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 Abi Elphinstone
Cover Illustration by George Ermos
Published by Simon & Schuster

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

So this sibling rivalry, fuelled by their parents, went on – through early childhood, nursery and
school – reaching a peak a few months ago when Fibber tricked Fox into flushing her homework down the loo, causing Fox to dangle her brother by his ankles from a fifth-floor window in Bickery Towers (to the cheers of their parents down below).

This book in three words:

FRIENDSHIP, ADVENTURE, MAGICAL

I watched Abi Elphinstone’s Hay Festival event with my class on Tuesday which was wonderful and so inspiring. She has such an adventurer’s spirit and is a magical storyteller. With The Crackledawn Dragon being released on 10th June, it made Jungledrop a perfect choice for MG Takes on Thursday.

Jungledrop is an exhilarating, magical adventure brimming with action, excitement and warmth which is set in a stunning glow-in-the-dark rainforest.  It is the second book in the Unmapped Chronicles series after the equally superb Rumblestar:  I was so pleased to be briefly reacquainted with one of the characters from it – just like meeting an old friend! I wonder if I’ll meet any old acquaintances in The Crackledawn Dragon?

The world-building is absolutely incredible, a symphony for the imagination, with a master conductor who immerses the reader in the wonders of a richly imagined world:  sights, sounds, flora and fauna all blend perfectly from the glow-in-the dark rainforest to the swiftwings, golden panthers and gobblequick trees. 

Jungledrop is an absolute must-read: a heart-warming magical fantasy that swept me into an incredible, action-packed adventure in a sumptuously rich world, and kept me enthralled throughout and left me, as always, in awe of Abi’s sheer story-telling brilliance!  Abi is an absolute must-buy author for me, and I cannot recommend this, and the rest of the books in this series, enough!

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!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently listening to Pride and Prejudice on audiobook which is my favourite Jane Austen book. It’s such a familiar read and is just perfect for me at the moment. I’m just about to start The Race which is one I heard about at the Cranachan Publishing event and, when I got the opportunity to be sent an early copy, I jumped at the chance as it sounds wonderful. This will be released on 3rd June.

I’ve finished reading Rainbow Grey which I absolutely loved – the characters, the humour, the concept – just wonderful. I will post my review in the next few days. I also finished listening to The Somerset Tsunami. Emma Carroll really , really knows how to write historical fiction! Fortune Sharpe is an incredible young girl who fights against accusations of witchcraft. The tension created and atmosphere is brilliantly portrayed and the scenes of the tsunami and its aftermath are astounding. This would make an amazing read aloud as there are some real heart-in-mouth moments, and plenty of opportunities for discussion. I also read The Three Impossibles which really enjoyed, especially the main character Mim. I have started my review! I also read two short Barrington Stoke books, Arctic Star and Featherlight which are both brilliant. Arctic Star tells the story of three friends who enlist in the Navy during WWII and take part in the Arctic Convoys, protecting ships bringing supplies to Russia to help in the war effort. This is a story of courage, danger and friendship – heart-breaking and uplifting. Featherlight is a beautiful story about a young girl, Deryn, who has to look after the lighthouse when her father and mother go to the mainland as her mother is having a baby. When disaster strikes and the light goes out with a boat in danger, she finds help from the most unexpected place. This is a magical, heart-warming read that I absolutely adored.

My next read was a very easy choice! I came home yesterday to find that I have been sent an early copy of one of my most anticipated books this year, Skyborn. I absolutely can’t wait to indulge in this one in one sitting!

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

Review: Crater Lake Evolution

Crater Lake Evolution is scarily exhilarating and utterly engrossing:  the perfect blend of sci-fi horror, suspense and humour that had me holding my breath one minute and laughing out loud the next as I was taken on an action-packed thrill-ride of an adventure. 

Five months have passed since Lance and his friends have returned from their Year 6 residential to Crater Lake where they fought, and won, against an alien invasion.  This story is told in the first book in this series, Crater Lake.  In that time, they have moved to high school and grown apart.  Lance has a new friend, Karim, who has moved to Straybridge with his parents. 

When there is an explosion at the University, the residents are informed that a test subject from a research project has escaped, and the town is locked down with a curfew put in place to protect the townspeople.   This all seems perfectly believable, but then, Lance’s Mum starts behaving strangely …

Could Lance’s nightmares have become a reality?  Could Straybridge’s Christmas traditions give an old enemy a chance to invade?  When I am scared in a movie, but desperate to still know what is going on, I cover my eyes with splayed fingers and glance through.  If it were possible to read a book in this way, then there were certainly moments I would have done this … The subtlety with which the creepiness and tension is built up is superbly conveyed and had my heart-pounding as Lance makes connections and fights against the pervading danger threatening Staybridge. 

Even though his friendships have been fractured following the transition to secondary school, Lance has no hesitation in seeking help from his old friends from Year 6, Katja, Chets, Mak and Ade as well as his new friend Karim.  He soon finds himself reunited with his friends who are all willing to help Lance fight for survival against an enemy out of their nightmares, and at the same time, resolve some of the issues that separate them.  Will they be able to save each other, and their town?  I loved that, despite them growing apart and having friendship difficulties in their transition to secondary school, they have a lasting bond from primary that immediately kicks in when Lance needs help.  I also really enjoyed the sparky, teasing and chatty interactions between the friends which is so superbly written.  The friends are brave, gutsy and determined and make a formidable team when faced with a threat to their town.

