Middle Grade Must Haves – Sept #1

Following on from a successful summer of reading I have gathered together some of the books I have caught up on and read in preparation for a two part #MiddleGradeMustHaves to share with you all this September. I cannot get over how much amazing talent there is to be found on the shelves of the childrens literature section of your local independent book store and what follows is a snap shot of those that I would highly recommend for 8 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery

A story that takes ghosts from cemeteries in London and combines them with a thrilling world war two story. When a German officer is seen loitering around London by the turnkey of highgate cemetery she sets about following him to discover more about him and his motives for being in London, seemingly a long way from home. Flossie has been tasked with looking after those buried at highgate cemetery and has settled into the role, resolving minor issues with regulars frequently.

The young girl has taken her responsibilities seriously and is respected by fellow turnkeys, and it is these she calls upon for support and guidance as what was initially just a chance encounter escalates into a full blown spy mystery with a twist. Children will be gripped as they follow the story and the suspense build in this unforgettable war time adventure that sees Flossie travel across the globe in a bid to unravel the mystery that features characters of historical relevance such as Winston Churchill and the Chelsea Pensioners making this a great fictional accompaniment to World War Two topic research and learning.

The supernatural aspect of the story compliments this historical fiction perfectly, detailing the near constant bombing of London that links the two worlds so believably, and featuring a strong female lead character that whilst other worldly is relatable in so many ways.

Published by Walker Books on 5th September.

Clifftoppers Fire Bay Adventure

A heart warming, feel good read that reminds me totally of Swallows and Amazons – my all time favourite read when I was in primary school and undoubtedly the book that inspire me to continue having a love for books and reading ever since, this book and the series it belongs to have the potential to do the same with the current generation of readers through the combination of tradional grandparents in an off the grid location and modern day children and their passion for adventure.

We return to Aiden, Josh, Chloe and Ava who are back staying with their grandparents at Clifftoppers farm. It doesn’t take long for the adventurous four to uncover that there is undercover smuggling going on, and a potential link to faulty goods that are causing fires in peoples homes. There is bravery and heroism throughout this series, and especially in this book when the four go all out in order for justice and honestly to prevail, and in doing so prove themselves worthy role models to the reader who will find the characters hugely relatable as they are taken on an incredible and often tense adventure that involves rescuing people from a burning house and exploring creepy tunnels.

I love this series from author Fleur Hitchcock, and would advise readers to start with book one – my review for Clifftoppers The Arrowhead Moor Adventure can be found here. Children will love the quick pace to this book whilst they are immersed in a school holidays like no other, for those spent at Clifftoppers Farm are the sort that every child dreams of and for the duration of this book gets to feel that they experienced.

Published by Nosy Crow on 5th September.

And then I turned into a Mermaid

Turning thirteen unlocks Molly’s mermaid side and she is shown this new development in her anatomy at dawn in the ocean by the lighthouse they live in with her mum and sisters who it turns out are also mermaids, that certainly is the definition of a birthday surprise! Molly must keep this huge secret from everyone else outside of the family, including on/off friend Ada as it seems the mermaid world isn’t ready for discovery. Perhaps the biggest struggle Molly faces is having to keep away from large quantities of water – like the school swimming pool!

The family run a fish and chip shop, live in a lighthouse and Seabrook is their last name so you have to expect there to be lots of fish themed quips in the story which give a humorous feel you come to love about it. Reading of Molly’s transformation and struggle makes mermaids seem even more real and her battle between being an everyday teenager striving to be popular, a member of a squabbling household, and facing friendship difficulties makes Molly’s character relatable to readers and her incredible way of facing it so determinedly makes her an inspiration to them too. I shared this book with my 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son of an evening during the summer break and they both were equally engrossed and have referenced the book in seperate conversations since, they both agreed future visits to the Seabrook family are needed.

Published by Egmont on 30th May 2019.

Son of a Circus – A Victorian Story

A detailed perspective of life living in the circus world. Edward or Ted as he is called by his mum is sent to live with his father who owns a circus and longs to have his son there to show the ropes to and pass on the family trade secrets. The book is set in Victorian times which is why his mother agrees to Ted leaving her, money is tight and she is barely getting by with Ted and his brother to feed and clothe. This is an emotional and compelling read whilst being thoroughly informative too.

A brilliant insight from the perspective of a young lad that immerses the reader in amongst the world of big tops, costumes and horse back riding. The third book in the voices series this book like the two prior is steeped in detail and information that is both engrossing and enlightening for young readers and confirms it being a well researched title. The perspective of a mixed race young boy living in the victorian era and the prejudices and opinions he faces whilst depserate to fit in and be excepted are portrayed beautifully within this books pages.

Published by Scholastic on 5th September.

And the Ocean was Our Sky

From the very first page this book will captivate the audience, giving a different vantage point and perspective on the classic story of Moby Dick. In And the Ocean was our Sky the Whales are at war with the humans, hunting them down and intent on destroying as many as possible. It is during one of these hunts that the narrator of the story Bathsheba the Whale tells us of a legend amongst the whales and there reasoning for pursuing leads in relation to the legend and the devastation that occurs along the way. There is a really eerie feel to the words throughout the book that are complimented by the intense and powerful illustrations, depicting scenes from the sea and giving you goosebumps too. I couldn’t put this book down from the very first page and felt driven to hear Bathsheba’s story, with it’s raw emotions and haunting sentences. The lines between love and hate, war and peace, and enemies and allies are explored beautifully throughout this book and whether readers have read Moby Dick or not they will undoubtedly want to having been privileged to this modern day classic.

Published by Walker Books on 5th September.

The Lifters

This is an exciting read that tells the story of how Gran and his young sister Maisie who have to move to a new town called Carousel with their parents in a bid to find more work for their dad. The town of Carousel seems quite normal, except for homes sinking into the ground. After enrolling in school Gran is struck by how invisible he is to everyone with the exception of a girl called Catalina, she notices and takes an interest in Gran, and it is when he starts to take a friendly interest in her back that things get bizarre.

Gran follows Catalina after school one day after school, through the woods and beyond, and then she vanishes into the side of a hill just as he was going to catch her up. Determined to work out how Catalina disappeared through a doorway into lit corridor into a hillside he sets about exploring the area at night unable to sleep, finds Catalina and then discovers an entirely new world hidden below the town of Carousel that contains tunnels and passages in all directions. Gran and Catalina must work together to save the day. The pair are brave in the face of adversity and are definite role models for readers. The book is fast paced with short chapters which help maintain your interest and encourage you to read on. I was reading this book at length and not wanting to put it down, especially as the narrative is direct and fun for the reader, with my particular favourite part in the narrative being ‘But it was the wrong answer. Now your narrator is speaking, and I am here to tell you that Gran did indeed see what he thought he had seen’ and this direct to the reader approach reminded me fondly of The Book Thief (Markus Zusak).

The quote on the top of the front cover reads “Kids will love it” – Guardian, I would reaffirm that sentence describing The Lifters and add that adults would too.

Published by Scholastic on 5th September in Paperback.

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