Monday, May 8, 2017

Two fun junior fiction titles

Sunken Forest by Des Hunt, Scholastic NZ

Since he began writing children’s fiction in the 1990s Des Hunt has published over 20 books. He’s captured an important part of the market with his combination of adventure and eco-science in a New Zealand setting, with the occasional dash of social issues, history, or supernatural events. I’m sure he must have a keen following of young readers by now.

Sunken Forest follows the same recipe as most of the previous books, so Des’s fans won’t be disappointed. Matt’s having family problems, and has to live with his grandmother and attend a new school. Things turn bad when he’s accused of stealing. He is sent to Lake Waikaremoana on a school-based wilderness camp, but things get even worse when the accusations of deceitful behaviour continue. Matt finds solace in the company of an ancient giant longfin eel whom he names Elsa. He’s determined that Elsa will not be caught and killed by a fellow camper. A sudden storm and flood puts everyone in danger, and Matt eventually finds himself rescuing the person who’s abused him the most…

It’s an excellent read for children of about 9 to 12, particularly boys. There’s plenty of action and suspense to keep the plot surging along. Recommended.

ISBN 978 1 77543 403 0 RRP $19 Pb

Johnny Danger: Spy Borg by Peter Millett, Penguin Random House NZ

This is book 3 in the series, with the previous titles being Johnny Danger: DIY Spy and Johnny Danger: Lie Another Day. It’s the first one I’ve read, and I did have trouble picking up the series storyline and characters in the first few pages – so I recommend that interested readers begin with book 1 in the series to get the full impact.

Johnny Danger is a boy spy working for MI6 whose arch enemy is Dr Disastrous. In this story the bad guy teams up with another ultra-bad guy, Yuri Boom-Boom, who has invented an army of Yuri-nators, cyborg clones that are so humanlike nobody can distinguish them from the original human. Johnny and his partner Penelope go in pursuit of the villains and find themselves on the island of Ikki Ikki Bunga where there’s an exciting confrontation in which nobody knows who is real and who’s a cyborg… The style can only be described as frenetic, with non-stop action, corny wisecracks, inside jokes, scatological humour and impossible plot events.

It’s worth reading an interview with the author at Peter is keen to target a particular category of readers – mainly boys of about 8 to 12 who are reluctant readers. He hopes teachers will read the books aloud to their classes in order to “hook” those boys who’d rather be playing video games or watching cartoons. Warning: some jokes may cause classroom chaos!

ISBN 978 0 14 330907 9 RRP $17.99 Pb

Books reviewed by Lorraine Orman           

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