Mini Middle Grade Reviews: “A Boy Called Bat” and “Murder is Bad Manners”

A Boy Called Bat” by Elana K. Arnold

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction


For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Very cute! I loved the real tone of the book. Having just listened to a few of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, it reminded me a bit of that. A kid just being a kid. Not what an adult might “imagine” a kid might feel or think like.

I can’t comment on how accurate the autism representation is. I did like how I felt like I understood Bat’s thinking about things. He’s not trying to be difficult. His brain just works a bit differently.

I really appreciated how the story wasn’t an autism book. It was the story of a little boy who desperately wants to raise a skunk and the boy just happens to be on the autism spectrum. We need more casual representation like this. 

Murder Is Bad Manners” by Robin Stevens

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Mystery


1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up a secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find a truly exciting mystery to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t.)

But then Hazel discovers the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls have to solve a murder, and prove a murder has happened in the first place before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally),

But will they succeed?

And can their friendship stand the test?

I always love a good mystery. This was a favorite series of a tween library patron so I knew I needed to give it a try! [She also told me that First Class Murder (which takes places on the Orient Express) is her favorite. I’ll need to come back to the series so I can get to that one.]

I didn’t love that it was a bit Americanized. I totally forget that this wasn’t even set in the US at times. I hate that publishers assume readers can’t pick up on things. Yes, I understand there’s language differences between two countries that speak the same language. Just add a glossary to the front or back like you do with a fantasy novel or a few extra words to explain if necessary.

Other than that, the mystery was fun! It felt appropriate for the age of the protagonists & intended age of reader.

I loved that there were little updates as Daisy & Hazel learn more information. They add or remove suspects and other helpful information. It felt like they were actually investigating.

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