Coombe’s Steele is the real deal

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - BOOKS - Dani Colvin

IN Arky Steele, Tas­ma­nian- born author Eleanor Coombe has cre­ated an en­gag­ing char­ac­ter to lead read­ers on a se­ries of grip­ping ad­ven­tures that in­clude a heady mix of an­cient civil­i­sa­tions, hid­den trea­sure, ex­cite­ment, in­trigue and world travel.

Arky thinks he’s an aver­age 12- year- old boy, but with a su­per­star moun­taineer for a mum and a dad who’s an ar­chae­ol­o­gist, ad­ven­ture is never far away. But nei­ther is dan­ger. Their evil neme­sis is bil­lion­aire Go­ran Rulec, who will stop at noth­ing to get his hands on an­cient trea­sures.

In this first in­stal­ment, Arky and his dad Doc head to Mon­go­lia to find the lost trea­sure of the fear­some Genghis Khan. It is here that Arky meets Tue, a shep­herd boy who accidentally dis­cov­ered the first clue to the trea­sure, and Bear, the son of a movie star and step­son of wealthy Lord Wright, who spon­sors Doc’s ex­pe­di­tions.

The very clever guardian of Genghis Khan’s tomb left clues to the trea­sure’s where­abouts, and as the boys use nous, knowl­edge and good luck to guide them, they en­counter hid­den caves, frozen bod­ies, gi­ant bud­dhas, wa­ter­falls, ravines, head­less soldiers and Rulec’s ruth­less hench­men, who are never far be­hind them. Some­where along the line, th­ese three boys, thrown to­gether from very dif­fer­ent worlds, find that they have more in com­mon than they think and de­velop a firm friend­ship that will help them sur­mount the most threat­en­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing ob­sta­cles.

Coombe has cre­ated a se­ries that is bound to ap­peal to many young read­ers, par­tic­u­larly boys. Along with all the ac­tion, sus­pense, ad­ven­ture and an­cient bru­tal­ity, Coombe in­cludes plenty of bod­ily func­tions and the odd bit of nu­dity and bare- bum­mery.

The lan­guage is sim­ple, sen­tences are short, vo­cab­u­lary un­de­mand­ing and de­scrip­tions brief, mak­ing it the ideal step­ping- stone for read­ers not quite ready for the su­perla­tive ac­tion ad­ven­ture sto­ries of writ­ers such as An­thony Horowitz ( Alex Rider), Eoin Colfer ( Artemis Fowl) and James Pat­ter­son ( Max­i­mum Ride).

FOR younger or less­con­fi­dent read­ers who none­the­less love ac­tion and ad­ven­ture, the won­der­ful Andy Roid se­ries fits the bill per­fectly.

Felice Arena has shown his met­tle as a ter­rific writer beloved by boys and girls who love footy, through the hugely pop­u­lar Specky Magee se­ries. The hero of this lat­est se­ries was dread­fully in­jured in an ac­ci­dent and his par­ents, govern­ment sci­en­tists spe­cial­is­ing in ro­bot­ics, re­built him us­ing their lat­est, untested re­search. Andy’s re­cently been re­fit­ted with more gad­gets and has been re­cruited by the govern­ment as a se­cret agent, along with his friend Judd. They’ve been sent to Switzer­land to track down the head­quar­ters of the un­scrupu­lous Blaireau Cor­po­ra­tion. In Tracks of Death, the eighth in­stal­ment in the se­ries, Andy finds his life in peril more than once. He has to eject from an F- 18 Hor­net, save a group of Ja­panese sci­en­tists from a ca­ble car, and stop a train be­fore it reaches a bridge that is about to be blown up. Like­able char­ac­ters, cool gad­gets, lots of dan­ger, the odd pretty girl, plenty of hu­mour, vis­ually stim­u­lat­ing text and ex­cel­lent writ­ing make this a su­per- ap­peal­ing se­ries for con­fi­dent young read­ers.

STEVE and Marion Isham are stal­warts of the Tas­ma­nian pic­ture book scene, hav­ing be­gun pub­lish­ing and il­lus­trat­ing sto­ries, in 1992, and then sell­ing them at their stall at Sala­manca Mar­ket, or on­line at www.bandi­coot­books.com.

Daniel the Devil tells the story of a young Tas­ma­nian devil who strays too far from home, but even­tu­ally gets picked up by a ranger and taken to safety.

Along with the lovely il­lus­tra­tions drawn by Marion and painted by Steve, there is in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion about Tas­ma­nian devils and the ter­ri­ble par­a­sitic can­cer now af­flict­ing them. Many other na­tive an­i­mals are in­cluded in the il­lus­tra­tions and listed on a back page, and there are fun rid­dles for young read­ers to solve.

TH­ESE like­able lit­tle books for di­nosaur lovers were a pleas­ant sur­prise. They cen­tre on Robert Irwin, son of the leg­endary Steve, and his best friend Ri­ley.

While Robert loves liv­ing and work­ing with the an­i­mals at his home, Aus­tralia Zoo, in Queens­land, his other great love is di­nosaurs. And a fos­silised claw of an Aus­tralove­na­tor, which some­how has the power to take him and Ri­ley mil­lions of years back in time, al­lows the boys to get up close and per­sonal with some pretty in­cred­i­ble crea­tures and learn more about them.

In Call of the Wild, when they travel through time they dis­cover a young mut­tabur­rasaurus lang­doni which has got it­self stuck in the mud a long way from its mum.

As the boys set about res­cu­ing the ju­nior dino, they pon­der the noises di­nosaurs would have made and con­clude that roar­ing prob­a­bly wasn’t as preva­lent as we all imag­ine it to have been.

Short chap­ters, well- spaced font, plenty of di­nosaur info, ac­tion, ad­ven­ture and like­able char­ac­ters make this a very ap­peal­ing se­ries for young read­ers ( boys in par­tic­u­lar) with ac­tive imag­i­na­tions, cu­rios­ity about the world around them and a sense of hu­mour.

For ages six to nine, or emerg­ing solo read­ers.

ED­U­CA­TIONAL: Daniel the Devil,

by Marion and Steve Isham, tells the story of a young Tas­ma­nian devil who strays too far from home. DANIEL THE DEVIL By Steve and Marion Isham ( Bandi­coot Books, hard­cover, $ 19.95).

GUARDIAN OF THE TOMB

By E. Coombe Book one in the Arky Steele se­ries ( Loth­ian, soft­cover, $ 14.99)

ANDY ROID AND THE TRACKS OF DEATH By Felice Arena ( Puffin, soft­cover, $ 9.95)

Book 5 in the Robert Irwin: Di­nosaur Hunter se­ries By Jack Wells ( Ran­dom House, soft­cover, $ 9.95)

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