MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Helen Peters
Cover Illustration by Daniela Terrazzini
Published by Nosy Crow

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I lay awake for a while, listening to the music.

This book in three words:

COURAGE, HOPE, PREJUDICE

This story is both an incredible testament to the bravery and resilience of a German refugee during the Second World War, and a good old-fashioned adventure which completely absorbed me and, I am not ashamed to admit, led to heartfelt tears.  Any children’s book that can capture and affect me so deeply is a real credit to the depth, honesty and power of the writing.

This is the heart-breaking, but ultimately uplifting, story of Daniel’s Grandmother, Anna Schlesinger, who travelled to England from Germany before the outbreak of the War on the kindertransport in order to escape from the cruel and terrifying persecution of the Jewish community by the Nazis.  This persecution is compellingly described and made me appreciate the terror that Anna carries with her throughout the story. 

This is a story of incredible courage, daring and determination to help the war effort which sees Anna involved in a dangerous web of intrigue. Anna is such a wonderful young protagonist who could easily have been destroyed by her horrific experiences in Germany, but instead she chooses to honour her mother and father by making the most of the opportunities she is given, and by making them proud of her.

This story is truly inspirational:  heart-breaking in places, but also full of hope that adversity can be overcome, and that goodness will shine through in our darkest moments.

This is a story which I would highly recommend: you can read my full review here.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

November Wrap-Up

This has probably been my slowest reading month for a while. Covid has come much closer to home and I think it just made it more difficult for me to switch off with reading as I normally would, and it has certainly made it harder for me to focus on writing reviews. Instead, I’ve been switching off with watching Christmas movies!

My younger sister was hospitalised after testing positive and was diagnosed with double pneumonia. She was in hospital for a few days but, thankfully, is well on the mend although she has been told to recuperate for 6-8 weeks. I’m sure, like a lot of people, I’m just desperate to visit family and give hugs! We’ve also had more cases in school with a Year Group having to isolate. This term has been intense in work, so I’m really looking forward to being able to switch off over Christmas.

I’ve only bought one book this month (Winterling for the Middle Grade Marvels Book Club December read), but there’s a good reason. My wonderful husband has bought me all the books I’ve mentioned as part of my Christmas present. He insists, and who am I to argue? 🙂

I took part in Believathon III but didn’t manage to finish it. I read 8 of the 13 books I’d intended to. I definitely still want to read the others and am just about to start one which was on my list.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 11 books this month which includes physical books, 4 e-books and audiobook.

Physical books:

e-books:

These are books I have either been sent by the author in exchange for an honest review, or books which I’ve been approved to read on NetGalley. I’ve posted my review for A Thousand Questions and will post my review The Lost Child’s Quest on Friday as part of their Blog Tours. I will post my reviews for The Valley of Lost Secrets and The Weather Weaver closer to their publication dates – just need to write them first!

audiobook:

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is currently at 89%. This month I’ve requested and been approved to read two books which I’m really looking forward to.

Books sent for review:

I always feel incredibly lucky if I get sent books by Publishers to read prior to publication. I’ve been sent four I’m really looking forward to reading over Christmas.

Have you read any of these? What has been your favourite book this month?

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently almost finished listening to The Amber Spyglass which is incredible. It’s definitely my favourite of the three books. I can’t wait to find out what the final outcome will be, then I’m going to watch the BBC series. On a whim, I decided to pick up a book that has been on my bookshelf for so long. I’m absolutely loving Scavengers which has me completely gripped. I’m trying to work out whether Babagoo has ulterior motives in not allowing Landfill to go Outside. The tension is brilliantly created and I can’t wait to find out how this ones ends.

I’ve finished reading Amari and the Night Brothers. Amari is a wonderfully strong character who finds herself in a situation she does not expect as she battles to save her brother, Quinton whilst discovering more about her own abilities. I will be posting my review during the The Write Reads Blog Tour later this month.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this to review on Toppsta, so it has jumped to the top of my TBR! The publishers very kindly sent me all three books in the series. These books are really popular in my class, and I already have two copies of each of the first two books in my class library, so it will be great to add some more copies. I have a girl in my class desperate to get her hands on Delivery to the Lost City, so she was very excited to hear that I had an early copy which I’ll let her have as soon as I’ve finished reading it.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Picture Book Review: Snow Ghost

Written by Tony Mitton and Illustrated by Diana Mayo
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Published on 1st October

Snow Ghost came whispering out of the air,
“Oh, for a home to be happy – but where?”

Snow Ghost is a beautiful story, written in rhyming couplets, which is perfect for reading aloud, and will be a treasured read to cosy up with on cold, wintery nights. 

