Middle Grade Reading Wrap Up #3

Today I’m mixing it up with genres on my blog and talking about middle grade! This is my third middle grade reading wrap up (although some of this reading dates back as far as April), where I fill you in on some of the middle grade reading I’ve done, with a series of mini reviews. It’s quite a nice one today, as I quite enjoyed all three books, as opposed to the other two posts I’ve done, where both times I have really disliked one of the books I’ve been talking about.

First up is George by Alex Gino (A Great Read*), which is about a transgender girl. Everyone thinks that George is a boy, but she knows the truth – that she’s actually a girl. With a school production of Charlotte’s Web coming up, George knows that she has a chance to show everyone that she’s just as good as any other girl at school by auditioning for the main part of Charlotte. The book focuses on George as she tries to stay true to herself and her identity when everyone else has a different idea of who she really is.

This book is honestly fantastic, and I think it’s an essential for any primary school library. There has recently been some exploration of being transgender in YA (the two I remember most are The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, the latter actually being by a transgender author), but very few in middle grade that I’m aware of. This one actually dates back quite a few years, and I’m just delighted that a book so wonderful has been around for long enough to have hopefully made an impression on lots of young people, especially when it’s so important to have diversity in all genres, including middle grade. Something I loved in particular was that George’s internal monologue used entirely she/her pronouns, which I think really emphasised that George was a girl, even if she still had her birth name. I loved how supportive her best friend was as well, and that there was definitely one person who was wholeheartedly accepting of her identity. I think this would be a perfect class book for primary schools, and I hope it gets all the attention it deserves.

Next is The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Steven (A Great Read*). If you thought that the title and the cover look vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan O’Dowd – this is the unofficial sequel! Sadly, Siobhan O’Dowd died quite a while ago, but Robin Stevens (author of the Murder Most Unladylike series) stepped in to write a follow up novel. This time we see Ted travel to New York to stay with his cousin and aunt, who is currently working as a curator for the Guggenheim. When an expensive painting goes missing and Aunt Gloria is framed, they have to solve the mystery to prove her innocence.

I was rather sceptical when I started reading this book. The London Eye Mystery was actually one of my set books in primary school, so I remembered it fondly and was a little afraid that this sequel wouldn’t live up to the original (or my memories of it, anyway). At first, I found it hard to connect with the narrative voice, but either I relaxed into the book or it got better, as the voice became much more like what I remembered, and easier to connect with as I read. The mystery was also really good – something I love about mystery books is when the characters are one step ahead of you; there’s nothing more disappointing than when you correctly guess what’s going to happen half way through the book, and then just finish for the sake of it. With this book, I had my suspicions, but I would never have guessed the final conclusion, which always makes a mystery for me.

Finally for today is Kick by Mitch Johnson. This story is about Budi, an Indonesian boy who lives in Jakarta, and works in a factory making football boots. However, what Budi really wants to do is become a world-famous football player, and he adores watching his favourite team play on TV. When he accidentally kicks a football into the property of the Dragon, a local thug, his life takes a turn for the worse as he now ‘owes’ the Dragon – and there will be dire consequences if he doesn’t deliver.

This book was really powerful, and I think that reading it would definitely be a valuable experience, regardless of age. It brings home how fortunate a lot of us are – it’s easy to moan about exams or feel sorry for yourself when you’re having a bad day, but there are kids like Budi who don’t get the opportunity to go to school for more than a few years because they have to work to support their family. I also really liked the family dynamic, and I especially enjoyed the parts of the book with Budi’s grandmother. The friendship issues he went through were really painful to read about, and you really got a vivid feel for how confusing and difficult things could get for him. I did think that the blurb made more out of the football element of the book than it should have. There was a lot of discussion of Budi’s favourite team, and he sometimes plays football with his friends, but although it hinted at something he could do to progress his dream, he didn’t end up doing it. I would have liked to have seen more development to this, and I think it would have given a real sense of hope at the end.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into the world of middle grade! Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to?

Note: all links marked with a * are for A Great Read, a site with free UK delivery and prices below RRP. I am an affiliate, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy via the link, but it does not affect the price you pay!

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