#MGTakesOnThursday: Trailblazers Lin-Manuel Miranda by Kurtis Scaletta

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 art by Luisa Uribe, published by Little Tiger Press

Author: Kurtis Scaletta

Illustrator: Cover image Luisa Uribe, internal images David Shephard

Publisher: Little Tiger Press

Favourite sentence from Page 11: 

“Overall the show won eleven Tonys, including best musical.”

This book in three words: “Meet me inside”

I can give this book no higher recommendation than to tell you that as soon as it arrived through my letterbox it was read in one sitting by the teenage uber-Hamilfan in my household and given her seal of approval!

This latest biography from Little Tiger’s Trailblazers series is aimed at a Middle Grade readership with an engaging blend of illustrations, short chapters and fact-filled illustrated panels, but the evidence here suggests that it will also appeal to the huge number of Hamilton fans amongst the YA readership. Author Kurtis Scaletta presents the details of Lin-Manuel’s non-stop rise to the top of his profession in an engaging and entertaining manner. Throughout the book you learn about Lin-Manuel’s important influences, the stories behind his musical productions and his key collaborators as he has turned the world of musical theatre upside down. It certainly gives the impression of a man who writes as if he is running out of time and leaves you wondering “what comes next?”

As well as exploring Lin-Manuel’s unique musical and creative talent, this biography is careful to explain that a lifetime of hard work is behind the phenomenal success that he enjoys today. I also love that it outlines his continuing involvement with the Puerto Rican community, inspired by his father’s political work, and his determination to portray his culture in a positive light. His hugely generous charitable activities and his dedication to his family are further details which contribute to the picture of an individual who combines great talent with humility.

History certainly has its eyes on Lin-Manuel Miranda and this book fizzes with the energy apparent to anyone who has had the good fortune to see the live performance of Hamilton. I hope that it will inspire young readers to believe in their talents, follow their hearts and dedicate themselves to using their skills to make the world a better place. It is lovely to see a book which promotes the arts and their place in society as budgets for the arts seem to be constantly under threat both in schools and society as a whole. Highly recommended for all existing fans of Hamilton and all children who have an interest in music and drama.

I am very grateful to Little Tiger Press for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

#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.

#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!

#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.