Tag Archives: middle grade

Review : The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant

Middle-grade review of The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant

The HatmakersGoodreads Blurb

Cordelia comes from a long line of magical milliners, who weave alchemy and enchantment into every hat. In Cordelia’s world, Making – crafting items such as hats, cloaks, watches, boots and gloves from magical ingredients – is a rare and ancient skill, and only a few special Maker families remain.

When Cordelia’s father Prospero and his ship, the Jolly Bonnet, are lost at sea during a mission to collect hat ingredients, Cordelia is determined to find him. But Uncle Tiberius and Aunt Ariadne have no time to help the littlest Hatmaker, for an ancient rivalry between the Maker families is threatening to surface. Worse, someone seems to be using Maker magic to start a war.

It’s up to Cordelia to find out who, and why . . .

Featuring illustrations by Paola Escobar.

My Thoughts after Reading

Set in the backdrop of Mad King George, this middle-grade book is a tale about royal makers, who use magical items in their creations to bring out the purpose of the wearer. In this story, the Hatmakers have been commissioned to make a Peace Hat, for the peace talks with France.

Our heroine receives news of her father being lost at sea, searching for a rare ingredient for the Peace Hat. Her uncle and aunt take her in, but refuse to pass on the hat-making skills to her, citing her age as an excuse. However Cordelia is not content to wait.

My favourite character has to be the actor Sir Hugo. He is full of personality, even if part of the reason was wearing an acting hat that Cordelia had cobbled together without her aunt’s permission. A very fun read. If you enjoyed The Unadoptables and The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, this book gives the same vibes. 3/5*

Opening Line : It was a wild and lightning-struck night.

Ten Spooky, Ghouly, Ghostly Middle-Grade books

With Halloween is round the corner, I bet there are pumpkins and costumes everywhere. If you are looking for paranormal middle-grade books, here are a few I’d recommend. 

1. The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

The Girl and the GhostGoodreads Blurb

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

My review : The Girl and the Ghost

2. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1)

Goodreads Blurb

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.

My review : Serafina and the Black Cloak

3. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Small Spaces (Small Spaces, #1)Goodreads Blurb

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think—she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

My review : Small Spaces

4. Shine by Candy Gourlay

ShineBlurb

This is not a ghost story even though there are plenty of ghosts in it. And it’s not a horror story though some people might be horrified. It’s not a monster story either, even though there is a monster in it and that monster happens to be me.

Forced to hide herself away from the superstitious island community of Mirasol, thirteen-year-old Rosa seeks solace online. There she meets Ansel95, and as the friendship moves from virtual to real, Rosa discovers that she’s not the only one with something to hide..

From the author of the critically-acclaimed Tall Story, comes a haunting, intense and moving novel which weaves myths and ghosts into a modern setting. As Rosa’s social life blossoms, how will she seize the freedom to be who she really is?

5. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)**warning: some middle-grade readers might find this one scary**

Blurb

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

6. Skull In The Wood by Sandra Greaves

Skull In The WoodGoodreads Blurb

Deep on Dartmoor, cousins Matt and Tilda discover a skull. And from that moment black things happen. Birds and animals turn bad, and there’s talk of the return of an old curse.

7. Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1)Blurb

A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet’s Chasing Vermeer series.

It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.

8. 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 review : The Ghost of Gosswater

9. The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson

Blurb The Great Ghost Rescue

A seriously spooky and brilliantly comic story from the outstanding Eva Ibbotson, now with a fantasic new cover-look! ‘Nobody knew what had gone wrong with Humphrey. Perhaps it was his ectoplasm . . .’ Humphrey the Horrible sounds scary, but he’s actually a very friendly skeleton, with twinkling eye sockets and jangling finger bones. Humphrey dreams of being ghastly, like his brother – a screaming skull – or terrifying, like his bloodsucking vampire-bat cousins. But when Humphrey discovers an evil plot to exorcise his family he finally realizes you don’t have to be spine-chillingly fearsome to be a hero. My review

10. WildSpark by Vashti Hardy

WildSpark*This is more of a sci-fi/boarding school story, but it has ghosts as a background theme.*

Blurb

A year after the death of her older brother, Prue Haywood’s family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life. Prue knows that the “Ghost Guild” might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger’s offer to join as an apprentice. But to find her brother, she needs to find a way to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be. Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart… My review

Are there any paranormal books you can add to this list? If so, leave me a comment below. Happy Halloween!

