Childrens - Shastrix Books


Recently reviewed

The Mystery of the Strange Messages

The Mystery of the Strange Messages

Enid Blyton

2nd January 2020

This is the absolute classic Five Find-Outers mystery. One of the best investigations that Fatty and his friends have had, and possibly one of the best that Enid Blyton ever wrote.

The clues stack up in turn like a grown-up detective story, and allow the reader to slowly piece things together at the same pace as the characters.

Erin’s guest appearance stands out as a returning legend of the series, and the focus on him and Fatty, and what feels like quite revealing points about their relative social status, and indeed a plot that in places seems to be part commentary on social issues, feels quite a diversion from the earlier books in the series which were very focussed on prim and proper behaviour.

Like I say, the best novel of Blyton’s I’ve read.

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Buy book: UK
The Short-Wave Mystery

The Short-Wave Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, Leslie McFarlane & David Grambs

27th October 2019

Book 24 and I’m well into the run of the original Hardy Boys novels. I remember this one quite a lot from reading it as a child - or at least the opening chapters.

It’s a good mystery, involving a lot of clues that gradually unwind themselves. But it does almost feel like a marketing tool for radio sets - the Hardys have bought them for their home, car and boat, and use them all the time in this story - although despite that the connection to the plot only becomes clear very late on. I wondered a bit if this is a product of the 1960s/70s rewrite that changed things up a lot in some of the books.

So while the story has dated from the use of technology which no longer is used, the tale remains good - including a bunch of supporting characters who help to flesh things out, and the ever present new hobby for achey Morton. The narrative over uses the word ‘cinch’, which doesn’t feel like a word anyone uses in real life any more, and I wondered if new audiences would enjoy it less than I did.

Finally there almost seem to be hints of subtle feminism making their way into the plot, with Aunt Gertrude seemingly making a bit more of herself than she might first appear.

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The Mystery of the Missing Man

The Mystery of the Missing Man

Enid Blyton

29th July 2019

Book thirteen of the Five Find-Outers (and dog) was an interesting one in that I had very little memory of the plot from when I read it (probably multiple times) as a child.

The case is slightly unusual, in that it’s issued by the police, rather than being randomly uncovered by the children. The story is also unusual in introducing some quite prominent new characters into the lives of the children (who I again had no memory of) and having a lot going on that served as comic relief.

While the solution seemed obvious to me, I am most certainly not the target audience (any more) - and I think a child reading or being read the story would work it out before the reveal, which is the ideal timing for a mystery (although on second thoughts, some of the clues might be too dated for a modern youngster to get).

Probably one of the best in the series actually.

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Buy book: UK
The Secret of the Crooked Cat

The Secret of the Crooked Cat

William Arden

19th May 2019

One of the classic Three Investigators stories that I remember well from reading as a child. The team set out to locate five stuffed cats, after one is stolen from them at a travelling fair.

It contains all the elements that make up the best of this series. A guest child that needs help, a bunch of creepy adults with their own agendas, and a mystery that’s just scary enough.

It’s a great tale, if a little dated now, and a thrilling adventure for the characters.

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Buy book: UK
The Clue of the Broken Blade

The Clue of the Broken Blade

Franklin W Dixon, John Button & Richard Deming

28th April 2019

Another original (well, in the case of my copy, updated original) Hardy Boys story, which sees the brothers become involved in a particularly complicated case focussed on a story of inheritance.

There are the usual twists and turns, though some elements did seem rather too much of a coincidence, and others obvious from fairly early on.

So not one of the best, but still a nice quick relaxing revisit.

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Five Children and It

Five Children and It

E Nesbit

23rd January 2019

I first read this book many years ago, and recall vaguely a television series based on it. I was inspired to pick it back off the shelf after I’d been discussing it with some colleagues. It’s the tale of a family of children, who with their mother and servants, retire to stay in a somewhat dilapidated house in the countryside, near a disused quarry.

