I’ve been a fan of M.G. Leonard from her very first book, Beetle Boy. I love all of her books, especially her most recent series, Adventures on Trains, written with Sam Sedgman. I was super excited to hear she had another new solo book coming this year, all about birdwatching and solving mysteries. Twitch is out now and it is absolutely wonderful!
Twitch is a kid who loves birdwatching. It’s nearly the summer holidays and he plans to spend it watching birds at Aves Wood, in the bird hide that he has painstakingly constructed. His plans are interrupted though when the police start hunting for an escaped convict from the local prison. The police are combing every inch of Aves Wood, scaring the birds away. All of his hours spent birdwatching have honed Twitch’s observation skills, and he notices some strange behaviour from visitors to Aves Wood. There are two girls who seem to be sneaking around and a man called Billy, who is camping out in the woods. Billy is friendly to Twitch and wants to know more about Aves Wood and its bird life. Robber Ryan has been seen in the area and Twitch is hoping that Ryan doesn’t find his bird hide. As Twitch tries to uncover the truth about what is happening at Aves Wood, he unwittingly puts others in danger. It’s up to Twitch and his friends to catch the criminal and right a wrong.
Twitch is an action-packed mystery that zips along at the speed of a kingfisher. I flew through the story, because I needed to find out how it ended. It’s a story that has something for everyone, from twists that swoop out of nowhere and clever characters, to tricky plans and birds galore. It’s also a story where you don’t know who to trust. Twitch will make you want to get outside and enjoy nature, because M.G. Leonard shows you that there is so much to explore and observe. Paddy Donnelly’s stunning cover makes you want to dive into Twitch’s story and meet all of its avian characters.
Like her Adventures on Trains series, M.G. Leonard weaves a perfect mystery, that keeps you guessing, and has the most satisfying ending. She makes you feel connected to the characters and concerned when they find themselves in trouble. I love the way that she sets up the characters, so that you’re never really sure about their intentions. Twitch’s bully/friend Jack is one of those characters who is tricky to figure out. At the start of the book he is trying to force Twitch to eat a worm but then becomes his friend. You’re never really sure whether he’s actually Twitch’s friend or not though. Twitch is a cool character and I’m sure he will inspire young readers to become birdwatchers themselves. He has made me want to take more notice of the birds around me.
I absolutely love Twitch and I hope we get to join him and his friends on more adventures. Twitch would be a wonderful read aloud for Years 5-8 as it will have everyone on the edge of their seats.
Walker Books and M.G. Leonard have created some wonderful videos to go with Twitch. Check them out below:
M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman are back with another rip-roaring Adventures on Trains book. In the second book in the series we jump onboard a train journey across America in Kidnap on the California Comet.
Hal once again joins his Uncle Nat on a train journey to remember. Uncle Nat is covering a press conference on board the California Comet, travelling from Chicago to Emeryville, and he asks Hal to accompany him. After his last holiday with Uncle Nat, foiling the plans of a jewel thief, Hal is eager to go to America. What starts off as a fun holiday, with new friends and magic tricks, soon turns into another mystery, with a billionaire’s daughter being kidnapped. There is no shortage of suspects, as Hal has met some unusual characters on board the California Comet. Using his sharp observation skills and working with his new friends, Mason and Hadley, Hal will need to solve the case before the train reaches the end of the line.
This series is so much fun! Packed full of action, adventure, mystery and new friends, this is the perfect book for any reader. You can’t help getting caught up in the story and whisked away on the adventure with Hal, Uncle Nat and their friends. Reading this book made me once again want to go on this train journey.
Mason and Hadley are great new characters who bring a different dynamic to the story and special skills that become important to the story. All of the characters are nicely fleshed out so there are plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing. Like the first book, one of my favourite aspects of this story is the relationship between Hal and Uncle Nat. I love the trust that Nat has in Hal, even if Hal is a little reluctant to share all of his findings with Nat.
Elisa Paganelli’s illustrations are once again superb. I love the way that Elissa captures the characteristics and features of each character and makes them look like they are suspects. My favourite illustration in this book is the one of Hal sitting in their roomette with Uncle Nat, telling him everything. You can tell that Hal has his uncle’s complete attention.
I can’t wait for more Adventures on trains! Luckily we only have to wait until February for Murder on the Safari Star.
I love trains and I love stories set on trains. I love mystery stories and I love books by M.G. Leonard (author of the wonderful Beetle Boy Trilogy). All of these things are smooshed together in the latest series by M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman – Adventures on Trains. I’ve had the first book in the series, The Highland Falcon Thief, sitting on my shelf for a while now and keep meaning to read it. The second book has just been released so what better time to start the series. I was immediately swept up in this journey that kept me on the edge of my seat.
Hal’s Mum is due to have a baby so he gets whisked away on a special train journey with his Uncle Nat. They are taking the final journey of the Highland Falcon, Britain’s most famous steam train. Uncle Nat is a travel writer who has been on some of the most interesting train journeys in the world, but nothing will compare to the drama that unfolds on this journey. Hal, at first, thinks the journey will be kind of boring but he couldn’t be more wrong. An item of jewellery goes missing and the accusations start flying. This is just the beginning of a string of thefts that include a large jewel belonging to the royal family. Hal and his new friend Lenny start to investigate the thefts and try to discover who the thief is. They’ll need to pay attention to the little details and find the culprit before they reach the end of their journey.
The Highland Falcon Thief is a captivating mystery that has you guessing right up to the end. There are shifty characters, a stowaway, stunning scenery, delicious meals, and some very clever kids who put the police to shame. The story is action-packed, with plenty of sneaking around, and a particularly nail-biting scene on the outside of the train. The descriptions are so fantastic that you can hear the rush of steam through the engine’s whistle and smell the soot. You can clearly picture the lavish details of the carriages. Every detail of this story made me desperate for a train journey like this, with my own compartment. You can tell that both M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman have had a lot of fun writing this book and have both brought their interests and knowledge of trains to the story.
One of the things that I love about M.G. Leonard’s books is the depth of her adult characters, especially those related to the main characters. I especially loved Uncle Nat as he clearly wants to share this unique and wonderful experience with his nephew. He always listens to Hal and tries to help him work through his problems or theories. You’re never really sure who the thief is until it’s revealed at the end, so the authors do a really great job of making you believe it could be nearly anyone. Uncle Nat himself even suggests that it could be him as he has no alibi.
Elisa Paganelli adds extra class to the story with her superb illustrations. Her cover makes the book jump off the shelf and her interior illustrations really bring the characters alive. Elisa’s illustrations also show us the interior and exterior of the Highland Falcon. Hal is an artist who loves to draw so Elisa puts herself into Hal’s shoes by drawing what he sees.
I can’t wait for more Adventures on Trains with Hal, Lenny and Uncle Nat! The second book in the series, Kidnap on the California Comet, has just been released so I won’t have to wait long to board the next adventure.
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.
Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard is one of my favourite books so far this year. I got the chance to interview M.G. Leonard for Christchurch City Libraries. You can read my review of Beetle Boy here on the blog and follow the link to check out the interview.