middle grade fiction

All posts in the middle grade fiction category

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MAY READ – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton

Published May 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jo, Bessie and Fanny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.

What did I think?:

The Faraway Tree series will always have a very special place in my heart. I remember it fondly from childhood (and I think it was probably one of the books I read to my sister Chrissi on a regular basis) yet I was almost petrified to read it again, just in case it didn’t live up to those delicious memories and expectations. Luckily, when reading it again I could definitely confirm why I rated Enid Blyton so highly as an author. Reading it as an adult is an interesting experience as parts of it do feel very much “of the time,” however I truly believe that the fantasy and adventure aspects of the story will still continue to delight and appeal to younger children today.

Enid Blyton, author of The Enchanted Wood, the first book in The Faraway Tree series. 

In a nutshell, The Enchanted Wood is the first book in which we meet three siblings (who strangely enough, seem to have had their names changed from the last time I read this book). Their original names in the story I read were Jo, Fanny and Bessie and in this edition it’s Joe, Frannie and Beth. On reading up a bit on it, it’s not the first time Enid Blyton has been censored and altered to protect the delicate minds of future generations of children. However, I’ll try not to get on my soap box (too much) about it and just accept that this has happened. Even if I don’t agree with it!  If you’re interested in reading about this further, there’s a fantastic article HERE. Our three children have just moved house and discover the magical Enchanted Wood, filled with talking animals, elves, goblins and helpful red squirrels. Best of all, there is an enormous tree that they can climb up, reaching other lands through the clouds at the top of the tree and meeting new friends that live within its branches.

Enid Blyton never fails to write an exciting adventure story filled with imaginative worlds and unforgettable magical events. Although her characters don’t seem to vary too much between her different series i.e. none of them have outstanding or memorable features, I don’t think it’s really necessary. As a child reading this, it was much more about the adventures that the children had and the amazing lands that they visited at the top of The Faraway Tree compared with how complex or interesting their personalities were! I loved the sense of tension that Blyton builds up when the children enter a precarious situation and equally appreciated the more joyous moments when they visited worlds like The Land Of Birthdays or The Land of Take-What-You-Want. I remember clearly as a younger reader feeling desperate to visit such lands myself and having such a cosy, warm feeling at Blyton’s descriptive narrative which brought everything alive for me in full, colourful detail. To be honest, I felt exactly the same as an adult and that’s why I can’t give it any less than the full five stars – both for the nostalgia and for how the author seems to know what children want so perfectly.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN JUNE ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – APRIL READ – Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Published May 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find… a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow.

Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…?

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies (especially to my sister!) for getting this post out so late. Chrissi and I usually try to get our kid-lit posts out at the end of the month but this past week, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather and have only got round to doing it now. It’s always a pleasure to pick up a David Walliams book and even though I only discovered him a few years ago and was slightly sceptical, I can really see why he’s so beloved, particularly amongst children. You always know what you’re getting when you pick up one of his books. He has such a wonderful sense of humour, brilliant characterisation and an edge of reality that make his books such a joy to read.

David Walliams, author of Demon Dentist.

I say you always know what to expect when picking up a Walliams books but to be perfectly honest, Demon Dentist completely surprised me. I found it much darker than the author’s previous books with a villainous character that was nothing short of terrifying. However, I loved that he wasn’t afraid to explore some more difficult aspects of life. For example, our young protagonist Alfie’s father is chronically ill in a wheelchair and as a result, some parts of the narrative make for a very emotional and hard-hitting reading experience. Despite his father’s health issues, Alfie still has a wonderful relationship with him and it was heart-warming to read about their interactions. I can only applaud the author for choosing to write about a father-son relationship that is not conventional or expected so as to illustrate that not all families have the luxury of having parents who are healthy and well.

Alfie’s dad, beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross.

