I love reading translated fiction, especially for children. Some of my favourite stories were not originally published in English – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was originally published in German and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published in Spanish. Thank goodness for publishers like the wonderful Gecko Press who translate the best books in to English for children to enjoy here in New Zealand. Gecko Press’ latest translated gem is The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson. This wonderful story brought back memories of the first time I read my favourite book, Inkheart, as it took me on an adventure that swept me away.
Siri lives on a small island with her younger sister, Miki, and her old, tired father. An outing on a nearby island to collect berries ends in tragedy as Miki is taken by pirates. These are not just any pirates, but those from the Snow Raven, a ship from the stories that Siri tells her sister. The Snow Raven is captained by the most wicked pirate in all the seas, Captain Whitehead, a pirate with hair white as snow and a heart as empty as an ice cave. Children who are taken by Whitehead are never seen again as they get sent to work in his mines until their bodies and minds are broken. Siri knows that she is the only person who can save her sister and so sets out to get her back by any means.
The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart. It is a story about an incredibly brave girl who never gives up on her search for her sister. Frida Nilsson, and her skilled translator, Robert Graves, transport the reader to the unforgiving Ice Sea and make you feel that you are right there beside Siri the whole way. You feel the biting, icy wind, feel Siri’s gnawing hunger and her heartache for the friends she makes along the way, and hear the creaking and groaning of the frozen sea. The writing is beautiful. Some of the descriptions of the characters and places were so perfect that I had to reread them several times.
Siri is one of those characters that becomes your best friend. You are right there beside her and get inside her head. She goes through so much on her journey to find her sister – she leaves home by herself to rescue her sister, faces down white wolves, stows away on boats with angry men, and stands up to vicious pirates – but she never gives up. She is determined to find her sister, rescue her friend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.
I loved The Ice Sea Pirates and I know that Siri and her story will stay with me for a long time. It is the perfect read aloud for ages 9 and up and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure stories with a touch of magic and wonder.
From the moment I started reading M.G. Leonard’s debut, Beetle Boy, I fell in love with her storytelling, her characters and her wonderful beetles. I gobbled up Beetle Boy and even a year after reading it I find myself thinking about Darkus and his friends. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel, Beetle Queen, for ages because I need to return to that story and find out what is happening. I couldn’t wait until it is released in New Zealand (and neither could several of my favourite readers at my school) so I bought a copy from the UK. Beetle Queen is even better than I was hoping it was going to be.
Cruel beetle fashionista, Lucretia Cutter, is at large with her yellow ladybird spies.
When Darkus, Virginia and Bertolt discover further evidence of her evil, they’re determined to stop her. But the three friends are in trouble. Darkus’ dad has forbidden them to investigate any further – and disgusting crooks Humphrey and Pickering are out of prison. Hope rests on Novak, Lucretia’s daughter and a Hollywood actress, but the beetle diva is always one scuttle ahead …
Beetle Queen is a superb sequel and I would say it’s the best second book in a trilogy that I have ever read. M.G. Leonard transports you straight back in to the story, almost exactly where the previous book ended. All the things that I loved about Beetle Boy are in Beetle Queen – the wonderful characters that you either love or love to hate, the brilliant storytelling which feels quite magical, the sense of adventure, and all the beetles. The sense of joy that Darkus experienced after rescuing his dad and bringing him home doesn’t last long before he loses him again. We saw the determination of Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia in the first book so we know that they will do anything to stop Lucretia Cutter’s plans and bring Darkus’ dad home again.
The thing I love the most about Beetle Queen is M.G. Leonard’s characters. Darkus, Bertolt and Virginia are clever, determined and caring. They would do anything to protect their beetle friends and they certainly have plenty of challenges that they have to face in Beetle Queen. Humphrey and Pickering, the bumbling (and quite peculiar) cousins are back again and trying to get what is owed to them by Lucretia Cutter. They make me laugh every time they appear in the story because they are just so hopeless and you know things aren’t ever going to go well for them. Lucretia Cutter is delightfully sinister and we learn more about her wicked plans. I love Baxter, Newton, Marvin and Hepburn, the beetle side-kicks who all play important roles in Darkus’ plans to stop Lucretia Cutter. They manage to express so much with just a flutter of elytra or twitch of antennae. The stand-out character in Beetle Queen though, for me, has to be Darkus’ Uncle Max. He kept on surprising me in this book, because he often reacted quite differently to what I was expecting. He is very supportive of Darkus and always backs him up.
