Jack Jones: The Lost Temple (#3) by Zander Bingham

Published: 19th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Green Rhino Media
Pages: 106
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

While exploring deep in the jungle, Jack Jones, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert uncover a hidden temple inside a cave that has been lost for centuries. To learn its secrets, they’ll have to cross piranha-filled rivers, creep past an ancient crypt, resolve a slithery situation, and find their way through a temple maze. 

But as the cave starts to crumble around them, will they track down the ancient Book of the Gods and figure out a way to leave before they’re trapped forever? 

Join Jack, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert as they work together to decode symbols to identify the newly-discovered temple, find a way inside, seek to locate an ancient relic that archaeologists have been searching for hundreds of years to find, and escape before the cave collapses around them. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

Jack Jones and his friends are back for another exciting adventure. There is no real necessity to read these in any particular order, but there is slightly more detail and background given in The Pirate Treasure that may give some more indication of who these kids are. That’s not to say you aren’t given clues and context here either, but this story jumps straight into an adventure without much history.

I enjoyed this story. The Jack Jones books are classic adventure stories of finding lost temples and secret cities, hidden treasure and all the adventures reminiscent of the classic tales. Ideal for kids to go on the adventures alongside and something which brings out the adventurous spirit. The same sensibilities are evident for the kids and how and why they are allowed to explore. I felt the language was a bit more natural this time around regarding the manners and politeness. There is friendship and helping one another which is endearing, and Bingham demonstrates what kids are capable of achieving and the discovering on their own. He gives them an adventure of being independent and the freedom of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy.

The technology is there once again with Jack’s tablet, but that isn’t always there to help them, something which adds to the overall narrative. Despite the inclusion of technology, it also shows the kinds of adventures kids can have without technology. Even if we won’t all discover ancient temples, the act of exploring with friends is often an adventure in itself.

While Jack is the central character, I wanted a bit more from the other two like I’d seen in other stories. Albert and Emma have roles to play but in this story it felt like they were often there to push Jack along, Emma even more so than Albert. While there is not a lot of story to give time to extra information, seeing a bit more of these secondary characters would be great.

The stories all end with the kids succeeding and no one getting injured but there are still challenges on the way the kids must overcome. Seeing them be challenged and having to use logic and their minds are good examples for readers, especially for the younger kids.

You can purchase The Lost Temple via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus & RobertsonFishpond

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

Jack Jones: The Haunted Lighthouse (#2) by Zander Bingham

Published: 18th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Green Rhino Media
Pages: 102
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Could the old lighthouse that Jack’s aunt bought to turn into a guesthouse actually be haunted? Mysterious figures in the windows…strange noises…flickering lights. Is this really the work of ghosts? 

Join Jack Jones and crew as they investigate the ghostly events taking place during their stay at The Point Danger Lighthouse in this modern-classic adventure. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

With a small holiday at a lighthouse offering a chance for excitement, the ghost stories have the kids intrigued but also a little wary. With more mystery than adventure this second Jack Jones book offers the kids a chance to be ghost hunters and detectives.

The trio are back with their enthusiasm to explore and have fun this time with an old lighthouse the locals believe is haunted. While I still enjoyed the story, and enjoyed seeing how the kids logically worked through problems, I think I enjoyed the adventure style of the previous book more than the mystery, it felt like there was something missing this time around. There didn’t feel like as much going on in this story. Whether this is because this was more mystery than adventure I’m not sure. Certainly there is less wonder and discovery, replaced with more modern and common issues like power failures.

Bingham adds in a few more characters this time, we see some of the local residents and their stories and experiences add to the narrative and makes them more rounded characters and pads out the story some more making it flow better.

There was still intrigue to find out the culprit to all the strange happening around the place, and with logical explanations or a Scooby Doo villain the only choices I was keen to find out more, either being welcomed. Bingham shows the kids bravery and determination to solve the mystery and while there is less danger present than before, it is also more relatable. The relatable fears and situations make the characters experience understandable, especially for younger readers, but Bingham makes sure to show that being scared doesn’t stop the trio from choosing to go on regardless.

The writing felt more natural but still in the same Bingham style; short sentences, explanations and simple language for easy reading and comprehension. This is one you can read alone but there is certainly a lot more backstory provided in the previous book; this story works well as the continuing adventures of Jack Jones and company.

