Middle Grade

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr


Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr is as perfect as snowfall at Christmas. It's classic storytelling at it's best, both delightful and moving.

Astrid Glimmerdal is a gutsy young girl whose days are spent skiing and sledging down the mountains where she lives. Her best friend is a grumpy old man called Gunnvald, because there are no children in the village. One day she discovers he has a secret and everything begins to change.

Weaving fairy tales and music into a modern story, set in a mountainous winter wonderland with the fierce and passionate Astrid at it's heart. This is a very special story, full of fire, yet thoughtful, it reminded me of Pippi Longstocking and Heidi. I loved it, particularly because of the way it depicts relationships between children and adults.

Astrid the Unstoppable is Maria's second novel, and won the prestigious Brage Prize for best children's book and the Norwegian Critics' Prize.

A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan


A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan has been one of the more visible debuts this year, what with its being Waterstones book of the month in August and then picked for the Tom Fletcher Bookclub. This, combined with the fact that the wonderful cover art is by Karl James Mountford (who does the internal illustrations for my books, and whom I adore), has caused the book to jump to the top of by TBR pile. Oh and they sent me cool glasses. Presents always help.

I read the book in one sitting because the premise is curious and terrifying. As soon as you open the book you enter a town called Perfect, which has a strange problem, everyone there is blind and has to wear special glasses. Violet's father is an eye specialist and as soon as the family move to Perfect, their vision goes. Violet notices a series of strange things, and before you know it, you're halfway through the book, you heart is in your mouth and you're knee deep in adventure. I don't want to give anything away, so I will not share more. This is a well written book. It's a great read and operates on two levels, there's the surface adventure, which is thrilling, and then the discussion about the questionable nature of a society which vilifies imagination and requires conformity. Helena Duggan has produced a great debut and I suspect we've a lot more to read from her in the future.

You can listen to Tom Fletcher reading an extract from A Place Called Perfect below.