Middle-Grade Readers – Are they worth your time?

As part of my job as a teacher-librarian, I have to read books aimed at the middle school reader. I find books aimed at this age group, difficult to read and I realised that there are a lot of books pitched at this age group that aren’t particularly good reads.

I do tend to pick and choose which books in this category I will read. I should read more widely in this age group, but for the most part, I find these books a chore and the reading is more a requirement of my job than for pleasure.

Recently I read four books in this category and all four books are solid reads for the middle-grade reader. Over the next few days, I will write about each book. The three books are How to Make a Movie in 12 days by Fiona Hardy, Scoop McLaren Detective Editor by Helen Castles Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore and Nullaboo Hullabaloo by Fleur Ferris.

I had high hopes for this novel. I thought it was going to be a stand out amongst a pretty ordinary crowd.

‘Fiona Hardy has written a cracker of a story. Budding filmmakers, scriptwriters or any readers with annoying siblings and a sense of humour will enjoy this book.’ Books + Publishing magazine 4-star review

High praise from Books & Publishing, but I am not sure I would agree to the four-star rating. Most reviewers gave this book a big thumbs-up. I did read that Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, so maybe they are supporting one of their own – I am not quite sure.

Maybe I am too critical. When you compare this book to some of the garbage that is written for this age group, this novel is worthy of four stars.

How to Make a Movie in 12 days is a lovely change from most books in this category – a good story with relatable characters.  It isn’t stupid humour. It isn’t over-the-top storytelling. It doesn’t have any significant issues that it is trying to tackle.

The story revolves around eleven-year-old Hayley who loves movies. Her love for film comes from her family, mainly her father and her grandmother. Hayley and her grandmother had always planned to make a movie together. Hayley as the director and her grandmother as the star. Hayley’s grandmother has passed and Hayley is determined to make the movie as a tribute to her grandmother.

Of course, making a movie is a vast undertaking and Hayley finds herself under a great deal of stress. Lots of things go wrong and Hayley is suspicious. Who is sabotaging her movie and why? The story revolves around Hayley, her friends and family making her movie and it also adds the element of who is disrupting Hayley’s movie.

I did think the novel went on too much and I do believe that at least a third of the book could have been cut. I do worry that a typical middle-grade reader won’t persevere with the story, which would be disappointing because the ending is a highlight of the book.

What I did love about the book was that Hayley was making a horror movie which gives the story a different edge and I love that Hayley’s grandmother wasn’t your “stereotypical” grandmother.

This conversation wasn’t going well. If Grandma had actually been listening, she would’ve said something like, ‘Get to the point before I stab myself in the eye with it.’

Hayley’s grandmother wasn’t your classic grandmother and nor was her best friend. I love that Hayley’s grandmother and her friend Annabel were portrayed as two feisty, bad-tempered (at times) and fiercely independent women. I hope when I am older, someone describes me as Hayley describes Annabel.

As always, with Annabel, I couldn’t tell what she meant. She was so perpetually irritated, and almost always rude, and it was hard to tell if she liked you or not.

A highlight of the book was the different characters. Fiona Hardy writes characters well. She challenges the reader to think differently.

As I write this review I realise there is a lot to like about How to Make a Movie in 12 days; I guess I wished it wasn’t as long because at times I found it dragged out – like a movie that goes for two and half hours and should have gone for two hours.

Rose, Rose Bush, Rosewood, Red Rose, Red, Nature, Plant