Friday, 3 August 2012

Family Friday Review: Leopard Adventure by Anthony McGowan

Wonderful adventure story - a fitting tribute to the original Willard Price books

Author: Anthony McGowan
Title: Leopard Adventure
Series: This is book 1 of the new Willard Price-inspired adventures
Genre: Adventure (kids)
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 5 July 2012

Source: copy won in a Twitter competition from the publisher

Find it at Amazon UK

The blurb says...
Deep in the remote forests of Siberia, a mother Amur leopard, one of the rarest big cats in the world, senses danger. Something faster than any human and deadlier than any tiger.

Meanwhile Amazon Hunt, aged twelve, is recruited from England by Tracks in America, ready to take off at a moment's notice to rescue wild animals under threat - no matter how great the danger.

Now Amazon and her thirteen-year-old cousin Frazer must brave the Russian wilderness to save the Amur leopard, before a blazing forest fire wipes out the race - for good . . .

My verdict: Classic kid-friendly action adventure with plenty of facts about animals and the environment along the way. Highly recommended for boys and girls of around 9 and up.
As a child, I loved Willard Price's Adventure series, in which brother Hal and Roger Hunt would travel the world collecting animals with their father for his zoo, seeing off poachers and other nefarious souls along the way. I learned no end from those books about animals, about the world and about survival. I was so pleased when I heard that a new series had been commissioned with the approval of Price's estate, as the books are not so readily seen these days and some of their attitudes do feel a little dated now. I'm so glad to be able to share these with my kids.

This excellent start to the series shows that Anthony McGowan has does a fabulous job of preserving all the best things about the books whilst bringing them bang up to date. The adventures now have a more directly environmentalist agenda (they always were relatively green, but in a 1950s/60s context), and make good use of modern technology. It's also good to see female characters getting in on the action.

What surprised and delighted me, though, was that the series is a continuation of Hal and Roger Hunt's work. Amazon, the main character, is Roger Hunt's daughter and her cousin Frazer is Hal's son. There are definitely touches in there that will please fans of the original series (like the kids sharing some of their parents' traits), without at all making it difficult to start here with no knowledge of the older series. But don't worry - this adventure definitely belongs to the kids, and the parents are clearly going to feature in an ongoing subplot. I can't wait to find out more about Hal and Roger as adults, and to see Amazon and Frazer develop as a wildlife-saving team.

As an adventure story, there are some moments of peril and there is certainly plenty of action and movement in the plot. It is perfect for 9 yr olds and up, having a meaty plot and just enough danger to thrill without being too scary. Kids will learn a lot about Amur Leopards (the Fact File at the back is a nice addition, summing up some of the information scattered through the story), and probably also some geography, as I always did from the earlier novels. I would absolutely recommend this and hope that these are a big success, so that there can be many more of them.

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