Anna and the team at Hotel Flamingo are back again in the latest book in the series, Fabulous Feast. This is one of my favourite series for younger readers so I always love returning to Hotel Flamingo. If you haven’t discovered this series yet here’s the gist of the series. A human girl, Anna, inherits the run-down Hotel Flamingo, and with a lot of hard work from her and her animal team, they turn it into one of the best hotels on Animal Boulevard.
In Fabulous Feast, Anna is trying to encourage more guests to come and stay at Hotel Flamingo after a long, quiet winter. Anna comes up with the idea of having a cooking contest at the hotel to find the best chef on Animal Boulevard. Anna and her team go out in search of chefs to enter the contest. Three chefs enter – Peston Crumbletart from The Fat Cat Restaurant, Toot-Toot from the Glitz Hotel and Le Pig from Hotel Flamingo. The competition is fierce but only one chef can come out on top.
Fabulous Feast is full of everything I love about the series – the chaos of a hotel, wonderful characters and animals of all sorts. As well as the busyness of preparing for the contest, Anna and her team have to deal with a crashed carrier pigeon, a couple of highland cows with a love of gourmet grass, and a coconut octopus with an urgent need for super-salty water.
Anna has a brilliant team who help the hotel to run smoothly. Lemmy the lemur manages the front desk, Stella the giraffe does the repairs and building work, T. Bear is the doorman, and Le Pig is the chef. They all go above and beyond the call of duty for the job they love and Anna can always rely on them.
One of my favourite aspects of the series is the way that Alex introduces readers to different types of animals and includes their unique characteristics. Anna and her team go out of their way to make sure the animals have what they need to make their stay comfortable. If otters come to stay the pool is specially prepared for them. If penguins come to stay ice is specially brought in. In this story the coconut octopus needs very briny water and Lemmy hunts down all the salt he can to add to the bath.
Like many kids I’m a fan of series. There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a great series and being able to read more than one book featuring your favourite characters. While there aren’t a heap of New Zealand series for kids and teens there are some that really stand out for me. Some of them make me laugh again and again, while others take me to different times and places. Here are my Top 5 NZ series for kids and teens.
The Karazan Quartet by V.M. Jones
Book 1 – The Serpents of Arakesh
Book 2 – Beyond the Shroud
Book 3 – Prince of the Wind
Book 4 – Quest for the Sun
I was excited when the first book in the series, The Serpents of Arakesh, came out. The idea of an orphan boy getting the chance to test a new computer game and go into this game to retrieve a magical object sounded fantastic, and I wasn’t disappointed. As soon as I started I knew I was going to love this book, and the other three books in the series just got better and better. It’s one of my favourite fantasy series and just writing about it now makes me want to go back and read it all over again. After publishing this series and a couple of great contemporary (and award-winning) novels, V.M. Jones seems to have disappeared. I really miss her writing and I wonder what she’s doing now.
These are all out of print now but if you have this series in your library, get it out on display and promote it to your Year 5+ kids, especially the boys.
Recommended for 9+
The Juno series by Fleur Beale
Book 1 – Juno of Taris
Book 2 – Fierce September
Book 3 – Heart of Danger
Once I got in to Juno of Taris I couldn’t put it down. Fleur Beale’s strength with this series is her characters, the strong bonds between them and also the conflict between them. Fleur really makes you feel for her characters and the strange situation that they are in. After reading the first book, I would have been satisfied to leave the characters as they were, then Fleur wrote two sequels. I really enjoyed following these characters as they settled into their new life, and it was great to find out more about the other characters in the series.
Recommended for 11+
Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn and Donovan Bixley
Currently 8 books in the series, starting with T-wreck-asaurus
Prehistoric toilet humour – what more can you ask for! These books are full of dinosaur farts, dinosaur poo, caveman vomit and partial caveman nudity. Not only are they disgusting and hilarious, you also learn heaps about dinosaurs and prehistoric life. The challenge is trying to figure out what is factually accurate or just a huge whopper. Kyle and Donovan are too of the wackiest people to ever be thrown together to create a series and it’s a truly winning combination. If your children haven’t discovered this series yet they are seriously missing out.
Recommended for 7+
My New Zealand Story series by various authors
The My New Zealand Story series from Scholastic New Zealand introduces children to different events and periods of New Zealand’s history. I love this series because it gives a snapshot of the life of a fictional character (based on real people) and how they cope with life in the goldfields, or in colonial New Zealand, or how they react to a disaster like the Napier Earthquake. These books also highlight how different the lives of the characters is to the lives of children today. They really bring history alive for young readers and connect them with the history of their country. The latest in the series is Canterbury Quake by my good friend, Desna Wallace.
Recommended for 9+
Tales of Fontania series by Barbara Else
The Traveling Restaurant
The Queen and the Nobody Boy
The Volume of Possible Endings
The Knot Impossible
Barbara Else’s Tales of Fontania series is a fantasy series that stands out from the crowd. Barbara has an incredible imagination and her world and characters jump off the page. Her tales are full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, a floating restaurant, stinky trolls, poisonous toads and much, much more. You never know what who or what you’re going to meet next. Thanks to the stunning covers by Sam Broad the books jump off the shelf and grab your attention. I have it on good authority that there are more Tales of Fontania to come too.