#MGTakesOnThursday: Mort the Meek written by Rachel Delahaye, illustrated by George Ermos

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: Rachel Delahaye

Illustrator: George Ermos

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“ But the crowd wanted to LIVE, so not one of them said or did anything.”

This book in three words: Outrageously gruesome humour!

Imagine being the only pacifist living on Brutalia, ‘an island of terrifying ugliness’ ruled over by a fearsome and pitiless King and Queen. Then imagine being not just a pacifist but the nephew of the island’s overworked executioner. Take one more step along this imaginary path and picture yourself being forced, by the Queen, into taking over your uncle’s role at the execution of your best friend!

If your curiosity has been tweaked at this point, you really need to read Mort the Meek, the darkly hilarious tale of a boy facing an impossible situation in a land where hope and friendship seem doomed. Will Mort, the island’s solitary pacifist, be able to walk the walk of the most brutal brute in Brutalia? His powers of resolve, ingenuity and cunning will be put to the test in a series of fearsome challenges as he tries to remain true to his principles without losing his head! 

Rachel Delahaye has packed this story with unlikely occurrences, fabulous wordplay and the kind of slapstick, gruesome violence that makes young readers snort with laughter. When Mort meets a friend named Ono and discovers that some of the inhabitants of Brutalia are prepared to defy the wicked rulers’ decrees, he glimpses a small possibility of hope amongst the hidden marigold fields.

Featuring a running commentary at the start of each chapter by the island’s ravenous ravens which is not for those of a weak stomach, this is a subversively comic tale about standing up for your beliefs, being unafraid to be different and the importance of friendship. The illustrations throughout by George Ermos perfectly capture the unhinged details of daily life in Brutalia. The sentence that I selected at the top of this post reminds us that bad things happen when collectively we are afraid to speak out and Mort’s story shows that even small, solitary voices speaking out for what is right can bring about change.

You can find teaching notes, created by Scott Evans, to accompany this book on the Little Tiger Press website.

Mort the Meek is published on 4th March 2021 and I am most grateful to Charlie Morris at Little Tiger Press for sending me a review copy ahead of publication.

Review: The Island that Didn’t Exist by Joe Wilson





The Island That Didn’t Exist is the debut MG novel by BBC sports journalist Joe Wilson. Inspired by a coastal sign pointing to an uninhabited island, it has taken him fifteen years to write this thrilling adventure. The beautiful cover art, which has been digitally animated for the online marketing campaign is by George Ermos.

I was delighted to receive a proof copy as it is exactly the sort of book that I love to recommend to young readers – an exciting and imaginative tale, featuring resilient children, written in accessible language, and, at 272 pages appealing to reluctant readers who can be daunted by a 400 page novel. It is pitched as a contemporary Lord of the Flies meets The Famous Five. In my opinion it also had a touch of Alex Rider too; a winning combination.

Twelve-year-old Rixon Webster’s life is turned upside down when his mother takes him to the London law offices of Arnold Crump for the reading of her eccentric and mysterious Uncle Silvester’s will. This elusive individual has left his £2.5 million fortune to an obscure seagull sanctuary and his private island to Rixon! Also included in Rixon’s inheritance is an envelope stuffed with five-year-old newspaper clippings about a group of scientists who disappeared, with a world-changing invention, in unexplained circumstances and a memory stick holding unintelligible mathematical equations and diagrams.

Undaunted by the fact that the island has not appeared on any map since 1792, Rixon persuades his mum to drive him to the coastal location shown to him by Arnold Crump, and in the most daring act of his short life, he sets out to seek his inheritance in a “borrowed” motorboat ferry.

I do not wish to give away any plot spoilers, so apart from telling you that Rixon’s Splinter Island turns out to be occupied by four semi-wild, spear-throwing children I won’t provide any more details.

The story is perfectly paced to encourage readers of 9+ to keep turning the pages, and would also make an excellent class read-aloud, with the cliff-hanging chapter endings likely to make children plead for “just one more chapter.” It contains just the right degree of peril for a Key Stage 2 readership; it certainly does not descend to the same darkness as Lord of the Flies. The plotting is deftly handled with the steady revelation of details about Uncle Silvester, the reason for the children’s presence on Splinter Island and the tensions within Rixon’s family. Brilliantly woven into the plot is a message about power, in its many forms. The effect it has on individuals, the lengths that some will go to in pursuit of it, the responsibility inherent with the wielding of power and its impact on the way the world is run.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think that it will be extremely popular with boys and girls of 9 years and above when it is published in May 2020. I certainly hope that we don’t have to wait another fifteen years for the next book from Joe Wilson!

I am most grateful to OUP Children’s for my review copy.