Today, continuing in my series of two books a day, I am posting two middle grade reads that we have loved lately. The first one is a new release from David Walliams, and if you haven’t read his books then do yourself a favour and start with this one. There is a reason why children all over the world are fans of this writer, his work is incredible. The other book on today’s pile is the Unteachables… a group of students who are truly rough around the edges and a teacher in a downward spiral, it is a heart-warming school story, with a bit of each of us in each of the characters.

Two Middle Grade Books We Have Been Reading Lately

The Ice Monster by David Williams and illustrated by Tony Ross


Again the magical team of David Williams and Tony Ross have presented a master piece of a “I want to read this now” kind of a book. Firstly, can I say the illustrations are fantastic… the bring to life the characters, they help the reader see the humour in the story… and can I say there is a map. All books with a map are, by definition, going to be an excellent read.


This story is set in Victorian Times and the hero of the story is Elsie the Urchin, who has grown up in Wormly Hall, an orphanage for unwanted children. The children in the orphanage have to fix watches to earn their keep and they are fed cockroaches for breakfast, lunch or supper. Just as we get to know about Elsie and her great escape from Wormly Hall, there is breaking international news, an Ice-Monster has been discovered in the frozen North. Elsie decides that she and the Ice-Monster have a lot in common. They are small and alone and powerless in the world, and she would love to meet it.

Elsie, spends her days roaming the streets of London, but one day she enters that most brilliant Museum, the Natural History Museum… one of our family favourite museums ever… and finds herself lost in a world beyond her wildest and uneducated dreams. And then during a wicked and cruel winter, when Elsie takes refuge in the Museum, the Ice Monster arrives on tour and is presented to the world at large by Queen Victoria. Turns out that the ice-monster, a baby mammoth, that has been dead for 10000 years already, is not quite as dead as everyone thinks it is.

This book is full of fizz, pops and bangs… It is a lovely jaunty read with loads happening from page to page. It’s fat, like 500 pages of fat, and packed with illustrations… so that your beginning chapter book reader will feel like they are reading their way through a massive saga… but the story is full of short snappy chapters and an absolute page turner, so easy reading all the way. Loads of confidence building in this story as our unsung hero rises to the occasion. An absolutely ripping adventure… unputdownable. Highly recommend that you get this and read it to your kids… that way you get to enjoy the story as much as they do.

The Unteachables by Gordon Korman


Gordon Korman is another popular children’s author who is very good and writing “unputdownable” books. In this book, we have a collection of students who are not into learning and a teacher, who couldn’t care less. This book is heartwarming to say the least, ranging from extremely funny to extremely sad. In fact, you will surf every emotion as ride the LA wave of a class of kids that everyone has given up on… and their teacher Mr. Kermit, that is hopefully sliding into early retirement, because he certainly has given up on teaching.

Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different person in the story. Their stories are short and easy reading and make a good break if you are reading this book aloud… the students are diverse and interesting, for example the one lad is fourteen and has a provisional driving license, so that he can drive his grams to the retirement centre; another has anger management issues, except he thinks he manages to get angry really well, so how is that an issue? And so it goes, each one with a frailty, and each one with a hidden strength. This is technically a school story, but really it is all about empathy… a great read.

Highly recommended… And it is about real people, and not lizards as the cover might have you believe, though a Lizard, called Vladimir, does get a feature. And more than that, this book makes mention of the South African icon, the vuvuzela, a proud moment for my young readers. Anyway, it is an alls well that ends well kind of a book. It’s a great chapter book for a middle schooler and a very fun read-a-loud, especially for my homeschooled gang who have a very “preconceived idea” of what school is like!!!

Affiliate Links for Books Mentioned in This Post

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the opinions are as usual my own.

2 Replies to “Two Middle Grade Reads from Jonathan Ball Publishers…”

  1. Hi Maeve, Absolutely, David Walliams is very popular amongst young readers and my youngest two children have really enjoyed a lot of his writing. The second book, The Unteachables, I actually read to my children so that as issues arose we could talk about them. I am not sure what other books your seven year old is reading, but if they are used to reading books about issues at the school then this one is a great read and if they aren’t used to books about kids that struggle, maybe read it with them. All the best on your reading journey.

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