Thursday, 28 March 2019

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - March 2019

How in the name of pooty-poot-poots is it March already? More accurately the end of March! We're here with another scintillating Chapter Book Roundup with lots of treats in store that are already on bookshelves, or just about to spring on you unawares!

Starting with a fantastic fun middle grade romp full of magic and mischief. "Fred the Wizard in Training: Wizard vs Lizard" by Simon Philip and Sheena Dempsey introduces a young wizard who might not have spent his formative years crammed into a cupboard under the stairs, but has now enrolled in a very special school for magic folk.

Fred may look ordinary, but sometimes people who look ordinary turn out to be not very ordinary at all ... because it just so happens that Fred is a Wizard!

Sounds pretty great, right? Except that Fred is absolutely, completely, mind-boggingly TERRIBLE at magic. At school, he’s stuck in a class of wizards half his age, feeling like a twit among tots. At home, he’s endlessly teased by his siblings and always a disappointment to his parents. All Fred wants is to become a better wizard....

So when he hears about a competition to meet Merlin (yes, THAT Merlin!) Fred knows it's his one chance to prove to his family that he's not the worst wizard in town.

The catch? To win the competition he has to capture the tail of a terrifying, fire-breathing lizard! EEK!

Pacey writing with brilliant characters, a more light-hearted and whimsical book than anything in the Harry Potter series, for kids who are looking for a great entry-level magical fantasy series to collect and read. 

"Fred the Wizard in Training: Wizard vs Lizard" by Simon Philip and Sheena Dempsey is out now, published by Simon and Schuster Children's Books. 

A real "Wow!" book next from hugely talented Darren Simpson, and very much a book that spoke to us both in different ways. For me, divine reminiscences of reading "Stig of the Dump" as a kid - and for C, a really original book that feels so different and fresh to other middle grade fare. 

"Scavengers" is the tale of young Landfill. Yes, that's really his name. Poor Landfill has grown up in and around a vast dump where everyone discards their useless things. Only to Landfill, and his guardian Babagoo, there's always a use - even for rubbish. 

Babagoo has always looked after Landfill on one condition - follow his simple set of rules. 

Never go looking Outside. Never rise above the wall. But despite the dangers, Landfill longs to see Outside, and the lure is just too tempting to ignore for a restless young kid who longs to find out more about his world. 

It just draws you right in, until you're completely hooked and immersed. Written largely with a language all of its own that really helps it to stand out (think "Mold and the Poison Plot" for ref) this is the first middle grade book we've read from Usborne and now we know what we've been missing, we'd better start catching up with the rest of their fantastic fiction range as this really is something rather special. 

"Scavengers" by Darren Simpson is out now, published by Usborne Children's Books. 

A real treat now, and one that proves that middle grade dystopia A) is definitely a thing and B) is still one of the best genres ever! So here's "The Dog Runner" from Bren McDibble, author of "How to Bee".

The book opens with a world in crisis, as a virulent red fungus destroys huge swathes of the world's most valuable food crops. Ella and her brother Emery are stuck in a city that is slowly starving to death, and must escape upcountry to find their mother.

With scant supplies, totally alone, they turn to their dogs to help them navigate a stark dead landscape to be safely reuinted with their family.

I haven't read a book this good in ages, exactly the genre I always favoured as a kid - and here brought bang up to date with a story that feels like it could happen in just a few short years time, perfectly depicting a world that has suffered so much abuse at the hands of humankind, that finally our fragile ecosystem buckles and folds. With two utterly awesome kids as central characters, and of course their devoted wheeled sled-pulling dogs, this is utterly unputdownable stuff that will hook you in and keep you utterly wrapped in a thrilling story right till the very last word. 

"The Dog Runner" by Bren McDibble is out now, published by Old Barn Books. 

Next up, the complexity of human relationships is explored in the detailed letters inside "To Night Owl, from Dogfish" by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. 

Avery (Night Owl) is bookish, intense, likes to plan ahead, and is afraid of many things.

Bett (Dogfish) is fearless, outgoing, and lives in the moment. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and their dads are dating each other.

Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same camp for the summer vacation. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends – and possibly, one day, even sisters.

