#BookBoy loves gaming. Luckily, he also loves reading. But titles which allow him combine these two interests are few and far between. I’ve been racking my brain for children’s books which feature computer games as a key component, and here’s what I’ve managed to come up with!
The story centres around girl-gamer Izzy, who just happens to be hiding an incredible secret – she can enter into the world of her new computer game! Rae the robot tells her that she’s destined to save Dungeon City from the Big Boss. But how? She still has her normal life to try and keep up with too!
Izzy’s game playing means that she’s up all night, making getting to school on time (and staying awake) a bit of a challenge. Plus, all the bumps and bruises she’s getting mean her parents think she’s being bullied.
A graphic novel does not necessarily mean an easy read for younger readers – there’s lots to infer from the illustrations to help the story make sense. I would recommend this one for readers aged 9+
‘Level Up!’ by Tom Nicoll, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar (Stripes Books)
Tom writes brilliant stories for readers just starting out on their chapter book adventures so I was thrilled to see he has a new series based around gaming coming out.
The first features girl-gamer Flo and her best friend, Max. When Flo messes with the DIS (Digital Imprint Scanner) her mum invented, she soon realises why it was covered in notes telling her not to touch it.
The pair find themselves sucked into Star Smasher! – one of Flo’s favourite games. It doesn’t seem like quite so much fun when you’re playing for real! Flo is going to have to use all of her game playing expertise to get the pair out of the game in one piece and safely back home.
This book managed to sidetrack #BookBoy as he walked past the shelf on his way to do something else. He then read the whole story in one go, only pausing briefly for lunch! Huge praise indeed! The subject matter, generous helping of illustrations and fun video game tip boxes make this an engaging read for anyone aged 7+
‘Wonderscape,’ by Jennifer Bell (Walker Books)
THE GAME IS ON. TRAVEL WITH WONDER.
When Arthur, Ren and Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school, they find themselves trapped aboard The Principia – a scientific research ship sailing through hazardous waters, captained by one Isaac Newton.
Lost in the year 2473 in the Wonderscape, an epic in-reality adventure game, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes, to play their way home before time runs out.
Jumanji meets Ready Player One in this fast-paced adventure featuring incredible real-life heroes, from the internationally bestselling author of The Uncommoners series.
‘Virus’ by Chris Bradford, cover illustration by Anders Frang (Barrington Stoke)
This is the highly-anticipated sequel to ‘Gamer.’ Based around the virtual reality game, Virtual Kombat, where things were more ‘reality’ and less ‘virtual.’ Scott nearly died playing the game where the lives of street kids were risked for profit. He’s vowed to destroy the game forever.
Hunted by terrifying wasp drones, Scott’s on the run. But when he comes across a gang of hackers who claim to have a virus which could finish Virtual Kombat, it soon becomes clear that Scott’s going to have to re-enter the battle arena and risk ‘game over’ if he’s to plant it.
Like all of Barrington Stoke’s highly accessible and dyslexia-friendly titles, ‘Virus’ is a fast-paced and tightly written dystopian adventure with a gaming twist. For ages 8+
‘The Everything Machine’ by Ally Kennen, illustrated by Chris Jevons (Scholastic)
Have you ever wished you could print yourself anything you wanted? Rare Pokémon cards, strawberry ice cream, a brand new bike? How about a mountain of sweets, or a swimming pool, or a startlingly lifelike robotic replica of your father? The you need you very own ‘Everything Machine’!
What would you do if you were patiently waiting for the delivery of a rabbit hutch, when instead you got a large box stamped with PROPERTY OF M.O.D and BRITISH SPACE AGENCY. WARNING. DO NOT TAMPER? Would you send it back or would you do what eleven year old Olly did and open it…?
To read my full review, click HERE.
‘A Pocketful of Stars,’ by Aisha Bushby (Egmont)
Safiya is just an average school girl trying to navigate her way around friendship issues and her parents being separated. She and her mum may not always see eye-to-eye, but they love each other and Safiya knows that her mum only has her best interests at heart.
