Tag Archives: middle grade

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

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Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford, paperback novel, 400 pages, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2016.

My daughter insisted that I read this book, and I’m glad that I took her advice. Time Travelling with a Hamster is a wonderful and quirky story about a boy whose father invented a time machine, and then died.

At twelve years old, Al (short for Albert) is sent on a unbelievable and almost impossible adventure back through time in an attempt to prevent his father’s death. The story is funny, heart-felt, and completely original. An excellent read that was interesting from start to finish, with colourful characters and a fantastic plot.

The concept of time travel is fascinating, and also terrifying. Any change made in the past could drastically alter the future, but if one could prevent the death of a loved one, would the consequences be worth it? I really liked the way that time travel was approached in this book, and that the travelling apparatus was made up with an old laptop and a tin tub! The calculations that Al’s dad devised to make time travel possible were complicated, but the theory was well explained and enlightening. I thought the science aspects, including the concept of mind palaces for memory retention, were treated appropriately for the intended age group, and made for very interesting reading.

Grandpa Byron was the best character; with his mix of traditional Indian and western clothing, his moped, intelligence, impeccable memory and odd head bob, I couldn’t help but love this wonderfully eccentric character! Of course, Al is pretty awesome too. He was being bullied at school, and intimidated by his horrible step-sister, yet he was strong, innovative and brave. He had to be courageous and loyal to follow his dead father’s wishes when they seemed so crazy and difficult, but his love and trust for his dad was stronger than any fears he may have had. The close relationship that Byron and Al shared was enviable and emphasised the importance of family bonds.

I now also desperately want a cute little hamster that I can call Alan Shearer the Second!

Time Travelling with a Hamster is most suitable for upper primary to lower high school students. It’s a great book for kids interested in science and humorous adventure. We also have Ross Welford’s next book, What Not to do if you Turn Invisible, which I hope will be every bit as good as Time Travelling with a Hamster.

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6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley

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catcrimes6th Grade Revengers: Cat Crimes and Wannabes by Steven Whibley, e-book, 88 pages, published in 2015.

Jared and his best friend Marcus style themselves as The Revengers; a team that takes care of problems in their community. Their first task is to rid the Oak Street neighbourhood of a crazy and evil cat that is ruling the street with his claws and teeth. They also have to do something about Gunner, Jared’s sister’s boyfriend and wannabe pop star. He just hangs about Jared’s house pretending to write music and loafing off Ronie (Jared’s sister). The boys are going to have to be creative to solve these problems, and prove themselves as a team that gets things done.

An easy and quick read, Cat Crimes and Wannabes was entertaining and amusing. There were occasional black and white illustrations among the text, and the chapters were fairly short, good for reluctant readers.

The first chapter was a very clever way to begin the story, introducing Jared and his family. I enjoyed reading about Jared and Marcus and their new business. I especially liked their efforts to banish the evil cat. That was one scary cat! So vicious and aggressive, it was more like a small tiger than a house cat. Jared and Marcus really underestimated how difficult removing such a cat would be, but their efforts were funny.  While Gunner wasn’t dangerous like the cat, he was still an annoying presence who I disliked greatly. The boys’ plan to remove Gunner from their lives was ingenious, and much nicer than things I thought of to do to him!

This is the first book in a series following The Revengers. I had a moment of disappointment when the story finished, as I was expecting it to be longer based on the page count. Instead there was a preview for the next book in the series at the end , and now I want to read that one too!

Cat Crimes and Wannabes is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children into lower high school.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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goldbreatherGuardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens, e-book, 176 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

After Liam’s father dies, his life begins to change, culminating in his mother remarrying and them leaving Dublin behind for a house in the country with his new step-father, Dr Parker. Liam is unhappy about these changes, but at least he meets some interesting people at the new house; the housekeeper Hannah and the gardener Michael. Liam is led to a dragon egg, and Michael instructs him on how to hatch it. Then Liam is set on a path to prove who he is and to help a distant fairytale kingdom right the wrongs of the past.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is a lovely, though sometimes sad, fantasy novel. Fairies, goblins, and even a troll are brought to life as Liam learns about the real fairy stories.

The story felt a little familiar; lonely boy discovers he is something more, passes trials to prove himself, fulfils destiny. Still, it was well written and entertaining, and I enjoyed it. I liked the old tale of the Guardian and the Prince, and the idea that somewhere dragons and men once lived happily side by side.

