Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths by Craig Cormick

When the Goth pirates attacked his father’s ship, Valdur was hiding in a barrel of pickles with his pet dragon, Ragna. He heard his father cry out, ‘By Odin’s hairy toes, it’s the Goths!’ Then there was the sound of lots of fighting. And, right next to him, there was also the sound of the last pickle being eaten.

Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths  - Craig CormickWhen the Goth pirates attacked his father’s ship, Valdur was hiding in a barrel of pickles with his pet dragon, Ragna. He heard his father cry out, ‘By Odin’s hairy toes, it’s the Goths!’ Then there was the sound of lots of fighting. And, right next to him, there was also the sound of the last pickle being eaten.

Valdur and the few remaining ghost Vikings are on a mission to save his father and the rest of the crew after they are kidnapped by his deadly enemy Germanicus Bottom and his shipload of ghostly Goths. To help Valdur, there’s a lookout called Ivar Lostoffen, a cook called Reiner Rankbreath who looks like a cow, his apprentice Hilda, and Gunnar Shortas, the midget cabin boy. And of course Ragna, Valdur’s dog (who just might be a dragon). There is adventure to be had, danger to be overcome, bargains to resist and real non-ghost ships to avoid if they are to have a chance of effecting a rescue. Each chapter includes ghostly illustrations by Hanna Cormick.

‘Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths’ is a comically spooky Viking, Gothic adventure for young independent readers. Valdur doesn’t really want to captain his father’s ship – he would rather just be playing with his dog/dragon. But someone has to take charge and it has to be him. He blunders and bluffs his way along, with and despite the assistance of his incapable crew, overcoming piracy attempts and almost-detections by living humans and their ships. Embedded in the humour and the adventure are titbits about Goths and Vikings and life at sea. Recommended for newly independent readers in junior- mid primary years.

Valdur the Viking and the Ghostly Goths, Craig Cormick
Ford Street Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925272420

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

The two littlest Vikings are getting bigger and stronger and wilder every day. Nothing scares them at all and that worries Knut no end.

Josh loves all things Viking – so much so that he prefers to be called Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Hardly anything scares him, except perhaps his little twin siblings, who get into everything and don’t seem to be scared of anything. When Nan and Pop take the family to Viking World, a theme park, the twins’ adventurous antics will land them in a whole lot of trouble, which only Josh can save them from.

In the meantime, up in Asgard, the Norse Gods have their eye on Knut and the twns. When Thor decides to head down to Viking World, he leaves his friends unprotected. Josh’s actions down below could unwittingly help out his unearthly friends.

The Last Viking Returns is a sequel to the popular The Last Viking,though it stands comfortably on its own. There’s plenty of humour and action, and the twin plot lines mean this will appeal to readers well into the school years. The illustrations, using pencil and digital watercolour, are rich and detailed, and the endpapers include a map of the theme park, and a code in runes.

Great fun!

The Last Viking Returns, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781925161151

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Outcasts, by John Flanagan

‘Oars! Oars!’ shouted Hal. Even without the sail they still had plenty of momentum and the edge of the mole seemed to shoot by him. He ehard the clatter of wood on wood as the crew ran out the oars. Ahead of him Wolfwind loomed closer and closer. He thrust savagely on the steering oar and Heron’s bow began to swing…But he still wasn’t sure if it was turning fast enough.

Hal Mikkelson has always been a bit of an outcast. his mother was an Araluen slave, and his father, though Skandian, is dead. The only friends he has are Thorn – a recovering alcoholic who was his father’s best friend – and Stig, whose father is a thief. When it comes time for brotherband training Hal and Stigg find themselves grouped with other misfits. Together they must complete their warrior training and compete against two other brotherbands in a series of challenges. There can be only one winner, and no one expects it to be Hal’s group. But what the outcasts lack in strength and numbers, they compensate for in courage and ingenuity.

The Outcasts is the first title in the new Brotherband series from John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The new series is set in the same reality as the older one, and will  appeal to its fans. The two heroes also share similarities. Hal, like Ranger Will, is a misfit who is clever and brave. the pair also both have no father. But in spite f the similarities they are different characters – and the setting and storyline, too, are quite different, offering readers something new, yet still in Flanagan’s popular style. What is the same is the sense of lots of action, an absorbing and diverse cast, and plenty of tension.

Young readers – boys especially – will love the action and the viking village setting, and will wait eagerly for the next installment to see more of Hal and his friends’ adventures.

The Outcasts (Brotherband)

The Outcasts (Brotherband), by John Flanagn
Random House, 2011

This book can be pruchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley

Young Josh is very brave.
He’s not afraid of anyone or anything – except maybe the dark and the sound of ghosts whistling in the trees at night.
Pirates worry him a bit, of course, and so do boy-eating dinosaurs, and monsters under the bed. He’s also just a little afraid of dragons and vampires.
But other than those few things, Josh is as brave as a lion.
Sort of.

Josh is scared of a lot of things – including going to stay at Nan and Pop’s house by himself. But once there, his Pop gives him a book about the wonderful world of Vikings and, as Josh reads, he decides that he, too will become a Viking. No longer is he timid Josh – now he is bold, brave Knut, Prince of the Vikings. Now he’s ready to face anything.

But when he encounters a bunch of bullies in the local park, Josh/Knut isn’t so sure he has what it takes to be a Viking. Only by digging deep – and perhaps with a little intervention from some Viking Gods – will he find his inner strength.

The Last Viking is a beautiful new picture book offering from the pairing of award winning author Norman Jorgensen and talented debut illustrator James Foley. The story is a lovely blend of gentle wisdom and fun, and the illustrations (a blend of pencil, ink and digital watercolour) are full of detail and layering that reveal more on each reading. The darkness of some of the Viking illustrations is cleverly offset by bright colours and humour in other illustrations, proving a satisfying blend.

A wonderful offering for pre and lower primary aged readers – and their adults.

The Last Viking

The Last Viking, by Norman Jorgensen & James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2011
ISBN 9781921888106

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Runestone, by Anna Ciddor

Thora has a problem. She is the only one in the family who can’t do magic. None of her spells work and she can’t protect herself like her other family members do. Across the valley, Oddo has the opposite problem. He is supposed to be a farmer, yet he can make magic that changes the weather or controls animals. His father won’t abide magic, so Oddo has to hide his skills.

When Oddo and Thora meet, they learn to help each other. Thora explains the world of magic to Oddo, and learns to plant and grow on Oddo’s farm. Thora suggests Oddo use his newfound magic to fix things up but, when things go wrong, the two friends learn that magic isn’t always the best way. Together they must work to put things to rights – making use of both magic and hard work – a union which pays dividends.

Set in the world of Vikings, Runestone is a rich narrative fantasy – strong both on plot and imagination. Author Anna Ciddor makes use of real Viking lifestyle and beliefs in this first book of her Viking Magic series.

Runestone, by Anna Ciddor
Allen & Unwin, 2002