Book Reviews, Middle Grade

Mini Book Reviews: February 2020 – Part 1


Hello bookworms!

Today I am back with another batch of mini reviews!  Today the focus will be on middle grade graphic novels…

*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi, Nightlights(Nightlights #1) by Lorena Alvarez Gomez, Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt, Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1) by Ben Hatke, Pashimina by Nidhi Chanani, Brave by Svetlana Chmakova, and All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson


» The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi



5-Star Rating System

After a tragedy strikes, Emily and her family move into an old home owned by a reclusive great-Grandfather.  While the family works to breathe life back into the old home, strange things begin to happen.  When a noise causes Emily to investigate the basement, it leads to more trouble then she ever imagined…

I would consider The Stonekeeper to be on the younger side of the middle grade audience.  I would place it on a 5th-6th grade appeal level, but could definitely be enjoyed by younger or older readers too.

With a fast-paced and action-packed plot, The Stonekeeper, is a quick read.  This graphic novel has a bit of everything: sibling relationships, action, robots, monsters, adventure… I think it will appeal to boys and girls alike.

I feel like this graphic novel would translate well to film.  It actually reminded me a bit of the film The Spiderwick Chronicles. 

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi

» Nightlights(Nightlights #1) by Lorena Alvarez Gomez


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

*3 Stars for the story, and 5 stars for the illustrations = 4 Stars overall*

I wouldn’t really consider Nightlights a graphic novel, but rather a “middle grade picture book.”  I would say this graphic novel will appeal more to children in 3rd – 5th grade range.

Nightlights centers around a little girl that creates beautiful drawings inspired by her dreams.  The central theme in this graphic novel centers around imagination & creativity.

The story wasn’t anything special, but the illustrations were absolutely stunning!  The illustrations were reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.  I would recommend everyone pick this graphic novel up for the illustrations alone.

› Recommended to ⇒ budding artists; lovers of beautiful illustrations

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

» Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt



5-Star Rating System

Jane, the Fox, & Me is a short graphic novel about bullying & body image.  Jane is ostracized by her peers, so spends most of her time reading her favorite book, Jane Eyre.

Another book I would consider a “middle grade picture” book since it is so short.  The illustrations are pencil drawings that are understated, which suited the tone of the story well.  If you are looking for vivid & colorful illustrations, you won’t find those here.

Themes present in Jane, the Fox, and Me include bullying, body image, friendship, and self-esteem.  The message of this story is perfect for the middle grade audience: being comfortable in your own skin.  I really loved the progression & growth of Jane’s character in this graphic novel.

I am a huge Jane Eyre fan, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that I loved this book.  Do I think the target audience will appreciate it as much as I did?  Probably not…

› Recommended to ⇒ bookworms; fans of Jane Eyre

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

» Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1) by Ben Hatke


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

When Jack & his sister plant mysterious seeds in their yard neither could anticipate the mystical garden that would materialize in their backyard…

I really enjoyed this Jack and the Beanstalk retelling!  I think the author did a great job taking a classic fairytale and creating a more modern & unique twist on a traditional story.

One of my favorite aspects of this graphic novel was the focus on sibling relationships.  Jack’s mother is a single mom that is struggling to make ends meet.  Since their mom puts in many hours of work, it is Jack’s responsibility to watch over his little sister Maddy.  Since Maddy is autistic & nonverbal, this adds extra challenges.

I loved the inclusion of an autistic main character, Jack’s sister Maddy.  I thought the representation was well done and handled with care.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of magical creatures; fans of mythical settings

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi

» Pashimina by Nidhi Chanani


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

A lovely story about an Indian-American girl that is struggling with her identity.  Pri’s mother will not answer her questions about her mother’s homeland or the identity of her father, so Pri is in the dark about her heritage and parentage.  When Pri stumbles upon a magical shawl that transports her to India when she wraps herself in it.  Pri is able to experience the India of her dreams, but is it reality?

The majority of the illustrations included in Pashmina are done in black & white, but as Pri travels to India under the magic shawl, the illustrations are transformed into vivid color.  It reminded me a bit of how The Wizard of Oz starts off in black & white, but turns into color as Dorothy travels to Oz.

Themes included in Pashmina include identity, culture, immigration, absent parents, single parents, expectation vs. reality, etc.  While there are definitely some heavier topics addressed in this graphic novel, the tone at the end is very uplifting & inspirational.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of identity; fans of cultural diverse main characters

» Brave by Svetlana Chmakova


add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

Jensen is struggling with the realities of middle school.  Between various commitments, frenemies, math class, and navigating the social hierarchy, Jensen is just trying to survive middle school.

I LOVED this graphic novel from the illustrations to the story.  I would say this is definitely one of my favorite middle school graphic novels to date.

Brave is a wonderful depiction of the struggles of middle school… probably one of the most relatable middle school book settings that I’ve read.

Bullying in the central theme in Brave, which is such an important topic for the middle grade audience.  Kids today can be BRUTAL to one another.  I also appreciated the inclusion of “friends” bullying friends, to showcase that the line between teasing and bullying is gray.

The way Brave ends is very uplifting and inspiring.  The idea that the middle school culture needs to change.

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

» All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson



5-Star Rating System

Homeschooled Imogene is about to embark on her biggest adventure yet, middle school!

Another great MG book about the struggles of middle school.  I enjoyed the extra challenges that Imogene faced being from a family that works at a Renaissance Faire & being homeschooled for the majority of her life.

All’s Faire in Middle School covers topics like family relationships, alternate lifestyles, socioeconomic status, identity, fitting in vs. individuality, friendship, etc.

I really enjoyed that the main character’s family were all actors in the local Renaissance Festival.  I thought this was a unique twist on a traditional “struggles of middle school” story.

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Brave by Svetlana Chmakova



Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

What I'm Reading




4 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: February 2020 – Part 1”

  1. Oh man! You tried some great ones here. I also loved the illustrations in Nightlights. They are so gorgeous! And I totally agree that Amulet would translate well to big screen or series. I hope it’s adapted.


  2. I started the Amulet series long ago, but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I stopped reading it. Pashmina had a great premise, but I felt the structure was off. But I loved Brave–it’s my favorite in the series so far–and All’s Faire in Middle School. Nightlights is gorgeous, but the plot just isn’t there.


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