Michael was an especially intriguing character, surrounded by much mystery. He was my favourite, though I also liked Liam and Hannah. Liam had a lot going on in his life, and I think he would have really suffered had he not met Hannah and Michael when he did. I mostly felt sorry for his mum, marrying Dr Parker because he could provide for them. Dr Parker I disliked quite a lot. His scientific work using live dogs was awful, but I also hated the way he treated Liam. He was insensitive to the boy’s feelings whilst being derisive of Liam’s love for reading and map making. Dr Parker didn’t even try to listen or understand Liam.

As Guardian of the Gold Breathers is under 200 pages, it would be suitable for slower readers interested in fantasy, who might otherwise be daunted by a longer book. It’s also great for kids who like fairy tales and dragons.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan

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mrsmillerMrs Miller – Christmas Killer by Paul Nolan, e-book, 98 pages,published through Createspace in 2016.

Holly Glover is starting at a new school at the start of December. She finds it strange that there are no Christmas decorations up, and the school is so quiet, with none of the usual childish banter and laughter. She soon discovers that the Head Teacher, Mrs Miller, hates christmas to the point where it has been banned at the school. Mrs Miller terrorises the teachers and students alike, and immediately takes a dislike to Holly. Can Holly bring Christmas back to Mount Pleasant Middle School?

This Christmas themed short novel was a fun read that I finished in one sitting. The story had a funny side, especially when Holly’s Dad was around, though there’s nothing funny about the despotic nature of Mrs Miller’s rule of the school.  I would not have liked being a student under her reign! It also hit on some more serious matters, like making new friends, death, and supporting your loved ones so they don’t feel hurt.

The characters were well-written. I liked Holly and her new friends, Meera and Chris. Mrs Miller is very scary, and I can see why no one wants to cross her. I liked the way that she was contrasted against her deputy, Mr Castle. Holly’s father seems somewhat eccentric. Everything he does is humorous for everyone except Holly, who finds his behaviour utterly mortifying. Between his terrible spray tan business, clothing choices, belchy old van, and his obliviousness to Holly’s embarrassment, Mr Glover tops the list of most embarrassing Dads. I feel a bit sorry for Holly, since she has to endure such embarrassment at a new school, but he’s her Dad, he loves her, and he doesn’t mean to embarrass her. I love that two of the teachers at Holly’s school are called Miss Meek and Mr Mild!

Mrs Miller – Christmas Killer is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. I enjoyed it, it’s a good story to read before Christmas.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Bumbling Bea by Deborah Baldwin

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BBcoverBumbling Bea by Deborah Baldwin, fiction e-book, 124 pages, published in 2014.

In a last attempt to get in with the popular kids before high school starts, Beatrice auditions for the lead in the school play. She’s sure she’s a shoe-in, until a new Japanese student interrupts her plans. Michiko is actually a good actor, and suddenly Beatrice finds herself backstage instead of being the centre of the show. Her mean alter ego comes to the fore, with snarky and sarcastic comments, cruel pranks, and behaviour that just isn’t her. Can she overcome Bumbling Bea, befriend Michiko and keep Jerri and Peter on her side?

I liked this story. It reminded me of how awkward it can be growing up and it made me laugh! The theatre can be lots of fun for kids to get involved in, but sometimes it’s taken too seriously ending up with some rather crazy antics.

Bumbling Bea was a humourous story about the awkwardness of growing up. I think every child goes through a period of something similar to Beatrice as they try to discover themselves and their place in the world. Unfortunately for Beatrice, she has a hard time keeping her inner thoughts to herself, which results in her getting herself in all sorts of funny trouble.

The production of the play was very amusing, especially the inclusion of the red balls and the principal. I also laughed when Peter tried to help Bea with her prank against Michiko and it backfired, and when Beatrice tried to give her teacher a nice leaving present. Beatrice’s mum’s cooking sounded pretty atrocious too, but it amused me that her brother would name the meals according to which country’s flag it resembled.

There were a few areas in the story that didn’t flow neatly. I even thought I might have read a chapter out of order at one point, it was a little fragmented at times. I re-read a few bits, which helped me get things clearer. Otherwise, I thought the plot was interesting, and the characters realistic. Bea’s outbursts definitely reminded me of some snarky kids from my own school days! I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Jerri in the story, she is supposed to be Beatrice’s best friend, but it didn’t read quite that way.

Bumbling Bea is suitable for middle and upper primary school children to lower high school students. It is a good book for independent readers, especially those that like to laugh!

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.