Middle Grade Novel Author Crush: Katherine Rundell


In the middle grades, kids often experience their first real crush. So it’s only fitting I have a crush on a middle grade author’s books… Katherine Rundell.

I featured her book Rooftoppers last January. When Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms arrived this summer, I immediately checked it. Then, devoured it.

The short summary from the library catalog doesn’t provide any glimpse of the liveliness of this book and the quirky, lovable main character.  “Will must find her way after she’s plucked out of a wonderful life in Zimbabwe and forced to go to boarding school in England.”

After reading Rooftoppers, I knew the language would be magical.  I opened a pack of hot pink Post-it notes to mark various passages.  The quotes below describe Will’s first impressions after her arrival at a boarding school in England.

“The room smelled foul — of eggs and feet and the eternal indoors.  It was the smell of English.” p. 126

“She fell asleep with their voices jabbing at her heart, and dreamed of being chased through the bush by a pack of wolves, with sleek ponytails and rosebud pajamas.” p.129

I’ve never visited Zimbabwe, but Katherine Rundell’s vivid descriptions transported my imagination.  Having visited London and other large cities, the depiction of Will’s experience on the streets of London after running away from the boarding school were easier to form.  However, the flapdoodle of the situation required thinking about London from a different perspective.

While researching for this post, I discovered another title by Katherine RundellThe Girl Savage.  I immediately started looking for it.  Then, discovered it’s the original title of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms from it’s 2011 release in Great Britain.  I was not happy. I’m ready to imbibe in another of her books.

Her last post on twitter was June 28th  “And now I’m off again, to tie myself to this chair and to get this book finished.”  She better!  (I wrote this post a few weeks ago.  She’s back on twitter.  I hope that means a new book is written.)




My favorite juvenile fiction book I read in 2013 was Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

After the sinking of the Queen Mary, an infant was found floating in a cello case.  Charles the man who found her took her home, named her Sophie and raised her as his own.  As Sophie became older, a meddlesome neighbor believed Sophie was not being raised to be a lady.  Climbing trees and wearing trousers was inappropriate.  The neighbor invited the National Childcare Agency to intervene.

After learning the government planned to  remove Sophie from Charles’ home, they escaped to Paris.  Sophie was convinced her mother survived and was living in  Paris.  Following their mantra “And never ignore a possible!” a magical journey began.

The French government wasn’t any help.  But Sophie soon meet a young man who lived on the rooftops of Paris.  He and the tree dwellers helped Sophie discover the mystery of her mother.

The language in this book is as rhythmic as Sophie’s quest to find the mother who played  Faure’s Requeim in double time on her cello.  I love the descriptions of Sophie’s heart.  On page 79 “Sophie’s heart looped the loop and danced a jitterbug”  Later on page 194 “Her heart was hummingbirding.”  Terry Fan’s illustrations at the beginning of each chapter add to the elegance of this book.

You’re probably wondering if she found her mother.  I’ll never tell.  Read the book.  It’s an enjoyable read for both children and adults.

Jennifer’s Daughter – Middle Schooler Who Loves The Mysterious Benedict Society

Jennifer’s daughter turns 13 in a few weeks. She has a very sweet and innocent personality. A lot of the fiction for her age is dark and scary to her. She likes feel good books or mysterious books. She loved Mysterious Benedict Society.

With the help of coworkers, I came up with this list.  Blurbs are from the library catalog.  I am trying to write as many postings as possible for holiday shoppers.

Stand Alone Books

Westing Game

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – “The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance.”  A clever book that won the Newbery Award in 1978.

Chasing Vermeer

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett – “When strange and seemingly unrelated events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.”


Rooftoppers by  Katherine Rundell – “When authorities threaten to take Sophie, twelve, from Charles who has been her guardian since she was one and both survived a shipwreck, the pair goes to Paris to try to find Sophie’s mother, and they are aided by Matteo and his band of “rooftoppers.”  One of my favorite books of the year.  Expect a posting on it alone in the New Year.

Egypt Game

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder – “A group of children, entranced with the study of Egypt, play their own Egypt game, are visited by a secret oracle, become involved in a murder, and befriend the Professor of the local junk shop.”  A Newbery Honor Book from 1967.


Escape From Mr. Lemoncell0’s Library by Chris Grabenstein – “Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape


The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit – “Relates the curious escapades of the six Bastable children who attempt to restore the family fortunes by searching for treasure, starting a newspaper, and becoming detectives

A Few Series to Consider


Heist Society by Ally Carter- “A group of teenagers uses their combined talents to re-steal several priceless paintings and save fifteen-year-old Kat Bishop’s father, himself an international art thief, from a vengeful collector”


The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin – “Puzzle-crazy, twelve-year-old Winston and his ten-year-old sister Katie find themselves involved in a dangerous mystery involving a hidden ring. Puzzles for the reader to solve are included throughout the text.”


The Red Blazer Girls by Micheal D. Biel – the first book in the series “Catholic-schooled seventh-graders Sophie, Margaret, Rebecca, and Leigh Ann help an elderly neighbor solve a puzzle her father left for her estranged daughter twenty years ago.”


Ruby Redfort by Lauren Child – “Thirteen-year-old Ruby, a genius code-cracker and daring detective, gets an anonymous call setting a challenge that leads her to the headquarters of Spectrum, a highly secret anti-crime agency that needs her help to crack a code, but soon Ruby uncovers dastardly plans of the Fool’s Gold Gang.”

I haven’t read all these books but if they had been around when I was growing up, I’m betting I would.  Nancy Drew was my hero!  I cannot wait to introduce ML to the classic Nancy Drew.