Blog Tour: Alex Neptune, Dragon Thief

Written by David Owen
Illustrated by George Ermos
Published by Usborne

Alex Neptune, Dragon Thief rides a tidal wave of adventure:  exhilarating, action-packed and hilarious. 

Alex Neptune lives in the seaside town of Haven Bay which is not an ideal location if the ocean is trying to kill you and you hate water!  Legend has it that the Bay was created by a mythical creature, a water dragon … but surely that is just a legend told to draw in the tourists. Or maybe, just maybe, the sea creatures that are showing an interest in Alex, know something he doesn’t …

When Alex takes home Kraken, an adorable water-squirting octopus that his legend-loving friend Anil has found, it leads him to the deserted aquarium where he finds four otters feeding something in a tank … something that has been imprisoned … something that needs his help to escape.  But wait a minute … isn’t the ocean trying to kill him?  – will it stop now that he has been tasked with saving a water dragon.  Yes!  A water dragon … maybe there is truth in the legend.  Could its imprisonment have anything to do with the mysterious, guarded Station which has been built by Mayor Parch and the toxins that are polluting the sea and killing the sea life?  And who is the sinister stranger who seems to have taken a strong interest in the dragon? 

So begins a rip-roaring, unputdownable adventure as Alex and his friends, Anil and Zoey, find themselves in a race against time to save the water dragon from being taken from Haven Bay, and leaving the ocean and its inhabitants in danger. Just wow! I felt like I was on a wild rapids raft as I was tossed and turned by the incredible twists and revelations which made it such a thrilling read.  I adore stories based on myths and legends, so this was right up my street:  I so enjoyed learning the background to the myth and how it brings the past and the present together – just brilliant!

As well as being a magical, fantasy adventure, this story also has some powerful messages about the importance of looking after the environment with the harm that pollution and trophy-hunting is causing to the ocean and its creatures, and the damage that can be caused by unscrupulous, greedy people when technology is used to harm rather than help.  I liked that Zoey wants to use technology to benefit the environment, emphasising that it can be used for good. 

“True strength is standing up for what you believe in, even when it would be easier not to.” (Alex)

I really liked the three children, Alex, Zoey and Anil, and enjoyed how their friendship group became stronger and closer as they worked together as a team to develop a plan, overcome dangers and support each other.  Alex learns so much about himself and his special connection with the ocean, and shows real courage when facing his fears.   Zoey loves inventing things and never gives up – even if her inventions are more likely to end in an explosion!  Anil loves legends and animals, but is finding Haven Bay lonely.  I loved his relationship with Pinch!  I also have to give a special mention to Alex’s older sister, Bridget who is utterly brilliant – someone who goes after what she wants, works hard to meet her goals, and refuses to accept that there is anything she can’t do. 

I absolutely loved the adorable sea creatures from Kraken who is a real fast-shooter with water and a master of disguise to the distraction-bringing, chaos-loving, acrobatic otters to Pinch whose name suits perfectly as he is a gull with a penchant for thieving which leads to some hilarious moments. 

This is a magical, thrilling, heart-warming adventure brimming with wonderful friendships, humour and heart.  This should be in every young, and young at heart, adventurer’s hands as it is sure to bring giggles, gasps and giant waves of fun!  I can’t wait to join Alex on his next adventure …

Author Information

Having worked as a freelance games journalist and taught on a BA Creative Writing course for three years, David Owen’s debut novel, Panther, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal, and was followed by three further highly acclaimed YA novels. Alex Neptune is his first series for younger readers, born of his love for nail-biting heists, fantastical monsters and heartfelt friendships.

Thank you so much to Kaleidoscopic Tours for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and to Usborne for providing me with a copy of Alex Neptune, Dragon Thief in exchange for my honest opinion.

Do check out the other stops on this week’s Blog Tour below:

First Lines Fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Way out west, where the roads run out and the craggy hills of Connemara slope down to meet the Atlantic Ocean, a yellow house sat on the edge of two worlds. It was a home lined with books and filled with knick-knacks, surrounded by stony mountains that groaned in the winter and blossomed in the spring.

Any ideas?

