Archive for the ‘Middle grade’ Category

Poppy Pym and the Smugglers Secret

Laura Wood
Poppy is thrilled that they’re spending the summer at Smuggler’s Cove. It might even take her mind off the mystery of her past. But Poppy is about to make some amazing discoveries – and solve more than one mystery…

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

Another great adventure with Poppy and her friends and I think this one is my favourite mystery so far because there are actually 2 different mysteries, could they be linked together? I really enjoyed reading it especially after the cliff-hanger in the second book about Poppy and her birth mother.

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character is still Poppy because she is brave in every possible way. She handles mystery very well, especially the really scary ones, she listens to her friends even if she is the leader of the group, takes their ideas into the adventure, even if she might not agree with them and, most importantly, she stays a loyal friend to them even in the hard times.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys adventures and mysteries from ages 9 up, especially if they aren’t scared easily because this one is a bit scary.

Summarize the book in one sentence.

A great adventure that leads to more mysterious events in every chapter.

Reviewed by Jimena (11)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena (11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Chasing Danger: Mystery at the Ice Hotel

Sara Grant
After surviving a pirate attack in the tropics, teens Chase and Mackenzie escape to an exclusive resort in the Arctic Circle. But just after they arrive, suspicious accidents begin to occur. It seems like someone’s trying to scare away the guests. When the accidents turn deadly, it’s up to the girls to figure out whodunit … before they become the next victims.
This holiday’s going to be killer!

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My initial thoughts about the book were “I am going to love this book like I did with the first”, and I was right. I enjoyed this one even more than the first, because this one has more mystery, and it is longer!

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character or characters in this book are still Chase and Mackenzie because they are both very different, opposite characters one could say, and from time to time they have to do what the other one wants which is the opposite of what they would have done in the first place.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to older readers (10 upwards) who enjoy frightening bits, because it is a little bit scary, especially the murder or murder attempts.

Verdict: A scary adventure that you will enjoy. You won’t be able to wait to see what happens next!

Reviewed by Jimena (10)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx

Laura Wood
From the Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My initial thoughts of the book were, another mystery in Poppy’s first year at Saint Smithen’s School; this must be a busy year for Poppy! Poppy might want to take everything into her own hands but she still lets her friends have their own way from time to time, because she is their best friend, and listens to their ideas, even if they aren’t good ones in the end.

Who was your favourite character and why?

My favourite character is still Poppy Pym because she is adventurous and will carry on with the mystery, even if it leads to a dead end after a nice try- she never gives up. I always seem to like the main character because most authors make the main character very likeable. The main character, in this case Poppy Pym, is always in the story, wherever it goes.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries and enjoys it, from ages 9 up, it is a bit scary so don’t read in the dark if you get scared easily (they mention it in the book).

Verdict: It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s and the village is putting on a play, but after a terrible fire and terrible incidents everyone believes the play’s jinxed. A wonderful yet mysterious story.

Reviewed by Jimena(10)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle Grage
Reviewer: Jimena (10)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Chasing Danger

Sara Grant
When Chase Armstrong (please don’t call her Charlotte) is sent to visit her Grandmother at a remote tropical resort, she is looking forward to sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. The last thing she expects is danger. But when modern day pirates attack the island and take the guests hostage, it’s up to Chase to try and save her grandmother and herself, before it’s too late!

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My first thoughts about the book where “I am not going to like this book”, but the minute I turned the page I had no words, it felt as if I was actually inside the story. This, I think, is one of my many favourite books.

Who was your favourite character and why?

I actually have two favourite characters in this book because they both have very different personalities. My two favourite characters are Chase (Charlotte) and Mackenzie, Chase is very brave and determined to save the day from modern-day pirates, but Mackenzie just wants to leave it to the adults and not interfere, as she doesn’t want to risk their lives. Chase, luckily, has ways of making Mackenzie risk it all, and, of course, her ways always work.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to older readers which don’t get scared easily because this book is quite scary.

Verdict: A scary and mysterious adventure that makes you live the adventure as if you were part of the story.

Reviewed by Jimena (10)

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: April 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Action, adventure
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena (10)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:None
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Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s Curse

Laura Wood
The extraordinary story of a little girl raised in a circus who is about to embark on a boarding school adventure. Featuring an ancient Egyptian curse, two best friends (one who wants to be taller and one who knows everything), secretive teachers, dangerous accidents, a mystery to be solved and a menagerie of circus characters.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?

My first thoughts of the book were WOW!!! I thought, I have never read a book by Laura Wood, and I am really enjoying it! I think she is going to be my third favourite author -after Jacqueline Wilson and Enid Blyton- because I really enjoy adventures and books about boys and girls in boarding schools; I especially like books about stories in the olden days.

Who was your favourite character and why?

Well, my favourite character is Poppy Pym, because she is ready to try something new even if it means she has to start a new and very different life. I especially like her because she is brave, funny and ready to seek out for adventures around every corner, especially if a mysterious curse is coming her way. Poppy always takes matters into her own hands (with a little bit of help from her friends) even if the police are investigating too.

Would you recommend this book?

I would recommend this book to children from age 8, especially if you enjoy adventure and/or mystery books- and don’t mind a bit of murder mystery (especially fire, there is always a fire coincidence in the Poppy Pym series).

Summarise the book in one sentence.
A mysterious book that bring you into the story from cover to cover- especially me!

Reviewed by Jimena (10)

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 308
Genre: Mystery
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Foxcraft: The Taken

Inbali Iserses
Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless — humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive.
Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless.
Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind — magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of fox craft.

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
When I started to read the first three chapters I was really enjoying the book until the one horrible accident that changed the entire story and as I read on I started to feel less absorbed in to the story however, I still want to carry on reading through the series to see what happens next.

Who was your favourite character and why?
My favourite character is Isla because she is a very fierce and brave fox who cares for her family. Isla is very playful and great at imitating birds. Every day is a new adventure for Isla as she travels through different places for one special adventure…

Would you recommend this book?
I personally didn’t like this book like I liked others but I would recommend it to girls and boys who like fox books and are interested in adventures from age 9 up.

Summarise the book in one sentence.
A heart-breaking adventure to search for the one thing she loves…

Jimena Gutierrez-Reviriego (10)

Publisher: Scholastic press
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 257
Genre: Animal, Fantasy
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Clover Moon

Jacqueline Wilson
Clover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I really enjoyed reading Clover Moon by Jaqueline Wilson because I always enjoy her books.
I thought the book was very emotional and funny.
I mostly enjoyed reading this book because it doesn’t have any pictures except for one at the beginning of every chapter which lets me use my imagination to make the people in my head by using the description from the book.

Who was your favourite character and why?
My favourite character is Clover Moon because she is the bravest, funniest, most adventurous girl and she cares for other people. Clover turns everything into an adventure which makes very easy to like her.

Would you recommend this book?
If you like Hetty Feather then you will definitely like Clover Moon because they are set in the same place and have some characters in common. I would recommend this book to other girls -from age 9- that are interested in adventures happening in the present, past or future.

Summarise the book in one sentence.
Clover Moon is a fun, attractive book that drags you in to the story the minute you turn the page.

Jimena Gutierrez-Reviriego (10)

Publisher: Doubleday Children’s
Publication Date: October 2016
Format: Hardback
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Jimena
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Dougal Daley; It’s Not My Fault!

Jackie Marchant

I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I m not actually dead. But if I m not careful I soon will be.

In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will – rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I read this book in one sitting. It was funny, addictive and emotional too. I really felt for Dougal throughout the story. The whole narrative worked really well and I am one hundred percent sure that any kid who reads this book will also agree. From parents and sisters who don’t listen to you and blame you, to friends who get caught in the middle of things, this book is full of real-life situations surrounding a very hilarious thing. I loved the ending of the book too. This whole book is full of personality and I cannot wait to read the next one!

Who was your favourite character and why?
The best character is actually one that I can’t really talk about without completely and utterly ruining the story – I know, right? – So instead I will talk about my second favourite character; Dougal. He’s a really interesting character to read about. A true klutz who has a great voice too. I am definitely intrigued to see what happens to him in future books!

Would you recommend this book?
Definitely! Especially to any kid aged between 6 to 10 as they’ll really enjoy everything that happens. The book is written in a diary format with a few chapters that are notes from other characters all intermingled with amazing illustrations which really helps to make this book readable, addictive and fun – everything that books for children should be! If you or your child is looking for a fun and funny book that is similar to the Wimpy Kid books, make sure you give this book a try!

One Sentence Summary (verdict)
A really fun and kid friendly book that has a brilliant main character and a story that is full of personality and creativity.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Wacky Bee Books
Publication Date: April 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 180
Genre: Comedy
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Harper and the Night Forest

Cerrie Burnell

Total fantasy bliss! Magical birds, dark forests and fairytale cities: there’s no better book to get lost in. Harper is on a mission! Rumours tell of the mysterious Ice Raven who lives among the ebony trees, singing a magical song that can melt hardened hearts. Now the Wild Conductor wants to capture this mythical bird and create the greatest orchestra ever known. So Harper and her friends set off to find the bird. Their journey takes them from the mysterious Night Forest to the City of Singing Clocks. But soon Harper realises she faces a dilemma. Should a wild, free creature like the Ice Raven ever be tied down?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
This book is one of those lovely, cute and entertaining reads that I absolutely wish that I had as a child. Harper and the Night Forest is the third book in the Harper series but it was by far my favourite one. Cerrie Burnell’s imagination knows no bounds and I really loved reading about Harper and her friends on their journey into the Night Forest. It was not what I was expecting and I found that to make the book even more interesting to read. I loved the fairy tale aspect and how it all came together in the end. Along with the wonderful story, came the beautiful illustrations by Laura Ellen Anderson. These really brought the story to life in a magnificent way. A truly perfect match between words and pictures.

