Ninja Kid #8: Ninja Dogs! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

Grandma has another new invention, a dog transformation bracelet. Good timing, too, because everyone’s pets are now missing.

‘Do you think Dr Kane’s involved?’

Considering any time anything out of the ordinary happens in Duck Creek it’s because Dr Kane has some new dastardly plan, I would have said it’s a given that he’s now in the pet-napping business. I would have been wrong.

It turns out that the pets aren’t the only ones MIA in this book. While Dr Kane is using his annual leave, the baddie void in Duck Creek is filled by the Collector from the Rise of the Mythix series. Also making a cameo is the front cover of the first book in the Pow Pow Pig series.

When I find subtle nods to author’s other books in the one I’m reading, I generally find it adorable and usually feel super smart for having found them. The crossovers in Anh Do books aren’t nods anymore; they’re beginning to feel more and more like advertisements.

They don’t even make sense most of the time. The Rise of the Mythix series have an older target audience than Ninja Kid so most readers won’t even know who the Collector is.

I accidentally read the ninth Ninja Kid book before this one so had been wondering how Noodles made their way into the family. I’m glad I know now but the constant crossovers are making me question how much longer I’m going to continue reading Anh Do’s books.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Something strange is going on… all the animals in town have DISAPPEARED! But with Grandma’s latest invention, Nelson and Kenny can sniff out trouble by TURNING INTO DOGS! How will they find the pets when they can’t stop PLAYING FETCH?!

Beware, Beware the Drop Bear – Heath McKenzie

Drop bears are the stuff of legends. They’re as Australian as riding a kangaroo to school.

Doing their part to ensure this national treasure never faces extinction, Heath McKenzie takes what Aussies already know about this fearsome creature and runs with it. 

A classic Aussie father, complete with the requisite t-shirt tan line, thongs and propensity to kick back with their feet on an Esky, spins a yarn to a couple of kids. You just know he’s already told this story a hundred times, embellishing it more with every retelling.

The description of the drop bear becomes more outrageous as the story progresses (this drop bear even hands out vouchers for discounts on stuff!). 

Satisfied they’ve done what they can for the day to contribute to their children’s future therapy sessions, the adults have a good laugh. But maybe the joke’s on them…

The illustrations bring the character of the father to life and include some details that I loved, from the Acca Dacca singlet to the Bubble O’ Bill ice cream that’s currently melting all over one of the kids.

As an Australian, I fully endorse this addition to the drop bear legend. It’s fun and it’s silly and I know that I would have wanted to read this over and over as a kid. And maybe as an adult.

Bonus points for being released on April Fool’s Day!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

For many long years, tales have been spread, that fill (mostly tourists) with horror and dread.

Tales about creatures all covered in hair that lurk in the branches – YOU’D BETTER BEWARE!

You’d better look up. You’d better run fast … for maybe the DROP BEARS have found you at last!

Worst Week Ever! #2: Tuesday – Eva Amores & Matt Cosgrove

After starting his Monday at the ungodly time of 5am, Justin Chase gets a bit of a sleep in today. He needed it, though, what with everything he endured yesterday. Not that he was sleeping in a comfy bed or anything. 

His missing cat, presumably abducted by aliens (although between you and I, it wouldn’t surprise me if Captain Fluffykins turns out to be the alien), appeared on the TV screen at midnight. While the TV was unplugged, mind you. Naturally, Justin fainted at this point, which is why he’s woken up on the floor.

Perhaps he should have stayed asleep because the Code Brown incident from yesterday, which should never be spoken of again, has gone viral. 

But the show must go on and today’s school photo day!

Justin is keen to break his unintentional school photo tradition. It’s not too much to ask to have one school photo where your eyes are open, is it?

Today’s also the day of the Super Science Spectacular.

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‘WHO’S READY TO BE SCIENCED?’ 

Tuesday was just as much fun to read about as Monday, with the events of Monday creating a domino effect that I expect to compound as the week progresses. While bodily functions weren’t focused on quite as much, scenes of kid friendly body horror added to the humour. I’m not ashamed to say that I experienced schadenfreude while watching Justin unwittingly wander from one excruciatingly embarrassing moment to the next.