Against all odds, the girls soon can’t imagine a life without each other. But when the worst happens, and their dads break up, Avery and Bett must figure out a way to get them to fall in love again. Is keeping a family together as easy as they think it is?

From two extraordinary authors comes this moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters. It's such a fantastic format with a strong core idea set out in a really novel and exciting way. 

"To Night Owl From Dogfish" by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer is out now, published by Egmont. 

Vlad is back! It's time for book four of the fantastic "Vlad The World's Worst Vampire" series from Anna Wilson and Kathryn Durst. 

Vlad is overjoyed, as he finally has his Bat Licence!

The only problem -  his mother now wants him to have super-strength and Vlad had better buckle down to some serious working out, or it’s off to the Black Tower with him! 

If only he could show her how funny he is in the school play with Minxie. 

But he has to keep his human friends a secret from his parents, and being a vampire secret from the humans. Could life get more complicated? Probably not!

Then, when he suddenly turns into a bat at school, all his secrets are revealed...

Ticklishly funny stuff for kids who love a little dark humour in their funny books. "Vlad the World's Worst Vampire: Spooktacular Surprise" by Anna Wilson and Kathryn Durst is out now, published by Stripes Publishing. 

Who could possibly resist the lure of a book with a cover this cute? "Little Lion Rescue" by Rachel Delahaye is next, the story of animal-loving Fliss and her love of all the creatures that roam the earth.  

Join her on her adventures to save wild animals in danger.

What starts out as a school trip to the zoo for Fliss and her classmates ends up being the adventure of a lifetime when Fliss is magically whisked away to the Serengeti! 

There she finds a little lost lion cub, separated from its family, and Fliss is determined to reunite them. 

But with only a bottle of water, half a sandwich and her instinct to guide her across the plains, is she ready to face the wilds of untamed Africa?

Fabulous stuff for entry-level middle grade readers who love animal tales. 

"Little Lion Rescue" by Rachel Delahaye is out now, published by Stripes Publishing, 

Ireland has long been an incredible source for some truly amazing and talented writers, so let's look at a fantastic new book that's set in the Emerald Isles...

"Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles" by Thomas Lennon, with fantastic illustrations from John Hendrix is absolutely fab, and just our sort of book.

The titular fourteen-year-old hero is the youngest and lowliest recruit to the Secret Garda, an Irish police force that handles the misdeeds of numerous magical creatures. 

Ronan’s parents are in jail, but Ronan is convinced that they were framed by the wee people, a mischievous and mysterious lot indeed!

So, despite his small size, poor eyesight (and can we just shout HOORAY for having a main character with glasses in a book that ISN'T Harry Potter? YESSSS!) and social awkwardness, he’s determined to learn all he can in the Garda in order to prove his parents’ innocence. 

To show he’s got what it takes, he’ll have to confront a fiery leprechaun, a sinister harpy, and a whole world of monsters hidden in plain sight next to real-life Ireland. Fast paced, action packed, and completely hilarious, this is the start to an exciting new middle-grade series by actor and writer Thomas Lennon. Chock full of exquisitely crafted characters and a brilliant dose of mythical nonsense and humour, this is top drawer stuff from Thomas and John. 

"Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles" by Thomas Lennon and John Hendrix is out now, published by Amulet Books. 

Exciting stuff next, I'm pretty sure every kid remembers the first time they stayed at a relative or friend's house, and Isadora Moon is no exception. 

"Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover" is the latest, greatest book in Harriet Muncaster's utterly sublime series featuring half fairy, half vampire Isadora who is snuggling down to sleep at her friend Zoe's house.

She's so excited - she hasn't been to a sleepover before! There will be midnight feasts, and staying up all night, it's going to be so much fun! And while she's there, Isadora and Zoe are going to work on their cake for a baking competition at school. But will they be able to resist adding a sprinkling of magic to their creation. . . ? 

This is just such a brilliant feelgood early middle grade series perfect for kids who are moving on from picture books but still want gorgeous illustrations and characters that are full of joie de vivre in their books. SO GOOD this!

"Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover" by Harriet Muncaster is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Fans of Roald Dahl won't be disappointed with a new compilation of some of his most outstanding contributions to the English language next, in "Roald Dahl's Rotsome and Repulsant Words" - a fanastic new fun dictionary of fantabulous made-up words and crazy phrases from some of Roald's most memorable characters. 

Learn to insult your nasty maggoty little pupils like the Mighty Trunchbull from "Matilda". 

Learn how to be a nasty old crone like George's Grandma Georgina from "George's Marvellous Medicine". 

Learn how to talk about the most scrumdiddlyumptious confectionery creations of one Willy Wonka from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or snozz it up with ol' big lugs himself, the mighty BFG!

This is a fab book for Dahl nuts, the perfect give for easter if you don't want to give kids rotsome choccy eggs!

"Roald Dahl's Rotsome and Repulstant Words" by Roald Dahl, with illustrations from Quentin Blake is out now, published by OUP. 

A real treat next, and we can hardly believe we're up to Book 3 of "The Nothing to See Here Hotel" by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton. 

The two Stevens have been hard at work on "Sea-ing is Believing" as we take a trip under the sea, not to visit Ariel the Mermaid but once again to have a whole barrel load of fun with Frankie Banister and his family. 

The folks are preparing to celebrate Grandad Abraham’s 175th birthday – an occasion that’s going to be even more HONKHUMPTIOUS now that Abe’s ghost has showed up! 

When the unexpected spook reveals a secret UNDERWATER wing of the hotel that’s been hidden away for years, the Banister’s decide there’s only one thing for it … a whopping welcome home bash in the spectacular BRINY BALLROOM.

But memories aren’t the only things waiting at the bottom of the ocean. Secrets and sea monsters are lurking in the shadows, and there's definitely something fishy going on with Grandpa Abe's ghost who is not all he seems after all. 

Chuckles, giggles, memorable characters and a whole truckload of undersea capers in this brilliant third book. 

"The Nothing to See Here Hotel: Seaing is Believing" by Steven Butler and Steven Lenton is out now, published by Simon and Schuster. 

Exciting stuff from diverse publishers Cassava Republic next and the utterly mesmerising "The Hidden Star" by K Sello Duiker. 

Nolitye lives in a shack with her mother Thembi in Phola, a dusty township on the edge of Johannesburg.

She is good at maths and likes collecting stones, which she places in a bucket under her bed. 

She also has an amazing and exciting superpower. Nolitye can communicate with dogs and along with her two close friends, Bheki, who is overweight, and the bespectacled Four Eyes, they join forces to resist the bullying from Rotten Nellie and her gang of Spoilers.

One day, Nolitye finds a special stone that has the power to make people feel happy and laugh. Her mission from now on is to gather together the other pieces of the stone and reunite them, to stop darkness from taking control of her world.

Thrumming with originality and amazing characters, this is an absolutely superb middle grade adventure. 

"The Hidden Star" by K Sello Duiker is out now, published by Cassava Republic. 

Room for a couple of extra corkers? Of course, and here's the unmissable "The Great Animal Escapade" by Jane Kerr, author of the equally fabulous "The Elephant Thief". 

In Jane's latest adventure, we meet young Danny who works at Belle Vue Zoo, where - alongside training the famous elephant Maharajah - he helps out with the day-to-day tasks of caring for the animals. 

Danny really loves his animal charges, but when animals start escaping, Danny is the prime suspect: after all, he was a former street urchin and pickpocket and it seems most folk feel that he's still untrustworthy and shifty. 

Things get even more complicated when a man turns up claiming to be his father and the plot really begins to thicken. 

Can Danny untangle the mystery of the animal escapade - and find out where he really belongs - in order to clear his name?

As you'd expect from Jane this is absolutely beautifully written, with a cast of believable characters and yet a thoroughly magical and atmospheric feel to this sublime story. We love it to bits!

"The Great Animal Escapade" by Jane Kerr is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Time for something distinctly different with "She Wolf" by Dan Smith. 

Whisking us back in history to Northumbria, 866 AD. A young girl is washed ashore on a frozen English beach.

Ylva is a Viking and as tough and determined as they come. Stranded in a strange land, Ylva hears about the murder of her mother at the hands of a mysterious nefarious man with three fingers.
As Ylva begins to discover the wildlife of this new home, and her thirst for revenge against her mother's murderer grows stronger, Ylva must dig deep inside herself to find the strength and determination she will need - but is revenge always the right course to take? 

