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 Sibeal Pounder
Cover Illustration by Sarah Warburton
Published on 29th October

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

It looked like she’d been all over London picking up stray bits of Christmas.

This book in three words:

GIRL-POWER, CHRISTMAS, CAROLS!

For my last MG Takes on Thursday, I’m celebrating one of my favourite Christmas books which I have loved reading to my class who adored it just as much as I did!

If you thought you knew the origins of Santa Claus, think again!  Bursting with warmth, humour, friendship and adventure, Tinsel is an absolute joyous story, and one I loved reading to my class who adored it. I loved that some couldn’t wait for me to finish it, so got their own copy. One boy in my class even told our Book Penpal author that this was his favourite book this year.

This story completely entranced me, wrapping me in a cosy blanket of warmth and joy as I adventured with Blanche to a magical and snowy North Pole.  I met wonderful new friends (the many Carols and Eggnog the fir tree are joyous – and they gave me so many laughs!).  I discovered just how easily the truth of Santa’s origins have been misunderstood:  a mean-spirited villain with a penchant for controlling the news, tinsel-mail, and just a little completely unintentional elfish error …

Tinsel is a perfect read to snuggle up with at Christmas and I have no doubt will fill every reader with festive cheer:  heart-warming friendships, exciting adventure, wonderfully funny, and a brilliantly imagined origin story with such inventive twists on many Christmas traditions.  Bliss!

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!

As this will be my last post before Christmas, I’d just like to wish everyone who has visited my Blog over the year a wonderfully relaxing Christmas/holiday period.

WWW Wednesday

I read a LOT of middle-grade, but I’ve decided to read a few more adult books over the Christmas break. I’ve just finished a middle-grade book about witches, so I’m going to start an adult one, The Once and Future Witches. This is one that comes highly recommended by the wonderful Rachael at Bellis Does Books, so I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I’ve finished reading North Child which I absolutely loved. I’m so glad I picked this up one as it has been on my TBR since last Christmas. I adored Rose who has the heart of an adventurer and is filled with courage and inner strength. This gave me Beauty and the Beast and Snow Queen vibes. I don’t know the Norwegian fairy tale on which it is based but I have seen that the wonderful Jackie Morris is releasing her version on 18th March next year. I found the whole story magical, at times both heart-breaking and heart-warming. This really did have the feel of an epic quest which was beautifully orchestrated throughout. I do have the sequel, West, and am hoping not to leave it quite so long to read!

I also read The Miracle on Ebenezer Street which is pure Christmas joy! George and his family are grieving the death of his mother at Christmas three years previously. His father is still grieving and cannot bear to celebrate Christmas, throwing himself into his work at the expense of his family. George meets Marley in his Curiosity Shop and finds a magical snow globe which will grant him wishes. He wants to bring Christmas and warmth into his home again, and to have his mother’s presence still felt in the house. This is a truly gorgeous, magical story, filled with humour, adventure and warmth where George, his father and his wonderful Nana Flo are taken on an adventure into three Christmases – past, present and future. I adored Tricksie the elf and Randolph, a purple reindeer and brother of Ruldoply (touchy subject!) who infuse the story with so much humour – they absolutely deserve a story of their own!

I also read Chill which my husband bought me as a birthday gift. I really enjoyed this ghost story set in the Scottish Highlands with an historical link to the Jacobite uprising. It wasn’t quite as spooky as some other middle-grade books I’ve read recently, but the story definitely kept me interested as Samuel Cunningham and his new friend Fiona Morton uncover the mystery behind the Weeping Lady who haunts the Morton home. I definitely want to pick up the next one, Shiver.

I’ve just finished The Forest of Moon and Sword which I was approved to read via NetGalley. This is being released on 7th January. This story starts in Scotland and tells the story of Art Flynt who witnesses her mother being taken by soldiers hunting witches under the command of the Witch Finder General. Feeling unwanted and desperate to rescue her mother, who has been taken to England, Art undertakes a mission to rescue her. I will post my review before publication.

