MG Takes on Thursday

This is my new 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 Jason Reynolds
Cover Illustration by Selom Sunu
Published by Knights Of

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

I sat with my feet spread apart so that I could spit the sunflower-seed shells on the ground between them.

This book in three words:

FRIENDSHIP, RESILIENCE, BELONGING

I read this absolutely stunning story as part of Believathon at the end of last year, and boy, does it tear at the heartstrings!

This is the incredibly uplifting story of a young teenager, Ghost (Castle Cranshaw) who has had a very difficult, heart-breaking start in life, yet through his strength and resilience and the support of some important role models in his life, turns a corner which sees him giving himself the opportunity to realise his potential.

This is a story that I would highly recommend: you can read my 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!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone which is the third book for my 20 Reads of Summer Challenge. It’s a quirky read which I’m really enjoying so far although I am only a few chapters in.

I’ve finished three audio books. I’ve been going out for early morning walks and have been listening to audio books so have finished more than I normally would! I’ve been listening to Howl’s Moving Castle for a couple of weeks as I drove to work. This is such a great fantasy with wonderful characters – it’s just so inventive. I had read some of the Chrestomanci series a good few years ago, and listening to Howl’s Moving Castle has made me want to go back to them. At the weekend, I listened to A Witch Come True which is the final book in the The Apprentice Witch series. This was a brilliant end to the series. I love the friendship between Arianwyn, Sally and Colin, and her devotion to Lull which is once again threatened. Arianwyn’s beloved Grandmother is abducted by a Council traitor, and she has to re-establish her relationship with her father, whilst also trying to protect her town. Arianwyn is one of my favourite characters in the many middle-grade fantasy series I have read as she is such a kind-hearted, good friend who, despite her feelings of uncertainty and not being good enough, is also fiercely independent and courageous. I was really eager to listen to Guy Bass read from his book Skeleton Keys and was really excited when his second book in the series, The Haunting of Luna Moon appeared on Borrowbox. I loved him reading his story which is full of such wonderful humour – it had me giggling as I walked along. I didn’t see the twist which I thought was great.

I also read an e-book and a paperback. I didn’t know much about Ethan’s Voice, but the synopsis caught my attention when scanning books on Borrowbox. It is a wonderfully poignant and heart-warming story of a young boy, Ethan, who lives on a canal boat with his mother and father. He has lost his voice and, after being bullied in school, is being home-educated. One day, he meets a young girl called Polly who has come to live on the canal with her mother after a family break-up. Polly’s acceptance of Ethan for who he is helps him begin to open up as he uses a note book to communicate with her. Their friendship is incredibly endearing. She helps Ethan confront the perceived trauma that has made him lose his voice … this is brilliantly done, and I really lived the tension with him as he faced his fears and demanded the truth. And the ending is just truly gorgeous! I’ve also read A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers’ Secret. This is my second book for 20 Reads of Summer so I’ll be posting a review in the next few days.

I’m hoping to read Sky Pirates: Echo Quickthorn and the Great Beyond next which sounds like a really fun, adventurous read.

Review: The Wild Way Home

Published by Bloomsbury
Cover Illustration: Ben Mantle & Lettering: Patrick Knowles
Publishing on 1st July 2020

The Wild Way Home is an absolute treasure trove of adventure, excitement and danger set in a wild and natural environment whilst, at its heart, it resonates with the importance of family, friendship and acceptance.  This is a truly breath-taking story – both painful and heart-warming – that completely captured me as I was transported back in time for an action-packed adventure with Charlie and Harby who prove that being born millennia apart is no barrier to friendship.

Twelve-year-old Charlie has been wishing for a baby brother or sister at every birthday and that dream is finally realised with the arrival of a baby brother.  However, Charlie’s dream soon turns into a painful nightmare when it is revealed that new-born baby, Dara, has a life-threatening heart condition.

With fragile emotions in turmoil, Charlie escapes to Mandel Forest where a young boy lies injured in the river.  But this boy is wearing deerskins, owns a spear and is hostile towards Charlie. Time has wound back to a Stone Age Mandel Forest which is familiar, yet unfamiliar …

The Stone Age boy, Harby, is desperate to find his baby sister Mothga, so the children soon find themselves on a dangerous undertaking to discover what has happened to her, an adventure that sees them coming face-to-face with some of the Forest’s wild inhabitants, with an enigmatic stranger and with painful truths that cannot stay locked in memory.  The story-telling is absolutely superb: the build-up of tension, danger and revelations kept me on the edge of my seat, fearful and hopeful, enveloping me in this wildly gorgeous world with two young children who I really cared about.