This is thrilling stuff, so visual and so beautifully realised by Dan - and a period of history that we would dearly love to see more of in middle grade books, beautifully fleshed out and described in this amazing tale. 

"She Wolf" by Dan Smith is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Last but by no means least we're catching up with a truly fabulous book released back in January.

"Lightning Chase me Home" is the latest stunning book from Amber Lee Dodd and it's an absolute atmospheric BELTER of a book.

Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum's favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. 

But Amelia herself doesn't always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star (sounds utterly idyllic to us, to be honest!) 

Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. 

When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea with amazing and unexpected consequences for everyone in Amelia's family, but for Amelia herself it's life changing stuff. 

A thrill a minute from the moment you crack open the cover, do not miss this one!!

"Lightning Chase me Home" by Amber Lee Dodd is out now, published by Scholastic. 

As you can probably tell, March has been a bit of a crazy month for new releases but let's keep going with another absolute treat from a scintillating author.

"The Boy Who Flew" by Fleur Hitchcock shows Fleur effortlessly switching gears to write up a storm in a book vastly different from her intensely dark contemporary-set mysteries.

Not to say that this one isn't tinged with shadowy dark delights too, in the tale of young Athan Wilde.

Athan always dreams of flight but when his friend, Mr Chen, is murdered, Athan must rescue the flying machine they were building together and stop it falling into the wrong hands.

Evil forces want the machine for their own nefarious ends, but Athan's devotion to his cause might cost him his family's safety, as those he loves are threatened and put in danger.

Will Athan make the right choice?

Set against a deliciously steampunky smog-filled backdrop that just creeps off the page into your subconscious, this is page-turning stuff at at blistering pace that builds a superb world for its amazing characters to exist in.

Sublime and inventive, "The Boy who Flew" by Fleur Hitchcock is out now, published by Nosy Crow.

Those fabulous baking boys are back, with three new adventures that are truly out of this world.

"Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens are Coming" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton once again takes us on a whirlwind adventure with those awesome poochy bakers turned dogged detectives.

It's the glorious summer and things are definitely hotting up for Shifty and Sam.

Someone is cheating in the sandcastle competition. Outrageous!

There's also something distinctly fishy about the new Cafe in their home town! But the icing on the cake comes from a totally unexpected alien invasion. It's going to take more than a cool head and a couple of iced buns to crack these three cases.

Dig in to more slapstick and funny sunshiney fun with this belter of a book.

"Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam: The Aliens are Coming" by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

It's always delightful to see C's reaction to a new book in a well-loved range arriving, and once again she was overjoyed with this next book.

Paula Harrison's brilliant "The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace" is the latest in this amazing range of stories, each as exciting and diverse as the last.

With the series' focus on highlighting the plight of sensitive habitats and endangered species, this story sees Rescue Princess Zina fighting to preserve and protect her country's amazing rainforests, and colonies of loveable lemurs. 

Can she and her awesome princess friends work together to save the lovely animals and their precious trees?

A brilliant eco-story with gorgeous illustrations, the fabulous "The Rescue Princesses: The Amber Necklace" by Paula Harrison is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

Last but by no means least, a real rib-tickler of a story next. Do you believe in Goblins?

"Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins" by David Ashby asks this very important question as the tranquil charms of Uppington Down are torn apart one day by a rather strange and unexpected visitor. 

Anna and Nils meet the alarmingly rude Robert Gribble on their way home from school. 

Before long, their lives take a bizarre turn: they join forces with this goblin in disguise and his nearly not-there dog Dimple in a desperate battle to stop Mara, the queen of nightmares, opening a hidden book of power and spilling terror across the world.

Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins is a laugh-out-loud adventure that reminds us that with friends, family and belief you can stand up to the scariest of enemies. 

...And if you have a ginger biscuit and an invisible dog, that will most definitely help (we couldn't agree more!)

"Gribblebob's Book of Unpleasant Goblins" by David Ashby is out now, published by Pushkin Press. 

(All books kindly supplied for review)