Tag Archives: adventure

La Belle Sauvage : The Book of Dust #1 – Phillip Pullman

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Dust

Penguin Random House

9780857561084

October 19, 2017

David Fickling Books

 

RRP $32.99

 

Dear Philip Pullman

It is magnificent! How long must I wait for volume 2?

Yours Sincerely

Me

 

I don’t think I would have been alone when, upon finding out earlier this year that Philip Pullman was publishing a new ‘prequel’ trilogy, I wondered whether it could possibly match the beauty, skill and intensity of His Dark Materials.

Why worry? This is coming from one of the most masterful storytellers of our time and is every bit as fabulous as its counterpart. I should have known.

Young Malcolm Polstead (with his daemon Asta) appears an average boy living with his innkeeper parents at The Trout. Yet he is far more than that; an enquiring mind, a sharp eye for detail, a sensitivity and an uncanny intuition all combine to raise him above his peers. Living directly across the river from the Priory Malcolm is a regular visitor to the nuns where he helps with all manner of odd jobs and enjoys talking particularly with the ancient Sister who prepares the meals.  His other chief occupation is taking his canoe, Le Belle Sauvage, out and about on the waterways round Oxford where he quietly observes much, mostly nature.

One day however he observes something quite strange.  When an unknown man appears to have lost a small object and then is rudely apprehended by some sinister looking individuals Malcolm is intrigued. Strange things have been afoot. At schools, including Malcolm’s, a fanatical sect has turned children against teachers and even parents and most suspect it is the work of the feared CCD.  The boy has also learned that his loved nuns at Godstow Priory are taking care of a small and seemingly special baby, one Lyra Belacqua. Is it possible such things could be intertwined somehow?

A new friend comes about as a result of Malcolm’s observation, and retrieval, of the lost object. A young scholar with an extensive knowledge of the strange instruments called alethiometers.  Together with Dr Hannah, Malcolm begins to seek out and deliver important tidbits of information which they both store away like squirrels hoarding nuts.

Then an unexpected weather event creates a huge flood across the whole of the countryside causing houses, bridges and the priory to collapse. Malcolm and his acquaintance Alice, a kitchen maid, take charge of the baby Lyra and an adventure like no other follows.

This is a gripping tale of courage and selflessness. Pullman’s ability to paint pictures with his words pulls the reader right into the book so that one feels one is in Le Belle Sauvage, along with the children,  battling the elements and desperately avoiding the pursuers who want baby Lyra for their own nefarious ends. The main characters become our allies and we fear for them and rejoice in their triumphs.  For those who have often wondered about Lyra’s history before the prophecy was revealed and the narrative that followed her throughout His Dark Materials this is a must read.

I’ve read some wonderful books this year but this has to be the best yet. I cannot wait for the next volume to be ready so we can continue the saga.

Find some input from the master himself here.

 

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Alice-Miranda in Hollywood (#16) – Jacqueline Harvey

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AM

Penguin Random House

August 2017-09-03
ISBN 9780143780618

RRP $16.99

My girls are already super-excited awaiting this latest Alice-Miranda and well they should be because I think it is the most exciting thus far!

A-M and her pals are in the midst of being part of a real Hollywood movie – as child actors in A-M’s Uncle Lawrence’s latest film, a musical western – almost an anachronism. This in itself is thrilling but of course it would not be complete without mysteries and puzzlements and even a spot of very real danger. There seems to be just one thing after another with problems with the filming from strange reactive makeup to missing scripts to nasty accidents. Of course, A-M is far too sensible to believe in the old story of Nellie’s curse (the Nellie being the subject of the movie) but why do so many odd things keep happening? And why does it seem that this is not the first time an attempt to make this movie has happened?

Amid making new friends on the set and exploring the fascination of Hollywood the children are off to the desert near the Grand Canyon for location shooting where anything can and does happen, particularly when a paparazzo photographer, not particularly well-liked by A-M’s family, becomes the object of kidnapping and violent threats. A chance encounter with a reclusive old lady whose name seems vaguely familiar to A-M saves the day – and unravels the mystery of the cursed movie.