Can being lost in the past, caught up in Harby’s quest to find his sister, help Charlie to find the way back to family, to have the courage to accept a heart-breaking situation and no longer run from pain?

The relationship between Charlie and Harby is wonderfully portrayed from their fear-filled, uncertain first meeting, to the leap of faith shown in the tentative building of trust which leads to a protective friendship which allows them both to open up to each other and overcome fear.  Both children show incredible courage and resilience when faced with terrible danger and heart-breaking discoveries. They help each other to accept the heartache and pain in their lives and, in doing so, find a shared bond and wonderful camaraderie. 

I really enjoyed the genuine appreciation for the natural environment with its vivid depiction of Mandel Forest both in the present and the past.  Landmarks from the past have undoubtedly changed over the passage of millennia, but are still recognisable in Charlie’s time.  Charlie enjoys living at the edge of the forest and has a real affinity for it, making it a well-loved playground and a source of natural treasures to collect. 

Charlie’s gender is undisclosed throughout the story, so it is left for the reader to imagine Charlie through their own inferences and experiences.  Growing up in the wilds of rural Ireland, I completely understand Charlie’s affinity with nature, the collection of found items, and just the joyous abandon in roaming this environment which is a natural playground. For me, Charlie resonates as a young girl who runs from her pain to the place where she can seek solace, to the place that she feels in the depths of her soul, to the heart of the forest.

The Wild Way Home is an exhilarating and heartfelt journey into the depths of an ancient past, resounding with a powerful message of the strength to be gained from family and friendship.  A simply stunning and richly evocative must-read story which lingers long after the last page is closed.

Thank you to Beatrice May and Bloomsbury for a proof of the story in exchange for my honest opinion.

20 Books of Summer: Book 1

Published by Bloomsbury on 8th August 2019 Illustrated by Freya Hartas

The Princess who Flew with Dragons is the final book in the gorgeous Dragon Heart trilogy, all three of which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It is a magical, warm-hearted and humorous adventure celebrating family, friendship and courage, and the importance of acceptance of your true self.

Princess Sophia is sent – extremely reluctantly and via a vomit-inducing dragon flight – on a diplomatic mission to attend the Diamond Exhibition in Villene.  She makes a far from perfect first impression so finds herself being sent to stay in a cottage rather than invited into the Royal Palace. Which suits her just fine!

This gives Sophia her first real opportunity to enjoy some freedom, without feeling tied to the duties and restrictions placed on her by virtue of being born a princess. She decides to explore the city in disguise and to attend a lecture being held by a philosopher whose work she greatly admires. Which is where her problems start! She meets some rather mischievous, adventurous goblins and a much more wary kobold who help her escape when she is about to be arrested. Sophia enjoys debate and adventures with her new goblin friends, but can she trust them enough to reveal her true identify, especially as the kobold, Fedolia is so unfriendly towards her?

When the royal court, including Sophia’s sister, is taken captive by some rather terrifying ice giants, intent on protecting their territory, she must put her diplomacy skills to the ultimate test.  With the help of her friend Jasper, a young dragon, and a promise from Fedolia, she sets out on a daring rescue mission that will require all her powers of philosophical discourse, and some righteous indignation!  

I adored Sophia, the book-loving princess with a young dragon as a best friend and a keen interest in philosophical debate. She has a strong sense of social justice, and is prepared to stand up for others. However, she is also vulnerable and very hard on herself, and feels that she is not good enough to be a princess, especially compared to her perfectly composed sister Katrin, the Crown Princess. Sophia is stronger than she thinks and shows great courage and ingenuity when showing her problem-solving and negotiating prowess. She learns that she can be imperfect, and still be deserving of friends who like her for her true self, flaws and all.

This is an incredibly heart-warming, enjoyable adventure filled with magic, humorous encounters and a fast-paced plot, which utterly captivated me.

#MGTakesOnThursday

This is my new 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 Nick Tomlinson; Cover Illustration by Kim Geyer; and, published by Walker Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Then she spied the fat shadowy shape squatting on the Persian rug with poison in its eyes.

This book in three words:

SPOOKY, MYSTERIOUS, FUN-FILLED

I read The Ghouls of Howlfair towards the end of last year, and absolutely loved it. It was one of my absolute favourite reads last year and, as I read a LOT of middle-grade, that is meant as a huge compliment to the brilliance of Nick’s writing. It really is the perfect ghoulish tale, overflowing with eerie happenings and brimming with laugh-out-loud moments and hilarious incidents! 

I’m eagerly anticipating the publication of Molly Thompson and the Crypt of the Blue Moon later of year.

