Thursday, March 26, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book Roundup - March 2020

Welcome, welcome to our Chapter Book roundup for March. We have a huge selection of books to get our teeth into this month (hooray) so let's get going straight away with a piece of code-crackingly brilliant genius.

"Mickey and the Animal Spies" by dream team Anne Miller and Becka Moor introduces Mickey, a girl who loves nothing better than puzzling over secret codes and ciphers.

When she spots a strange code on a poster while on the way home from school, Mickey's curiosity is piqued. What can the poster mean? Can she unscramble the letters to spell out the intended message?

Soon she's hot on the trail of diamond thieves, dognappers and makes a whole crew of new allies - a bunch of wisecracking code-cracking animal spies to help her in her strange case.

Built around real codes for kids to solve, this is a captivating book idea that goes beyond most middle grade 'tec novels, delving into the intriguing and interesting world of spying, codes and riddles.

"Mickey and the Animal Spies" by Anne Miller and Becka Moor is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books. 

Something slick, stylish and fast-paced next with the third book in Sophie Green and Karl James Mountford's awesome "Potkin and Stubbs" series.

"Ghostcatcher" picks up after Nedly and Lil successfully defeated evil ghost Mr Grip. Now they're on their next case, and a particularly disturbing haunting. But Peligan City has had enough of ghosts and has hired ghost catchers - and Nedly finds himself being hunted!

Luckily, he has Lil on his side. Now an apprentice reporter for the Klaxon, Lil manages to talk her way into a job shadowing intrepid journalist Marsha Quake, who is writing a feature on Ghostcatcher Inc.

So with Lil's help, Nedly is able to stay one step ahead, but can Lil keep Nedly safe for long?

As Nedly develops his own inimitable and slightly haphazard haunting style, hoping to become a hero of Peligan City by protecting the weak and thwarting the powerful, Lil finds herself clashing with her mum, a journalist committed to uncovering the truth at all costs. Lil must protect Nedly by covering his tracks or risk losing him forever. Can she find a way?

The characters and settings for this ghoulish novel are pitch perfect, pairing a ghost who wants to be a  good spirit with a naturally curious girl who wants to protect her new found friend.

"Potkin and Stubbs: Ghostcatcher" by Sophie Green and Karl James Mountford is out now, published by Piccadilly Press. 

A real treat for us next, and a book series from an immensely talented young lady.

"Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns" by Laura Ellen Anderson is the latest adventure for her awesome half fairy half vampire mighty girl.

But Amelia might not be the only fairy vamp on the block soon, as her mum has a little vampish sibling on the way and Amelia couldn't be more excited - though soon she begins to think that everyone's so wrapped up in new baby news that they haven't got time for her! Oh dear.

Luckily, Amelia is asked to practice her babysitting skills with three very mischievous Caticorns (half cat, half unicorn, what could possibly go wrong? Gerard, Butler and Mo might look sweet and cuddly, but they're very good at getting into mischief, and super-expert at getting poor Amelia into trouble too! Suddenly Amelia finds she's once more the focus of attention but not in a good way!

These books are so much fun, perfect for emergent solo readers who love illustrations, awesome characters and great little stories. We adore Laura's sense of humour and her knack for making us giggle loads.

"Amelia Fang and the Naughty Caticorns" by Laura Ellen Anderson is out now, published by Egmont UK. 

Something super-weird is on its way, in fact in "A Super Wrird Mystery: Danger at the Donut Diner" - the new fantastically funny series from Jim Smith, expect the unexpectedly strange!

When Melvin moves from the city to Donut (a perfectly round island with a hole in the middle), he thinks it's the most rubbish place ever.

Then he meets Rhubarb. Rhubarb is OBSESSED with mysteries and has her own school newspaper to investigate the strange goings on in Donut. (Unfortunately nothing ever happens in Donut so she's never had anything to write about.)

But then Melvin notices that the kids at school are acting very strangely. Could it be something to do with the Donut Hole Monsters that everyone is collecting?

Soon Melvin and Rhubarb are on the trail of a mystery – one that is going to lead them right into the centre of the donut hole… And Rhubarb might actually have something to write about in her newspaper, if they make it out alive.

Will they get to the bottom of the Donut Hole Monster mystery before it’s too late and the whole town is brainwashed?

From the demented genius mind of one of the funniest authors on the planet, this is cool and crazy, chaotic and frenetic storytelling.

"A Super Weird Mystery: Danger at the Donut Diner" by Jim Smith is out now, published by Egmont

Truly inspirational stuff next in the sparklingly brilliant and thoroughly original "Martin McLean Middle School Queen" by Alyssa Zaczek.

Martin McLean has always been surrounded by people who can express themselves. His mother is an artist, his colourful uncle Billy works in theatre and his best friends Carmen and Pickle are outgoing and don t care what other people think.

But Martin can only find the right words when he's answering a problem at a Mathletes competition - until his uncle introduces him to the world of drag.

In a swirl of sequins and stilettos, Martin creates his fabulous drag queen alter ego, Lottie León. As Lottie, he is braver than he has ever been; but as Martin, he doesn't have the guts to tell anyone outside his family about her - not Carmen and Pickle, not his Mathletes teammates and definitely not Chris, an older boy who gives Martin butterflies. 

