M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds.

The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This is my second MG Takes on Thursday post this year and it’s another new release. This week I’m celebrating The Secret of Splint Hall by Katie Cotton

Favourite sentence from page 11
His long neck stuck out from his stiff white collar in which a paisley tie was nestling.

This book in three words:

Mystery Family Adventure

I absolutely loved this book. It’s a marvellous mystery story set immediately after WWII when life is still really difficult for many people. There are echoes of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at the start but then moves into completely different territory as the mystery unfolds.

Isabel, Flora and their widowed mother have had their home destroyed in the bombing and have to go and live with their aunt and her husband at Splint Hall. Splint Hall is where their mother grew up but it is a very different place now that her brother in law, Mr Godfrey, is master of the house.

The two girls explore the house and grounds and meet Simon, the son of the previous gatekeeper who was sacked for stealing meat. Simon seems able to mysteriously appear and disappear from the grounds of the house. As they explore Splint Hall, the girls uncover more and more strange things. Who are the men who arrive in the middle of the night to take away bulging sacks and why was their grandfather obsessed with drawing dragons? And how did Splint Hall get its name?

The story drew me in from the very first page. It’s quite slow moving to begin with as the scene is set but the action soon picks up and there are some heart stopping moments especially in the tunnels. The characters are all vividly drawn from the extremely unpleasant Mr Godfrey with his wounded leg to Simon and his mysterious secrets and all of them come alive from the page.

As well as fascinating characters, the setting of the book is brilliant. Splint hall ‘which loomed over the fields like a general over his army‘ is so clearly described that you can almost see the different rooms. The book also moves to the local village where people are surprisingly unfriendly and then into the mysterious tunnels. The setting is intricately bound up with the plot which is full of twists and turns. I loved the story which is a fantastic blend of historical family drama and fantasy and there was just the right amount of danger and fear to keep things exciting.

This is one of my favourite MG books that I have read recently and I really recommend it

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Andersen Press, for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. The book was published on March 3rd 2022.

M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds.

The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

I can’t believe that I haven’t posted a M G post since December last year. Now that I am only in the classroom part time, I don’t get to read so much MG fiction. I have read some brilliant books lately though so these posts will be a bit more frequent.

This week I’m celebrating The Last FireFox by Lee Newbery and illustrated by Laura Catalan

The Last Firefox Published by Puffin

Favourite sentence from page 11
You’re in Charlie’s garden, not he jungle Lippy. It’s not like you’re going to get abducted by an enemy tribe.

Ok, that’s two sentences but you get the idea.

This book in three words:

Family Friendship Magic

This is a brilliant story about friendship, family and a little bit of magic. I was hooked from the very first chapter which was absolutely hilarious and involves a very angry goose.

Charlie goes to a deserted castle to hide a stone and is handed a fox  cub to look after by a mysterious stranger. It’s not just any fox cub though, it is the last fire fox cub and it has an alarming habit of setting things on fire. Charlie tries to look after the cub, Cadno,  by himself but has to let his friends into the secret as the cub is being hunted.

The story has the perfect blend of adventure, magic and normal life. There is a lot going on in Charlie’s life at the moment as he is being bullied, he is about to leave primary school and his parents are thinking about adopting another child. All of these things arise normally out of the story together with the fact that Charlie has two Dads. It’s lovely to see a different family set up as well as a story set in Wales where the children are learning Welsh.

This is a lighthearted story with lots of humour and some laugh out loud moments. However, it also deals with big issues such as bullying and adoption. Charlie’s relationships with his friends and family shine through and the cub is simply adorable. The illustrations by Laura Catalan are great too. A fantastic read.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Puffin, for this ARC in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on March 3rd 2022.

M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

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The Last Bear by Hannah Gold and illustrated by Levi Pinfold Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books UK

Favourite sentence from page 11
She didn’t know whether it was because she smelled of fox or the fact that she was the smallest girl in her class or even that she cut her own hair with a pair of garden scissors.