I absolutely loved Catherine’s Storm Keeper trilogy and am so looking forward to reading this on holiday in Ireland.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Amy and Liam Bell have been packed off to stay at Gran’s house in the wilds of Connemara for the summer. Out for a walk on the first morning of their holiday, they trace the flight of a hawk to a nearby waterfall – only to watch the bird disappear through it. Intrigued, the children follow and soon realise they’ve discovered the entrance to Tír na nÓg, the legendary land of eternal youth. But they’ve been tricked. Almost immediately Liam is captured by a troop of headless horsemen who take him to Tarlock, the ruling sorcerer of Tír na nÓg, who is seeking the bones of a human child for a sinister new spell. 

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 Kieran Larwood
Illustrations by Sam Usher
Published by Faber & Faber

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Normally, she would have felt bad about the hurt look on his face, but now the cat was in control, and cats didn’t care about things like feelings.

This book in three words:

ADVENTURE, DANGER, MYSTERY

I absolutely loved Carnival of the Lost which I read earlier this year, so was very eager to return to this richly atmospheric, dark, Victorian London in the sequel, Carnival of the Hunted.  I’m very pleased to report that it’s a real belter!  An absolutely thrilling, action-packed, page-turner of an adventure:  intriguing, dark, and oh-so-twisty.  It can be read as a standalone, but I would definitely recommend treating yourself to the brilliance of both.

There is terrible danger on the streets of London for those who belong to a sideshow act as they are being hunted for sport by a sinister group:  The Hunters’ Club.  When former sideshow acts, siblings Inji and Sil, and their friend, Glyph, are drugged and sold by their cruel criminal gang boss to these hunters, it seems their fate is sealed, but the Carnival of the Lost have other ideas!  Former sideshow acts, Sheba the wolfgirl and Pyewacket the witch’s imp are now established private investigators who are determined to track down this notorious group and uncover their identities which have been hidden behind animal masks.  And they may have found witnesses when they rescue Inji, Sil and Glyph …

And so, the hunters become the hunted as the Carnival of the Lost, together with their new recruits, follow a tantalising trail that leads them on a dangerous journey into their past lives, and through the dark underbelly of Victorian London where poverty and maltreatment is rampant.  Oh my goodness!  I was completely gripped by this intriguing adventure with its breath-taking twists and revelations … will the Carnival discover the truth behind the hunt, or will they be too late to stop others being harmed?     

I really loved meeting Sheba and Pyewacket again and loved that they are now private investigators, helping other sideshow acts to escape from exploitation.  Sheba has learned to get control of her wolfish traits, but still brings this to the fore when needed, and Pyewacket still has a fantastic sense of humour!  I loved that they are now making their own inventions to help in their sleuthing à la Q in Bond, but in complete Pyewacket style! Poo-ball anyone?

Half-cat Inji and armadillo-like Sil have suffered loss, heart-breaking cruelty and endless exploitation in their young lives, yet they don’t let this define them, and are wonderfully strong, courageous and kind-hearted characters who have such a heartfelt sibling bond.  Inji finds it incredibly hard to trust so is wary of Sheba and Pyewacket at first, not able to believe in their kindness and that they want to look after them, and make them part of their family.  Inji is someone who has had to fight for survival her whole life and who has had the responsibility of looking out for her brother, so it is wonderfully heart-warming that others are prepared and willing to look out for her and her family.

The double-page illustrations sprinkled throughout are absolutely stunning and complement the story perfectly. I also really liked the border around each page and the chapter headings which really whets the appetite for the full chapter.

Carnival of the Hunted is an exhilarating sequel that took me on a truly heart-racing adventure brimming with danger, intrigue and revelations.  An absolute must-read for readers of 10+.

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber Children’s for a copy of this brilliant book in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m absolutely loving the audiobook for Spellslinger which is packed full of action and humour with brilliant characters. This is definitely a series I’ll be continuing and I’ve already downloaded Shadowblack. I’ve also started Gallant which has completely intrigued me, and I can’t wait to find ou more! I’ve just started Mia and the Lightcasters which has a brilliant opening, and is one I just know I’ll love as it has epic fantasy adventure vibes with darkness and magical creatures.

I finished The Wondrous Prune which I really enjoyed. I loved Prune’s magical ability to bring the things she draws to life, and how she used this ability to help others, especially her brother. I also finished Carnival of the Hunted and really enjoyed meeting Sheba and Pyewacket years later as they solve another mystery in Victorian London. I’m hoping to post my review shortly. I also read Alex Neptune Dragon Thief which is a wonderful fantasy with strong environmental messages – plenty of action and humour, and the promise of more to come. I will be posting my review as part of the upcoming Blog Tour.