When Martin discovers that his first-ever drag show is the same night as the most important Mathletes tournament, he realises that he can only pull off both appearances by revealing his true self to his friends - and channelling his inner drag superstar.

This is joyous stuff, with such a whomping great big positive message throughout, really inspirational for kids who feel that, like Martin, they are destined for something more in this life. 

"Martin McLean Middle School Queen" by Alyssa Zaczek is out now, published by Sterling Children's Books. 

More action-packed storytelling with an ecological heart next, in the superb "Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt" by Jennifer Bell and Alice Lickens. 

When 8-year-old Agnes is signed up for SPEARS (the Society for the Protection of Endangered and Awesomely Rare Species), she has no idea of the adventures that lie ahead with her elephant-shrew mentor Attie (short for "Attenborough" - great name!)

Operation Honeyhunt sends them to the Brazilian rainforest, on a mission to save an endangered, dance-loving bee named Elton. 

Will Agnes pass the test and become a full SPEARS agent? 

Species in danger? Girl and shrew to the rescue in this inspirational adventure filled with awesome animals and mild peril. 

"Agents of the Wild: Operation Honeyhunt" by Jennifer Bell and Alice Lickens is out now, published by Walker Books. 

A beautifully atmospheric tale next, the truly fantastic "The Threads of Magic" by Alison Croggon. 

Pip is a street urchin living in the huge city of Clarel, and used to living on his wits. 

But when Pip mistakenly pickpockets the wrong man, he comes into possession of a strange object - a heart in a silver casket - an object wrapped in magic and mystery. This seemingly innocuous trinket seems to want to communicate with Pip, and soon he finds himself in danger, pursued by royal officials who will stop at nothing to get the object back. 

For Pip's thievery has broken an ancient spell, unlocking a war between witches and spectres, and threatening the very existence of Clarel itself. 

Can Pip be the key to righting an ancient wrong or will the mysterious heart succeed in wreaking horrible revenge for its tempestuous past. 

Absolutely mesmerisingly written with tons of originality and a fabulous Vic-punky feel to it, this is fab!

"The Threads of Magic" by Alison Croggon is out now, published by Walker Books. 

Just enough time for a few more fabulously atmospheric books, and we do love a good haunted house novel!

"The House on Hoarder Hill" by Kelly Ngai and Mikki Lish might well be set at Christmas, but don't be fooled into thinking this is a comfy little seasonal tale. 

When Hedy and Spencer start receiving messages on dusty picture frames, Christmas at their grandfather's spooky house turns into a mission to solve the mystery of their grandmother's disappearance. 

What is their magician grandfather not telling them and why is he so evasive about his own wife's disappearance? 

With the help of a (talking) mounted stag head, an (also talking) bear rug, and other (currently) disembodied spirits, and against the resistance of gargoyles and ravens, Hedy and Spencer set out to find the truth. 

"The House on Hoarder Hill" by Kelly Ngai and Mikki Lish is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Next up, something vastly different to our usual middle grade fare, a superbly gritty slice of life for a little girl who has led a less than perfect life. 

In "The Faraway Truth" by Janae Marks, we meet Zoe Washington. Zoe never got the change to meet her father, who was sent to prison just before she was born. 

But when she receives a letter from him on her 12th birthday, she begins to learn that everything she was told about him may be completely wrong. 

Zoe's mother always told her that he was a monster, a liar, a criminal - but his letters make him sound completely different. This leads her to indulge her curiosity about his case. Was it as cut and dried as it seemed, or could her father Marcus be entirely innocent after all? 

There's more to the whole thing than anyone could imagine, particularly Zoe. 

Full of brilliant plot twists and cliffhangers, this is a fantastically observed tale of one little girl dealing with two entirely different opinions of her dad, with a determination to find out the truth and make up her own mind once and for all. 

"The Faraway Truth" by Janae Marks is out now, published by Chicken House. 

Rounding off this month with another fabulous book by a hugely talented author who covers a subject that has been touched on many times in children's books but not always at middle grade.

"Talking to the Moon" by S.E. Durrant is every bit as captivating as "Running on Empty" or "Little Pieces of Sky".

Tackling the subjects of getting old and early onset Alzheimers, this is the story of a little girl called Iris who loves holidays with her beloved grandmother Mimi.

Mimi's behaviour has been a little strange lately. Her memory is getting worse - so much so that she's started to tie ribbons around her fingers just to remember things - only she's forgotten what the ribbons are for.

She's also started to put jam on her scrambled eggs, and as things get worse, Mimi's house becomes a stranger to her, and is becoming harder and harder to navigate.

When Iris goes to stay, she feels as if a whole life is becoming muddled up. As her grandmother's memory fades, a mystery is uncovered. Who is Coral, and what happened to her?

Tackling such a tricky subject, but also keeping the reader on the edge of their seats is quite a fantastic balancing trick, and S.E performs it with aplomb in a heart warming, bittersweet and ultimately hugely emotional story.

"Talking to the Moon" by S.E. Durrant is out now, published by Nosy Crow. 

That about wraps it up for this month, and what an amazing selection. Tune in next month when we'll be dishing up even more amazing chapter book awesomeness. 

(all books kindly supplied for review).

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