Friday, October 18, 2013

New Books that should make young readers (6-12) laugh

I receive lots of serious novels for readers of all ages and some which are rather dark. In this post I review fourteen books (including multiple titles in some series) that readers aged 6-12 years should find amusing. All are published by Allen & Unwin. I don't usually review lots of books from one publisher but they've published some great titles of this kind in 2013. Each is funny and all use illustrations in great ways to support the text.

1. The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno (and Alberta) Books 1-3 by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Terry Denton

Ursula Dubosarsky, one of Australia's most talented writers for children, and comic legend Terry Denton have teamed up to write a series of delightful detective stories for 6 to 8 year olds.  Famous Argentinian Chief of Police Coco Carlomagno is faced by many difficult cases. He calls on his cousin Alberta to help solve each perplexing problem. Like the challenge of the floating pineapple and a terrible noise. Each occurs at the same time each day. What could be causing this? Can they solve the mystery of 'The Perplexing Pineapple'?

His next challenge in Book 2 is 'The Looming Lamplight'. Coco can see it from his office high in the Obelisco, Buenos Aires' tallest building. Why does it turn off and on? Could it be a message? How can he decode it? Once again his clever cousin Alberta will help. Book 3, 'The Missing Mongoose' deals with a missing rare and extremely valuable creature. The Buenos Aires zoo is in chaos. Can Alberta and Coco follow the clues and deduce the whereabouts of the missing mongoose? 

In each of these books the reader is invited to share the challenge of solving these unlikely mysteries through an amusing storyline and with cryptic clues, puzzles and word games. Denton's illustrations and Dubosarsky's funny texts will appeal to any young reader who likes the zany and somewhat silly scenarios. The texts are not difficult, but the stories will appeal to brighter youngsters who enjoy the challenge of word play and puzzles. A quirky new series that children will love.

2. The Sword Girl Series by Frances Watts

I have reviewed the Sword Girl series in a previous post last year and interviewed the author Ali Lavau (A.K.A. Frances Watts) HERE. Since then she has published two more 'The Terrible Trickster' and 'Pigeon Problems'. The books are illustrated by Gregory Rogers.

The central character in each book is Tommy (short for Thomasina) who is a feisty kitchen hand who longs to be a knight. When Tommy, through a series of unusual events, is finally promoted to Keeper of the Blades, her life changes. As Frances Watts shares in her interview responses in my previous post, Tommy is "a girl who wasn’t a princess or a fairy, who could be kind and thoughtful and empathetic yet still be active and adventurous and ambitious". This is the perfect book series for girls who love adventure, action and want an alternative to stereotypical books for girls.

In 'The Terrible Trickster' someone is turning Flamant Castle into a state of turmoil. Who has put sneezing powder in the knights' soup and itching powder in Sir Walter's sheets? Then, there is the changing of the salt for sugar in Mrs Moon's kitchen. All these tricks seem funny at first, but Sir Benedict is not amused. Tommy is accused of these deeds and threatens to send her away from the castle. Can she find who the real trickster is before she is banished?

In 'Pigeon Problems' Sir Walter is planning a celebration at Flamant Castle for Lady Beatrix's birthday. Games and competitions are planned as well as a surprise party. All seem excited at the castle except the pigeon. But the pigeon is needed for a very special job and he is suddenly missing. Can Tommy find her friend and save the day?

3. 'Cartboy and the Time Capsule' by L.A. Campbell

This is the first book by this American author. In her first junior novel she tells the tale of the 'horrific historic, and hilarious' year of school for sixth grader Hal Rifkind, who has the unfortunate nickname of 'Cartboy'. Hal's hilarious journal will hold the attention of most 10-12 year old readers and amuse them along the way.

Hal hates history class - it literally bores him to tears. But his father is a big history buff, and unless Hal gets a good grade this year, he'll never get his own room. Sixth grade gets off to a horrible start when history teacher Mr Tupkin gives the class an assignment to write journals that will be buried in a time capsule at the end of the year. Things get even worse when his dad makes him take his neighbour's old shopping cart to school, earning him the nickname 'Cartboy'. What else could possibly go wrong?

Hal has some disadvantages in life, like having to share a bedroom with twin baby sisters Bea and Perrie - with his bed between their cots. And then, there was his Dad's solution to the great weight of books that he had to take to school. A new Ziptuk E300S scooter that every boy would love? No! Instead he gives his son a shopping trolley to drag his books to school. The woes of Hal make compelling and amusing reading. This is a great first children's book from Lori Campbell.

4. 'Shot, Boom, Score!' by Justin Brown

Popular New Zealand author Justin Brown has written a very funny novel for 10-12 year olds about a boy named Toby who is promised a Gamebox V3 by his dad if he scores 20 wickets in cricket and 10 tries in rugby. But his every effort is foiled by the class bully. McGarvy is the biggest kid in the school and wears a shark tooth around his neck. Toby has other problems as well, including his teacher's regular detentions and the challenges of his sister (and her terrible palindromes). Toby feels at times as if only his grandmother understands him. Will he get the illusive Gamebox?

5. 'My Life as an Alphabet' by Barry Jonsberg

Barry Jonsberg has written a number of very successful books for adolescents and in this case tween readers. This very funny book is no exception. This first person narrative is in a journal/diary form with a twist (the alphabet) and will engage readers 10-13 years. Twelve-year-old Candice Phee manages to amuse those around her despite the bizarre mix-ups and the confusion she creates. In the words of Candice:

This isn't just about me. It's also about the other people in my life - my mother, my father, my dead sister Sky, my penpal Denille, Rich Uncle Brian, Earth-Pig Fish and Douglas Benson From Another Dimension. These are people [with the exception of Earth-Pig Fish, who is a fish] who have shaped me, made me what I am. I cannot recount my life without recounting elements of theirs. This is a big task, but I am confident I am up to it.

Candice takes her through the alphabetical A-Z experiences of her life:
A is for assignment - A recount on her life, how could that go wrong?
B is for birth - "I wasn't there at my birth", well not "as a reliable witness", so what was it like?
C is for chaos - "Classrooms are battlegrounds."
And so on. Each chapter is a recount by Candice of some part of her life, and each is very funny. Barry Jonsberg does a wonderful job communicating an authentic voice for this slightly crazy (well at least quirky) twelve-year-old girl. Ten to twelve year old Girls (and boys) will love this book

6. 'Don' Look Now' series by Paul Jennings and illustrated by Andrew Weldon

Paul Jennings needs no introduction, he is one of Australia's most popular writers of children's books. With over 100 titles to his name he has an international following. This latest series of 'small' books for 7-11 year old readers will be well received. The books are a collaboration between author and illustrator, as many of his books are. Andrew Weldon has a done a great job to support Jenning's text with his amusing line drawings, maps, diagrams, lists and so on. The books centre on 'Ricky an ordinary boy...' who always seems to be having unusual and exciting adventures.

Each title has two separate stories. In 'Don't Look Now: Book 1 - Falling for It and The Kangapoo Key Ring', Ricky can fly, well sometimes. You knew there would be a hitch. Ricky has a very active imagination. When most kids look at the clouds they see basic stuff, a dog, a car, a bear... But not Ricky, he sees a "stallion wild and free", it stands 22 hands high and is surrounded by a herd of other horses. In 'Book 2 - A Magician Never Tells and Elephant Bones' we have two stories about Ricky the boy who can fly (sometimes). In the first he discovers another thing about himself. He can do magic. In the second he discovers buried treasure in his yard, an elephant! In 'Book Three - Hair Cut and Just a Nibble' Ricky is desperate to impress Samantha. He wants to be famous! He can't let her see him fly, but he's willing to try almost anything else. In 'Book 4: Hobby Farm and Seeing Red' the relationship with Samantha grows, but still his desire to be famous is strong. Can he realise this dream even though he can't let anyone know he can fly?

Each of the books is a very easy read. Children aged 6-11 will enjoy the books, and given the amount of illustrations, it will be a quick read in spite of the 200 pages plus length of each book. The books are physically small (13 by 16 cm). I'm sure they will be very popular.

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