This book in three words:

Unforgettable Friendship Environmental


I haven’t read many MG books lately but I saw this one at the library and absolutely loved it. It’s the story of April who with her Scientist father, goes to live on the uninhabited Bear Island in the Arctic Circle. April’s father is busy carrying out his work recording the weather and so April is left to explore the island. There are supposedly no bears on Bear Island however………………

This is a brilliant story with a really strong environmental message that everyone can do something. I loved the character of April and the relationship that she has with Bear. I also really liked the fact that the book doesn’t stray into fantasy. Bear is always a real bear and although he and April communicate, it stays just on the right side of being possible.

The settings are described vividly and you can really picture what April is seeing, The climate change message is a huge part of the book but it doesn’t feel as though we are being preached at. Hannah Gold sets out what is happening and the effects that this is having on polar bears in particular very clearly without it spoiling the story. Also the illustrations are simply gorgeous. I especially loved the final one showing April and her father together.

This is a beautifully written book and it stayed with me after I had finished it which I always think is a sign of how good a book actually is. I really liked the ending which was touching but also hopeful. The author’s note and resources are a great touch too.

This one has to go back to the library but I am definitely going to buy a copy for my classroom.

M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

As it’s non fiction November, I thought that it might be a good idea to blog about one of my favourite M G non fiction books.

All About Theatre by the National Theatre. Published by Walker Books

My favourite sentence from page 11.
Hmmm. That doesn’t really work with this book so instead, here’s a picture of the double page spread for pages 10-11 which is about the history of the theatre.

pages 10 and 11

This book in three words:

Theatrical Fascinating Informative

I absolutely love this book. Probably because I love the theatre and everything associated with it but it is also a brilliant non fiction book.

I actually bought it by accident as I bought it for a friend of mine as a birthday present but when it arrived, I realised that it was aimed at a much younger market than my friend so it went to school and into my book corner.

Everything about this book is brilliant. It covers everything that any child or teenager could possibly want to know about the theatre. There are sections on everything from acting to scenery, from puppetry to sound effects. The pages are laid out incredibly clearly with great photographs of actual productions. The graphic design is amazing and makes each page so easy to read.

The book is produced by The National Theatre and includes many quotes from actors, writers, designers etc. I love this aspect of it as they give real examples of things that they have actually worked on which makes it very real

The final pages are about how you can get involved in theatre and has great suggestions for how children can find out more.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is an absolutely brilliant book for any one who has any interest in theatre, whether it’s as a performer, working backstage or just someone who loves to be in the audience of a live performance.

The Crystal Palace Chronicles- Star of Nimrod. Blog Tour

What if the past became your future?

I was really pleased to be invited to be part of the blog tour for the above book by Graham Whitlock. This is a book in one of my favourite genres, historical fiction and is set in and around the Crystal Palace which is a place that has always fascinated me.

It’s an incredibly exciting adventure story involving time travel and the theft of a valuable diamond. Several famous Victorians including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H G Wells also appear.

Trying to rescue his skateboard which has been thrown over a fence in the old grounds of Crystal Palace, Joe Cook finds an old compass. The compass somehow transports him back in time to 1888 when the Crystal Palace was still a huge attraction. He meets the young H G Wells who shows him round the palace. During this tour, Joe loses the compass and with that, his way back home. He gets help from one of the workers in the palace, a  young lad named Elias. As they try to retrieve the compass, they overhear a plan to steal the Star of Nimrod from the Shah of Persia. This then leads to Joe and his new friends trying to prevent the theft and get Joe’s compass back so he can return home.

The action is really fast paced as the boys fall out of one problem and straight into another. Joe and Elias are given help by a whole cast of characters including real historical figures such as Conan Doyle and W G Grace. The contrast between the present day and Victorian times is very clear and helped by great use of dialogue showing the difference.

The book is obviously incredibly well researched but this does not make the story at all dull. The Crystal Palace and the surrounding area is brilliantly described and really adds to the atmosphere of the story. Joe is a likeable hero and his struggles with not being able to be completely honest with his new friends feels very real. The Victorian characters are all great too and I enjoyed the notes at the end about the real life people many of them are based on.

The title seems to hint that this is the first one of a series and I look forward to being about to read more about Joe, Elias and the rest of the amazing cast in this story.

Thank you to Grass Roots Productions Ltd for letting me read an advance copy of this book in exchange for my review.

The Crystal Palace Chronicles is written by Graham Whitlock and was published on 5th November by Grass Roots Productions.

