Archive for the ‘Intermediate Fiction’ Category

Showtym Viking by Kelly Wilson and Amanda Wilson. Pub. Penguin Random House. Imprint Puffin, 2022.

June 13, 2022 Comments off

If you are a horse person, into show jumping and love competition then this is the novel for you. Written by two of the famous Wilson sisters with input from the rest of the family this novel doesn’t seem like your regular novel it reads like a true story. I am sure it is based on real events.

Amanda is 16 years going on 17 and she rides ponies in show jumping events. Her older sisters are riders in big events and are an important part of her interest in horses. Amanda is homeschooled and mixes her school work with training and riding horses. She is good at it but at times lacks confidence particularly when things don’t go her way. She has to learn to get back on the horse after a fall.

When sister Vicki recommends she buy a 6 year old pony who she sees as special Amanda does so and finds that Vicki is right. As Amanda rides the new pony who she calls Strider, with the name Showtym Viking for events, she learns that Strider is indeed a special horse.

With her other horses Max Frodo and Baggins, Amanda competes in many real events with the aspiration that Strider can compete in Pony of the Year a title that no 6 year old horse has ever won. Can she do it? Read it yourself and find out. Is Amanda up to it?

I have read many girl and horse books particularly from Stacy Gregg and other titles from Kelly Wilson too, but this novel taught me more about what training and riding a horse in show jumping events means. Showing the horse the jump before an event, working out how many strides it takes between fences according to the stride and pace of the horse, bridleless riding and lots more.

Well written with short chapters and big build up to the main event. Good story.

Loki. A Bad God’s Guide to being Good by Louie Stowell. Pub. Walker Books, 2022

June 4, 2022 Comments off

Satire and irony are clever tools in comedy and this easy to read short novel about Loki the Norse god of mischief is a great example of these two techniques in action.

Loki is sent by Odin to Earth from Asgard, down the Rainbow Bridge because of his bad behaviour. He is accompanied by his nemesis Thor and two make believe parents Hyrrokkin, a giant woman and Heimdall an ogre like man. The reason is to learn how to behave, show empathy, remorse and kindness. If he fails he will be sent to hell with snakes.

Loki must keep a diary of what happens and the diary can monitor his behaviour and dock points off his starting point of minus 3000 for bad behaviour on Earth. he hasn’t got a chance because he can’t change the habits of a life time or can he? Read it and find out.

Thor is a perfect speciman, popular with the girls while Loki is a puny nerd looking boy who can’t compete, except by behaving badly which he is very good at. When the points differential reaches a million to the power of infinity he is in bad shape but can he come back?

Human behaviour is savaged. Stowell takes the water out of schools, family life, shopping, eating takeaways etc. Very funny and will attract reluctant readers particularly boys.

Skulduggery Pleasant. Until the End by Derek Landy. Pub. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2022.

May 30, 2022 Comments off

The 15th book in this very impressive series and I am astonished that it hasn’t been picked up by the film industry. I have read them all and they are complicated with a myriad of characters, worlds, time zones and scenarios and I just take it a chapter at a time.

For those who don’t know Skulduggery is a skeleton man who wears a flash suit and hat, sun glasses and is a silver tongued flatterer of the highest degree. He has powers that he uses to protect the innocent and fight the nasties in his role as Arbiter for a World dominated by The faceless Ones. They are sort of Gods and are worshiped by a large portion of the World’s population but not all. Supreme mages direct this sort of religion but there are many outbursts of opposition that result in vicious murders which Skuduggery Pleasant investigates along with his former enemy Valkyrie Valkyries was responsible for bringing back the Faceless Ones and she is titled the Mother and Child of them.

The World is a very dangerous place and doomsday is always round the corner but always seems to be averted at the last moment after all seems hopeless. So it is with this novel so it would be pointless of me to outline a plot, it is so complex, you will have to read it yourself.

I dig the names of some of the characters such as Crepuscular Vies, Obsidian, the Darkly Brothers, Darquesse and others.

Told in 133 short chapters with over 600 pages, each chapter deals with a different set of characters with plot and character development that leads to the customary crisis at the end.

There will be other novels I am sure so just enjoy the action and characters. I did.

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, co writer Andrew Weiner, Illus Brittney Williams. Pub Harper Alley, imprint HarperCollins, 2022

May 24, 2022 Comments off

A powerful graphic novel that looks at the lives of poor kids from the projects in an American city and how their lives and aspirations are affected by their situation. It will be popular with Maori and Pacifica students and .anybody who is a graphic reader from intermediate through to high school students and beyond.

Co written by pop singer Alicia Keys and based on a hit song of the same name, this novel looks at the lives of Lolo Wright, her brother James and her school mates. They live in a tough neighbourhood that is riven with drug dealers lead by a nasty man called Skin who controls everything.

When Lolo’s brother James is falsely accused of a crime he didn’t do, Lolo develops a characteristic she didn’t know she had and it is super powered in nature. At the same time a short boy named Runt who is also bullied and abused develops the same power.

Conflict results with a few surprises and ends in a satisfactory manner. Message is we all have the power within us to shape our own destiny no matter who we are.

Lots of friendship stuff particularly between girls and family stuff too. Great reading.

I read this book twice in a row without stopping. Firstly I looked only at the graphic images to see what they told me, then I read the written text. They complimented each other perfectly. Lots of tough ghetto talk and action images. This book will be popular.

Princess Olivia Investigates. The Wrong Weather by Lucy Hawking, illus Zoe Persico. Pub. Puffin, 2022

May 20, 2022 Comments off

This is a story about climate change and global warming for primary and intermediate students and it is very very good. First in a series I would think and easy to read at that.

Olivia is a princess in the Kingdom of Alez. Her parents Tolemy 32nd and queen Paragona and their ancestors have ruled the Kingdom for hundreds of years but they have been neglectful and unwise in their decision making. At the start of the novel they are replaced by a citizen’s party under Jeremy Pont and Gretchen Sparks who exile the Royal family to an apartment in the city below.

Olivia and her parents are shocked at the living conditions, the air pollution and the climate of the city below their former mountain top palace. Global warming and climate change have wrecked chaos with the environment and the people live wretched lives.

What has happened and can things change? Well Olivia is very resourceful princess who meets a knowledgeable group of friends who make her decide to become a scientist and investigate what has happened,

Well written with key words on every page highlighted and short simply written explanations of global warming and climate change by well known scientists.

Olivia is a great role model and her investigations reveal the cause of all the climate change. A contemporary problem mixed with a good story. It doesn’t get better than that.

The World’s Worst Pets by David Walliams, illus. Adam Stower. Pub. HarperCollins, 2022

May 16, 2022 Comments off

What can I add about David Walliams’ writing that hasn’t been written before except that it is superlative and he has done more to get reluctant kids into reading since J.K Rowling, Paul Jennings and R.L Stine.

This is a book of ten short stories about pets that have gone feral or are locked into a rivalry with another pet that is a catastrophe for the owners. Walliams also knows that kids like burps and farts and there is a knew noise a furp which is a combination of the two.

There is a story about the rivalry between cats and dogs in a musical context, why is there a musical about Cats and not Dogs but it can’t beat the battle for cuteness between a hampster and a gerbil. There is a bunny story, Picasso the horse, a silly snake, a grizzlie bear a supersonic tortoise, a furping goldfish and my favourite the burgling budgie which has a Dickensian theme to it. Loved Magwitch the one eyed magpie.

Adam Stower with his coloured illustrations enhances the characters and the humour.

You can’t go wrong with this novel for kids and I am hoping that David will come up with a book about the Worlds worst politicians. There are plenty in the World today.

Faraway Girl by Fleur Beale. Pub. Penguin Books, 2022

May 12, 2022 Comments off

I am so glad to have read another Fleur Beale novel for intermediate readers and above. It is a time slip novel contrasting Victorian values about women and girls and today’s specimens. It makes for humour and drama that will keep the most discerning of readers in the book.

17 year old Etta wakes feeling rough but not as bad as her younger brother Jamie who has a condition that is wearing him away with no reason that the doctors can find. As the book opens Jamie is a “limp lump of paleness”. I love the way Fleur Beale uses language.

As the family gather around the limp Jamie a vision appears and solidifies before their eyes. It is Constance, a 17 year old girl from 1869 England dressed in her wedding dress. She has traveled through time while having her wedding picture painted by a creep of an artist. The painting is to be complete before the wedding of Constance to a swine of a man called Mr Smeaton. He is an entitled mill owner who holds sway over Constance’s parents.

Constance is awed and horrified by the way Etta talks and behaves “all the belief’s she had drummed into her everyday of her life made no sense in the modern world of today”.

Etta and Constance bond as friends then both girls are whisked back in time to Constance’s Victorian home and boy what an impact Etta makes.

