One of the reasons I always had my head thrust deep into a book as a child was because I just could not get out. Stories take you places. Great stories make you want to stay there. This trio of junior to middle grade novels allows children to slip effortlessly into other worlds to live, dare, survive and marvel at places and people far different from the ones they already know. Enjoy.
Dave Lowe’s relaxed narrative style earns plenty of laughs, guaranteeing it to win the attention of adventure-loving primary schoolers. The Spectacular Holly-Day follows on from The Incredible Dadventure and The Mumbelievable Challenge and is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Despite the almost travelogue introduction, the story revs up once adventure seeking Holly Day sets out on her own in a strange new country, Malaysia and manages to foil the destruction of a local environmentally rich island by ruthless developers. The comical comic-style illustrations add an atmosphere of fun, yet Holly and the people she meets during her Malay stay feel real and purposeful. Conservation balances easily with themes of friendship, perseverance, habitat destruction and family. Lowe also manages to create a thick air of authenticity with the use of plenty of Malay lingo and food that will appeal to readers from seven years of age and above.
Bonnier September 2017
Figgy’s unaffected, uncut-diamond honesty simply sparkles. The third book about this amiable Ghanaian girl finds Figgy approaching high school age and taking a leap into another unknown part of The World, following her bestie, Nana to the city of Accra after they both receive scholarships to study there. Figgy is anxious about leaving her comfort zone and family behind. Nana is painfully conscience of earning his keep and paying his dues. Together they both learn that family don’t keep tabs on love and that change is not necessarily a bad thing.
As with Figgy In the World and Figgy and The President, Janu is master at creating a powerful sense of place for her characters and then wresting them out of that place to experience new and, at times, fearful things. I wager not many first world children would be familiar with Ghanaian society or village life. These books are an exciting and illuminating step into a land and peoples different from our own. Winsome and restoring, time spent with Figgy, her siblings, cousins and charismatic friends is rarely dull and always utterly rewarding. A must read experience for 7 – 10 year olds.
Omnibus Books Scholastic September 2017
Part creative historic fiction and part thrilling adventure, Fearless Frederic is the latest novel by acclaimed author Felice Arena that will appeal to middle to upper primary aged children. Frederic and his mother are forced to flee their family home in Paris following the catastrophic rising of the Seine during the Great Flood of 1910. They retreat to one of the city’s many temporary shelters where Frederic forms an unlikely friendship with two other flood-victims. Together they flit about the floating city along makeshift passerelles and raised walkways. They develop a reputation about town as being the Fearless Floodwater Friends, always on hand to help those in need of rescue. However, during times of adversity, despite the saints and heroes, there are often an equal number of people who prey on the weak and suffering. These are the cretins of Paris that Fredrick and his friends must avoid along with the rising floodwaters.
Although I have never experienced the hardship of enduring this type of natural disaster, Arena’s descriptions of Paris and slick inclusion of French terms and nuances create an atmosphere so rich and convincing, I could almost smell the sludgy floodwaters and taste the piping hot baguettes. This terrific sense of place coupled with a gripping backstory about the murder of Frederick’s boxing champion father, provides ample tension and reason to fearlessly following Frederick all the way to the watery end. Fearless Frederick is an absorbing slice of history; a glimpse at the ugly side of humanity that also spotlights human resilience and tenacity and is as humorous as it is gripping.