The Twelve Tasks of Hercules, by Dion Hamill

Hercules was one of the most famous characters in ancient Greek mythology. He was the son of the great god Zeus and the mortal woman Alkmene.

Beginning with an outline of the story of Hercules, this puzzle book presents some innovative alternatives for readers to help him achieve each of the twelve tasks. It introduces the tasks set Hercules, but instead of the often violent solutions evident in the traditional myth, it offers puzzles. There are mazes and clear thinking exercises.

Myths and legends are a rich source of learning and entertainment for each new generation. Hercules is a popular figure who continues to attract new fans. Puzzle books like The Twelve Tasks of Hercules introduce younger readers to age-old stories in an engaging format. These are quite sophisticated illustrations and puzzles designed for a mid-primary reader, but could also be read to a younger child as an introduction to both myth and puzzle books.

An enjoyable addition to the strong collection of puzzle books from Little Hare Books.

The Twelve Tasks of Hercules by Dion Hamill
Little Hare Books, 2006
ISBN: 9781921049538

Two Interactive Puzzle Books

Kids love books with an interactive element and these two new offerings from Little Hare publishers offer plenty of interactivity in the form of puzzles and mazes.

Amazeing Ruins offers a series of mazes for children to find their way through. Each maze is a path through a lost civilisation – from the Colosseum in Rome, to the Great Wall of China and Babylon in Iraq. Hamill uses various art mediums to create each double page spread, with the paths of the mazes being woven into the detailed illustration. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the path is etched in hieorglyphics, whilst in Bayon, Cambodia, the path is made of vines.

As well as a page showing soltions, Amazeing Ruins also includes a brief note about the history of each site depicted in the mazes, so that the book is not only fun, but also educational.

Puzzlemazia by Rolf Heimann also includes mazes, as well as puzzles of various types. Many youngsters will already be familiar with Heimann’s work and this offering includes Heimann’s trademark bright illustrations, with a range of challenges from relatively easy to mind-bogglingly confusing.

At a rrp of $10.95, this pair make affordable and entertaining gifts and would be great for long car or plane trips.

Amazeing Ruins, by Dion Hamill
Puzzlemania, by Rolf Heimann
Both from Little Hare , 2004

Set Free, by June Keir

When the new boy – Zach – starts school, he is put in the empty desk net to Ben and Ben is told to look after him. But Ben can’t get Zach to talk to him, and neither can anyone else. Zach follows Ben around and even does what Ben tells him, but he won’t speak to him.

When Ben invites Zach to come to the national park with him, the pair stumble across a poacher trying to trap the birds in the park. As they try to track the poachers’ movements, the boys find themselves caught up in more trouble than either can handle. Zach needs to speak and to overcome his fears if they are to survive.

Set Free is a fast paced adventure for kids, but it is also much more. Zach’s trauma stems from his experiences as a refugee coming to Australia on a leaky boat and being interred in an immigrant detention centre. Ben has had trauma of his own – his best friend James has been knocked off his bike by a truck and killed. Both boys have to put these experiences behind them as they form their new freindship and tackle the dramas that unfold in the national park.

Part of the new Breakers series from Macmillan Education, Set Free is a thought-provoking read suitable for private reading as well as classroom use.

Great reading.

Set Free, by June Keir, illustrated by Dion Hamill
Macmillan Education, 2004

Sir Lanceklot, by Arfa King

Sir Lanceklot, the apple-loving ruler of the kingdom of Booblefitz, is enjoying a peaceful session of apple munching when he is summoned. There is a damsel in deep distress and Lanceklot must save her.

Riding his beloved horse Be-elzebuuble, Lanceklot hastens to Flossie Castle where a huge fire-breathing dragon is holding captive Princess Flossie and the other residents of the castle. Only Lanceklot can save them.

Lanceklot must contend with rose bushes, a horse which seems to misplace its head, and, of course, a fearsome dragon before he can rescue the beautiful Flossie. Thankfully he has valour – and good luck – on his side.

Children aged 7 to 10 will love the hilarious adventures of the bumbling knight in Sir Lanceklot and the Apple Missiles, by the aptly named Arfa King, with outstanding illustrations by Dion Hamill. They will also love the fact that, once the story is over, they can turn the book over and find another Lanceklot adventure.

In this second story Sir Lanceklot and the Great Raspberry Adventure, Lanceklot is horrified to learn that the kingdom is facing an apple shortage. The evil Lord Gruff has taken all of the apples. The people of Booblefitz are relying on Sir Lanceklot to help them once again.

Of course, Lanceklot never does things the easy way – first he forgets his horse, then he gets covered in raspberry juice. When he finally gets to Lord Gruff’s orchards, he is surrounded by bulls, who think he smells rather yummy. Will Lanceklot lick the bulls before the bulls are through with licking him?

The two Lanceklot stories are part of the wonderful new children’s line, Banana Splits, from Otford Press’s children’s book imprint, Banana Books. Each Banana Split includes two stories back to back, with either the same characters or similar subject matter. Budget conscious parents and librarians will love the value for money, and young readers will love both the novelty of the format and the fun stories.

Sir Lanceklot and the Apple Missiles; Sir Lanceklot and the Great Raspberry Adventure, by Arfa King, illustrated by Dion Hamill
Banana Books, Otford Press, 2002