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Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Bad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft.

August 13, 2017 Comments off

Bad MermaidsBad Mermaids by Sibeal Pounder illus. Jason Cockcroft. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

You never think of mermaids as being bad, you think of them as sitting on rocks with clam shells over their womanly bits, combing their long blond hair with fish bone combs, and luring unsuspecting sailors with their womanly wiles.

Not in this book for young readers mostly girls aged 7-12 years.

The World of the Hidden Lagoon and Swirley Shell is turned upside down when the top mermaid Arabella Cod is fishnapped. But who by? many mermaids have disappeared and others have been forced to make shell tops and not to leave their cities.

Whats more Ommy Pike now rules the hidden world with vicious piranhas. Help is fortunately at hand. Mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are mysteriously called back to Swirley Shell while holidaying on land with legs.

When they enter the password of Ihavenolegs they know all is not well as piranhas chase them. They hijack a fast car called a Clamorado 7 and set out to solve the disappearance of Arabella Cod.

Interesting fantasy from the creator of the Witch wars series. Check it out.

J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook.

August 10, 2017 Comments off

dark artsJ.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – The Dark Arts: A Movie Scrapbook. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This is not a novel rather an expose of Wizarding phenomenon of the Dark Arts as practiced by Voldemort and his disciples in the Harry Potter movies and Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them.

It deals with the spells like the Imperio, the Crucio and the spell that bounced off Harry Potter as a baby and demolished Voldemort but leaving Harry with the z shaped scar on his forehead.

It deals with the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers including my favourite the delicious Bellatrix Lestrange. It tells you about the crucial concept of the Horocrux, the Dementors and those sinister resurrected corpses or Inferi.

It finishes with the Fantastic Beasts as Newt Scamander hunts the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in America.

Excellently illustrated with various objects and information tucked away in envelops throughout the book. Essentially for Harry Potter film fans but can provide a gateway into reading the books or just enjoy on it’s own

Kid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo.

August 8, 2017 Comments off

kid normalKid Normal by Greg James & Chris Smith, illus. Erica Salcedo. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2017.

This novel for middle school, intermediate and junior secondary school readers is one of the most bizarre stories I have ever read. That’s not putting it down, its a compliment because reluctant readers are the big challenge these days and this story will suck them in.

There are two strands to the plot, one for each author, and they are skillfully brought together as the book proceeds. The first is about Murph, a boy who has moved schools so many times he is fed up to the back teeth. He is mistakenly accepted by a school that deals with children who have a weird talent or capability some of super hero status but not all. They discover Murph is just normal but he adjusts to his new life. Will he become a hero?

The second strand is about Clive Meeke a scientist working on DNA who is pressured by his boss. Who isn’t these days? While conducting an experiment with a wasp in the room things go pear shaped and Meeke becomes power crazy Nektar, half man half wasp.

If you want to know any more you will have to read it yourself but if you just want a snippet to get the feel of the book there is a short story in the middle of the book that mimics James Bond, about a super hero The Blue Phantom,  that is just brilliant.

Written by two BBC Radio 1 jocks who have the gift of the gab the story is never drab. Some of the idiom and metaphor are superb with Erica Salcedo providing illustrations that enhance the plot and give you an idea of what the characters look like.

It is a good laugh and reading should be fun.

So Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson

August 6, 2017 Comments off

so specialSo Special by David Hill, Illus. Nikki Slade Robinson. Pub. Duck Creek Press, 2017.

Picture books can be used to highlight topics, feelings and personal situations so that the reader can see that they are not alone. The pen is still mightier than the sword although when applied to this book, there is something ironic about that statement as the topic is the families of the armed forces who are serving overseas and the problems they have.

Oscar and his sister Laila miss their dad who is with the army overseas. Laila sucks her thumb and Oscar sometimes gets angry when other kids ask about the whereabouts of his father. Mother copes as well as she can and supports her children with skill and attention.

But they still miss their dad. Both children learn to live with the fact that their dad is special and is serving his country oversea.

Nikkii Slade Robinson’s illustrations are perceptive, large and colourful. They show the joy and the sadness. The use of the family dog is powerful and the mother is always in control. The aircraft, tank and battleship shadows throughout the book remind readers of who we are talking about.

