#20 Books of Summer 2021: Mickey and the Trouble with Moles by Anne Miller

I’m kicking off my #20BooksofSummer Challenge hosted by Cathy who writes the marvellous 746books.com blog, with a smart, entertaining and funny book aimed at the Middle Grade market: Mickey and the Trouble with Moles written by Anne Miller and illustrated by Becka Moor.

mc

I was delighted to discover that a second Mickey adventure, written with wit and whimsy by Anne Miller and wonderfully illustrated by Becka Moor, had been published last month as I adored the first in the series, Mickey and the Animal Spies. This book starts with a recap of the essential facts and can therefore be read as a standalone…although I would strongly urge you to read both!

Michaela Rose Thompson (Mickey) might appear to be an ordinary girl who dutifully attends school and gymnastics lessons and reliably takes responsibility for herself when her parents are working late on their scientific experiments. However, Mickey has an unusual aptitude for code-cracking and her undercover activities as human liaison officer to COBRA, a secret organisation of animal spies, set her apart from the crowd. This time she and her animal colleagues must delve into the rogue activities of the moles, dig into their motivation for tunnelling into the United Bank’s ‘Impossible Vault’ and try to unearth the brains behind the plan. Will Mickey’s obsession with the writings of Hildegarde L. McTavish help her crack the triple encryption and rescue a comrade before the ticking clock runs down?

If you like your spy mysteries to be filled with humour, quirky wordplay and an innovative use of seagulls as anti-surveillance accessories, this is the book for you! I would imagine that Anne Miller had enormous fun playing with the tropes of classic spy fiction to create this brilliantly amusing, engaging and satisfying story. It is the perfect length for newly confident readers to finish independently, has a great balance of whole and half-page illustrations by Becka Moor and as an added bonus contains an interactive element as readers are encouraged to crack different ciphers throughout the narrative. I enjoyed reading it enormously and know that it would have been devoured by my youngest had it been around when she was in primary school. As if things couldn’t get any better, it ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving this reader and I’m sure many others, hungry for book three!

This will be an excellent addition to classrooms, school libraries and home bookshelves for anyone of 8+, the blend of animals, spy mystery, humour and illustrations wrapped in a cracking plot making it one of those perfect books to read for pleasure.

I am very grateful to Liz Scott and Oxford Children’s Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission

One summer, three months, 10 books! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

#MGTakesOnThursday: Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Also, please check out all the other posts and Tweets with the #MGTakesOnThursday tag, you will be sure to find many fantastic recommendations!

If you love books written for an MG audience and wish to take part, the steps to follow are:

  • Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Author: Nicola Penfold

Illustrator: Kate Forrester

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“It predates not only the floods and the Hunger Years, but the Decline, and even the Greedy Years before that. It’s from when the land was still healthy enough to farm, before the poisons and the saltwater got in.”

Cover art by Kate Forrester, to be published by
Little Tiger on 8 July 2021

This book in three words: Environment – Family – Metamorphosis

This is an incredibly beautiful and powerful story set in a near future coastal community on the east coast of England. The extract that I have quoted from page 11, locates the reader in the space with great economy, as it describes Crier’s Windmill which will become a pivotal location in the story. As the book opens, you join Nat and his two best friends Tally and Lucas as they set off on their bicycles for summer holiday pranks and dares amongst the sterile landscape of the solar fields and Edible Uplands factory farm. It cleverly positions young readers in a recognisable activity before the clues about this dystopian future lead to the realisation of how society could be changed following ecological disaster.

Meanwhile, sisters Pearl and Clover, live with their father and their collective grief on an oyster farm; a ramshackle structure of narrowboats and the remnants of an offshore oil rig, held together as precariously as their family, with bindings that require constant re-knotting to stop the construction coming apart. We quickly learn that siblings are not allowed in the district of Blackwater Bay, where the feared Peacekeepers remove illegal second children, issue civil disobedience points and regularly send unlucky trespassers to the prison ship which is anchored further out in the bay. A visible reminder to all that resisting the state rule will be punished.

