Middle Grade Mini Reviews

Amal Unbound
Written by Aisha Saeed
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Diverse
240 Pages
Publishing May 28th 2018
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★★★★★
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when, as the eldest daughter, she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens. After an accidental run in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal, especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realises she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
In the small farming province of Nabay Chak, Amal is an inquisitive young lady with a penchant for knowledge. Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Amal is an intelligent and inspirational young lady, the eldest daughter who is reluctantly coerced to abandon her education, her mother overcome by postpartum depression.

Amal appreciates her education, acknowledging the ideology that female education is frivolous although vehemently in disagreement. Challenging the educational ideals of her father and although their discussion remaining courteous, Amal is conscientious of the discrimination against females throughout conservative communities.

Jawad Sahib is a tyrannical and oppressive leader within the region, his affluent and privileged family beneficiaries impoverished families throughout Nabay Chai. Displaced by her insolence, Amal will reside at the wealthy estate as compensation, a young life of oppression and servitude. The secondary characters are vividly imagined, especially Fatima, an orphaned child. Fatima and Amal share a wonderfully tender friendship and surprisingly, finding a kindred spirit in Nasreen Baji, lady of the estate and woman within her own gilded cage.

Inspired by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Amal Unbound is a beautifully written and extraordinary narrative of one young girl and her determination to invoke change. Essential reading.



The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls
Huggabie Falls Trilogy Book One
Written by Adam Cece and illustrated by Andrew Weldon
Middle Grade, Adventure, Humour, #LoveOZMG
288 Pages
Published April 2nd 2018
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★★★★
Kipp Kindle and his friends Tobias Treachery and Cymphany Chan live in Huggabie Falls, the weirdest town on Earth. Weird things happen all the time, that’s normal. But when an extremely weird thing happens Kipp and his friends know that something is wrong. They embark on a fast paced, action packed, hilarious adventure to find out what is making everything turn normal, and to return the weirdness to Huggabie Falls.

With an evil villain, Felonious Dark, a creepy scientist and a fierce wand wielding teacher, who has turned Cymphany into a baby hippopotamus, to contend with, not to mention killer vampire bats, vegetarian piranhas and a Portuguese speaking lab rat called Ralf, Kipp, Tobias and Cymphany have quite a task ahead of them.
In the small town of Huggabie Falls, nothing is out of the ordinary. An alliteration of names? Yawn, nothing to see here. Every street called Digmont Drive? Oh, perfectly normal. Late for class and turned into a hippopotamus? Commonplace. Kipp Kindle and his friends Tobias Treachery and Cymphany Chan begin to investigate a series of worrying accounts of normalcy.

The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls is a delightfully eccentric and whimsical mystery adventure. Reiterating the importance of friendship and embracing our differences. 



The Boy from Earth
Written by Darrell Pitt
Middle Grade, Adventure, Space, #LoveOZMG
256 Pages
Published February 26th 2018
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★★★☆
Twelve year old Bobby Baxter’s not the bravest kid on Earth. His list of things that scare him is up to number 689, and includes lightning, crowds, spiders, alien abductions, crocodiles, falling from great heights, falling from small heights and eggs.

So when he learns that he’s the first Earthling ever chosen to attend the Galactic Space Academy, light years away from home, he’s terrified and that’s before he discovers that someone at the academy wants the boy from Earth gone.
Welcome to the Intergalactic Space Academy. Bobby Baxter is a new cadet and the first scholar recruited to the Academy from Earth. A prestigious although compulsory achievement. Bidding farewell to his father on Earth, Bobby will journey to the expansive Galactic Academy. Expect the unexpected.

Interplanetary sabotage, Earthly misconceptions and a peculiar assortment of friends, Bobby endeavours to become the first Earthling to graduate the academy.

The Boy From Earth is a galactic, exuberant adventure, ludicrously hilarious and absurdly charismatic. Bobby Baxter is an irrationally apprehensive young man although intelligent and inquisitive. Throughout his journey, Bobby discovers courage and determination, an ability to conquer anxiety. Beneath the brilliantly absurd, entertaining adventure, is a narrative of compassion, solidarity and confidence.

Wildly entertaining for the adventurous middle grade reader.

22 comments

  1. Lovely reviews all around, Kelly, but I have to admit, I could stare at the cover for Amal Unbound all day, I'm not even kidding. It's so gorgeous -- as is the story! I didn't know it was inspired by Malala

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    1. Amal Unbound is absolutely beautiful and why I read middle grade novels. There is something so incredibly lovely and heartfelt about young characters that is lost in the transition to young adult. Definitely a must read.

