Category Archives: Middle Grade Books

Review : The Swap by Megan Shull

Middle-grade book review of

The SwapThe Swap by Megan Shull

Goodreads Blurb

“You be me…and I’ll be you.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives – and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties, while Ellie’s reigning as The Prince of Thatcher Middle School.

As their crazy weekend races on – and their feeling for each other grow – Elli and Jack begin to wonder if maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being somebody else.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about the souls of a boy and a girl swapping into the bodies of the other.

One Friday afternoon during the last lesson, Elle and Jack happen to be in the nurse’s office at the same time. The next minute they find themselves in each other’s bodies. They have less than ten minutes to come to terms with the swap and agree to meet up on Monday morning to find that missing nurse-on-duty. In the meantime, they have to lead each other’s live for the weekend. Both agreed to lock themselves in their rooms all weekend. Except it was a lot harder to do that.

This book is written in alternate POVs. Elle has friendship issues with the mean girls at school. Jack trains hard at hockey with his four brothers. If you can look past the gender-stereotyped characters, the rest of the book is good fun. I enjoyed how the ‘typically’ male or female lingo flew over the heads of each other and how they had to guess their way through, making hilarious and embarrassing mistakes along the way. Because they live in such opposite worlds, they experience a whole universe and see a new perspective in life.

I would recommend this book, with a warning sign to the intended target audience about gender-stereotypes in the story. 4/5

Six Foxy Books

It’s National Fox Day on 17 Sep. Here are some fiction books starring foxes.

1. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)Goodreads Blurb

A single wish will spark a new dawn. Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret. Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure – one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

My review : Shadow of the Fox

2. Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt

Maybe a FoxGoodreads Blurb

Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

My review : Maybe a Fox

3. Pax by Sara Pennypacker

PaxGoodreads Blurb

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.

My review : Pax

4. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Cogheart (The Cogheart Adventures, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat…

Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends—Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox—Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.

5. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

The Fox Girl and the White GazelleGoodreads Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?

My review : The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

6. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsGoodreads Blurb

The winter isn’t ending. Nobody knows why.
And Odd has run away from home, even though he can barely walk and has to use a crutch.
Out in the forest he encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle – three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is faced with a stranger journey than he had ever imagined.
A journey to save Asgard, City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.
It’s going to take a very special kind of boy to defeat the most dangerous of all the Frost Giants and rescue the mighty Gods. Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever.
Someone just like Odd…

My review : Odd and the Frost Giants

Do you know of any books with foxes in them? Drop them in the comment below!

Review : The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange

Middle-grade book review of The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange

The Ghost of Gosswater

Goodreads Blurb

A thrilling Gothic tale from the author of Our Castle by the Sea, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

1899. The Earl of Gosswater has died, and twelve-year-old Lady Agatha has been cast out of her ancestral home – the only home she has ever known – by her cruel cousin, Clarence. In a tiny tumbledown cottage, she struggles to adjust to her new life and the stranger who claims to be her real father.

And on the shores of Gosswater Lake, the spirit of another young girl will not rest. Could the ghost of Gosswater hold the key to Aggie’s true identity?

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about a girl’s new life as a lowly goose farmer’s daughter.

Lady Agatha has been the daughter of the Earl of Gosswater all her life, until he dies and she finds out she was never his daughter. Furthermore, as with the law at the time, a nasty male cousin inherits everything. He even threw her out of the mansion, telling her she has to live with her real father.

Naturally a shock like that would get any reader to root for our heroine rightaway. I was right behind her when she adjusts to her new life. I shared her need to understand where she came from. With this intrigue great, the author has pacing is spot-on. I kept turning the pages. The author also has some lovely and poetic lines. My favourite has to be when Agatha struggles to accept her new life. She compares herself to being midnight, being neither day nor night.

A great read. 4.5/5

Review : Elsetime by Eve McDonnell

Middle-grade book review Elsetime by Eve McDonnell

Elsetime  Goodreads Blurb

A haunting story of friendship, courage, time-travel and a very special crow. It is January 6th 1928, a few days before the Great Flood. Glory Bobbin, a twelve year-old orphan, works at The Frippery and Fandangle Emporium creating jewellery with her secret assistant, a peculiar crow. The river is about to burst its banks and a snow storm has engulfed the town when she meets treasure-hunting mudlark, Needle Luckett, who has travelled through time to reach Inthington. Can two children and a crow save the fourteen lives endangered by the flood? Can they change the future?

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is a heart-warming time-travel story.

In 1864, Needle and his mother are struggling to make a living after his father’s disappearance. He spends his days by the river banks with his pet crow scouring for little treasures he could turn into pretty ornaments. In 1928, Glory lies about her age so she can work and contribute to the family’s poor income. Glory is a talented jewellery designer frustrated with her wooden hand.

As both protagonists struggle with their hard lives, the story grabs you right from the start. The pacing is good and the antagonists are every bit detestable. A lovely ending where everything is tied up.

A very enjoyable read. 4/5

Seven Books for World Music Day

In books, when characters hum melodies or talk about their favourite songs, it can be a hit or miss, depending on whether you’ve heard of the song or band. However, when well-written, you can feel the magic of the music regardless. As it’s World Music Day on 21 June, I’ve compiled seven middle-grade books with a music theme for the occasion.

1. Love from Lexie by Cathy Cassidy

Love from Lexie (The Lost and Found, #1)Goodreads Blurb

Ever since Lexie’s mum vanished, her world hasn’t stopped spinning. A new home, a new school – even a new family but Lexie never gives up hope that her mum will come back and writes her letters every day to tell her all about her new life.

There’s plenty to tell – the new group of misfits she calls friends, the talent for music she never knew she had and the gorgeous boy with blue eyes and secrets to hide. But her letters remain unanswered and she’s starting to feel more alone than ever.

Lexie’s about to learn that sometimes you need to get lost in order to be found.

The first in a gorgeous new series from the bestselling author of the Chocolate Box Girls and the perfect next step for fans of Jacqueline Wilson.

My review : Love from Lexie

2. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

RooftoppersGoodreads Blurb

Everyone thinks that Sophie is an orphan. True, there were no other recorded female survivors from the shipwreck which left baby Sophie floating in the English Channel in a cello case, but Sophie remembers seeing her mother wave for help. Her guardian tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive, but that means still possible. You should never ignore a possible. So when the Welfare Agency writes to her guardian threatening to send Sophie to an orphanage, she takes matters into her own hands and flees to Paris to look for her mother, starting with the only clue she has – the address of the cello maker. Evading the French authorities, she meets Matteo and his network of rooftoppers – urchins who live in the sky. Together they scour the city for Sophie’s mother before she is caught and sent back to London, and most importantly before she loses hope.

3. The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

The Clockwork ThreeGoodreads Blurb

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events…

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom. Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family — if she can find it. And Frederick, the talented and intense clockmaker’s apprentice, seeks to learn the truth about his mother while trying to forget the nightmares of the orphanage where she left him. He is determined to build an automaton and enter the clockmakers’ guild — if only he can create a working head.

Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

My review : The Clockwork Three

4. Viva Durant and The Secret of the Silver Buttons by Ashli St. Armant

Viva Durant and The Secret of the Silver ButtonsGoodreads Blurb

Viva Durant, New Orleans’ youngest detective, is on a quest to solve a jazzy mystery involving hidden treasure, while exploring the city’s unique culture, history, and music. This family-friendly audio original features original jazz music from the creator, Ashli St. Armant, and an enthusiastic performance from Audible Hall of Fame narrator, Bahni Turpin.

Plucky 14-year-old Viva Durant heads to New Orleans every summer to spend time with her loving but stern grandmother, known as Gram. After Gram reads Viva an article in the local paper about a missing treasure related to the world-famous song, “Miss Mary Mack,” Viva traverses the Crescent City on an epic adventure to solve the mystery. Along the way she meets some of the city’s most colorful characters as her journey takes her to the French Quarter, a jazz club, a creepy cemetery, and even the circus. Can Viva rise to the occasion and solve this musical mystery? Listeners will find Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons a joy to listen to!

My review : Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons

5. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

EchoGoodreads Blurb

An impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force from a treasured storyteller!

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck

My review : Echo


6. The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo

The Mozart QuestionGoodreads Blurb

When cub reporter Lesley is sent to Venice to interview a world-renowned violinist, the journalist is told she can ask Paolo Levi anything about his life and career as a musician, but on no account must she ask him the Mozart question. Paolo has finally realised he must reveal the truth.

7. Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo

Twist of GoldGoodreads Blurb

Sean and Annie have one chance to escape the potato famine in Ireland, and after surviving a shipwreck they land safely in America in search for their father. But their new land is one of hardship and they live in poverty on the streets of Boston. However, their adventure is just beginning. After living aboard a steamboat they then join pioneers traveling across the prairies. Their music and dancing bring joy to all they meet, but their family “torc”—a golden necklace—brings both blessings and curses, and thieves prowl to get hold of it. Annie and Sean must protect their torc as they search for their father: their family’s survival depends on it.

You might have noticed the last two are both from the same author. Several of Michael Morpurgo‘s books feature a violin player. I have listed just two of them. If you know of any middle-grade books with a music theme, drop them in the comments below!

First published 20 June 20. Updated 6 June 21

Fiction Books about Refugees

It’s World Refugee Week on 14-20 June 2021, taking place all around the world to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June 2021. This day is marked by the UN Assembly to raise global awareness of refugee status, and our global responsibilities. If you are looking for books to bring to your classroom on this topic, here are some suggestions, in alphabetical order. Some are about the journey, some about settling in and others are about being part of the community in their new lives.

1. The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Bone Sparrow

Goodreads Blurb

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.
The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.
Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

2. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow

Goodreads Blurb

A young boy seeks revenge against the Romans for killing his parents, but is turned away from vengeance by Jesus.

My review

3. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Echo

Goodreads Blurb

An impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force from a treasured storyteller!

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, Echo pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck. My review

4. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again

Goodreads Blurb

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

My review

5. The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson*

The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle

Goodreads Blurb

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love. Heartfelt and full of hope, The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle is an uplifting story about the power of friendship and belonging. Inspired by her work with young asylum seekers, debut novelist Victoria Williamson’s stunning story of displacement and discovery will speak to anyone who has ever asked ‘where do I belong?’

*the author has pledged to give 20% of her royalties to a charity for these refugees.

My review

6. A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

Goodreads Blurb

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

7. Love from Lexie by Cathy Cassidy

Love from Lexie (The Lost and Found, #1)

Goodreads Blurb

Ever since Lexie’s mum vanished, her world hasn’t stopped spinning. A new home, a new school – even a new family but Lexie never gives up hope that her mum will come back and writes her letters every day to tell her all about her new life.

There’s plenty to tell – the new group of misfits she calls friends, the talent for music she never knew she had and the gorgeous boy with blue eyes and secrets to hide. But her letters remain unanswered and she’s starting to feel more alone than ever.

Lexie’s about to learn that sometimes you need to get lost in order to be found.

The first in a gorgeous new series from the bestselling author of the Chocolate Box Girls and the perfect next step for fans of Jacqueline Wilson.

My review

8. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

The Night DiaryGoodreads Blurb

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

My review

9. Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari

Red LeavesGoodreads Blurb

Aisha is a thirteen-year-old refugee living in London. Happy for the first time since leaving her war-torn home, she is devastated when her foster mother announces that a new family has been found for her and she will be moving on. Feeling rejected and abandoned, Aisha packs her bags and runs away, seeking shelter in the nearby woods.

Meanwhile, a few doors down, twelve-year-old Zak is trying to cope with his parents’ divorce. Living in a near-building site while the new house is being refurbished, he feels unsettled and alone. Discovering a piece of rubble with the original builder’s signature set into it, he starts researching the history behind his home – and in doing so finds a connection with a young soldier from the past, which leads him to an old air-raid shelter in the same woods.

Both children, previously unknown to each other, meet in the heart of the ancient city woodland as they come into the orbit of Elder, a strange homeless woman who lives amongst the trees – and, as helicopters hover overhead and newspapers fill with pictures of the two lost children, unexpected bonds are formed and lives changed forever . . .

10. Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth

Running on the Roof of the WorldGoodreads Blurb

Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.

There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I watch the soldiers tramping away and call the words after them. ‘Dalai Lama.’

Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.

And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.

My review

11. I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Goodreads Blurb
An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this “lyrically ambitious tale of exile and reunification” (Kirkus Reviews) from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.

The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heart-wrenchingly graceful.

My review

12. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee

Goodreads Blurb

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . . ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . . MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . . All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end. My review

13. Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu

Boy, EverywhereGoodreads Blurb

BOY, EVERYWHERE is the debut middle grade novel from writer A. M. Dassu. It chronicles the harrowing journey taken from Syria to the UK by Sami and his family. From privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a smuggler’s den in Turkey to a prison in Manchester, it is a story of survival, of family, of bravery.