There are a number of what I think of as nods to the adults that I suspect the author believes to be reading to the intended youthful audience, but much of the backstory that might interest an adult is skipped over in favour of the adventure. There’s certainly a dated element to it - I suspect a lot would not be identify-with-able for today’s young audience without having to set some of the historical context (but I could be wrong) - and this is true of the narration as well as the content.

I’m not entirely sure what the point of the book is - it’s clearly not strictly educational, but I’m also not convinced there’s much of a morality tale to it beyond explaining the law of unintended consequences. Perhaps it is indeed just a fun adventure - which it still is, just about.

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Buy book: UK
Especially Jennings

Especially Jennings

Anthony Buckeridge

29th July 2018

The fifteenth Jennings story sees the foundation of the Jennings Membership Club - along with a variety of other mishaps that leave Jennings and his friends in various quantities of trouble with the school staff. It’s one of the stories that I read as a child but not one with a plot that particularly well stuck in my memory, so it was a delight to re-read.

As usual, many of the problems of Jennings’ young life and initiated through not thinking about long-term consequences, poor communication, or just unfortunate misunderstandings. The book portrays a delightful world of a boarding school from history, that is perhaps only half close to reality.

Some of the storylines do seem very familiar - the sort of thing that might have happened at my own school (vastly less posh that Linbury Court though it was) - and I’ve always enjoyed how this makes the antics of Jennings and Co very believable despite some of the more outlandish repercussions.

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Buy book: UK

Other reviewed books

Brigands M.C.
The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow
The Disappearing Floor
The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage
Jennings of Course
The Twisted Claw
The Falls
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Mystery of the Talking Skull
The General
The Mystery of the Moaning Cave
The Mystery of the Strange Bundle
The Sleepwalker
The Mystery of the Screaming Clock
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Mad Dogs
The Tower Treasure
The Mystery of the Silver Spider
The Mystery of the Invisible Thief
The Fall
Don't Touch Anything
The Mystery of the Fiery Eye
Crocodile Tears
Man vs Beast
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat
The Secret of Skeleton Island
The Wide Window
Divine Madness
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The Mystery of the Hidden House
The Accused
The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure
The Reptile Room
Ark Angel
The Rithmatist
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace
The Field Guide
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
The Mystery of the Green Ghost
Coots in the North and other stories
The Killing
The Abduction
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters
The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy
Eagle Strike
The Mystery of the Secret Room
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Maximum Security
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
Great Northern?
The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
Skeleton Key
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat
Class A
The Secret of Terror Castle
The Picts and the Martyrs
The Assassination Game
Point Blanc
The Recruit
The World of Poo
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
Missee Lee
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Just Like Jennings
Catching Fire
The Big Six
The Trouble with Jennings
The Hunger Games
Secret Water
The Bad Beginning
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
Pigeon Post
The Song of the Quarkbeast
Coot Club
Winter Holiday
Jennings as Usual
Peter Duck
Take Jennings for Instance
Thanks to Jennings
Swallows and Amazons
Our Friend Jennings
The Last Dragonslayer
According to Jennings
Jennings' Diary
Jennings and Darbishire
Jennings' Little Hut
Jennings Follows a Clue
Jennings Goes to School
Artemis Fowl