The two existences come together when Nat’s mum, Sora, a senior scientist, is sent by the District Controller to study the farming methods pioneered on the Oyster Farm to try to enhance food production for the district. When the “landlubbers” relocate to the feared world of the water, Nat brings some uninvited guests – jars of caterpillars that he has collected from the wild thistles in the solar fields. This act of rebellion (all pollinators are claimed by Central District) sets a metamorphosis in motion that will affect more than just the lepidoptera.

Nicola Penfold has written an exquisite story which brilliantly captures some of the pressing concerns of our age, she has crafted memorable characters and a plot that simmers with tension and edginess as the storm brews in the background. Her love of the natural world shines through the narrative which is peppered with a feast of Easter eggs in the form of the names of both human and non-human characters. She acknowledges the fact that children show far more awareness and concern about the environment and the plight of migrants than many adults; this is perfectly encapsulated by Pearl:

“You’re missing all of it because you’re not bothering to look! None of you are!”

I am sure that this book will prove to be extremely popular with upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 children, I can imagine it becoming a favourite whole class read, perhaps to accompany topics on global warming or food production. It is also a book that many adults would benefit from reading; a perfectly assembled plot with a thoughtful and valuable message. I loved it.

I am very grateful to Little Tiger Press and NetGalley for allowing me early access to an electronic version of this book which will be published on 8th July 2021.

Review: Skyborn by Sinéad O’Hart

Cover art by Sara Mulvanny, published by Little Tiger Press

If you want an MG story to grab you by your emotional lapels and hurl you back and forth like a trapeze artist’s swing, then buy your ticket to Cyrus Quinn’s circus, take your seat in the big top and enjoy the show!

From the opening line of the prologue I was absolutely enthralled as Ester defied her mother’s instructions and began her perilous journey upwards. As her dreams of flight segue into her son Bastjan’s story, I couldn’t tear myself away from his quest to investigate his mother’s past and return an ancient treasure to its rightful owner.

Sinéad O’Hart’s writing is lyrical, big-hearted and utterly compelling. She effortlessly brings Bastjan’s character to life on the page, the reader feels the warmth and love with which Crake, the circus strongman, provides protection and support for the young, orphaned tumbler. This is brilliantly contrasted with the cold tyranny with which Quinn treats his stepson as he tries to reverse the fortunes of his foundering business. Since the death of his star performer, Ester, who held the crowds enraptured with her Dance of the Snowflakes trapeze routine, the crowds have dwindled and Quinn will seemingly stop at nothing to replace her. But what was the secret of her aerial ability, and has her son inherited her fearless talent?

The arrival of an upper-class runaway, Alice Patten, proves the catalyst for twists and turns in the plot that build to a crescendo of explosive action. I will not go into any details for fear of ruining your enjoyment of a story with more thrills and spills than a tent full of acrobats. Suffice to say that the immaculate world-building combined with wonderfully drawn characters make this a book to be savoured, it is a hugely enjoyable work of speculative fiction combining a brilliant blend of circus, steampunk and fantasy. It will be massively enjoyed by confident readers of 9+ and would make an excellent whole class or bedtime story which I am sure that adults will enjoy as much as their young audience; just be prepared for constant pleas for “one more chapter”!

Skyborn will be published on 10th June 2021 and I am most grateful to Little Tiger Press for providing me with a pre-publication copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#20 Books of Summer 2021 hosted by Cathy at 246 Books

10 books of summer
Image created by Cathy at 746books.com and used with permission.

I’m hastily posting before the end of the month, that I am looking forward to again taking part in the #20BooksofSummer Challenge hosted by Cathy who writes the marvellous 746books.com blog.

Since moving jobs at the start of this year, I will no longer have a long summer holiday in which to read therefore I am going to set myself the modest target of 10 books this summer! I have to admit that after a long day spent mostly staring at a screen, there are some evenings when I just can’t face reading for an extended period, so I definitely cannot consume books as quickly as I used too. Looking back at my post from this time last year I notice that The Mirror and the Light is making a second appearance, which is a prime example of my lack of reading time over the past 12 months! I am hoping to re-discover my reading mojo and just as importantly I shall look forward to reading the reviews that other bloggers, taking part in this challenge, will post.