M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This week I am celebrating the newly released Fledgling by Lucy Hope

Fledgling by Lucy Hope. Published by Nosy Crow

My favourite quote from page ll Now, with the arthritis gnawing at her knuckles and toes, she shuffles up our helter-skelter road every day before it gets light – like an old snail – to look after us.

This book in three words: Mysterious, Magical, Atmospheric

I was first attracted to this book by the eye catching cover and certainly wasn’t disappointed. This is a brilliantly dark, gothic story set on the edges of a German forest at the beginning of the 20th century. Cassie lives with her parents and sick grandmother in a house high on the mountainside. The house is amazing and is almost a character in its own right. It has been added to by successive generations and is full of incredible and eccentric inventions.

One evening, during a violent thunderstorm, a cherub flies (or is blown) into Cassie’s room. She and her friend, Raphael research cherubs in the family library but remain puzzled by its nature and purpose. As the story unfolds, the truth behind the cherub becomes clearer but it is not until the very end that we discover the real reason for the cherub arriving.

This is an incredibly imaginative story with some very dark, spooky parts especially the moments in the forest and the castle. The evil storm birds are especially memorable. Cassie is a strong-willed but very likeable heroine who has a very stubborn streak as she tries to discover what is going on and untangle the mystery around her friend and family. The story is full of gothic elements including a whole host of stuffed owls, an eerie forest and castle as well as an entire cast of weird and wonderful characters, many of whom are not quite who they seem.

This is a great story for any lovers of dark fairy tales and another brilliant book from publishers Nosy Crow.

MG Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This week I am celebrating Worst Holiday Ever by Charlie Higson

Worst Holiday Ever by Charlie Higson. Published by Penguin Books

My favourite quote from page 11 – I can’t wait to be grown up and not have to worry about everything all the time.

This book in three words: Funny, Disasters, Shyness

I am always on the look out for books to tempt my reluctant or less confident readers, many of whom are boys, so when I saw this by Charlie Higson, I had to get it.

It’s the story (told in the first person) of Stan’s holiday with his so-called friend, Felix. Stan has only been invited because all of Felix’s other friends already have holidays planned and he is convinced that going on holiday abroad, with people that he doesn’t know can only be a disaster.

The story goes through the arrival at the airport, the journey and the actual holiday all seen through Stan’s eyes in the same style as Wimpy Kid and several others. Stan is shy and hates being away from home and his mum and to deal with his anxiety, he makes lists. Several of these appear in the book but I really loved his Duck-it list, the exact opposite of everyone else’s bucket lists.

As the holiday goes on, Stan finds that the things that terrified him are less scary than he thought. He also begins to notice other people a lot more and realises that maybe adults don’t know everything after all.

I really enjoyed this book and I can definitely see it being enjoyed by some of my Year 6 who will really identify with Stan. It is definitely aimed at the 10+ market as there is some mild swearing and development of Stan’s romance with Jess (which he didn’t even realise was a thing until she told him). It’s light hearted and funny but also deals with some big issues. The main one is Stan dealing with his shyness and anxiety but the book also deals with different family relationships especially between Dads and sons.

MG Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

Today I am celebrating the brilliant Ghostcloud by Michael Mann which is published today (7th October).

Ghostcloud by Michael Mann Published by Hodder Children’s Books

My favourite quote from page 11 – And he was extra ordinarily greasy – from the tip of his ponytail, to the ends of his shoes.

This book in three words: Adventure, Loyalty, Ghosts

Preface:
This book is set in London, but not as we know it. It is a London where Big Ben beeps and Battersea Power Station belches out smoke; where bustling river markets float on the rising water and kidnapping is rife; where the Channel Tunnel has closed, ever since the old war ended.
And far below, hidden underground, children are shovelling. . . .

After an opening like that, how could anyone not want to read this book? I love dystopian stories and London is one of my favourite cities so a dystopian MG book set in London must be a winner.

The story is set in a London similar and yet different to our own. We are in the aftermath of a war with Europe, the Channel Tunnel lies derelict and unused and the eastern side of London is flooded. There is a floating market on the Thames at Waterloo and beneath Battersea Power Station, an army of children who have been kidnapped off the streets, shovel coal to provide power for the city. Because the city is fuelled by coal, smog has returned but the smog is changing and seems to be harming the inhabitants.