What a great adventure this is! As usual, Alice-Miranda acts with aplomb and generosity even towards the less than amiable Caprice. How can Jacqueline top this one? Although, I have no doubts given her talent that she can – she knows exactly what her readership loves and provides it time and time again.

Highly recommended for your readers aged around 8 upwards. I know mine will be tussling over this copy when I take it to school tomorrow!  Take a peek inside here.

The Shop at Hoopers Bend – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins

      ISBN: 9781460753668

      ISBN 10: 1460753666

      Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

     On Sale: 24/07/201

     List Price: 16.99 AUD

When you go to bed feeling a little tired and start reading a new book and then just keep reading it until you’re finished, you know it’s a terrific piece of writing.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any Emily Rodda books but this is a pearler!

Jonquil Medway (known as Quil) is an orphan who lives with her very top executive high-flying childless aunt – who is kind but not exactly a kindred spirit. Quil is generally either at boarding school or at holiday camps since her aunt is always globe-trotting and she’s pretty fed up with it all.

On this occasion as her aunt has flown off to Germany, Quil has been left overnight with Aunty Pam’s PA (even less a kindred spirit) and is being delivered to the railway station to go to yet another month long camp. To kill time before the train Quil is trailing behind PA Maggie at a very dingy flea market when she comes upon something astonishing. A beautiful cup with her name and her flower hand painted on it. Quil tingles with the magic of finally finding something with her own unusual name and wonders who made it and where the Hoopers Bend Gallery might be when she discovers that title on the underside.

To her great surprise as the train chugs up to the Mountains, Quil is suddenly staring at a platform sign bearing the legend Hoopers Bend. Impulsively she disembarks and thus begins a marvellous and almost mystical time of self-discovery.

An old and dilapidated village shop, an amusing little black and white dog and a rather bitter woman named Bailey are the catalysts for Quil finding her own true self and her life history. As if the stars align everything begins to change for this lonely little girl.

Emily Rodda has skilfully woven tiny threads one after the other to complete this masterful tapestry of ordinary people uncovering extraordinary events. Her characterisations are superb and her setting so powerful the readers can imagine them inside the story along with Quil.

This is going to be a huge winner with readers I predict and quite easily the kind of book that will sit well with teachers for use in Readers Circles and the like.  Themes of trust, honesty, inclusivity, friendship and simple pleasures will lend themselves well to discussions. Beautifully written and accessible to readers from around nine years upwards this is likely to be a title of note in the next twelve months.

Find teaching notes here.

Highly recommended for your collection – order it now!

 

The Eureka Key (Secrets of the Seven) – Sarah L. Thomson

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eureka

Bloomsbury

Published: 04-04-2017

ISBN: 9781681190617

Imprint: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Series: Secrets of the Seven

If you’ve ever watched Nic Cage in the National Treasure movies (and who hasn’t?) I would liken this to those – except for youngsters.

While I think our Australian readers will be at a slight disadvantage not knowing a great deal if anything about the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin or Benedict Arnold, I think they will still enjoy the adventure and the tricky puzzles.

Sam Solomon is a clever boy with a penchant for all things cryptic. He also has a real talent for mischief which does not endear him to his middle school teachers. When Sam unexpectedly wins a trip exploring the breadth of the United States, including national landmarks and amazing natural wonders, he is wildly excited.

From the outset Sam is truly baffled by the experience when it turns out that it is just Sam and a very nerdy girl of the same age who were the winners. Accompanied by a strange woman, Evangeline, and an almost silent boy named Theo, the American Dream Contest seems more like a nightmare.  It turns out Sam and Martina were the only contestants capable of solving the complex puzzles of the competition and this is exactly what is required to track down the hidden historical artefacts, concealed by the Founding Fathers to protect Benjamin Franklin’s greatest invention – a powerful weapon.

Naturally it is not just the ‘good guys’ trying to locate the ‘keys’ and the children soon themselves embroiled in a dangerous treasure hunt caught between opposite ideologies.

This is an exciting read with a great pace – creative thinkers will particularly enjoy it.

Recommended for readers from around 10 upwards.

The Fall – Tristan Bancks

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9780143783053

May 29, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $16.99

 

Well, after much impatient anticipation I could just say ‘WOW’! But that’s hardly the review this new action-packed novel deserves so I shall continue.

