Tag Archives: chapter books

Review : Vacation under a Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne

Middle-grade book review on Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne

Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House, #13)Goodreads Blurb

Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Who wants to vacation next to a volcano?

Jack and Annie are about to find out when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of the Roman Empire. They arrive in Pompeii and soon discover that it is the very day the city will be destroyed. Now Jack and Annie must race against time to find an ancient library before it is buried in ash!

My Thoughts after Reading

This chapter book is about two children who journey back to the Roman times when Pompeii was around. Just.

The siblings were about to go on holiday but decided to got and see if the Magic Tree House was there. Their parents gave them twenty minutes. Not only was the Magic Tree House there, but they have been charged with the responsibility to travel back in time and obtain a rare book before it is lost forever. All at once the pair found themselves dressed in the fashion of the time and amongst the citizens of Pompeii.

The story gave a lot of snippets of Roman history during this era, like the foods, beliefs, lifestyle and and buildings. They were given out in the right amount, so the reader does not get bored with the historical facts.

A great read for ages 6-9 years. 4/5

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop

Book review of The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop

The Bookshop GirlMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

This chapter book is about a family of who own a tiny bookshop. They win a raffle. The prize is an enormous book emporium in London.

Our heroine is endearing, from the moment you learn she was left behind in the book shop and the parents never came back for her. Her adoptive mother and brother took her in and treat her as part of the family, even if they failed to notice she couldn’t read.

The feel of this story is heartwarming, light-hearted yet magical. Any book lover could not fail to be enchanted by the London Book Emporium. As for the antagonist, he is every bit dislikeable.

The illustrations by Ashley King is matches the mood of the story. A great read.

Goodreads Blurb

This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret… she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

Review : My Babysitter is a Robot by Dave Cousins

Middle-grade book review on My Babysitter Is a Robot by Dave Cousins

My Babysitter Is a RobotMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Thought after Reading

This young middle-grade book is a fun read.

Our two main characters are twins whose parents are holding down multiple jobs. To solve the problem of childcare, their STEM grandmother created a robot who would do the school run, monitor homework and even bake cakes for events. The only trouble was Grandmother created a functional robot. She did not create an cool-looking one. So the siblings are embarrassed to be seen with it. But when the robot malfunctions and the parents get rid of the robot, Jess and Jake miss it and plot to get it back.

Things I like about this book include its diverse characters, a woman-in-STEM grandmother and it also gives insight into the many activities of their daily lives eg swimming and school fund-raising events. If you enjoy inventions like these, you should also check out The Imagination Box and The Magic Mixer.

If you want to know more about the author, here’s the link to Dave Cousins website.

Goodreads Blurb

When Grandma creates a robot babysitter for twins Jake and Jess, chaos ensues!

Robin is embarrassing, clumsy and, worst of all, programmed to make them do their homework. They’re also pretty sure he thinks their dog is a baby. The twins decide they have to do something before everyone realizes that Robin is a robot. But getting rid of their new babysitter will mean putting aside their sibling squabbles and working together, which might be an even bigger challenge…

The first in a brilliantly funny series about a robot babysitter and the mayhem he causes, perfect for fans of David Solomons, THE NOTHING TO SEE HERE HOTEL and KID NORMAL!


Review : Only Emma by Sally Warner

Children’s book review of Only Emma by Sally Warner

Only EmmaMy Thoughts

I listened to the audio book. The narrator is very good.

The voice in the story is very strongly an eight-year old. She is an only child and is a proper little madam. When her mother agrees to look after another boy for a week, she is not happy. This new addition for the week is disrupting her routine.

Emma is new to the school and has finally found a friend. This friend is also an only child and is also used to having her own way. They have their fights and they make up. Naturally Emma is keen to keep this friendship. However, she makes the wrong choices and gets herself into a sticky situation.

This will make a great book to offer children if they are expecting a younger sibling to come along. 3/5

Goodreads Blurb

Eight-year-old Emma McGraw is an only child who lives with her mom in their “cozy” condo. When four-year-old Anthony Scarpetto moves in for a week while his parents are away, Emma is not happy. He’s loud, he smells, and he touches her stuff. And that’s only half of it! Emma has started at a new school, and has finally begun to make friends. But how can she invite anyone over when annoying Anthony is there? Emma is in for a surprise, though. As the week goes by, she starts to realize that having a “little brother” may not be as bad as she thought.

Review : Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Sea Dragon by Sally Gardner

Middle-grade book review of Mr. Tiger, Betsy, and the Sea Dragon by Sally Gardner

Mr. Tiger, Betsy, and the Sea DragonMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

The ebook I read is in blue ink. The colour and font was easy to the eye.

This is a whimsical book. Imagine our female protagonist as a child of Han Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, that is, the happy ending version. In this story, the girl has a mermaid mother, who still has her fishtail. Her father is human. He carries their mother when she needs to go about the house. She either sits in a bucket or in the bathtub. If you enjoyed watching Little Mermaid 2, you will like this book. If you have read the middle grade book Ingo by Helen Dunmore, this book is the chapter book version.

The words in this book are well-chosen and bring the story to life. Humour is sprinkled in every page. The characters are adorable, like the pastry-chef working in the ship’s galley. This is the perfect read for lower primary children, a popular age for pirates, dragons and mermaids. And this book has them all.

Goodreads Blurb

Award-winning author Sally Gardner delivers another whimsical tale about the daughter of a mermaid and an ice cream maker, a mysterious talking tiger, and a search for a sea dragon’s magical underwater orchard in this second book in the Mr. Tiger series.

From a magical world of well-dressed animals, talking toads, and bossy princesses comes a fresh tale of Mr. Tiger, Betsy K. Glory, and a wicked pirate in search of golden apples. A rare egg has gone missing and a very unhappy sea dragon wants it back. It’s time for Mr. Tiger, Betsy, and the Gongalongs to set sail on their second adventure.

Review : Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Book Review on Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the MilkMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

This is a great book for younger middle grade readers. I listened to the audiobook. Neil Gaiman‘s excellent narration brought all to life.

Mother has gone out of town to a conference and has left Dad in charge. There was no milk for cereal so Dad popped out to buy some. Except he took so long that he wasn’t back even after little sister finished her violin practice.

This is a father’s account of what took him so long to buy a carton of milk for breakfast. I had many laugh-out-loud moments. The skirmishes that Dad got into, the quirky experiences and eclectic mixture of character made this thoroughly enjoyable. Neil Gaiman‘s creativity shone out in this book.

Goodreads Blurb

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: t h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious New York Times bestselling story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.



Why are Salamanders like Birds (and other creatures) ?

In my chapter book, The Magic Mixer, Mrs Dabble uses the salamander to help her gets some extra hands when she needs them. If you’ve been following my previous articles about Mrs Dabble, you’ll see that she’s trying to be like other animals. She’s wanted to be like an owl and an octopus and in this article, a salamander. Salamanders, like Mrs Dabble, have something like other animals. Here are some fun facts about who they are like.

Why are salamanders like birds C

Image by Vicki Lynn from Pixabay 

1. Frogs

Like frogs, salamanders are amphibians. This means they can breathe on land or in water. Salamanders look like tadpoles when they are young. Like tadpoles, they started with gills and later develop lungs. There are some that don’t have gills or lungs. These salamanders breathe through their skin. There are also some keep their gills and never ventured out of water. Like frogs, their front and back legs develop with time.

Why are salamanders like birds Frog

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

2. Lizards

With their long and slim bodies, salamanders look like lizards. When they encounter danger, lizards drop a limb or tail to distract a predator. The missing limb grows back within a couple of weeks. Salamanders can do the same, as we have learnt in The Magic Mixer. Scientists hope one day we can be like salamanders; to regenerate limbs on injured humans. Researchers have recently identified the salamander’s biological pathway responsible for this and they have also found the genes that provide the clue to how they do this.

Why are Salamanders like birds Lizard

Image by Jinali Parikh from Pixabay

3. Birds

Specifically, a canary. Canaries are traditionally taken into coal mines as they are more sensitive to toxic gases underground. If the canary dies, it was a sign that there something toxic is in the air. Salamanders in the wild are like canaries in the mines. This is because their smooth, glossy skins are poor barriers. They let environmental toxins through easily, which poison them. Hence the more salamanders you can find in a place, the cleaner the environment.

Are there any quirky similarities you know of between totally different creatures? Drop it in the comments below. If you want to know more about Mrs Dabble and her adventures with the owl, octopus and salamander, you can check out The Magic Mixer here. It’s free on Amazon this weekend 14-15 Mar to mark the end of British Science Week.

The Magic Mixer ebook c


Eight Books with Strong Female Leads

International Women’s Day is on 8 March. To mark this day, here are some children’s books with strong female leads to inspire our female readers. These strong female characters show many traits.  They are creative, courageous and challenge their boundaries.

Middle Grade Books

Serafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1)Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

My review


“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity… before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

BrightstormBrightstorm by Vashti Hardy

My review


Twins Arthur and Maudie receive word in Lontown that their famous explorer father died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. Not only that, but he has been accused of trying to steal fuel from his competitors before he died! The twins don’t believe the news, and they answer an ad to help crew a new exploration attempt in the hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation. As the winged ship Aurora sets sail, the twins must keep their wits about them and prove themselves worthy of the rest of the crew. But will Arthur and Maudie find the answers they seek?

The Fox Girl and the White GazelleThe Fox Girl and the White Gazelle by Victoria Williamson

My review


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 Girl, the Cat and the NavigatorThe Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods

My review

Blurb (There wasn’t one on Goodreads, so I’ve typed out what was on the book jacket)

Set sail aboard the Plucky Leopard for an adventure of myth and marvel among the ice-caps!

Curious, pin-bright Oona Britt dreams of a life of excitement on the wild waves. She has read stories of a mysterious, magical creature called the nardoo which swims through the starts at night, and decides to stow away on her father’s ship to track on down.