My list contains a mixture of MG and adult books, physical and e-books. One, Purple Hibiscus, is a re-read as it is this month’s choice for one of my book groups, and the solitary non-fiction title, The Book About Getting Older reflects my new job in an NHS library. Several of the MG books have been sent to me for review by publishers and one was a very kind gift from a blogger friend, Rachael, bellisdoesbooks.wordpress.com which I feel terribly guilty for still having in my TBR stack.

7 physical books from my TBR
3 e-books, 2 of which are book group choices

So, here it is; one summer, three months, 10 books! Thank you Cathy for hosting!

Review: Johnny Ball Undercover Football Genius by Matt Oldfield, illustrated by Tim Wesson

Cover illustration by Tim Wesson, published by Walker Books on 03/06/2021

This funny and entertaining story from Matt Oldfield, who is well-known for his Ultimate Football Heroes biographies, is sure to be a hit among football-loving primary school children. The seamless link-up play between storytelling, match reports and relentless humour will ensure that young readers are engrossed in Tissbury Tigers’ league challenge right to the final whistle.

Johnny Ball is a nine-and-three-quarter year-old football genius, who has progressed from managing his primary school team’s cup triumph, to becoming the assistant manager of local league team Tissbury Tigers. His ascent is not without its problems. The first of these is the star striker of his new team – Danny Ball, his teenage brother! Danny has “demandz”, the most problematic of which is that he doesn’t want his team-mates knowing that the new master tactician is in fact his little brother. The sibling relationship is portrayed with a great deal of humour, realism and heart and will be very relatable to young readers. Johnny’s attempts to go undercover and hide his true identity are hilarious, especially with the presence of an over-excitable mum on the touch line!

Despite these difficulties, it is not long before Johnny’s footballing brain has identified the one weak point in the Tiger’s line-up, the immobile and inept right-back, Craig Crawley, son of the team manager. Johnny has to use every last wattage of his maverick light-bulb-moment powers to constantly innovate new tactics as he attempts to lead his side to the top of the league table. Will Johnny be able to shake up the title race with the most radical tactics since a certain Frenchman replaced beer and Mars Bars with mineral water and broccoli? Can he cause the greatest upset since a team of locals became the first British side to lift the European Cup? You’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Johnny Ball Undercover Football Genius to find out!

Probably unusually for a middle-aged librarian, I have actually been a football fan all my life, thanks to a football-loving Dad, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It gave me many moments of recognition of time spent watching school football matches, made me laugh out loud and reminded me of the enjoyment of the sport in its purest form. I loved the way that Johnny showed remarkable resilience combined with kindness towards his players. The importance of teamwork to build success was a wonderful thread running through the story. I also admired the silky skills of illustrator Tim Wesson, whose artistry brings the on- and off-pitch action to life throughout the book. Additionally, I think it will be a heartening read for those children who are not necessarily the most skilful participants to realise that there are other ways to enjoy sport. In my opinion, this is a book likely to leave Key Stage 2 readers “over the moon”!

I am most grateful to Walker Books for supplying me with a review copy ahead of publication on 3rd June 2021.

Review: Keep Calm by Dr Sharie Coombes, illustrated by Katie Abey and Ellie O’Shea

Illustrations by Katie Abey and Ellie O’Shea, published by Studio Press Books

This is a fantastic activity book overflowing with great advice for young people to help them deal with the worries and anxieties which may have arisen during the COVID-19 crisis. It has been written by Dr Sharie Coombes who is a child and family psychotherapist and I love the reassuring tone that she sets for her young readers. She does not talk down to her audience but provides child-friendly explanations to help young people understand the way the body reacts to stress. For example, she tells us about the amygdala in the ancient limbic system of the brain and how its function is to warn us about anything which could become a problem, but calls the amygdala Bob, a loving but slightly daft guard dog. The lovable illustration of Bob is then used throughout the book to explain how the activities can help to calm Bob and stop him barking unnecessarily. 

