Violet And The Mystery Of Tiger Island by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor
These may be the most photogenic books for younger middle-grade readers and I love everything about this series.
Violet and her friends are invited to a wedding on a tropical island. Tiger Island used to be an animal sanctuary, and now it is a luxury hotel. It has tree houses, gourmet food and even a tame tiger.
It is paradise … until Violet’s old enemies show up.
The Du Plicitouses have a history of stealing rare objects so they are top suspects when a valuable figurine goes missing. Violet and her friends set out to investigate and a race begins to figure out the truth before the wedding day is spoiled.
These books are perfect – they are as engaging as any middle-grade mystery but suitable for younger readers. They would make a brilliant quick-read for older mystery fans. I loved the set-up – we’re introduced to different hotel guests and our attention is then turned on the Du Plicitous couple. Harriet Whitehorn is a master at dropping hints while drawing the reader’s attention on to red-herrings.
The illustrations are fab – Becka Moor is a total star of young-MG and it is lovely to see her pictures in colour. Her characters are a delight – I feel as if I am reading the pictures at least as much as the worlds. This is so important for readers of this age – decoding words is still an effort and the pictures offer a quicker way into the story.
Five shining stars.
Vlad The World’s Worst Vampire by Anna Wilson and Kathryn Durst
Vlad is the world’s least-scary vampire. He’s afraid of spiders, he’s afraid of the dark and he’s especially afraid of looking like a failure next to cousin Lupus.
Lupus upholds all the Vampire traditions, like drinking blood. He keeps a raven near him at all times and he has mastered all the flying skills. Nobody seems to notice that he is rude and horrible. Nobody except Vlad.
Is Lupus really as perfect as he seems? Is there any chance he could be friends with Vlad?
This is a lovely series, perfect for newly-readers, and would make a lovely bedtime story. The events of the story are much like any book about friendship and family, except the family happens to have fangs. And ravens. This would be a great Halloween read for children who don’t like scares but love a touch of the gothic world.
Night Of The Living Ted by Barry Hutchinson and Lee Cosgrove
Zombie Bears! Ghost Bears! Witch Bears! Alien Bears!
Lisa-Marie is adjusting to having a step-parent and living with her new step-brother Veron. Vernon can be nice but he won’t stand up for his new step-sister.
When Lisa-Marie makes a witch bear at Create-A-Ted, she gets more than she bargained for. Henrietta is alive and she is dangerous. In fact, there is a whole army of Halloween-bears on the loose, led by the terrifying Grizz.
If Lisa-Marie is going to stop them from destroying humankind, she’ll need help from her new step-brother Vernon.
The premise of this story is hilarious. A shop where children pick a bear-skin, add stuffing then provide the bear with a heart. What’s creepy about that?! Someone has clearly spent an hour too long in Create-A-Ted.
This story shows that ideas come from observation. I reckon children will love this spooky twist on their favourite shop.
The scares are softened with humour. I love that that humour is accessible to adults as well as children. Books of this length are often read aloud and it makes a difference to the child’s experience when the adults are laughing along too.
Anty Hero by Barry Hutchinson
Ant is the total opposite of cool. He’s bony, has an obsession with insects, and wears shaded-glasses. In fact, Ant has a secret, and it is hidden behind those glasses which he refuses to take off.
When Ant’s science teacher glimpses what is behind those glasses, Ant’s life is in danger.
It is up to his friends Zac and Tulisa to save the day. Can they round up the insects of the school and rescue Ant?
Imagine if the thing which made you different put you in danger. Grave danger. Ant isn’t like the other boys at school. He counts insects among his friends and he looks at the human race objectively.
This story has some brilliant themes about perceived differences and human attitudes towards nature.
Like all Barrington Stoke stories, Anty Hero is printed in a way which makes it accessible to a larger number of readers. These books also make excellent quick reads for fluent readers.
Dirty Bertie – Frights And Bites by David Roberts or Alan MacDonald
Fangs! Scream! Zombie!
Experience three whole volumes of Dirty Bertie in one book. Know someone who loves Dennis the Menace and Horrid Henry? You need to introduce them to Bertie. He’s silly, he’s full of terrible ideas and best of all, he embraces all things disgusting.
The three books in this compilation are divided into stories which are about forty pages long. There are nine stories between the three books, which means plenty of silliness and troublesome events.
I love how the stories have recurring features. They quite often end with Bertie in some kind of bother – whether his head is stuck in the railings or he is running away, you can be sure the story will end on a memorable note.
These are perfect for newly confident readers. Finishing the short stories offers a high level of reward and there are plenty of hilarious illustrations.
Sherlock And The Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn
It’s a new term at Baker Street Academy which means new adventures for Sherlock, John Watson (Watson, geddit) and Martha.
There’s something spooky going on at school. Caretaker Mr Musgrove has seen a ghost and some great, big, spooky letters appear on the side of a wall. Is the school really haunted by the Baker Street Ghosts? So begins an investigation which uncovers hidden treasure, and old legend and some dastardly deception.
This is Sherlock like you’ve never seen him before. He’s a totally modern kid – he has a smart-phone and he’s not afraid to use it. Moriarty is the school-bully and Baker Street Academy is like any school from this decade … except there’s a heck of a lot going on.
The format of this book will really appeal to comic-book fans and might attract less-confident readers. Cartoon strips are mixed with emails and speech-bubble chats (which are the most recognised form of communication among today’s pre-teens.)
Innovative format aside, the mystery is solid and the information is given in just the right places. I reckon kids would stand a chance of solving the puzzle but there is also huge satisfaction in identifying the clues.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK LTD, Stripes Publishing, Barrington Stoke, Scholastic UK and Laura Smythe PR for the books featured in this round-up. Opinions my own.
Have you read any great books for younger readers? Have any of the featured books caught your attention? Let me know in the comments below.