Title: The Hatmakers

Author: Tamzin Merchant

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House

The Blurb

The first adventure in a spellbinding new magical world.

Cordelia comes from a long line of magical milliners, who weave alchemy and enchantment into every hat. In Cordelia’s world, Making – crafting items such as hats, cloaks, watches, boots and gloves from magical ingredients – is a rare and ancient skill, and only a few special Maker families remain.

When Cordelia’s father Prospero and his ship, the Jolly Bonnet, are lost at sea during a mission to collect hat ingredients, Cordelia is determined to find him. But Uncle Tiberius and Aunt Ariadne have no time to help the littlest Hatmaker, for an ancient rivalry between the Maker families is threatening to surface. Worse, someone seems to be using Maker magic to start a war.

It’s up to Cordelia to find out who, and why…

The Review

What I really love about middle grade fiction is the scope that the writer has. Younger children are more accepting of the weird, wacky and wonderful and that is exactly what you get in the world of The Hatmakers. It is a story about a young girl called Cordelia who has grown up with the intention of following in the family footsteps of becoming a milliner. However, her life plans begin to unravel when her father goes missing. This is the start of her epic adventure of self discovery.

Alongside this you have the story of rival companies – the glovemakers, the shoemakers etc all who have had a mass falling out. It is up to Cordelia and her friends to try and bring them all back together to save their country and also, maybe, save her father too.

The Hatmakers is a cute story but you do have to suspend your disbelief because some of the elements are fantastical. It is lovely to get immersed into a world and know that it is the first in a series of adventures.

The Hatmakers by Tamzin Merchant is available now.

For more information regarding Tamzin Merchant (@tamzinmerchant) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: A Kind of Spark

Author: Elle McNicoll

Pages: 192 Pages

Publisher: Knights of Media

The Blurb

A KIND OF SPARK tells the story of 11-year-old Addie as she campaigns for a memorial in memory of the witch trials that took place in her Scottish hometown. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these ‘witches’, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, and make her voice heard? A story about friendship, courage and self-belief, perfect for fans of The Goldfish Boy.

(GOODREADS BLURB)

The Review

A Kind of Spark is a lovely story about difference and about acceptance. It tells the story of Addie. Addie is autistic and finds life a bit difficult sometimes. Things that neurotypical people take for granted Addie struggles with on daily basis. 

When she and her classmates start to learn about the persecution of women considered to be witches she sets about to change people’s opinions and wants to memorialise them. 

Elle McNicoll has done a fabulous job in which she uses the witch trials as an allegory for the misunderstanding that surrounds autism. As we are seeing the story from Addie’s perspective we feel her sense of unfairness and especially feel her frustration at being on the outside of a world that solely caters for neurotypical people.

I can honestly say that A Kind of Spark broke me at several points in this novel. I laughed, I cried and I desperately wanted to make the world right for Addie. I really think this book is a must read for every school teacher and should be given to all school children to read. It is the kind of book that makes you want to be a kinder person. 

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll is available now.

For more information regarding Elle McNicoll (@BooksandChokers) please visit her Twitter page

For more information regarding Knights of Media (@_KnightsOf) please visit www.kinghtsof.media.

Title: Wundersmith

Author: Jessica Townsend

Pages: 404 Pages

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group

The Blurb

Return to the magical world of Nevermoor, where Morrigan Crow’s adventures continue.

‘An extraordinary story full of magics great and small’ Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS

Morrigan may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And it’s important to remember that not all magic is used for good . . .

Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series and His Dark Materials, this series takes readers into an extraordinary world, setting hope and imagination alive.

The Review

When I first read Nevermoor it completely blew my mind. Here it was. That new series that I had been waiting for. A fantasy book that didn’t leave me feeling disappointed or a bit flat. I wanted a one way ticket to Nevermoor.

And then Wundersmith was announced and I was in my applecart of happiness. I pre-ordered my copy and I waiting patiently by the letterbox on release day and then it was delivered. Hurrah.

And then I put it on my bookshelf and forgot to read it. 

I know. I am a terrible person. 

However, with the release of the third book in the series Hollowpox happening imminently I decided to grab Wundersmith and get lost in the wonderful world of Nevermoor once again.

In Wundersmith we see Morrigan beginning to grow up. She has started attending the Wundrous Society and has to deal with the everyday problems of being a kid and people being mean but also with the deathly blackmail that is being sent to her friends. They have to decide whether they will keep Morrigan’s secret even if it comes at a cost.

I really enjoyed Wundersmith. Morrigan has to learn to stand on her own two feet. Jupiter – her mentor – is otherwise engaged with serious Nevermoor situations and hasn’t got time for what Morrigan believes to be school girl problems. She has to toughen up. 

Whilst she is toughening up we still see her vulnerability and her need to feel included. It is her vulnerability that makes her so likeable. 

Townsend also uses Wundersmith to reveal more and more of this magical world she has created and the more you learn about it the more you wish you were a character in the novel.

Whilst I probably enjoyed Nevermoor more than Wundersmith I can say that Townsend has kept the magic alive with her second descent into this fictional world and it has made me even more keen to read Hollowpox. 

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend is available now.

For more information regarding Jessica Townsend (@digressica) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Hachette Children’s Group (@HachetteKids) please visit www.hachettechildrens.co.uk.

Title: The One and Only Ivan

Author: Katherine Applegate

Pages: 307 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

The Blurb

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with colour and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humour and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope. 

(GOODREADS BLURB)

The Review

I was not emotionally prepared for this story. 

I was asked by one of my students to get The One and Only Ivan for our school library and because I am a delightful person I bought a copy. Then I read it. We like to vet as many of the books that we can so that we don’t cause any upset to our students. I really wasn’t prepared for this story.

I am not a lover of animal stories. It isn’t that I actively won’t read them but they wouldn’t be my first choice. The One and Only Ivan is based on the true story of Ivan the gorilla who was kept in captivity in a mall in America. In this story, the animals are anthropomorphised and we see from their point of view what it is like to live in captivity. The other animals – mainly the elephants Ruby and Stella – make Ivan remember what life is like outside of captivity.

The One and Only Ivan had me in bits. If you do read it then please keep the box of tissues handy because you will need them.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is available now.

For more information regarding Katherine Applegate (@kaaauthor) please visit www.katherineapplegate.com.

For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollinsUK) please visit the Twitter page.

Title: Rick

Author: Alex Gino

Pages: 240 Pages

Publisher: Scholastic

The Blurb

From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.

Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that … understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

As they did in their groundbreaking novel George, in Rick, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world … and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be. 

(Goodreads Blurb)

The Review

Set a few years after George, Rick focuses on a different character – our eponymous character, Rick.

In George, Rick comes across a little boy. He follows the crowd and hasn’t quite figured out who he is yet. He makes poor decisions but we see a kindness in him. Therefore, he is the perfect tertiary character to focus the follow on story about.

In the sequel, we see just how much he has grown. We see him start to question his actions, the actions of others and what (and who) is important in life. More than that we see him realise how his actions impact others.

Rick is a beautiful story which, unlike George, is more about relationships with others rather than acceptance of oneself. It is the relationships that he cultivates in this novel that make his life better.

Alex Gino is brilliant at creating LGBTQIA+ stories and a community of middle grade readers will be the richer for reading Rick and George.

Rick by Alex Gino is available now.

For more information regarding Alex Gino (@lxgino) please visit www.alexgino.com.

For more information regarding Scholastic (@scholasticuk) please visit www.scholastic.co.uk.