Tag Archives: adventure

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, paperback novel, 228 pages, published by Chicken House in 2016.

The coastal town where Isabella lives is governed ruthlessly by a man that arrived from over the seas several decades earlier. He has banned travel away from the island, as well as through the forest to the interior of the island. Isabella longs to explore and map her island as her father had previously mapped foreign lands as a cartographer. When her best friend goes missing, presumed to have passed into the unknown territories beyond the forest, Isabella might just get her wish.

This was an easy and quick read with adventure, monsters, myths and a harsh dictator looking out only for himself. It didn’t take me long to get into the story, and I was intrigued by what or who could be beyond the town. It took longer to build up the characters and setting than I expected before getting to the adventuring, but I enjoyed getting to know everyone. The adventure was great, with conflict and action at a reasonable pace. I would have liked a little more explanation for why “The Banished” were banished in the first place, and how they had survived for so long. I also wondered how the Governor had come to be so powerful with such complete control over the town and its inhabitants. Still, the story was fun and entertaining.

Isabella was a plucky lead character; she was brave, determined and intelligent. I didn’t like Lupe nearly as much, but she did show moments of incredible courage under pressure. She was a good friend to Isabella, despite her usual self-involvement, and her relationship to the Governor. Pablo was rather surly, yet he had a soft spot for his old friend Isa, and was always looking out for her.

The pages of this novel were bordered with cartographical and nautical line drawings and symbols. It didn’t interfere with the text at all, though my eyes were often drawn to them as I read.

The Girl of Ink and Stars is suitable for upper primary and lower high school students.

 

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Frogkisser by Garth Nix

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, paperback novel, 328 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2017.

Princess Anya usually hangs out in the library reading about magic and hiding from her evil stepstepfather (her stepmother’s new husband). Being the younger sister, she is not heir to the throne, and little is expected of her, that is until her sister’s latest beau is turned into a frog. Anya promises to find him and return him to his former princely self, aided by some magic lip balm. Anya sets out on an epic quest to locate the ingredients required to make the lip-balm, accompanied by one of the talking dogs of her court. Their departure is hastened by the news that Anya’s step-stepfather has decided to take the kingdom for himself, and wants Anya out of the way.

I suppose that Frogkisser! could loosely be described as a re-telling of the old tale of The Princess and the Frog. It is fairytale-esque, with princesses, talking animals, magic, villains, and wizards. It is full of adventure, quests and friendship. However, it is not a romantic tale of happily ever afters. Finding love is not on Anya’s mind, instead she must save her kingdom, her sister and her people from the destruction that her step-stepfather has begun to wreak. Of course, she can hardly do this single-handedly! By her side is her trusty, though somewhat over-eager canine companion, and the princely frog, who are soon joined by a boy turned newt. Throw in a mischievous young female wizard, a female Robin Hood figure, some dwarves and a transfigured otter and you’ve got this thoroughly amusing tale. All the characters were wonderful, though I particularly liked the Gerald the Heralds that kept popping up with news all over the place. These harbingers of all things mundane and important made me laugh.

It was great to see such a strong and young female protagonist for whom there is no romantic plot. She just gets on with what she needs to do. That’s not to say she isn’t scared or unsure, but she overcomes that to accomplish her tasks without needing to be ‘saved’ by some boy. Nix challenges the traditional gender and race roles with humour and irreverence, creating an entertaining and empowering read.

While Frogkisser! is aimed at a YA audience, I felt that it would be suitable for younger kids too, from upper primary school age. I would especially recommend this as a good read for tween and teen girls as an alternative to the traditional romantic fairytales. I thoroughly enjoyed Frogkisser!; it was my first Garth Nix novel, but it will not be my last!

 

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Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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percy1Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, paperback novel, 375 pages, published by Puffin Books in 2005.

Percy Jackson has issues. He is dyslexic with ADHD, and has been booted from six schools in six years. He doesn’t try to get expelled, he just seems destined to screw up at school. As the school year comes to a close, Percy yet again finds himself in trouble, but soon school is the least of his worries, as he and his mother are chased by a minotaur, and he discovers that he is not all human after all. Being half Greek god, monsters are trying to kill Percy, and the only safe place for him to go is to Camp Half-Blood, a camp just for kids like him; children of the gods. When he is presented with a hero quest, Percy embraces it as best he can, and along with his friends, Annabeth and Grover, he sets out across the country to find some stolen property and oust the thief.

