Two Middle Grade Reviews

I am trying to read more middle grade lately and this month I managed to get two read. One is even non-fiction! These will be short reviews but don’t think that I didn’t enjoy these. They were both excellent and ones I highly recommend.

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen

Narrated by Dan Bittner

Publication Date: January 12, 2021


This is a memoir of the author’s early life and teenage years. I had heard that Gary Paulsen had led an interesting life as an adult, but I never knew how awful his childhood was. This is not for the younger kids who enjoy his books, but decidedly for the older middle grades and high school students, and even adults.

This book starts off with the author at the age of five, going to live with his aunt and uncle. It was his uncle who really instilled in him his love for the wilderness. He is then taken by his mother to join his father who is in the military, in Manila after the war where he witnesses a lot of horrible things. Eventually they return to the states and his parents, who are alcoholics, leave him to basically care for himself. There is a wonderful scene where a librarian introduces him to books and sets him on his course to be a writer. The book ends with his joining the army.

This book was truly a tale of survival and there are sections that are horrific in nature, but there are also wonderful scenes of caring adults in his life. The audiobook was great, Dan Bittner does a great job of narrator the tale. I do recommend this if you are a fan, or if you are just interested in memoirs.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

Publication Date: October 26, 2021


This is a homage to Jules Vernes and Captain Nemo. It is set in modern times with the descendents of Nemo and the legendary Nautilus taking center stage. I don’t think that I have ever read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but have vague memories of the Disney Movie, and I know the basic story. I don’t think you need to be a fan of the original books or even know much about it to enjoy this tale.

This is definitely science fiction, and I loved that. There is a lot of what the characters called alt-tech which come from the Jules Verne stories. Some of it was quite amazing. The characters were also well done. I didn’t realize that Captain Nemo was Indian, (not sure if that was in the movie), but I loved that his descendent Ana was part of that culture. There is a nice diversity to the cast, including many cultures and religions. I also loved some of the animals that Ana and her friends interact with.

The plot was great, although there are some slow bits where we get bogged down in some of the world building and explanations of the tech. The writing is classic Rick Riordan with great dialogue and some good snark from the characters.

Overall I thought this was a great book and fans of this author’s fantasy books will enjoy this one as well. It might even inspire some of them to read the original classic!

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