Sami is a typical 13 year-old: he loves his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. But a bombing in a mall changes his life. Sami and his family flee their comfortable home in Damascus to make the perilous and painful journey towards a new life in the U.K. Leaving everything behind, Sami discovers a world he’d never encountered – harsh, dangerous, but also at times unexpectedly kind and hopeful. My review

I hope you’ve enjoyed going through this list. Have you read any of them? Can you suggest anymore? Drop it in the comment below!

First published 15 June 2019. Updated 29 May 2021

Review : The Queen’s Fool by Ally Sherrick

Middle-grade Review The Queen’s Fool by Ally Sherrick

The Queen's FoolGoodreads Blurb

Cat Sparrow is on the road. She’s following her sister, Meg, who was torn from their convent home and sent to London. But Cat isn’t like other people – she thinks differently – and for a girl like her the world holds many perils. Luckily she befriends a young actor, Jacques, and together they follow Meg’s trail to a wondrous place called the Field of Cloth of Gold. But here, they discover that the kingdoms of England and France are both in terrible danger … 

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade historical fiction is set in the time of King Henry VIII, when he was still married to his first wife and his daughter was only a little girl.

Cat Sparrow runs away from the nunnery in search of her sister who was snatched away from her one day. She befriends a French boy who is part of a travelling group of actors on their way to London. At Greenwich, Cat inadvertently catches the attention of the Queen who takes her in as her ‘fool’. Cat Sparrow follows her Queen Catty to France on a royal trip.

The voice of both characters are distinct. Cat has a unique way of speaking eg dingy-dark. Jacques’ determination is seen through his thoughts and encounters. The descriptions are rich regardless of pageantry or mayhem. I also enjoyed the author’s notes at the end.

A good read. 3.5*

Review : Boy Everywhere by A. M. Dassu

Teen book review of Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu

Boy, EverywhereGoodreads Blurb

BOY, EVERYWHERE is the debut middle grade novel from writer A. M. Dassu. It chronicles the harrowing journey taken from Syria to the UK by Sami and his family. From privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a smuggler’s den in Turkey to a prison in Manchester, it is a story of survival, of family, of bravery.

Sami is a typical 13 year-old: he loves his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. But a bombing in a mall changes his life. Sami and his family flee their comfortable home in Damascus to make the perilous and painful journey towards a new life in the U.K. Leaving everything behind, Sami discovers a world he’d never encountered – harsh, dangerous, but also at times unexpectedly kind and hopeful.

My Thoughts after Reading

This older middle-grade book is about a Syrian boy’s journey to UK seeking asylum.

Our protagonist was very settled in his school in Damascus. His life was thrown into chaos when his local shopping mall was bombed. His mother and younger sister were there getting his football boots for him when the bomb went off. His parents decided to leave the country for the safety of the family and they begin their harrowing journey for a safer life in the UK.

The author has captured much of what we’ve heard in the news, and more. I learnt a lot from this book, not just the journey, but what happens when refugees arrive in the UK. If you are looking for similar books, I can also recommend The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson and and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon.

Eleven Numeracy-related Books

For National Numeracy Day on 19 May, here are some middle-grade books somehow related to numeracy, or with numbers in their titles. I’ve included their Goodreads blurb.

numeracy-books.jpg

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge

The Jamie Drake EquationThe Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
Jamie’s dad is an astronaut. This is a good thing – because how cool is that? And a bad thing – because he’s going to be orbiting the Earth for several months and Jamie already misses him badly. Doing his homework at the observation lab one night, Jamie inadvertently picks up a weird signal on his mobile phone. Could it be from an alien civilisation with a message for humankind, a message that Jamie has to get to his father before it’s too late? But how do you rescue an astronaut without heading into space yourself? My review

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

The Miscalculations of Lightning GirlThe Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation. My review

 

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue by Sarah Rubin

Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue (Alice Jones, #1)Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue by Sarah Rubin

Maths-whizz Alice has already solved a mystery or two. Persuaded by wannabe sidekick Sammy to investigate a scientist’s disappearance, she’s soon entangled in her trickiest case yet. Dr Learner is reputed to have invented an invisibility suit, but is whacky science really to blame for his vanishing? With the unlikely help of erstwhile nemesis Kevin, Alice solves the puzzle – only to face another. Should she reveal the truth, or protect her most devoted friend?

#1. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.

#3. The Clockwork Three by Matthew J Kirby

The Clockwork ThreeThe Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. .  .

Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician who sees no way to escape from his ruthless master, until the day he finds an enchanted violin.

Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker with a past he cannot remember, who secretly works to build the most magnificent clockwork man the world has ever seen.

Hannah is a maid in a grand hotel, whose life is one of endless drudgery, until she encounters a mystifying new guest and learns of a hidden treasure.

As mysterious circumstances bring them together, the lives of these three children soon interlock, and they realize that each one holds the key to the others’ puzzles. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

#5. Five Things They Never Told Me by Rebecca Westcott

Five Things They Never Told MeFive Things They Never Told Me by Rebecca Westcott

Five Things They Never Told Me is story to be felt and not forgotten, from Rebecca Westcott, author of Dandelion Clocks and Violet Ink . . .

It’s a glorious summer and Erin and Martha are both stuck at Oak Hill Home for the Elderly. Misunderstood and feeling ignored, they are equally frustrated by the situation. But as Erin learns to listen to Martha, she discovers some very important lessons about making her own voice heard.

#7. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting by 7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life…until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

#13. 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

13 Treasures (Thirteen Treasures, #1)13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

No one else can see the evil fairies that rouse Tanya from her sleep, torturing her at the slightest mention of their existence, but they are as real to the 13-year-old as anything she’s ever known. She cannot rid herself of them, nor can she ignore them. But it is her insistence on responding to them that has her banished to her grandmother’s secluded countryside manor.

There is much to explore and even more to fear in the woods surrounding the estate. But, the forest isn’t the only source of dark secrets, and Tanya soon finds herself entangled in a mystery that could trap her in the fairy realm forever.

#14. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

 

#43. The Boy who Fell Down Exit 43 by Harriet Goodwin

The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43 by Harriet Goodwin

For a millionth of a second the car grazed the drenched moorland. If it had come down on any other patch of ground Finn would simply have been another statistic. Death by dangerous driving. But the car hit the surface of the Earth at Exit 43. It slid through the membrane like a hot knife through butter, plunging into the darkness and catapulting Finn from its shattered windscreen as it fell. Finn Oliver knows he’ll never come to terms with his father’s death, but joy-riding over the moors in his mum’s beat-up old car is a quick fix of freedom and forgetting. Until the accident happens – and Finn finds himself hurtling through the wafer-thin divide between the worlds of the living and the dead. Adventurous, charming and poignant by turns, “The Boy Who Fell Down Exit 43” is a quirky debut novel laced with humour and a dollop of magic.

#60. House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong

The House of Sixty FathersThe House of Sixty Fathers by Meindert DeJong

Tien Pao and piglet he names “Glory-of-the-Republic” after baby sister “Beauty-of-the-Republic” drift free in storm downriver back to Japanese territory. Following tiny mountain trails back to parents, he meets American aviator. Guerillas sneak them free. Based on real story of boy adopted by squadron of sixty flyers in bunkhouse. My review

Do you know any books that will fit into this list? Drop your suggestions below and I’ll check them out.

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    Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

First published 15 May 2019. Updated 2 May 2021

Review : Rendezvous in Russia by Lauren St. John

Middle-grade book review by Rendezvous in Russia by Lauren St. John

Rendezvous in Russia (Laura Marlin Mysteries, #4)Goodreads Blurb

The fourth Laura Marlin mystery from the Blue Peter award-winning author of DEAD MAN’S COVE

When Laura Marlin’s Siberian husky, Skye, saves an actress’s life in Cornwall, she and her best friend, Tariq, receive a surprise invitation to work as extras in a film about an art heist in St Petersburg, Russia. But what promises to be the coolest holiday ever quickly turns deadly as a series of accidents threaten both cast and crew, and Laura finds herself at the centre of a deadly game.

Meanwhile, the Straight-A gang are dead set on revenge and Laura is at the top of their hit list. As the doors open on a lavish film party at the legendary Hermitage Museum, Laura and Tariq have to decide who and what is real. Could art be about to imitate life?

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade mystery is about a two friends’ adventure in Russia when their pet husky is selected to star in a movie.

Laura and her best friend tag along as extras on the set and enjoyed the experience of the world of movie-making, even if all is not as glamourous and exciting as it seemed. There are little clues that all is not right, but Laura had promised she would not go looking for trouble. However trouble came looking for her.

I liked both the Russian setting and the story being set around making a movie. The characters are likeable and who wouldn’t fall in love with a three-legged husky? The pacing in this story is good; the writing is easy to read, hence turning the pages to find out what’s next comes naturally. 3/5