Unreviewed books

A Killing in the Market
Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
An Ear for Danger
Beyond the Law
Biggles - Flying Detective
Biggles and the Black Peril
Biggles and the Secret Mission
Biggles Defends the Desert
Biggles Defies the Swastika
Biggles Delivers the Goods
Biggles Fails to Return
Biggles Flies East
Biggles Flies West
Biggles Goes to War
Biggles in France
Biggles in the Orient
Biggles Learns to Fly
Blood Fever
Blood Relations
Brother Against Brother
By Royal Command
Castle Fear
Choke Hold
Cold Sweat
Countdown to Terror
Crime in the Kennel
Crusade of the Flaming Sword
Cult of Crime
Dangerous Games
Dead on Target
Deep Trouble
Diplomatic Deceit
Dirty Deeds
Disaster for Hire
Double or Die
Edge of Destruction
Endangered Species
Evil Incorporated
Fatal Error
Final Cut
Final Gambit
Flesh and Blood
Flight into Danger
Foul Play
Foul Play
Fright Wave
Fun for the Secret Seven
Funny Business
Go Ahead, Secret Seven
Good Old Secret Seven
Good Work, Secret Seven
Grave Danger
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
High-Speed Showdown
Hollywood Horror
Hostages of Hate
Hot Wheels
Hurricane Gold
James and the Giant Peach
Jennings Again
Jennings at Large
Jennings in Particular
Jennings Unlimited
Lethal Cargo
Long Shot
Look Out Secret Seven
Mariel of Redwall
Martial Law
Martin the Warrior
Maximum Challenge
Murder at the Mall
Murder to Go
Night of the Werewolf
No Mercy
Open Season
Outcast of Redwall
Pearls of Lutra
Perfect Getaway
Power Play
Programme for Destruction
Puzzle for the Secret Seven
Reel Trouble
Rigged for Revenge
Rock 'n' Revenge
Rough Stuff
Scene of the Crime
Secret Seven Adventure
Secret Seven Fireworks
Secret Seven Mystery
Secret Seven on the Trail
Secret Seven Win Through
See No Evil
Seven Strange and Ghostly Tales
Shock for the Secret Seven
Sidetracked to Danger
Sky Sabotage
Slam Dunk Sabotage
Speaking of Jennings
Still William
Swallows and Amazons for Ever!
Terror on Track
The Alaskan Adventure
The Apeman's Secret
The Bellmaker
The Blackwing Puzzle
The Borgia Dagger
The Camels are Coming
The Clue in the Embers
The Cold Cash Caper
The Crowning Terror
The Crystal Prison
The Dead Season
The Final Reckoning
The Firebird Rocket
The Genius Thieves
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
The Hooded Hawk Mystery
The Hypersonic Secret
The Jennings Report
The Jungle Pyramid
The Last Laugh
The Last Leap
The Lazarus Plot
The Long Patrol
The Masked Monkey
The Midnight Folk
The Mummy Case
The Mystery at Devil's Paw
The Mystery of Banshee Towers
The Mystery of Death Trap Mine
The Mystery of Holly Lane
The Mystery of Monster Mountain
The Mystery of Smugglers Cove
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk
The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon
The Mystery of the Cranky Collector
The Mystery of the Dead Man's Riddle
The Mystery of the Desert Giant
The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints
The Mystery of the Headless Horse
The Mystery of the Invisible Dog
The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale
The Mystery of the Magic Circle
The Mystery of the Missing Mermaid
The Mystery of the Nervous Lion
The Mystery of the Purple Pirate
The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion
The Mystery of the Samurai Sword
The Mystery of the Scar-Faced Beggar
The Mystery of the Shrinking House
The Mystery of the Silver Star
The Mystery of the Singing Serpent
The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
The Mystery of the Smashing Glass
The Mystery of the Trail of Terror
The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon
The Mystery of the Wandering Cave Man
The Number File
The Oaken Throne
The Outlaw's Silver
The Pentagon Spy
The Phoenix Equation
The Search for the Snow Leopard
The Secret Agent on Flight 101
The Secret of Phantom Lake
The Secret of the Haunted Mirror
The Secret of Wildcat Swamp
The Secret Seven
The Seven and the Lion Hunt
The Seven and the Magician
The Seven and the UFOs
The Seven Strike Gold
The Seven to the Rescue
The Sky Blue Frame
The Stone Idol
The Vanishing Thieves
The Viking Symbol Mystery
The Wailing Siren Mystery
The Yellow Feather Mystery
Thick as Thieves
Three Cheers, Secret Seven
Trust Jennings
Typically Jennings
Uncivil War
Web of Horror
Well Done, Secret Seven
Without a Trace
Witness to Murder

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