The activities themselves can all be added very simply into daily routines and include mindful breathing, colouring, craft and artwork, reframing thoughts from negative to positive, spending time outdoors and even some basic yoga poses. The friendly doodle-style illustrations help add to the cheerful, mood-boosting tone of the book. I would say that all the activities are suitable for children of 8+. At the end of the book there is advice for parents carers and guardians, including contact details for a number of support services. This would be suitable for classroom or home use.

Overall, I would recommend this slim volume as a great addition to your collection for helping children who may be experiencing some negative impact on their mental health following the strange times we have all lived through in 2020 and 2021. I have been actively searching for books to add to a children’s mental health collection and I am happy that Keep Calm is now on my list.

I am most grateful to Toppsta and Studio Press Books for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#Blog Tour: Jane Austen Investigates The Abbey Mystery written by Julia Golding

It is a truth universally acknowledged that combining a favourite genre with a favourite author is a combination to thrill the soul of a book reviewer!

I am so delighted that the blog tour for Jane Austen Investigates The Abbey Mystery brings you to my review today. I simply could not believe my luck when I was offered a proof copy of this first book in a new series by acclaimed author Julia Golding (whose earlier books were hugely enjoyed by my daughter when she discovered them ten years ago). A historical mystery featuring thirteen-year-old Jane Austen as the investigator; it is simply all of my bookish dreams come true.

From the very first paragraph the reader is swept into teenaged Jane’s life in a small Hampshire village in 1789, where her lively mind and adventurous spirit feel stifled by the restrictions placed on female behaviour. For those readers not familiar with Jane Austen’s works the clues come thick and fast. As she walks a country lane trading insults with older sister Cassandra we are told that:

“Words were Jane’s greatest treasure and she spent hers carefully”

And a few pages later Jane’s mother declares:

“Your wit will make you infamous one day”.

Following the opening scene and its resultant carriage accident, Jane is sent in place of her older sister to Southmoor Abbey where she must act as a lady’s companion to Lady Cromwell during the week-long preparations for her son’s coming-of-age ball. Her reluctance to fulfil this post is made bearable when her older brother Henry challenges her to find proof of the existence of the legendary Abbey ghost, the Mad Monk, said to haunt the ruins of the Abbey buildings destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII.

Setting out to uncover this mystery Jane soon finds herself needing to use all her ingenuity and observational skills to unravel the layers of intrigue as horse theft, library fires and deeply buried secrets threaten to send an innocent man to the gallows. Her intelligence, straight talking and courage radiate through the grand country estate as she brings her sharp moral focus, honed by her upbringing as the daughter of a clergyman, into an establishment run by a bully. I don’t want to go into a detailed description of the plot for fear of giving away any spoilers but I will say that the characters populating the novel are wonderful and brought to life through Jane’s perceptive dissections of their personalities. Additionally the story is peppered with “Easter eggs” which anyone who has read the works of Jane Austen will recognise and enjoy.

The fate of servants living entirely at the mercy of rich landowners; young women encouraged to marry to ensure their status in society and estates which could only be inherited by male heirs, all of which are explored in Austen’s novels are included as themes in this mystery. The inclusion of Lord Cromwell’s former bodyguard and his daughter, brought to Hampshire after Lord Cromwell’s time in India and forced to work as a chef and laundry girl is a fascinating touch. It opens Jane’s eyes to the empowerment of women allowed in other cultures and also to the callous and unfeeling treatment of people from overseas. I also loved Jane’s coded letters to Cassandra which appear through the story.

Author Julia Golding has used her academic knowledge of the life and works of Jane Austen to create a fascinating portrait of her teenage heroine. Not only is her laser-sharp perception of personalities, the social order and behaviour explored but there is also plenty of historical context added to the story. Details of the East India Company and the changes expected in society following the American Civil War help the reader to understand the environment in which the Austen family lived. The story is constructed in short chapters, driving the narrative at a fast pace and often ending on cliff-hangers, making this a perfect book for a class read.

I can still picture the day (many years ago now) that my English teacher, Miss Lewis, introduced my class to Pride and Prejudice by reading aloud Mr Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth Bennet, which started my love of Jane Austen’s writing. I can see this book igniting that love affair with Jane Austen’s novels at an even earlier age, as this book is perfect for primary school pupils in upper key stage 2.