Image from: https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/demon-dentist/

In Demon Dentist, Alfie hasn’t been to the dentist for a long, long time after a bad experience when he was younger and his teeth are now rotten. Then when a new dentist, Ms Root comes to town and starts taking a rather obsessive interest in all the children’s teeth, Alfie begins to realise that something is seriously wrong and vows to get to the bottom of it. The villain of the piece who is of course, Ms Root as you may have guessed, is a fantastic villain in every sense of the word. She looks a bit strange, she definitely acts a bit strange and, as with all good baddies, she has an evil plot afoot that involves all the children of the town and their teeth.

As I mentioned earlier, things get quite frightening in Demon Dentist but it’s all done with Walliams’ trademark wit and style accompanied by the most glorious illustrations by Tony Ross. The action never lets up for a second and I whizzed through this book in less than a day very easily as I found it very difficult to put down. Just when I thought there may have been a resolution, there was another crescendo of tension and terror that our poor hero Alfie was subjected to! Eventually it does end – not particularly in a satisfying way I have to say, there is quite a bit of heart-break but it is also accompanied by hope for the future which as it turns out, is a far more realistic ending to a fantastical story.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN MAY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton.

Banned Books 2019 – MARCH READ – Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

Published March 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Bobby and Jamie are getting married, but Bobby’s niece Chloe is worried that she won’t be his favorite person anymore. Will Uncle Bobby still think she is special? Sarah Brannen’s warm story is set in an alternative family as Uncle Bobby marries his boyfriend. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding embraces Bobby’s relationship with Jamie, but keeps its focus where it truly belongs: on an uncle and niece’s love for each other.

Beautifully told and charmingly illustrated, this simple yet moving story begs to be read time and again.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the third banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

First published: 2008

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No, no and no some more. I get so wound up when a book as sweet and inoffensive like this is challenged on grounds of homosexuality. I don’t understand it that as recently as ten years ago (which still feels to me like yesterday!) that individuals were challenging books for children because it featured gay characters. I think I would understand (but definitely NOT accept) the challenging if it was in less enlightened times when homosexuality was illegal and a lot of people had a problem with it. But to use it as a reason to restrict access to a book in the 2000’s. Really?

CHRISSI: What Beth said. I actually find it offensive that this book was even challenged! It is such a sweet story and it’s told in such a gentle way. What message does it send young children if a book like this is challenged/banned? That’s it wrong to have a homosexual in your family? Argh, it makes me so cross. I know a lot of children who do have two mothers and my heart hurts to think that they would believe it’s ‘wrong’. Children should see a representation of every type of family to open their minds and address stereotypes.

How about now?

BETH: I think you can already see from my previous answer that I very much disagree. Since 2008, I would have loved to believe we are becoming more accepting of individuals beliefs and desires but sadly, although I think there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot more work to do. There will always be people who have quite extreme ideas about what is right and what is wrong and they’re entitled to their own opinion but when they use it to try and change other people’s minds/hurt the target individuals that they have a problem with, that’s when I have a problem too.

CHRISSI: I think there’s so much work to be done. Children are so much more accepting than adults and I wonder when that acceptance starts to get lost, or why it gets lost. When is it that we begin to judge so much? I know children don’t. When I get asked why a certain person has two mothers/fathers in class, the children accept it without questioning. Books like this NEED to be about so children know that it’s not abnormal to have a different family set up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I found this book to be a very adorable and informative read, especially for younger children. It’s a fantastic way of introducing children to LGBT issues and the fact that people should be free to love/marry whomever they want. I would be happy to read it with any children I come across and would be delighted to see it in schools, available for children to enjoy.

CHRISSI: It’s adorable and I’d be happy to read it to any child in my school!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BANNED BOOKS: We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – The BFG by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Captured by a giant! The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants-rather than the BFG-she would have soon become breakfast.

