So often the word that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Middle Grade fiction is fun. I feel like it’s something I end up saying a lot, but that dSo often the word that comes to mind when I’m thinking about Middle Grade fiction is fun. I feel like it’s something I end up saying a lot, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So many great Middle Grade books are fun and highly engaging, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the age grouping so much. Spy Dog, actually aimed a little below the lower end of the 8 – 12 age band lives up to this idea of fun really, really well.
We’re first introduced to Lara, the Spy Dog from the title, when she’s hiding out at the RSPCA’s rehoming shelter. This is part of her training – if she gets split from her handlers she should go undercover as a regular pet until they can come and get her. The process of Lara getting rehomed is very entertaining, she’s a highly skilled dog so there are all sorts of extra things she can think of to do in order to get herself, or one of the other dogs selected.
I really enjoyed learning about how Lara had become this canine special agent, and laughed lots as she tried to integrate herself into the normal family life. The illustrations by Chris Mould that go with this work really well and add to the humour, there are some things that are a little difficult to imagine – he captures these really well.
There’s plenty of action within this story, keeping the read pacey and engaging. The chapters are short which I would imagine will work in the favour of young children who ask for “just one more…” to be read at bedtime! The tone is appropriate for the intended young audience, the big villain being a drugs baron could perhaps have been a little much but it’s well done with the focus being on the fact he’s the baddie rather than why he’s the baddie.
A fast, fun read that I’m sure young readers will lap up. If they do there’s plenty more waiting for them, there are currently 20 books involving Lara, her pups and most recently Shakespeare the spy cat....more
Sometimes I look at my bookcase when I’m trying to choose my next read and find myself yearning for something that’s completely fun. On these occasionSometimes I look at my bookcase when I’m trying to choose my next read and find myself yearning for something that’s completely fun. On these occasions I always start looking over the Middle Grade titles I have waiting for me, this is almost always where the funniest books on my shelves can be found. Everything I’d heard about Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie made me think it was going to serve my desire for a fun read very well indeed.
Adam is a really engaging lead character, he’s funny and self-deprecating without either feeling over done. I found his frustrations with returning to his life to find out how much of it has already changed both touching and amusing, the way Adam just got on with things worked really well. I also enjoyed the introduction of his two fellow non-humans; Corina the vegan vampire and Ernesto the chupacubra. All three have their own issues with their supernatural side, I felt this made their burgeoning friendship all the stronger. I very much liked that the chupacubra was included – it’s nice to see some of the lesser used supernatural species get a little attention from time to time.
There is a great quest aspect to this book, Adam doesn’t understand why he is a zombie and decides to find the bee that stung and killed him. I learnt something from this element of the plot – I’d always been under the impression once bees stung they died, a quick search taught me this only holds true for honey bees. Once I’d educated myself I got straight back to reading, willing the trio on as they tried to track down the responsible creature. The way this all plays out is very satisfying, I really enjoyed that whilst the quest is for the answers Adam’s looking for both Corina and Ernesto also get to develop a lot throughout its progression.
The book contains lots of footnotes, something I have very mixed feelings about. I’ve read books where they’ve been really badly done and had a hugely detrimental effect on how I’ve felt about the book. When they’re done well though they can add a lot to the reading experience and the footnotes in Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie are done really well. They added a lot to Adam’s character and often made me laugh.
This is the first of Jeff Norton’s books that I’ve read, despite being very aware of his hugely popular Metawars series I’ve never picked one up to read. This was a great introduction to his writing and I now have every intention of catching up. In the meantime I’m going to be purchasing a few copies of Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie as gifts over the next few months – I have some young readers in mind who I know will love this as much as I did!...more
The first couple of chapters of this book quickly draw you into the somewhat unusual version of our world that provides its setting. It feels like a wThe first couple of chapters of this book quickly draw you into the somewhat unusual version of our world that provides its setting. It feels like a world where health and safety fears really have taken over – every element of life in the small town of Barrow is governed by a risk averse attitude. I was immediately drawn into Owen’s story, feeling very sorry for him and the new friends he was making as the impact of all of the safety rules became increasingly clear.
The book very much feels like it’s a cautionary tale, we all know the age old wisdom that the more you tell someone they can’t have or do something the more they want to do exactly the opposite. It’s no wonder therefore that Owen and his friends come together with a wish to rebel and to go and chase one of the tornados responsible for so many of the restrictions placed upon them.
The description of this book as hilarious, thought-provoking, highly original is spot on. There were definite laugh out loud moments but there were just as many, if not more, moments that left the reader with something to think about. Considering perceptions is a real theme running throughout the book – there are characters that are being seen one, perhaps flawed, way by the characters but we the reader can perhaps see them a little more clearly as we’re seeing them from a distance.