David Hill’s text is simple, straight to the point and sensitive. Also available in Maori language under the title He Tino Taonga.

This picture book fulfills a need in a most positive way.

The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward

August 1, 2017 Comments off

traitor thiefThe Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward. Pub. Walker Books, 2017.

Many words could be used to describe this novel for readers of a wide age range from 12-18 years. Steam punk should be a couple of them but also ingenious, thrilling and enormously clever would be others.

The central character is teenager Sin who was left at an orphanage with a teddy bear, grew up tough and ended up working the streets as a thief for Fixer, a Fagan like character. He learns that rules mean nothing when you have money, power and privilege. The poor have no chance. Some things never change.

He is caught by the mysterious Eldritch Moons and pressured to join a COVERT OPERATIONS GROUP (COG) and train to be a spy. His fellow trainees include the ruthless Velvet, the delicious Zonda and a host of villainous reprobates but his talents as a liar, a cheat and thief are just the talents needed.

COG is headed by a genius inventor named Nimrod whose inventions form the steam punk part of the novel and he has the moral high ground by using his organisation to prevent war. Nimrod makes many enemies and COG has more leaks and conflicts than the West Wing of the White House.

Will Sin survive? and who are his parents? Is there a link between his abandonment at birth and COG? Read it and enjoy this thriller as much as I did. The ending will have you gasping for breath.

The plot bears a close similarity to the military, industrial and political rivalry that precipitated World war 1, and the city of Coxford where the novel is set, is remarkably like London.

Winner of the Storylines Tessa Duder Award. Splendidly paced and written. Great cover.

Sparrow by Scot Gardner

July 25, 2017 Comments off

sparrowSparrow by Scot Gardner. Pub Allen & Unwin, 2017.

Every day I see people scrambling for life and survival on the streets. Every city in the World has them and we walk on by trying hard not to notice. We never ask where do they sleep? how come they are there? what do they do all day? are they in good health? even when they are children.

This is the story of Sparrow a ten year old boy living on the streets of Darwin and making a good fist of it in spite of a horrible background. Sparrow has lost the power of speech because of the treatment meted out to him by family and others. He has a shock of hair a dashing smile and helps wherever he can for food and company.

Sparrow is looked after by an old man called Sharky who teaches him how to swim, a skill that will save his life. Every day Sparrow avoids the “ghost boys” who haunt the streets, taking drugs and booze and whatever else they can get hold of. One of them is Sparrow’s brother.

Leap forward five years and Sparrow is in Juvie and on a survival trip in shark and croc infested waters. An accident and Sparrow is out in the bush trying to survive in hostile country but at least he is free and he knows it.

The novel is superbly structured as the two strands of Sparrow’s life are told in consecutive chapters,coming together near the end of the book. Scot Gardner’s descriptions of the wilderness with it’s snakes, lizards, insects, crocs, sharks and physical beauty, are stunning. His understanding of the underdog, the sick, the mentally ill, the human condition and how to survive, are praiseworthy indeed.

Simple to read it is accessible to the most reluctant of readers of reading ages 14-18 years. The hopeful ending will bring joy to your heart.

Don’t miss this one. A potential award winner. Superb cover because you are always waiting for the croc to show up.

I Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon

July 24, 2017 Comments off

ate my friendI Just Ate My Friend by Heidi McKinnon. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.

I have been sitting on this potentially award winning picture book for a few weeks now and I just have to get it out. Why you say? Because it is multi level, thought provoking, funny, with illustrations that are so simple I could have done them, yet it has that je ne sais quoi.

On a child’s level it has a strong message of, “be careful who you chose as a friend.” It also looks at ways in which we make judgments on who our friends should be.

At an adult level, while everything above is relevant, it deals with old adage of “what goes round comes round”.

A monster regrets that he has eaten his best and only friend, he ponders the meaning of this and goes looking for a new friend. In the end another monster chooses him. He is happy for a while, but………

Lots of black with bright colours on whole pages and white font in short but perceptive sentences. The ending is a killer.

Juniors will love it but older children and adults will be bewitched too.