I shout about middle grade books a lot on this blog, but I always feel there are a few hidden gems amongst the ranks that I ADORE but that I don’t see a lot of chatter about. This post is basically a way of shouting out these books, so that more readers can enjoy these absolutely lovely stories. So here are my (current) top five middle grade reads that you might not have heard off. All of these books have (at the time of writing) less than 100 reviews on Goodreads, so if you fancy adding to those numbers, why not pick one of these reads up!
(1) MOLD AND THE POISON PLOT BY LORRAINE GREGORY
He’s got a big heart . . . and a nose to match!
Mold’s a bit of a freak. His nose is as big as his body is puny and his mother abandoned him in a bin when he was a mere baby. Who else but the old healer, Aggy, would have taken him in and raised him as her own? But when Aggy is accused of poisoning the King, Mold sets out to clear her name.
In a thrilling race against time to save Aggy from the hangman’s noose, Mold faces hideous, deadly monsters like the Yurg and the Purple Narlo Frog. He finds true friendship in the most unusual – and smelly – of places and must pit his wits and his clever nose against the evil witch Hexaba.
This is an exciting fantasy story with an array of wonderful characters, including the inimitable Mold, told in a fresh and distinctive voice by a promising new writer.
Whenever someone asks about middle grade voice, I direct them to MOLD AND THE POISON PLOT. It just brims with the kind of uniqueness that makes middle grade so special. Mold’s story bursts from the page so vibrantly, and the world building is effortlessly fantastic. This is a shorter book, so would be absolutely perfect for readers dipping their toes into middle grade fantasy. It’s an adventure story that feels classic and fresh at the same time. A fantastic debut from a writer who is definitely one to watch.
(2) THE SECRET OF THE NIGHT TRAIN BY SYLVIA BISHOP
When Max is sent to Istanbul to stay with her boring Great Aunt-Elodie, little does she expect to be plunged into a thrilling night-time adventure across Europe. And when the mysterious Heartbreak Diamond goes missing, Max must find her feet in a whirling world of would-be diamond smugglers, thieves and undercover detectives. Will she discover the real diamond thief before they reach their
destination? Or does the answer lie closer to home…
Sylvia Bishop has a way with words. I know most writers do, but her stories just seem to flow so beautifully. This delightful mystery is inventive, twisty-turny and weaves its way across Europe in the most delightful manner. This would be a perfect book for those who have read and loved the MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE and the SINCLAIR MYSTERIES series. It’s a finicky mystery that feels cozy and gentle.
(3) A WHALE IN PARIS BY DANIEL PRESLEY AND CLAIRE POLDERS
A hopeful and heroic girl befriends a small, lost whale during World War II and together they embark on a journey to liberate France and find their families in this charming debut novel.
Ever since the Germans became the unwelcome “guests” of Paris in the early days of World War II, Papa and Chantal have gone out in the evenings to fish in the Seine. Tonight Chantal is hoping for a salmon, but instead she spies something much more special: a whale!
Though small (for a whale) and lost, he seems friendly. Chantal soon opens her heart to the loveable creature and names him Franklin, after the American president who must surely be sending troops to rescue her country.
Yet Franklin is in danger: The Parisians are starving and would love to eat him, and the Nazis want to capture him as a gift to Hitler. In a desperate bid to liberate themselves and their city, Chantal and Franklin embark on a dangerous voyage. But can one small girl manage to return a whale to the ocean and reunite him with his parents? And will she ever see her own family again?
I am fodder for a book set in a historical period with an exciting twist. Set in WW2 Paris and featuring the most adorable whale, this story is quiet but powerful. The concept is so unique, and is pulled off perfectly. There is just enough wonder to make the story feel magical, and a dash of realism so it’s not overly fantastic. I know it’s a cliche to compare books to other books with the same setting, but A WHALE IN PARIS gave me the same timeless, fairytale feeling as I got when I first read THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET. This book is wonder-filled.
(4) JIM REAPER: SON OF GRIM BY RACHEL DELAHAYE
You might have heard how the universe began with the Big Bang?
Well, the universe as Jim Wimple knows it is about to end. With a Bazoom!
Not only are Bazoom! scooters super fast and deadly cool, but fierce (and swoonsome) older girl Fiona has just started riding hers to and from school, and possibly out of Jim’s life forever. Disaster! Jim Wimple needs a Bazoom!, and fast. So he and his best friend Will devise a clever scheme, which involves having to sneak into Dad’s workplace. But when the boys break into the Mallet & Mullet ‘accountancy’ office they find that the walls are lined with ancient portraits, the staff are highly secretive, and Jim’s dad’s office bears the sign ‘G Reaper’. . . And then all hell really breaks loose.
What would YOU do if you thought your dad might be . . . Death?!
Illustrated with cool art by HAMISH artist Jamie Littler.
Now onto the side-splitters. I so admire writers who can make me snort-laugh. Not only is JIM REAPER fantastically funny, but it also has a brilliant concept–dad isn’t who Jim thought he was. This is another shorter middle-grade that would be perfect for comedy loving kids (and adults!). There are another two books in the JIM REAPER series at the moment, so it’s a great story to fall in love with and revisit!
(5) PLANET STAN BY ELAINE WICKSON
“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.
Another brilliantly hilarious book. As quite a visual learner, seeing Stan’s infographics was such a great addition to an already very funny story. Reading this book was an EXPERIENCE. Not only do you read (and laugh) at the words, but then you turn it upside down and sideways in order to snort at the illustrations. I also adored the sibling relationship in this one–Elaine has perfectly captured the brotherly bond. This is a sharp and laugh-out-loud read that is sure to capture your heart.