The best bits of 2014? Hugging Westley from The Princess Bride was up there – as was firing catapults with a Burmese temple guard and high-fiving a monk on a motorbike. But the middle grade books Moontrug read this year – the sheer BRILLIANCE of those – pretty much topped the list. Them, and all the days spent imagining riding BIG CATS across the Arctic ice plains Lyra/Iorek style…
So, yes, books… Drum roll for the middle grade books Moontrug read and fell in love with this year…
The Black North by Nigel McDowell
Storm clouds are gathering on the Divided Isle. Oona Kavanagh’s home has escaped the worst of the ravages of war, but now the Invaders from the ruined Black North are threatening. When Oona’s twin brother, Morris, is kidnapped, Oona is forced on a journey to the furthest reaches of the country to rescue him. With rumours of the Echoes – a mysterious blight creeping across the land – and Briar-Witches and Invaders at her heels, can Oona save her brother before the South turns as Black as the North?
A totally original Irish voice, a punchy heroine and a plot dripping with powerful magic.
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they can’t find a truly exciting mystery to solve (unless you count The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie. Which they don’t). Then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder happened in the first place, before the killer strikes again (and before the police get there first, naturally). But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?
A true boarding school classic – hilariously told and well plotted.
The Burning Shadow by Michelle Paver
Hylas the Outsider is captured by slavers. Set to work in the terrible underground mines of Thalakrea, he learns to his horror that he’s now closer than ever to his murderous enemies, the Crows. He has to escape before they find out he’s here. Pirra, the daughter of the High Priestess, is also on the run. When Fate reunites her with Hylas, their survival depends on ancient magic and an orphaned lion cub – unless the Gods have other plans.
One of my absolute favourite middle grade writers. Fast-paced, a brilliantly realised world and a gorgeous animal-child bond.
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones
A boy covered in hair, raised as a monster, condemned to life in a travelling freak show. A boy with an extraordinary power of observation and detection. A boy accused of murder; on the run; hungry for the truth. Behold the savage spectacle of Wild Boy. Ladies and Gentlemen, take your seats. The show is about to begin…
A fantastic Victorian circus drama – superbly plotted with a brilliant villain and a truly original main character.
The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse
‘Something was approaching the burrow. Something deadly. Something that made Sylvan’s fur bristle with fear…’ Knowing their lives are under threat, water vole Sylvan and his brother and sisters have no choice but to abandon their burrow for ever. Together they set out on an epic journey along the Great River; but with dangers lurking at every turn, will they ever find a safe place to call home?
A modern Wind in the Willows. Delightful water voles, coupled with a powerfully realised countryside setting. Brilliant action scenes.
The Dark Wild by Piers Torday
This is the story of a boy named Kester. He is extraordinary, but he doesn’t know that yet. All he knows, at this very moment, is this:
1. There is a flock of excited pigeons in his bedroom
2. They are talking to him
3. His life will never be quite the same again
A fast-paced adventure with totally brilliant characters. Look out for wolf-cub and the white pigeon – they’re moontrug’s favs.
Just as incredible as the first book in this series. Hugely memorable characters and a tense plot – storytelling at its best.
The Girl Who Walked On Air by Emma Carroll
Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you to the sensational story of Louie Reynolds, whose dream is to become a circus showstopper. Whose tightrope talents put the finest performers to shame. Yet the path to fame is a rocky one. To travel it, Louie must first: witness a terrible accident, meet two mysterious strangers, cross Niagara Falls and look Death square in the eye. Will Louie find the the courage, Ladies and Gentlemen, to face such challenges and become the Girl Who Walked on Air?
All the colour of the circus, with the magic of the tightrope taking centre stage. Superbly feisty heroine.
Phoenix by SF Said
Lucky thinks he’s an ordinary Human boy. But one night, he dreams that the stars are singing – and wakes to find an uncontrollable power rising inside him. Now he’s on the run, racing through space, searching for answers. In a galaxy at war, where Humans and Aliens are deadly enemies, the only people who can help him are an Alien starship crew – and an Alien warrior girl, with neon needles in her hair. Together, they must find a way to save the galaxy. For Lucky is not the only one in danger. His destiny and the fate of the universe are connected in the most explosive way…
Bold and brilliant – cosmic magic.