When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

What did I think?:

Aren’t your favourite childhood authors the best? Like Judy Blume, Roald Dahl was another leading light for me during my middle grade years and I have such wonderful memories of reading his books over and over again. In fact, I think I read my copy of The BFG so many times that the pages literally starting coming out of the book and I was forced to replace it with a bright, shiny new one. Never a problem for a bookworm, right? Reading Roald Dahl also fills me with warm fuzzy feelings for my sister, Chrissi Reads as when we were younger, I used to read stories like this, Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory as her bedtime stories before she dropped off to sleep. Who better to re-read The BFG as an adult with than Chrissi on our Kid-Lit challenge? Would the story stand the test of time? It was time to find out.

Roald Dahl, author of The BFG.

I entered the world of The BFG and his little friend, Sophie with a bubble of anticipation and joy in my heart combined with a smug, tiny feeling that was impossible to shake. There was no way Roald Dahl would let me down as an adult! I was hugely confident of that fact. However, I wasn’t prepared for how charmed and delighted I would feel re-visiting the world that Dahl has created. The author has a peculiar, unique sort of talent for writing stories that appeal to both children and adults alike and his free, easy way with words, classic humour and unforgettable characters makes for such a rewarding reading experience that it’s always a pleasure to sit down with one of his works, no matter what age it’s geared towards.

The BFG and Sophie, illustrated by Quentin Blake: an image lovingly entwined in my memory as the cover image from my first copy of the novel as a youngster.

Of course, I don’t think I can talk about the magic of Roald Dahl’s writing without mentioning the gorgeousness of the illustrations that accompany these great words by the fantastic, inimitable Quentin Blake. I adore the vivid, beautifully imaginative drawings that bring each character’s personality to life so vibrantly, it becomes impossible to think of a character such as The BFG without also thinking of those glorious, big-eared images too. Finally, who couldn’t fail to become enamoured by Dahl’s characters themselves – a humble, whizzpopping, big friendly giant who gets his words mixed up to hilarious effect but has a heart of pure gold and is devastated by the thought of hundreds of innocent “human beans,” being gobbled up every night! He and Sophie make the perfect team to rid the world of the blood-thirsty evil giants and I could read about their adventures for days on end.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2019 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the reveal for myself and Chrissi Reads Kid-Lit challenge for 2019. We’re very excited for our list this year and think we’ve picked some wonderful titles, a mixture of old favourites, authors we’ve read before but are keen to read more of and new-to-us authors/reads. Without further ado, here’s what we’ll be reading this year. Join us at the end of January for our first post!

JANUARY – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret- Judy Blume

FEBRUARY- The BFG -Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)- Rick Riordan

APRIL- Demon Dentist- David Walliams

MAY – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1)- Enid Blyton

JUNE- What Katy Did- Susan Coolidge

JULY – The Dreamsnatcher (Dreamsnatcher #1) Abi Elphinstone

AUGUST- The Royal Rabbits of London- Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

SEPTEMBER – I Capture The Castle- Dodie Smith

OCTOBER- Just So- Rudyard Kipling

NOVEMBER – The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

DECEMBER- The Christmasaurus- Tom Fletcher

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018, The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2019. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader -C.S. Lewis

FEBRUARY- Matilda-Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

APRIL- Ratburger- David Walliams

MAY – The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)-Lemony Snicket

JUNE- The Face On The Milk Carton-Caroline B. Cooney

JULY – Murder Most Unladylike- Robin Stevens

AUGUST- The Creakers- Tom Fletcher

SEPTEMBER – Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing -Judy Blume

OCTOBER- Nightbirds on Nantucket  (The Wolves Chronicles #3)- Joan Aiken

NOVEMBER – Number The Stars- Lois Lowry

DECEMBER- Time Travelling With A Hamster- Ross Welford

So, in the style of the “Talking About…” reviews we normally do, we thought we’d answer a quick few questions about our year in Kid-Lit blogging.