Snow Ghost is looking for the perfect home, a place to belong and, as she searches, she looks upon a range of landscapes including town, forest and hill, but she doesn’t feel that she will belong in any of these.  Then, she sees a girl and boy playing joyfully on a small farm.  Could this be the place where she will find a home? 

This is a truly gorgeous story about finding your place, and having your hopes fulfilled.  The language is stunning and perfectly depicts Snow Ghost’s feelings and journey, and the rhymes make it perfect for shared reading.

The illustrations are breath-taking with a real magical quality that will entrance any reader.  They encapsulate the ethereal nature of Snow Ghost whilst giving her personality and fluidity.  The joy on the children’s faces as they play in the snow, and with the snow ghost, is wonderful.  The changes in landscape from the green of the countryside to the moors blanketed by snow is stunning as is the use of bright and muted colours throughout.

I have no doubt that this will be a favourite story to be read over and over again, the beauty of the words and illustrations capturing the hearts and imaginations of young children.

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m still listening to The Amber Spyglass on Borrowbox. I am in awe of the world and narrative created which has completely drawn me in – perfect in-car entertainment! I’ve just started Amari and the Night Brothers which I had intended to read by now, but a few others got in the way! One of the children in my class has given me her copy of The Wizard in the Shed to read during our ‘Reading for Pleasure’ session. I’m really enjoying this which has a great mixture of humour and warmth.

I finished reading Shadows of Winterspell for Middle Grade Marvels Book Club. I’ve had this one on my TBR for about a year, so I’m really glad it was chosen as I loved the story. This story tended to reveal a lot of information quite early on in the book which I actually found very refreshing. We know Stella’s background and her connection to the Shadow King early on in the story. She lives with her ghost Nan and their imp, Peg on the outskirts of the forest. She has been taken there for her protection, but Stella wants to assert her independence so insists on starting school which is not quite what she expected. Once there, she forms some wonderful friendships, makes some intriguing discoveries and makes a decision to confront her past in an effort to help the magical creatures battling against the shadows in the forest. This is one I would definitely recommend.

I also read Tamarind and the Star of Ishta which I absolutely loved. Tamarind’s mother died when she was a baby and her father took her away from her country of birth, India. He has since re-married and brings her back to meet her mother’s family in India whilst he and his new wife honeymoon. Once there, Tamarind begins to discover more about her mother and her family. This is a story of finding your identify, belonging and friendship (both difficult and easy) encapsulated in a wonderful mystery as Tamarind tries to discover the identify of the unusual girl, Ishta, who she meets in the garden of her ancestral home. This is a short book (202 pages) but it packs so much in … it drew me into this richly described world and really did take me on a wonderful adventure.

I was sent a copy of The Lost Child’s Quest by the author. Another short story and the start of a series. I loved the mix of history and legend and thought it was a brilliant start to a series I will definitely want to continue. I will be posting my review shortly.

I also read the final part in The Wild Magic trilogy, The Promise Witch. The Little Grey Girl is still my favourite book in the trilogy, but I did really enjoy this one and thought it was a great conclusion to the series. Mup and Crow are taken by a raggedy witch called Magda who intends to use them to regain her place amongst the raggedy witches. I love how deep emotions run in the story and the lyrical quality of the writing is gorgeous. The friendship between Mup and Crow is just wonderful as is the strength shown by characters who have been wronged by the witches in terrible ways as some seek to help and others to redeem themselves. The strength and unity shown by oppressed peoples as they stand up for themselves and fight for their place and freedom is brilliantly portrayed.

I’m REALLY behind with writing reviews so I’m going to try to catch up this weekend but then I intend to read The Ghost of Gosswater.

Six for Sunday

Even though the November theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot, is perfect for me, A celebration of kids’ books!, I haven’t been able to do as much reading and blogging as I’d like this month for personal reasons and as work has been hectic! Things are now looking up, so I thought I’d take part this week. The prompt is to share Children’s books you’d love to read. I have ‘over 100’ (a conservative estimate!) children’s books patiently waiting to be read in my bookcases at home, so I’ve decided to choose three I bought about a year ago and three more recent purchases which will all be perfect books to pick up in December.

I’ve had North Child since last Christmas, and just haven’t managed to pick it up yet. I’ve seen so many brilliant recommendations for this, and I already know I’m going to love it! I’ve also got West which is the next book in the series which I think might be for slightly older readers.

I’m choosing one and having one extra here! I read The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club last year and absolutely loved it. I immediately bought the next two, Explorers on Witch Mountain and Explorers on Black Ice Bridge and have kept meaning to read them. December seems like the perfect time to delve back into this wonderful world. There is a new book in this series, The Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club, coming out in February which I’m also really looking forward to.

Nevertell is another one I’ve had since last year. It’s been highly recommended to me by a child in my class who read it over the first lockdown and loved it. I think this will be a perfect wintry, magical adventure.