You can purchase The Haunted Lighthouse via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

Jack Jones: The Pirate Treasure by Zander Bingham

Published: 20th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Green Rhino Media
Pages: 103
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction/Adventure
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

When a message-in-a-bottle washes up on their local beach, Jack Jones, his sister Emma and best buddy Albert discover that it just might lead to a Spanish galleon ship that has been lost for centuries! Will Jack and his crew decode the clues left by pirates to reveal the hidden location of the ship? Can they succeed where many have failed? Or will they fall into one of the traps left behind by those trying to protect the ship, and the priceless treasure believed to be aboard?

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

At 103 pages this is a quick read but one that suits this kind of story. The focus is on the adventure rather than offering long and detailed back stories of characters or the environment. We are given a few details about each of the characters but not a lot of time is wasted on filling in unnecessary details. Bingham includes enough to fill plot holes and explain away lack of parental supervision but the majority of the character back story and description is kept brief. This was something I didn’t mind; I didn’t need all the extra information. There’s enough there to know the characters but the focus is moving plot along.

Even though this is short it’s filled with mystery and adventure that kids would love to get lost in. It combines the modern and the old and showcases what kids can achieve when they work together. The narrative is not complicated and it’s sprinkled with lessons and morals about being kind and helpful. There is adventure and danger but no enemies to defeat or violence to endure. There are challenges the characters face but with teamwork and the support of friends the trio are able to succeed.

The style of story could easily suit any age, it is very Treasure Island and having independent kids but still having them be responsible and knowledgeable offers good lessons too. I can easily see kids from even the age of six enjoying this kind of story, especially with the simple language and layout. The layout is basic, the story told in a collection of short paragraphs with large text. This formatting actually would lend itself to younger kids reading it as well as the chapters are short and the words simple to read. There are also detailed black and white illustrations throughout the book as well to help kids visualise the story. With the intention of having a book that helps transition kids into reading chapter books and more complicated stories, this is a great starting point. Even older kids who simply want a good adventure story will love this.

I am keen to see what other adventures this trio get up to. Having gotten used to the writing style, the innocent adventures are reminiscent of The Famous Five where it is about having experiences as friends and not about fighting villains or having overly complicated narratives.

You can purchase The Pirate Treasure via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyFishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Publisher

Book Face Pacific Fair | Readings Kids

47 Degrees by Justin D’Ath

Published: 8th January 8th 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Random House Australia
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Zeelie wonders if they’re in danger. 

When temperatures soar to 47 degrees one hot summer day, 12-year-old Zeelie hopes the neraby bushfires everyone’s talking about aren’t heading towards her family’s new home. What will they do if the wind changes direction? What about their belongings and their beloved pets? And why hasn’t her mum and brother returned from Melbourne? 
Nothing can prepare Zeelie for what’s to come.

I will be 100% honest and say I read the first quarter and then I was experiencing so much anxiety about this book I skimmed the rest of it, reading a few full pages here and there to get to the end. I could not handle this story. I’m trying to work out if now I know how it plays out I could go back and read it again but I’m not sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it is so stressful to read. Whether it is because I’m Australian and have seen the damage fires have done I was imagining the worst anytime anyone got in a car, on a road, near a fire; it just set off Worst Case Scenarios in my head. But despite that, I thought it was such a wonderful way to discuss the events of what happened on Black Saturday and through the eyes of Zeelie who is at the cusp of childhood and being a teenager; she is growing up but still has trouble handling the scope of what is happening around her.

Having the experience through Zeelie’s eyes shows the rapid nature of fires, how quickly plans change and go awry. Black Saturday was Victoria’s worst fire and seeing the trouble Zeelie and her dad get into are important experiences to understand, even if this story is fictional, it rings true to so many real life situations that people have experienced. We get to see how other communities and families are affected and Zeelie’s own worries about her family that she can’t contact adds an extra level of suspense. These are all real situations though as phone lines and power limit communication, closed roads and no news can add to the already stressful situations. D’Ath never makes it too overly dramatic, but the realities are there – well, as much as they can be for a children’s book.