You can read more about this fantastically inventive, fun-filled, spooky mystery story in my REVIEW

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!

Review: Dragon Detective: School’s Out

Published by Stripes Publishing Limited (an imprint of the Little Tiger Group)
Illustrations by Scott Brown
Published on 11th June

Dragon Detective:  School’s Out simply sparkles with excitement, fast-paced adventure and oodles of humour.  It is an incredibly enjoyable mystery which I have no doubt will be adored by younger readers.  It’s a story I’m very excited to share with my class as I think it will make a perfect read-aloud story.  Now to practise my dragon voices!

Holly Bigsby has been sent to a high-security school to keep her out of trouble, and has been separated from her friend, Dirk Dilly, a neat-orange-squash loving detective.  Oh, did I mention that he’s also a rather debonair Mountain Dragon?

Dirk runs ‘The Dragon Detective Agency’ and has taken on a new assignment on behalf of a suspicious spouse.  Just as Dirk is about to conclude that there is nothing dubious to report, Professor Karl Rosenfield attends a secret meeting with a sinister sounding stranger.  He hands over a highly dangerous weapon which is being developed by the Government in return for a mysterious package.

After following the Professor to a further meeting, Dirk learns that an old adversary is involved in a dastardly plot, and finds himself under attack by some nasty Tree Dragons.  He tricks the dragons, and makes a timely escape … to find himself near Little Hope which is close to Holly’s school … can he reunite with his partner to solve the case?

Meanwhile, Holly makes a rather disturbing discovery of her own.  Callum, a rather nervous and unusual boy in her school, makes a revelation that he was kidnapped by dragons.  Holly uses all her ingenuity to escape so that she can share her discovery with Dirk.  Does Callum’s kidnap have anything to do with Dirk’s current investigation?

With the two super-sleuths now working together, it is not long before they discover a terrible plot orchestrated by a cruel and manipulative villain.  It is up to Dirk and Holly to work in tandem to foil this threat … will they be able to outsmart a super-villain intent on domination of both the human and dragon worlds?

I loved the delightful assortment of characters in this wonderful story, from the hilarious comedy duo of Arthur and Reg to the brilliance of the playful use of language used by the portmanteau-speaking Tree Dragons who, I know, are nasty, BUT, come-on, they use words like ‘terrofear’, ‘comprestand’ and ‘manumans’ and I just LOVE them!  Not sure what that says about me, but I’m going to have a funtastic time playing with these in class!

Dirk and Holly have formed a heart-warming friendship where they look out for, and care about, each other.  They are both incredibly likeable characters.  Dirk is quick-witted, clever and tenacious.  I love the idea of a dragon living in London, blending into his surroundings, hidden from unsuspecting humans. He is prepared to break the rules over dragons associating with humans, even though being found out would have dire consequences for him.  Holly is gutsy, determined and astute and not averse to a little stealing, lying and manipulation of her own all in a good cause of course! Together, they make a formidable sleuthing partnership.

Dragon Detective:  School’s Out is a fun-filled, magical, action-packed adventure with a perfect sprinkling of danger, just fantabulous for young fans of mystery and dragons. 

Thank you to Charlie and Little Tiger for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m just about to start A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers’ Secret. Definitely looking forward to it as I loved the first book in the series. I’ve also been listening to Howl’s Moving Castle on Borrowbox, and have almost finished. It keeps me company on my drive to and from school, and I’m really enjoying it.

This week I’ve read four books. I read the first of my books for the #20BooksofSummer2020 challenge, The Princess who Flew with Dragons. This follows Princess Sofia as she goes on a diplomatic mission for Drachenheim where she finds herself on a mission to save her sister and best friend – who happens to be a dragon! I will post my review soon. I then read Irish Fairy Tales Myths and Legends which I absolutely loved. This collection of stories is brilliantly re-told and includes many of my favourite Irish stories such as The Children of Lir, The Twelve Wild Geese and The Giant’s Causeway . This was a really nostalgic read, and something I really needed to read. I also read Freedom which tells the story of Nat, a young slave, who is brought with his owners to England where he assumes he will be free. This is a short story, but it really hits hard. It is a gripping, fast-paced story which is an incredibly powerful and heart-breaking read. This is one I intend to add to our Year 6 Reading curriculum. Finally, on Empathy Day, I read A Kind of Spark which is such a powerful story which I really couldn’t put down. There was definitely tears. Addie is the most inspirational young autistic girl who is determined to fight for a memorial to commemorate the women who were killed as witches in her town.

I intend to read The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone which will be the second book from my #20BooksofSummer2020 challenge.