The girls find out what rogues Mr Smeaton and Constance’s father have been and learn that Jamie’s demise is related to the portrait of Constance in her wedding dress. Will he be saved? What will happen when Etta gets back to now time? what if the media find out?

If you want to know anything else you will have to read it yourself and it is compelling reading especially the last 50 pages. How is an improbable situation going to feel credible? But it does, such is the skill of Fleur Beale’s writing.

Masher by Fifi Colston. Pub. Puffin, 2022.

May 6, 2022 Comments off

This is literally a shaggy dog story for intermediate and junior readers and it is very funny. Reluctant boy readers in particular will love it and it would be a good story to read aloud to a junior class.

Freddy Foxworthy is an arty boy and he is daring. His father is a builder and his sister is flirting with the metal head a couple of house along from his. His name is Axl and he has a vicious Staffordshire bull terrier called Masher.

Freddy is inspired by a teacher to make a puppet made of paper mache but he struggles because it is too soft, so he mixes up a concoction of flour water and sugar to bind the paper mache together. Masher eats it all and dies. he is cremated and his ashes are left by the gate to Axl’s house.

In a comedy of errors Freddy kicks the ashes over, conceals the spilt ashes in a pie bag takes them home and mixes them in the flour mixture to stiffen up the paper mache, and uses it to complete the puppet.

The hand puppet morphs and comes alive as Masher and the action starts. Read it and see what happens. Freddy is a good role model. He is intelligent, imaginative and has good people skills, but will he survive a paper mache dog with all the appetites and qualities of the real thing.

There are lessons in how to form a business and how to do a puppet show as well as the crazy action that surrounds a talking dog puppet. Easy to read with great imagination.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A. F. Steadman. Pub. Simon & Schuster, 2022.

April 19, 2022 Comments off

The first of a new series that has taken the publishing world of children’s books by storm and has already had the film rights acquired by Sony Pictures. It is being seen as the next big thing in children’s literature and compared to Harry Potter, His dark materials and Percy Jackson. Need I write anymore?

This first book establishes the scenario and the characters and if a phrase can describe the theme of the novel it is this “Two souls destined for each other can never truly be parted

This is a story about unicorns but not the dreamy docile fantasy creatures you read about elsewhere. These unicorns have a horn that is razor sharp and they are creatures that are fundamentally bloodthirsty with a preference for violence and destruction. They have a shriek that is somewhere between a horses whinny, an eagles cry and a human scream and each is destined to be bonded to a human just as the human is destined to be bonded to the unicorn.

Each unicorn has an element-earth, air, fire or water, that they thrive in and their destined partners have that element too and the beginning of this novel has the human and the unicorn matched so that the human and unicorn are bonded from the birth of the unicorn from an egg.

Skandar Smith is bonded to Scoundrel’s Luck but they are different from the rest because both are from a secret and banned “spirit element”. Both have a destiny that neither knows about.

The novel opens with a race of unicorns and riders called the Chaos Cup a sort of Melbourne Cup or Grand National. It is gatecrashed by an evil being called the Weaver and the winner stolen. We learn that the Weaver is stealing other Unicorns, bonding them illegally with humans and has formed a powerful army to threaten the balance on the island of Unicorns which is out at sea by a pebble beach, surrounded by the Mirror Cliffs. If you want to know more you will have to read it yourself and you will not be disappointed.

Well written, excellent characters that you can relate to, Skandar is a good role model. An incredible world is created and of course those nasty unicorns. There are casualties along the way, an inevitable battle with the Weaver and big surprises. You will keep reading long after you want to put it down and watch out for the Silver Unicorn.

Bored by Matt Stanton. Pub. HarperCollins, 2020

April 13, 2022 Comments off

Milo Kim lives in Turtle place which is just off Mars road and he is bored. He is pre teen and has a crush on the girl two houses away named Evie Watson, who ignores him.

On the day that a new kid, who calls himself Frog, moves in next door, Milo finds a $105 on the road in two notes $100 and $5. You and me would pocket the money and say nothing but Milo is honest and wants to know who owns it.

Rocco, a slightly older kid and a bit aggressive decides the money is his without any evidence and tries to bully Milo into giving it to him. Frog comes to his rescue. Frog has his own martial art called Frog-Fu. I like Frog, he is inventive, imaginative, brave and can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Rocco is not amused.

Who does belong to the money? Read this compelling short novel with big easy print and find out for yourself.

Matt Stanton is the author of the Funny Kid series many of which are reviewed on this blog. Reluctant boy readers will love this as will girls.