Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mutiny at Crossbones Bay

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Too hard for a five-year-old! We took Mutiny at Crossbones Bay (and a couple more from this series) out of the library, thinking it would be like Lucy and the Sea Monster, but, alas for now, it is a series for the next age range up…perhaps for eight-year olds. The text is for a confident reader, and the puzzles are time-consuming and tricky for a child who’s not come across the idea of code-cracking before. In one puzzle, a shape must be traced accurately and cut out exactly to fit over parts of the picture to reveal a secret message. Another requires knowledge of a compass and mapreading. Others call for careful transcription of the alphabet to crack the code. Mazes have gone up a couple of notches in difficulty, occasionally requiring some arithmetic. The story is pretty exciting, too, and with Swashbuckle being all the kids want to watch on TV at the moment, we were content with the piratical theme.

This series (Usborne Puzzle Adventures) is a treat for future years. I hear tell of a box set of these too.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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OK, I should have attended my book club meeting for this one. Definitely. It might have shed some light in the darkness. Because I have to admit I didn’t really get it. I quite enjoyed it…it was no hardship trucking through the 700 or so pages with the likeable protagonist, Shadow. I managed to spot many of the thinly disguised gods that pepper the pages, sometimes extremely incidentally. I got the (anti)christ allusion, what with Shadow inexplicably agreeing to be hung on the world tree for the sake of his father Odin. I got the ‘road trip’ structure. I foresaw the sacrificed children, though I don’t see why the whole Lakeside subplot needed to be there. There were a lot of overly symbolic dreams and otherworld visits that managed to be both tiresome and scary. Nobody ever seemed to stay dead. Though Shadow’s wife’s resurrection certainly didn’t seem to take the plot anywhere. The initial premise that forgotten gods fade and die (even when exported by immigrants to America) and that we have some new ones based on trains and TV and such called things like Media (ho ho, yes I got the nod to the classics there), making a Final Battle inevitable, eventually gets supplanted with the idea that the whole battle was a con set up by Odin and Loki to supply some fresh blood. I think. Shadow stops it. I think. Or was it The Land (aka an underground buffalo)? And there were also a lot of coin tricks.

Lucy and The Sea Monster To The Rescue

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More puzzle story fun! This is a sequel to Lucy and the Sea Monster, one of the Usborne Young Puzzle Adventures, a series by different authors with titles such as Molly’s Magic Carpet and Uncle Pete’s Pirate Adventure. The series seems to be aimed at slightly older readers, perhaps newly independent readers, following on from the excellent Young Puzzles books by Susannah Leigh. As in all the puzzle tales, a child has to read a simple paragraph or two per page, and solve a small puzzle, such as spotting something integral to the next event, or finding the way through a maze. At each page turn there’s a cliffhanger fraught with the kind of excitement that bugs out a five-year-old’s eyes. And although I didn’t find the tale quite as gripping as my daughter did, the little challenges do brighten up the story by seeming to involve the reader in the success of the quest. Plus, in this one, Lucy gets to ride through the waves on Horace the friendly sea monster’s back (again) to rescue her castaway pals on Treasure Island. Pirates too, y’see. Via Chocolate Island (vicarious tasty treats as well). As far as I can tell, the main difference between this series and the Young Puzzles books is there’s a bit more reading and a bit less puzzling. Suitable for co-reading from age four, probably.