I need to spend some time in the Wally Valley Public School Library, where you should be on the look out for a sneaky cameo of Macca the Alpaca and Dharma the Llama. There’s even a book vending machine.

The illustrations remain engaging and funny. I was hoping for as many deleted scenes as there were in the first book but only encountered one; it did feature adorable piglets, though, so all is forgiven.

Mia’s drawings are still brilliant. Is it creepy if I tell you her zombie unicorn is to die for?

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Justin’s Nan, who I flagged as my potential series favourite in the first book, didn’t have much to do in this one. I’m still holding out hope that she’ll claim her prize before the end of the week, although Mia is definitely a contender.

Justin has now survived Miserable Monday and Traumatic Tuesday. It’s a good thing he wore his lucky undies to school today or who knows what might have happened?!

What’s in store for Wacky Wednesday? I can only imagine. The only thing I know for sure is it won’t be boring.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have YOU ever had a BAD WEEK?

Justin Chase sure has, and THIS is it!

He barely made it through MONDAY, but now it’s … TUESDAY!

His cat is still missing, probably abducted by aliens. His dad is more embarrassing than ever. He’s unexpectedly gone viral online in the worst possible way. And when school photo day collides with the Super Science Spectacular, it’s destined to blow up into a hair-raising, teeth-shattering disaster of epic proportions!

WeirDo #18: Weird History! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jules Faber

Miss Franklin is excited about a writing competition. The best entry in the class will be entered in the regional competition. The school that wins gets a voucher to spend at Buster’s Bookshop. Miss Franklin wants her students to incorporate what they’ve been learning about history in their stories.

By chapter two, what was promising to be a fun and creative story devolved into advertising for the one of the author’s new series, Pow Pow Pig. Even weirder, these series have different publishers.

When Weir, Henry, Bella and Sue decide to hang out after school, they find Weir’s father’s old costume box. This results in them dressing up as a chicken, Barry the goat, a duck and a pig. Uh huh. Then there are the not so subtle sound effects…

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The illustrations were fun. The one where the kids slide down the neck of a brontosaurus to get to the playground reminded me of how Fred Flintstone’s workday finished. 

But I just can’t get excited about a book whose sole purpose is to plug another series.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Weir and his friends have been busy working on stories for an awesome writing competition! Will mixing heroes with history help them win the prize?! Only time will tell! It won’t be easy … but it will be funny!

Ninja Kid #9: Ninja Fish! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

Nelson and Kenny really want to visit the aquarium but the tickets are too expensive. It’s a good thing that the prize for the top four finalists at the regional swimming carnival are free tickets for their entire class. But the only thing that Nelson and Kenny excel at in a pool are belly flops. It’s a good thing Grandma is still an inventor! But it can’t be that easy, can it?

Random thoughts I had while reading this book that I doubt I would have had as a kid:

🦑 Had I already figured out that Dr Kane is Grandma’s son? Has sleep deprivation messed with my powers of deduction so much that I hadn’t connected the dots before or has it made me forget that I already knew this? Also, poor Grandma, having to live with the fact that one of her sons is a psychopath and the other is under their control. 

🦑 If spoilt rotten bully and all round irritating human being Charles is such a good swimmer, wouldn’t it have been easier to let him win all of the events at the school carnival so he could represent the school at the Regional Finals? Nelson and Kenny’s class would have benefited, no matter who won the prize.

🦑 They made a pool out of an old sardine can? I hope it was cleaned really well first or that water’s going to smell terrible.

🦑 Toot is the cutest baby turtle I’ve ever seen. I wonder if his parents would mind if I adopted him?

🦑 Where’s Dr Kane? Shouldn’t he have shown up by now? Oh, there he is.

🦑 Hold on, when did they get a dog? Did I forget that too? [Gets to the end of the book and sees the list of books in the series] Oh, I missed one! How did I miss one? [Orders book 8 from the library]

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There’s tickets to the amazing new aquarium up for grabs and Nelson and Kenny need to swim to win! But their swimming is so bad, they belong in the kiddie pool! Can Grandma’s latest awesome invention help turn these ninja flops into ninja fish?!

