Kills, chills and futuristic thrills
WARP: THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN By Eoin Colfer ( Puffin, softcover, $ 19.99)
PUFFIN’S publicity department is calling this new series from the author of the muchloved Artemis Fowl series “The Matrix meets Oliver Twist” – and that’s not too far wide of the mark.
The reluctant assassin in question is Riley, an orphan living in London in 1898, as an apprentice to Albert Garrick, a seriously terrifying and murderous magician. Garrick decides it’s time Riley made his first kill, and it’s from this opening scene that things quickly descend into mayhem. It emerges the guy Riley’s meant to kill is a scientist who has developed wormholes for time travel and before he knows it Riley’s world has been gatecrashed by a 17- year- old, wisecracking, junior FBI agent named Chevie Savano whose own world has also been turned on its ear.
Riley has uncovered the FBI’s covert WARP ( Witness Anonymous Relocation Program) in which people in the present- day witness protection program are hidden in the past. Evil Garrick, filled with visions of world domination, chases Riley and Chevie through time, determined to take the knowledge of the 21st century back to the late 19th century to use it to rise to power.
Given this premise, the first few chapters should be very exciting and compelling.
However, for some reason, this is not the case and they seem a little cumbersome and rather much like hard work. But for the hardy souls who can hang in there, the reward is worth it. Colfer has created two very likeable characters in his mismatched pair of protagonists and his trademark quirky wit, and the insertion of modern- day pop culture into Victorian London creates some real laugh- outloud moments ( yes, Another Brick in Yonder Wall, I’m talking about you, among others).
Conversely, Garrick is truly terrifying, which lends a constant air of menace to the chaotic and fast- paced proceedings, so readers do get one heck of a wild ride.
Surprisingly, the book is marketed to nine to 12- year- olds, which seems something of a stretch on the lower end. We’re talking complex concepts, plot and vocabulary, and cultural and historical references that would sail over the head of many a nine- year- old. It would seem that teens might get a lot more fun out of this series than tweens.
Book two in the series, The Hangman’s Revolution, is also now available.
PEARLIE GOES TO RIO By Wendy Harmer, illustrated by Gypsy Taylor ( Random House, softcover, $ 14.99)
NOT having read any of the more recent instalments about Pearlie from Jubilee Park, it was a treat to catch up with her latest outing. This time, Pearlie is in the Tijuca Forest in Brazil for the Butterfly Carnival.
Pearlie is asked by her new friend Morena to guard the myriad of caterpillars from the hungry, waiting birds, so that they’ll have the chance to turn into butterflies for the festival.
Harmer and Taylor have created between them a vivid depiction of the teeming life in the forest above Rio. Harmer describes the many insects and animals in simple but evocative language ( and even manages to throw in some Portuguese phrases) and Taylor brings it all to life with vibrant illustrations full of movement and humour. The Pearlie series is a wonderful one for emerging readers wanting to assert their independence, but are also great for sharing with adults who can help expand their comprehension and appreciation.
STUFF HAPPENS: NED By Andrew Daddo ( Puffin, softcover, $ 9.99)
NED is one of four books in a brilliantly-conceived new Australian series for boys. The other three are Jack by Tony Wilson, Sean by Will Kostakis and Michael by Phillip Gwynne.
The series is aimed at helping seven to 10- year- old boys unpack the stuff that happens in their lives and the emotions that accompany these experiences, having those events and feelings acknowledged as meaningful and important, and helping them to gain and use an emotional vocabulary that they can carry forward into manhood with confidence and self- assurance.
“Stuff Happens is our contribution to … [ the] unclenching of boys’ hearts,” says series editor Susannah McFarlane, series editor.
“We also think it is a series young boys will love. Because it’s about them. And their stuff. And that matters.”
Each book tells the story of an incident of emotional importance to one of the boys in the fictional Monvale Primary school. Ned’s older brother and sister are held up as models of virtue and achievement by the school but Ned can’t understand why – nor does he feel he has any hope of living up to their precedent. He is horrified to learn his new teacher in Grade 5 is the same teacher who had him disqualified from a swimming carnival when he was in Grade 2 – an incident which devastated him. He can only see his teacher through the lens of that experience and consequently, his actions as a member of her class are perhaps not the most well- thought- out: a run- in with a hamburger being the final event that brings matters to a head.
Daddo does a fine job of bringing Ned’s mixed and confusing thoughts and emotions to the fore, and has created in Ned a very relatable character. The good folk at Puffin are to be congratulated for creating a series that so thoughtfully addresses a most important issue.
WHIFFY WILSON: THE WOLF WHO WOULDN’T GO TO SCHOOL By Caryl Hart, illustrated by Leonie Lord ( Orchard, hardcover, $ 24.99)
WHIFFY Wilson, star of Hart and Lord’s previous collaboration, The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Wash, has now jacked up and refused to go to school. He says that school is boring, but privately, he’s anxious about not knowing what to expect, and worried about what might happen if he can’t do the work.
But his best friend Dotty takes him to school, shows him how it all works, and he ends up having the most wonderful day.
Told in simple rhyme and rhythm and accompanied by super- appealing illustrations, this is a very engaging story that also happens to do a great job of helping tiny people feel a little more comfortable about starting school.