Who was your favourite character and why?
While I am sure most people would probably choose Harper, I think that my favourite character is actually Nate. He is such a fascinating character and I think it is wonderful to find someone with a sight impairment in a children’s book. Nate can only see shadows and because of it he has a companion wolf who helps to guide him. It means that he can never see the expressions on his friends faces but he can feel when they’re happy or sad. He knows who is near by how they walk and he is excellent at leading his friends when it is dark as it is always dark for him. I really, really loved him as a character and would love to read more.

But really one of the best things about these books are that all of the characters are so vibrant and all work together as a team. Including the “villain” of the books. By the end of each adventure he is always shown why his ideas aren’t so great after all. I think that Cerrie has down a smashing job of creating realistic and likeable characters in all of the Harper books.

Would you recommend this book?
Definitely. These books are magical, and quite literally full of magic. They’re lovely stories. They have heart and emotion and a wondrous childish feel to them. I am certain that both adults and children alike will be blown away by both the adventures that the children go on and also the characters and how they all react. Cerrie has truly created an interesting world for these books to take place in and I just cannot recommend them all highly enough. If you haven’t yet read these books, what are you waiting for?

Summarize the book in one sentence. (Verdict)
Harper and the Night Forest is a splendid book that will steal your heart and fill you with hope all at the same time. It is magical, cute and full of adventure and fun too.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Fantasy
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Everything Machine

Ally Kennen

Eleven year old Olly has a very special delivery – a 3D printing machine, stamped with PROPERTY OF M.O.D and BRITISH SPACE AGENCY. WARNING. DO NOT TAMPER, which has magical powers… It has a name, it speaks, and it can print ANYTHING Olly asks it to – the coolest new toy, a room full of chocolate cake – but what Olly really wants is… his dad.

If you had to describe your book on twitter (140 characters), how would you?
Kids get access to super billion pound 3D printer. They print sweets and a swimming pool then a replica of their Dad. Things go very wrong!

What gave you the inspiration for this book?
I was reading a science magazine article about 3D printers. I was thinking about all the amazing things we can make now, from musical instruments to food to car parts. I started thinking about what we will be printing in ten or twenty years time, and so invented a machine that could print Anything and Everything.

Do you have any habits when you write? (i.e. have to have coffee/listen to music)
I just need to become invisible, for an hour or two so that my family don’t require my services! (I have 4 children) and maybe not too much howling in the background. I write on my laptop anywhere they can’t see me!

What would you create if you could create anything?
I LIKE this question. I’ll create an invisibility machine ha ha, and then a hovering machine, so I can fly around, but not too high because I’m not wild about heights. I’d create a slug-singer, which lures slugs away from my realm. I’d create a portable light beam-machine, which, when you switch on, it colours the wi-fi and mobile signal hotspots, and makes them visible so you could step into them (and out of them) and communicate as needed. (In my rural home phone signals and wi-fi are like rare wildlife. You know they are there but they are intermittent) I could be here all day on this question so will stop here…

What is your favourite children’s book?
You can’t ask me that! I don’t have one, I have many. And my favourite children’s books now are different to when I was a child, or teen. But when I was little I loved Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising) I loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, When I was a bit older I loved Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover, now I am reading to my own children I love ‘The Pencil’ by Allan Ahlberg, and I remember being blown away by Skellig by David Almond, in my twenties. There are so many brilliant children’s books around now it is impossible to choose.

Who is your favourite author ever?
Again, I don’t have one. Some days a favourite just won’t do and someone completely different is the winner. I love the twisted, dark and crazed imaginative world of the Gormenghast books by Melvyn Peake, I am also a die-hard fan of Jilly Cooper. I love Robert Harris’s thrillers. I also just read ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden,’ by Elizabeth von Arnim, which was a breath of fresh air even though it was first published over a hundred years ago. I also just read ‘Skinny Dip’ by Carl Hiaasen, which was irreverent, wicked, rude and funny. I must try and read some more of his books.

What would you say to a child who wants to be an author when they grow up?
Read, read, read, fill your mind with words and stories. Read comics and newspapers and cereal packets as well as books. If you find reading difficult, listen to audiobooks. Nag your parents to buy you books and comics. Join the library and use it. Be nosey about people. Notice interesting things about them, be it the way they spit when they say ’Thank-you,’ or the shaved eyebrows, or the eye-watering perfume, or the skull earrings, or the deep etched frown-wrinkles. Look for the story in people. Boredom is also very important if you want to be creative. Give yourself time between activities to get so bored you start inventing things. Boredom is a portal to creativity.

Are you working on another book? If you are, can you tell us anything about it?
Two of my sons have become obsessed with football. The eldest, who is nine, most of all. I have had to immerse myself in this world. It has been a steep learning curve. Usually when I think a lot about something I end up writing about it, and so, I have nearly finished the first draft of a football book, about a kid’s team. My son is my test reader and keeps me in check with correct terminology and makes sure I don’t veer away too much from the action. It’s called ‘The Flyers.’


Ally Kennen has been an archaeologist, museum guard and singer-songwriter. Her dark and thrilling teen novels have been nominated for over eleven literary awards. She lives in Somerset with her husband and four children.

Questions By Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: February 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 355
Genre: Contemporary
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
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