I absolutely love The Storm Keeper series by Catherine Doyle and couldn’t resist The Miracle on Ebenezer Street, a modern re-imagining of A Christmas Carol. I think there might be tears!

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this one just screams ‘perfect wintry read’. I’ve loved the other books in the Clifftoppers series, and am looking forward to curling up on the sofa with this one – and a hot chocolate!

I definitely need to read a book with Father Christmas in December! I got this special edition of The Night I Met Father Christmas for my birthday. I didn’t read it when it was first published, so wanted to read the re-issue.

Have you read any of these? What are you hoping to read in December?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Ross Montgomery
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Walker Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

The knight and the badger turn to the third figure – a Bengal tiger, towering over the room around them.

This book in three words:

FRIENDSHIP, HOPE, MAGIC

WHAT A BOOK! The Midnight Guardians is an exciting, fast-paced and humorous adventure which seamlessly blends history and fantasy into an unforgettable, magical story which celebrates the enduring power of love, hope and friendship to overcome hatred, uncertainty and darkness.  Sheer perfection!

Col has been evacuated from London during the Blitz to live with his Aunt Claire, leaving his older sister Rose behind. Col soon finds himself reunited with his imaginary Guardians – except they have materialised in his world!  The Guardians have come with a dire warning, a warning that sees Col determined to return to London to save his sister from a terrible danger …

So begins a truly astounding adventure that completely and utterly gripped me and swept me completely into its magic.  My heart pounded alongside Col and the Guardians as they race against time to get to London to save Col’s sister … will they be able to win the battle between darkness and light that threatens to destroy the world?  Will they be able to stand firm against the terrible foes they face whilst fulfilling their quest?

The entwining of dark myths and legends against the realistically portrayed backdrop of WWII creates a real sense of peril with a magical sense of wonder that gives an incredible depth and richness to the narrative. 

The three Guardians are just brilliant with a wonderful camaraderie and plenty of humour which lightened some of the darker moments.  They have fantastically individual characters that made them feel endearingly real.  King of Rogues (make sure you address him with his full title or you may well feel his wrath) is a miniature knight with attitude; Mr Noakes is a kind-hearted badger in a waistcoat; and, Pendlebury is the brave and noble Bengal tiger who can alter his size.  There is so much more to them, but everyone deserves the joy of getting to know these three for themselves!  The Guardians have been waiting for Col as he is their only hope in defeating the merciless Midwinter King who is a truly terrible villain who sent shivers down my spine.  He thrives on darkness, and the terrible events of our history feeds his thirst for power and dominion. 

Col is an incredibly sympathetic character.  He is lonely, friendless and grieving the loss of his father.  He feels bitter disappointment and hurt at his sister not coming with him to their Aunt’s home.  Despite his fear, Col great courage in overcoming a terrible enemy in a dangerous time, supported by a wonderfully loyal, protective and supportive circle of friends who give him strength when it is most needed. 

This is an engrossing and epic quest that took me on the most incredibly action-packed, perilous and heart-warming adventure with a cast of amazing characters:  an unforgettable tale of friendship, hope and overcoming darkness.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this fantastic book on Toppsta.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. My goodness – what a world and what a story! I’ve really found myself immersed in these books, and am so glad I’ve ‘picked’ them up after so many years ignoring them! I will watch the TV series after I’ve finished this one. I’m just about to start my sixth book for Believathon, Tamarind & the Star of Ishta.

I’ve finished reading The Weather Weaver which I’ll be reviewing shortly. I also read Return to Roar which blew me away! I loved The Land of Roar and think this was even better. I just loved the world-building and the sheer escapism I got from reading it. I really do think this is a celebration of the power of the imagination and it just makes me feel good reading it – joyful, humorous, wonderful characters with wonderful messages relating to friendship, self-belief and facing your fears. I really enjoyed the much closer relationship between Arthur and Rose.

I have been lucky enough to have been sent a proof copy of Amari and the Night Brothers by the Publisher for an upcoming Blog Tour. It is one of my most anticipated reads, and I’m so looking forward to reading it this weekend.

Blog Tour: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Cover Image: Aaliya Jaleel

Thank you so much to the author, Saadia Faruqi for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for ‘A Thousand Questions’ and to her publisher, Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Review:

A Thousand Questions is a heart-warming, character-driven story of the friendship that develops over the course of a summer between two girls from very different worlds who find that, despite their different cultures and social status, they have lots in common.  The voices of both girls are so incredibly rich and authentic that I really felt drawn into their world, and was completely invested in them as they sought to realise their deepest wishes. 

I really enjoyed that the story is written from the dual perspective of Mimi and Sakina which allows a genuine insight into both girls’ thoughts and feelings and their interactions with each other.  I also loved that, through their eyes, I was immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Karachi, and learnt so much about Pakistani culture and society. 

