Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

Invaluable Books from Barrington Stoke

Barrington Stoke can always be relied on to create entertaining, meaningful, empathy-filled stories that are accessible and empowering for readers. With dyslexia-friendly font, spacing and page tint, everyone can enjoy these wonderful books. The manageable length and carefully chosen vocabulary encourages success and brings children back for more.

All About Ella by Sally Nicholls & illustrated by Hannah Coulson (reading age 7 / interest age 8-12)

Monday’s child is fair of face,

Tuesday’s child is full of grace…

Ella is trying to work out who she is and find her place in her family with a poorly brother who needs a lot of her parents’ attention. Is she full of woe? Does she have far to go? Is she a good girl? Is she expected to be good all the time? As the family struggles through the ups and downs of life, Ella realises that she only needs to be herself. Her parents have such special memories of the day she was born, even if they don’t know which day of the week it was.

All About Ella is a story so many children will relate to. When life gets tough, families stick together.

Football Mad: Teamwork! by Paul Stewart & illustrated by Michael Broad (reading age 8 / interest age 8-12)

Teamwork! is the fourth book in the Football Mad series. Scott, Danny and Jack love playing for Dale Juniors. When they face their greatest rivals, the captain, Scott, is forced to play for the other team – the girls! It’s a test of his loyalties: does he throw the match and play badly or should he stay true to himself and play his very best?

Scott must learn important lessons about respecting the girls, rejecting sexist comments from the other boys, what it means to be a good sport and having integrity with the team he plays for. He realises that being a good person is more important than winning.

All to Play For by Eve Ainsworth & illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman (reading age 8 / interest age 8-12)

Lewis loves football but his mum doesn’t want him to play. She blames the sport for the loss of their Dad and just can’t forgive. There’s also the issue of the expense that comes with playing football. Everything soon adds up and the cost of the kit is a step too far.

When Lewis is spotted by a local coach, he’s desperate to join in, but is it worth the heartache and lies? Lewis finds himself torn between making his mum happy and making himself happy. This dilemma brings a new point of view to a football story. Children will enjoy debating what Lewis should do as they learn more about the family dynamics at play and how it’s important to consider everyone’s feelings when we want to do something.

Tutankhamun’s Treasure by David Long & illustrated by Stefano Tambellini (reading age 8 / interest age 8-12)

Tutankhamun’s Treasure is an incredibly readable non-fiction book packed full of facts. Ancient Egypt is such a popular topic with children that this is sure to be snapped up. Engaging black and white illustrations and maps add so much to intriguing revelations about life in Ancient Egypt.

Covering over 3000 years of history, readers will learn about the significance of the Valley of the Kings, Howard Carter, priceless artefacts and a curse! This is perfect for Upper Key Stage Two reading comprehension and to support studies in History.

Say No to the Dress by Keren David (reading age 8 / interest age Teen)

Miri is 14 years old and has been “mugged by puberty”. She feels like her body has betrayed her and she isn’t sure who she is anymore. Add to that COVID and then Long COVID and her confidence seems to have disappeared.

When her older brother and sister both get engaged in the same summer, Miri has to face the awful truth – she’s going to be a bridesmaid – twice. That means standing up in front of everyone, lots of fuss, and DRESSES. Can Miri find a way to worry less and enjoy life more, all while working out who she is now that she’s growing up?

Say No to the Dress is incredibly powerful. The voice of Miri is strong and honest. Her insecurities are similar to those faced by so many young women as they step into the unknowns of puberty when suddenly nothing fits, spots appear and they don’t recognise themselves anymore. I will be recommending this book to so many adolescents and teens (I already have!)

Needle by Patrice Lawrence (reading age 8 / interest age Teen)

Needle explores the reality of the foster care system so many children experience. Feelings of abandonment, loneliness and the need to protect herself at all costs run through Charlene’s story as she tries to do the right thing and struggles to say “Sorry” when she doesn’t.

Charlene loves knitting – it keeps her calm and helps her to feel connected to her little sister who she hasn’t seen since their mum died two years ago. When her foster carer’s aggressive son destroys the blanket she’s knitting for Kandi, Charlene loses controls. She stabs him in the hand with a knitting needle and finds herself at the police station.

This book is essential reading for children and teachers in every secondary school in the country. Developing empathy for children in care and being able to see life from their point of view is crucial for helping all children feel loved, accepted and understood. I’ve taught a number of children who are in care and can see their stories mirrored in Charlene’s experiences. In reading this, I’m sure they would feel validated and valuable.

Wrath by Marcus Sedwick (reading age 8 / interest age Teen)

Wrath is a story of friendship, belief and understanding a world in need. Cassie and Fitz are just coming out of life in lockdown. For a while, everyone in the world seemed to pause – hold their breath – while they hid away, trying to keep humans safe. What so many people missed was the slow, deep breaths the Earth itself was taking, the humming of a planet trying to tell its people that things need to change before it’s too late.

Cassie can hear the humming. She knows the Earth is in distress. Desperate to do something about it, she tries to explain it to Fitz. It isn’t until Cassie goes missing that Fitz realises what she was trying to tell him and what he must do to help.

Intense and wild, this story is gripping. Young Adult readers will be drawn in to Cassie’s quest to stop further climate change and Fitz’s desire to support his friend, even if he doesn’t completely understand.

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line.

Books by Kate Heap:

Available to pre-order:

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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