Book Reviews · Reading

really really good middle grade books I’ve recently devoured.

I’m a middle grade novel aficionado. I love them. They are where my heart lies, in a literal and literary sense. I think they capture a really special moment in a person’s life, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading (or writing) them. Over the last month, I’ve read some AH-MAZING middle grade novels, so today I thought I’d share them with you, coz sharing is caring.

1. PLANET STAN BY ELAINE WICKSON

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“Sometimes the only way to make any sense of my life is to put it all into charts and diagrams . . . “

Stan loves a calming, ordered environment. His dinosaur-loving younger brother Fred is the opposite: chaotic, messy, prone to leaving snails under Stan’s bed and ladybirds in his lunchbox. Surely they must have something in common?

As Stanley struggles to cope with his high maintenance brother and his hair-brained schemes he charts all the ups and downs of his life in a series of hilarious infographics in this highly-illustrated and visually-appealing book.

Stan makes sense of his world by using pie charts–HILARIOUS pie charts that document the ups and downs of his life, including the misadventures of his out-of-this-world younger brother, Fred. He often feels exasperated by Fred, who is wonderfully weird and likes to do bonkers things like putting toothpaste in Stan’s slippers. But when Fred’s fav exhibit at the local museum, a dinosaur called Rory, comes under threat, Stan desperately tries to cheer his bruv up, whilst at the same time, working on his passion project of winning a telescope to satisfy his passion for space. The brothers find themselves in PLENTY of laugh-snort inducing scenarios, and as the date of Rory the dinosaur’s removal from the museum and Stan’s epic space competition draws ever closer, can they save the dinosaur AND win the telescope?

This story is hilarious, I found myself giggling throughout, and the humour is so beautifully visual. The illustrations really add a lot to the story, and at its heart is a fantastically explored sibling relationship. If you’re partial to funny books which are beautifully illustrated, then PLANET STAN is for you.

2. THE INFINITE LIVES OF MAISIE DAY BY CHRISTOPHER EDGE

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How do you know you really exist?

It’s Maisie’s birthday and she can’t wait to open her presents. She’s hoping for the things she needs to build her own nuclear reactor. But she wakes to an empty house and outside the front door is nothing but a terrifying, all-consuming blackness. Trapped in an ever-shifting reality, Maisie knows that she will have to use the laws of the universe and the love of her family to survive. And even that might not be enough…

A mind-bending mystery for anyone who’s ever asked questions. From the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and The Jamie Drake Equation.

Having read and loved Christopher Edge’s THE MANY WORLDS OF ALBIE BRIGHT, I was very excited to get to MAISIE DAY. And it did not disappoint. Christopher has a unique challenge of blending gripping, fast-paced stories, with engaging science threaded throughout AND an exceptional hero.

Maisie is basically a science genius. I had a little squeal when I read that she was studying for her degree at the Open University, coz, yah know–I STUDY THERE. She lives with her parents, and her older sister Lily, who has a serious case of the teenage hormones. But on the day of her tenth birthday, she wakes up and realises everything is wrong. She’s alone, and outside her house is a black hole of nothingness. What on earth is happening to the universe?

I cried BUCKETS during this book. The climax got me good. It was fantastically crafted, and I felt on the edge of my seat throughout. If you fancy a fast paced read, that’s charm filled and exciting, then definitely pick up THE INFINITE LIVES OF MAISIE DAY.

3. ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME BY ROSHANI CHOKSHI

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Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

This review is gonna be short and sweet. Safe to say, I LOVED IT. This is one of my fav books of the year so far, a fabulous blend of myth and modern and written so beautifully. I haven’t read Roshani’s other work, but you bet your bottom dollar I’m gonna order them ASAP.

It was imaginative, LOL-funny and full of A* pop culture references. ARU SHAH + THE END OF TIME was gorgeously written, & had a powerfully emotional core. I CAN’T wait for the next one!

4. THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS BY SOPHIE ANDERSON

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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.

I raced through this fantastic reimagining of the Baba Yaga myth. This story was just gorgeously executed. I love retellings, and the best do them in an original way. THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS is the best of the best. It feels fresh, and fun, and if you’d have told me two weeks ago that I would have fallen head over heels with a house, then I’d have laughed at you. Marinka is a fantastically flawed character, who feels SO real–an element that is so hard to achieve (I should know, I’m a writer), but just feels effortless. I adored Marinka and Baba’s relationship–it was complex and sometimes fraught, but ultimately grounded in so much love. I also really enjoyed its approach to destiny–a concept that is so often invoked in literature, but not explored in such an interesting way.

I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz about THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS online–it’s currently the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month. And, to be honest, this buzz is completely and utterly deserved. This is a magnificent book, that is sure to become a classic. I loved it, and if you like myths and magic, you will too.

What middle grade books have you loved lately?

8 thoughts on “really really good middle grade books I’ve recently devoured.

  1. Middle grade is most certainly where my heart lies too, and I also adored the House with Chicken Legs! Aru Shah and Maisie Day are both on my TBR, and I was already excited but I’m now even more si 😊
    Amy x

  2. My fav MG is Nevermoor, it’s soo good. You have to read it if you haven’t! And I’m going to read Aru Shah soon. Ooooh haven’t heard The House of Chicken Legs but I always have a soft spot for fairytale retelling, and it’s Baba Yaga retelling so I’m in! Another Baba Yaga retelling is the Door by the Staircase and it’s pretty good!!

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