I had been trying to convince my ten year old to try reading the Percy Jackson series for a couple of years now, but she was stubbornly refusing. So when I picked up a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at my favourite secondhand bookshop (Canty’s), I decided to start reading it aloud to her. She very quickly became intrigued by the story, and began begging for more chapters. She is quite capable of reading it herself, but sharing books aloud is a lovely way to spend time with my children, so I kept reading it. We read some everyday, except for when my daughter was away on a school trip for three days, it was incredibly hard for me not to read the rest of the book without her! Once she arrived home, we finished the book quite quickly. About five seconds after finishing Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, she asked could we start the next one, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Luckily I had it on hand to get started!

I am thrilled that my daughter loves Percy Jackson as much as I do. It is an exhilarating ride full of adventure, action, monsters and heroes. I felt like we were given a good lesson on Greek Gods and mythology while we read too, which is fascinating. The story is obviously well researched, my only complaint is that the Greek names really stretched my pronunciation skills! The plot was intricately weaved and fast-paced; I loved the action scenes. There were a few surprises along the way as we followed Percy’s journey with great enthusiasm.

The characters are complex and realistic, flawed and special. Grover was probably my favourite. He is always so worried, but he comes through when required. He is an excellent friend to Percy, and helps keep him safe. Annabeth is also a great friend, but she performs her role with more sarcasm and bluntness. She is quirky and valuable, and while a little prickly at times, she is also a lovely person who cares for her friends. Percy is very lucky to have such friends by his side. We really liked Percy too; thrust into a life he never imagined, he battles through and works hard to right a wrong and prevent a war. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he progresses as a character through the series.

It was interesting discovering some of the Gods and their personalities. Most displayed a high level of arrogance and self-importance, which I suppose can only be expected after thousands of years of immortality and rule. They were also pretty scary, and I am glad that I don’t have to face any of them, especially Ares and Hades. Even scarier, though, were the monsters sent to stop Percy, truly nightmare inducing.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is most suitable for middle primary school and high school students (and up!). We have already started the next book in the series, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. We will definitely be reading more of these awesome books.

 

 

Don’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez

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dontmisstheboatDon’t Miss the Boat!: Adventures at Arrowhead Island by Deborah Vallez, e-book, 84 pages, published by Archway Publishing in 2016.

The Benson family head to Arrowhead Island for a weekend of water-skiing, swimming and fishing. Brothers Joe and Tom and their little sister Debbie are very excited to be back on Lake Wateree. Their dog, Anna, also joins them on their camping adventure.

Don’t Miss the Boat! is based on the author’s childhood memories of spending family time at Lake Wateree. I was expecting a work of fiction, but this is more of a memoir, a re-telling of summer family fun during the 60s. This is to be the first in a series about the Benson’s adventures on Arrowhead Island.

The story is told quite simply, often with short sentences, which suits a chapter book. It was an easy read which I knocked over quickly. Quite a lot of the book was about the family water-skiing, which I found slightly overwhelming, having no experience or interest in water-skiing. However, I felt like I learnt a little bit about the sport whilst reading, and I didn’t feel excluded by my lack of knowledge in that area. I liked the depth to which each activity was described; it made me feel I was part of the trip to Arrowhead Island.

The Bensons seem like an interesting and likeable family, which I hope will have plenty more adventures in the future. I really liked Anna, the Benson’s long-haired dachshund, such a cute addition to the family. Debbie obviously adores her big brothers, which made them seem rather angelic. This image was sadly shattered when they played a prank on their father! The Bensons are a military family, and there are a number of references to this throughout the book. The kids call their father “Sir”, which is novel these days, but was probably much more common back then. I think being a military family during the 1960s has the potential to add a unique slant to the series.

Don’t Miss the Boat! will suit lower primary school children. It would be particularly good for children interested in the outdoors, camping and fishing.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Nobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor

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1stkingdomcoverNobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor, paperback novel, 248 pages, published by This Story is Mine Publishing in 2016.

The First Kingdom is the second book in the Nobody’s Story series. This book follows on from The Golden Locket, which saw Stephanie, and her cat, Angel, arrive in the land of Metilia after opening her locket for the first time. Now the Familian Princes have arrived in Metilia purporting to want peace between the nations. Whilst Princess Stephanie and her friends are showing the Princes around Yorkyin Land, Stephanie suddenly disappears seemingly into thin air. She finds herself alone in a strange and unknown land. Her journey home is full of danger, excitement and new friends.

I was super excited when The First Kingdom arrived! It had been a long wait, and I was looking forward to a trip into Metilia. It seems first I had to visit with those awful Familian princes, Kirk, Joel and Nathaniel. They are such a scheming lot. Then back to Metilia and beyond, a beautiful country full of talking animals, Princes and adventures. Within this book, you will find clans of big cats and wolves, mysterious strangers, kidnapping witches, giants, exciting new lands to explore and even a dragon!

