Tag Archives: adventure

The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing by Barry Hutchison

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.

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Yo-ho-ho! Here come the Steampunk Pirates!

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.

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The Deadly Seven by Garth Jennings

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.

The Deadly 7When 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+

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The Last Thirteen by James Phelan

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:

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Boy Nobody book trailer

I’m really looking forward to reading this one.  It looks like a great action-packed read. Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff is out now in NZ from Orchard Books.

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House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat.  Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me.  I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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The Trouble with Mummies by F.R. Hitchcock

Hot Key Books are a UK based publisher who publish ‘stand out, quality fiction’ for 9-19 year olds.  Every time I go and check out their website to see what they’ve got coming up I add most of their books to my TBR pile.  They have introduced me to some wonderful new authors and some really original stories, including the marvelous Fleur Hitchcock.  Last year I loved her debut book, Shrunk, so when I heard she had a new book coming out I had to grab it.   The Trouble with Mummies is her latest book and it’s sure to have kids roaring with laughter.

Sam comes home one day to find his family turning strange – his mum is redecorating using hieroglyphics and his dad is building a pyramid in the back garden. He hopes it’s just a weird new fashion… but then the strangeness starts to spread. With the help of his friends Ursula, Henry and Lucy the Goat, Sam must save his town from rampaging Roman rugby players, hairdressers turned cavewomen, and a teacher who used to be a ‘basket of kittens’ but now wants to sacrifice the Year Ones to the Aztec sun god. As history invades Sam’s world, will he be able to keep the Greeks away from the Egyptians and discover the cause of the Mummy madness?

The Trouble with Mummies is a crazy adventure, where history comes alive and the kids have to solve the mystery before it’s too late.  When Sam’s parents start acting weirdly he gets the feeling something strange is going on.  Then his teacher dresses up in a wetsuit covered in feathers, and his PE teacher lines his class up in ranks and throws a javelin at them, so Sam knows that things aren’t right.  The people in his town get weirder and weirder and it’s up to Sam and his friends to figure out what is causing them to act so strangely.  Is it something they ate or drunk or have they all just lost their minds?

Fleur brings her love of history into the story with the different ancient peoples.  Sam’s parents become Egyptians, painting the house with hieroglyphics and building a pyramid, Miss Primrose becomes an Aztec and plans to sacrifice Sam’s friend Henry, and Ursula’s parents become Trojans.  It’s the perfect book for those kids who are really interested in history and ancient civilizations in particular.  If you know a Horrible Histories fan, you need to get them this book.  If your kids don’t already love history, then this book might just get them hooked.  You’ll certainly never look at your museum the same way again!

The thing I love the most about Fleur’s books is that they are unique stories full of imagination that are aimed at younger readers.  Forget Zac Power and Beast Quest, get your boys reading Shrunk and The Trouble with Mummies and they’ll be hooked on books.  Both of Fleur’s books also make great read alouds and they’re bound to have both you and your children laughing out loud.

What better way to hook readers in than show them the Hot Key Books ‘What’s in it?’ book key – Cavemen, Pyramids, Romans and Beards.  Who wouldn’t want to read a book with all that in it?

Check out this video of Fleur Hitchcock reading the first chapter of The Trouble with Mummies:

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2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I love the world of Fontania that Barbara introduced us to in The Traveling Restaurant.  I reviewed it in September last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.  You can also read my interview with Barbara Else and Barbara’s guest post about The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

Last year, Barbara Else took us on a magical journey through the land of Fontania, with Sibilla and The Traveling Restaurant.  Now she takes us back to Fontania and introduces us to some wonderful new characters in The Queen and the Nobody Boy.

Hodie is the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania.  Fed-up, he decides to leave and better himself.

The young Queen, 12 -year-old Sibilla, is fed-up too.  Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a magical story, full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, stinky trolls and poisonous toads. Trouble is brewing from the very beginning of the story.  The Emperor of Um’Binnia threatens war with Fontania and he hopes to destroy what magic there may be in the world.  The Fontanians have been looking for ‘The Ties’ for many years, but nobody really seems to know what they are, and for the Emperor to carry out his plans he must get his hands on them too.  Little do they know how important an odd-job boy might be.

Your favourite characters from The Travelling Restaurant return, including Sibilla and the pirate chef, Murgott.  Hodie is the main character of this tale of Fontania.  Even though he’s not treated very well in the Palace, he’s smart and brave, and determined to make something of himself.   My favourite quote from the book sums up Hodie, ‘Whether a boy was somebody or nobody, if he was normal he was expected to be curious.’  Hodie and Sibilla meet lots of other interesting characters on their journey, including a rather strange Um’Binnian spy called Ogg’ward, and a very persistent squirrel.  The Um’Binnians themselves are quite interesting.  They have a different way of speaking and their names look and sound strange.

If you loved The Traveling Restaurant you have to get your hands on The Queen and the Nobody Boy, but if you haven’t read it this book will make you fall in love with the land of Fontania.  You certainly won’t be able to go past this book on the shelf without wanting to see what magic is inside, thanks to Sam Broad’s brilliant cover.

4 out of 5 stars

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W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin book trailer

W.A.R.P. (Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme) is Eoin Colfer’s new series.  The Reluctant Assassin is the first book in the series and is released later this month by Penguin Books NZ.  It sounds like it’s going to be a great series and perfect for fans of his Artemis Fowl series.

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Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie

Risha is strong and outspoken, and at 16 has developed into a leader of men, a strategic thinker, and a woman — one can imagine — who will assume the legacy left by her mother.

The story begins with 13-year-old Risha living a simple life in the mountains with her father. When her father suddenly dies, Risha is left alone, an outcast of her village. Disguised as a boy, Risha leaves the village with a group of traders, on a quest to find out the truth about her mother and her heritage.

Here begins a grand sweeping adventure as Risha is caught up in dangerous pursuits, intrigue, trickery and betrayal. She is left for dead, confused by the actions of many, and is made to hide from those who wish her harm.

She finds out by chance that she is Cattra’s daughter. Who is Cattra — and why do so many wish Risha harm?

Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman.  Risha’s world is full of secrets, lies, promises, danger, strategy, rescue missions, and plenty of fighting.  Anna has created Elgard, a world that is both beautiful and harsh, and she takes Risha from one corner of the land to another.  From her rocky mountain home of Torfell where she has grown up, Risha travels through the busy city of Caledon, the Lacstone Marshes and the Citadel at LeMarc.  As you delve further into the story you discover the politics of Elgard, the struggle for power between the various rulers, and the enormity of the task that Risha has ahead of her.  There was one particular part of the story, when Risha and Torfell are going through the marshes, that reminded me of the Swamps of Sadness scene from one of my favourite movies, The Neverending Story.  It’s a heart-breaking part of both the movie and Anna’s book, and I’d love to know if this part of the story is a tribute to that movie or just a coincidence.

Risha is a wonderful character who grows so much throughout the story, and she grew on me more and more as the story progressed.  She starts off as a timid young girl who lives a quiet life with her father in the mountains of Torfell, but the events of the story mean she has to grow up fast.  She grows in to a fierce and powerful young woman, who is very self-assured and you wouldn’t want to cross her.  You know that she is going to become a strong, but kind leader of her people and will do everything in her power to unite the people of Elgard.  One thing I really like about her is that she’s really focused on her duties.  Even though she could have her pick of the males around her, romance isn’t her number one priority.  I’m sure that romance will come in to the other books that are to follow in the series.

Between Cattra’s Legacy and R.L. Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, there certainly isn’t going to be a shortage of strong female main characters for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and see how Risha develops even further.  I certainly know that Risha is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

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