Emma Jacks is a schoolgirl. She’s also a special agent in the Under 12s division of the super-secret organisation called SHINE. Codename — EJ12. Mission —stop the evil plans of the nefarious organisation known as SHADOW.
EJ12: Girl Hero is a series of kids’ books by Susannah McFarlane. My nine-year-old daughter Nykita loves these books. She has read, re-read and re-read again the first 14 books, and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the latest in the series — Big Brother.
Not only has Nykita been re-reading these books, she’s been getting me to read them to her as well. She loves being read to and says she often discovers new things in a book when it is read to her out loud. So far, I’ve read the first five books to her:
I’ve got to admit that I was less than enamoured with the books when we started. The first few are very formulaic — not only in story structure but also in character development. In each instalment, Emma overcomes a personal fear/problem thanks to the SHINE mission she is assigned to. There is also a lot of repetition from one book to the next. Each book contains back-story explanations so that it can be read in isolation. Great in terms of marketing. Not so great if you’re reading one book after the other in quick succession. If I have to read one more rundown of how the SHINE mission transport tube works, I may very well scream.
I also thought the editing was a little below par, with certain words being overused and often showing up multiple times in the one paragraph. It’s not something that Nykita noticed, but I found it rather awkward for reading out loud.
Having said all this, the books have started to grow on me. I’ve gotten to know the characters and have become invested in their adventures. And book 5, Choc Shock, has broken the formula a little. It also introduces my favourite villain thus far — the chocolate obsessed, French pastry chef, Madame Ombre. (I love reading her dialogue, as I get to do a really bad French accent!)
The books do have a great sense of fun and adventure. I particularly like the playful codenames that many of the grown-up agents have. The scientist, for example, is called IQ400.
Perhaps the best thing about the books is that Emma Jacks is a wonderfully positive role model for young girls. She faces ordinary, everyday problems (from mean girls at school to a lack of self confidence) as well as fantastical spy problems. But she always manages to work her way through them, usually with a little help from her friends.
After book 5, Nykita and I have taken a break to read some other books (more on them later). But I’ve got to say, I am actually looking forward to reading the next instalment of EJ12’s adventures — On The Ball.
Oh, and there’s a rather cool website for EJ12 fans — check it out!
Catch ya later, George
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