#MGTakesOnThursday: Tilly and the Map of Stories by Anna James

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.
Cover image by Paola Escobar, published by Harper Collins Children’s Books
  • Write three words to describe the book
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

Author: Anna James

Illustrator: Paola Escobar

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

” I’m looking for a book.”

This book in three words: Magic – Imagination – Stories

A couple of weeks ago I used this meme to highlight my love for Tilly and the Bookwanderers, yesterday I finished reading an eARC of Tilly and the Map of Stories, due for publication on 17th September. It’s my favourite of the series so far, although it is going to cause me nightmares the next time I have to do some book-weeding in the library! Here is my review:

The third book in the Pages & Co series is a magnificent celebration of the magic of stories and an ode to the bookshops, libraries and imaginations from which they are dispensed. The love of story erupts from this novel and inflames your heart with a desire to revisit old favourites and examine their links to the newly published. Combining 21st century London tweens with a fantasy plot that includes encounters with the Great Library of Alexandria, the Library of Congress and a jaded William Shakespeare, this book takes you on an enchanted journey through literature!

Tilly and the Map of Stories begins exactly where book two, Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales ended, with the scheming Underwood twins, Melville and Decima, continuing their dictatorial reign at the British Underlibrary; pursuing their own ends whilst deceiving their followers that they are working for the benefit of all. They have begun binding the source editions of books to prevent book wandering in them…but only a small minority of independent thinkers have the courage to question why. These dissenters of course include Archibald and Elizabeth Pages (Tilly’s grandparents), her mother Bea and a group of their close friends.

I have loved this series from the moment I began reading about Tilly and her grandparents’ bookshop Pages & Co in book one. The idea of being able to wander into the pages of favourite books and share afternoon tea with Lizzie Bennet enraptured me. The addition of librarian in-jokes about cardigans and the Dewey Decimal System just made it all the more engaging. Now with this installment, author Anna James takes us on a metaphysical adventure into the heart of Story itself, conjuring an immersive literary world in which Tilly and her best friend Oskar have to delve right to the origins of Story in their attempt to thwart the plans of the Underwoods. It opens with a customer in the bookshop finding himself unable to remember anything about the book which he intended to purchase and this grasping for memories of books is repeated with other characters. Relying on Tilly’s instinct that the curious assortment of objects she has gathered during her previous adventures are clues to the whereabouts of the legendary Archivists who guard the bookwandering world, her mother Bea despatches Tilly and Oskar to Washington DC to track them down.

I really do not want to go into too much description of the plot because it unfurls so perfectly that I cannot bear to ruin your enjoyment. The labyrinthine quest leads our heroes and thus the reader into the chain of stories where it seems only natural that after travelling on a train constructed of an eclectic mix of carriages, aptly named the Sesquipedalian, you might encounter Shakespeare arguing with Scott Fitzgerald!

Tilly and Oskar are two wonderful protagonists whose relationship has developed over the series to an acceptance of each other’s moods and almost telepathic understanding of each other’s reactions at crisis points in the narrative. Their friendship and partnership drives the narrative on as they seek the truth of the Underwoods’ abuse of book magic. As always, Tilly’s grandparents demonstrate steely determination to stand up against wrong-doing and in this novel Tilly’s mother Bea has snapped out of her dreamlike state and takes agency too.  The locations, real, historical and imaginary are brought splendidly into focus by Paola Escobar’s wondrous illustrations; I would love to spend many hours browsing Orlando’s bookstore Shakespeare’s Sisters situated in a former theatre! I also love the use of typography techniques to throw the reader off-balance at times in the story.

It is obvious that I adore Tilly and the Map of Stories and I think it is a book that many adults will relish reading to their own children or to a class of children. Confident readers of 10+ will love immersing themselves in the adventure on which Tilly and Oskar embark and hopefully will engage with some of the philosophical themes: the importance of imagination and collective memory, the need to share stories for the benefit of all and the necessity to question authority when it designs rules that only enhance the experience of a few.

I am most grateful to NetGalley and Harper Collins Children’s Books for allowing me access to an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I will certainly be purchasing a physical copy as soon as the book is published later this month as this is one of my MG highlights of the year so far.