I highly recommend it to anyone who loves the historical fiction of Emma Carroll, the historical detective mysteries of Katherine Woodfine and Robin Stevens or the recently published Egmont middle grade adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels. I am grateful that I was sent a free proof copy by Lion Hudson in exchange for my honest review, I have pre-ordered no less than three copies already to gift to tweens and teenagers of my acquaintance!

Blog Tour: Flamingo Fashion Audiobook written by Samantha Hunter, narrated by Michael Maloney

Cover Illustration by Maggy Roberts

I think that the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of great quality digital resources for children’s well-being and literacy. This debut rhyming story by Samantha Hunter is being released first as an audio book and it certainly ticks all the criteria that I seek in an audiobook aimed at a young audience.

Author Samantha Hunter

Firstly, the opening music on the audiobook sets the mood so perfectly, preparing children for a fun and enjoyable experience. The story itself is imaginative, humorous and charming, equally appealing to boys and girls. It is a beautifully crafted rhyming tale of two fashionista flamingos who decide that their fellow inhabitants of the African plains are just too drab and in need of a makeover!

The language is beguiling and will introduce many young listeners to rich vocabulary and ideas which help to build the hinterland of knowledge so important for learning, as well as exciting children about words and rhythm and rhyme. I particularly love the rhyming of Copacabana with Savannah! Of course the amusing animal makeovers lead to all kinds of chaos revealing the important message at the heart of the story that:

“You’re perfect the way that you are.”

Finally, the narration by Michael Maloney ( from The Crown) is utterly delightful. His range of expression and accents is astonishing and brings the story to life in captivating fashion. I can imagine young children mimicking his pronunciation of many lines of the story thus engendering a love of words and playful interaction with language which ignites a joy in stories.

I hope that schools and families will add Flamingo Fashion to their electronic collections. At 5 minutes in length it is perfect for those transition points in the day when a jaunt to a kooky boutique on the African savannah will lift the spirits.

There is a website from which the story can be purchased and which also contains fun, practical activities for children based on Flamingo Fashion, you can access it by clicking this link. Profits from the sale of the audiobook go to LitWorld a children’s literacy charity.

My thanks to Helen at LiterallyPR for inviting me to join the blog tour and sending me the audiobook. Do check out the other stops on the blog tour hosted by my fellow children’s book enthusiasts.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Me and the Robbersons by Siri Kolu, translated by Ruth Urbom

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Also, please check out all the other posts and Tweets with the #MGTakesOnThursday tag, you will be sure to find many fantastic recommendations!

All fans of MG fiction are invited to join in, just follow these steps:

  • Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.
Proof copy cover, publication due on 10th June 2021 by Little Tiger Press

Author: Siri Kolu

Translator: Ruth Urbom

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“It’ll cause quite a buzz at the Summer Shindig when we rock up with a prisoner,” added Golden Pete from his beach chair.

This book in three words: Honour Among Thieves!

Realising that I have read shockingly few MG books which have been translated from other languages, I was delighted to be sent a proof copy of Me and the Robbersons which will be published by Little Tiger Press in June.

Ten-year-old Maisie Meadows Vainisto is a trailblazer; the first prisoner ever in the history of Finnish highway robbery!

This prize-winning story by Finnish author Siri Kolu recounts Maisie’s summer of adventure with a family of sweet-toothed road-pirates, the eponymous Robbersons. After unexpectedly being plucked from her family’s car by bandit leader Wild Karl, she begins the escapade as one more piece of loot in the back of the Robbersons’ wildly swerving and speeding van as it leaves the familiar highway and heads off into the unknown. 

Maisie’s transition from another boring summer with her own dull family to embracing the life-style of her captors is apparent from her first breakfast when she overcomes her repulsion at their lack of cutlery and manners and enjoys not just the hand-stolen and hand-cooked food but also the companionship and family interaction so lacking in her own home. As a reader you join with her in embracing the Robbersons, who only steal what they need, disdain money and live by their own code of honour. Maisie’s habit of jotting observations in her notebook is welcomed by Wild Karl in the hope that her analysis will facilitate a new signature crime that will enhance the family’s reputation at the Summer Shindig; a glorious bandit celebration of the year’s highlights!