I’m going to Ireland for a week, so what better book than The Lost Girl King which is steeped in Irish mythology.

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

Review: Spellstoppers by Cat Gray

Written by Cat Gray
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Usborne Publishing

Spellstoppers is an electrifying, magical adventure that absolutely captivated me:  a wonderful story of the strength of family, friendship and self-belief.

12-year-old Max Harrow has to avoid touching anything electrical since his touch is destructive.  Even though he takes precautions by wearing wellies and bright yellow washing up gloves, he accidentally destroys his mum’s new electrical car, knocking himself out.  His mum is worried that he will get seriously hurt, so she invites his grandfather, Bram, to visit.  Max has never met his grandfather before, but he soon discovers that Bram and he have something in common:  they both have a problem with electricity!  Max’s mum thinks it best that he goes to stay with Bram for the summer holiday in the seaside village of Yowling where she hopes he will be able to get his problem under control.

Soon after arriving at Bram’s farm, Max makes a rather intriguing discovery. His grandfather has a very unique and rare ability:  he is a Spellstopper who can fix magical items or, if too dangerous to fix, remove the magic from them.  He has an assistant, Kit, who is adept at repairing non-magical items.  Bram owns Harrow & Co:  Spellstopping & Non-Magical Repairs.  Could magic really exist?  Could Max’s ability be a rare gift rather than a curse? And what on earth do you do when an enchanted kettle escapes, causing chaos?

When Max’s grandfather is kidnapped by the terrifying Keeper of Yowling Castle, Max and Kit find themselves on a dangerous mission to save him, and the village, before the castle’s magic and Keeper, destroy them.  Together with some rather unusual and wonderful friends, Max will need to muster all his courage, ingenuity and strength to face his fears:  will he be able to master his magic in time, and perform the most important spellstop ever?

This is an incredibly exhilarating, fast-paced adventure brimming with danger, secrets and twists. I loved the rich assortment of magical, supernatural and mythical characters from the selkies to the sand witch to the vile owls and man-eating fish – and the enchanted weasel!  The magical system feels really fresh and original and I became completely spellbound as I was taken from the farm, through the village, along the beach and into the castle.  I also loved the food references and would really like to try some of the ice-cream and visit Pearl’s café, although I’d definitely want to avoid the Keeper – and the owls!  Oh, and Bran’s stew – I’d absolutely want to avoid that!

Max is such a likeable character who has been living with an ability he can neither understand nor control for four years, leading to his life changing in so many ways, including loss of friendships.  Going to stay with his grandfather opens up a whole new existence for Max as he finally begins to understand his magic, and tries to harness his abilities, showing great resilience mixed with understandable moments of frustration.  I really liked Bram who is supportive, encouraging and reassuring as he believes in Max’s ability before he believes in himself.  I also adored the friendship between Max and Kit where they support, and find strength in each other, to keep going, even when failure seems likely.    

This is a heart-warming, thrilling, magical adventure that utterly enchanted me, and is one I wholeheartedly recommend to young adventurers of 9+.       

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.  

August anticipated children’s book releases …

It’s time for my August anticipated children’s book releases – another fantastic month for children’s books, all of which are released on 4th August, except for Ember! I have been lucky enough to get early copies of Alex Neptune and Mia and the Lightcasters, and am aiming to post my reviews close to publication date.

I have taken the synopsis for each of these from the Waterstones website.

Jama is a clever and sensitive young Maasai girl who likes elephants better than people.  She decides to escape the classroom gossip about the new boy, Leku, by going to the watering hole outside her village. There, she befriends a baby elephant that she names Mbegu.  When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mbegu are blamed for two deaths – one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is the head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline.

As the brutal Second World War stretches on with no end in sight, life for ordinary Dutch people in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is fraught with peril and hardship. There is very little to eat and the population lives under the constant threat of arrest and enslavement.  After the murder of her beloved uncle and the capture of her brother by the Germans, Edda is determined to do anything she can to help the resistance fight back against their oppressors. But what can a teenage girl do and how much risk is she willing to take?

