On My Bookshelf: Four Middle Grade Favourites

As a child I devoured Middle Grade fiction for many years. I read my way around the children’s section in my local library and then re-read my favourites for good measure. When I graduated into adult fiction I never looked back, until about two years ago. I accidentally bought a middle grade book, thinking it was an adult mystery novel. While slightly disappointed, I read it anyway and surprised myself by loving it!

I will admit to not being the biggest connoisseur of this genre on the planet but for me these types of books are perfect when I’m in a reading rut and nothing sounds appealing. They are generally quick and easy to read with plots that don’t require a huge amount of energy to figure out, but they can also be hilariously funny and incredibly thoughtful and moving at the same time. Here are four of my favourites:

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

A middle grade fantasy that at times reads more like Young Adult fiction, this gorgeous book reads almost like an alternative fairy tale. Isabella lives with her father, a cartographer, on the island of Joya. Once a place of tranquility and joy with songbirds in every tree, the harsh-ruling Govener has turned Joya into a dark prison. Ravens have driven out the native songbirds and the residents are forbidden to travel beyond the forest that separates Joya from the rest of civilisation. When a series of mysteries events shake the island, Isabella leads a party of explorers deep into the forest in search of answers. Before long, dark secrets begin to emerge and the legends Isabella has only heard about begin to come to life.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

One of my absolute favourite books as an older child, and the one that started by fascination with the Amazon rainforest. Set in 1910, this adventure novel focus on orphan Maia who is sent to to live with distant relatives who own a rubber plantation in the Amazon. Maia believes she will soon be in the land of brightly coloured tropical birds, enormous butterflies and sweetly scented flowers. Unfortunately, Maia’s relatives do not live up to her expectations – they constantly douse the house in insect repellant and forbid her from leaving the compound. Maia manages to evade her relatives’ endless rules and finds her own adventure – sailing down the Amazon in the company of a boy who lives on the river in search of a legendary giant sloth.

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

This charming children’s mystery novel is no. 5 in Robin Steven’s Murder Most Unladylike series, though it can be read as a stand alone book just fine. The series, which is set in the 1930s, follows the adventures of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong and their secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls. These books are a fantastic mixture of Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton with a little Hercule Poirot added in. In instalment number five, Daisy and Hazel are spending their Christmas holidays in snowy Cambridge. Two days before Christmas, a terrible accident occurs. At least, it seems to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

The gorgeous cover of this book is the main reason I first picked it up. What I found inside was an exciting, Victorian steampunk adventure with some wonderful characters I was a little sorry to say goodbye to at the end. Cogheart follows the story of a girl named Lily whose life is in mortal peril. Her father has disappeared and now silver-eyed men stalk her through the night. With her friends – Robert, the clockmaker’s son and Malkin, her mechanical fox, Lily is plunged into a murky and dangerous world. Lily soon realises that the people she holds most dear may be the very ones that will break her heart.

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