Middle grade mini reviews: Boy Underwater, The House with Chicken Legs, Pax, and The Thing About Jellyfish

Hello my lovelies! I’ve read a few middle grade books recently; books like this always feel like a comforting hug while still tackling important themes in a non-patronising way. I thought I’d put together a mini review post to let you know some of my thoughts!


Boy Underwater by Adam Baron

This book is about a young boy who has never been allowed to go swimming and has his first ever swimming lesson at school – but something goes wrong. This sets off a bit of a chain reaction and dramatic things are subsequently revealed!

This was a fantastic middle grade read. Adam Baron has created a great narrative voice that felt very realistic and had me giggling right from the outset. It really did read like a 9-year-old boy.

The book was super fast-paced with some crazy chapter endings that had me racing through the pages for answers. I ended up reading it in one sitting.

It did have the potential to be a five-star read but I feel like it didn’t move me as much as it could have? Like, the sad parts could have been sadder?! Maybe the fact that I read it so quickly had something to do with it. But this is an ambitious middle grade read that tackles a heavy subject very well and I would certainly recommend it for fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Boy in the Nighttime!

boy underwater


The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

This book is an interesting take on the Baba Yaga mythology. In this book, Baba Yaga guides the spirits of the dead into the afterlife. Her granddaughter Marinka is set to take over the role eventually but all she wants is to live a normal life.

For a middle grade book, this one was surprisingly twisty! It definitely managed to surprise me a few times. I did find it quite repetitive in parts, with Marinka’s constant emphasis on her desire for a normal life making her a little bit annoying; but, overall, this was an enjoyable story and an interesting reimagining of the folklore.

the house with chicken legs.jpg


Pax by Sara Pennypacker

This was a sweet middle grade about a boy and his pet fox who are forcefully separated due to the start of the war, and their subsequent attempts to find each other again. The book tackled some heavy themes but, sadly, I thought that it lacked the emotional punch I was looking for. The fast pace meant I found it hard to connect with the story or characters – though I did enjoy the relationship between Peter and Vola.

The ending was definitely more abrupt than I expected and, as such, didn’t move me like I had thought it would. I can totally see why other readers were disappointed. Maybe it will have the desired effect on younger readers but it didn’t work for me.

It was a nice read overall, nothing amazing.

pax mini review.jpg


The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

This was an intriguing and poignant middle grade read. The basic premise is that a girl’s best friend tragically drowns – but the girl refuses to accept this as her friend was a very strong swimmer. She becomes convinced that her friend must have been stung by a deadly jellyfish and sets out to prove it.

Despite the slightly strange premise, I did find myself quite invested in this story; it was very fast-paced and compelling. I felt quite emotional at times reading about how cruel kids can be and I really sympathised with the protagonist, Suzy; I desperately wanted her to succeed. Saying that, I felt like the book’s resolution was perfect and exactly what it needed to be.

I loved Suzy’s family; this book was a great example of how parents can be divorced but still work together through a shared love of their child. Suzy’s brother and his boyfriend were both lovely and I wish we could have seen more from them – though the scenes they did have were wonderful.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this one!

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So there you go, a mixed bag of middle grade reviews – but more success than not! Does anyone else read middle grade?


8 thoughts on “Middle grade mini reviews: Boy Underwater, The House with Chicken Legs, Pax, and The Thing About Jellyfish

  1. I enjoy Middle Grade sometimes too, but I find that I’m more likely to enjoy Middle Grade books I read as a kid instead of ones that are new to me as an adult. There are a few exceptions of course, but that’s a generalization. I think it has to do with my reading pace changing as I got older. You mentioned that as well, and I think it’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks when adults go back to Middle Grade books.


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