The Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles) by Holly Block and Tony DiTerlizzi

This has turned into YA fiction week here at CM.  So we might as well keep things going with another illustrated chapter book.  The Wyrm King is the final book in the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles which appropriately enough followed The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Here is a video trailer to pique your interest:

For those of you more literal and less visual here is the blurb:

In the final installment of Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, Nick and Laurie had thought they solved their giant problems when they drove all the giants into the sea. But now, the Grace kids have come back to tell them they may have more trouble coming their way!

It turns out the giants control the population of Hydra, a dragon like creature that is creating sinkholes all over Florida. But with the mermaids refusing to return the giants to the shore, the nixie’s still missing and the threat of a destroyed Florida drawing closer, the kids have to take matters in their own hands.

Will Nick and Laurie be able to stop the destruction they unwittingly caused? Can a new giant hunter help save the day? Can Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide help them out of this or are they on their own?

My quick take: for the intended audience (ages 9-12) this final installment is an action packed conclusion to a fun series.  For me, however, the series had run its course and I no longer looked forward to each new book with such anticipation.  So while The Wyrm King was well done it lacked some of the magic of the earlier series.

A bit more below.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil by Wiley Miller

Cover of "The Extraordinary Adventures of...

Cover via Amazon

As regular readers know, I have long had an interest in both well written and/or beautifully illustrated children’s books and chapter books/young adult fiction.  Lately I have been checking out some books that fit in between picture type books you read to your kids and full fledged fiction they read themselves.

One such example, I picked up at a local library sale was Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil written by the creator of the Non Sequitor comic strip Wiley Miller.  Allow me to steal the plot description from the School Library Journal:

It’s 1899, and 12-year-old Basil lives in a lighthouse on the coast of Maine. A dour, gnomish lad with an oversize head, he longs for adventure. When a balloon piloted by a kindly, mysterious man appears outside his window, the boy leaps aboard and soars off to a fantastic city in the sky. Professor Angus McGookin has brought him to Helios, the home of a secret, advanced society, and Basil is soon caught up in an adventure involving evil scientists, pteranodons, and mechanical armies.

I read the book to my daughter who is almost five years old and she enjoyed it enough to sit still and listen to it over the course of two nights.  I found it clever and interesting.

The bright fun color illustrations add some zip and visual excitement to the story. The story itself is certainly not all that unique (boy finds secret world, has been chosen to play a role, bad guy threatens all that is good, etc.) but I found it entertaining and a nice mix of adventure and mystery. There is sense throughout that not only is a sequel in the works but there is a whole lot to the story that isn’t being told.

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Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers

BeastologistWhen I am stressed out, or just looking for some light reading, I often turn to young adult fiction or chapter books.  They can be quite entertaining and often have quality illustrations.  I enjoy seeing how different authors approach the genre.  Having young kids, I also figure it is good practice.

My most recent read along these lines was Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book I) which caught my attention at the local library.  The story starts off with a pretty common hook: boy is orphaned and sent to live with relatives; and the relatives seem odd and foreboding.  But after that it takes a different turn.

Here is the publishers blurb:

Nathaniel Fludd’s life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin—the world’s last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world’s only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone.
Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world’s mythical creatures and extinction.
Too bad Nate’s not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure . . .yet.
Despite the dangerously close to tired orphan meets adventure story line, it turned out to be a cute and well paced story.  The concept of a Fludd family whose job it is to take care of exotic animals thought extinct offers enough adventure while at the same time leaving room for mystery and keeping the reader excited about further books in the series.  Nate, his Aunt Phil, and the gremlin Greasle are all interesting characters that I look forward to seeing developed.
Of course, this is a children’s chapter book so don’t expect deep plots and complex characters.  But if you have young children looking for another adventure series to get hooked on, this one has a promising start.