Ironheart by Allan Boroughs
Since her father went missing while prospecting for oil in Siberia, life has been tougher than ever for India Bentley. Little does she know that he was actually searching for Ironheart, a legendary fortress containing the secrets of the old world. A place some say could save humanity. Along with tech-hunter, Verity Brown, and her android, Calculus, a killer from the old world turned protector in the new, India must make the journey to remote Siberia to try to find her father and finish his work. But there are others fighting to find Ironheart too – and they have very different goals in mind…
Original story, great cast of characters, excellently plotted.
My Brother’s Shadow by Tom Avery
My name is Kaia. I’m frozen because of what happened. I’m trapped because of what I saw. Can anyone help me to grow again?
A beautifully sad story about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her brother. Bring tissues – you’ll need them.
A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson
I’m Dan Hope, and deep inside my head I keep a list of things I want to come true. For example, I want my sister, Ninja Grace, to go to university at the North Pole and only come back once a year. I want to help Sherlock Holmes solve his most daring mystery yet. And if it could be a zombie mystery, all the more exciting. I want to be the first eleven-year-old to land on the moon. I want my dog to stop eating the planets and throwing them up on the carpet. And finally, the biggest dream of all, I want my Dad to love me.
Gorgeously funny whilst pulling at heart strings.
The Dangerous Discoveries of Gully Potchard by Julia Lee
Gully Potchard never meant to cause any trouble. He’s just an ordinary sort of boy …at least that what he thinks. But when an old acquaintance comes knocking, it isn’t long before Gully is tangled up in a mess of mischief and skulduggery. Cats and dogs go astray, a child is kidnapped, and ransom notes are delivered to the wrong people! But as a storm rages and a fire blazes, Gully discovers that he has an extraordinary skill that might just make him an unlikely hero after all…
An unlikely hero thrown into a fast-paced adventure with a colourful cast of characters.
Who Framed Klaris Cliff? by Nikki Sheehan
People used to call them ‘friends’ and said how they were good for your brain. And then a day came when all that changed… When they became the enemy. Now, anyone found harbouring a rogue imaginary person is in for the COSH – an operation that fries your imagination and zaps whatever’s in there, out of existence. That’s why I wish Klaris Cliff had never shown up and why I know that proving her innocence is that last hope I have of saving myself.
A wonderful idea, originally told.
Jimmy Coates: Killer by Joe Craig
In this action-packed sequel to Jimmy Coates: Assassin?, government agency NJ7 wants Jimmy working for them or they want him dead. Not only must he fight off someone as dangerous as himself, he must also confront the man he fears the most–his father.
Action-packed. Bond meets Bourne.
Girl With A White Dog by Anne Booth
Jessie is excited when her gran gets a white Alsatian puppy, but with Snowy’s arrival a mystery starts to unfold. As Jessie learns about Nazi Germany at school, past and present begin to slot together and she uncovers something long-buried, troubling and somehow linked to another girl and another white dog…
Makes you feel you’re right back in Year 9 again. A heart-felt story – full of hope.
Mountwood School for Ghosts by Toby Ibbotson
At top-secret Mountwood School for Ghosts the magical staff instruct their students in the highest levels of haunting. Although the Stinking Druid, the Legless Warrior and Vera the Banshee try very hard to be terrifying, they’re just too riddled with fears of their own to be properly scary. Then two human children arrive seeking help. Daniel and Charlotte have powerful enemies – can a force of paranormal professionals help scare them away? The bunch of misfit phantoms at Mountwood School wants to rise to the challenge, but will they just make things much, much worse?
Brilliantly funny – a ghost cast you’ll never forget!
The Case of the Exploding Loo by Rachel Hamilton
Wacky scientist Professor Brian ‘Big Brain’ Hawkins has vanished in a portaloo explosion, leaving only his smoking shoes behind. His daughter, Noelle, has an IQ of 157 and a photographic memory (but is NOT a mutant freak, whatever her sister, Holly, says). She’s born a Sherlock and the perfect person to investigate. Sort of.
The plot is full of twists and turns, facts and diagrams, clues and findings – perfect for inquisitive 8-12 year olds who like a bit of rule breaking…