MG Review: Quiet Storm by Kimberly Whittam

Cover image by Bex Glendining, due for publication by Usborne Publishing, 8th June 2023

An empowering, contemporary, middle grade novel featuring a main protagonist who suffers from extreme shyness, Quiet Storm will have readers cheering at full volume for Storm Williams.

I absolutely loved this debut title from teacher Kimberly Whittam, who writes with compassion, wit and authenticity about tweens and teens, school life and the everyday challenges that need to be faced as young people find their true selves. I have not seen an introvert feature as a main protagonist in fiction for this age-group previously and a high bar has been set here. My heart went out to eleven year old Storm as she struggled through each day in Year 7, afraid to speak to any of the children in her form, none of whom are from her primary school, and reliant on meeting Zarrish, her former best friend from primary during every break and lunchtime. Although she is from a perfectly lovely family, with a gregarious and kind older brother who “is on a one-boy mission to save the world”, Storm has not managed to find the ability to express herself and would rather cower in silence than be the focus of any attention at all. Life becomes increasingly difficult for her when the family have to move in with her Grandma when their home is flooded, pitching Storm into close contact with the troublemaker in her form, at the same time as mean-girl Melissa arrives on the scene to disrupt her friendship with Zarrish.

The unexpected discovery of her huge talent on the athletics track where running is “exhilarating but calming at the same time” is the catalyst for change in Storm’s interaction with those around her. The sudden plunge into the spotlight, with the pressure of a regional athletics competition as well as a school house championship to compete for, push Storm to the limits of her confidence. Will she retreat into her shell, or find her voice, embrace her talents and find acceptance for who she truly is? The secondary plot revealing trouble-maker Ryan’s real personality, life circumstances and qualities adds an additional motivation for Storm to express herself.

Quiet Storm is a celebration of all the qualities that make each individual unique, it is a book which encourages readers to develop understanding for the behaviours of others and to respect those children who may not be outgoing but who have strengths which are not always immediately obvious in the bustle of a classroom. The positive portrayal of a girls’ athletics squad was refreshing too; the teamwork, kindness and fun of working together for a successful outcome was a strong feature of the story. The sibling relationship between Storm and Isaiah was believable and touching, in particular Isaiah’s revelation that he had been bullied for being a swot but had decided to be his own person and had grown into the adored head boy that everyone in the school respected. Finally, I enjoyed the teacher and teaching assistant characters, each of whom had a distinctive personality and all of whom were positive and nurturing towards the students in their care.

I would highly recommend Quiet Storm to children of 11+, it is due to be published on 8th June 2023 and would be a perfect read for Year 6 children as they reach the end of their primary school journeys, as well as Year 7 and 8 readers.

I am most grateful to Liz Scott and Usborne Publishing for sending me a proof copy of Quiet Storm ahead of publication in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Maggie Blue and the White Crow by Anna Goodall

Cover art by Sandra Dieckmann, published by Guppy Books, 2nd March 2023

This second book in the Maggie Blue trilogy soars with imagination, transporting the reader as seamlessly as the title character between two contrasting worlds . Anna Goodall’s construction of the story is masterful, encouraging the reader to read between the lines and try to piece together the puzzle of Maggie’s purpose and fate. It is labelled as a middle grade book but I would suggest that it is likely to be most enjoyed by children towards the end of Year 6, during the summer between primary and secondary school and during Key Stage 3, when they are of similar age to the child protagonists.

The story begins with Maggie and her school friends languidly passing the summer holidays in the woods or in Aunt Esme’s garden, enduring a stifling heatwave. Despite the intense heat and light, both Maggie and her friend Ida intermittently feel their blood chill when they experience flashbacks to the time spent in the Dark World. Maggie seems blissfully unaware that her every move is being watched by warrior shifters, people from the Dark World who can take on the shape of birds…but what is their intent? And can Maggie’s heightened senses really be unaware that she is needed for a further purpose in a fantasy land that she would rather not revisit?