The cast of characters is marvellous. Fearsome matriarch Hilda, the reckless, daredevil transit van driver with a golden heart; Wild Karl, out of shape with wildly braided hair behaving like a reincarnation of a Viking raider; his devoted best friend Golden Pete, blessed with gold teeth with which to intimidate the gang’s victims and Karl and Hilda’s children, Hellie and Charlie. Hellie is clearly ambitious to take over the family business with her athletic ability, stealth and impressive knife-throwing skills whilst younger brother Charlie must content himself with a potato-peeler for a weapon! As the crew zig-zag through their crime spree, each of the van’s passengers reveal their personalities and motives to Maisie.

This story grabbed me as surely as a highwayman’s hold on his ill-gotten gains. It pulsates with humour, tenderness and outright anarchy with a plot that accelerates, weaves and spins like a high-octane car chase. I can best describe it as a modern day mash-up of Pippi Longstocking and Robin Hood and I would love to see it filmed by Taika Waititi. It is wonderful to see a hugely enjoyable European-authored book about to be made available for a UK readership, particularly at this point in time. Siri Kolu’s original text has been translated into English by Ruth Urbom and I certainly hope that there will be future publications available from this partnership.

I highly recommend this story to readers of 9+ who love off-beat, wacky humour mixed with adventure. It is due for publication on June 10th 2021 and I am most grateful to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger Press for sending me a proof copy to review.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House written by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog which I urge you to read. Additionally, please check out all the other posts and Tweets with the #MGTakesOnThursday tag, you will be sure to find many fantastic recommendations!

If you love books written for an MG audience and wish to take part, the steps to follow are:

  • Post a picture of a front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence.
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.
Cover art by Daniela Sosa, Published by Little Tiger Press

Author: Annabelle Sami

Illustrator: Daniela Sosa

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: ‘But even if these events aren’t caused by a ghost, we simply have to investigate’.

This book in three words: Inclusive – Detective – Mystery

Agent Zaiba and her team of young detectives from the Snow Leopard Detective Agency are back for their third adventure and this time there may be supernatural forces at work!

Who or what is behind the spooky events at Oakwood Manor, where vases crash to the floor splintering into thousands of shards, plates fly from the kitchen shelves and expensive jewellery vanishes into thin air? With talk in the village of ghostly hauntings or wicked jinn persecuting the new owners of the ancient manor house, it is up to Zaiba and her cool-headed team of junior investigators to discover the true culprit.

In a gripping plot filled with strange disappearances, secret passages and a cast of suspicious grown-ups, young readers will be engrossed in trying to sift the clues from the red herrings. This story fits all the conventions of the “cosy crime” genre, from the setting in a grand manor house surrounded by ancient woodland, to a house party taking place on a storm-ruffled evening attended by a collection of guests exhibiting perplexing behaviour. The short, dialogue-filled chapters generate excitement and tension but in a style and tone perfectly suited to readers of 9+. The addition of Daniela Sousa’s lovely artwork highlights key points in the story and gives young readers a chance to break from the text and mull over their deductions and theories.

Middle grade readers have an amazing range of detective mysteries to choose from these days, I find myself quite envious! (In my childhood the choice was Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and then Agatha Christie). The Agent Zaiba books have hugely broad appeal because they are so effortlessly inclusive of everyone. This inclusivity is embodied in the main protagonist Zaiba, who, in each story welcomes new recruits into her detective agency with appreciation for the unique talents that they bring to her team. In Zaiba’s character Annabelle Sami has created a wonderful role model for young readers; demonstrating the benefit of teamwork, openness to all possibilities, positive encouragement and leading by example. All of these empowering messages are encased in an entertaining mystery story – what more could you ask for?

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Haunted House will be published on 1st April 2021. If you can’t wait until then to join Zaiba’s team of investigators, check out the first two books in the series:

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Missing Diamonds

and

Agent Zaiba Investigates The Poison Plot

I am grateful to Little Tiger Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.