Tristan has a superlative ability to write everyday all-too-human imperfect characters and transform them into inspirational heroes.

Sam has never known his father. He knows he has one, he knows his name and his occupation and sometimes a vague idea of where he is. He lives with his mum in the beautiful Blue Mountains and as an almost teenager who has faced some physical difficulties, he’s becoming a little hard to handle at times.  Following some serious surgery to correct a scoliosis issue, Sam is finally going to stay with his dad in Sydney for some recuperation for himself and some respite for his mum.

In his mind, he has created his crime reporter father into a kind of super-hero, even writing his own comics about Harry Garner: Crime Reporter where his James Bond-like father is a legend.

The reality falls far short when Sam finds himself sleeping on an uncomfortable couch in a dingy apartment and a father who insists on being called Harry not Dad. Harry is not the tall handsome action hero of Sam’s dreams but an old tired-looking man with the same twisted body that Sam himself would have been destined for without the painful surgery. Instead of bonding time with his father, Sam is left alone day and night with Magic, a rather drooly but affectionate dog and leftover take-away pizza for rations.

From the outset the reader is plunged into Sam’s nightmare experience in the big city. Alone as usual and fitfully awake during the night, Sam overhears an altercation on the balcony above his father’s apartment. Cautiously watching through the window, Sam is shocked to see a man fall down to the ground where it crumples into an unquestionably very dead body. He knows instantly that the man has been pushed – and that falling six floors is a very effective way to silence an enemy.

Racing to tell Harry he realises that his dad is gone – again – and in a quandary goes downstairs to check on the man and realises all too late that he has been seen.  He knows enough about major crime to conclude that this is not a healthy situation for him to be in.

With unremitting drama, pace and suspense the next twenty four hours becomes a cat-and-mouse game of desperation as Sam tries to piece together the crime, aided in part by a new friend Scarlet from the floor above.

Perhaps the worst part for Sam is wondering if and how his father could be involved with this dreadful circumstance.

The climax of this adventure story will have readers on the edge of their seats, with palms sweating as Sam and his father literally dodge bullets and escape their own deaths.

With themes of trust, family/male relationships, resilience and courage this is another fine coming-of-age novel from a master storyteller.

Watch Tristan’s book trailer and find out some more of the back story here.

My highest recommendation for this especially for readers from around ten years upwards.  Your readers who seek the adventure/mystery genre will be completely gripped by this.

 

 

 

Three – Justin D’Ath

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Ford St Publishing

April 2016

ISBN: 9781925272277

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.

 

Billy is a Dragon – Nick Falk. Illustrated by Tony Flowers

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Billy is a Dragon. Nick Falk. Illustrated by Tony Flowers

Random House Australia March 2014

RRP $12.99

 

Billy is a Dragon: First Bite

PB 9780857983053

Ebook 9780857983060

Billy is a Dragon 2: Werewolves Beware!

PB  9780857983077

Ebook 9780857983084

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Following their great success with the Saurus Street series, Falk and Flowers have again teamed up with this new series about nine year old Billy Fincher. Billy is pretty much your average boy who loves his bulldog Bertha and has problems with the school bully. That is, until, he is bitten by lizard at the local shop and suddenly finds strange things start happening.

“His fingernails turn into claws, his skin becomes green and he starts breathing fire. His teeth grow enormous, his eyes become red and his school clothes pop off at the seams.”

While being a dragon certainly has its advantages, particularly when it comes to giving the school bully his come-uppance, Billy finds it’s not all plain sailing (flying?) being so different. To start with, his parents are none too happy about having a fire-breathing dragon for a son and think he should he be put in a zoo.

Miss Small, who as it happens, is a nine year old dragon devotee, with a nine year old boyfriend called Billy – was poised on the edge of her seat clamouring for more after the first couple of pages read aloud. Following the same appealing format as the Saurus Street series, these are fabulous for newly independent readers with quirky fonts to emphasise onomatopoeias and whacky drawings to accompany the text.

Girls and boys alike will thoroughly enjoy Billy’s adventures as he deals with shapeshifting lessons, werewolves, hungry teachers and more.  Look out for more to come – these ones will be hugely popular with the 7 and up readers.