Friday, 28 September 2012

Hal Junior – The Missing Case

Hal Junior: The Missing Case Hal Junior: The Missing Case by Simon Haynes (Bowman Press Australia)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1-877034-25-1
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Living on the space station Oberon means a class camping trip, where Hal can cook over a fire, hike in forests and splash through rivers, is the best thing ever. He’s never done those things! Lighting a practise fire in the space station’s canteen sees Hal grounded. Mum, a research scientist, hosts a huge function to seek funding from VIP Grogan and, in exchange for having his grounding lifted, Hal agrees to occupy Grogan’s kid during the visit.

Alex turns out to be a snooty stuck-up girl. Yick! Her father is told that unless he allows guards to see inside the case he carries, he is unable to take it into the meeting. He entrusts it to Alex. In order to free them up for exploring the space station, Hal convinces her to store it in the spares cupboard. Once that’s done, however, they are dragged into class and ordered to help with the clean-up that teacher has on the go. It’s not enough to stop Hal from goofing off. He gains clearance from teacher to go box hunting with Alex.

The search leads to the recycling centre, where giant robots mulch everything to bits before producing useful items, like boxes. The centre’s head robot won’t allow Hal and Alex to take boxes until they bring something in exchange. In the head robot’s office Hal thinks he sees Grogan’s case. Searching for things to swap for boxes they check the supply cupboard. The case is gone!

Back in the recycling depot Hal opens the case to find a contract, signed by all planets, allowing Grogan to turn Oberon into a tourist resort. Hal and Alex snatch back the case and safely flee a very angry robot. Grogan, pleased to have the case back, reveals the contract but Hal’s last act sees it go up in flames. A furious Grogan is sent on his way, unable to carry out his plans. Will he ever return?

Young readers are likely to be quickly drawn in by the adventurous, fun, and a little cheeky character of Hal, who always hopes to ensure that only fairness prevails. The book also contains small line drawings and some funny visual jokes too. Danger, tension, humour and a great outcome combine to keep confident readers in upper primary satisfied.

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