I have a lot of admiration for writers of middle grade fiction and chapter books. As a writer of YA fiction I easily draw from memories from my own time as an adolescent and integrate these experiences into my work. It does help being a secondary teacher too. Unfortunately, I don’t recall so well what I liked to read as an 8 year old, or indeed what I was like at this time. So far as writing middle grade books, I wouldn’t know where to begin. It probably makes sense then, that I choose to review very few books of this genre and, when I do, I like to get the second opinion of my target audience. Such was the case last year when set about reviewing Jo-Kin Battles the IT. My initial reaction to the story was lukewarm (to say the least). It didn’t speak to me at all which, to my surprise, was not the case with my son. He loved it. Tyrrell had successfully managed to harness that mysterious thing that ten year old boys love. Such a thing, in my eyes is a massive achievement. This said; it seems that Tyrrell is on a roll, because she has done it again.
Jo-Kin VS Lord Terra, follows on where book 2 left off. Our hero Josh Atkins, fresh from saving the world against the IT, is back to his life as a normal kid living with his parents and attending school. However, as Josh himself explains, the situation has him ‘lying low’. He is, moving through life incognito while hoping that his planet saving skills won’t be required again. However, this is not to be with Josh required immediately for an urgent mission to save the Junior Space Kids Team from the clutches of the evil Lord Terra.
Jo-Kin VS Lord Terra, is a highly accessible read for students, especially boys, in the middle years of primary school. Following on from the first book, Tyrrell continues to develop themes of resilience, problem-solving, team work and overcoming self-doubt. Tyrrell has not only constructed an appealing story for children of this age, but everything, from the language, font size, to the quality and quantity of the images, has been selected with care and an acute awareness of the intended audience. However, it is her understanding of the ‘obsessions’ of children in this age group, which left me wondering if Tyrrell is in fact a ten year old boy simple masquerading as an adult!
I commend this book, and its predecessor, as a valuable addition to the school library. I anticipate that as the series continues to grow in number it may fulfil its potential and join the likes of Jennings and Andy Griffiths as ‘go-to’ staples for boys in the reading lesson.
PS For resources and other cool stuff to support reading of this book click here.