Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Extreme Adventures: Spider Bite and Man-Eater by Justin D'Ath

I rarely read or review past the second book in a series, but these are so much escapist fun that I just had to revisit them again.

The basic rule of the Extreme Adventures series is that anything that can possibly happen - will. So, in Sam Fox's fifth adventure, Spider Bite, he starts out by helping some stranded balloonists, which leads to him getting trapped in a balloon with his twin five year old brothers Harry and Jordan, untrained Great Dane puppy Myrtle, and a deadly Sydney Funnel Web Spider. When they finally crash land, desperate to get Jordan to a hospital (he's been bitten of course) they land in the zoo, naturally. In the Kodiak bear enclosure. Just to make things more interesting, the balloon knocks over a tree, adding a lion to the mix.

Sam's next adventure is even more dangerous, but at least he doesn't have to worry about saving his brothers. Nope, all he encounters in Man-Eater (besides a man-eating leopard) is a spitting cobra, hippos, crocodile, hyenas, poachers, baboons, and Cape buffalo. Of course, he has most of these adventure half-blind, thanks to the initial encounter with the cobra (see, he was trying to escape from an enraged mother elephant and...). Sam even has time to interject a few humorous asides "I don't know what it is about me and snakes. Wherever I go...I seem to run into them." Luckily, Sam has the help of Olki, a ten year old Masai boy who offered to help him get to the nearest hospital. Of course, that was before they were being tracked by poachers, man-eating leopards, and elephants. It takes the combined skills and knowledge of both boys to survive.

These books are refreshingly simple. Sam occasionally grumbles about missing his family, or being upset about their move in Spider Bite. His concern for animals is the reason he's in Tanzania and he feels strongly about preserving wildlife. But aside from these few glimpses, the stories really are pure adventure. Every time Sam gets out of one tight corner, he ends up in another. Escape from the leopard? Get trapped by a mad baboon! Crash land your balloon safely? Get trapped by a Komodo dragon! Unlike the usual realistic middle school fare that worries about girls, school, teachers, family, etc. Sam is worried about staying alive and everything else can wait. They're a nice length for intermediate readers and a perfect way to relax on a hot summer afternoon.

Verdict: Although the American covers aren't as attractive as the Australian versions, these have been quite popular and I'll continue to add to the series and booktalk them to kids who like their adventure without angst and their survival stories snappy!

Spider-Bite
ISBN: 9781610671014; Published March 2011 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

Man-Eater
ISBN: 9781610670111; Published March 2011 by Kane Miller; Review copy provided by the publisher; Purchased for the library

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