Tag Archives: middle grade

Review of Stumbling On A Tale, by Suzanne Roche

Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to read all the Middle Grade books that I’ve shelved with the intention of reading before passing them to my children (but basically forgot about). Today I finished Stumbling on a Tale, by Suzanne Roche. I won it through Goodreads.


It turns out the trips back in time haven’t ended for Peri, Henry, and Max. In the second book in the TIME TO TIME Series, the children find themselves right in the middle—the Middle Ages that is. And this time they’re lost in a forest, where they stumble upon a group of travelers who seem to be long on medieval tales but short on helpful information.

Peri and her stepbrothers are sure they know what they have to do to get home though, so there won’t be any problems this time. End of story.

Okay, maybe not.

It turns out everything Peri and the boys know is wrong and nothing is how they expect it to be. So when none of their ideas work, they have to rely on a peasant chaperoning his pig, a maiden searching for her dog, a dragon-hunting page, and an unappreciated sorcerer to find the answers. Only everyone seems to be better at losing things than finding them.

At the end of the book, you can get your hands on history—make medieval gingerbread, learn to play Nine Man’s Morris, and solve a riddle from the 10th century, plus more! 


I found this an interesting miss-mash of a book. It’s eminently readable (even if the editing hitches on occasion and it looks like it’s been formatted in Word *shudder*). And it’s obviously intended to introduce and educate children on aspects of the Middle Ages, the story being the vehicle to drop facts in their laps. It mostly works too.

Where I think it falters is in the pictures. Not the pictures themselves, but that they’re pictures with captions. They seem out of place in a fictional story, as opposed to a textbook. It requires quitting the story to read the caption, which disrupts the flow. I found it really distracting. The only way I actually see this working with a child reader is the time-honored practice of not reading the caption at all.

Having said that, as with so very many books with ignored caption, I can see this doing well in a school library. And for the record, it stands alone just fine. I had no problem with the fact that I hadn’t read book one, Making it Home.

Edit: I noticed, when I cross-posted this review to Amazon, that Making it Home is a freebie. So, it would be easy enough to pick up.

Review of The Nose from Jupiter, by Richard Scrimger

I won a copy of Richard Scrimger‘s The Nose From Jupiter through Goodreads.


How do you shut up when your nose is doing all the talking?

Alan is not big or strong. He hates playing soccer and can barely keep up in math class. Moreover, he’s fodder for every bully for miles around. But all that changes the day Norbert, an alien from Jupiter, comes to earth on an exploration mission and moves into . . . Alan’s nose. Soon Alan isn’t acting like himself, but is Norbert really to blame? Loud, pushy and hilarious, Norbert teaches Alan to stand up for himself, even when the odds are stacked against him.


While there was nothing wrong with this story, I expected a lot more of it. When you pick up a book that is a “20th Anniversary Edition,” you expect to find a story that has enough je ne sais quoi to have endured two decades. You expect something special. But, while this is a perfectly fine middle grade story, it’s not special in any real way. I appreciated that the bullies were both girls and boys, and that the students seemed to come in different shapes. But beyond that….it’s ok. I imagine a 12-year-old boy will like it fine. I didn’t object to any of the content. I feel perfectly comfortable passing it to my 8 & 11-year olds.

Review of Planet Grief, by Monique Polak

I won a paperback copy of Planet Grief, by Monique Polak, through LibraryThing.

Description from Goodreads:

What a crappy way to spend a weekend. The always-sarcastic Abby would rather be playing soccer, and the cagily quiet Christopher thinks a grief retreat is a waste of time. Neither of them wants to spend two days talking about their feelings. But despite their best efforts to stay aloof, Abby and Christopher are drawn into the lives of the other kids at the retreat. Maybe their stories will make them rethink how they are dealing with their own losses.


I can’t say I read a lot of middle grade fiction. (This says it’s intended for ages 9+.) But I won this, so I decided to give it a read before passing it on to my children. I imagine if you had a 9-15ish year old who had lost someone in their lives recently this would be a good book for them to read. The characters are at a grief retreat and the reader basically follows them through grief counseling. It could help a young reader understand what they’re feeling. Honestly however, I don’t see a young person truly enjoying it outside of having a reason to read it. The book doesn’t stray far enough away from the very real sense of didacticism to be read purely for enjoyment, IMO. But all in all, for what it is, it’s not bad.