Owen’s group of friends are a wonderfully mixed bunch, seeing how they come together in spite of their differences was lovely. Their first meeting in particular was brilliant, I found myself thinking back to the wonderful groups from the many Enid Blyton books I read as a child. I liked as well the way that the group of characters included a person of colour and person with a disability without either of these things defining the character – something I hope we’re going to be seeing more and more of in children’s literature.
There are some pretty big twists and turns as the book progresses, a couple of times I was pleasantly surprised by the direction that the book took. The ending left me thinking for a long time, I’ll certainly be interested to hear how younger readers get on with it. I do think it’s a very fitting ending but I also think it’s likely to be one that might need some discussion – I imagine like anything this will vary from reader to reader but is worth considering if you’re giving the book to someone.
I haven’t read Ross Montgomery’s first book Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door but on the strength of this book it’s definitely earned a place on my books to read list....more
After reading and enjoying The Boy in the Dress I was really looking forward to reading Mr Stink. I got caught up in the story really quickly, and finAfter reading and enjoying The Boy in the Dress I was really looking forward to reading Mr Stink. I got caught up in the story really quickly, and finished the book in one sitting.
The story is one big moral story about appearances being deceptive and how important it is to look more deeply at people rather than just accepting them at face value and making judgements about them. It never feels preachy or like a moral story though, this is all cleverly woven into the story. I loved the way that over the course of around 270 pages all of the key characters go on a real journey, with the exception of Raj (who should never change), they all end the book very differently to how they start it.
Chloe is a lovely main character, there were parts of her that really reminded me of me when I was 12. I loved her creativity and her focus on doing the right thing even when it was hard for her to do so. Mr Stink is a great creation though at times some of the descriptions of him or the things he did were a little on the gross side for me – I’m sure young readers will absolutely adore him. I was so pleased to see Raj featured in this book as well as The Boy in the Dress, I’m looking forward to seeing whether he appears in Walliams’ other books....more
Wow, I’m not entirely sure where to begin with talking about this book. I can definitely say it’s a funny, pacey read that will keep readers of all agWow, I’m not entirely sure where to begin with talking about this book. I can definitely say it’s a funny, pacey read that will keep readers of all ages engaged, but to try and describe why is going to be a challenge – I really think this is one of those books that’s best discovered by reading. That won’t however make for much of a review so I’m going to do my best to talk about why I enjoyed it so much.
The plot is twisty and turny but is basically a story of goodies, Samuel and Granny Samurai, battling baddies who come in the form of school bully Boris Hissocks and the evil Monkey King who naturally has evil minions in tow. Poor Samuel is never quite up to speed with what’s going on, Granny Samurai is a lady of relatively few words and she certainly doesn’t waste them on explaining everything to him. This works really well for the reader, you’re as in the dark as Samuel is – I found myself coming up with all sorts of theories for what might be happening.
Samuel is an interesting lead character. I found that whilst I liked him and sympathised with his frustrations at not knowing what was going on I did also wish sometimes I could give him a little shake and encourage him to stand up for himself a little more. I imagine that the target audience won’t have any such feelings towards him. Granny Samurai, probably as expected, steals the book. She’s a larger than life, mysterious figure who comes out with absolute gems of dialogue. The book as a whole made me smile, most of the times that it made me laugh it was Granny Samurai who was responsible.
The book is illustrated, every double spread has at least one small drawing, on some the picture covers both pages and the text takes up only a small portion of the space. The pictures are all in grayscale and add a lot to the reading experience. Instead of a traditional chapter format the book is structured as Samuel’s memoir which means it has lots of short sections – I think this always helps books to feel like they’re zipping along when you read them.
Throughout the book the thing that kept coming to mind was how much I’d like to read this aloud to a group – I think it would work really well for this and will be passing my copy onto a friend who’s a teacher so that she can do just this. I don’t know if there are plans for another book featuring these characters but if there is one then I will definitely read it....more
This is the first book in a new series, Wings & Co, aimed at young readers. I thought it was a great read, it introduces the characters3.5 stars.
This is the first book in a new series, Wings & Co, aimed at young readers. I thought it was a great read, it introduces the characters and the magical version of the world that the book’s set in really well. There’s enough adventure and excitement to balance out the scene setting, I think it’ll capture the imagination of most young readers. I love the illustrations included in the book, they really add to the experience. Emily is a wonderful lead character, I’ll be looking forward to reading about her adventures in the next book. A definite thumbs up from me....more