What with our Halloween round-up and some fantastic new middle-grade releases taking up all our attention, it's been hard to fit anything else into our reading slots. But we can never resist a chapter book and, along with the return of some of our favourites, there is something new to get excited about in 2024. YA author, Bex Hogan, has a debut CB series launching on the 1st February and it's definitely one to watch out for...
Bronte Tempestra and the Lightning Steeds by Bex Hogan, illustrated by Hannah McCaffery
Published by: Piccadilly Press, 1st February 2024
Packed full of pacy action, the first in this new series sees Bronte Tempestra follow her dreams of being a knight. But what does being a knight entail exactly..?
Bronte, Princess of the Storm Kingdom, knows what she wants...to be the first princess to ever train to become a knight. But when she heads off to knight school, she is surprised to find that the knights are more interested in bravado than being brave. Is saving and protecting kingdoms really second to showing off?
But when Bronte finds out that the Lightning Steeds from her kingdom have gone missing, leaving the thunder trolls to cause havoc in their absence, Bronte takes matters into her own hands and sets off on a quest to find the root of all the strange happenings in the realm.
This is a great concept which places a strong, female character centre stage. We loved how Bronte knows exactly who she wants to be and how much she cares about her kingdom. With bags of agency and a fighting spirit, you just know that this is a girl set for lots of adventures and that we, as readers, are definitely going to enjoy riding along with her.
The world-building is brilliantly done with a cleverly constructed setting (again paving the way for lots of future adventures) and a cast of fun and creative characters. We loved the pompous griffin lord and the fire cats and we also loved the plot twist which centred around Bronte's own cat. There's a real sense of tension and imminent threat running right from the start and this escalates into a villain-busting climax which will leave readers as breathless as if they were the knights on a mission.
There's so much to love about this new story and we can't wait to explore more of the world. We're particularly keen to meet the thunder trolls and find out what kind of peril Bronte will be facing next. You can bet it's not going to be anything like we expect...
Highly recommended for 6-8 year olds and fans of Hotel of the Gods and The Naughtiest Unicorn.
Call the Puffins: Tiny's Brave Rescue by Cath Howe, illustrated by Ella Okstad
This second book in the series is as charming as the first and places Tiny, not Muffin, as the main character in this adventure. Perfect for 5-7s, this is a gentle story with gorgeous characters and strong eco themes.
Tiny, Muffin and the other puffins on the Island of Egg are on to the next stage of their training. But Tiny is still worried he's not up for the job, especially as his sight is limited. When a wild cat turns up on the beach during an important rescue, Tiny is convinced he's messed up. Will he pass this level of training and be able to stay one of the team?
This series is just a pure delight and perfect for fans of Adventuremice. The setting is simple and easy to visualise and the characters are amongst the sweetest you'll ever meet. We particularly love the representation of different disabilities amongst the puffins; from limited vision to feet that are different to everyone else's. The plot is pitched perfectly for the age-group but still has surprisingly high stakes - this is nature and nature's emergencies are serious. Saying that, there's still a lot of fun and friendship to be had and the power of teamwork is forefront! We love it!
Suki in the Snow (Princess Katie's Kittens) by Julie Sykes, illustrated by Sam Loman