Mimi is reluctantly spending her summer vacation in Karachi, Pakistan as her mother wants to visit her parents there.  She arrives against the backdrop of a contentious election campaign to meet Grandparents who she has never met in person.  Feeling out of place, she starts a secret journal in which she writes to her father who left the family when she was five years old.  I found these journal entries incredibly touching as they gave such an honest insight into Mimi’s feelings as she shares her pain and self-doubt at losing touch with her father, and her desperate need to find him.  Will she find the answers to the many questions she raises in the city of Karachi?

Sakina is the cook’s daughter and works in Mimi’s Grandparents’ kitchen alongside her father.  She too is keeping a secret from her parents:  she has taken exams to allow her get into school; however, she will only be accepted if she gains a better score in her English test.  Sakina’s family depend on her for additional income, so she faces a dilemma if she does get accepted for school.  Will she have to make a heart-breaking decision between school and family?

Whilst Mimi’s Grandparents are rich and live in a mansion, Mimi’s family live in poverty.  The girls soon meet and form a tentative friendship which is at the core of the story.  I adored following the girls as they get to know each other, learn about their lives, and help each other to fulfil their dreams.  Whilst their differences are apparent, they take the time to get to know each other and discover that they also have lots in common, leading to a close bond filled with honesty, kindness and trust.

I enjoyed so many of the relationships within the story and especially liked the changing dynamics of the relationship between Mimi and her mother and Grandmother.  I also adored the warm and respectful relationship between Sakina and her Abba.  

This story is rich in opportunities for in-depth exploration of class, cultural, political and religious differences, but is also perfect for discussion around the importance of education, inclusion, friendship and finding opportunities to make a difference. 

A Thousand Questions is a beautifully moving and action-packed story of friendship, change and acceptance that welcomed me into the heart of two families, and left me feeling privileged to have been given this rich insight into their lives.

About the Author:

Author Photo credited to QZB Photography

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.  (information taken from author website).

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @SaadiaFaruqi

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saadiafaruqi/

Website: http://www.saadiafaruqi.com

To read more about this wonderful book, please check out the rest of the stops on the Blog Tour:

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Kimberley Pauley
Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
Published by Scholastic

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Twig got down on his knees so he could talk to the little gnome woman who was staring angrily up at Glimfinkle and shaking her fist.

This book in three words:

MAGIC, FRIENDSHIP, HUMOUR

I absolutely loved this brilliantly warm, magical story filled with adventure, humour and friendship with the MOST brilliant characters who everyone needs to meet. I really, really hope there will be more adventures for Twig, Vile and Glimfinkle because they were just what I needed in my life over the last few days. They are guaranteed to bring a much-needed smile to any reader.

In order to escape his large family, Twig has become apprentice to Ripplemintz the Sage who, it is fair to say, is not the most successful wizard in the Kingdom of Muckwood. After releasing an accidental spell, he tasks Twig with finding and containing the escaped spell. As he hunts the spell down, he finds that it has been working its magic – he meets Glimfinkle the gnome who has grown rather large and declared himself King of the Garden Gnomes, much to the chagrin of the other gnomes. After hanging him on a tree branch by his braces, Twig continues to hunt down the spell, but it has become too large and enters him as he tries to trap it, accidentally making him the world’s greatest wizard.

Twig is rather enjoying his new power until King Mervyn hears of it, and insists that he takes part in the annual Euphonium, a gathering of wizards, witches and hags from across the Kingdoms. He is determined to get rid of his power and become the Twig no-one had any expectations of again …

So begins THE most wonderful, action-packed, fun-filled adventure as Twig tries to rid himself of his new powers whilst finding himself being ever drawn towards the Euphonium. He meets the young hag Vile who is incredibly disappointed not to look as ugly as her sister. Vile is such a brilliant character – strong, feisty and oodles of fun. Her arguments with Glimfinkle, who joins them, uninvited, are utterly brilliant.

The friendship that develops between Twig, Vile and Glimfinkle is incredibly heart-warming and genuine. They may argue (which gives rise to lots of humour) but they also look out for, and support, each other.   This story has a powerful message showing that it is what is on the inside that is important rather than outward appearances and that learning to accept yourself and have self-belief has its own magic.

The illustrations throughout are just perfect, and really capture the magic of the book brilliantly.

I was lucky enough to spot a promotion on Twitter where some bookshops were sending wands and Certificates of Authenticity made by the very talented author. I immediately ordered another copy in the hope that I was lucky enough to be sent one – and I was! I can’t believe that I got Wand No. 7 out of 30, and that it had a green decoration: 7 is my lucky number and green is my favourite colour!

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!