Why kids (and parents!) love it: For too long, there has been a hole in the children’s book market – where are the novels about genetically modified hamsters? About villains who are half man, half snake? A how-to on handling the awkwardness that comes with shape shifting in the middle of your school library? Never fear, because Mick Elliott and The Turners are here.
In The Turners, the first in a new Australian series for ages 7 – 13, Leo Lennox has a very disappointing thirteenth birthday. Rather than catching the eye of the lovely Lily across the library, or hanging out with his buddy Jinx, or even just having a quiet evening at home with his big sister Abbie and father Vernon, Leo has grown a very uncomfortable, quite itchy tail and gained a craving for mice. Something is not right.
So begins the thoroughly enjoyable shape-shifting adventures of Leo, as he is let into a secret that has been part of his family for generations. As he learns the rules of his new ‘gift’, Leo and his family realise he is even more special that anyone first thought, and that there are bad guys out there who are willing to do anything (really, anything – flesh eating pigs are involved) to stop him.
This is a fantastic series for hesitant readers. It can be challenging to keep kids, especially boys, engrossed in a longer book but the fast paced Turners breezes past that test. It’s funny, in a way that will make adults smile too, and smart.
What we loved the most was the relationship between Leo and his big sister Abbie. Abbie is eighteen, which feels like a world away to Leo. They’d been drifting apart, but the events of Leo’s birthday catapult them into working together. It’s refreshing to have such a realistic sibling relationship here, even in the wackiness that is The Turners. There are awkward moments, there’s merciless teasing, they recognise that they may not always have a lot in common. At the end of the day, Abbie and Leo care very deeply about each-other and always have the other’s back – quite literally, there’s a dropping –out-of-the-sky- and-being-caught-in-the-claws-of-a-bird-scenario.
The plot of The Turners moves very quickly but is easy to follow, with a great balance of suspense and humour. The text is a good size, and at 250 pages will engross your enthusiastic reader for a decent amount of time. Depending on the reading level, these books will be great fun for mid to late primary schoolers all the way up to early high school.
Mick Elliott has been entertaining children for years as an award-winning producer for Nickelodeon. This is his first book, and it’s clear that Elliott knows what will absorb and amuse kids. You can read our interview with Mick here – he tells us where the idea came from, what makes this shape-shifting story different to things you may have read before, and of course, which animal he’d choose to Turn into.
The Turners marks an exciting new debut in the Australian kids’ book scene, and there will be two more books in the series – the next one has Leo at school camp, which is only sort of totally disastrous – and we can’t wait to hear what happens next!
Are your kids planning to pick up The Turners? We’d love to hear what they like about the book in the comments.
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