Was I keeping my fingers crossed that this would be released on NetGalley? Yes! Did I keep checking every day? Definitely! Did I request it at super-fast finger-tapping speed? Oh yes! And, was it the fastest approval I’ve got – yeah – Happy Christmas to me! This is one of my MOST anticipated releases for 2021 as I loved the first two Widdershin sisters’ adventures in this series, A Pinch of Magic and A Sprinkle of Sorcery and I have signed copies of both! Hopefully, I’ll get a signed copy of this too when it is published on 4th February.

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

New Year middle-grade releases Part 2

This is the second part of my anticipated children’s book releases for January. I’ve already posted the books I’m looking forward to which are being released on the  first Thursday in January which is going to be a bumper release day for children’s fiction. This post includes the books I’m looking forward to which are being published during the rest of January (apart from one which is also 7th January!)

I have included the Goodreads or Waterstones Synopsis for each book.

Published by Faber & Faber on 7th January

I’ve adored The Five Realms series, and am so looking forward to reading Uki and the Swamp Spirit. This is also a really popular series in my class. I love that when children read The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, they always ask for the next one!

Uki had the sensation of a sickly green light, spreading out through the networks of water. Of tendrils connecting all the creatures of the marsh in a web . . . Linking itself so it could poison it all and destroy it. Uki and his friends have two more spirits to find and capture. After defeating Valkus, they make for Clarice, who is spreading disease through the swamps. Can Uki and his friends outwit him – all whilst they themselves are being chased by the Endwatch and Jori’s clan of assassins? 

Published by Nosy Crow on 14th January

I LOVE The Dragon in the Library Series. This is the third book in the series, and I was so excited to see that I don’t have too long to wait until its release! I can’t wait to join Kit, Josh and Alita on their next adventure.

Kit, Josh and Alita are heading back to school – and they’re excited to discover that they’re getting a brand new library, which also means getting their own wizard librarian… and a dragon! But when something VERY BAD happens at the new library, it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the world one more time. 

Published by Nosy Crow on 14th January

I loved Nizrana’s first book, The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, and read it to my class last year. Her new book sounds like it will be another fantastic adventure.

Razi, a local fisherboy, is watching turtle eggs hatch when he sees a boat bobbing into view. With a chill, he notices a small, still hand hanging over the side… Inside is Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too. And so begins an exhilarating adventure in the shadow of the biggest sea monster of them all…

Published by Harper Collins on 21st January

I read The Kid Who Came from Space at the beginning of this year and absolutely loved it, so I’m very keen to read Ross’ next book. I have a child in my class who is a big fan, so I’m looking forward to sharing this one with him.

When 12 year-old Malky and his younger brother Seb become the owners of a “Dreaminator”, they are thrust into worlds beyond their wildest imagination. From tree-top flights and Spanish galleons, to thrilling battles and sporting greatness – it seems like nothing is out of reach when you can share a dream with someone else. But… impossible dreams come with incredible risks, and when Seb won’t wake up and is taken to hospital in a coma, Malky is forced to leave reality behind and undertake a final, terrifying journey to the stone-age to wake his brother… 

Published by Egmont Books on 21st January

I’ve already been lucky enough to read a proof of this supernatural fantasy, and am looking forward to getting a final copy for my class library.

Amari Peters knows three things. Her big brother Quinton has gone missing. No one will talk about it. His mysterious job holds the secret … So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon. Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous. With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …

Published by Pan Macmillan  on 21st January

My class study the Vikings as part of their history, and I’m always looking for books to link to the topic. I think this one will be perfect for my Year 4 class.

A no-good viking thief. The worst-ever trainee valkyrie. An ungodlycase of mistaken identity. When failing trainee valkyrie Lotta mistakes an unconscious viking thief, Whetstone, for a fallen hero and takes him triumphantly to Valhalla, things are definitely not turning out to be epic or glorious. Having lost a precious talking cup, Whetstone is also desperate to cover up his mistake and the two embark on a quarrelsome journey to find it and regain their heroic status. But Loki the trickster God is desperate to get his hands on the cup with a plan to unleash chaos across the nine worlds. Can Whetstone prove himself a hero after all when it matters most?

Published by Simon & Schuster on 21st January

I read Check Mates when it was first published and loved the relationship between Felix and his Grandfather. I’m definitely looking forward to reading The Perfect Parent Project which I’m sure will include laughter and tears!

All Sam wants is a family of his own, a home instead of a ‘house’ and parents he knows will still be there when he wakes up. Because Sam has been in and out of foster care his whole life and he can’t imagine ever feeling like he truly belongs. Then his best friend Leah suggests that rather than wait for a family to come to him, he should go out and find one. So begins The Perfect Parent Project … But Sam may just discover that family has a funny way of finding you. 

Published by Harper Collins on 21st January

I’ve really been enjoying reading mysteries recently so, when I saw the release of a new series, I immediately decided I wanted it – not too long to wait!

Violet Veil wants nothing more than to prove her worth and become her father’s apprentice at Veil Sons Undertakers. And one rain-soaked night she gets her chance when she meets a boy, Oliver, who is wandering around the graveyard. Only, the last time Violet saw Oliver, he was indoors and very much dead, waiting to be buried. Victoria has just found her first case, and it doesn’t get bigger than this: can she, with the help of her dog, Bones, help Oliver solve his own ‘murder’?

Published by Puffin on 21st January

Ever since reading The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, I’ve been keen to find and read more books which are both hilarious and heart-warming. I think I’ve found one with Uma.

Uma Gnudersonn has a head full of questions: How can I save my home from being sold? Will my dad ever start talking again? And how do alpacas get drunk? But since her mum died, Uma’s life has been short on answers. Then she finds a genius artificial intelligence called Athena who knows everything. Suddenly Uma has the answer to any question she can imagine – from the capital of Mozambique to the colour of her headteacher’s underpants – and she’s going to use them to save her home and her father. Along the way, Uma will have to confront the sinister inventor who will stop at nothing to get Athena back – and face up to the fact that not all questions have answers . . .

Published by Firefly Press on 28th January

The title of this poetry collection completely captured me and the illustrations look fantastic. I’m looking forward to reading the poems and adding this one to my class library.

From forgotten jellybeans to sparking daydreams, Alex’s poems, written for primary school age children, are both funny and thoughtful, and aim to spark familiarity and inclusion. And the illustrations from Katy Riddell will focus on the fun and dreamlike quality of the poems’ engagement with the natural world. These poems use rhyme, rhythm and free verse and are ideally suited to performance in a school setting, nurturing a love of language, reading, confidence and self-expression.

There you have it! There are some incredible middle-grade being released throughout January from authors I already know and from some who are new to me! Are there any of these you want to read? Have you any other recommendations?

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is a Books I Hope Santa Brings. I do treat myself to a lot of books over the course of the year, but I still can’t help asking for some from Santa! I’m hoping I get some of these on Christmas Day!

I’ve read previous books by each of these authors, and am really keen to read other books by them. SO many people have been raving about October, October that I just had to put it on my Christmas list. I loved The Switching Hour by Damaris so am really looking forward to reading her next book, The Creature Keeper. I really enjoyed A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson and am really looking forward to going back into this magical world.

If I Were Other than Myself is a collection of poems filled with ‘magical fantasy and dreamlike inventions’ which sounds perfect! I really enjoyed The Children of Castle Rock, so am looking forward to Voyage of the Sparrowhawk which is set after the First World War. The Nowhere Emporium is the first book in this fantasy trilogy which sounds I’ve been wanting to pick up for a while now.

The wonderful Rachael at BellisDoesBooks brought Splinters of Scarlet to my attention, and it sounds like just my sort of book. As soon as I read the synopsis for Cold Tom, I knew I wanted it! Tom is both elfin and human and has been cast out from his Tribe to live amongst the humans – this one has really intrigued me.

I don’t often read adult books, but I’m hoping to get these two for Christmas.

Six for Sunday

I have signed up to take part in the Reading Rocks Secret Santa for the last couple of years. This is where you are given an idea of a book a teacher would like and then post a Secret Santa book gift. My Secret Santa this year asked for magical fantasy books! I mean – this suits me perfectly. I bought The Castle of Tangled Magic and Jungledrop as they are two of my favourite reads this year. Just hope my Secret Santa likes them!

I’m sure my husband never reads my blog so it’s safe for me to post these – also, he has requested them! 🙂 My husband is a gamer rather than a reader, so very rarely asks for books. Once a year, a new Lee Child book is released and it is about the only book he reads, although he is a few behind!

