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Book Reviews

Books 4 the Primary Bookshelf | Reviews

There’s a constant stream of exciting new titles being published at the moment, so we have decided to give an update of the books that we’ve recently read and added to our own primary-level bookshelf!

We’ve chosen three books perfect for feeding the imagination:

The Legend of Kevin written by Philip Reeve and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre (published by Oxford University Press);

Hopeless Heroes: Here Comes Hercules! written by Stella Tarakson and illustrated by Nick Roberts (published by Sweet Cherry Publishing); and

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom by Colin Mulhern (published by Maverick Publishing).

The Legend of Kevin

This is a new fun packed adventure by Reeve and McIntyre to join their stable of brilliant reads.

The Kevin of the title is not a boy (that isn’t a spoiler, don’t worry!), but is in fact a “roly-poly flying pony” who lives in a tree in the Outermost West. That is until a storm blows him over the sea and lands him on a tall building were Max lives. With the rain falling and the land flooding, Max’s town soon becomes home to sea monkeys, mermaids and other strange creatures.

But as the water keeps rising, it is left to Kevin and Max to rescue the beleaguered residents…

It’s not often that you get a human/animal crossover (a lot of books focus on either mostly humans or mostly animals), but Kevin and Max are a perfect pair. Each brings something unique to their partnership which helps them deal with all kinds of obstacles.

I have to admit though, my favourites had to be the guinea pigs Beyoncé and Neville, floating around the water on their hutch – they’re enjoying themselves, even if no-one else is! Make sure not to miss the section at the end, in which they describe their adventures.

The asides from the author throughout the book are a hilarious addition, and the illustrations do a fantastic job of depicting situations and developing characterisation (the book’s pace means this is easier to do visually than in the text). We definitely got the feeling that we’ll be seeing Kevin and Max (and Beyoncé and Neville!) in more adventures in the future, and we can’t wait!

(Note: it turns out that the second book came out last month, so we know what we’re picking up next!)

Hopeless Heroes: Here Comes Hercules!

Have you ever thought you might like to live in Ancient Greece with the heroes? Well after this, we’d recommend thinking again!

In this brilliant and funny adventure, Tim breaks his mum’s Greek vase, and finds that he has accidentally released a very hungry Hercules from his prison.

But living with an enormous, invisible (to everyone bar Tim) Greek hero isn’t easy…especially when he isn’t used to the 21st Century and certainly isn’t house-trained.

The obvious solution is to return him to his own world, but to do so Tim has to solve a seemingly impossible riddle. And as he wracks his brains, Hercules’ attempts to help keep things going from bad to worse.

‘Here Comes Hercules!’ has some excellently amusing moments provided by the clash of the two different times and cultures, as well as Hercules’ mythological background, such as flooding the house to help clean it (safe to say that this doesn’t work as well as it did on the Augean stables!), or fighting the tiger skin rug. This is reinforced by the illustrations, where Hercules is always depicted in an “ancient Greek” style, contrasting the more modern cartoonish design of everything else.

The characters are written in a deeply sympathetic way; Tim’s mum is working two jobs to keep the family fed (while struggling to become an author) after Tim’s father passed away, and Tim himself is supportive of her dreams and doing his best to help around the house, all while being bullied at school. These details don’t feel shoehorned in, but rather give the characters more depth – feeling real without being laboured (see what I did there!).

This is a great start to the ‘Hopeless Heroes’ series, and with the first two chapters of the next book (‘Hera’s Terrible Trap’) included, it is sure to entice children to keep reading!

Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of Dooooom

Briar’s Cove is “the nicest, safest, sweetest town there ever was, where nothing bad ever happened”.

That’s until one perfect, blue-sky morning when Granny Fondant looks out her window to see her granddaughter Buttercup Sunshine in her lemon dress running down Honeysuckle Lane towards the cottage…clutching a bright red chainsaw!

So begins a rollicking, roller-coaster adventure full of giggles and scares as Buttercup and Granny try to outwit the zombies.

Buttercup is a well-defined and confident character, mixing the playfulness of a small child with a courage and resourcefulness that stands her in good stead against the undead. Granny acts as Buttercup’s support and homebase, providing ideas and showcasing some almost terrifying knitting skills. Together they can take on anything Briar’s Cove throws at them – which is good, because this book is the first in a new supernatural series!

At times a bit gory (but not too gory!) and at times rather absurd, Mulhern does an excellent job of balancing the humour and the scariness, making this book perfect for younger readers or older, more reluctant readers.