Once again, this is a wonderfully presented book. The illustrations are lovely and inserted very well with the text. I found the story more interestinOnce again, this is a wonderfully presented book. The illustrations are lovely and inserted very well with the text. I found the story more interesting than the one in the first book, too. It was a lot darker (view spoiler)[(those poor cats and dogs!) (hide spoiler)] and due to this there was a lot more at stake. I also enjoy how the siblings work together, but still have an appropriately tetchy relationship with each other a lot of the time. ...more
I think I would've liked this if I read it in primary school, but it don't think it ages up as well as many other junior fiction books do. Too many chI think I would've liked this if I read it in primary school, but it don't think it ages up as well as many other junior fiction books do. Too many characters in this one, few of whom I could remember or tell apart from each other. I think I spent more time worrying about their finances than thinking about the plot!...more
There was plenty of adventure in this instalment, but I was a little disappointed in it as a concluding book in a series. I felt like Cate's and Clem'There was plenty of adventure in this instalment, but I was a little disappointed in it as a concluding book in a series. I felt like Cate's and Clem's stories were left unfinished, and there wasn't really any true closure to the events of the seven books, which I had been expecting given the format of the series really seemed to indicate a complete story arc with the kind of all-ends-tied-up conclusion that is favoured by junior readers. I assume things have been left a little unfinished to allow for the possibility of future Arkie Sparkle books, but I believe the characters and concepts are good enough to do that of their own accord, without relying on loose ends.
Still, it was a fun series and one that I would definitely recommend to young readers of the right age group. ...more
This was a fun one. Probably the most so far was revealed about the kidnapping and the overall plot, but there's still a bit of a book-specific adventThis was a fun one. Probably the most so far was revealed about the kidnapping and the overall plot, but there's still a bit of a book-specific adventure in there as well. It's also nice to have the treasure hunt be set in Australia, given that it's an Australian book series. ...more
Probably my least favourite Arkie Sparkle so far. Because it focussed a lot on the ongoing mystery, there wasn't much time left for the book-specificProbably my least favourite Arkie Sparkle so far. Because it focussed a lot on the ongoing mystery, there wasn't much time left for the book-specific adventure, and I think it suffered due to that. It would also be a difficult one to pick up if you hadn't read the previous four books. Still fun, though!...more
This continues to be a fun series for younger readers. I am not a pirate fan, but a good percentage of the book's target audience is, so it makes sensThis continues to be a fun series for younger readers. I am not a pirate fan, but a good percentage of the book's target audience is, so it makes sense to set the book in that world. I'm enjoying the slow reveal about the overall mystery as well as the action confined to the individual books....more
I liked this more than I was expecting to, but it still failed to entirely capture my imagination. I think the big problem was that it didn't establisI liked this more than I was expecting to, but it still failed to entirely capture my imagination. I think the big problem was that it didn't establish the character well enough in the beginning for me to care much about her fate until the later half of the book. I also found it a bit too melodramatic, but I realise that fault for me would probably make it more enjoyable for the age demographic it's aimed at. ...more
I read this thinking that I could possibly get rid of all my Jedi Apprentice books, now that I am long out of the heady rush of TPM faReread: May 2014
I read this thinking that I could possibly get rid of all my Jedi Apprentice books, now that I am long out of the heady rush of TPM fandom. As it turns out, I shall be doing no such thing. They remain great junior fiction, and likely would be entertaining even to people with no knowledge of the Star Wars universe at all.
Three books into the series, I think it's safe to say that I'm a fan of Arkie Sparkle. Sometimes a book series will have lost its initial m(4.5 stars)
Three books into the series, I think it's safe to say that I'm a fan of Arkie Sparkle. Sometimes a book series will have lost its initial momentum by this point, but I found that I enjoyed White Fright more than Time Trap, which is particularly impressive given that I enjoyed Time Trap more than the first book, Code Crimson. The characters have definitely come into their own by this point, and there is little need for scene-setting, so the reader is thrust straight into the action.
While the other books have largely concentrated on brilliant technology and journeys back in time, White Fright moves away from this formula a little, focussing instead upon the mystery surrounding the kidnapping of Arkie's parents and the clues that the two cousins have to work with. This was a change that worked well for me, as the mystery captured my interest right from the beginning, and I've been jumping to conclusions ever since!
A new character is introduced here, which adds a whole new dimension to the story. What seemed like a fairly simple mystery in the beginning is now becoming quite complex and interesting. There's also a little more discussion of Arkie's emotional reaction to the loss of her parents, as would be expected as the initial excitement of the treasure hunt wears off and the reality of the situation begins to sink in. I enjoyed the glimpses into her family's back story and the hints at the strong relationship that she has with her parents.
Most importantly, however, the Arkie Sparkle, Treasure Hunter series continues to be interesting, educational and a whole lot of fun. The plot is thickening, the cast list is growing and there are still four more days to go. I can't wait to see where the girls end up next. ...more
These books are just so much fun. I read the first book in the series, Code Crimson last month, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and Time Trap is even betThese books are just so much fun. I read the first book in the series, Code Crimson last month, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and Time Trap is even better. Because there's no need to set up the situation, the book can launch right into the next adventure, which means that the same exciting momentum is maintained throughout. Anyone who missed the original will not be completely lost, however, as the two main characters, Arkie and TJ, sum up the vital points at the beginning of this instalment.
