The Mad Hatters Middle Grade Book Club is made up of seven kids aged 9 – 12. Every fortnight during the school term we explore both fiction and non-fiction targeted towards kids in upper primary school. We cover a range of genres and writing styles to broaden their variety of reading material as well as take into consideration what they do and do not like to read.
We welcomed several new members to book club this term which made discussions very lively. Being the last term of the year, we decided that all books – dependent on book availability – would be chosen by popular vote.
Each fortnight the kids read a new book and rated it on a 3 star scale:
1 star = okay; 2 stars = good; 3 stars = great, although halfway through the term, book club members decided to test me (ha!) by changing the rating systems to not just stars but ovals, dragons, stick-on shells, as well as altering the fractions on their ratings from anywhere between 1/3 to 2/3rds. Make of those ratings what you will!
Holiday Read: Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
Our holiday read was Pie in the Sky, an illustrated novel about a boy and his family dealing with cultural differences after migrating to Australia. Brisbane author and illustrator Remy held a free drawing workshop in the shop and chatted with kids about the book. Book club members found the illustrated format refreshing but not too ‘baby-ish’ for them as it dealt with issues they deemed appropriate for their age.
Rating: Two ★★★, two ★★½ and one ★½ ratings.
Book #1: Wolf Girl by Anh Do
Our first book of the term was Wolf Girl by Anh Do. Although the book was quite short for them, they liked the concept of the animal pack, main character and post-apocalyptic setting and enjoyed debating over survivalist scenarios.
Rating: Two ★★★, two ★★ and two ★½ ratings.
Book #2: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
Our second book, This Was Our Pact, was our first-ever graphic novel chosen for book club. Members had an in-depth chat about colour symbolism and hidden images, and liked the eerie atmosphere conveyed by the illustrations. They also enjoyed the secondary characters, elements of magical realism, open-ended ending and dry humour.
Rating: One ⚫⚫⚫⚫, one ★★★★, one 🐚🐚🐚, one ★★★, two ★★½, one ★★, one ★🐚 ratings (yep!)
Book #3: Greta’s Story by Valentina Camerini
Our third book, Greta’s Story, was chosen by a unanimous vote. This occurred around the time of the climate strikes and Greta Thunberg’s U.N. Climate Summit Speech and book club members were interested in learning more about why the protests were occurring. The reactions were mixed; one member was passionate about climate change action, while another was confused about the science of it; despite this, the overall consensus was that they were satisfied knowing more about the issue than before.
Rating: One ★★★, two ★★ and one 🐉 ratings.
Book #4: The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brailler
Our final book of the term and year was The Last Kids on Earth, an illustrated book developed into a Netflix series. Being the last meeting for the term, some members were unable to attend, but those who did likened the survivalist setting to Wolf Girl. They liked the casual style and humour of the book and the way the book subverted high school character stereotypes.
Rating: Two ★★★ and one ★★ ratings.
This was an interesting term of book choices as we discovered members were drawn to books with similar interests: survivalist scenarios, humour and relatable characters and issues. They also enjoyed illustrated and graphic novels and showed keen interest in exploring visual literacy in the future.