Luke Smith-Sharma has been shovelling coal for 2 years. He has worked as hard as he possibly can in order to earn an amber ticket which will give him his freedom and allow him to return to his family. One day, he helps a new girl, Jess, and is punished by being sent to clean the sewers in the mysterious East Wing of the station. There he meets Alma, a ghost cloud who can ride the winds and see what is happening in the city. He discovers that he is actually part ghost and can also become a ghost cloud. He also discovers more about the evil Tabatha Margate and her plan for a new third chimney at Battersea, what the smog is and why it is changing.

This is a brilliantly told, inventive story. I loved all the details about the city and its landmarks and the characters of Luke, Alma, Jess and Ravi are really well written. They are well balanced by the deliciously nasty Tabatha and her henchman Terence. The story zips along as the children plot their escape from their power station and discover what is really happening. The conclusion is completely satisfying while leaving enough space for a sequel which I really hope Michael Mann will write.

I read this book as an ARC from NetGalley but am definitely going to buy a physical copy as soon as I get to a bookshop. It’s a great MG read.

M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This week I am celebrating a book that’s been around since 2013 but remains one of my favourite MG books.

Phoenix by S F Said. Illustrated by David Mckean. Published by Penguin. co.uk

My favourite quote from page 11 – She glanced at the burned bedsheet; at the smoke that still hung in the air.

This book in three words – Interstellar, adventure, friendship

The supernova is comng……….One boy alone can save the galaxy

Lucky thinks he’s an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing – and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him.

Now he’s on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair.

Phoenix is an incredible adventure set in space which crosses galaxies and has an amazing set of characters. The story is told by Lucky, searching for his father who is fighting the aliens in a war. As he travels, he discovers that the aliens are not what he expected and nothing he believed is true. The story is complemented by brilliant illustrations throughout the book which really add to the atmosphere.

The book is really fast paced with the end of each chapter making you want to read on and the ending is sooooooo good. The story deals with how we need to challenge our preconceptions about different groups of people as well as just being a great adventure story. It’s a great read for 10-12 year olds especially those interested in space and science fiction.


M G Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This week I’m celebrating the latest book, The Crackledawn Dragon, by one of my favourite children’s writers, Abi Elphinstone. I was actually introduced to her books by one of my Year 6 pupils years ago who was reading The Dreamsnatcher. She lent the book to me and ever since then, I’ve been hooked by Abi’s writing.

The Crackledawn Dragon by Abi Elphinstone Published by Simon and Schuster

My favourite quote from page 11He left the bustle of restaurants and bars behind him and turned into sleepy side roads lining closed parks, until the neighbourhood began to fray and become a less-visited sort of place.

This book in three words – Adventure, Magical, Hope

“Sometimes all you need to save the world is a dusting of courage”

Zebedee is an orphan who has been shunted from foster home to foster home for all of his 11 years. He is currently running away from his latest unhappy placement when he discovers an abandoned theatre in the heart of New York. He hides away and finds a piano. Music is something he has a real, almost magical, talent for and he plays the piano at night when nobody can hear. However, he is heard, first of all by Fox Petty Squabble, heroine of one of Abi’s previous books, and then by the Morg, an evil harpy.

The Morg persuades Zeb to help her enter Crackledawn with the intention of finding the Ember Scroll which she can use to destroy the world. Once there, Zeb discovers that Morg plans to kill him once he has retrieved the scroll for her. Magic then plays a part and he tumbles into the ocean to be rescued by Oonie and her companion Mrs Fickletint who just happens to be a chameleon. Then follows a chase through the kingdom of Crackledawn as Zeb and his new companions race the Morg to be the first ones to discover the Ember scroll.

This is the final book in the Unmapped Chronicles series and it is every bit as good as the previous books. Zeb is a sad, lonely boy who has learned never to trust any one as they always let him down. At first, this seems to be happening again but gradually he learns that some people can be trusted and that he does actually matter. The world of the Unmapped Chronicles is brilliantly described and contains such wonders as rock gnomes and kraken, an unopenable purse that is full of magical objects and of course dragons.

I absolutely loved this book and am sorry that we probably won’t be visiting the Unmapped Kingdoms again.