Tag Archives: The Girl the Cat and the Navigator

Review : The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

Middle-grade book review of The Storm Keeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

The Storm Keeper's Island (Storm Keeper, #1)

        1. My rating:
    1. 4 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade book is about a boy who goes to stay with his grandfather for a few weeks so his mother can recover. His sister had stayed with Grandfather the previous summer, and had not hinted of anything unusual.

He catches the first glimpse of his grandfather’s cottage, with smoke coming out of the chimney. Yet indoors, the fireplace wasn’t lit By and by Fionn learns of the island’s magic and its dark history. I liked the concept of magic in the candles, how they are captured and what happens when you light one.

One bonus was discovering Arranmore Island is a real place off the coast in West Ireland. I now want to visit the place.

If you have enjoyed The Boy, The Bird and The Coffin Maker and The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator, both by Matilda Woods, you are going to love this one too. This will take you on a magical adventure.

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – My Thoughts after Reading

The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator: My Thoughts after Reading

 

Goodreads Blurb

When Fionn Boyle sets foot on Arranmore Island, it begins to stir beneath his feet …

Once in a generation, Arranmore Island chooses a new Storm Keeper to wield its power and keep its magic safe from enemies. The time has come for Fionn’s grandfather, a secretive and eccentric old man, to step down. Soon, a new Keeper will rise.

But, deep underground, someone has been waiting for Fionn. As the battle to become the island’s next champion rages, a more sinister magic is waking up, intent on rekindling an ancient war.

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

Blurb

“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

Blurb

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

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 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

Blurb

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

Blurb

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.

Blurb

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

Blurb

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.

Five Great Middle Grade Books published in 2018

My blog is a day early, but we have come to the end of 2018. To say goodbye to this year, I’ve reflected on the 2018 publications. Here are 5 great middle-grade books I want to the world to know about.

BrightstormBrightstorm by Vashti Hardy

My Thoughts after Reading

This is a middle grade adventure. Twins Maudie and Arthur set out in a sky-ship to find their missing explorer father. The setting is probably Victorian time, in a world with a First, Second and Third Continent. The first continent looks like the south of England. The second continent seems to be part-Australia and part-middle East. The third continent is, without a doubt, the Antarctic.
Even at the start, the book promises great things as the twins quote their father’s words of wisdom.
“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
“Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan.”
News of his death came at the start. They lost their inheritance and were heartlessly thrown out of their family home. What an injustice. Straightaway, I rooted for the twins. They are sold off to a couple. The setting is reminiscent of Dickens’ stories. In one of those dark days, their pet bird, who went on the expedition with their father, returned. Pets in this story setting are intelligent. They have a special bond with their owner, and understand human speech perfectly, even though humans are incapable of understanding them back. This reminds me to The Golden Compass. The Thought-Wolves are a brilliant creation.
Despite the tragic setting, the author has put in brilliant mentors for the twins. The chef Felicity has a special gift of sixth sense; she gets an uncomfortable tingling in her toes. Any scenes with Felicity give me the warm feeling of being looked after. I love it that they were still able to enjoy honeyed tea and cake despite the harsh conditions.
I have been looking for books with female mentors and I am very pleased to find her here. Harriet is a great role model. She designed and made the sky-ship that does not drain natural resources nor pollute the air. She imparts her engineering and navigation knowledge to Maudie, who shows great interest in all things mechanical. Despite her intelligence, Harriet is thoughtful of her crew members.
I enjoyed the narratives on the ship and their various expeditions. This book is a mixture of several stories I’ve come across: Captain Scott, Lieutenant Hornblower, The Golden Compass, Oliver Twist. The author has taken bits from them and come with something of her own.
An enjoyable read.

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

My Thoughts after Reading

This middle grade book gives a good insight to refugees settling in the UK. Reema’s family has just arrived from war-torn Syria, having had several months of living in a refugee camp overseas. They arrive without knowing English nor the local culture. They need to pick all these up, and leave the past traumas behind. On top of this, they have to cope with prejudice.

Caylin is the school bully who intimidates her schoolmates into giving her money. As always, the bullying is only the tip of the iceberg. We learn the reasons behind her actions.

Externally they are different, but inwardly they have something in common. You can relate to the two things that brings them together: animals and shared talent. The story is written from the POVs of Reema and Caylin, in alternating chapters. They are heart-felt. You will find yourself rooting for them as you see them taking baby steps towards uncharted territories. You cannot help but turn page after page.

A great read.

