Thursday, 26 May 2016

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book and Middle Grade Roundup - May 2016

Welcome to our May roundup of all things groovy and readable in chapter and middle-grade form. We're bringing you an absolute book SMORGASBORD this month so let's get started with a book that (thankfully, or not, depending on your point of view) has absolutely nothing to do with small yellow creatures with goggles.

"Dr Critchlore's School for Minions" mashes together two of our favourite genres. The "School" story and monster tales - to bring you a distinctly different educational establishment. Dr Critchlore's school is like Hogwarts gone bad, and the oddly-shaped incumbents (and vaguely human-like children) who fetch up on his doorstep are here to learn one thing and one thing only. How to become the most awesome and effective henchman or woman to supremely evil beings.

Meet Runt Higgins, abandoned at the school as a rather misshapen baby but now old enough to start lessons. Along with his friends Darthin the Gargoyle and Syke the tree nymph, Runt is eager to get cracking on the school's rather unique curriculum. But as with all good school stories, even an evil school for evil minions has dark plots interwoven with the story and soon Runt will realise that nothing at the school is as it seems!

Sheila Grau has created a truly brilliant monster-filled book world that we consumed voraciously like the eager little imps we are. The good news is that Book Two (Gorilla Tactics) gets a preview at the end of this story and is just around the corner, release date wise.

"Dr Critchlore's School for Minions" written by Sheila Grau and Illustrated by Joe Sutphin was released on April 12th 2016 and watch out for "Gorilla Tactics" arriving on shelves in the summer, Published by Abrams & Chronicle.

We seriously crave decent middle grade and YA science fiction. Thankfully Sophia McDougall has always made the genre her own with her fantastic "Space Hostages" series. Now Sophia has turned her attention to a new book series.

"Mars Evacuees" (Book 1) is the exhilarating and exciting story of Alice Dare who starts off the book very briefly as an ordinary everyday schoolgirl sometime in our not too dim and distant future. As the world undergoes dramatic climate change, a new ice age dawns and children all over the planet (even from humble Nottingham) are evacuated to Mars to live in the offworld colonies there.

Alice soon finds that her old life is long gone. Drafted as a member of the Youth Defence Force, Alice will make new friends, fight invisible enemies and (slightly surreally) adopt a robot goldfish.

"Mars Evacuees" kicks off brilliantly, a fast-paced page turner with more than a measure of tongue in cheek humour underpinning the awesome action. We can't wait for more adventures with Alice.

"Mars Evacuees" by Sophia McDougall was released on 27th March 2016 from Egmont Publishing.

From robot goldfish to...chocolate ones? At least this next book arrived with a rather tasty and tempting treat in the parcel which was very swiftly devoured by Charlotte (Almost as swiftly as the book itself!)

If you could somehow imagine the weirdest duo in book history embarking on a bonkers road trip to Bitterly Bay, you'd be halfway to working out what on earth is going on in Steve Webb's hilarious new book "Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold".

It's holiday time for Spangles McNasty and his best friend Sausage-Face Pete. They're stinky, smelly and downright dishonest and out to make every other holiday maker's life an abject misery. Only one person can stop them, a young boy called Freddie Taylor who - with the aid of time travelling jet skis and more than two brain cells (which is more than we can say for Spangles and Sausage-Face), it's a crazy and surreal caper destined to make you giggle. Can Freddie step in before the hapless duo find the mythical "Fish of Gold" which they believe will reap them untold fortune and glory?

With awesome art from Chris Mould, "Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold" is definitely not short on brilliant belly laughs and completely crazy humour. Released on 5th May 2016 by Andersen Children's Books.

Now, this business about Pugs. What do you love about them? Why do you love them? I blame that Booksniffer myself, she started it all :) So let's take a look at a book that caused squeals of delight from Charlotte (who rather fancies her own pet pug methinks!)

Meet Captain Pug (who made me think he was in dire need of a "Wash" at the end!), the adorable doggy star of a new book series from Laura James - with awesome illustrations from Eglantine Ceulemans. Captain Pug fancies a life on the seven seas so embarks on a nautical adventure. Clad in his utterly lovable captain's outfit (seriously, Claude, you're going to have to up your game - this pooch is out to steal your style crown or should that be beret!) and with a decent supply of his favourite foodstuff (Jam tarts, hey this pug DOES have good taste) he's ready to embrace the salt winds and rolling waves.

There is a problem though. A mighty large problem. Captain Pug is actually afraid of water! EEEEEP!

Hilarious and brilliantly original, "Captain Pug" has definitely won our hearts and it's fantastic news to hear that this is just book one. More are planned in the series as you'll find out at the end of this seafaring tale.

"Captain Pug - The Dog Who Sailed the Seas" (Captain Pug Book 1) by Laura James and Eglantine Ceulemans arrived in port on 5th May 2016.

From seafaring pugs to would-be espionage agents. A bit of a leap granted but let's take a look...

The name's Twigg. Kevin Twigg. I know, it's not the most spy-tastic name ever but in "The Accidental Secret Agent" by Tom McLaughlin, you're about to meet a Kevin to be reckoned with. Schoolboy turned super-spy purely by accident, Kevin soon finds himself at the centre of an international plot cooked up by a nefarious and mysterious supervillain.

It could be a tall order for a pint-sized spy whose weapon of choice is a banana, and who can't even leap over a fountain without ending up with his bum showing to all and sundry! Eeks!

Luckily the supervillains are equally as inept as the secret service, so it could just be that with a bit of schoolboy nous, Kevin Twigg can out-bond Bond!