I am so excited to read the finale, Battle of the Beetles, but I’ll have to wait until next year to find out how it all ends. In the mean time I urge everyone to read Beetle Boy and Beetle Queen because you will fall in love with Darkus and his Coleopteran friends. They are the perfect books to read aloud to a Year 5 or 6 class or snuggled up in bed with your children at night.
I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing! I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness. It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.
Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end. You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story.
Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.
Sometimes you pick up a book and you just know that kids are going to love it. It could be the cover that jumps out at you or the blurb that hooks you in and makes you want to read the book. Mick Elliott’s new book, The Turners, has huge kid-appeal, from the awesome cover featuring a shape-shifting kid to the promise of killer pigs and snake-men on the cover.
Leo Lennox has an epic problem: it’s his thirteenth birthday and he has just grown a tail.
You’d think that growing a tail in the middle of the school library would be the worst thing that could happen to you, but Leo is about to discover that things can always get worse – and a whole lot weirder. Now, as he discovers an unthinkable family secret, Leo must team up with his infuriating older sister to escape snake-skinned henchmen, ancient shape-shifters and a whispering villain determined to feed him to a pack of genetically engineered killer pigs – all while trying to control his new shape-shifting powers.
The Turners is a crazy, hilarious thrill-ride packed with shapeshifters, weird genetic experiments and family secrets. Mick Elliott drops you straight into the action with the strange, embarassing situation that Leo finds himself in. The story gallops and leaps along, with never a dull moment, as you join Leo and Abbie on their search for answers.
There is something in The Turners to appeal to anyone. There is the mystery of Turners with their genetic anomoly that allows them to turn into different animals, (from rodents and birds to mammals and reptiles), the adventure that Leo and Abbie find themselves on in their search for answers, some delightfully sinister villains, and genetically engineered pigs and hamsters. The Turners is also perfect for those kids who love a funny story. There are some hilarious moments in the story, especially when it comes to turning in to different animals. My favourite part is when Leo interupts his sister Abbie when she is trying to show him how an expert Turns. It ends in Leo being sprayed with sloth urine (I know kids will love this part).
The cover and design for The Turners is brilliant too. The bright orange and green makes the book jump off the shelf and the cover illustration makes you want to find out what the story is about. The title also has a very cool lizard scale effect as well.
The Turners is the first part of a trilogy by Mick Elliott and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s perfect for ages 9+ and would make a great read aloud for Years 5-8.
Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre are a dream team. They creative truly wonderful books together that grab readers’ attention. I have loved both of their previous books together, Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space. I get really excited every time I see they have a new book coming out and I can always tell by the title and the fantastic cover that it is going to be another great book. They even have their own ‘A Reeve and McIntyre Production’ logo that Sarah has created. Philip and Sarah’s latest collaboration is called Pugs of the Frozen North and it’s their best book yet!
The race to the top of the world! It comes around once in a lifetime – and the prize? Your heart’s desire. Shen and Sika can’t resist the chance to win, but competition is fierce. The path to victory is littered with snow trolls, sea monsters and a gang of particularly hungry yetis. But Sika and Shen have something the other contestants don’t have. Actually, they have 66 other things – PUGS, to be exact. That’s a 264-paw-powered sled. Let the race begin!
Pugs of the Frozen North is an action-packed, fun-filled spectacular of a book. One moment you’ll be holding your breath in anticipation and the next you’ll be laughing out loud. You meet Snow Trolls, sea monsters, hungry Yetis and all sorts of wonderful characters in Pugs of the Frozen North. I don’t think there is another author and illustrator team that are so perfectly matched as Philip and Sarah. They come up with the ideas for their books together, then Philip writes the words and Sarah draws the pictures. You can tell they have a lot of fun coming up with their stories as they are just brimming with imagination.
