Friends Kiri, Jed, and twins Emma and Ethan are off on another exciting Elastic Island adventure, the fifth in this series. With Mr Jollybowler again at the helm, the island pings them across the Pacific Ocean to the Kingdom of Blong.
Emma is feeling very worried as they have seen a flyer from the Kingdom asking if anyone knows the whereabouts of their missing king. He is the spitting image of Blong, her beloved cat, who is travelling with her. If he turns out to be the King, will she lose him?
On arrival Blong spots Bella his sister and they are overjoyed to be reunited. But to prove that he really is the King he must complete two tasks, a Blong-a-gram, and a moonwalk. He does so easily.
The new King Blong almost immediately and inexplicably has a complete character change. He turns into a rude, cruel creature who persuades his subjects to reinstate the hunt on the Bilbies. These adorable small rabbit sized creatures with long snouts and extra-long ears live on the other side of the island. A 200-year-old peace treaty had kept them safe, but King Blong rips it up.
Their only protector is Heathcliff a large woolly old dog who has made his home with the Bilbies. He is loyal, courageous, and wise, not at all like his namesake in Wuthering Heights. The children join forces with him to try to ward off the first ferocious attack by the clowder of cats.
They suspect there is more to Blong’s strangely evil behaviour than meets the eye and are determined to get to the bottom of it. But can they solve the mystery in time to save the Bilbies from a dreadful fate?
And if he can be brought back from the dark side, will the love Blong shares with Emma be strong enough to persuade him to stand down from the throne?
As in many children’s fantasy adventure books the central theme in Elastic Island Adventures: Kingdom of Blong is the battle between good and evil. It is an action-packed thrilling read. But interspersed between the scary parts are lighthearted moments. There is love in the air between two of the bilbies. I think that will make it a much more enjoyable read, especially for younger readers. While tweenies who are undergoing their own emotional changes will be able to guess what is behind Kiri’s emotional outbursts and her awkward relationship with Jed.
I so admire Karen McMillan’s inventiveness. For the Kingdom of Blong she has again created a cast of fascinating anthropomorphic creatures. Some are purely imaginary like the bilbies. But the sagacious Heathcliff is based on her husband Iain’s real-life pet.
She has made the cat’s palace into a wondrous place. And to extend young readers’ literary knowledge has playfully inserted plaques all over its walls with feline quotes from famous authors including Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway.
The colourful cover, drawn by illustrator Dmitry Chizhov will draw them in. The four friends, accompanied by Heathcliff, Blong and Baxter are standing in front of the entrance way, flanked by large statues of feline sentries, which leads to the majestic castle.
As a grandparent I heartily recommend this book aimed at 7–12-year-olds. Giving children a good book to read is such a positive way to persuade them to put away their electronic devices for a while. And the adventurous four who are courageous enough to stand up for the weak are great role models.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter