Fiction, Kidlit, Mini reviews

Some Great Middle Grade Reads – Mini Reviews! Grimworld, Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains and Please Return to: Toby Solano

You know I have a weak spot for middle grade books – I’m always reading one or two! Thing is, lately I’ve been running out of things to say in reviews even if I loved the book – so I often end up giving mini reviews on Goodreads only and skipping the blog altogether. I seem to have come to a sort of solution for this – mini reviews! Come on, everyone loves them.

So this time, let’s have a few middle grade mini reviews of books I liked. Some of them are completely fresh reads, and some I’ve finished a while ago – hopefully you’ll pick up one or two.

Grimworld by Avery Moray

A Hall of Keys and No Doors by Emmie Mears

Check out on Goodreads
★★★★✬ 4.5 stars
How I read this:
free review copy from publisher

I was super lucky to get Grimworld as a review copy – I remember seeing it reviewed on someone’s blog and instantly thinking, I WANT TO READ THIS NOW. And it so accidentally panned out that I got in touch with the publisher over another book of theirs in a couple of weeks, without knowing it’s them, and ended up with a copy of Grimworld as well! And it did not disappoint.

I have to say, Grimworld has a definite aesthetic! It’s really hard to tell you exactly what I mean, but the cover does convey it a bit. Imagine if you took The Addams Family, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and a lot of other Tim Burton’s stuff and mashed it all together into a book. That’s pretty much it! I’m not saying it’s exactly like that – no, Grimworld retains its originality, but there’s a definitely vibe to it that I loved so much. First of all, the world is all dark, there’s never any day – only night, so a lot of people use ghostly lights which strengthen this vibe. People also keep odd and somewhat creepy pets – sharks, spiders, worms or snakes, and that’s not all – there are at least a few completely imaginary and fantastical animals mentioned. The foods and the candy they eat are all Halloween-ish, and the color schemes of their clothes and their houses are all very fitting to the theme – purple, green, orange, black. The world is full of all sorts of ghasts – which is completely normal for Grimworld, by the way – they are explained only in passing, and that makes them seem even more normal. These details are why I felt so transported! I haven’t read such a cool middle grade for a while – it’s like getting transported into a sort-of-Halloween-town, but BETTER. I can’t even begin to explain! But Grimworld’s aesthetic totally got me. I LOVED IT.

Imagine taking The Addams Family, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas and some other Tim Burton-esque stuff and mashing it together into a book. That's pretty much Grimworld! Read the full review: Click To Tweet

Then there’s the vibe of the story as well! I really don’t know what it is about middle grade mysteries, but I can’t get enough of them. We all know that the adult world can be dangerous, but it’s the scary, actually chilling danger. Somehow the “middle grade book danger” is different – it’s kind of “safe” danger, if that makes any sense? The thing is, sometimes the kids are in real trouble, but with middle grade, you know they’re going to be alright. So the thrill is different (perhaps that’s why I’m fine with kids’ mysteries but can’t handle adult mystery books.)

Anyway, the kids in the Grimworld story are in a real situation too. Someone has stolen years off their lifetimes! And they’ve got to track the thieves down. What’s worse – nobody knows how to fix it, and to be honest, nobody really cares. The kids are on their own! I can’t really tell you too much without spoiling it, but I can say that it was a great plot and I loved it. I can only hope Grimworld will have some sort of sequel! I can definitely recommend reading this. Even when it’s not Halloween! Trust me, this story will make Halloween come in any season.

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.

Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains by Rebel Girls

A Hall of Keys and No Doors by Emmie Mears

Check out on Goodreads
★★★★★ 5 stars
How I read this:
free review copy on NetGalley

I loved Junko Tabei Masters the Mountains so much! It’s just the right length, it’s beautifully illustrated and it’s about a real person who was very inspiring! I found it hard to believe Junko Tabei really existed, almost – the story seems like it’s from some sort of movie, it has that magic – Junko was a frail kid who was discouraged from sports, and yet, she discovered a love for mountaineering and despite all strove to become better and better at it. This is a wonderful book for kids, especially for girls who may be doubting their abilities or their strength – I know it certainly inspired me. But that’s not all – you can find all sorts of info about mountain climbing at the end (how to tie knots, how to balance yourself or how to even manage your fears!) And, like I said, everything is beautifully and very stylishly illustrated. Definitely pick this one up!