Review: The Wysman

Published by Inspired Quill on 27th June 2020

I read the brilliant The Wind Reader late last year where Jarka is first introduced, and I would highly recommend that you read it, although The Wysman, which follows after the events in the first story, can be read as a standalone.  This is a gripping Young Adult fantasy story, brimming with danger, magic and intrigue, set in a richly imagined world, with a superb cast of characters.

Jarka, a former street child, has been taken into the royal household after he demonstrates that he has the gift of wind-reading:  an ability to see visions of future events.  He has become an apprentice Wysman to Adrya who counsels the King. 

When Rena and Laren, two young street children, who Jarka has brought to the refuge which has given them safe haven, run away from it, they point to their fear of the sinister Grabber who steals children away.  Is the Grabber merely an ancient legend, or is this a real threat to the children of Rin City?

When six-year-old Rena is found unconscious, Jarka’s worst nightmares are realised.  Determined to save her, Jarka embarks on a quest to discover the perpetrator … a quest which weaves an intriguing path from political machinations to the harnessing of deadly elemental magic.  The path which Jarka must follow it not an easy one as it sees him face great loss, danger and sacrifice.  It is a path which leads to the revelation of long-buried secrets, and to the uncovering of great wrong-doing which threatens to destroy everything Jarka holds dear …

Jarka is an incredibly sympathetic character.  Born with a crooked foot, seen as payment for the gift of wind-reading, he has lived on the streets as his home was not a safe place for him.  Even though he has gained the favour of Prince Beran, his life in the Castle is far from easy.  He faces prejudice and jealousy from others which leads to emotional and physical pain.  Jarka empathises with street kids and cares about them, encouraging his friend, Lady Lineth, to establish a refuge.  He is kind-hearted, loyal and protective of his friends, with a keen sense of justice, even when this may lead to the loss of his dreams. 

The Wysman is an incredibly enjoyable story with a fast-paced and intriguing plot which is a wholly satisfying read.

Thank you to the Laura at Inspired Quill, for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday

This is my new 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 Kirsty Applebaum
Cover Artwork by Matt Saunders
Published by Nosy Crow

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Sometimes I wondered if teachers didn’t just make stuff up.

This book in three words:

FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY, TRUST

This is an incredible story which absolutely GRIPPED me from start to finish. It is set in a dystopian society where children are treated differently according to their birth position.

Maggie, a middle child, lives inside the Town boundary with her mother, father, eldest brother Jed and younger brother Trig. Being a Middler means that she struggles to have her voice heard and her talents recognised, but Maggie is determined to be heard and, one day, the perfect opportunity arises …

After a visit to the boundary between the Town and the outside world, she finds herself coming to the attention of a wanderer, Una. Maggie has been brought up to believe that wanderers are ‘dirty, dangerous and deceitful’. Maggie wants to be noticed and, when the opportunity arises, she takes her chance … she decides that she can win recognition by trapping Una and her father and giving them to the town leader.

However, Maggie finds herself developing a tentative friendship with Una, something she has been missing in her life … Can this fledgling friendship overcome the deep-rooted mistrust of the wanderers that has been instilled in Maggie, or will betrayal be inevitable?

I cannot recommend this story highly enough – a must-have for any school library!

You can read more about this gripping story in my review:

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 listening to Howl’s Moving Castle on audio which I reserved through Borrowbox. I’m really enjoying it so far, and just cannot believe I haven’t read it before now. I’m taking part in the #20BooksofSummer20 again this year. I’m just about to start my first book for this challenge, The Princess Who Flew with Dragons. I loved the first two books in the series, and am really looking forward to this one.

I’ve finished reading Dragon Detective: School’s Out this week, and absolutely loved it! I can really see lots of children in my class loving this, and think it would make a great read-aloud story. I’ll post my review at the start of next week. I’ve also finished The Wysman which is a young adult fantasy with plenty of intrigue, and a really engaging plot. It’s being published at the end of June so will post my review in the next couple of weeks. I’ve also read The Ice Garden which is a gorgeous story: heart-breaking and hopeful. Jess, a young girl who is allergic to the sun, finds a magical ice garden and makes a new friend, a friend who is prepared to make a great sacrifice for her. Jess spends a lot of time at the hospital where she meets a young boy in a comma who she reads her stories to. Jess is such a strong and courageous character who, despite her own situation and her understandable anger, proves herself to be a loyal friend. I adored the ending, which pulled the threads of this story together beautifully.

I’m hoping to read another book from my #20BooksofSummer20 next.: A Girl Called Justice: The Smugglers’ Secret. I loved the first book in this series and bought this one as soon as it was published. I’m looking forward to another murder mystery with Justice Jones.

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