H. J. Harper
Touching on the lives of a movie star, a werewolf, a ninja, a zombie, an animancer and a robot, H. J. Harper’s Star League series has a finger in the pie of many popular genres. Adding to this impressive list of intriguing character profiles, the protagonists (who take turns narrating different volumes of the series), are around 12 years old, making them easy for young readers to relate to. Despite their special powers, each of the kids has their own assortment of schoolyard and personal problems to come to terms with (another common thread with which to link characters and readers). Without preaching too loudly this collection of stories teach some good values and life lessons about friendship, cooperation, loyalty, respect, responsibility and not taking everything at face value.
The books provide a relatively light introduction to various aspects of Fantasy, with a vocabulary and short chapter layout suitable for children just breaking into chapter books. There’s more than enough action to captivate readers with attention spans that are, shall we say, vertically challenged. And for those who aren’t reeled in by the action there’s always the laughs (and the great thing about groanworthy puns is that – to a young audience – they’re mostly new material, and get genuine laughs). H. J. Harper packs the puns in just the way kids like them: fast, frequent and funny. A good, yet subtle, bit of tuition in the practical application of tools of the writing trade (such as homophones), for kids who might like to get into writing themselves.
Feedback from our resident 8 year old critic included a double thumbs up (on account of his mouth being full at the time), followed by “Awesome!” In fact his only beef with these stories was that the illustrations mostly preceded the corresponding action scenes in the text. But he soon got over that.
In these stories Ben Beaumont, a renowned film director, brings together our band of unlikely heroes: Jay (movie star), Connor (werewolf), Asuka (ninja), Roger (zombie), Leigh (animancer) and Sam (robot) to found GALACTIC (the General Anti-lawbreaker Association Committed to Immobilising Criminals). Under their “cover” of being movie stars for Ben’s productions, together the team strives to thwart the various evil plans of their archenemy Professor Pestilence.
Star League #1: Lights, Camera, Action Hero! (ISBN 9781864718669)
Narrated by Jay Casey. Soon after Ben Beaumont founds GALACTIC, and proclaims Jay their leader, Jay’s only remaining relative (his uncle Jefferson) is kidnapped by foes loyal to Professor Pestilence. The professor is amassing an army of droids (Humabots) to take over the world and plans to blackmail Jay into publically endorsing them through a live TV interview. Can the team rescue Jefferson and foil the professor’s evil plan before Jay’s movie star reputation goes down the tube?
Star League #2: Curse of the Werewolf (ISBN 9781864718676)
Narrated by Connor. Already feeling guilty about choosing to leave his werewolf family to join GALACTIC, Connor is stunned when a string of savage attacks is linked to local werewolves. After some quick investigating GALACTIC realise that it is all part of a plot, cooked up by Baron von Wulfheim and Professor Pestilence, to create a werewolf potion. Trying to take matters into his own hands, Connor falls into the baron’s clutches, who plans to use him as the subject of his next experiment. Can the team make a monkey out of the baron, foil the professor’s evil plans, and clear the name of werewolves, before Connor gets caught up in a scheme that may well cost him his identity?
Star League #3: Raising the Dead (ISBN 9781864718683)
Narrated by Roger. When Roger’s zombie recipe book falls into the hands of Nefertina (who needs a zombification potion to bring mummies back from the dead for Professor Pestilence) he is in very real danger of falling apart. Because if Roger can’t get his hands on the recipe for his loosification juice in the next few hours he’ll go to pieces – literally! If only he’d made a backup – a valuable Life lesson from a dead boy. Can the team get to the bottom of a spate of Museum artefact thefts and return Roger’s recipe book before he is rendered completely ‘armless (not to mention legless and headless)?
Star League #4: The Ninja Code (ISBN 9781864718690)
narrated by Asuka. The glamour and fame of being a movie star (the cover that Ben Beaumont designed for members of GALACTIC) is taking its toll on this usually reclusive ninja. So Asuka jumps at an opportunity to get away from it all and have a remote ninja reunion. However, all is not what it seems. When Asuka discovers that the ninjas are only uniting to target her friends – the Star League – and her brother Ari is captured, it stops being the relaxing getaway that she was hoping for. Can the team free Ari and clear their names with the ninja clan before the ninjas bring an end to GALACTIC’s Star League?
Books 1-4 of the Star League series were published in June 2011 by Random House Australia, and are intended for confident readers of ages 7 and up. Keep your eyes peeled for books 5 and 6!
A Bug in a Book Review
by Scott Chambers