In Pugs of the Frozen North, True Winter arrives, freezing the seas and bringing adventurers from miles around to join the race to the top of the world. Everyone wants to be the first to reach the Snowfather at the top of the world and have their wish granted. Shen has been abandoned by his captain after their ship is frozen in the ice and he is left stranded with only sixty-six pug dogs to keep him company. Luckily Shen finds Sika, a girl who lives in the village of Snowdovia with her mother and grandfather. Sika really wants to enter the race to the Snowfather and thanks to Shen she now has sixty-six pug dogs to pull her sled. Shen and Sika are racing against other more experienced adventurers, including Professor Shackleton Jones with his high-tech sled and SNOBOT companion, Helga Hammerfest and her team of polar bears, Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling and his butler Sidebar, and the glamorous Mitzi Von Primm. Someone is determined to take their fellow contestants out of the race and win the prize for themselves. There are also Snow Trolls, sea monsters, hungry Yetis and fifty different kinds of snow to deal with.
The main appeal of Philip and Sarah’s books for me is that they are chock-full of Sarah’s cute and comical illustrations. I’ve never seen a pug dog look as cute as the ones that Sarah has drawn in this book! Sarah truly brings the characters to life, from the pompous Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling to the cuddly-looking Yetis. The limited tone of the illustrations (green, white, black and grey) gives the illustrations an icy feel. I also really love the cover, which I think looks incredibly appealing to kids.
Pugs of the Frozen North is one of my favourite books of the year. This wonderful book has all the elements that I love in a story and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Curl up with Pugs of the Frozen North and you’ll be sure to fall in love with Philip Reeve and Sarah McInytre’s books.
I’ve been a huge fan of Barry Hutchison for ages. He is one of those incredibly talented authors who can write for all ages and in a range of different genres. His Invisible Fiends series is one of my favourite series and is delightfully creepy. I was sucked in to the series with Mr Mumbles and eagerly awaited the next books in the series. Barry’s next few books, The 13th Horseman and The Book of Doom were hilariously funny books for older readers and I loved these just as much. Earlier this year Barry released the first book in his brilliant new series for younger readers all about Benjamin Blank, The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.
In an alternate 15th century, where dragons roam, sailing ships transform into submarines, and blacksmiths build steampunk robots, ten-year-old orphan Benjamin Blank battles monsters, rescues maidens and discovers fantastic new lands, but never quite manages to get his homework handed in on time. Each adventure sees Ben and his friends, Paradise Little and Wesley Chant, face a new monstrous menace.
The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is a hilarious, rollicking adventure that will have you laughing out loud as you follow Ben and his friends on their quest. Ben desperately wants to be a hero and when a girl called Paradise turns up in his village looking for a warrior, Ben sees his chance. A monster is terrorising Paradise’s village and she needs a warrior to save them and vanquish the monster. Ben hasn’t had much practice but he’s the only warrior around that can help. Armed with a magic gauntlet, Ben sets off with Paradise to save her village from the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing.
The thing I love the most about Barry’s books is the dialogue. The conversations and interactions between his characters always makes me laugh and I certainly laughed my way through The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing. This is a perfect book to read aloud as it really keeps kids’ attention. There is one particular part of the book, involving a troll and his game of ‘Burp-or-Death’ that I love reading out to kids. I can hardly get through this part with out cracking up laughing and kids absolutely love it, especially boys. If you’re looking for the perfect read aloud for ages 8 and up you really can’t go past The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing. I guarantee it will be a winner!
I love Chris Mould’s illustrations and they perfectly match Barry’s story! They are quirky and add an extra layer of humour to the story. I especially love Chris’ cover illustration, with the Shark-Headed Bear-Thing creeping up on Ben, and his illustrations of my favourite troll in his y-front undies.
There are more books coming in the series, including The Swivel-Eyed Ogre-Thing (which has just been released) and The Moon-Faced Ghoul-Thing (coming in October). I can’t wait to read more adventures of Benjamin Blank and see how he defeats new monsters. Grab a copy of The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing from your library or bookshop now.
Avast me hearties! Are you a land lubber lookin’ for a book chock full of adventure on the seven seas, robot pirates, laughs aplenty, and gold? Well the Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is the series for you. Hop on board The Leaky Battery and set sail with this rag-tag crew.
Wanted: Dead or Alive! (Or smashed into little bits and delivered in boxes.) Causing chaos wherever they sail, the robotic Steampunk Pirates are roaming the high seas, hunting for gold!
But the evil Iron Duke has other ideas…He’s determined to capture the pirates in return for a handsome reward from the King. Can these mechanical marauders stay one wave ahead of their enemy?