After heading to Egypt in Code Crimson, Arkie and TJ are off to ancient China in Time Trap. I hadn't been expecting to enjoy the new location quite as much, but I was proven wrong, with the plot providing plenty of interest even without a pre-existing interest in China to build upon. What's more, I felt like I actually learnt something, without it ever seeming like I was being taught. I really enjoy the way the Arkie Sparkle series presents its readers with snippets of information about the places that the girls visit – both in terms of their present and their history. The little facts at the end are particularly good, and just the sort of thing that is enjoyed by young readers.
Arkie and TJ are still very likeable characters, and the new characters introduced in Time Trap are well chosen, with the First Emperor and his Chief Advisor being worthy villains and the scholars Lu Sheng and Fu Su providing insight into life at that time. I really think the amazing technology that Arkie and TJ use is the real star of the series, however. The inventions are just so quirky and fun.
My only disappointment with Time Trap was the fact that the ending felt a little abrupt. I would have liked the danger to be a little more imminent, to add to the excitement. That's a minor quibble, though. I really do enjoy this series, and would happily recommend it to all young readers. ...more
I was sold on the new Arkie Sparkle, Treasure Hunter series the moment I read that it involved archaeology and a treasure hunt that spans all seven coI was sold on the new Arkie Sparkle, Treasure Hunter series the moment I read that it involved archaeology and a treasure hunt that spans all seven continents. I'd have been all over these books as a kid, and they hold a good deal of appeal for me as an adult, as well. So many books aimed at young girls seem to take femininity to extremes. There's a place for fairies and princesses and pink satin dresses, but when I was that age I wanted to read tales of great adventure, with female protagonists who solved mysteries and climbed mountains, instead of waiting around to be rescued by a prince.
Code Crimson is just that kind of novel. Aimed at ages seven and up, it's a chapter book with fun illustrations, handwriting-font interjections and additional information such as the NATO phonetic alphabet. There's even a short factual section at the end of the book, which gives just the right amount of information about the real people and archaeological finds that formed the inspiration for the book's action.
The action itself is very fun, with Arkie and her cousin heading off to Egypt in the family supersonic jet in order to hunt treasure and eventually achieve the return of Arkie's kidnapped parents. If the jet isn't exciting enough for young readers, the treasure hunters are also equipped with time travelling technology and umbrellas that act like helicopters – plenty of gimmicks and gadgets to add a strong science fiction element to the adventure plot.
Although it's only a short tale, as you'd expect for the audience it's aimed at, Code Crimson manages to fit in a lot of action and does a great job of introducing the series's main characters without it ever feeling forced. I think the Arkie Sparkle, Treasure Hunter books will prove a hit with young readers – and the low price point of the first book should prove just as pleasing to the parents who will be buying it! ...more
When Allen & Unwin announced the release of The Tunnels of Tarcoola, I knew I needed to read it, because it sounded just like a modern,(4.5 Stars)
When Allen & Unwin announced the release of The Tunnels of Tarcoola, I knew I needed to read it, because it sounded just like a modern, Australian version of all of the Enid Blyton adventure and mystery stories I adored as a kid and still gain a great amount of pleasure from as an adult. Luckily, once I got my hands on a copy, I wasn't disappointed at all. Jennifer Walsh has done a great job of taking a tried and true format for children's mystery fiction and updating it to make it her own.
One of the great things about The Tunnels of Tarcoola is the way that it has such a strong sense of place. Set in Sydney, it has a very Australian feel with a solid historical foundation. Much of the mystery in the novel concerns events that happened during the Second World War, and Walsh does an admirable job of explaining the basics of the war to young readers without it feeling too didactic at the expense of plot or action. I was particularly impressed by the appropriately age-targeted Holocaust discussion.
While the mystery that the friends stumble upon has its roots in the past, the novel remains relevant to modern readers due to to its engaging characters. It takes a little while for the reader to get to learn about the cast's individual quirks, but the characters are well distinguished both in terms of personality and their interactions with each other. There's a very small amount of romance here, but it's at an age appropriate level and doesn't detract at all from the main focusses of the novel.
I did feel a little uneasy about the use of the term 'slutty' at one point, particularly as it was used to describe a group of twelve-year-old girls. It's misogynistic at the best of times and, given its meaning, I don't think the word has a place in a middle-grade novel. Likewise, the recurring theme of the police being dismissed as an option because they wouldn't do anything about crimes against children struck me as being a dangerous opinion to be put forward in a book for young people – especially when it is a parent figure expressing that point of view. That said, I understand why this stance was taken in terms of plot advancement.
All in all, however, The Tunnels of Tarcoola was an extremely enjoyable read, with a great mystery and characters that are easy to become invested in – from Kitty, David, Andrea and Martin right through to the elderly Clarissa Woolf. There's plenty of action and exploration, too, which ensures that it really is a worthy addition to the children's mystery genre.
I would have no hesitation in recommending The Tunnels of Tarcoola to middle grade readers – or, indeed, to people of all ages who love the Famous Five books and other Enid Blyton series. ...more