Series Review: Clifftoppers written by Fleur Hitchcock

Cover image by Tom Clohosy Cole, published by Nosy Crow

I was very fortunate to win a set of the three Clifftoppers Adventures written by Fleur Hitchcock, in a Twitter giveaway, and thought I would take the opportunity to read them before placing them on the school library shelves.

What an absolute joy these books are, the epitome of pleasurable reads!

I can trace my own voracious reading habit back to my childhood “Blyton interregnum” (thank you Lucy Mangan for that magnificent description) and know how compelling child-centred adventures can be for an emerging reader. Fleur Hitchcock, a truly talented author, has created a series which serves up the delights of adult-free mystery solving in the beautiful British countryside. As I read these stories I could almost hear the cries of the seagulls and the rattling of the masts of the yachts in the harbour, smell the farmyard aromas and feel the sting of bonfire smoke in my eyes. They transported me back to carefree childhood summer holidays!

Each book is a self-contained adventure taking place while four cousins; brother and sister Ava and Josh, and only-children Aiden and Chloe get together at their grandparents’ farmhouse during the school holidays. Grandma Primrose and Grandpa Edward own Clifftopper Farm perched above Drake’s Bay, an idyllic getaway for their city-based grandchildren. Their farm dog Bella also plays a key role in the children’s adventures. The stories have a timeless feel to them and although the children are equipped with mobile phones, moorland and coastal locations seem to result in non-existent phone signals at key moments, which perfectly heightens the tension.

These books are just the right length for emerging independent readers to read for pleasure; the short, fast-paced chapters propel you through the story and provide a real sense of accomplishment as a young reader can complete one story in a relatively short time. Just make sure that you have the next one waiting for them on the bookshelf.

The Arrowhead Moor Adventure

Setting off on their first bike ride of the holiday, armed with a delicious picnic lunch (provided by Grandad, who refreshingly does all the cooking in this series) the children and Bella are almost run over by the impatient driver of a bright red sports car. Her aggressive manner immediately leads to suspicions in the children’s minds and when Aiden overhears her having a strange conversation with the owner of The Three Witches pub, followed by Chloe eavesdropping on a mysterious telephone conversation the children decide that the glamorous woman is up to no good.

Each of the four cousins has to call on reserves of determination and bravery as they pedal across moorland paths on the trail of jewel thieves and sheep rustlers, piecing together the clues to foil audacious crimes. 

With short chapters, often ending on cliff-hangers, this is a book which provides an excellent introduction to the detective adventure genre and will have young readers avidly seeking out the next book in the series.

The Fire Bay Adventure

As the story opens the children have just arrived at the farmhouse on the day before the annual Drake’s Bay Fire Festival, at which a huge bonfire is ignited on the beach by villagers carrying flaming tar barrels on their heads. Josh, the youngest and most demanding of the cousins is rather put out to discover that his eldest cousin Ava may take part in the barrel running whilst he is firmly banned from doing so!

The story cleverly combines ancient and modern smuggling plots, with a long-forgotten secret passage which has become part of the local lore making a surprise appearance, a spate of suspicious fires breaking out and dodgy deals in electronic goods being transacted at the harbour. Again the four tenacious children, aided by Bella and a terrified homeless cat, piece together the clues, give chase to the villains and show the bravery and teamwork required to bring the smugglers to justice.

The Thorn Island Adventure

This is my favourite of the series so far, partly down to the addition of a map at the front of the book – I do love to pore over a map!

Published during lockdown, this adventure will allow young readers to vicariously enjoy a thrilling coastal getaway, even if they have spent the summer holiday firmly rooted at home. With echoes of Swallows and Amazons, the eldest of the cousins, Ava, demonstrates her prowess as a sailor in this adventure as the four children try to track down a stolen fishing boat but find themselves investigating a kidnapping.

Whilst scanning the bay and the little offshore Thorn Island in search of the missing fishing craft both Chloe and Josh spot a mysterious face in a tower window. They manage to persuade Ava and Aiden that there may be a link to the newspaper reports of a child abducted from super-rich parents in London. Their daring rescue mission will have readers breathlessly following the twists and turns required to outrun a ruthless gang on land and on sea!

I do hope that there will be further additions to the Clifftoppers series as these are books which I can imagine 8-11 year olds devouring more quickly than Josh can demolish a plate of Grandad’s scones!

#20BooksOfSummer Book 4: Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

Gargantis cover image by George Ermos, published by Walker Books Ltd

I have fallen rather badly behind with my blogging schedule this summer as I have had to spend a lot of “holiday” time sorting out my school library to ensure that it is ready for use under new guidelines from September. Fortunately I know that the #20BooksOfSummer challenge hosted by wonderful Cathy at 746.books.com is very flexible and forgiving, so I will be doing my best to review 10 books before the end of the month.

Gargantis was the #PrimarySchoolBookClub choice back in June but I would have read it anyway as I loved the first book in this series, Malamander, so much (you can read my review here).

Once again the author, Thomas Taylor, takes us back to the seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea where Herbert Lemon the lost-and-founder at the Grand Nautilus hotel is about to encounter another mysterious and ominous stranger. Deep Hood, as he becomes known, leaves a mysterious mechanical hermit crab and a sense of impending upheaval on Herbie’s counter, before disappearing into the blackout. This book immediately serves up two things I adore in a mystery adventure – a map and a head-first plunge into the action.

The town of Eerie-on-Sea is cracking apart, metaphorically and literally, in the face of a violent tempest. Old tales have resurfaced of St. Dismal, the first fisherman of Eerie-on-Sea and the current fishermen, described as having “beards that you could hide hedgehogs in” are heard to mutter his prediction “Gargantis wakes, Eerie quakes” When the local beachcomber Wendy Fossil is dragged into the hotel, tangled in fishing nets and clinging to a strangely shaped glass bottle, inscribed with ancient Eerie-script, Herbie finds himself at the centre of a dispute over the ownership of this piece of lost property. In trying to decide on the competing claims of Wendy, the fisherfolk led by fearsome Boadicea Bates, teenage outcast fisherman Blaze Westerley and museum director Dr Thalassi, Herbie finds himself drawn to “The Cold, Dark Bottom of the Sea”; the only book he has ever had prescribed from the Book Dispensary.

I do not want to reveal any more plot details as this is a book that propels the reader through so many twists and turns at such an inescapable pace that you just need to plunge in and allow it to envelop you. The ferocious action will leave you gasping for air as if you too have been consumed by “The Vortiss” and you join Herbie and Violet in their quest to untangle the relationship between Eerie-light and Gargantis. Oh, and when you reach the centre of the book you are in for a chart-topping treat!

This book is bursting with fantastic characters, from Boudicea with her “wiry black mane that probably eats hairbrushes for breakfast to Blaze who overcomes everyone’s low expectations of him to fulfil his uncle’s dreams. Herbie is such a wonderful protagonist, constantly having to overcome his deep-seated fears to face his destiny, often as a result of his best friend, Violet Parma’s impulsive actions. They make a thoroughly believable partnership and this story left me longing for more detail on Herbie’s mysterious origins.

I highly recommend this perfectly crafted adventure for everyone of 9/10+ and with its cliff-hanging chapter endings, be prepared to read more than one chapter at a time if you are reading aloud as a class-reader or bedtime story!

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

#MGTakesOnThursday: The Clockwork Sparrow and Sinclair’s Mysteries Series by Katherine Woodfine

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started and hosted 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: Katherine Woodfine

Illustrator: Júlia Sardà

Publisher: Egmont

Favourite sentence from Page 11: This sentence occurs as Sophie Taylor the central protagonist introduces herself to Billy Parker, who will become one of her loyal friends.

“She had already learned that using her full-name, Taylor-Cavendish, would do her no favours here at Sinclair’s”

This book in three words: Mystery – Friendship – Style

Another week and another chance to celebrate one of my favourite books and indeed series in MG Fiction. This week I am highlighting another fantastically plotted and elegantly written mystery series set in a newly established department store on Piccadilly at the start of the twentieth century. (Yes, I have to admit that mystery stories are probably my favourite genre).

Sophie Taylor has been plunged into poverty by the unexpected death of her beloved father and now must make her living as a shop assistant in a luxurious department store in central London. However, beneath the glamour and elegance of this unique modern emporium, a dastardly plot is due to be unleashed and Sophie and her friends need all of their wits and courage to foil the criminals. It’s a wonderful introduction to a fabulous series for Year 5 and 6 (and possibly advanced readers in Year 4) and an essential for any school library collection.

My full review of the Sinclair’s Mystery Series can be read here.

#MGTakesonThursday: Beetle Boy by M.G.Leonard, illustrated by Júlia Sardà

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: M.G. Leonard

Illustrator: Júlia Sardà

Publisher: Chicken House Books

Favourite sentence from Page 11: This sentence so perfectly encapsulates the character of Uncle Max with whom the main protagonist, Darkus, goes to live following the disappearance of his father.

“He took off his safari hat, his hair springing up above his tanned scalp like a cloud of silver thoughts.”

This book in three words: Beetles – Adventure – Funny

I seem to be having an M.G.Leonard week on the blog, which is great because she has created two incredible series for MG readers. As any regular readers of my blog will know, I adore mystery adventures and I love books which pass on an author’s deep knowledge and passion for a subject wrapped up in an entertaining story. Beetle Boy provides both in abundance and in my opinion appeals to such a wide audience that I am reading it to my virtual library summer book club (with the kind permission of Chicken House) through our closed Google domain. My original review of Beetle Boy can be read here.

#20BooksofSummer Book 3: Kidnap on the California Comet by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrator Elisa Paganelli

This is the third of my #10BooksofSummer reviews, an event hosted by Cathy on her 746Books.com blog, do read her posts and those of all the other wonderful book bloggers joining the challenge this year.

Having loved the first Adventures on Trains book, I was delighted to be approved by NetGalley to read an eARC of Kidnap on the California Comet. Once again a rollicking adventure unfolds as Hal and his Uncle Nat rattle and clatter their way across an iconic train route.

Travel journalist, Nathaniel Bradshaw, has been personally invited to cover a press conference at which billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur, August Reza, will unveil his latest innovation. Mr Reza shares Nat’s love of trains and has his own luxuriously refurbished 1940s observation car, Silver Scout, hitched to the California Comet. The press conference is due to be staged at the Durham Museum, once one of the country’s busiest train hubs but now a train museum, in Omaha.

Hal is delighted to accompany Uncle Nat on this rail trip of a lifetime,  a three-day adventure from Chicago to San Francisco and despite his jet-lag he doesn’t hesitate to start recording his journey in his sketchbook as he waits in the grand surroundings of Union Station, Chicago to board the train. He soon makes friends with a brother and sister, Mason and Hadley, who are roughly his age, not realising that their special talents for magic and impersonation will be of great use in unravelling another mystery.

As the train picks up pace across the broad expanse of the American plains, Hal feels a growing sense of unease, sensing an undercurrent of subterfuge. Why does Ryan, the teenager with elaborate dental brace-work appear so terrified of his gym-coach father that he tries to pass on a coded message? Why is Vanessa Rodriguez in the roomette opposite so brusque? Is glamorous journalist Zola trying to steal his uncle’s story? Are there really spies from Reza’s rival company Zircona on board the train, and would they stoop low enough to kidnap Marianne, his twelve-year-old daughter? Is Seymour Hart, the businessman with a metal suitcase clamped to his side at all times, training in stolen secrets?

Like its predecessor, this book is infused with a love of rail travel and trains. The story glides through technical details and descriptions as smoothly as service in a first class carriage, leaving the reader satiated with knowledge.  This time there is also a palpable sense of the conflict between nostalgia for old technologies, such as Uncle Nat’s fountain pen and the glamorous 1940s style train carriages, and the desire to embrace new technologies whilst thinking about their impact on the environment.

The illustrations by Elisa Paganelli throughout are an absolutely integral part of the story as they represent Hal’s finely detailed observations. His insightful sketches are the method through which he details the world around him and the basis for his crime-solving conclusions. 

This book will be devoured by young readers looking for an engrossing adventure to read for pleasure. However, I can also see many ways in which it could be used as a class reader to sit alongside curriculum project work: the Americas geography unit, DT/STEM work on design of transport and as a basis for discussions on clean energy and environmental concerns. In summary I highly recommend Kidnap on the California Comet to anyone of 8/9+.

Thank you to #NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Books for approving my eARC request.

My review of the first book in the series, The Highland Falcon Thief can be found here.

Enticing Early Readers: Zinnia Jakes and Sage Cookson Book Reviews

It is so important for newly emerging readers to have books available which instil a love of reading by combining enjoyable stories with great design; making books desirable objects. These two new series from New Frontier Publishing deliver on both counts: hugely enjoyable stories in books which have been created with extraordinary care, the covers and pages are top quality, with buff-coloured paper (which, as a parent of a dyslexic child I always value highly) and are the perfect dimensions for 6/7 year-olds to hold.

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes written by Brenda Gurr, illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff

Front Cover: Zinnia Jakes The Crumbling Castle illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff, published by New Frontier Publishing

Take out your tea set and cake stand and feast on The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes! The cover, with its lively illustrations and silver foil highlights certainly ticks the shelf-appeal boxes. Inside newly confident readers will find a story blending baking, mystery and a sprinkle of magic. It’s a perfect recipe for an entertaining and enjoyable read!

The identity of Zinnia Jakes is known only to her Auntie Jam, best friend Addie and international food critic father. Who could possibly guess that the fabulous creations baked by Zinnia Jakes are actually the work of nine-year-old Zoe Jones? She seems to have inherited her late mother’s talent for baking and produces delectable cakes from a secret kitchen in Auntie Jam’s home, assisted by a mysteriously magical cat and occasional help from Addie.

In this, her first adventure, she is tasked with producing a medieval castle cake to act a s a show stopper at a Professor’s book launch. But with only 48 hours to conceptualise and create a structure, and a best friend and aunt who are also preparing for their own events at the Medieval Fair, not to mention transportation problems, will Zinnia be able to deliver the goods?

This is an absolutely charming story, which I can imagine being very popular with the cohort of children who flock to the Rainbow Fairies and Isadora Moon early chapter books. The chapter headings throughout are stylishly illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff. With a delicious sounding recipe for medieval gingerbread at the back it is a perfect book to enjoy during the lockdown period and beyond!

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, written by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Celeste Hulme

Sage Cookson is the globe-trotting, 10 year-old daughter of Basil and Ginger Cookson, the famous TV cooks and gastronomes. It is second nature to her to pack her suitcase, say goodbye to best friend Lucy and accompany her parents to the next location to film an episode of The Cooksons Cook On!

This time she is extra excited because she and Lucy have just been given their first mobile phones; they will be able to keep in touch regularly during her week away from school. The excitement builds up further when Sage discovers that the location, Newhaven Resort in Western Australia, is home to a chocolate plantation!

However, arrival at Marco’s Chocolates brings a less than sugary welcome, in fact Marco and his assistant Nancy appear positively hostile to their famous visitors. Adventure is thrown into the mix when Marco drives the family into the bush to visit his secret plantation!

This is a super introduction to adventure stories for newly confident readers, with an exciting but not too threatening plot, great pacing and a relateable young protagonist. Stylish black and white illustrations throughout the book are by Celeste Hulme. There is also a divine-looking chocolate fondant recipe at the end of the book.

Sage Cookson’s Snow Day, written by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Celeste Hulme

Ten year-old Sage Cookson is off on her travels again, this time to Snowy Village in the Australian Alps. An old friend of her mother has just opened a patisserie from where her parents plan to film the next episode of The Cooksons Cook On.

Sage is equally excited by the prospect of improving her skiing technique and spending time with Julia’s teenage son Kyle, with whom she has been friends throughout her childhood. However, on arrival she is shocked by the change in Kyle’s personality, and hurt by his sullen and uncommunicative attitude. This was not the sort of frosty she had been hoping for on this trip!

When Kyle disappears with his snowboard early the next morning, Sage’s capacity for friendship will be tested in this pacy adventure. At the end of the book you will find a very tempting recipe for easy mille-feuille!

All three of these books would be lovely additions to a school or classroom library to be enjoyed by newly independent readers, and I can equally imagine young readers wanting to collect their own sets to read at home. Perfect adventures for 6/7 year-olds.

I am very grateful to New Frontier Publishing for sending me these books in exchange for my honest opinion.

#MGTakesOnThursday: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

This is a weekly meme started by @marysimms72 on the 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 recomment this book, or link to your review.

Author: Katherine Rundell

Illustrator: Cover art based on design by Antigone-konstantinidou.com

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Favourite sentence from Page 11: This is part of a description of Charles Maxim: “But he had kindness where other people had lungs, and politeness in his fingertips.”

This book in three words: Kindness – Paris – Adventure

Again this week I am using this feature to revisit a book published a few years ago (in 2013) which I absolutely love and consider to be a modern-day classic! My original review of Rooftoppers written last year can be read here.