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  2. It is books like Amal unbound that reminds us how it is a right to be educated and not a privilege

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    1. I couldn't agree more Ailyn. Every child should have access to an education but sadly in so many countries around the world it's considered a frivolous luxury. Families struggling that need children to lend a hand farming or in Amal's case, caring for younger siblings. Western societies really take for granted our access to education and healthcare don't we, it really puts our privilege into perspective.

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  3. Fun reviews! I do really like a good MG novel sometimes, and I need to read more of them. I've only heard of Amal Unbound, and I have to say that's the one that most interests me, but I'm glad the others weren't too bad either!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. All three were such a great balance of adventure, inspiration and entertainment Lauren, it's what attracts me to middle grade reads. When you crack that cover, it's always a surprise.

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  4. These all sound wonderful!

    The cover for Amal Unbound is GORGEOUS (but of course it is because ALL the covers on your blog are lol) & I love the title for The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. It's the Australian publishers, their covers in general are always brilliant. Except the Shatter Me series, but we don't speak about those.

      I adored The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls, such an entertaining and hilarious read.

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  5. Amal Unbound looks fantastic! And that it's inspired by Malala. <3 Sounds like it might be a good book to add into school curriculum.

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    1. I couldn't agree more Christy, along with her own self titled I Am Malala, which I plan on reading shortly as well. Amal, like Malala is also a remarkable young lady. I'd love to see what you think of it!

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  6. Ooh I really want to read the Amal Unbound one!! Although I'm not really super keen on middle grade unless it's Rick Riordan or Lemony Snicket though.😂I GOT OLD, KELLY, PLS HELP.

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    1. Where is your sense of adventure! I must admit, it was Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson series that lured me into the world of middle grade novels as well.

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  7. I LOVE the cover for Amal Unbound! From the sounds of it, it looks like the book is very important to add to school curriculum one day - unfortunately it's currently a privilege to have an education although it should be a right. I do love how it is inspired by Malala. ^_^

    I love the title for The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls (though secretly my brain is shortening it to Huggable Falls for some reason).

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    1. It should be a right, I hope one day that everyone will have access to an education but sadly it probably won't happen in my lifetime. Advocates and activists like Malala are doing wonderful work to spread the message of the importance of education. It's an amazing and inspirational movement.

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  8. I don't often gravitate towards middle grade fiction, but I think I should probably pick up Amal Unbound. It sounds like such an important and poignant book. While I recognise the need for fun MG books like the other two in your post, I think these ones that focus on real world issues are just as important. Our younger generation needs to be aware that life is not the same for everyone, and that empathy is key. Lovely reviews, Kell <3

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    1. Thanks Chiara and I couldn't agree more. Middle grade was once very adventure driven but the diversity of young adult is starting to filter through as well which is amazing!

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  9. I forgot how much I miss Middle Grade reads. I used to babysit a tween girl and get to read her MG books which was super fun, but she's older now so I don't get my taste of MG... I may have to read a couple though because I don't really have the time for full length novels so maybe this would be a good in-between point!

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    1. They would be! Although they're typically slightly shorter in length, they really can pack quite a punch. I love to read them in between heavy young adult novels or series novels, they're so lovely and wonderful reads!

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  10. I love how you ordered these in decreasing star rating, haha! I absolutely cannot wait to pick up Amal Unbound - it sounds so amazing and important. I adored Saeed's debut Written in the Stars and will no doubt love this one was well! Wonderful reviews!

    - Aila @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. Thanks Aila. I really enjoyed all three but for differing reasons. Amal Unbound is most definitely the stand out read though. One girl and her determination to learn and evoke change no matter how small. It was inspirational and also inspired by Malala herself. So beautifully written.

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  11. I'm really excited about Amal Unbound! It's been on my radar for awhile now, so I'm happy to see you enjoyed it! It's one I want to read out loud to my son, too. I also adore Malala and love all that she has been able to accomplish in life. I hate what happened to her, and her story is so inspiring. We even considered naming one of our daughters after her. Lovely reviews, darling! I haven't read the other two, but I don't think they'd be a good fit for me. :)

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  12. I've read Aisha Saeed's YA book a few years back and COMPLETELY fell in love with it. I don't think Amal Unbound's something I would read on my own, but since it's Saeed, I will probably try to read it in the near future. The friendship aspect sounds wonderful! ♥

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

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