Liverpool, 1910 When Patch runs up the gangway of steamship, RMS Glorious, she isn’t planning to hang around. But if she leaves her hiding place the constable might catch her: sitting tight is worth the risk. Too late, she realises the ship is setting sail! Patch has become an accidental stowaway. Luckily, Patch’s unconventional past has made her pretty fearless when it comes to fending for herself, and besides there are friends in high and low places to be made onboard. But hiding away becomes less and less easy: her new friends urgently need her help and there’s a mystery that needs solving, all before they reach New York . . . 

Mouse, a foundling, loves her pieced-together family at the Moth Theatre fiercely. When their leading man, Walter, is wrongly arrested for murder, Mouse swears she’ll free him. But another member of the cast has a secret identity – as a ruthless killer. As Mouse’s investigation leads her ever closer to their true, deadly nature, can she outwit them without losing everything she holds dear?

For as long as Alex Neptune can remember, the ocean has been trying to kill him. So he’s not too happy when a bunch of sea creatures drag him to the abandoned aquarium on the hill, where an imprisoned water dragon needs his help. But how can he say no to a magical myth? Recruiting his tech-genius best friend Zoey, legend-lover Anil, a sharp-shooting octopus, four acrobatic otters and a thieving seagull, Alex plots a heist to break the dragon out. And suddenly discovers the power of the ocean at his fingertips…

Baker by day, spy by night – Alice Eclair leads an exciting double life!  A mysterious message sends Alice on a mission aboard France’s most glamorous train. She must uncover an enemy agent before they reach their final stop. But everyone on the train seems to be hiding something…  Armed with her whisk, her wits and her will to succeed, Alice has a spy to catch.

Beware of the shadows, the Reaper King is coming…  Mia always dreamed of being an umbra tamer until she met the wild creature on the Nightmare Plains. Since that day, she prefers to stay safe within the walls of Nubis. Safe, that is, until a surprise attack. With her parents captured, Mia’s only hope is to travel to the City of Light to find help.  But with only her little brother, two friends and one solitary tamed umbra, the journey feels impossible. Mia not only has to overcome her fears, she also has to learn to harness her umbra taming abilities if they are to complete the quest in time.

Ophelia Bottom longs for an ordinary life: to have normal, well-behaved parents rather than embarrassing actors, and to live in a house that stays still. Instead, she’s stuck living in a rickety converted van – and having to manage her parents’ often disastrous plays at Bottom’s Travelling Theatre. When the family are forced to stay in the idyllic town of Stopford, Ophelia’s dream appears to be coming true. But someone is trying to drive the Bottoms out, and there’s the issue of the strange Stopford motto: PLASTIC IS FANTASTIC – DIFFERENT IS DANGEROUS. Can Ophelia discover what lurks behind Stopford’s perfect appearance, before she loses everything that makes her family so special?

A thrilling, unputdownable debut, with extraordinary twists and incredible action, from an incredible new voice in children’s fiction. I can steal time. The most I can take at the moment is fifteen seconds, which is not a lot. Grandmother took almost three minutes once and she told me she’s done more, but I never saw it. She says there are stories of someone who can take all the time in the world, but how can that be right? When Alex and his father are forced to flee their home to escape a brutal government, they begin a life-threatening journey across Europe. But when they are separated before they can reach Britain, Alex finds himself alone, with only his extraordinary gift to keep him alive. Perfect for fans of Alex Rider, Artemis Fowl, and Inception, Running out of Time is an ingenious, high-concept thriller with a twist that you won’t believe.

Hex never meant for the girl to follow him and his friend Tommo into the woods. He never meant for her to fall off the rope swing and break her arm. When the finger of blame is pointed at him, Hex runs deep into the woods and his fierce sense of injustice leads him to a strange clearing in the woods – a clearing that has never been there before – where an old lady in a cottage offers him a deal. She’ll rid the world of those who wronged him and Hex can carry on his life with them all forgotten and as if nothing ever happened. But what Hex doesn’t know is someone else has been offered the same deal. When Hex’s best friend Tommo wakes up the next day, he is in a completely different world but he only has murmurs of memories of the world before. Moments of deja vu that feel like Tommo’s lived this day before. Can Tommo put the world right again? Back to how it was? Or can he find a way to make a new world that could be better for them all?

Bea Black is in her second term at witch school and she can’t wait for the Year Seven residential trip to the haunted Cadabra Castle. The students are excited to fly around the famous GO pitch, explore the ancient turrets and have a magical time … if they can just stop arguing! Except Ms Sparks has other plans – this isn’t a holiday, it’s a team-building exercise for a class who desperately need to learn to work together.  But with rumours of a ghost terrorizing the castle, Bea has a lot more to contend with than scavenger hunts and hikes! Not least being paired up with Blair Smith-Smythe, her ULTIMATE frenemy! Will the class learn anything from their time at Cadabra? And more importantly, will Bea and Blair manage to avoid hexing each other for long enough to solve the spooky mystery?

Kyoto, Japan. Mina is on a bus. Everything is strange and beautiful.  Mina watches as a woman folds a piece of paper into an origami boat, then floats it over to her.  As Mina discovers the magic of origami, her eyes are opened to the wonders of the real city around her.

Odin has given Loki another chance to prove himself worthy of Asgard. But earning everyone’s trust is tricky, and when Thor’s hammer goes missing, everyone blames Loki! Outrageous!  To clear his name, he must:
1) Find Thor’s beloved hammer
2) Uncover the real thief
3) Force everyone to admit they were wrong

An easy feat for someone as handsome and clever as Loki…

Alex’s best friend is Kevin the cockapoo, although what he wants most of all is a friend at school. A charming and gentle story about how life isn’t one size fits all.  Everything is changing for 11-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be terrifying. With the first day of high school only a couple of months away, Alex is sure that having a friend by his side will help. So, he’s devised a plan – impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin. This should be a walk in the park … right?

A thrilling and empowering WWII adventure about the French resistance and their British allies, with a determined, Muslim heroine. Perfect for fans of Michael Morpurgo and Emma Carroll, and those looking for diverse historical fiction. July, 1941. Rosina Raja is half-Indian and half-English. She has always lived in India, so when her mother passes away and she moves to England (where it rains all the time) she is miserable and doesn’t have any friends. Life changes dramatically for Rosie when she discovers that her army captain father is actually a spy for the British government. She can’t bear to be left behind so she stows away in his plane. Finding herself in occupied France, Rosie is soon drawn into the struggle against the Nazis. With new allies and new enemies at every turn, she must help her father complete his mission, and more importantly… make sure they both get home alive.

In the magical village of Everspring, everyone receives a fate card before their twelfth birthday, sent down from the mysterious Mount Never. It tells them their purpose, their profession and how old they’ll be when they die.  Nearly 12-year-old Ember Shadows has always believed she is destined for great things. But when her fate card arrives, it’s blank. What does that mean? Then, worse still, her sister’s card decrees she will die before her next birthday. No way is Ember’s going to let that happen.  Determined to challenge what – or who – is responsible for these cards, Ember sets off up the mountain, a place no one is allowed to go. She encounters forbidden realms full of magic, trickery and curious creatures. In a thrilling race through a magical landscape, Ember Shadows must uncover the secret behind the fate cards in order to save her sister …  But will Ember like what she finds at the top of the mountain?

Do any of these catch your interest? Have you read any already?

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

The storm blew up without warning as they rounded the cape, a jagged seam of dark sky splitting the heavens above them as thunder rolled over the horizon. A vicious wind cut down upon the mainsail, tugging back and forth at the rigging with a snap-snap-crack-snap-snap-snap. A cold rain angled from the clouds, a thousand icy pinpricks stabbing at Katy’s face as she fought the rudder.

Any ideas?

Goodreads Synopsis

Living among the flowers and ferns of Kew Gardens, Katy has always dreamed of more – of the sky and the stars and the sea. Unfortunately for Katy, her father doesn’t understand. He says young girls should be content to stay at home, not go off gallivanting around the world.

So when news reaches London of a meteorite falling in the faraway land of Brazil and an expedition being put together to find it, Katy knows it’s her chance to follow her dreams and prove her father wrong. And winning a place on the trip is just the start of her extraordinary voyage on the trail of a fallen star…

Blog Tour: What’s That?

Thank you so much to Nigel for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for his wonderful picture book, beautifully illustrated by his talented son, Robbie.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Carl Sagan (taken from ‘What’s That?’)

Siblings Idris and Umo are playing in the garden when they decide to have a race to the garage where they find a rather innocuous item: a piece of red material. The siblings immediately begin to use their imagination to ponder where the material could have come from …

I love how this story celebrates the power of the imagination by encouraging deeper thinking as the children start with the most obvious suggestions and then begin to think outside the box, suggesting much more creative ideas. The question ‘What’s That?’ leads the children to think about what the material could be from with both starting by making statements, but then framing questions and further statements as their imaginations take flight.

