Young middle-grade round-up: January 2018
Bramble The Hedgehog by Jane Clarke
Bramble the Hedgehog has a wobbly tooth. Dr Kitty Cat’s advise is to eat lots of sticky food. When the little animals go to the funfair, Bramble embraces this advice. He eats lots of sticky sweets until he feels very poorly.
This is the latest title in a charming range which is perfect for children at the Squishy McFluff reading stage. The Dr Kitty Cat series incorporates pictures of real animals into the illustrations and is guaranteed to interest animal-lovers or to hook readers on cute factor alone.
The stories also include basic first aid and medical advice. I think this is a fantastic idea as too many people grow up unable to respond to basic first aid situations.
The Perfect Kitten by Holly Webb and Sophy Williams
Abi has always wanted a kitten, so she is really excited when Mum phones the rescue shelter. Unfortunately, the family lives on a main road where cats have been run over before. The shelter isn’t willing to house a cat there.
Then a deaf kitten arrives. Flower will never be able to go outside, so she is the perfect pet for Abi’s family … if they can only keep her indoors.
As the companion of two rescue cats, this story warmed my heart. I know that animals are as much a part of the family as humans, and how very much we worry about them when they go outdoors. What I liked about this story was it made clear that the needs of our animal friends come above our own wants.
Shine – Sara’s Dream Role by Holly Webb and Monique Dong
Sara is so pleased to have got a place at Shine stage school, but her parents would have preferred her to go to a normal school. If her marks aren’t perfect by the end of term, she will not be able to carry on at Shine.
An audition comes up for the stage version of Mary Poppins. It is a role Sara has always wanted, but can she beat competition from fellow pupil Lizebeth?
The second book in the Shine series looks at parental pressure and rivalry from fellow pupils. It also sees Sara befriend a boy. For most readers, this series will be wish-fulfillment, but it always shows the hard work which goes into forming a talent.
Star Friends – Poison Potion by Linda Chapman and Lucy Fleming
The latest installment in the series picks up where the last book left off. Three of the four friends still don’t trust new girl Essie, but she and her Mum are starting to settle into the village. Essie’s Mum even sells her own anti-aging potion.
Then all the adults in the village start acting like children, and it is up to the friends to work out why.
I am a big fan of this series, with its slightly folksy and magical feel. It does scary antagonists in a way which is just scary enough for its young audience. It is also firmly grounded by reality. There is at least one day-to-day issue such as peer pressure or friendship problems in every story. Unlike many of the younger middle-grade stories, these are best read in order as one story runs into another.)
Hotel Flamingo by Alex Milway
Anna arrives at Hotel Flamingo to find it in a state of disrepair. The Hotel hasn’t had a paying guest for years because it can’t compete with it’s rival, the Glitz. Anna thinks this is a great pity because Hotel Flamingo had a reputation for welcoming all animals. She thinks there is space on Animal Boulevard for a hotel which is friendly and welcoming.
She assembles a team and they get to work. Can they restore the hotel to its former glory and bring sunshine back to Animal Boulevard before the hotel inspector shuts them down?
A bright and cheery story suitable for the youngest of middle-grade readers. I love the vintage style glamour of the hotel. It reminded me of Tiana’s diner in The Princess And The Frog. This will raise lots of laughs as Anna and her team try to meet the needs of every animal (the cat wants a litter tray, for example, while the Flamingos need access to a swimming pool).
Thanks to Oxford University Press, Little Tiger UK and Piccadilly Press for the titles featured in this round-up. Opinions my own.