However, when her mum has an accident and falls into a coma following a particularly bad argument, Safiya feels responsible and desperately wants to make amends for her actions. What follows is a race against time to uncover secrets from her mum’s childhood and discover the objects which may help bring her back.
What’s unique this book is that it combines a beautiful story about family, friendship and finding yourself alongside a highly imaginative gaming/ dream-sequence thread. In my podcast interview with Aisha, I discovered that the gaming theme was only added during final edits after a night playing Zelda. You can listen to the whole interview HERE.
The strong quest element to this story and the clever use of flashbacks to mum’s childhood would make this an interesting text to study with pupils. The setting descriptions (based on memories from the author’s own childhood) are vividly composed and give a fantastic sense of place – I could almost feel the heat of the sun on my skin and smell the perfume in the air.
A wonderful read for children aged 9+
’Electrigirl’ by Jo Cotterill, illustrated by Cathy Brett (OUP)
Holly Sparkes was just a normal girl until a freak accident gave her a dangerous and strange superpower, turning her into………..Electrigirl!
With a campaigner mother, a military father, and a superhero-obsessed younger brother, Holly is a typical tweenager who just wants to hang out with her best friend, Imogen. That is, until Imogen becomes obsessed with playing QuizTime games on one of the new mobile phones given to the whole town by the slightly sinister CyberSky corporation.
Imogen soon stops talking to Holly, or anyone else for that matter. What’s happened? Can Holly and her brother get to the bottom of the mystery before it’s too late?
Told in a brilliant mix of prose and graphic novel, this is an absorbing, action-packed read. There are also two other titles in the series. 9+
‘My Arch-Enemy is a Brain in a Jar,’ by David Solomons, illustrations by Robin Boyden (Nosy Crow)
Luke and the other members of S.C.A.R.F are back in another battle against intergalactic forces of evil in the fourth installment in this prize-winning series – evil’s never been so squishy…
Following an unfortunate inter-dimensional incident in their previous battle to save Bromley/ the Earth, Luke’s mind has swapped bodies with that of his older teenaged brother, Zack (aka Star Lad). Sadly, he has no control over his brother’s superpowers – which is totally unfair as Luke is definitely the one who deserves to be a superhero the most! He has all the gear, whereas Zack has no superhero-branded clothing at all!
The youth of Bromley (and their families) have all been invited to Great Minds Leisure Park for a complimentary all-inclusive stay to recover from the recent near-obliteration of their town and schools by an angry inter-dimensional being. However, Luke and the gang soon start to suspect that all is not as it seems. Alongside some very imaginatively named brain-themed zones and restaurants (Spinal Cord Splash Pad, anyone?), there are also some highly autonomous (and stroppy) transportation pods and staff members who don’t appear to be acting entirely of their own accord…. 9+
For my full review and guest piece from David, click HERE.
I want to finish off with a series which certainly must have been one of the very first to delve into the dark side of computer games: the ‘Demon Headmaster’ series was a childhood classic for me and the tv series is currently being re-shown on Netflix.
In case you managed to miss this fantastic series, here’s a very quick recap: written by Gillian Cross and recently modernised and published by OUP, the series starts with Dinah, who is being fostered by the Woods family. She thinks her biggest problem will be fitting in with her foster-brothers. However, once she starts at her new school it’s clear that there’s more to worry about. All the children, apart from a handful including Lloyd and Harvey, are too well-behaved – robotic almost – and oddly keen to please the creepy headmaster.
The three children set out to discover the nature of his influence over everyone . . . but then Dinah finds herself saying and doing things she has no power over. Soon they uncover the headmaster’s wicked plan. Controlling the school is just a practise run. He has set his sights on commanding the entire nation! The children must foil him before he succeeds . . . but with Dinah under his spell they’ve got a challenge on their hands.
Happy reading (and gaming!)
*Thank you to all who sent me these titles to review*