Sunday 18 October 2020

Elastic Island Adventures: Alphabet Resort

Elastic Island Adventures: Alphabet Resort
by Karen McMillan (Duckling Publishing) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9780473503543

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Four Kiwi kids attend a wedding. To get there, they travel by means of an island that magically ricochets around the oceans as if fired from a slingshot. They are accompanied by their talking cat, attended by a kea and reunited with a quokka who is apparently an old friend - this being the group’s fourth ‘Elastic Island’ adventure. After exploring the resort, they are swept up in the dramatic kidnapping of the royal bride during the rehearsal dinner - will the children be able to save the day once again?

The premise comes across as a modern, Oceania-centric take on the Magic Faraway Tree, full of wacky characters and oddball details. The four children - a set of twins, boy and girl, along with two friends - each have quite different, if somewhat one-dimensional, personalities. There’s the cynical one, the bubbly one, the reader, and the surfer dude. They are joined by a mind-boggling array of anthropomorphic animal characters and fantastical creatures, resulting in an entertaining but baffling mix of native Australasian critters and magical beasts. It is an inventive kaleidoscope which will divert and amuse young readers.

That said, the book takes considerable patience, with the action squeezed into relatively few chapters in the second half of the book. The remainder is a nostalgic indulgence of revisiting characters from previous adventures - so this is not a book that is well suited to picking up mid-series. There’s also a romance subplot - involving wombats - which is sweet but may limit the story’s appeal to those junior readers who can stomach a saccharine love story. The dialogue is stilted in parts, the exposition ponderous. However, much can be forgiven for the obvious joy the author takes in encouraging a love of reading, books, and authors in her audience.

Existing fans of the Elastic Island Adventures will no doubt greatly enjoy revisiting old friends in this story. For the uninitiated, its appeal is likely to be limited to those who love talking animals, royal weddings, or royal weddings attended by talking animals. The book is suitable for readers aged 8 to 12 years.

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