Hot Dog! #11: Tool Time! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Dan McGuiness

Hotdog and his friends, Lizzie and Kev, desperately want to go to Grizzney Land, but they don’t have any money to pay the admission fee.

There’s no problem these friends can’t solve, though. They decide to earn the money themselves by starting their own business. Some jobs are harder than others but the friends persevere and finally the big day arrives. It’s time for some fun!

While the usual teamwork and good attitudes from the three friends were on show throughout this book, it wasn’t one of my favourites of the series. The jokes weren’t quite as groanworthy as usual and I found myself wishing they were. 

I wasn’t quite sure how changing some rusty screws for new ones could magically make a gate that was seriously decrepit look brand new. I guess these friends are much more handy than I gave them credit for.

I enjoyed the time spent at Grizzney Land and definitely want to try out the Bear-O-Plane.

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hotdog and his friends want to go to GRIZZNEY LAND, so they need to make money FAST! They decide to fix things with their tools! Will they nail it? Or will it be one AXE-ident after another?

Worst Week Ever! #1: Monday – Eva Amores & Matt Cosgrove

Justin Chase is about to have a really bad week, starting at 5am. Who wants to be awake that early on a Monday? Not Justin, that’s for sure. Yesterday was a big enough day; his mother did marry a vampire after all.

Today is shaping up to be even more hectic. 

His mother and her new (possibly undead) husband are dropping Justin off at his father’s house on their way to their honeymoon. Justin’s father is on a new health kick (we’ll see how long that lasts) and is now only eating green things. That’s bad news for Justin, who can’t find any other colours in the fridge. His Nan lives with his father and you’re going to love her: she swears, crochets and drinks tea.

Justin’s cat, who is essentially a ball of furry attitude (cattitude?) is newly missing, presumably abducted by aliens. 

That kind of far-fetched, OUTLANDISH thing only really happens in PREPOSTEROUS kids’ books. 

You know, like this one.

And if that’s not enough, Justin’s being chauffeured to Day 1 of his brand new school in style. Sort of. His father drives an oversized toilet. 

’What the actual WHAT?!’ 

Besides scoring detention on his first day and having to endure Maths Monday, Justin also meets his archnemesis and makes a name for himself at school.

Kids who aren’t particularly squeamish (those with emetophobia may want to avoid this one) will love this book. Naturally, because this series was written during lockdown, toilet paper plays a fairly significant role (roll?) in this book. There are cringeworthy embarrassing moments, toilet humour and the promise of even more terrible and terribly funny things to come. Justin will be here all week!

The writing is fun but it’s the illustrations that really bring the horror story that is Justin’s Monday to life. 

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I loved the pages that the censors decided were too graphic to be seen, especially the one featuring the guinea pigs. 

Be on the lookout for The Pluminator. 

I’m most looking forward to getting to know Justin’s next door neighbour, Mia, whose own illustrations are not to be missed. I’m ready to call my favourite character of the series: Nan. She hasn’t had much page time yet but she’s got so much potential.

I’m keen to continue this series. Tuesday is school photo day and plenty can go wrong there, the kind of wrong that could easily haunt Justin into his adult life. It’s also the day of the Super Science Spectacular so I’m expecting some impressive explosive moments.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have you ever had a bad week? Justin Chase sure has, and this is it!

His mum has just married a vampire. His dad is driving a giant toilet on wheels. His cat has probably been abducted by aliens. A psychotic bully is making his first day at a new school miserable. And right now, he’s hanging off the edge of a ten-metre-high diving tower in front of his entire class, wearing nothing but rapidly disappearing crocheted swimmers.

And it’s only Monday!

WeirDo #17: Spinning Weird! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jules Faber

While Miss Franklin is busy channeling her inner Kate Winslet circa 1997, Weir’s class will be getting to know a substitute teacher. It’s good timing, too, because Weir’s basketball team, the Lions, are about to play against the Hyenas and they need all the help they can get. Fortunately, Weir’s new substitute teacher has a thing or two to teach the team. 

Meanwhile, Granddad is having a difficult time.

Of course, there were the requisite dad jokes and others that travelled so far in the direction of bad that they became groan funny. My favourite basketball joke was: 

Why do basketballers like cookies?
Because they can dunk them! 

The Do’s visited somewhere Nelson from Ninja Kid spends a lot of his time. Weir’s dad lends a hand in his own unique way, which also had me wondering if I was going to get to see Nelson’s Grandma. While my anticipated Ninja Kid crossover never happened, I want to believe Nelson, Kenny and Grandma were there, just off the edge of the page.

Be on the lookout for a shark who’s very happy about its potential meal, lots of dribbling and Jedi Weir.

Bonus points for the positive disability representation.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

LET’S GO, LIONS!

Weir and his basketball team REALLY want to WIN! But Bella and Henry’s ALLEY-OOP is more of an ALLY-OOPS! Toby’s DUNK is more of a CLUNK! And Weir’s free throw is more of an OH NO!

Can their new teacher Miss Carroll help out?

It won’t be easy … but it will be funny!

Malice’s Adventures in Underland #1: Malice in Underland – Jenni Jennings

Illustrations – Hannah Peck

Malice Malign and her family live in Malignant House, which has a skeleton in nearly every closet. The Maligns are Topunders, magical people who can live in Topside amongst the living or in Underland with the ghosts, but they don’t truly fit anywhere.

They’re a bit too alive for Underlanders and a bit too mischievous for the Topsiders.

Malice’s parents love being representatives of Underland, a “land of sorcery, spooks and skulduggery”. They run the Malign Haunting Agency, which takes some of Underland’s most troublesome ghosts and uses them to haunt houses Topside.

Malice was originally concerned about telling her best (only) friend, Seth, about her family but Seth loves talking to Malice’s ghost Grandad and thinks ordinary is overrated.

“I really enjoy your family’s weirdness.”

When ghosts begin to disappear, Uncle Vex, a private investigator in Underland, asks for Malice’s help. Now that her own Grandad has also disappeared, Malice is on the case.

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Malice can talk to nighttime creatures, but has a special affinity with moths. Ma and Pa don’t understand Malice who, like Grandad, was born without the menacing-mischief gene. They disapprove of the things Malice likes, including reading and bathing regularly. Thankfully she has Grandad, who I absolutely adored. His brand of mischief is harmless fun.

Seth’s enthusiasm about all things weird was contagious. I hope he has a bigger role in the next book. I think he’s going to be my favourite character in this series.

This was a fun book. I enjoyed exploring both the Topside and Underland. All of the locations were easy to imagine and even the minor characters were interesting. I’ll definitely be continuing this series.

“And there’s nothing whatever the matter with being unusual!”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Malice Morbid Malign.

She’s from Underland, land of sorcery, spooks and skulduggery.

But, she and her family live in Topside and mischief is their business … And the business of mischief is a very serious matter!

The Malign family hate books, they hate bathing, and they especially HATE helping.

But when grandad ghosts mysteriously start disappearing, including her own beloved grandad, Malice has no choice but to help. She partners up with her Uncle Vexatious, to solve the case of the missing grandad-ghosts.

Hot Dog! #10: Beach Time! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Dan McGuiness

It’s been raining for weeks and Hotdog, Kev and Lizzie have already exhausted all of the usual rainy day activities. They’ve even read a good book! 

Finally the sun comes out so the friends decide to go to the beach, but everything seems to be going wrong. Kev has a toothache, Hotdog has an earache and Lizzie has a sore finger. Still, they’re determined to find a way to get to the beach to have some fun.

Poor Kev just wants to eat something, Hotdog is focused on catching a wave and Lizzie learns a new, very useful skill. Along the way we meet some new characters, including a Molar Bear. 

This is a real feel good series. No matter what goes wrong, Hotdog, Kev and Lizzie remain positive and figure out solutions together. I definitely would have loved these books as a kid.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After weeks of wet weather, the sun is out!

Hotdog and his friends are busting to get to the beach for some hot fun in the sand and surf!

But will a toothache, an earache and an epic splinter RAIN on their plans!