MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books, now with a re-vamped banner!

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  M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Published by MacMillan Children’s Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

“We’re going to meet with the designer of the Solar Express this afternoon,” said August.

This book in three words:


Hal and his Uncle Nat are back for their fifth thrilling adventure in Sabotage on the Solar Express.  And, oh my, it’s utterly brilliant:  an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, action-packed adventure that left my heart racing at both the danger and intrigue. 

Enjoying a well-deserved summer holiday in Australia, Hal and his uncle, Nat are sightseeing and taking train excursions including travelling aboard The Ghan, the longest passenger train in the world, to Alice Springs where they meet old friend and billionaire tech entrepreneur, August Reza.  He has invited them to be amongst the first passengers to travel on board an environmentally sustainable train of the future, The Solar Express.  The train has been designed as the result of a competition run by August, a competition won by a brilliant fourteen-year-old, Boaz Tudawali.

Hal and his uncle soon find themselves aboard The Solar Express, ready to enjoy its maiden voyage from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek.  As the train and its passengers begin their journey, they make a shocking discovery:  the train has been sabotaged and everyone aboard is in danger … will Hal be able to uncover the saboteur, and help stop the runaway train before a catastrophe befalls the hapless passengers?

Just wow!  I was absolutely gripped by this action-packed, fast-paced, adventure with its unexpected twists and revelations.  The ever-building sense of danger was brilliantly portrayed through the use of time constraints, unexpected discoveries that increased the risk to those on board and through the actions of passengers which aroused suspicion.   I loved that, whilst trying to avert disaster, Hal is ever the detective, still determined to discover the identity of the saboteur by gathering evidence through his sketches. 

The relationship between Hal and his uncle Nat is so wonderful, built on mutual trust and respect.  Nat worries for his nephew in this one, but trusts his decisions.  Hal is an incredibly likeable character who is clever, perceptive and incredibly skilled at piecing together clues through his sketching.  I enjoyed his friendship with Marianne and Boaz and how wonderfully they support each other and come together as a team.  I really enjoyed getting to know Marianne better and really liked her strength, courage and her natural ability to lead and take the initiative in difficult situations. She feels a responsibility for those on board the train and is determined to help, even when this puts her in danger.  Boaz has been given freedom and support to explore his interests by his parents, and is a truly gifted young inventor who has a social conscience; he is also a quick-thinker and a risk-taker, traits that all three children need as they endeavour to avert catastrophe.

The detailed illustrations which are scattered throughout the story are such an integral part of this series.  They are stunning and really capture the action and excitement of the story as well as the wonderfully expressive characters.  I enjoyed the comic-strip feel to some of these illustrations which included speech and action call-outs. 

This adventure also offers plenty of opportunity for discussion around conservation, sustainable energy and STEM links to engineering as well as the geography of this area of Australia.

This feels like an action-movie on paper with a brilliant cast of characters and an adrenaline-inducing plot that kept me utterly engrossed throughout.  A blockbuster read!  I can’t wait to head off to the Arctic in the next adventure.

Thank you to the Publisher, MacMillan Children’s Books for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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!

One thought on “MG Takes on Thursday

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