The horror elements are absolutely out-of-this-world:  thrilling, scary and exciting with knife-edge tension and a stifling, creepy, unnerving atmosphere.  I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers, but there are definitely moments in this book that sent a shiver down my spine, that made me gasp and left me in need of a manicure!  I am so glad that I had such a wonderful cast of characters to lead me through these moments with humour and courage.

Crater Lane Evolution is an absolute triumph of a story brimming with just the right amount of scariness, nail-biting suspense and humour that is sure to keep older children captivated, delighted and ever-so-slightly freaked-out.

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Firefly Press for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion. 

#20 Books of Summer 2021

I’ve taken part in the 20 Books of Summer for the last two years, but have yet to be able to complete the challenge so, this year, I’ve decided to go for 10 books instead and, if I review more, then that’s a bonus! #20BooksOfSummer20 is an annual event hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, and this year runs from Tuesday 1 June and finishes on Wednesday 1 September. I’m very excited to get started on this challenge and am definitely hoping to complete more than 10, but am not going to put any pressure on myself if I don’t manage to so this.

I’ve chosen to go with five proof copies (either from NetGalley or physical proofs I’ve been sent) and five from my bookshelves.

I hope I manage to complete the challenge this year and maybe even adjust to 15 or 20 Books of Summer! Thank you to Cathy for organising this challenge!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading Rainbow Grey and the Weather Magic which I’m absolutely loving – so magical and fun – an absolute delight! I’m also listening to The Somerset Tsunami which is riveting and just as wonderful as the other Emma Carroll books I’ve read. The tsunami has just occurred in the section I’m listening to and it is so brilliantly depicted. There is also mention of witchcraft and Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General, so I’m tense about what will happen next. Fortune Sharpe is a wonderful character, resilient and brave and I fear she will have a lot to deal with.

I’ve finished reading Crater Lake Evolution which is fantastic – scary, tense and humorous with great characters. I am currently writing my review. I also read a very short book, The Last Post which is incredibly poignant and made me cry within the first few pages. It is a series of letters between a father and his son as the father has been posted to the Front during the First World War. The story opens with the elderly son visiting his father’s grave for the last time with his family, and gives a real sense of family and legacy. Utterly wonderful.

I’m hoping to read another book I’ve been approved to read on NetGalley, The Three Impossibles which is due for release on 3rd June.

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

WWW Wednesday

Strictly speaking, I’m not reading anything as I’ve just finished a physical book and an audio book today; however, I will be starting Crater Lake Evolution as a physical read this evening.

I finished reading Harklights this week. I liked the Hobs and the natural environment, but it didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. I also read an e-book of The Girl with her Head in the Clouds which I absolutely loved. It is a short dyslexia-friendly book published by Barrington Stoke, and tells the story of Dolly Shepherd who was an aeronaut and, my goodness, what an amazing, inspirational story it is. I was completely blown away by her courage and resilience. This would be an amazing story to share with a class. I also finished listening to the audiobook of City of Ghosts which I really, really enjoyed. I’ve reserved Tunnel of Bones as I’m very keen to continue this series. I’ve just finished The Lightning Catcher this evening. I’m gathering my thoughts. I liked the premise and how it was written as journal entries as well as the emotional journey of the family who have had a lot to deal with. I will write my review this weekend. I also listened to the audiobook of The Unforgotten Coat which I had heard of years ago but hadn’t got round to reading. This is a short, but very powerful and beautifully written story. It is the story of two refugee brothers from Mongolia who move to Bootle in Liverpool where they appoint Julie, one of their classmates, as a ‘Good Guide’. She returns to the school years later, and tells their story.

I am going to listen to The Somerset Tsunami on Borrowbox next. I love Emma Carroll’s stories, so I’m really looking forward to this one. I was sent the gorgeous proof of Rainbow Grey and the Weather Magic and just know it’s going to be one I love – just got those vibes!

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

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Girl Reader.  This week’s theme is for Books with Nature on the Cover (flowers, trees, landscapes, animals, etc.). I had fun finding these, and have chosen a mixture of adult and middle-grade books.

Five children’s books:

Five adult books:

I had lots of choice as so many books on my bookshelves have flowers, trees, landscapes or animals on the cover. Have you read any of my choices, or are they on your TBR?

Series Review: Picklewitch & Jack

Written by Claire Barker
Illustrated by Teemu Juhani
Published by Faber & Faber

Sheer joyliciousness!  I have absolutely fallen in love with all three books in the Picklewitch & Jack series.  Sparkling with friendship, magic and oodles of fun and mayhem, these books are an absolute delight with the most adorable best friends EVER in Tree Witch Picklewitch and Boxie (aka human), Jack.  If only the tree at the bottom of my garden was home to such an adorable, nature-loving and feisty little witch with whom I could enjoy cakes – until then, I am more than happy to enter this magical world.

The friendship which grows between Picklewitch and Jack is utterly endearing, and leads to many opportunities for a fit of the giggles.  They may be besties, but they also have their tiffs, especially if one does not agree with the other. However, their friendship is always strong enough to withstand disagreements.  The interactions between the two are fizziliciously fun, heart-warming and genuinely made me smile so much. 

I love the playfulness of the language used by Picklewitch which is such fun to read, and would make it brilliant as a read-aloud series with younger children.  The language suits her character perfectly:  a nature-loving, messy, mischievous young girl who is full of confidence and knows what she wants and goes after it – and what she often wants is cake!  She has a heart of gold and is a loyal friend to Jack, even though she does have a tendency to sulk – sometimes!  Of course, that just made me love her even more.  I also really liked Jack who is more serious and sensible and always trying to do the right thing.   Together, they learn what true friendship is, and are  a wonderful and joyful match!

The full-page and partial-page illustrations by Teemu Juhani are truly glorious, fizzing with personality and life.  They complement the humour and warmth of the series perfectly.

This is a magical, charming series that made my heart sing with delight, and brought the biggest smile to my face on many occasions.  It exudes warmth, humour and an appreciation of nature.  Go on … treat your young booklover, or yourself, to a joyous reading experience … maybe with a slice of cake!

After inheriting a new home, sensible and clever Jack moves into Rookery Heights with his Mum, ready to start a new life and attend St Immaculate’s School for the Gifted.  However, he gets rather a fright when he opens the curtains to reveal a young girl with a pointy hat, and an obsession with cake who decides to be his best friend, whether he likes it or not.

One day at school, after Jack insults her, Picklewitch leaves her bag behind and disappears. Unable to resist, Jack opens it to discover a spellbook which could mean only one thing:  a witch has befriended him.  Could he have found the friend he needs, even if he doesn’t know it?

So begins a fun-filled, enchanting and heart-warming delight as Picklewitch causes mayhem and mischief whilst Jack tries to keep her safe and stop her revealing her secret.  Will Picklewitch prove herself to be just the friend Jack needs?

Jack’s new best friend, Picklewitch is causing mayhem at St Immaculate’s School for the Gifted as she brings her own brand of rule-breaking and merry-making with nature following her in to the class. After getting a letter from her cousin, Archie Cuckoo, he soon arrives for a visit. 

Jack is worried that he will feel left out but, when Archie arrives, he is polite, immaculate and clever and they get along brilliantly with lots in common.  Jack soon finds himself inviting Archie to stay with him, leaving Picklewitch feeling left out.

However, Archie may not be as perfect as he seems.  Will Picklewitch and Jack see through his sinister plans, and reveal his true nature, before he comes between the best friends?

Jack is super-excited when his school are invited on a field trip to hunt for fossils at the Dorset seaside by an ex-pupil and his hero, Dr Firenza Sharptooth.  There will be a prize for the best find which he is desperate to win.  However, his best friend Picklewitch is not so keen to leave her garden … until she is promised I-scream!

Whilst Jack is hunting for fossils, Picklewitch is hunting for I-screams and soon inveigles an invite for cake when she spies a Sea Wizard, Scowling Margaret. 

When Jack and Picklewitch arrive at the Sea Wizard’s hidden lair, they make an amazing discovery, a discovery that the Sea Wizard has been keeping secret and that someone else is intent on uncovering …

Picklewitch & Jack is a wonderfully heart-warming, gigglesome series with the most adorable friends who, despite their differences and wobbles, are a perfect match. I cannot recommend this series highly enough – guaranteed delight with every page!

Thank you to Bethany Carter and Faber & Faber for providing me with a copy of Picklewitch & Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret in exchange for my honest opinion.  I already owned the first two books in this gorgeous series.

Six for Sunday

The May theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by A Little But a Lot is Spring into action and today’s prompt is for Pastel coloured covers. This was a great chance to look through my huge TBR to see what pastel loveliness I could find! And then discover that middle-grade is not really a fan of pastel – at least not on my bookshelves!

These are the six I found which were the most ‘pastel’ I could find!

Do you have any middle-grade books with pastel covers? Have you read any of these?

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!

Myra’s mum gave her hand a squeeze and smiled at her from beneath her bright-red clown nose. “Happy deathday, Myra,” she said.

Any ideas?

I loved Louie Stowell’s Dragon in the Library series for younger readers, so I was very excited to see she’d written a book for slightly older readers. I pre-ordered this one which came with a gorgeous pin badge – couldn’t resist!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Otherland is a dangerous magical underworld – a place where appearances can be deceiving and anything can happen. A world of gods, vampires, and fairies. It’s also… horrible. When life-long friends Myra and Rohan discover that Rohan’s baby sister Shilpa has been stolen and taken to Otherland, the only way to rescue her is by taking part in a deadly game – three impossible challenges set by the Fairy Queen of Otherland. Win the game, and Rohan and Myra can go home with Shilpa – but lose, and they’ll be trapped in Otherland forever…

Have you read this? What did you think?