'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Review: The Trunk in the Attic

Oh, if only… to have a secret tunnel that can take us to other lands. Not other times. Not other worlds – but other lands. Other countries. Other parts of this amazing planet on which we live, that are every bit as magical as the intrepid worlds we hold only in our dreams. Every bit as magical as the Narnias and Mordors and Hogwarts, dreamed up by the world’s greatest writers. Lands steeped in culture and beauty and tradition and things we’ve never seen nor experienced before.

World travel is something most of us pine for as adults. Taking trips to other lands not only enriches and expands us, it can be utterly mesmerizing. Imagine, then, the effect travel has on children.

I’ve always been a strong advocate for international travel for our kids – and Australia has some of the best travelled kids in the world – but oftentimes it’s not practical, for a variety of reasons, to pack the tots up and head into the jungles of Peru, the watery lanes of Venice or the labyrinth streets of San Francisco.

This is when we can escape into the journeying pages of a book.

The Trunk in the Attic is the first in a new series of children’s books entitled ‘The Undercover Kids’ – a series aimed at 8-10 year old valiant travellers, keen to journey all over the world. Gloria Smith Zawaski takes us on this particular adventure, with illustrations by Karen Donnelly.

Katie, Jake and their dog Cooper are the children of well travelled parents, who occasionally go to stay with their aunt in the countryside outside New York City. One particular summer, whilst staying at their Aunt Jean’s farm, the kids happen across a large pit their Great Grandpa Henry started digging years and years ago, as a child… in the hope of reaching China. You can imagine their surprise when one warm day, a boy named Dirk climbs out of a manhole deep in the pit – and tells them he is on the way back to Holland.

Stunned and curious, Katie and Jake want to know more, but when the boy realizes these kids are not part of the exclusive ‘Undercover Kids’ group, he quickly disappears, telling them if they can find the ‘purple bands’, he will be waiting for them to join him in Amsterdam.

Intrigued, the kids soon happen upon a magical talking old trunk in Aunt Jean’s attic, filled with wonderful treasures including the magical purple bands – bands that will take Katie, Jake and Cooper deep underground, on a journey that defies matter, to land in Amsterdam.

When they arrive, they find themselves in the house of Anne Frank – and Dirk is waiting for them, ready to show them his wonderful city where the travellers meet a lovely line up of characters that link them to their family’s past.

The Trunk in the Attic takes full and clever advantage of exploiting the beauty, charm and culture of Amsterdam and surrounds. During their adventure, the children discover the sights, sounds and tastes of Dutch life so rich with flavor. Added to the mix is a little bit of sentiment, skullduggery and moral lesson-learning that will make parents happy as kids bound along with the adventurous storyline. Oh, and there’s also a little bit of magic – something every good book needs.

Where will Katie, Jake and Cooper journey next? Mongolia. I, for one, am looking forward to joining them on their wanderlustful tale.

Head to http://www.theundercoverkids.com/ for more on the Undercover Kids series.

The Trunk in the Attic (2009) is published by The Exciting Read Publishing Group. It is currently available at www.amazon.com for US$16.95. Check the Exciting Reads website for Australian stockists.

Have a budding writer in your family? The Exciting Read Publishing Group are looking for kids aged between 8 and 12 to write their own Undercover Kids story! Entries must be 500 words or less, and their story could be picked to be included in the next Undercover Kids book! Click here for more.