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.

If you're looking for an inspiring story for kids, here's Junko Tabei's story – one of striving to reach your dream even when the odds are against it. Full review: Click To Tweet

Please Return to: Toby Solano by Frank Morelli

A Hall of Keys and No Doors by Emmie Mears

Check out on Goodreads
★★★★☆ 4 stars
How I read this:
free review copy on NetGalley

So a little while ago I read a middle grade book where this guy writes a secret journal. He’s a teacher by day and wrestler by night! The book was cute, it was about finding your true self, strength and self-confidence – just basically learning to let go and live your life. It was a cute read.

And recently, I learned it’s about to have a sequel! I can tell you, I loved the idea right off the bat. Turns out, the teacher wrestler l loses the journal! And a big grump of a bully picks it up. Toby used to be a big, “important” kid back home. One who terrified everyone in his class. But now… Now he’s moved – to a new place where he’s a big old nobody. And where his dad isn’t with him anymore.

Lost in his feelings, Toby tries to pretend it’s everyone else who’s stupid and he just doesn’t care – that’s why he won’t even talk to anyone around. Not that he’s upset about moving or not having his dad anymore. Not that he’s out of his element and is feeling insecure.

Despite him being a bully and a grump at first, Toby’s attitude is awesome (don’t take me wrong – awesome for a book, to read!) He’s sort of a grumpy cat personality? It reads really nicely – he’s got some good sarcasm and wit, and he’s also got a mean joke to throw at anyone. But only on paper, in his diary – because this ex-bully somehow comes across as shy and quiet in this new setting he’s not familiar with.

But the thing is – Toby wants to change. He still doesn’t quite know it, but he’s been different since his move. So maybe he doesn’t know how to practice empathy yet – but it doesn’t mean he’s not up to trying. And sometimes it’s enough to open up just a tiny bit, and a lot of good life lessons can come of it.

As we get to know Toby better throughout the book, we realize that he’s just trying to come off all big and mighty, but he’s actually something of a softie inside, and his way of pretending to be a big bad bully is just a protective mechanism. Luckily, Toby meets a few people who will motivate him to stay off the dark side and try to work out who he really wants to be.

That’s also part of what I liked about this book – that the characters who motivate Toby on getting a grip on his life are the same people the first book was about – and the second book isn’t just about Toby – there’s a lot about the side characters too, there’s even a whole mini-arc aboout the main character of the first one, Mr. Finkelstein – who is now Toby’s teacher and also wrestling training buddy. So this book isn’t just about a single boy – it’s about a lot of people. It really does have a community feel.

And I have to say, I really loved the ending 🙂 not spoilering you though! Read it for yourselves to find out.

I thank the author for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.

If you're looking for a whimsical story of a grumpy-cat kind of boy finding his true self – try Please Return to: Toby Solano. Here's the full review: Click To Tweet

So I hope you’ll enjoy these middle grade reads!
Have you read any good middle grade stories lately that you’d share with me?

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Olivia RoachEvelina AvalinahsBooksIrena BookDustMagicCG @ Paper FuryShruti | This is Lit Recent comment authors

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Shruti | This is Lit
Guest

“Imagine if you took The Addams Family, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and a lot of other Tim Burton’s stuff and mashed it all together into a book. That’s pretty much it!”

Umm hello, this book is perfect for me! I love Tim Burton and I absolutely adore Addams Family, so I need to pick this up ASAP! ❤️

CG @ Paper Fury
Guest

Aww I’m glad you’ve been loving these!! I’ve been reading a few more MGs this year and loving them. Roar was good and I’ve got The Girl With the Dragon Heart coming up on my tbr. Also Grimworld sounds AMAZING.

Irena BookDustMagic
Guest

Thanks for these short reviews. I love reading middle grade from time to time, so recommendations are always welcomed.

Olivia Roach
Guest

I actually used to never read middle grade but as of last year I am getting back into the genre and have found some new favourites that I truly love! Grimworld sounds right up my alley and like a lot of fun as well. I love the determination of the main character in Junko Tabei and yay for Toby Solano getting a sequel as you enjoyed book one so much 😀