In the real world, she now feels less of an outsider, having friends to hang out with. However, she is still insecure about her odd family circumstances; living with eccentric Aunt Esme while her mum Cynthia, is incarcerated in a mental hospital and her dad is overseas with his new young girlfriend. Regular tween discussions about holiday plans cause her discomfort and distress because she is not in a position to enjoy overseas vacations. These everyday events become immaterial when a pure white crow arrives in West Minchen, followed soon after by Cynthia who despite being in a distressed state wants to tell Maggie about her background. Without wishing to give away any plot spoilers I will simply say that Maggie is reluctantly hurtled back into the Dark World and the reader is immersed into a land of ruthless ambition, ongoing war, witches and the chillingly ferocious Terrible Ones. The seven ruling families have built a citadel in the Magic Mountains:

a bizarre glittering structure. It shone like madness in the clear light


and somehow Maggie’s fate is dependent on restoring the balance between their urge to destroy and the Great O’s mission to preserve the natural world.

This is an immersive, exciting novel with moments of violent peril balanced with some wryly humorous passages, usually featuring Hoagy the one-eyed cat! With underlying themes of mental health issues and the exploitation of the natural world it is a sophisticated tale which will leave readers desperate to find out whether Maggie will have the ability to reconcile her two worlds in the final instalment. Before I finish this review, I must encourage you to take a close look at the stunning cover art by Sandra Dieckmann which so beautifully depicts the protagonists with whom you will glide through this story.

I am very grateful to Guppy Books and to Liz Scott for sending me a copy of Maggie Blue and the White Crow in advance of publication on 2nd March 2023.

MG Review: I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery by Rhian Tracey

Cover art by David Dean, published by Piccadilly Press,
2 March 2023

This enjoyable debut by Rhian Tracey combines a fascinating WWII setting with an intriguing mystery adventure, resourceful children and brave birds; and ideal mix for an engrossing middle grade title.

The main protagonist, Robyn, has grown up at Bletchley Park, living in a cottage in the grounds of the stately home where her father works as the chauffeur. It is clear that she has had a carefree existence, roaming the grounds, swimming and rowing on the lake and observing the varied wildlife. However, the onset of war has restricted her previous freedoms. She has been told to stay away from the lake, she can no longer visit her dad in the garages which are now filled with military vehicles and her mother is now employed; running the coffee shop for the multitude of new arrivals who are housed in temporary huts on the site. Worst of all, when Robyn breaks the rules and sneaks out of the grounds to visit her best friend Mary in the village, she is hauled in front of a harsh, humourless authority figure whom she labels “The Heron” and is made to sign the Official Secrets act.

No longer permitted to leave the site, even to attend school, Robyn is put to work in the attics of the stately home where she meets kindly Mr Samuels and becomes his apprentice in the National Pigeon Service. I am sure that animal-loving children will be as fascinated as I was to learn about the vital role that these incredible birds played during WWII. The bond that Mr Samuels and Robyn form with the pigeons is heartwarmingly relatable to any child who has cared for a pet. Being based in the attics gives Robyn ample opportunities to observe the activity taking place in the Park, and she becomes increasingly suspicious of The Heron’s movements, particularly his involvement with the undertaker’s hearse which visits the Park daily. She teams up with the undertaker’s son, Ned, and Mary who is now working as a post-girl delivering messages to the inhabitants of the huts, and together they begin to investigate The Heron’s nefarious dealings. Secret codes, hidden tunnels and unexpected villains keep the plot entertaining whilst readers of 10+ also learn about the changes, particularly to women’s lives, that occurred during WWII. I think that I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery gives a fresh perspective on the second world war and will be a welcome addition to primary school classrooms and libraries.

In my former role in a school I used to deliver a lesson about Bletchley Park as part of the computing curriculum for Year 6, the children really enjoyed making their own Enigma Machines from old Pringles (or non-branded equivalents) tubes. (You can find resources and instructions for this activity, designed by Franklin Health Ltd and available free here). If any primary school teachers or librarians investigate cryptography or the history of computing with Year 5 or Year 6, I would highly recommend using this book as a class reader to coincide with that unit of work.

