We had just walked past the half-way line when we heard it.
The heavy, thudding sound of a helicopter, coming in low over the hills.
The sound very quickly got louder. Choppers aren’t known for their lightning speed, but this baby was certainly moving. It was flying without lights as well. By the time we picked out its shape silhouetted against the night sky above the floodlights, it was right on top of us.
It swooped in and landed in a corner of the training field, forty metres away. As soon as it touched down, a side door opened. Six men hit the ground running. they were wearing balaclavas, and were dressed in black combat fatigues. All six of them were carrying black assault rifles. Without a word they fanned out and sprinted across the field towards us.
Fletcher Smith is a 14 year-old boy, living in his father’s office at the Australian Institute of Sport. His parents are recuperating in a Swiss health farm after a car accident that Fletcher knows was no accident. He is sure the crash was masterminded by Samson Bolivar, high-flying sports-management specialist and (according to Fletcher) master criminal. In his parent’s absence, Fletcher is taking on some of his family’s sports crime investigations. It’s a great way to avoid going back to school. Blood Sports begins with Fletcher and his friend/minder, Frank Suleymanoglou, witnessing a high-tech kidnap of the newly appointed super coach for the Australian rugby team. Even though no one has employed them, Fletcher and ex-boxer Frank begin to investigate. There are many suspects, so they start with the closest – the recently sacked captain of the Australian rugby team.
Blood Sports mixes criminal investigation on a grand scale with elite sport. Jonathan Harlen puts his tongue firmly in his cheek and takes the reader on a roller coaster voyage through the rarefied world that is elite sport. In the best tradition of private investigation, Fletcher and Frank experience high octane adventure and repeatedly escape the most un-escapable circumstances. Think teenage Bond with the same level of adrenalin and absurdity. There is techno-speak to spare, whether it’s on the specs of helicopters, the importation of banned weapons or the pathway to tennis stardom. Blood Sports is the second in Harlen’s Fletcher Smith Sports P.I. series. Recommended for upper-primary to lower-secondary readers.
Blood Sports, Jonathan Harlen
2008 Scholastic Press
When the Judge family meet their neighbours, the Cadwallers, they like them almost as much as they like their new house and their new neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, the Cadwaller’s don’t stay nice for long. When Mrs Cadwaller wins forty million dollars in a big lottery, the whole family changes. First, they blow up their old house to build a new one, then they start staging big parties and flying helicopters at all hours. The final straw is when they try to buy the Judge’s house.
Emma, however, has an idea. With the help of her brilliant new invention, she and brother Toby are out to fight Dick Cadwaller and win.
The Cockroach War is a humorous novel for 8 to 12 year old readers. With a combination of humour, adventure and down right silliness, author Jonathan Harlen shows that anything is possible with a little inventiveness (and a whole lot of cockroaches).
The Cockroach War, by Jonathan Harlen
Allen & Unwin 2000, republished 2003
When Sam Tucker saves a dingo from drowning in the mud, she doesn’t realise this event will change her life. Back home, her family is in trouble. Their wombat farm is struggling through a drought and Sam’s brother, Billy, has become a quadraplegic. If that isn’t enough to contend with, Sam’s Dad, Fred Tucker, has decided to turn to a life of crime to mend the family fortunes.
It’s up to Sam to help her dad out of trouble. She also has a plan for turning their fortunes around. This plan involves journeying deep into the desert to the legendary lost paradise of Malagar, where she will face the Ultimate Test and perhaps be granted a wish.
Drop Dead, Mad Dog Fred is the latest funny offering from author Jonathan Harlen. Packed full of silliness and the most unlikely of situations, it will appeal to 8 to 12 year old readers.
Drop Dead, Mad Dog Fred, by Jonathan Harlen
Allen & Unwin, 2003
Ever read a book narrated by an elephant? What about a DEAD elephant? Well, here is your chance, because Circus Bezerkus, the latest funny offering from Jonathan Harlen, is in fact narrated by the ghost of a circus elephant.
Before his death, Rajah (the elephant) was very close to one Marvin Gumbo, son of the owner of Circus Bezerkus, and the only boy in the world who can kiss his own bottom.
When Rajah dies, he finds himself a ghost, who must work to save Marvin and the whole circus from an untimely demise at the hands of another ghost, that of Dancing Dan, the incredible lion-tamer, who lost his head when he rollerskated over the tail of one of his own lions.
Full of silliness and circus stereotypes, this is a book which will have kids aged 8 to 12 laughing aloud. Adults will enjoy it too.
Jonathan Harlen was born in New Zealand and now lives in New South Wales with his wife and three children. His many books include Brain Scam and The Cockcroach War. Circus Bezerkus is set to be a similar success.
Circus Bezerkus, by Jonathan Harlen
Allen and Unwin, 2002