Tag Archives: middle grade

Review of Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense

I won a signed paperback of Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense, through Library Thing.

Description from Goodreads:

Moxie’s adventures continue. This time she’s the Queen and her reign is threatened. A tribe of savage Picts have migrated from up north and settled outside her borders. Then there are the forests fairies. Their king, Oberon, claims a vast chunk of her land. In addition, Moxie’s ten-year-old daughter, decides she doesn’t want to be the next Queen. How’s a Queen to deal with all these problems? 

Review:

This is utterly ridiculous and anachronistic, but endearingly so. Think Terry Pratchett.

Unfortunately, it really suffers from amateurish writing and not knowing what it wants to be. The writing feels suited for lower YA audiences, maybe even Middle Grade. But the book includes cursing and references to sex, which I have no problem with in principle but have no place in a Middle Grade book. I suspect that the issue is the author wanted to write and adult book, but only has the skill to craft middle grade complexity in his stories.

Plus, I sense that Quense meant for the book to be gender positive, but it really wasn’t. There are several problematic gender norms that go largely un-critiqued. Pedro and his insistence that he can control Kate simply by virtue of being a man. (None of which contributed to the plot in any way.) And the fact that I don’t think Moxie makes a single decision in the whole book that she doesn’t ask a man about first.

The whole thing was just too clumbsy for me to enjoy. Honestly, I skimmed the last 50 or so pages trying to force myself to finish it. And I wouldn’t even have done that if it didn’t fulfill the Q for my yearly alphabet soup challenge (where I read an author for each letter of the alphabet).

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.

Description:

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! 

Review:

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.

Description:

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.

Review:

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.