I am grateful to Piccadilly Press and Antonia Wilkinson for sending me a review copy of I, Spy A Bletchley Park Mystery prior to publication on 2nd March 2023.

MG Review: Rivet Boy by Barbara Henderson

Cover images from shutterstock by Richie Chan and Tsekhmister. Published by Cranachan 16 February 2023

This is a beautifully written story, narrated in the first person by John Nicol, who at the age of twelve has to reluctantly leave school and become the family breadwinner. Readers gain an insight into the realities of poverty during the Victorian age and the dangerous working conditions endured by so many to construct engineering projects which we often take for granted today. Barbara Henderson is an immensely skilled author and she presents her historical research in the context of a gripping story which does not side step the harsh facts but is suitable for readers of 10+. I can honestly say that I was riveted from the first page to the last!

John has to overcome his fear of heights, life-threatening workplace bullying and the constant burns which arise from employment as a rivet boy on construction of the Forth Bridge. Despite these hardships he is portrayed as a positive, polite young man and as a reader you cannot help rooting for him. The author cleverly weaves John’s growing maturity as a working lad with his intellectual growth, guided by the kindly librarian Mr Peebles who curates his reading choices at the newly opened Carnegie Library in Dunfermline. I loved the representation of a librarian’s ability to make a positive impact on someone’s life chances which was demonstrated in this story. I also enjoyed the resonance between John’s situation of being dragged away from his familiar life and forced to grow up quickly and the heroes of the Robert Louis Stevenson books that he is devouring. The final element of the story which delighted me was the device of John’s autograph book as a way to include the many famous names who travelled to Scotland to admire the great engineering feat, allied with the determined figure of Cora, daughter of the rescue boat captain, who is prepared to break with convention to further John’s cause and her own desire to become an engineer.

Reading this book caused me to reflect on the fact that my own children’s education about Victorian engineering was entirely focused on Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I thoroughly enjoyed the Scottish setting of Rivet Boy and was pleased to learn about engineers such as Sir William Arrol, who built the Forth Bridge (and Tower Bridge) and Margaret Moir a founding member of The Women’s Engineering Society. I highly recommend this book to all primary school libraries and classrooms to add to their Victorian book collections, it is full of useful information as well as being a cracking read.

I am very grateful to Cranachan Books and Antonia Wilkinson for a review copy of Rivet Boy, which is published on 16 February 2023, in exchange for my honest opinion.

MG Review: Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies written and illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

Cover illustration by Laura Ellen Anderson, published by Farshore, 2nd February 2023.

The third and final book in the Rainbow Grey series is an epic final showdown between the good rainbow magic of Ray Grey and the dark, monotone forces of Weather Rogue, Tornadia Twist. Readers will be swept up in the story as easily as a leaf in a hurricane, there is destruction and peril to leave you clinging to the arms of your reading chair, but tempered with the humour, hope and honour that make a perfect read for children of 8 years and above.

Laura Ellen Anderson has written the perfect ending to Ray Grey’s journey from outsider to fully-fledged heroine in a series which introduces readers who are growing in confidence to the delights of following a character through a story arc across multiple books. However, knowing that purchasing books is likely to become a luxury for many families, I particularly applaud the succinct review of previous storylines in the opening chapter. This is so important when children are relying on library or classroom book collections and cannot always obtain books from a series in the correct order. Another great joy of all the Rainbow Grey books is the magnificent artwork on every single page, whether the borders decorated with weather symbols or the half- and full-page pencil illustrations which perfectly complement the energy of the text. The map of Celestia on the opening pages along with the magical descriptions of the setting brings the fantasy setting to life to such an extent that it becomes another character in the story.

Battle for the Skies begins with Ray and her two best friends, Snowden Everfreeze and Droplett Dewbells celebrating Pitter Patter Pancake Day in the canteen of Sky Academy where all the young Weatherlings are educated. Despite the festivities and utterly delicious pancakes, Ray is totally pre-occupied with the threat of Tornadia Twist. However, in an early illustration of her character, she doesn’t hesitate to show kindness to outcast twins Frazzle and Fump, demonstrating empathy in action to young readers, as she recalls her own recent “outsider” status. When the light is suddenly cut accompanied by purple lightning flashes and the destruction of the great sunflower and Sun Citadel, Ray realises that her worst fears have been realised. But even in the darkness there is hope, as the increasingly visible bright star, which embodies her former teacher La Blaze Delight, reminds Ray that she should never give up.

