We have so many great authors and illustrators in New Zealand and I love shouting about them. There have been a bumper crop of books from NZ authors and illustrators this year and there are strong contenders for the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. Some of these books have been included in my other Top 10 of 2012 lists but I wanted to do a separate list to highlight these spectacular NZ books.
There have been so many middle grade fiction books published this year, both here in New Zealand and overseas. It was difficult to pick my absolute favourites but here they are, my Top 10 Middle Grade Fiction of 2012. If you want to know more about these books you can read my reviews here on the blog.
Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins—adults—named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh, please. It would so.
Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins), and who enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket and anyone who likes a story with lots of mystery, adventure, and tight spots to get out of. It’s clever, witty and funny, but also a little bit crazy. The story is told by the Narrator, a rather strange fellow, who is always trying to convince us (the Reader) how wonderful he is. It takes the Narrator quite a few tries to actually get the story started, but when he does he keeps you on your toes. The Narrator helps to point things out to the Reader, but also throws you off track by asking bizarre and random questions, like ‘Can you spell moustache?’ At the end of each chapter the Narrator has some Questions for Review, to test what you can remember about the story or just help to boost his ego.
You meet some curious characters in the story. The twins themselves are quite unique – Abigail is very clever with words and John is extremely clever when it comes to devising plans and putting them into action. These skills, as you can imagine, come in very handy throughout the story. The villain of the story is Dean D. Dean, who accuses the twins’ father of stealing his idea for an invention. Dean D. Dean is good at hatching plans, which involves kidnapping the Twins to hold for ransom. If you think his name is silly, it only gets worse when he tells the children he wants to be a university dean.
Abigail said, “But that would make you Dean Dean D. Dean.”
“Exactly!” the man said with a wild, crazed smile.
“Dean Dean D. Dean?” Abigail said. “It sounds silly.”
“It sounds like ‘Here Comes the Bride,'” John said.
The book is illustrated throughout by Jeremy Holmes, with diagrams of inventions by the twins or their father, explanations of schemes that they have cooked up, and pictures of the characters. There is some little illustration on each page, whether it’s Cassie the Ridiculous Dog or just the cog around the page number. I think the illustrations will really appeal to boys and hook them in, especially if they’re not big readers.
Visit the very cool Templeton Twins website, where you can learn more about the book, the author and the illustrator, and watch the book trailer.
4 out of 5 stars
Imagine if you could live in a hotel. Not just any hotel, but one where each of the rooms had a different theme. If you like cuddly toys, you could live in a room full of cuddly toys of every size, colour and type. If you like Playstation, you could live in a virtual reality room where you could be a character in any game you chose. In Patrick Carman’s new book, Floors, Leo lives in the weirdest, most wonderful hotel in the whole world, the Whippet Hotel.
Leo Fillmore and his father Clarence live and work at the Whippet Hotel as the caretakers, making sure everything is in working order. The hotel’s eccentric owner, Merganzer D. Whippet disappeared one hundred days ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from ever since. This leaves the mean hotel manager, Ms. Sparks in charge of the hotel, and when the hotel doesn’t work as it should, everybody hears about it. Leo spends his days helping his father maintain the hotel and making sure Betty and the other ducks get walked. One day, as Leo is returning the ducks to their pond on the roof, he discovers a mysterious box in the duck elevator. This box is the first of four that will lead Leo to discover the secrets of the Whippet Hotel and the mystery of the missing Merganzer D. Whippet.
Floors is full of wonder, mystery and mahem, and made me smile the whole way through. Patrick Carman has created this weird and wonderful hotel and filled it with one exciting room after another. There’s a Pinball Room, which is set up like a pinball machine, with bowling balls as the pinball and couches for the flippers; the Cake Room filled with real cakes that are delivered by the chefs each morning; and the Central Park Room which contains a scale model of New York’s Central Park. The characters are just as weird and wonderful as the hotel. There’s Captain Rickenbacker who thinks that his arch-nemesis is out to get him, the obsessive writer, Theodore Bump, and the nasty hotel manager Ms. Sparks. Floors is one of the most fun, imaginative stories you’ll read this year. It’s perfect for fans of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snickett.
5 out of 5 stars.