First Published 15 Oct 2019. Updated 9 Oct 2021.

Review : The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

Middle-grade book review of The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf

The Girl and the GhostGoodreads Blurb

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about a spirit who decides to make an unloved girl his master.

Our protagonist has just lost his master. He chose this little neglected girl but unlike any wicked pelesits, he cares for her and uses his wicked ways surreptitiously to avenge her tormentors. When she finds out, she banishes him from her life.

The author’s style is a quite unique. Parts of it feel it is written for a western audience, yet other parts have a lovely local feel to it. As I come from Singapore, the next door neighbour to Malaysia, I recognised the local references, like ‘open coffee shop’, as well as the local foods.

If you are looking for a unique paranormal book for a Halloween read, I recommend this one. 3.5*

My other middle-grade book reviews

My theme book recommendations

Review : The Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael

Middle-grade book review of The Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael

The Forest of Moon and SwordGoodreads Blurb

When Art’s mother is accused of witchcraft, she is determined to get her back – at any cost. A lyrical adventure with folklore at its heart, for fans of THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS.

Twelve-year-old Art lives in a small village in Scotland. Her mother has always made potions that cure the sick, but now the townspeople say she is a witch.

One cloudless night, Art’s mother is accused of Witchcraft, arrested, and taken from Scotland to England. Art mounts her horse, taking a sword, a tightrope, and a herbal recipe book, and begins a journey through wild forests to find her mother before summer solstice, using nature’s signs and symbols to guide her.

On her journey, Art will discover what sacrifices she will need to make to be reunited with her mother – and to alter the fate of women everywhere. But will she reach her, before it’s too late?

My Thoughts after Reading

This young middle-grade book is set in the 17th during the time where women were hunted down as witches.

Our Scottish heroine has been rejected by her townsfolk ever since her mother being taken away as a witch, all because her mother knew the medicinal properties of plants. She runs away and journeys down south to Essex, where her mother was to be tried and killed. Along the way she encounters animals and omens, and makes friends with other children in the same plight.

I particularly l enjoyed reading about the healing properties of various plants. My one wish would be images of the plants. I was very glad that, in the acknowledgements, the author had included the references where she got her research from.

This book will appeal to a younger middle-grade audience for its simple plot.

Opening line : I wake up in the dark.

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

Review : The Chessman Thief by Barbara Henderson

Middle-grade book review of The Chessmen Thief by Barbara Henderson

The Chessmen Thief with Lewis Chess Pieces

The Chessmen ThiefGoodreads Blurb

Win. Lose. Survive.

I was the boy with a plan. Now I am the boy with nothing.

From the moment 12-year-old Kylan hatches a plan to escape from his Norse captors, and return to Scotland to find his mother, his life becomes a dangerous game.
The precious Lewis Chessmen pieces—which he helped carve—hold the key to his freedom, but he will need all his courage and wit to triumph against Sven Asleifsson, the cruellest Viking in the realm.
One false move could cost him his life.

Barbara Henderson has woven a thrilling origin story around the enduring mystery of the Lewis Chessmen, their creation in Norway, and how they ended up buried in the Hebrides before being discovered on Lewis in 1831.

My Thoughts after Reading

This story is perfectly pitched for middle-grade.

Our protagonist is a slave boy determined to return to his roots and find his mother. His ability to speak Gaelic and carve ivory into chess pieces convinces a prominent man to take him away from Norway on this journey to Scotland.

This books has Vikings, pirates and sea adventures. It also has plenty of heart: a young slave separated from his mother, seeking his freedom.

I love it that this story was inspired by the famous 12th century Lewis chess pieces found on a Scottish beach. A must read for chess and history lovers. 4/5

If you are looking for middle-grade books with a chess theme, also check out Check Mates.

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