The Leaky Battery Sets Sail is the brilliant first book in Gareth P. Jones’ swashbuckling new series, Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates. The Steampunk Pirates are a crew of robots who were once servants. They decided they didn’t want to be bossed around so acquired a ship and set out to find adventure. Their crew is made up of their hot-headed leader Captain Clockheart, First Mate Mainspring (who gets dangerous when he gets overwound), Quartermaster Lexi (the brains of the crew who is fitted with an information file), Mr Gadge (so named because of all the gadgets he can attach to himself) and twelve other robotic low-lifes.
Their first adventure sees the Steampunk Pirates on the hunt for all the loot they can find. They’ve discovered that life at sea isn’t so great when you’re made of metal because it rusts in the salty sea air. They hear of an alchemist who can turn metal in to gold and Captain Clockheart believes this is the answer to their problems. Along the way they meet the Iron Duke and other nasty humans who try to foil their plans.
Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is perfect for readers aged 7+ who love adventure and love to laugh. They’re quick, fun reads with quirky illustrations that will appeal to young readers. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next adventures of the Steampunk Pirates in Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders. I highly recommend this series and you should definitely search out Gareth’s other books, including the Ninja Meerkats series, The Thornthwaite Inheritance, and one of my favourite books Constable and Toop.
What would life be like if you were followed around by seven noisy, smelly, rude monsters? And not just any monsters, but seven monsters who represent the seven deadly sins. Garth Jennings shows us just how weird, silly and embarrassing it would be in his book The Deadly 7.
When eleven year-old Nelson’s beloved big sister goes missing on a school trip, he is devastated – he’s not that good at making friends and his sister is the only person he can talk to. In the dark catacombs of St Paul’s cathedral Nelson stumbles across a strange and ancient machine, designed to extract the seven deadly sins and Nelson accidentally extracts seven deadly monsters from his own little soul. Nelson and the Deadly 7 set out on a quest across the globe to find and rescue his big sister and on the way they have an adventure beyond Nelson’s wildest dreams, and he learns that good friends come in all shapes and sizes.
The Deadly Seven is a funny adventure story, with a bunch of funny monsters that you’ll love. The action is fast-paced and makes you want to keep reading. The first chapter totally grabbed me as it’s really mysterious and features a rather odd character who we see more of throughout the book. The Deadly 7 are made up of Stan (the angry one), Nosh (the hungry one), Crush (the cuddly one), Hoot (the vain one), Miser (the greedy one), Puff (the lazy one), and Spike (the jealous one). No one can see them but Nelson so that makes for some very funny situations (at airport security and inside a plane just to name a couple). The scene in the airport was my favourite part and I always read it to school groups as it has them laughing out loud. My favourite of the monsters was Nosh as he’s always hungry and it’s amazing what he can fit in his mouth.
It’s perfect for fans of Frank Cottrell Boyce and Cressida Cowell and any readers that a dash of humour and adventure in their books.
Recommended for 9+
Do your children love sinking their teeth into a new series? Do they love books like The 39 Clues, The Infinity Ring and Conspiracy 365? Scholastic have just released a new series, called The Last Thirteen, that’s perfect for fans of these series and anyone who loves a fast-paced story full action, adventure, and mystery.
I click my fingers and everybody dies.
Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.
Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren’t who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.
With his life and identity shattered, Sam’s salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.
He alone can find the last 13.
Are you one of them?
The first book in The Last Thirteen series has just been released and James Phelan kicks it off with a bang. The first book sets the scene for the rest of the series, so we find out snippets of information about Sam, the Last Thirteen, and the organisations that want to get their hands on them. The Last Thirteen are a group of teenagers with a special ability that some people will kill to get their hands on – their dreams come true. Sam is the first of the 13 and the race is on to find the other 12 in order to save the world.
The plot races along (especially in the second half of the book) and the chapters are short, so readers will gobble it up and be waiting for the second book. Each of the books ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger, and the end of the first book certainly makes me want to read the next one to find out what happens.
Like similar series (39 Clues, Infinity Ring) there is a dedicated fan website, where fans can register online and gain VIP access to a range of exciting features. There’s also the chance to enter the competition, with your chance to become famous.
The Last Thirteen is perfect for ages 10+ who love action, adventure and mystery. Get your copy today and join the race to find the Last Thirteen.
Check out the book trailer and the video of James talking about the series: