New reviews: Middle-Grade catch-up!

It’s been an amazing start to the year for children’s books; so many brilliant titles to read and such an abundance of choice for young readers! Here’s a snapshot of the middle-grade books I’ve enjoyed over the last few months which I recommend you add to your bookshelf, classrooms, school libraries and general TBR pile!

Starfell: Willow Moss and the Magic Thief by Dominique Valente illustrated by Sarah Warburton is the fourth book in the Starfell series, which has proved totally charming with a delightful and determined heroine at it’s heart. With themes of kindness, resilience and equality, in this final story we see Willow seeking to restore her magic so she can defeat Silas, the evil wizard determined to steal all magic for himself. Expect an exciting adventure full of humour and the characters we’ve come to know and love, with some new ones to add to the magic! A great read. Published by HarperCollins (Age 8+).

Max Counts to A Million by Jeremy Williams is the heart-warming story of one boy’s experience of lockdown and reflects much that we can all relate too, young or old. Max, in a fit of anger, decides to count to a million rather than the 100 his mum suggests to help him calm down. This leads to more than just a calming-down exercise, as we see how one child attempts to control the world around him as the pandemic ensues. I love the premise behind this story – one Dad’s desire to capture the extraordinary period we have all been through from a child’s perspective. Written in just two weeks, the resulting tale is warm, funny, moving and shows just how courageous we have all been in just keeping going. Published by Nosy Crow (Age 7+).

Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm by Laura Ellen Anderson creates a wonderful world of imagination, as we enter the second story in this fantastic series. Ray is learning to master her magic, despite things not always going to plan! Readers are drawn into another colourful adventure, with equally colourful characters, as Ray realises there is something dark behind the disappearing cloud creatures. Magic abounds as Ray seeks to prove her innocence, and once you get to know the wonderful cloud-cat again, Nim and a whole host of others, you’ll want to visit The Weatherlands every day. An absolute treat of a story! Published by Farshore (Age 7+).

How to Steal the Mona Lisa by Bethany Walker illustrated by Jack Noel is cleverly told through all manner of written communications (think texts, emails, blogs, coded messages and so on) as Mia and her former best friend Jake attempt to solve the mystery of the Mona Lisa, missing for 200 years, win the £25m reward and save the art department in their school! With strange behaviour by teachers at school, and Mia’s parents at home, there’s more than meets the eye in this uniquely told tale. A celebration of the importance of art in our lives, there’s laughs galore, a lovely relationship between Mia and her Granny, as well as a BIG twist at the end. Confident readers will love How to Steal the Mona Lisa. Published by Scholastic (Age 8+).

The Girl Who Lost a Leopard by Nizrana Farook takes readers back to the beautiful land of Serendib, where Selvi loves to run free in the mountains, just like Lokka, a wild and beautiful leopard. For animal lovers everywhere, this story will delight and hold readers spellbound, as Selvi and Lokka build a bond of friendship and battle against evil hunters. An opportunity to explore themes of conservation, as well as the connection between humans and animals, The Girl Who Lost a Leopard is a richly drawn adventure to be enjoyed by all! Published by Nosy Crow (Age 9+)

Carnival of the Lost by Kieran Larwood illustrated by Sam Usher brings to life an atmospheric, marvellously creepy, Victorian-inspired London and a host of fantastic characters who perform in a Carnival. This story will hold readers in awe, as mystery seeps from the page when no-one but the Carnival Troupe is interested in helping discover where vanishing, poverty-stricken children have gone. Expect the unexpected with a brilliantly written narrative, which includes fascinating historical detail about the period throughout and wonderfully drawn illustrations. It’s definitely time you found the Carnival of the Lost! Published by Faber (Age 9+).

With thanks to all the publishers for sending me these books to review. They will find new homes via my local foodbank.

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