When I first picked up an Invisible Fiends book in my library last year I thought, ‘this is a BRILLIANT idea!’ In the past few years I’ve become a huge fan of horror stories for kids and reading the blurb I knew the Invisible Fiends series was going to be great. The mixture of horrific characters and dark humour had me hooked and I’ve loved every book in the series so far. The fourth book in the series, Doc Mortis was recently released in the UK but I couldn’t wait until it’s released in New Zealand in October so ordered it from Book Depository. I got straight into it as soon as it arrived, but took my time as I wanted to savour it.
One of the things I loved about Doc Mortis is that it starts off exactly where The Crowmaster ended. Kyle has been left wounded by the Crowmaster and is now wanted by the police for murder. He wants nothing more than to find his mum and make sure she is OK. Before he gets the chance to find her, Kyle discovers that he has been poisoned by the Crowmaster and he becomes trapped in the Darkest Corners, a place of nightmares. Kyle wakes up in a decrepit hospital, with hideous creatures trying to get inside and a crazed doctor hunting him. Doc Mortis wears a filthy lab coat and carries a medical bag full of rusty and bloody instruments, and he wants Kyle for his experiments. Kyle knows that his only hope of escaping the Darkest Corners is to defeat Doc Mortis and his freakish porters and find the cure to the poison, hidden somewhere in the hospital.
The brilliant Barry Hutchison has, once again, managed to create an even-freakier Fiend and put Kyle in more scary situations. Barry seems to be able to increase the scare-factor with each Invisible Fiends book and this is no exception. In previous books Kyle has been able to use his imagination to help him defeat the Fiends but in Doc Mortis he’s left helpless and trapped in the horrific world of the Darkest Corners. Several things made Doc Mortis my favourite book in the series so far. The first was the re-appearance of a certain character, which left me feeling completely different about him (I can’t tell you who or it will spoil the surprise, and Barry would kill me!). The second was that we learn more about what happens to the invisible friends when they get forgotten and why they end up as messed-up as they are.
I highly recommend the Invisible Fiends series, especially for fans of Darren Shan and Derek Landy. Rush out and get the whole series from your bookshop or library now.
100 Things by Masayuki Sebe is a counting book crossed with a look-and-find book. On each page there are 100 things (as the title suggests), including 100 moles, 100 sheep, 100 fish and 100 cars. Not only can you count the things on each page, but you can find all the things that are the same colour (how many green fish?), find the odd one out (where is the child wearing the hat?) and find specific things on the page (find the elephant holding a pineapple or the mole who’s farting).
The vibrant colours, the simple, child-like pictures, and the amusing details on each page make 100 Things stand out. It’s the perfect book to share with children, especially on a cold Winter’s day when you’re stuck inside.
100 Things and Dinosaurs Galore (also by Masayuki Sebe) are published by the wonderful Gecko Press, the home of curiously good books from around the world.
My First Car Was Red is a really unique picture book by German author and illustrator Peter Schossow. It’s the story of a boy who is given an old, rusty pedal car by his grandfather. Together, they repair the car and give it a new coat of shiny red paint. The boy wants to take it out for a spin straight away but his grandfather takes him off to the Driving School to have lessons first. When he finally gets to go off on his own his little brother wants to join him, and this is the start of a wild ride uphill and downhill, through fields, spooky forests and tunnels, nearly hitting pigs, and being chased by wasps.
The thing that really makes this book unique are the road signs throughout the book. Each of the signs match up with the story perfectly (a speed bump sign for the bumpy field, a rockfall sign when they reach a cliff) and the story could almost be told without words, just the road signs.
The relationship between the brothers is realistically portrayed. I especially liked when the little brother offered to kiss his arm better. The story is perfect for boys (especially 4 and 5 year olds) because of the topic and the way in which the author talks about cars. Boys will be hooked right from the start where Peter describes all the work they have to do on the car
“First we took the whole thing apart…Then we hammered, sanded, patched and painted. I chose the colour – shiny red. We drilled holes and tightened nuts; we greased and oiled and upholstered.”
My First Car Was Red is a story to be read again and again, finding new things in the illustrations each time.
8 out of 10
I love both stories about war and stories about animals, which is my I love Michael Morpurgo. Most of his stories are about war or animals and sometimes both. His latest book is called Little Manfred and it’s about war, and a dog that sparks the memories of an old man.
It’s the summer of 1966 and Charley and her little brother, Alex, are walking their dog Manfred on the beach by their home when they notice two old men staring out to sea. When the two men discover that their dog is called Manfred, this sparks the memories of Walter and he tells the children about his experiences during World War II. Through Walter’s story, Charley and Alex learn about their mother’s past and her connection to Manfred, a German prisoner of war who was posted at her farmhouse when she was a little girl.
Michael Morpurgo has woven another amazing story of friendship, bravery, and forgiveness that transported me to another time and another place. Whenever I read a Michael Morpurgo book it’s almost as if he is sitting on my couch or in the library beside me, telling me the story, because I can hear his voice in my head. If you’ve ever seen one of his videos of him reading you’ll know that he’s got the perfect storytelling voice. Michael Foreman’s illustrations, once again, perfectly match the story because they can be bright and happy or dark and gloomy. I think Michael Morpurgo’s books are perfect for anyone and if you haven’t read any of his books, Little Manfred is a great one to start with.
Recommended for 7+ 10 out of 10
If you want to know more about the story and find out what Michael Morpurgo’s inspiration was, you can read about it on the Guardian Children’s Books website.