But her time on the storm-tossed sea is fraught with danger – there’s a mutinous crew, a sabotaging ship’s cat called Barnacles and a hungry creature of the deep awoken after a long sleep.

The House with Chicken LegsThe House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

My review


All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.
But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.
So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.
With a mix of whimsy, humor, and adventure, this debut novel will wrap itself around your heart and never let go.

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

My review


A lightning strike gave her a super power…but even a super genius can’t solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth GoldfishRain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.

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?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

Chapter Books

Spider Stampede (Switch, #1)Spider Stampede by Ali Sparkes

My Quick Thoughts:

Mrs Potts is obviously a very clever and inventive scientist. I wish there were more books like the Switch Series. Children, especially girls need to read about female leads and mentor in STEM roles.


All Josh and Danny Phillips want to do is play in the yard with their dog, like regular eight-year-olds. Unfortunately, their crazy neighbor Miss Potts makes sure that they never have any fun. When the boys accidentally stumble on Miss Potts’s secret that she is working on experiments that change people into bugs they find themselves in a whole lot of trouble. (They also find themselves with six more legs than normal.) Can the boys survive in the world as spiders? And more important, will they figure out how to change back into humans in time for dinner?

The Magic Mixer ebook cThe Magic Mixer by Justine Laismith


This is a story about Mrs Dabble, who is bringing up three children: Billy, who is a pleasant and polite; Melanie, a toddler who likes to do things for herself; and Ruby, a baby.

On a typical day, Mrs Dabble finds herself going from one crisis to another. She really needs some help, but where can she get it from?

Meet Dr Patsy Gerlaxi and her Magic Mixer. This machine takes unique and useful features from any animal and inserts them into humans!

So begins Mrs Dabble’s adventure to getting more help with the assistance of the Magic Mixer …


If you are looking for books to inspire the little girl in your life, I hope these eight books will give you a starting point. If you want more suggestions, drop me a note below and I will gladly recommend more. Or if you know of other books must-read strong female leads do drop your suggestions below.

First published 1 March 2019 for International Women’s Day. Updated on 1 March 2020.

Review: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Book review on Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsThis book is not as long as standard middle grade books, so it’s perfect for the younger middle-grade readers who are ready to move on from chapter books.

The story is inspired by Norse mythology. Thor, Odin and Loki being our main supporting cast to Odd, a boy crippled when his leg was crushed in an accident. The Norse Gods are on Earth and make the journey back to their home Asgard with Odd.

It is a heart-warming tale of a courageous boy, who did not let his accident nor his cruel step-father break his spirit. If you are looking for a mythology book on resilience, in a wintry setting, starring a main character with a disability, check this one out. 3/5

Goodreads 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…

Twelve Books about Women-in-STEM

UNESCO has designated 11 Feb to be the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Here are some fiction and non-fiction books about women and girls in STEM.

Chapter Books/Early Readers

Spider Stampede (Switch, #1)Spider Stampede

by Ali Sparkes

This is a first in the series. Mrs Potts is a very clever and inventive scientist.

My Explosive DiaryMy Explosive Diary

by Emily Gale

This is a book that showcases girls can do anything.

The Magic Mixer ebook cThe Magic Mixer

by Justine Laismith

Mrs Dabble tackles the arduous challenge of parenting with the help of an owl, octopus and a salamander. Invented by two women, a scientist and an engineer, it’s a machine that gives you the special feature of any animal.

Middle Grade Books

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A home-schooled math genius finds her way in middle school and uses her math skills to help an charity house find new homes for animals in their care.


by Vashti Hardy

Captain Scott-like antarctic adventure. Designed, built and led by Harriet, twins set out in her sky-ship to find their missing explorer father.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Calpurnia Tate, #1)The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A girl develops her interest as a naturalist in an era where STEM doors are closed to the females.

The Matilda EffectThe Matilda Effect

by Ellie Irving

A girl sets out to right the wrong done to her grandmother-in-STEM.


The Dog Who Saved the WorldThe Dog Who Saved the World

by Ross Welford

A canine-origin pandemic breaks out shortly after a talented programmer convinces Georgie to visit her house.

Beetle Boy (The Battle of the Beetles #1)Beetle Boy

by M.G. Leonard

Beetle version of 101 Dalmations. The woman-in-STEM in this story is the antagonist.

Non-fiction Books

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the WorldWomen in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am partial to this one because of its beautiful illustrations.

Brilliant Ideas From Wonderful WomenBrilliant Ideas From Wonderful Women by Aitziber Lopez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Children’s book review about the everyday items and women who invented them

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-fiction book review on Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. It follows the lives of black women

There are several non-fiction books highlighting women’s contributions to STEM. However fictions books with women in STEM, especially those as mentors, are few and far between. I want to make this a longer list. If you know of any more books, please leave the book title and if you know it, the author’s name in the comments below. Thank you!

First published 11 Feb 2019. Updated 1 Feb 2020.