I really do love a good countdown action/adventure and Fleur Ferris has brought her masterful manipulation of tension into a fantastic new narrative for middle school readers. In similar fashion to her hugely successful and popular suspenseful stories for YA kiddos, this one follows a cracking pace from the very first page.
Ben is really angry with his father, who seems to be far more interested in his high-flying corporate job crushing people and the environment, than in Ben. And now, much to his complete disgust, Ben is being packed off to the country to spend a week with his aunt, uncle and cousin – a fate too horrible to contemplate from this teen’s point of view. It’s not that he thinks his aunt and uncle are awful, it’s just that his cousin is so much more adept than him dealing with country type stuff like animals and motorbikes and physical activity. Ben is really far more citified than he cares to admit at times.
The very last thing that Ben imagines happening is to become embroiled in a generations-old family feud, a murder mystery and a treasure hunt which ends up in the enclosure of two very cranky hippos at the nearby zoo. Ben has set his watch the minute he arrives in Manibee to countdown until it’s time to go back home, but now that seven days ticking away is how long he has to solve a century-old crime, work out the location of an almost mythical cache of stolen jewelry – oh, and actually survive the dangers on all sides.
With the unexpected assistance of his cousin Josh, with whom he finally develops a far more friendly relationship, as well as the even more surprising aid from Josh’s crush, Olivia, of the very family that despises their own (a nice little Romeo & Juliet twist here), Ben manages to unearth the long lost stolen goods, prove the solution of the crime, and resolve the family feud but not without a dramatic plot twist that will make readers’ heads spin!
With lots to say about family, misleading appearances, values and beliefs, friendship and acceptance of differences, your readers from around Year 6 upwards will truly relish this fast-paced thrilling ride.
Highly recommended for middle primary/lower secondary – this is an author to whom your kiddos will love an introduction!
Justin D’Ath seems to have a real gift for exciting adventure stories with tremendous appeal to both boys and girls. This novel is like a blockbuster thriller movie but for young readers and is just fabulous.
Sunday or Sunny suspects nothing more than the usual school assembly as he and his mates stand out in the quadrangle of his International School. In fact, he doesn’t have much on his mind apart from his football and the birthday card he has for his American (girl) friend.
But when your father is the President of African nation Zantuga and you are next in line, there is no telling what might happen.
As the kids all line up there is a sudden commotion when ‘secret service’ guys pop up right next to Sunny and a weird looking baboon jumps on top of the outer wall. Baboons can be dangerous enough but a baboon that carries a photo and has strangely piercing eyes even moreso.
Within the space of breathtaking minutes Sunny finds out both his father and mother have been assassinated and his own life is in danger. It is in fact, the baboon that is meant to be his killer.
Car chases, gun fights and conspiracy follow at rapid pace. It is an odd thing that Sunny and the baboon become companions. Three is not a baboon but a ‘brid’ (hybrid) and to Sunny’s astonishment he can speak and understand humans. With the secret help of his girlfriend who is dealing with conspiracy dealings in her own family, Sunny eventually finds safety and sanctuary and Three, the brid who is as much a victim as anyone else finds peace.
I loved this book. The twists in the plot were believable and exciting. The subtle commentary on politics and backroom deals all too true-to-life and the underlying ethics of animal experimentation are terrific.
My only small complaint has to be the cover art. I’m no artist for sure but felt that the cover does not do the book or its story justice at all. I am urging my girls to ignore the cover and try out the book.
Highly recommended for readers in Upper Primary to Middle Secondary.
When three highly respected authors collaborate on a novel, you might expect something extraordinary and Zeroes delivers just that. This is a slam-dunk in-your-face novel that brings something quite out of the box to readers.
Meet six unique teenagers:
Nate aka Bellwether – the ‘Glorious Leader’ has a power of persuasion which can bring others to his way of thinking. He is also super-organised and has disposable income.
Ethan aka Scam – with his ‘other’ voice is uncanny, all-knowing and completely uncontrollable
Chizara aka Crash – who can be driven crazy by electronics hammering her senses, can mentally dismantle any circuit and is slowly developing an ability to repair these
Riley aka Flicker – blind twin who can however see through the eyes of others
Thibault aka Anonymous – who is so mentally invisible to other people that even his own family has no memory of him
Kelsie aka Mob, the newcomer – who can infuse a group of people with whatever emotion she chooses.
With their disparate and not always advantageous powers the Glorious Leader has ambitions to blend this group into a force with which to be reckoned.
In just one week, their lives and their shared inexplicable skills are completely revolutionised when Scam becomes embroiled in both the theft of drug money and a bank robbery which has been undertaken by a group of men including Mob’s disreputable father.
This is exactly the kind of scenario for which Nate has been waiting – a chance to weld his unlikely and often unwilling friends into a team.
This is fast-paced and a real page-turner written with a real slickness that will engage teen readers both boys and girls.
Highly recommended for readers from around 13 upwards. Read an excerpt here.