A hilarious new romp from Tom McLaughlin, published by OUP on 1st June 2016, keep a sharp I-spy eye out for "The Accidental Secret Agent" this summer.

There's no link whatsoever between spies and onions (even if you carry an exploding shallot in your briefcase Mr Bond). So without further ado, let's move on to an utterly sublime little story that feels like it was MADE for the summer (whenever that chooses to arrive!)

"The Adventures of Alfie Onion" by awesome wordsmith Vivian French, with glorious illustrations from Marta Kissi, is new out from Walker Books.

A lovely little self-contained novel destined to warm the cockles of your heart, Alfie Onion is the tale of Alfie who always seems to play second fiddle to his older brother Magnifico Onion. Alfie is press-ganged into a new adventure by Magnifico but only to carry all the heavy bags and do all the manual labour. Magnifico can't very well hog all the fortune and glory while carrying heavy suitcases after all, can he? Soon it becomes obvious that Magnifico isn't quite as magnifico as he seems, and it's time for Alfie to shine.

With a little help from his animal friends (including a truly awesome and brainy pet pooch), Alfie's star is sure to rise to the very top and win his family a "Happily Ever After" in storybook land.

"The Adventures of Alfie Onion" by Vivian French and Marta Kissi was released on 5th May 2016 by Walker Books.  The perfect summer read!

Next, a more decidedly darkly tinged tale for those of us who like something gothic and creepy...

"Magrit" by Lee Battersby is an awesome dark and spine chilling tale along the lines of Neil Gaiman or Eoin Colfer. Magrit lives in a cemetry with her constant companion, the Master Puppet. Magrit literally made her best friend from bones and bits of junk, imbued with dark powers.

Soon Magrit and Master Puppet's world is shattered by an unexpected arrival. A baby, mistakenly dropped by a stork. Despite Master Puppet's pleas that the baby is disposed of unceremoniously, Magrit calls the little foundling Bugrat, and decides to raise it as her own. But what future is there for a child raised amongst the bones of the dead? Will Magrit understand Master Puppet and Bone Girl's dire warnings too late?

This is a breathtakingly original and darkly delicious book that was possibly a bit too dark in places for Charlotte's bedtime reading matter but is nonetheless a truly brilliant piece of fiction that describes the difference in the relationships we have with our closest friends and those we consider to be family. Lee's writing is tight and tense, and the book world he's created here feels hugely satisfying and deep. Personally I couldn't get enough of it so I can only imagine what your 9-12 year olds will make of it (and boy, would it ever make a brilliant piece of stop motion animation! Movie studios take note!). "Magrit" was released on 5th May 2016 from Walker Books.

We're on the home stretch, let's stick with the darkly gothic for our next book...

8th Grader by day, monster hunter by night - meet "Max Helsing". Descended from a long line of witch pursuers, vampire hunters and monster despatchers, Max might be an ordinary everyday schoolboy but he has extraordinary powers. Pitted against the darkest demons that roam this world and beyond, Max turns thirteen and realises that he is the subject of an ancient curse.

Running out of time, will Max Helsing be able to save the world - and himself from the thirteenth curse?

Curtis Jobling's writing is crackingly good in this story injected with wisecracks, bone-cracks and crooked crucifixes as Max confronts an ancient evil. Fans of Percy Jackson are going to absolutely lap this one up.

"Max Helsing - Monster Hunter" was released on 5th May 2016 by Orchard Books.

One more, one more as it's out in a couple of days and we absolutely LOVED the first book...

"Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief" by Gabrielle Kent is book two in the Alfie Bloom trilogy (you'll have to wait a bit longer for the next one but by the end of Book 2 you'll literally be champing at the bit for it!). Alfie has inherited a fantastic (alright, a rather spooky) old castle and along with it a whole parcel of supernatural chaos. Just as things are settling down after the cataclysmic events in "The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle" Alfie finds once again that his new life is fraught with danger. Loyal (and slightly creepy) butler Ashford has been kidnapped in the middle of the night, and Alfie soon finds himself under siege as Hexbridge Castle comes under attack.

With only his two little cousins and his best friend Amy to help, can Alfie defeat ancient evil before the castle is reduced to dust?

Gabrielle's storytelling is absolutely fantastic, weaving a brilliant fantasy world for us readers to go and play in. So if you think your ideal home would be a creaky old castle, you might want to think again.

"Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief (Alfie Bloom Book 2) is out on 2nd June 2016 from Scholastic.

Alright, last one. We're just too good to you! Too good!

Mike Revell's "Storm Walker" is the sort of dark and delicious writing that has us staying up until the wee small hours to devour books like this. Ordinary everyday kid Owen is very much like you. He lives a fairly ordinary life, goes to school, loves footie, plays videogames and hangs out with his best friend Danny getting up to the usual mischief boys do.

Owen's life changes completely however, when he finds himself propelled into an alternate world where his home is about to be devoured by an insidious darkness, and the population of his town along with it.

The next moment Owen finds himself back in familiar surroundings. He has no control over his reality shifts, but somehow knows that only he can stop the darkness from encompassing everything he knows and loves.

Mike's writing is powerful, driven and completely and utterly addictive. It's fairly dark stuff (probably a little bit too dark for Charlotte who knows when something plays on her mind and knows when to step out). I loved it though, and older girls and boys who have a penchant for the darker stuff will literally read the letters off the page, if they find it as page-turningly addictive as I did.

"Storm Walker" by Mike Revell was released on 19th May 2016 from Quercus Children's Books.

Phew! I think we're about book-exhausted for this month's awesome chapter book and middle grade pile. Tune in as June hopefully warms our cockles and dishes up even more brilliant books to read out in the sunshine.