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2018 and why?
BETH: This is such an easy one for me! It would be Matilda by Roald Dahl. It was a childhood favourite of mine and each time I re-read it I fall more and more in love with it. Sorry other kid-lit authors on this list – it was always going to be a no-brainer with the king that is Roald Dahl.
CHRISSI: It has to be the legendary Matilda. It’s a wonderful story that is one of my all time favourites. I don’t think many will ever beat it. I found out recently that my 6 year old nephew loves Matilda which is amazing!
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2018 and why?
BETH: This is so tough but I would have to pick something that might be controversial – The Girl Of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It was so gorgeously written but unfortunately I just didn’t connect with it as much as I was hoping to.
CHRISSI: The Voyage of The Dawn Treaderby C.S. Lewis. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it, if I’m honest. I don’t recall reading this one as a child and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started it and gave up! Young Chrissi had no problems DNF-ing books.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2018 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney? I was eagerly anticipating this book as both Chrissi and I were huge Cooney fans back when she wrote Point Horror. However, I believe we were both a bit disappointed with this particular offering and unfortunately, it surprised us in a bad way. 😦
CHRISSI:  I have to agree with Beth. I had such high expectations for The Face On The Milk Carton but I really did find it to be a quite unremarkable read which was a shame.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2018?
BETH: Most definitely, from Tom Fletcher. I was really excited to read something from him as I had heard such great things about his children’s books. The Creakers was everything I had anticipated and who knows, perhaps there will be something else on our Kid-Lit list for 2019 from him?
CHRISSI:  Ooh yes. I want to read more from Tom Fletcher and David Walliams for sure. I’m loving that young children (and young at heart adults!) have so many wonderful authors out there to explore.

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming on January 2nd – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2019! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kit-Lit 2018 – DECEMBER READ – Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford

Published December 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve.

The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’…”

When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…

What did I think?:

When Chrissi first chose this book for our kid-lit challenge this year, I have to admit I was intrigued. Who couldn’t be with that title? I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before now and when I read the synopsis and it mentioned our lead character travelling back to the 1980’s I started to get a little bit excited. I grew up in the 1980’s and recently have been on a real nostalgia trip, particularly for the music of that era which I’ve always adored. BBC Four here in the UK have been re-playing classic Top Of The Pops episodes from the eighties in order and I’ve had the most wonderful trip down memory lane enjoying tunes from 1986, when I would have been six years old and just getting into music in a big way. I was gleefully anticipating some eighties references that might take me back to that time through the magic of literature and perhaps that was what was a slight disappointment about this novel for me – my expectations and the fact they weren’t really met in this specific way.

Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling With A Hamster.

I have to stress though that I am nit-picking. In general, this is a brilliant read for children and what I was personally expecting shouldn’t be taken into account if you’re considering whether to pick this book up or not. Time Travelling With A Hamster is about so much more than just the 1980’s. It’s about the relationship between families and in addition, the different generations within the same family. It packs a definitive emotional wallop to the system as we follow our young protagonist travelling back in time to prevent his father’s death in the future. As a story of time travel, it’s a fascinating and exciting account of how events can be altered dramatically by tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions that end up having enormous repercussions for more than one individual in the future.

One of the stars of the story is a small hamster named Alan Shearer. NOTE: Not the ACTUAL Alan Shearer, obviously!

As a fantastical adventure story, Time Travelling With A Hamster does everything you would expect and hope for as a work of children’s literature. There is some interesting character development in both our lead, Albert and his father Pythagoras (or Pye for short) and there is the wonderful addition of Grandpa Byron and his phenomenal feats of memory to give the reader a warm, gooey feeling inside. It certainly made me remember my own grandfather, a remarkable man, with fondness and longing for the times we spent together and the close bond that we were incredibly lucky to have had. The story rattles along at a nice pace and it certainly made for a pleasurable reading experience, particularly with the inclusion of several surprising events that I wasn’t expecting and always appreciate to shock me out of that comfortable, safe and predictable narrative.

With the element of time travel, the diversity of the characters and the loveable hamster companion, I can see why many children would really enjoy this story and I would definitely be open to reading more from this author in the future.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP ON 2ND JANUARY 2019: Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – The Titles Are Revealed!