The story is written as a conversation between Idris and Umo in a straightforward style using direct speech within speech bubbles. There is plenty of opportunity for inference through the illustrations with fantastic use of body language and facial expressions.

I thought the ending was wonderful as it gives a perfect opportunity for an item to be introduced for young readers to have a go at answering their own ‘What’s that?’ question. I think that a class of KS1 children would have great fun reading this story, and then letting their imaginations take them on their own journey with a range of items.

The illustrations are gorgeous – wonderfully expressive and fun. I loved looking out for Wormington and Siago who will definitely bring giggles, and I think young children will enjoy spotting them too! In fact, I think they need to tell their own story!

This is a perfect picture book to unlock creativity in young children , and encourage them to have fun, explore and let their imaginations run wild – who knows where they will end up?

Do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour below:

WWW Wednesday

I’m really enjoying listening to the audiobook of Spellslinger. I really like Kellen who should be a mage, but he doesn’t have any magical powers much to the disappointment of his father. He is quick-witted and sarky and I’m hoping has a good heart! I’m also reading The Wondrous Prune which is a magical read as Prune develops the ability to to bring her drawings to life. She is a wonderfully sympathetic character who has a lot to deal with. I’ve just started Carnival of the Hunted and am hoping to love it just as much as Carnival of the Lost.

I finished reading Children of the Quicksands which is set in Nigeria and includes Nigerian folklore. I enjoyed this one and am hoping to read The House of Shells over the summer. I also read Spellstoppers which was a fast-paced, magical read. I will post my review soon.

I finish work on Thursday, so I’m hoping to read both of these over the first few days of holiday.

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

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 Alex Cotter
Cover Illustration by Kathrin Honesta
Published by Nosy Crow

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Not one of them was a Curly.

This book in three words:

MYSTERY, TRANSFORMATION, LEGEND

The Mermaid Call is a brilliantly engrossing mystery that kept me completely captivated throughout:  a story of transformation, activism and belonging entwined with a dark tale of a legendary mermaid.

Vivien lives with her grandmother, Mimi, in Lake Splendour, famous for sightings of a local legend:  the Lake Mermaid.  Many of the locals rely on this business to boost tourism, including Vivien’s grandmother, who runs Enchanted Tails.  However, there is stirring unrest about the upcoming Mermaid Festival and, in particular, the Mermaid Crown pageant which a group of students is determined to have banned.  This causes friction between Vivien and her best friend Eleni as she gravitates towards a group of activist students who are anti-mermaid, leaving Vivien feeling like an outsider.

After the disappointment of discovering that her mother, who she has not seen for three years, is no longer coming for a promised visit, Vivien finds herself looking after the shop when she meets the enigmatic, determined Alice DeLacey who reveals that she is convinced there is a dark mystery surrounding her family.  When Alice begs Vivien to help her solve the mystery, she is unable to resist the opportunity to form a new friendship and to seek the truth behind the mermaid legend, but has she dived into a whirlpool of trouble?

So begins an utterly gripping mystery which swirls and eddies with darkness, tension and danger as Vivien finds herself swept into Alice’s determined quest to unmask dark, family secrets hidden within a diary, but at what cost to their fledgling friendship?  How far will someone go to unearth the truth?  I was absolutely spellbound as I followed the unexpected twists and turns of this intriguing mystery which took me on a different journey to what I had expected, and it is all the richer for that.  I loved the interwoven strands of past and present within the story including those of activism and the suffragette movement, disappearances, family relationships, stereotypes and change.

Vivien is an incredibly sympathetic young girl who is on a journey towards finding herself as she deals with changes in friendships, low self-esteem linked to her relationship with her mother and feelings of awkwardness.  She shows great inner strength and courage in finding her voice, standing up for herself and others, and in challenging stereotypes.  The friendships, whether toxic, fractured or close, all felt really authentic and will shine a mirror on real-life friendship issues which many children may experience as they navigate the deep, sometimes turbulent, waters of changing relationships and being true to yourself.  I also really liked Erik who finds the courage to be true to himself in the most fantastic way!

The Mermaid Call is a powerful, gripping story of empowerment, transformation and revelation with deliciously unexpected twists that is sure to completely capture readers of 9+, not only with the intriguing mystery but also the empowering messages.

Thank you to Sian at Nosy Crow for sending me a proof 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!