Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction

The Magic of Nature in Middle Grade

The natural world has a magic all its own. Even though we know so much about how plants grow, reproduce and fill our world, it is still inexplicably wondrous to be surrounded by something so alive – the damp shadows of the forest, the new shoots of a seed, the medicinal powers not created by humans.

Seed by Caryl Lewis (Macmillan Children’s Books)

Hope grows when you believe the impossible.

Marty finds life hard. Bullies make school miserable, his dad left, his mum is a hoarder who struggles with her mental health and Marty is forced to become independent beyond his years to care for her. When his charmingly eccentric Grandad gives him a very special seed for his birthday, everything starts to change.

Grandad, Marty and his friend, Gracie, have something new to focus on – helping the plant that bursts out of this seed to grow as large as possible. They’re willing to try anything and are amazed when they discover the plant’s secret – listening to people’s dreams is better than any fertiliser. This unlikely trio sets off themselves a challenge with a brilliant James and the Giant Peach moment and celebrates their dreams – those they are aware of and those they haven’t even realised yet.

Gracie is a very special character. She is deaf with a cochlear implant but is also an incredible dancer. She switches off her transmitter and feels the music through the floor. In this way, she is able to express herself with a strength and creativity she holds back in other parts of her life. Like Marty, she is forced to be independent as her dad is busy with his new business and mum has remarried. Her friendship with Marty is generous and kind. She understands him, accepts him and values him for the boy he is, not whether or not he measures up to what society expects of him.

There are so many issues to explore in this empathy-building book. Real life meets the fantastical in a completely unexpected way!

The Secret Wild by Alex Evelyn (Walker Books)

The Secret Wild is a delight. Fern is as wild as the plants she loves and when she’s forced to move from the depths of the rainforest to the concrete jungle of London, she feels displaced and lonely. The only company she has is a tiny plant she picked up from a strange woman on the plane. So different from any other plants she’s seen before, Fern is determined to work out what it is and why the woman had so many of them.

In London, Fern is shocked to find giant plants everywhere. There seems to be some sort of Guerrilla Gardner attacking the city with a “Green Revolution”. With the help of her eccentric uncle – an author with a wonderful passion for words – and her new botanophobic friend, Woody, curious Fern decides she must find out what is going on. What she uncovers is terrifying yet amazing at the same time.

The Secret Wild would be a brilliant Year 6 class read to accompany an Inheritance & Evolution topic in Science as children explore adaptations and the value of nature.

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna (Welbeck Publishing Group)

An enchanted forest, child-nabbing goblins, witches in training, the border between a faerie world and our own – Hedgewitch has all the ingredients of a magical tale that will have readers looking for fairy folk every time they go for a walk in the woods.

Cassie Morgan is trapped in a dreary boarding school. Her mother has been missing for 7 years. When she is officially declared dead, Cassie is left with nothing. Before she can be taken to a horrible orphanage, she decides to run away. The new life she discovers exceeds her wildest dreams. All the fairies and magic she’s read about in forbidden books late at night might actually be real!

In the magic of midsummer, Cassie learns she is related to the infamous Hedgewitch of the village of Hedgely and she can become a witch-in-training. With much to learn, Cassie must do her best in the 1st Hedgely Coven and figure out how to outsmart the Erl King.

Hedgewitch is a story about finding a place where you belong. It is a charmingly magical adventure that completely captures the power of nature.

The Map of Leaves by Yarrow Townsend (Chicken House Books)

The Map of Leaves is a magical story of being at one with nature. Since her mother died, Orla’s only company has been the plants surrounding her home. Now a sickness has come and nature is blamed but Orla knows that can’t be. The Warden of Thorn Creek demands all plants be destroyed. He orders Orla to clear her garden. But how can she possibly do that when she can hear the plants whispering their secrets?

In this celebration of traditional plant-based medicine, Orla discovers she must be the one to help. The plants are counting on her and it seems she has known the secrets of the land up river all along. With determination, loyalty and love, she and some new friends face the evil that is destroying the natural world and try to put things right.

Thank you to the authors & publishers who sent these books for me to review.

Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon or bookshop.org.

Books by Kate Heap:

Available to pre-order:

Nonfiction: Years 5/6

Nonfiction: Years 3/4

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