D’Ath captures Zeelie’s voice beautifully. I saw her naivety but her confusion, but also her bravery, and when she is asked to pack up things to take with them I understood the trouble she had in deciding what was important to take for people. Her character is the epitome of someone her age. She expresses her love for her family but also her frustration about her brother and their relationship. I understood her uncertainty when she has moments where she first starts to doubt her dad, doubt his decisions; that unwavering trust of childhood starting to falter as she witnesses the things around her. I think it gives great power in allowing a kid of Zeelie’s age show anger at her parents, and frustration at their decisions and her own lack of power in a lot of cases.

Let it be noted that all the dogs are ok by the end of it. I actually texted a friend who’d read it the second I thought it could go otherwise because I was not prepared to read that so you don’t have to worry about anything happening to them. There is other animal death but it is unseen or has limited detail.

One thing I found impressive was how D’Arth captures the experience of a bushfire in its entirety. From start to finish you see the early warnings, the evacuations, the road closures and the devastation. D’Arth makes sure not to leave it there as you also see the healing and the community support of this kind of disaster. Even if I didn’t already know, this story helps you understand how fast bushfires can start and spread, as well as the damage they can cause. I am glad I pushed through my anxiety to finish the story because it was good to see the full circle and Zeelie’s story is one that covers a lot of important situations and experiences.

You can purchase 47 Degrees via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid

Published: 9th April 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Hi my name is Rowley Jefferson and this is my book. Now I have a diary just like my friend Greg… 

Rowley’s best friend Greg Heffley has chronicled his middle-school years in thirteen Diary of a Wimpy Kid journals. Now it’s Rowley’s turn to give his side of the story.

But Rowley has agreed to tell Greg’s story along the way, too. (After all, Grey says one day he will be rich and famous and the world will need to know how he managed it).

But Rowley’s stories about Greg might not be quite what his friend had in mind . . .

I do not feel bad judging Greg having only read 2 books out of 12. I started the third and could not finish it because he annoyed me so much. Kinney made no secrets in those books about Greg consciously doing bad things and being an awful friend by tricking Rowley, blaming Rowley, and bullying him. This book flips those others on its head as it shows what Greg is like on the other side. For those at the receiving end of his schemes and jokes.

This may be from Rowley’s point of view but it still points out how mean Greg is and how he takes advantage of Rowley’s kind nature. It actually made me sad to see how Rowley is treated. He puts up with Greg and still sees him as a best friend. Seeing Greg’s actions on Rowley are an entirely different thing than seeing Rowley react to those actions, I wasn’t angry I was heartbroken.

The language Kinney uses is ideal because it uses feelings kids can relate to and the situations he describes were so familiar: Rowley trying to work on homework and having Greg interrupt him and distract him; Rowley expressing his feelings of wanting to do well in school and admits hating having Greg try to derail that; even just having Rowley try to enjoy the things he likes without Greg coming and stealing them or ruining them. The fact Rowley actually hides in his house to escape Greg is a fantastic example of how much of a terrible kid this is.

I am excited that kids will get to see the other side of Greg’s antics and realise how much of a toxic and abusive kid he is. I hope it sparks conversations about bullying and being taken advantage of, and what a real friend would do. One fantastic thing is that Rowley’s parents also tell him he needs to find a new friend. Multiple times. Even Greg’s mum helps Rowley and makes Greg apologise for his behaviour.

Rowley is a sweet kid. He is a kid who hasn’t got a lot of friends and he has been Greg’s friend for so long he can’t see him not being there. Rowley is not the stupid kid Greg makes him out to be, he is naïve, he is sweet, but he also pities Greg which I found intriguing.

I have made it no secret my dislike for Greg in the other books but I am thrilled that Kinney has made this move because it shines a spotlight on Greg’s behaviour, no hiding behind jokes and fun boyish antics, this story takes Greg out from being portrayed as a victim and a poor kid who is hard done by the world. This shows him to be a bully and a manipulative little brat who every adult around him can see he is a mean person.

The reviews I’ve seen either praise this book or shame it. Those who dislike it often say they didn’t like how Greg was portrayed. They are a variation of “Rowley just points out how awful Greg is! I know he was naughty but the books were funny so it was ok”. Maybe you just needed to have been bullied to see what the effect of those actions really are. But Greg was funny so what did it matter?

You can purchase Diary of a Friendly Kid via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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