This fantasy novel is beautifully written with witty characters and an exciting plot. I really enjoyed learning the history of Artinear and Metilia through Zanir’s teachings. Mayor has created a fantasy world rich in culture and history, with many layers still yet to be unravelled. The landscapes are stunning, and the inhabitants intricately described. It was quite eye-opening to visit Camtra and Famila, two countries that are very different from Metilia!

I really loved the new characters, Zanir and Icha. The sly fox, Icha, was particularly funny, while his two little kits were very cute. Zanir was more serious, but still had her moments of humour, and I enjoyed the conversations she had with Stephanie while they travelled. The skirmishes between Angel and Chitchat also made me laugh a lot. Deep down, the feisty cat, Angel really adores Chitchat, despite his squirrelyness, I’m sure of it! Angel generally makes me smile with her sassy attitude and her dislike of all things princely, her fierce loyalty and love for Stephanie and her ability to sleep at the drop of a hat. She was rivalled by the newcomer, Zanir, who also becomes dedicated to protecting Stephanie. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship Zanir and Angel will develop in the future.

The chapter titles gave me a kick. There were some great puns there, which made me snort-laugh more than once!

The First Kingdom is suitable for middle and upper primary through to high school students, and will appeal to anyone interested in fantasy and adventure. I was ripping along through this book, but I forced myself to put it down, as I just didn’t want it to end yet. Oh, the wait for the next book will be too long…. but it will be oh so exciting when it’s here!

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Herbie’s Big Adventure by Jennie Poh

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herbiescoverHerbie’s Big Adventure by Jennie Poh, picture e-book, 40 pages, expected publication on September 1st 2016 by Capstone Young Readers.

Herbie is a small hedgehog setting off on his first adventure in the big world beyond his home. He goes foraging on his own at his mother’s insistence even though he is a bit nervous.

This is a nice little tale of adventure and exploration. I liked the way the wind carried Herbie off, especially when he was flying along on the leaf. This is quite a unique way for a hedgehog to move around, but it looked like fun. It was good for sharing aloud, though I thought the text could have been a little bit bigger for ease of reading.

The illustrations in Herbie’s Big Adventure are simply gorgeous! First off, the cover caught my attention with its cute little hedgehog surrounded by an assortment of forest items, and this flowed right into the story. I love the style and colours used to create Herbie’s world. And Herbie really is very cute. I like the page where Herbie is eating apple cores and he looks so happy.

Herbie’s Big Adventure is a delightful picture book most suitable for lower primary school children and preschoolers. I found it was a little long for my toddlers, though they liked the pictures.

 

*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.

Lonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead

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pariscoverLonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead, paperback non-fiction, 102 pages, published by Lonely Planet Publications in 2016.

This book caught my eye on the “New Books” table at my local library. I thought it would be good for my nine year old as she is learning French and this looked like an interesting cultural book to complement her learning. I started flicking through some of the pages and found myself immersed in the streets of Paris discovering museums, bridges, cafés and even cemeteries!

The book contains nineteen themed trails through Paris. Each trail has a number of stops with some information about each location. Some of the locations are well-known, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, while others are somewhat obscure, but all were fascinating. These trails had every possible interest covered, from food journeys, sport, and art to romance, history and magic.

The layout and content are superbly presented, with short bursts of texts, interspersed with plenty of photos and coloured illustrations throughout. There are also fact boxes and extra tidbits around the main text. I really liked the illustrations, which included the two kiddy guides, Marco and Amelia. You can spot this pair participating in various activities along the trails. All of the illustrations were bright, colourful and clear; some were quite funny too.

I’ve never wanted to go to Paris as badly as I do right now! I would love to follow these trails and experience all of the incredible sights, sounds, smells and tastes I’ve discovered in Paris City Trails. It may be aimed at children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for anyone planning to travel to Paris with children (and anyone just dreaming of it!)

Paris City Trails is suitable for middle primary school students and up. There are currently two other titles available in the Lonely Planet Kids series; London City Trails and New York City Trails. I plan to read them as well and hopefully there will be more titles available in the future. I’d really like to see some for other major European cities.

Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe by Rob H Hunt

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kylecoverKyle Evans and the Key to the Universe by Rob H Hunt, paperback, 162 pages, published by MES Inc. in 2016.

Kyle Evans is living a reasonably boring and safe life until a few weeks before his tenth birthday when a temporal vortex appears in his bedroom. Then his life becomes very interesting indeed. Spaceships, vortex travel, robots, interesting and dangerous lifeforms, metallic attack ants,and a talking cat, who is really an alien, called Bootles. Kyle is in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Action and adventure right from the first few pages set the tone for this fast-paced and engaging science fiction novel. Excellent description accompanies good character development, allowing me to feel like I could step right into the story. The chapters are short; each leading neatly into the next, keeping the story flowing along swiftly. The cover threw me a bit, as I couldn’t work out how a panther fit in with the story, until I realised that Bootles was actually a black cat!

Robots, robots, everywhere! Search droids, battle droids, Kranken. These last look like robotic ants, but they come in a big nest and can morph together to change their appearance and abilities. I really like this concept even though it made them terrifying! The scenes at Kyle’s school were exciting.

I do love cats in literature! Bootles is my favourite character, he is witty, brave, loveable and resilient. He is also affectionate and he made me laugh. Kyle and Sofia displayed courage and curiosity and I liked them too. I think Bootles was lucky to have them by his side. While Bootles was really an alien hiding in the skin of a cat, he acted quite a lot like a cat; rubbing himself against Kyle’s legs, purring and hissing.  He had plenty of crazy ‘plans’ to help them escape danger too, some of them were ingenious, while others were overthought. I love their escape from the zoo and Sofia’s ability to fly the spaceship was truly amazing.

The Commander reminded me of the villain Dr. Claw from the Inspector Gadget cartoons, except his sidekick is a grey cloud instead of a fat cat. We were only treated to glimpses of The Commander, yet it was enough to know he is evil, scary and powerful. I really hope Bootles can stay out of his grasp!

Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. This is the first book in the Kyle Evans series. I am excited to follow Kyle in his next adventure, along with Bootles and Sofia, as they explore the universe, and hopefully always stay one step ahead of The Commander.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Run, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones

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runpipcoverRun, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones, paperback novel, 193 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

On Pip’s tenth birthday her pseudo-grandfather, Sully, has a stroke and is taken to hospital by ambulance. As Pip has no other family, the police insist that they find her a place to stay while Sully is recovering. Pip is determined not to go to the ‘welfare’ people, so she gives them the slip and sets out on a big adventure that includes disguises, hiding, a psychic cat, a scruffy dog and a friendly but persistent cop on her tail.

A wonderful tale of courage, loyalty and adventure. I really got into this story, and ended up reading it all in one day. The plot moved along quickly, and I found myself completely immersed in Pip’s plight.

I loved the Australian idioms and slang scattered through the story, and Pip’s explanation of them. We use these terms in everyday speech, but they are not often translated into our literature. It made me feel very connected to the story.

I thought Pip was a particularly realistic character. She had been brought up by a grandfather figure with little money and was exposed to gambling and drinking at a young age. It seemed unusual to me that a ten year old would be studying the racing form, but it makes sense with Pip’s background. She may have been savvy with the horses, but she was typically ten in other ways! Misunderstanding the type of rehab that Sully would need, and not wanting to get her teacher in trouble, as well as managing to pick up a stray dog! She was also indignant when the papers reported her as being only nine, which made me smile. She was resourceful and full of determination, a very strong character. Matilda was also a good character. She could have easily given Pip up when she discovered her living in an empty house in her street, but she kept Pip’s secret and helped her, like a good friend should.

Matilda’s cat was an interesting addition to the cast. She helped Pip when she needed it the most, but otherwise remained rather aloof in typical cat fashion. Her psychic abilities were quite useful to Pip. I wouldn’t mind a cat like this, especially if she could help me locate my lost keys, phone, glasses, book…

Run, Pip, Run is suitable for middle primary through to lower high school students. It is a fantastic and enjoyable story, great for a range of young readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

* Run, Pip, Run is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.

 

 

My Adventure Island by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton

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adventureislandcoverMy Adventure Island by Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton, paperback picture book, published by Scholastic Chidlren’s Books in 2012.

“Here on my island I do what I like.” A young boy tells of all the things he gets to do on his adventure island.

My Adventure Island is a beautiful story of imagination and creativity. With gorgeous, bright illustrations on every page, you can get lost in this world where anything can happen. You can play and climb and eat ice-cream, never go to bed or shower and you can even pick your nose! The picture of the boy and his friends picking their noses while poking our their tongues is one of our favourites! I love that there are robots, dinosaurs, and sock seaweed, but I like it best when the cat becomes a tiger for a knight.

The story is lyrical and the text clear. It is wonderful to share aloud, and my kids like it. They play games like this, pretending to be and do all sorts of things. The ending is very sweet too.

My Adventure Island is suitable for toddlers through to lower primary school children, and it is a very nice book to read aloud.