I’ve bought my niece one of my favourite ever picture books which I hope she finds just as magical and gorgeous as I found it.

It’s so hard to get a present for my nephew, but he does love World of Warcraft so I’ve bought him this new release – hopefully before he has managed to get a copy!

I’m hoping to be gifted lots of books for Christmas too. What books are you hoping to get for Christmas?

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!

The Widdershins left Crowstone just after breakfast. Granny had popped her head in to wake the girls at sunrise, but Betty Widdershins was already up.

Any ideas?

I’m sure anyone who is a fan of Michelle Harrison’s A Pinch of Magic and A Pinch of Sorcery will have guessed this one! I’ve been avidly checking NetGalley in the hope that this would be available for request and, as soon as I saw it today, I immediately requested it and was approved almost as quickly as I’d requested it which is brilliant! I’m so excited to return to another adventure with the Widdershin sisters!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Everyone knows that magic and trouble go hand in hand… A dangerous spell cast over an unsuspecting village. An enchanted painting locked in a hidden room. A desperate race against time to break the spell before it’s too late… It should have been a fresh start for the Widdershins. Finally free from the misty gloom of Crowstone and beginning a new life. But all is not as it seems in their postcard-pretty village. Their neighbours are acting strangely, and why do they flinch at the mere mention of magic? The Widdershins sisters have their own secret: a set of enchanted nesting dolls with the power to render their user invisible. The sisters must use their wits – and their magic – if they’re to break the dark hold over the village, and save one of their own . . . but have they met their match this time? 

Have you read this series? Are you looking forward to this one?

WWW Wednesday

I absolutely loved listening to The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett earlier this year, and definitely wanted to read more of her books. I’m currently listening to The Silver Donkey which is wonderful so far. At long last, I’m about to start my Christmas break, so I’m going to start North Child as my first Christmas read. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for a LONG time!

I’ve finished listening to The Girl Who Saved Christmas on Borrowbox. I enjoyed this one which I found both poignant and hopeful. I also finished reading Mistletoe and Murder which is my favourite in the series so far. I loved the Christmas setting in Cambridge and that the two detective society’s meet. I loved this cover too! I also finished Delivery to the Lost City which is the final book in Train to Impossible Places series. I absolutely loved this and thought it was a wonderful end to the series. Review to follow shortly.

As I’m off on holiday from tomorrow, I’m hoping to get lots of reading in over the Christmas break so I’m hoping to read The Forest of Moon and Sword, Dragon Detective: That’s a Wrap and The Miracle on Ebenezer Street before next Wednesday.

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

The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour: Amari and the Night Brothers

Amari and the Night Brothers was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021, so I was super excited to be invited to join The Write Reads Blog Tour. Thank you to Dave at The Write Reads and the publishers, Egmont, for sending me a physical proof copy in return for my honest opinion.

Written by B.B. Alston
Illustrated by Brittany Jackson
Published by Egmont Books
UK Release date: 21st January

Amari and the Night Brothers was everything I was hoping it would be, and then some!  It is an exciting, action-packed, supernatural adventure with a tantalising dose of magic, danger, secrets and twists – not to mention razor-sharp humour – so much so that I was compelled to devour it in one sitting – a perfect reading adventure!

Amari Peters’ adored and brilliant older brother, Quinton, has been missing for six months.  She is convinced that he is still alive and is determined to find him and to uncover the secrets he has kept from her.  When she receives a delivery from her brother, she discovers a briefcase in his old wardrobe, and a message from him that sees her start the MOST incredible adventure to find him, and take her first steps to awakening her own magical powers, powers that put her in danger, but which may also be the key to saving her new world …

Quinton has left his younger sister a nomination to join a secret organisation, the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.  She accepts a place in its summer training camp, where she has to undergo try outs to become a trainee agent, in the hope of being re-united with her brother.   She is also filled with a sense of excitement as she has been given the opportunity to escape from the bullying school environment where she felt like an outsider.

The Bureau opens her eyes to a world filled with a myriad of diverse, brilliant supernatural creatures which must be kept secret from the known human world.  For starters, her roommate, Elsie Rodriguez, is a were dragon!  I loved that so many creatures that cross genres exist in this hidden world within our world from magicians to mermaids to hybrid creatures:  they are woven seamlessly into the narrative.  There is one thread in particular which I adored, and which kept me on the edge of my seat as I raced to find out how it would unravel– and it was SO worth the wait! 

In her quest to find her brother, Amari is determined to become a Junior Agent in the Department of Supernatural Investigations but, when she finds out that her supernatural ability is also an illegal one, she risks becoming an outsider again.  Is Amari unwittingly a danger to the Bureau, or will her talent help them overcome the threat which they face from the infamous Night Brothers who are determined to destroy the Bureau?

Oh my goodness!  This is such a heart-racing, exciting read that I couldn’t put it down.  I loved discovering the origins of the Night Brothers and the danger they posed to the Bureau.  The twists and revelations kept me on the edge of my seat; I was kept on tenterhooks as I was trying to work out who to trust and who had an ulterior motive:  absolutely enthralling!   The ending was unexpected but also PERFECT!

Amari is an incredibly courageous young girl with an admirable inner strength and determination. She’s a real fighter:  she stands up for herself as she goes on a journey of self-discovery, taking risks along the way as she comes to believe in her own ability and her intentions to use her powers for good, despite temptation and uncertainty.

I absolutely LOVED this magical and exhilarating story set in a vividly drawn, fascinating world; after that ending, I can’t wait to go on another adventure with Amari.

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!

Ebba Rose was the name of our last-born child. Except it was a lie. Her name should have been Nyamh Rose. But everyone called her Rose rather than Ebba, so the lie didn’t matter. At least, that is what I told myself. The Rose part of her name came from the symbol that lies at the centre of the wind rose – which is fitting because she was lodged at the very centre of my heart.

Any ideas?

This is one I’ve had on my TBR for so long. I’m determined to enjoy reading it over a day during my Christmas break, cuddled up on the sofa with hot chocolate and Kit Kat!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose’s birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home… but she can’t suppress Rose’s true nature forever. So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it–in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family–she readily agrees. Rose travels on the bear’s broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart– and finds her purpose–and realizes her journey has only just begun.

Have you read this? What did you think?

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading Mistletoe and Murder on Borrowbox. I think I’ve manged to save this one for the perfect time to read! IU haven’t got too far into it yet, but I am enjoying it. Daisy and Hazel have gone to spend Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy’s older brother – I’m sure I won’t have long to wait until there’s another case for the Detective Society to solve. I’m just about to start listening to The Girl Who Saved Christmas on my way to and from work, and I’m so looking forward to it! I’ve also started Delivery to the Lost City, the final book in the A Train to Impossible Places Adventure series. I’m really enjoying being back with Suzy and her Trollville friends although the problem they have to deal with this time is my worst nightmare: an overdue book is draining all the words from the books in the library. I’m not sure I’ll cope if these books aren’t restored by the end of the story!

I’ve now finished listening to The Amber Spyglass on Borrowbox. I absolutely loved this one which is my favourite of the trilogy. Both Lyra and Will are such courageous, resilient and resourceful characters, and I really, really enjoyed their story arcs, even though the ending was so poignant. I found their journey to the Land of the Dead fascinating as was the emotional journey her mother took. I’m going to move on to watching the BBC series over Christmas .

I’ve wanted to read Scavengers for ages, so decided to pick it up at last. Oh my goodness! It is the most amazing and powerful story, and one that I absolutely devoured. Landfill lives in Hinterland (effectively a dump) with old Babagoo who found him abandoned as a baby and cared for him. Babagoo has given him a strict set of rules, including that he must not venture to the Outside as it is dangerous. There is such a sense of threat and unease in this story as Landfill begins to uncover difficult truths, and questions his reality as he strives for understanding. Some twists absolutely made me gasp and I was desperate to uncover the truth. My heart ached for Landfill who loses his innocence as he is awakened to the world around him. His relationship with Babagoo is complex and difficult and was, at times, hard to bear. This is such a powerful and emotive coming-of-age story that I can highly recommend.

I’ve decided to read a few Christmas-themed books next, starting with The Night I Met Father Christmas.

What have you read this week? Have you read any of these?