With the unfailing loyalty of her great friends, plus Nim the cloud cat, Coo La La the haughty pigeon who formerly belonged to La Blaze and new-found allies, Ray Grey embarks on her mission to end Tornadia’s quest for ultimate power over the weather. The page-turning action, hilarious meteorological wordplay, weather events which include snot-nados and relentless onslaught of Tornadia’s destructive powers make this a book that young readers will not want to put down. For those who care to examine the deeper layers of meaning, there is a supremely well-crafted message of the power of the natural world and the destructive forces that can be unleashed by the actions of the greedy and power-hungry. As I read of the razing of the sunflower fields and severing of the Cloudimulus Suburbs, I couldn’t help my mind turning to the images we are presented with daily from Ukraine. This is the superpower of great children’s literature, the ability to create empathy by engaging the imagination in an age-appropriate manner.

If you wish to put an immersive, satisfying adventure story into the hands of a reader of 8+, get hold of a copy of Rainbow Grey Battle for the Skies, it will be published on 2nd February 2023 and is available for pre-order from all good bookshops and hopefully can be borrowed from a public library near you!

I am most grateful to Farshore Books and Liz Scott for sending me a review copy ahead of publication.

My review of Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm can be read here.

MGFiction Review: The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze

Cover image by Paddy Donnelly, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books,
19th January 2023

The Storm Swimmer is a contemporary Middle Grade novel with a fantasy element which explores issues of homelessness, family secrets and the importance of communication.

This is primarily the story of Ginika, an eleven year old of Nigerian heritage who in the summer between primary and secondary school finds herself unexpectedly ripped away from her familiar London landscape and sent to live with her maternal grandparents at their boarding house, Cormorant Heights, in Bridleways Bay. She had been looking forward to a carefree summer in the shadow of the Docklands Light Railway, rehearsing dance routines with her best friend Alisha, but now must adapt to life in a seaside town three hundred miles away. Moreover, she fails to understand why she cannot live with her parents in their camper van after their eviction from the flat that she has always known as home, and feels that she has been abandoned rather than given a chance to escape some of their hardships. Ginika realises that her parents are in more trouble than they are telling her, but the lack of communication results in fractured trust between her and the adults caring for her, leaving her full of frustration and resentment.

Spending the first day of her enforced “holiday” lying on the sand close to the water’s edge, Ginika spots a strange looking boy gliding through the waves with the ease of a dolphin. As subsequent days pass, she begins to develop a tentative friendship with this boy who appears to live in the sea, communicates in clicks and odd sounds, is dressed in seaweed and has webbed fingers and toes. A conversation with her grandad introduces her to the local legend of sea people who are said to visit the bay and thus begins aa adventure with Peri which will force Ginika to confront her deepest fears.

Integral to the narrative are two other tweens; Scarlett whose parents run the holiday park and Ted who is on an organised holiday at the park with other young hospital patients and their families. Ted is using a wheelchair as he recovers from treatment for a tumour on his spine and can empathise with Ginika’s feeling of being “other” in the small seaside community where she is the only person with black skin and Afro hair. On the surface Scarlett appears overly confident, always talking, always surrounded by a posse of three Olivias who are all on holiday at the caravan park and manipulating them and Ginika for her own convenience. However, as her story is explored, readers begin to see that she is probably quite lonely, with her parents and older sister working non-stop all summer to put on the best service for their guests; reliant on temporary friendships with holiday makers and manifesting her own rejection in controlling behaviour. We get a glimpse into her underlying kindness when she reprimands the Olivias for their inappropriate behaviour in commenting on and touching Ginika’s hair in one incredibly claustrophobic scene.

My impression is that the novel is written in an interestingly fractured style which I think highlights the sense of dislocation that Ginika is experiencing and that Peri must encounter to a far greater degree when he is transported from his usual environment to explore the town’s attractions with his human companion. (The book designers have kindly provided a map – always a positive feature for me – which is helpful during this section of the story). The slow process of working out how to communicate is a reflection of the need for Ginika to work out a way to communicate with her own family and the best friend that she has left behind in London. The undercurrents of secrets and unspoken fears swirl around the story and are as likely to knock the protagonists off balance as the undertow in Bridleways Bay. I liked the way that Ginika’s fears about predators which might harm Peri ran in parallel to her parents’ problems with loan sharks. The tension in the final third of the story blows up with the rapidity of a summer storm and the resolve of all three young protagonists is stretched to the limits as they try to reunite Peri with his family.

This is a story which is ideal for children of 11+ and really nicely fills the crossover gap between the final terms of primary school and the first year of secondary school. I would recommend it to Year 6 and Year 7 teachers for classroom book choices and the both primary and secondary school librarians. There is a short section at the end of the story where author Clare Weze provides background information on the natural history and science which underpins the adaptations that could allow Peri and the sea people to survive in a saline environment. This is pitched at just the right level to be understood by children in Year 6 and above and I am sure will interest those readers who have a fascination with science and the natural world.

I am most grateful to Bloomsbury Children’s Books and Liz Scott for sending me a copy of The Storm Swimmer in advance of publication on January 19th 2023.

MG Review: Drumendus by Andrew Ashwin

Published by The Book Guild, autumn 2021

Drumendus is a fantastically imaginative middle grade, story bursting with musical references which whisks readers on a sci-fi voyage pulsating with sonic energy.

Twelve year old Ella Crinkle is held in higher esteem at her school for being the niece of famous astronauts Belinda and Otto Crinkle than for her musical performances on the trombone. Her relatives were the first humans to set foot on Earth’s sibling planet Drumendus, and now that strange weather events visible on the neighboring planet seem to be altering Earth’s meteorological conditions, her own obsession with Drumendus is growing even more intense. Fortunately, after one final excruciating assembly performance on her trusty brass instrument, the school holidays have arrived and that means the traditional week’s visit to eccentric Aunt Belinda’s home, Racket Lodge, where she will meet up with her best friend Freddie. 

As the two friends explore Belinda’s latest collection of bizarre inventions they find her most ambitious project to date in the greatly extended workshop – a spaceship in the shape of a grand piano, named Hammerklav. Before you can say “Holst’s Planets Suite”, the trio have blasted off through the workshop roof and set off on a mission to find Uncle Otto who was left behind on Belinda Crinkle’s last visit to Drumendus. What follows is a fast-paced, immersive adventure where every detail resonates with sound and music; names of people and places, the arrangement of tree house pods on ropes which resemble musical staves, and even the “sonorance” superpower that Uncle Otto has learnt how to harness to exert power over the native population.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story which I read in two sittings. The combination of the author, Andrew Ashwin’s musical knowledge with a beautifully imagined fantasy planet, a storyline of colonisation and resistance by a brave rebel tribe and some comedy set pieces featuring King Otto’s incompetent senior guards, Treble and Cloff make this a book that will grab the attention of middle grade readers. I can imagine that my own children would have enjoyed this had it been available when they were attending music lessons in primary school and I would encourage primary school teachers and librarians to put Drumendus into the hands of those pupils who enjoy music as well as those who enjoy an exciting fantasy adventure.

The author has a website dedicated to Drumendus available here where you can find out more about the musical inspiration behind the book. I am most grateful to Andrew Ashwin for sending me a copy of Drumendus in exchange for an honest review.

MG Review: Albi the Glowing Cow Boy by Georgia Byng, illustrated by Angela Cogo

Cover image by Levi Pinfold, published by Uclan Publishing,
5th January 2023

This novel written for a middle grade readership defies categorisation, encompassing themes which encourage all readers to think about the way we treat our planet and the life forms on it. The unusual dual narrative takes readers on a year long journey in the company of Albi, the glowing cow boy of the title and Rufus, a twelve year old human boy with a heart-breaking back story. Georgia Byng has written a beautiful tale which transported me into the minds of two very different protagonists, leaving me with much food for thought. 

