all time favourite books is The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and I am so excited she has a new book coming soon. Katherine’s writing is always absolute quality and so deserving of her awards, particularly the Newberry Medal. I am so looking forward to Crenshaw.

Based on the blurb and reviews I just know that this book will move me just as Ivan did. Cannot wait for it to hit New Zealand shores.

           “Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may   have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?”

 

Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright

By Chris Riddell

Book 3 in the Goth Girl series

ISBN 9781447277897

goth girl

This is so exciting. I am a huge fan of the works of author and illustrator Chris Riddell. His illustrations are simply superb. Whether as black line drawings or full colour he has a way of making his characters come to life. The faces are so expressive and you can read all sorts of emotions in his pictures. His illustrations quite frankly are to be admired and appreciated for what they are and that is works of art!

I love the humour in his first two Goth Girl books and can’t wait to add this new book to my collection. I have already pre-ordered it so hopefully it will be here any day now. It is a bit like waiting for Christmas and even a week seems so far off when waiting for this newest addition to arrive. The Goth Girl books are not only beautifully illustrated and written but beautifully packaged. Gilt edges, hardback and contain a pocket at the back of the book holding a tiny lift out book. So much thought has gone it to these books it is no wonder they are in demand. There are in the previous books, lots of tongue-in-cheek references to British literature of old and I am sure this will offer the same wonderful quirky sense of humour. Sometimes just holding a new book is enough but diving in to this one will be nothing but joy!

People are flocking to Ghastly-Gorm Hall from far and wide to compete in Lord Goth’s Literary Dog Show. The esteemed judges are in place and the contestants are all ready to win. Sir Walter Splott is preparing his Lanarkshire Lurcher, Plain Austen is preening her Hampshire Hound and Homily Dickinson and her Yankee Poodle are raring to go. But there’s something strange going on at Ghastly-Gorm – mysterious footprints, howls in the night and some suspiciously chewed shoes. Can Ada, the Attic Club and their new friends the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) work out what’s going on before the next full moon?

I loved his Ottoline series too which is well worth looking out for.

Chris Riddell is the very deserving current Children’s Laureate UK and you can read so much more about him here.

Serafina and the black cloak

By Robert Beatty

ISBN:  978-1484709016

Disney-Hyperion 2015

23507745

“Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

What a grand trailer with obviously plenty of thought put in to its production. I love the atmospheric music running through the trailer as it creates a moodiness that makes me just want to dive right in. The cover of the book is also one that immediately catches the eye with its Gothic type mansion and silhouette of a young girl . It has already been voted number one Middle Grade Book of 2015 on Goodreads.

Serafina and the Black Cloak is a spooky mystery-thriller from Disney Hyperion about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate in 1899″. For years Serafina has remained hidden in the basement of the Estate where her father works. She moves in and out of the hidden doorways, unseen and unheard. She does as she is told and keeps away from everyone but soon children begin disappearing and it becomes clear to Serafina that she must do something to find them. Following clues and a terrifying man in a black cloak, Serafina risks everything to find answers. I really am looking forward to reading this book.

The Bakehouse

By Joy Cowley

ISBN 9781776570072

Gecko Press

 

bakehouse

Bert is in his 80’s when the novel opens and he is confronted by his great grandson Erueti; a boy who wants to know all about his ancestors.

So Bert begins his story and it isn’t very long before we are drawn into the past. The year is 1943 and New Zealand is caught up with the second world war.

Bert is 11 and eager to grow up quickly so he can go and fight in the war. He wants the adventure, the action and to defend his country. We begin to get to know Bert and his two sisters, Meg and Betty and the struggles of day to day to life. The Bakehouse is a book of mystery – just who is stealing clothes from the clothes lines in the middle of the night. It is also a book of danger and secrets and the secrets have the most power to destroy.      In fact it is the consequences of secrets which Bert still struggles with some 70 years later.

This is a moving, timely tale which is not only a great read but a solid account of the times. Without television the news came via radio and everyone would stop and listen.

“The war was always there, like a big hungry ghost that poured itself out of the radio to haunt the house.”

 

I loved the language, perfectly fitting for the era. I couldn’t help smiling at the terminology as it brought back my own memories. It also shows how language is always growing and adapting. A delight to read. Great for  9 – 13 year old readers and for many adults it is also great for a nostalgic look at the past set during times of war. And as for the ending – powerful – but you will just have to read it yourself. It is easy to see why Joy Cowley continues to win awards. Her writing is always top-notch and this is no exception.

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans

By Gary Northfield

ISBN 9781406354928

Walker Books Australia

This trailer is brilliant. I so want to run out and get this book right now. I know so many boys and girls who will just love this. As a package the cover is bright and full of character and humour. There are lots of black and white line illustrations such as that shown on the cover. This is sure to be a hit chapter book for children aged seven up. It combines humour and facts to add a little more to their reading fun. Too much text in a chapter book can put children off reading especially when they are young so this will be ideal to get them giggling and reading and wanting more. This is a must-have to add to the school library.

“From a smelly watering hole deep in the heart of the Serengeti to the ferocious clamour of the Colosseum, join Julius Zebra and his motley menagerie of friends as they gear up to be… GLADIATORS! Only if they win the love of the Roman crowds will they win back their freedom. But do Julius and his pals have what it takes to succeed in a world where only the meanest and toughest survive?”