#MGTakesonThursday – Look into my Eyes by Lauren Child

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

MG TakesonThursday
Image created by @MarySimms72 and used with permission.

 

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.

Look into my eyes

 

Author: Lauren Child

Illustrator: David Mackintosh

Publisher: Harper Collins

Favourite sentence from Page 11: Well this is interesting, because in this edition of the book, page 11 is a blank between two parts of the prologue …so from Page 12:

“When Ruby Redfort was seven years old she won the Junior Code-Cracker Championships – solving the famous Eisenhauser conundrum in just seventeen days and forty-seven minutes.”

This book in three words: Adventure, Ciphers, Intelligence

This is the first book in the Ruby Redfort series and opens with two year old Ruby observing a suspicious incident across the street and trying to communicate with her glamorous, socialite parents Brant and Sabina through the medium of alphabet blocks. They, not being at all on her intellectual wavelength, think she wants to go out for a walk! This sets the tone so brilliantly for this book and indeed the rest of the series – Ruby is able to carry out her spying adventures under the noses of her parents, without them suspecting a thing!

The sentence I’ve selected above highlights Ruby’s unique code-cracking skills, which lead to her recruitment by Spectrum, a top secret spy agency who operate from a base in her hometown of Twinford. She is a fantastically inspiring character for girls and boys who love maths and enjoy solving puzzles; reading these books certainly encouraged a great deal of reading about ciphers in this house! Her adventures show that being small for your age, needing glasses and having a serious notebook habit are no barriers to tackling a nest of villains.

This book is populated by a great cast of characters. Ruby’s best friend Clancy Crew, the son of a diplomat, who is always ready to pedal over and lend Ruby a helping hand; Mrs Digby the Redfort family’s cook who shares Ruby’s love of mystery thrillers and keeps her supplied with banana milk and cookies; Hitch the suave butler who communicates by toast and just happens to be a Spectrum agent; LB the head of the spectrum office with her air of mystery and of course the villains: Baby Face Marshall and Nine Lives Capaldi!

The story takes place in a fictional American town, set in the 1970s and has a lovely nostalgic vibe, it definitely transported me back to childhood enjoyment of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Ruby is equipped with some spy gadgets, but without smartphones or the internet, the mission is able to maintain a high level of suspense throughout.  The chapters are short, with cliff-hangers a-plenty, and for those readers who are so inclined, there are code-cracking challenges to attempt. The plot centres around the  Jade Buddha of Khotan, a priceless treasure with mythical powers which is due to be unveiled at the Twinford Museum at an event planned by Ruby’s parents.

I completely adore the entire Ruby Redfort series, and was very fortunate that this book was published just as my own daughter had finished reading Clarice Bean by the same author, and wanted to know if the Ruby Redfort books actually existed. The exceptionally high quality plotting and characterisation is maintained throughout, each book focuses on a different sense as reflected in the titles. I so applaud Lauren Child for bringing the series full-circle and returning to the crime that Ruby witnessed as a two-year old in the final book. To fully complete the theme of ciphers, you might be able to see from the photo below that there is a code to crack on the beautifully designed covers. I have lost count of the number of Ruby Redfort books that I have given as gifts, and I have yet to find a child who hasn’t enjoyed them after a recommendation. Ruby Redfort should be an essential fixture on your MG library shelves!

Ruby Redforts

#MG Takes on Thursday

This is a new feature set up by brilliant MG Book Blogger @MaryRees at the blog Book Craic to highlight the wonderful world of Middle Grade books.

You can read all the instructions for taking part on Mary’s blog here.

Here is my first attempt at this meme.

 

 

Author: Catherine Doyle

Illustrator: Bill Bragg

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

 

Favourite line from Page 11:

“I’m already full of magic. I just have no idea how to get it out of -“

 

This book in three words:

Destiny, Magic, Courage

This is one of the most powerfully moving works of MG fiction published in recent years. Combining a love of family, sense of place, lyrical language and the coming-of-age story of a boy struggling to fulfil his destiny in a battle with an evil foe, it is a story to be enjoyed by anyone from 10 to 100!

You can read my review here. 

 

Well this is my first ever participation in a meme, so I wish to thank Mary for choosing to shine a light on the magic of Middle Grade. I hope that many other bloggers will join in, I look forward to reading your thoughts.