#MGTakesOnThursday: Scoop McLaren: Waves of Mystery by Helen Castles

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.
Cover image by Beatriz Castro, published by New Frontier Publishing UK

This week, as we shiver in our northern-hemisphere open-doored classrooms, I thought we could all escape down under to the sunny, seaside town of Higgity Harbour, where the surf’s up and mystery lurks below the surface! Just look at that glorious, sunshine-yellow cover illustrated by Beatriz Castro and imagine the sound of the waves hitting the shore.

Author: Helen Castles 

Illustrator: Beatriz Castro

Publisher: New Frontier Publishing UK

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“I’ve got a funny feeling and my funny feelings are rarely wrong.”

This book in three words: Sunny – Surfing – Mystery

This is the second mystery for Scoop McLaren, the editor of her own online newspaper, Click! and, along with best friend Evie Andrews a formidable problem-solving detective. Her instincts for suspicious behaviour are aroused by a series of events befalling surfing ace Fletcher Stein as he prepares for the semi-final of the Monster Wave Supreme Grommet Title on Higgity Harbour’s Five Mile Beach.

As Scoop and Evie launch their investigation they are confronted by the uber-competitive parents of Fletch’s rivals, sabotage attempts, shady competition judges, sinister strangers hanging around the normally peaceful coastal town…and even the long-forgotten curse of a pirate who used to ply his trade along the coast! The plot moves along at a great pace, peppered with text messages and secret coded communications between the two young detectives. The supporting cast of characters throw plenty of red-herrings into the story and the quaint small town, suffused with a sense of nostalgia, is almost a character in its own right.

One of the aspects of the Scoop McLaren books that I have enjoyed most as an adult is the very positive portrayal of father-daughter relationships by author Helen Castles, I think this is quite rare amongst the many MG books that I have read. Scoop’s mum lives in Spain where she trains animals to appear in movies, so Scoop lives with her dad, Ted McLaren who edits the town’s traditional newspaper and clearly acts as a wonderful role model and mentor to his daughter. Evie’s dad is the town policeman, and his love for his daughter is palpable, especially as the plot takes a perilous turn.

I am sure that young readers will enjoy the action-packed mystery, picking up some surfing terminology and inspiration ready for the next time they are able to hit the beaches. If publication had not been delayed by Covid-19, Waves of Mystery would have been my perfect summertime read, but as it arrives on our shores with the chilly north wind I suggest snuggling up on the sofa with it and dreaming of next summer! Highly recommended for boys and girls of 8+.

Do also read the first book in the series, reviewed here: Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor

I am most grateful to New Frontier Publishing UK for sending me a review copy of this ray of sunshine!

#MGTakesOnThursday: Hope Jones Saves the World by Josh Lacey

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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 image by Beatriz Castro, published by Andersen Press

Author: Josh Lacey

Illustrator: Beatriz Castro

Publisher: Andersen Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: This book is written in the form of a blog and fortunately for me Page 11 just happens to be January 1st, so from a page with very little text we get straight to the core of the story:

“So here is my New Year’s resolution: I am giving up plastic”

This book in three words: Environment – Activism – Blogging

This week I am again reviewing a recently published book, which I was lucky enough to receive from Toppsta.com and Andersen Press in a giveaway.

Ten year old Hope Jones is appalled to read about the harmful effects of waste plastic on the world’s oceans and the creatures that live within and therefore decides that she will give up plastic and encourage her family to join her. She very quickly realises that this will be very much harder than she initially thought and starts to chart her progress in the form of a blog: hopejonessavestheworld.com

One of the most realistic things about this book is the organic process by which Hope’s mission evolves. She visits her school friend Harry’s house so that he can use his computing talents to set up the blog for her and whilst there is inspired by learning about the Greenham Common protesters from his mum. This leads to Hope setting up a protest outside the supermarket where her parents find it almost impossible to purchase the essentials required for family life without excess plastic packaging. Over time the protest grows, angering Mr Schnitzel the manager but inspiring some customers to change their shopping habits.

The difficulties of cutting out the use of plastic are not glossed over and there are certainly times when Hope feels that her quest is pointless, however supportive family members, friends and community all engage in a constant learning process. The hopeful message presented by the book is that by working together everyone can take “small steps to make big changes.” The scenarios faced will be recognisable to all children and hopefully will encourage them not to give up on their ideals but to make whatever small changes they can. At the back of the book there are ten suggestions of practical steps that everyone can try to make a contribution to cutting down on waste.

I think that this is a great book for any school collection on so many levels. Firstly it is an enjoyable read and the use of blog format with illustrations by Beatriz Castro make it very accessible to all KS2 pupils. The themes and ideas are great for prompting discussion about the environment and recycling and finally I see it as an incredibly useful resource for the primary school computing curriculum. It fits perfectly with lessons in using technology to communicate for a purpose, which includes learning about blogging and I’m sure in many schools, contributing to a school blog. I was also impressed that digital citizenship was covered, with a friend, Tariq, taking photos of the supermarket protest and asking for Hope’s approval and permission before posting it on social media. Overall I highly recommend Hope Jones Saves the World for children of 8+.

I am grateful to Toppsta.com and Andersen Press for my gifted copy of this book.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Scoop McLaren Detective Editor by Helen Castles

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission

This is a weekly meme started by @marysimms72 on her brilliant Book Craic blog.

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: Helen Castles

Illustrator: Beatriz Castro

Publisher: New Frontier Publishing UK

Favourite sentence from page 11: “I whipped out my phone (that Dad said I’m only supposed to use in emergencies) and googled ‘antigen’.

Three words: Detective – Editor – Mystery

This is a perfect introduction to mystery stories for lower KS2 readers with a feisty lead female protagonist and unusually, manages to combine a technology-driven modern day plot with a nostalgic, small-town feel. My original review, which includes an interview with the author Helen Castles, can be read here.

A second book in the series should appear in October, release has been delayed for obvious reasons. I cannot wait to read it!