How do you feel about autumn? Personally, I love it. I love it to pieces, it’s my absolute favorite season! The sky is almost always golden, at least where I live. The days are getting shorter, but not agressively so – by aggressively, I mean that in winter here, it gets dark at around 4 pm. Nobody likes it 😂
But with autumn… It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. You can wear all your favorite clothes and still look fashionable without having to murder yourself with stupid inventions of the media, like “the bikini body” or the fact that women have to be completely hairless (a fact that I hope fellow women will stop harrassing each other about, because I swear 90% of the guys honestly don’t care, and the 10% who do are really not worth you speaking to them.)
I could talk about cozy autumn sweaters and hot cocoa for
days hours, and I feel like you’d be happy to read about it, but instead, I’m just going to share my favorite autumn GIF with you to convey the vibe:
A GIF of a cat shrugging off autumn leaves in the late afternoon sunlight. It is PERFECT.
That is the perfect GIF. It has a cat, sunshine, and autumn. I LOVE IT.
But despite autumn being my favorite season, I am prone to blues. Autumn blues not excluded. Lately especially I’ve been triggered here and there by books, by almost any kind of book. This quickly spiralled out to me being unable to finish and review A LOT of books that I had lined up. Which I feel might have brought on these little changes that my blog will be going through this year, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Because it also nudged in the direction of reading more middle grade books. And that’s a change I really, really love.
Middle Grade Books To The Rescue
So you think you’re too old to read middle grade? Or maybe you think I am? Well, I don’t know why you’re reading my blog then, because I refuse to grow up!
A GIF of the alligator from the Peter Pan cartoon, flailing madly and smiling in the water… at top speed, LOL
Anyway. Middle grade books are a splash of joy and light in this world of constant negativity and tension. You switch on the news and you’ve got “this many dead, this many harrassed, these guys at the top of the power pyramid are planning bad things for you”. It’s hard to live in a world like that! You know what I’m talking about.
I know a lot of you manage to read crime and thriller books, and enjoy the hell out of the experience. But it’s not for someone like me, and I know I’m not alone in the world. A lot of you struggle with anxiety and even have panic attacks, or so much more than that. Why should we then read what’s popular and what stresses us out?
That’s another reason why I don’t read YA so much. YA is often built on angst and tension! But middle grade isn’t.
And that’s why I’ve been binge reading so many middle grade books lately. And I’ve enjoyed the crap out of them!!! And I want to talk more about these books. I’m going to go over a few books in this post, but since I’ve already posted reviews for most of them, I’ll start with one which didn’t get a review yet, and since I’m not going to post a lot of straight up reviews anymore, lets give it the attention its due. Because it was an amazing book.
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty
Disclaimer: I was given a copy for review. It does not affect my honest opinion.
Gosh was this one a cookie! At first it might have been a little bit harder to get into because of the unusual tone, but after I did? I absolutely loved it. This book has so many good things in it – and I just don’t know where to start. First of all, it has kickass women characters. Starting with Bronte herself – a girl that I’m incredibly proud of, despite her being a fictional character! She’s serious for a ten year old, and she’s grown up without her parents. On top of that, she now has to go on an escapade that they mapped out for her in their will – because it’s magically enchanted to destroy her hometown if she doesn’t!
Who’d want to do that for absent parents? So what if they died just now, where were they during Bronte’s 10 years of life with her aunt? Adventuring, that’s where. So not only does Bronte have to go off ON HER OWN to have these adventures and travel where her absent parents bid her, she also has to deal with her grief and her seemingly inappropriate anger with her parents and… what the flying hell were they even thinking.
True to any self-respecting middle grade book, naturally, Bronte doesn’t just have adventures and fun. She also learns a whole lot. And I loved the values taught in the book! Okay, so a quick rundown of what I loved about the world in Bronte Mettlestone:
- Women are strong. They can travel when they’re just little girls. They can live on their own and be powerful wizards.
- More than that, they don’t need a princes or kings to marry them to ‘save’ them. Don’t open the spoiler if you’re going to read the book – they can be
elected asqueens and rule countries on their own, and rock at it.
- And even if they’re annoying as hell like one of Bronte’s aunts, they can be tough business ladies as well.
- But it doens’t stop at #girlpower – this book makes the effort to explain to the reader that every conflict has two points of view and two stories behind the events of any war
- And most importantly – this book addresses the thoughts in an abandoned kid’s head – a thought a lot of our children could be having right now, with how high divorce rates are.
Let me elaborate. I feel like I’ve elaborated enough about the women part in the bullet points, so I’ll just talk about the other parts. First of all, I really loved how the political conflicts were talked about. It really needs to be presented like this more often – that in any war, there is rarely a “right” side and a “wrong” side. Yes, one side might be more right than wrong, but even so – it’s not the entire nation’s fault that their leader is being a total [insert preferred swear word here]. And it also doens’t mean that these people are ALL evil and should be murdered.
Another thing is the problem of the abandoned child. Our society struggles a lot with the problems that come from childhoods with separated parents. Don’t we know that a lot of children blame themselves for their parents splitting up? Or worse, a parent (or both) abandoning the child altogether? These thoughts and feelings should be addressed, and where else than in a middle grade novel? It’s done SO well here too.
Bronte was abandoned as a child, because her parents went off ‘to have adventures’. Of course she blames herself! She thinks she must’ve been boring, so they left her. Throught talks with her aunts and the adventures in general, these ideas are dealt with and explained, resolved very well. But that’s not all – the amount of mental baggage this book deals with is staggering. It talks about depression in adults and how a child should understand it, it talks about grief and that everyone deals with it differently. It talks about overwork in adults and how that is not a life path you should take, despite it being extolled in our money-driven society. Those are things I won’t go into very deeply, but considering the ones I already mentioned, you must agree that this is a lot of stuff to be talked about in a childrens’ book – and talked about in a natural, non-invasive or weird way. 10 points for
Gryffindor Hufflepuff. (I just wanted to say that.)
And with all of these issues discussed, does the book get bogged down or droll? Nope! It has a light-hearted tone that will fix that autumn blues, just like I promised!
A GIF of Bugs Bunny, munching on a carrot and possibly saying ‘What’s up, Doc?’
Anyway, I could be talking about The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone day and night, but we need to be moving on to another book. So buy it or add it to Gooreads and we’ll be moving on.
And oh yes. Did I mention the illustrations? THEY’RE AMAAAAAAAZIIIIIIING ❤️❤️❤️
Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Would you be surprised if I said I loved Wildwood pretty much just as much as I loved Bronte Mettlestone? I believe it’s a bigger book, although it reads just as quickly. It also has amazing illustrations and some similar topics.
Just like with Bronte, it revolves around a magical adventure, but this time it’s not just a girl going on it – it’s a boy as well. One thing I really loved about this book was how well balanced it was for both boys and girls! There is no one side that is followed up more or accentuated more. They both have their separate version of the same adventure and they’re both included and just as important. This helps integrate children so well – no more separation of what’s for girls, what’s for boys. It makes it the perfect story to read to siblings or basically all children. No more pink or blue – it’s for everyone.
You could say Wildwood is a sort of coming of age story for both the girl and the boy, and also a story of coming to terms with how your family is built and where you stand in it. That it doesn’t revolve around you – or if it does, it’s in terms of your responsibility to everyone else, and not what you’re entitled to. Those are all great messages.
Also, another good thing about Wildwood was how it treats the reader as an adult – no matter if it’s a child reading the story or not. There’s no sugarcoating things, and some truly scary things do threaten to happen. That’s the whole point of the adventure – to stop them from happening. Some kids books will try to protect the reader from the sad truths of life, and I don’t feel like that’s a good thing – it creates a bubble of lies which bursts one day as we grow up. We need to learn to deal with the world the way it is.
What I also loved about the story was the feel it had – magical surroundings, animals living along with people in the woods – much like in Wind in the Willows. The vibe was very cozy and accomodating, despite the danger! Things weren’t taken too seriously either, which helped the book be very readable indeed. I can truly recommend this one!
Sleep, Merel, Sleep by Silke Stein
I’ve already reviewed this one here, but I can’t fail to mention it again because it was simply the perfect book for me. A truly touching story about a child whose family is going through something tough and who feels threatened as a consequence, and doesn’t know what to do. Of course, there’s a magical adventure involved, and of course she must go on it to fix things. The adventure is well written and despite being tense, it’s still a story that will leave you feeling so much better after you’ve read it. Perfect for the autumn.
Omnia by Laura Gallego García
I’ve also reviewed this one before, here. But it was clearly so good I can still not forget it! Dealing with sibling problems, like Wildwood and Sleep, Merel, Sleep, it’s also both a craaaaazy adventure, as well as a way to learn some things about yourself and your family. This book also had the feeling I was talking about – the feeling of coziness and safety, even despite reading the tense story. The feeling of knowing things will be alright in the end!
So these are the kinds of books I’ve been reading lately. Do you have such feel-good comfort books? Is it a genre, or is it a certain theme, or maybe an author?
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.