It may be because I’ve always been bookworm AND because I grew up a hardened fanatic of Fighting Fantasy and Choose Your Own Adventure game-books, played endless text-adventure games on my Spectrum 48K, and wore out the VHS tapes of The Neverending Story and The Goonies, that I really do think that the role of dicing-with-death gaming in children’s literature is vastly under-represented!
Why are there not more novels about games (computer or otherwise) for children? Ask any child who is old enough to read by themselves whether they play any computer or console games and the chances are they do. And love them. But then there’s those children who play on their consoles but ‘aren’t much of a reader’: what is there to connect them to reading? From my teaching experience, I’ve not found many children, girls or boys, who don’t become addicted to the competitive worlds of Fighting Fantasy, or the slightly less gruesome Choose Your Own Adventure. Children tear through these books. They can’t get enough of them.
Like these, Wonderscape is one of those books that definitely will appeal to children, particularly some reluctant readers, for their strong ‘gaming’ appeal. The story is about three children who find themselves in a pseudo gameworld where they have to ‘win’ Level Challenges and complete action-packed adventure tasks to win points and ‘Realm Keys’ which enable the children to travel between worlds/gaming levels. The ultimate prize here, of course, is the key to get home.
The whole book is very, very fast paced (I actually couldn’t believe the main action had started already in just the first few pages) and never lets up. The story may be straightforward, told in an episodic way, but this will really engage young readers who I could see racing through the book, disappointed at the end that the book is over.
The likeness to the most recent film version of Jumanji is very strong throughout – the humour is just as quirky and the big set pieces are redolent of Big Screen Action in places: the car rally for example reminded me of a mix of Wacky Races and the 1963 comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World! There’s also a flavour of another perennial favourite series, Percy Jackson, as inspirational figures from history are given a modern twist and teach us that our dreams of a better future are what truly matter.
In short, a fun book to put in the hands of any Year 5, 6 or 7 child who loves their gaming and cinematic thrills.
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