Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “Cheeky Youngsters” Edition…


It’s time to pull on your chaps and spats again and join me in rounding up some plucky and amusing titles for the younger crowd. Today I have corralled three books – a picture book, a middle grade adventure and a YA graphic novel – and I received copies of each from their respective publishers via Netgalley. Let’s round them up in ascending order of audience age, beginning with….

Worms (Bernard Friot)

Two Sentence Synopsis:worms

A young lad forced to attend a dinner party with his father’s boring colleagues hits on an innovative way to liven up proceedings. But has he underestimated the comedic value of his sneaky plan?

Muster up the motivation because:

This tale will be appreciated by pint-sized pranksters the world over as much for its humour as for its gorgeous retro style illustrations. I particularly enjoyed the expressions on the worms’ faces and then immediately felt guilty, knowing their unhappy fate. There’s not a great deal of text here as the illustrations speak for themselves and the twist at the end of the story will please parent and child alike. I was left mildly disappointed at the story’s ending, as I was hoping for something a bit more unexpected and subversive, but all in all this will be a great addition to the bedtime rotation or for times when the designated bed-time-reading grown-up feels like a tale in which a comeuppance is both sought and provided.

Brand it with:

What happens when you cut a worm in half?; childish pranks; unsavoury savouries

Now for the adventurous middle-grade sorts, we have…

Box 1571 (R. M. Tudor)

Two Sentence Synopsis:box 1571

Ella’s parents’ café is in financial trouble and Ella is finding school a lonely place since her friend Sophie moved away. When Ella discovers a way to solve her parents’ money problems and save the café, she is unwittingly drawn into a game of riddles and unexpected encounters.

Muster up the motivation because:

This feel-good tale is reminiscent of such innocent and unexpected adventures as The Phantom Tollbooth. Box 1571 is perfect for younger middle-grade kids who are looking for some good, old-fashioned escapism – almost literally, as the story involves the main character escaping her problems via a post-office box. The story is episodic in nature and therefore perfect for a classroom or pre-bedtime read-aloud (or read together) and has subtle secondary themes of developing confidence and overcoming social isolation. I did feel there were a few slight plot holes (the most obvious being the seemingly incompatible states of the café having very few customers, yet lots of washing up) and I found Ella’s older brother’s verbally abusive behaviour, particularly toward his mother, a bit too intense for the tone of the rest of the story, but these were only slight niggles. Overall, I found this to be a charming and engaging offering with enough whimsy and derring-do to keep newcomers to this level of reading entertained.

Brand it with:

Lost in the post; what’s in the box?; a cup of tea and a good lie down; #amwriting

And finally, for the teen set, or those just in need of a good dose of ridiculousness, here is…

Teen Boat! The Race for Boatlantis (Dave Roman and John Green)

Two Sentence Synopsis:teenboat

TeenBoat – the teen with the power to transform into a boat when wet – takes part in a competition with the hope of finding the fabled city of Boatlantis. But being a boat and a teen isn’t as glamorous as you might think – especially when a new kid at school threatens TeenBoat’s claim to fame as the only boatkid on the block.

Muster up the motivation because:

This graphic novel really does have all the ANGST of being a teen, coupled with the THRILL of being a boat! Essentially, this one is as hilariously silly as it sounds and perfect for those times when you just need a brain break in a land that always features an unlikely inlet, canal or fjord. This is Saturday morning cartoons in book form. There’s a great twist when Teen Boat discovers what his rival can transform into and Teen Boat’s principal has a good bash at trying to relive his youth while posing as an unconvincing student in order to help find Boatlantis and a long-lost love. TeenBoat is a balm for the jaded soul…or just easy, mindless fun for the slightly bored.

Brand it with:

Teen angst; fabled underwater cities; the life aquatic

Hopefully there’s something there to grab your attention and drag you into a reading-based trance. Stay tuned for Monday when I’ve got another “Top Book of 2015” to add to the pile.

Until next time,



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