The story begins with magical snowflakes descending from a cold January night sky and infusing the earth with a glittering of magical energy, some of which is absorbed by an albino new-born calf, Albi. In the opening chapter we are given an introduction to Albi’s herd of cows and through their voices learn about the sadness of cows and calves when they are separated as a routine part of the food industry. In contrast to the close maternal relationships exhibited by the cows, a human family living just a few miles away demonstrates the awful situation that arises from rejection and neglect of a child by his parents. Rufus Chumley is a twelve year old hunter who has learnt to survive independently since early childhood. He has been rejected by his affluent parents, his teachers and the other children at school because a metabolic disorder has caused him to grow far larger than his peers, resulting in complicated expectations and misunderstandings of his abilities. He lives an isolated life, shooting and cooking small mammals and dreaming of winning the Worldwide Hunting Association’s hunting competition in America to prove his worth to his parents.

These two narratives are intertwined when Albi responds to a magical sixth sense after eating milky white mushrooms, and leads the young bullocks in a breakout from the slaughterhouse owned by Mr Chumley. Rufus spies the glowing albino calf crossing a field in the moonlight and decides to run away from home, track the otherworldly animal and turn it into his hunting competition trophy. Thus begins an epic journey which takes the hunter and his prey on a journey across Europe and Asia, encompassing encounters with aurochs; visits to ancient sites and caves; and encounters with people who both love and exploit animals. The brutality of the traditional running of the bulls in Pamplona is shown in marked contrast to the treatment of cows in India. 

The interconnectedness between all life on earth is represented in this story by the milky white mushrooms which infuse Albi with his luminescence and his intelligence and fill Rufus with self-esteem for the first time in his life, gradually changing the way he thinks about other creatures. The tendrils which connect all life forms and create ecological balance are surfaced in this magical tale which encourages readers to think about the way that industrial scale farming damages the environment. The power of kindness is shown as a superpower in the words of one of the mother cows:

The more you care about others, the stronger you get.

Page 244

Publishing in January, a time when we are often encouraged to think about reducing the amount of meat in our diets, I think this story will encourage debate around animal welfare and meat consumption in upper key stage 2 and key stage 3 classrooms and I would highly recommend it to all school librarians. Aside from this, it is a story that I am sure will be enjoyed by many children who love animal stories and for whom it can sometimes be difficult to find books in this genre once they move beyond the early chapter books.

I am grateful to Uclan Publishing and Antonia Wilkinson for my review copy received in advance of publication on 5th January 2023.

Audiobook review: The Arctic Railway Assassin by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Cover image by Elisa Paganelli, publisher Macmillan Children’s Books

The sixth book in the Adventures on Trains series sees Hal and his Uncle Nat complete their mystery solving train rides in superb style in an adventure that blends high stakes thriller with a Lord of the Rings vibe!

I was fortunate to find this audiobook version available on the Borrowbox App from my local public library just at the point when I was rushing to get Christmas preparations made and did not have time to read a physical book; it was the perfect seasonal accompaniment with its snowy, icy, winter equinox setting. It is now added to my list of book recommendations for the Christmas season having introduced me to the Swedish traditional celebration of the feast of St Lucia. It also contains my favourite line of the entire series:

Never underestimate an angry mum!

no page number due to audio format

We join artistic junior detective Hal as he travels to meet travel journalist Uncle Nat in Stockholm, where the illustrious journalist has accompanied his old university friend to the Nobel Prize ceremony. Morti has been awarded the prize for her work on the use of ultrasound to destroy certain cancer cells and young readers are treated to the same midnight physics lesson as Hal. I loved this element of science education as a natural part of the story throughout this series, which I am sure will awaken scientific curiosity in a cohort of middle grade readers. Despite Nat’s assertion that there will be no mysterious adventures on the train journey to Narvik in the Arctic Circle where he is taking Hal to experience the Northern Lights as his Christmas present, the sudden disappearance of Morti combined with the search for her ex-husband’s “kill code” and the presence of not one but two assassins on the journey north, make a mockery of Nat’s statement. With a new friend, a Sami girl, who introduces Hal to elements of her traditional culture whilst showing exceptional bravery to help him track down the villains, and the unexpected presence of his mum, Hal has all the support he needs to take on ruthless forces.

The plot is perfectly structured, building the tension brilliantly and as always using Hal’s sketchbook illustrations to help uncover the layers of mystery. Obviously listening to the audiobook meant that I did not get to see Elisa Paganelli’s interpretation of Hal’s sketches this time, but my experience of previous books in the series is that her artwork greatly enhances the enjoyment and comprehension of the story. I do not wish to give away any spoilers, so will just add at this point my opinion that Adventures on Trains will become a future classic children’s book series. There is so much depth to these stories as they are built on firm foundations of geography, science and engineering with wonderful characterisation and fully immersive and exciting plots. If you want to get a child of 8/9+ hooked on the magic of fiction, put this book or any other from the series into their hands and watch them embark on a thrill-ride of a reading adventure.

You can read my reviews of previous books in the series here:

The Highland Falcon Thief

Kidnap on the California Comet

Murder on the Safari Star

Sabotage on the Solar Express

2022 Reading Highlights

So here it is; I offer you my highlights from newly published books that I’ve read this year. It is always so difficult to pick out just a few, but these are the books that have stayed in my head and my heart long after I finished reading them. I offer them to you, in case you are looking for a bookish gift and are still wondering what to choose from the huge and tempting selections on the bookshop shelves. From the sixty or so books that I’ve read this year, here are my favourites by age category.

Picture Books: For the youngest readers, this selection provides gentle stories combined with gloriously vibrant illustrations to enjoy every time the covers are opened. Read my reviews for the two Tatty Mouse stories and The Marvellous Doctors for Magical Creatures.

Illustrated Chapter Books: For any young readers who are just gaining their confidence in reading independently, the books in this selection offer entertainment presented in short chapters with the text broken up by illustrations. You can read full reviews of each story by clicking on the links: Wildsmith, The Little Match Girl Strikes Back, Rainbow Grey Eye of the Storm, Edie and the Flits in Paris and Breakfast Club Adventures The Beast Beyond the Fence.

MG Highlights: Three of my favourite MG stories were sequels and so well written that I thoroughly enjoyed them, despite not having read the first in each series: The Unexpected Tale of the Bad Brothers, The Butterfly Club: The Mummy’s Curse and Amari and the Great Game. I hope that Seed might have a sequel, the story certainly ended on a note that cries out for a follow up. Wished by Lissa Evans is absolute perfection, she is one of my favourite authors of both adult and children’s books and I love this story.

Young Teen Highlights: I highly recommend these outstandingly well-crafted novels to readers just moving on from primary to secondary school, looking for immersive and enjoyable reads with rich underlying themes. Reviews are available by clicking the links: War of the Wind, The Raven’s Song, Ghostlight and The Haunted Hills.

The YA books that I have read this year indicate to me that there has been a huge improvement in the scope and quality of books for this readership. These three are superb; a story full of righteous anger told in free verse, a reimagining of Greek myth and a deeply moving reflection on grief. Read my full reviews by clicking on the links: Activist, Her Dark Wings and Aftershocks.

Adult Books: The majority of books that I read in my bookclubs this year were not newly published, Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr I think was published just at the end of 2021, so I am perhaps cheating a little by including it here, but it held me enthralled throughout and I loved the way that the multiple narratives were pulled together at the end. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was a birthday present and dredged up some long forgotten knowledge from undergraduate studies, made me laugh, made me cry and was the perfect summer holiday read and I can’t even begin to describe the work of genius that is Super-Infinite.

I shall end by thanking the wonderful blogging community that I am a part of, for constant inspiration and encouragement. Thank you to the authors, illustrators and publishers who constantly strive to create books that appeal to all tastes, and grateful thanks to the book PRs who send me review copies. I hope that you’ve enjoyed some of my reading highlights from this year, let me know if you have read any of these in the comments. Wishing all my readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas, however you choose to celebrate during this festive season.