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

My Thoughts after Reading

First of all, what a great title, so random, and yet so rhythmic. Irresistible.

The story is set in a fictional place Scandinavian-like. On one hand there is folklore, superstition and fortune-telling. On another hand, there are constellations, explorations and naval adventure. The main character addresses today’s call for female leads. The cat, as any animal would in a middle grade book, has great appeal. It’s got swagger, talent, and nine lives. I’ve always been told cats do not like water, yet here cats are mascots for ships. Creative. Furthermore, the childless old couple is a masterstroke. There are many children’s story with a kind old couple who want nothing more than a child. Incorporating this into the story, together with the folklore and animal, is a winning combination to take on middle grade readers.

This is a real treasure. I can see this book being a classic in the future.

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

My Thoughts after Reading

This is a middle grade book about a 12-year-old who became a math genius after she was struck by lightning. She also developed OCD. Her grandmother, who is her carer, had home-schooled her since. But now that she is 12, she has to go to middle school and make friends of her age. Up to this point, her friends were online math geniuses.
The way her mathematical mind works comes across very well in the story. She made a couple of unlikely friends, particularly Levi. He is not mathematical, but he has a gift of empathy. He can tell straightaway how someone is feeling, and captures their expressions in his camera. This obsession is not popular with his peers. My favourite line in the book comes from him. “You’re the first person who has ever felt different. You’re the first freak ever to set foot in East Hamlin Middle School. Congratulations, Lucy Callahan. You’re so special.” Levi is simply spot on in his analyses of people.

This book was recommended to me because of the cool math teacher. I was looking for a STEM mentor in MG books. He wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but I liked him. He is a teacher who has passion for the subject, and attempts to connect the subject to our world at large. Most of all, he spotted the fact that Lightning Girl is not showing her full potential. Teachers like Mr Stoker are a gift to all parents.
The writing is quick paced, rhythmic and page-turning. The characters are compelling. What I love best is our math genius used statistics to help a charity house homeless pets. Cleverly written to incorporate math into fiction.

A really good read.

The Night DiaryThe Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

My thoughts after Reading

This middle-grade historical fiction is about a family caught in the midst of a key historical event. When India gained independence from the British, it separated into two countries, India and Pakistan. The Hindus had to move south to India and the Muslims north to Pakistan. Seen through the eyes of a girl, Nisha, this was not a peaceful transition. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who used to live peacefully now fought and killed one other.

The author cleverly chose a family who broke tradition at the time. Nisha’s father is a Hindu, and her late mother was Muslim. Their Muslim cook is part of their household. Yet the turmoil meant the unit had to separate.

Through her diary entries, Nisha tells us her family’s struggles as they made their way across the border. I’m not a fan of diary-format books. Here each entry ends with ‘love Nisha’. I find this distracting, as if it’s telling me to stop reading now I have reached the end. This diary format took me a while to get into it, ie after many sittings. It was only towards the middle when I settled into the story that I was able to ignore the entry breaks. The historical parts were skilfully dotted in places to keep the story flowing. Middle grade readers will learn about this moment in history through this story.

The author has successfully described the place, culture and the atmosphere. One thing struck me while reading was how much trouble was taken to educate readers of the plethora of food. At every meal/snack time a different type of food eaten or cooked. Whilst I enjoyed reading about how the food was cooked, I did not recognise 80% of their names. It made no difference to me whether a dozen food was on the menu, or if only a couple was mentioned. Perhaps this is more meaningful for a native Indian, but to me it felt like the author was rattling off lists of them just to educate us.

All said and done, I liked the historical nature of it, so do check out this book.

 

These are the five books I would recommend a middle-grade reader. If there any books you can think of, please add to this list in the comments below. Have a Happy New Year.

My Thoughts after Reading: The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Thoughts after Reading

First of all, what a great title, so random, and yet so rhythmic. Irresistible.

The story is set in a fictional place Scandinavian-like. On one hand there are folklore, superstition and fortune-telling. On another hand, there are constellations, explorations and naval adventure. The main character addresses today’s call for female leads. The cat, as any animal would in a middle grade book, has great appeal. It’s got swagger, talent, and nine lives. I’ve always been told cats do not like water, yet here cats are mascots for ships. Creative. Furthermore, the childless old couple is a masterstroke. There are many children’s story with a kind old couple who want nothing more than a child. Incorporating this into the story, together with the folklore and animal, is a winning combination to take on middle grade readers.

This is a real treasure. I can see this book being a classic in the future.

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.

View all my reviews