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My son read a graphic novel a few months ago called 'Silverfin', a Young James Bond book. This was his first graphic novel and he was very impressed, declaring it the best book ever. Although there are five books in Charlie Higson's Young Bond series, 'Silverfin' is the only one which was published in the graphic novel format as well. This left me scrambling to find a new series for him, hopefully something that would catch his interest in the way Silverfin did. Amazon showed this book under the Young Bond Books, and, although the other books are more expensive, I picked this one up for under £3.00, but at the moment there are no copies under £5.00 available.
I wasn't too sure what to expect with this book, and I really did not expect it to match the James Bond books in any way ( In addition to the graphic novel - we have the whole Young Bond set and the Enemy set by Charlie Higgins as well). But my son wanted graphic novels for Christmas, and I felt I had to try something. I ended up giving him this one before Christmas to see if he liked and bought the other two as presents. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and my son was delighted. He does say 'Silverfin' is still the very best book ever, but that this is very nearly as good.
For those of you who have seen the movie "Stormbreaker", this book follows the exact same storyline. The story has not been chopped up and there is nothing missing - as sometimes happens in the interest of space when books are converted to the graphic format. For those who have not, I will include a very brief summary: Alex Rider is an orphan, his parents having died when he was an infant. He has been raised by his Uncle Ian and an American woman who has been employed as housekeeper/ nanny since he was quite young. Alex longs for my time with Ian, but it seems Ian is always busy at the bank where Alex believes he works. The story opens with scenes of Ian in a shootout without thugs - while Alex discusses his family life at school and then gets a call from Ian - who is meant to be coming home. Ian never comes home though and Alex's entire life is quickly thrown into complete turmoil.
After Ian's death, Alex realises things are not what they seem, and he quickly finds himself in danger. He is then kidnapped by MI6 and forced to become an agent against his will. He is then pitted against the evil American billionaire Darius Sayle. Darius is a true comic book villain - he is all bad with no depth or redeeming qualities. He had been sent to Britain as a child to be educated after his mother won the lottery and failed to fit in among his posh new schoolmates. As revenge for being bullied as child - Darius has a brutal plan to make the entire nation pay for his childhood humiliation. Only young Alex stands in his way.
The artwork in this book is quite good. There is a full range of colours, and good attention to detail. It is very much, comic book style. The good guys look attractive and the bad guys are generally not attractive - they look wicked. Darius does have a beautiful but icily cruel looking assistant, but you can tell the heroes from the villains at first glance. The pictures do illustrate the story very well, so that you could get a general idea of the storyline without really reading, and a child who is struggling to read a t a higher level can easily guess at unfamiliar words by using the illustrations. I personally find this a wonderful tool in learning to read.
MY SON'S OPINION:
Since this is a child's book, it is really the child's opinion that counts. My son received this book shortly before turning 7. When he first started reading I noticed him walking in the hallway book in front of him, reading as he walked. I asked his opinion and received "Mmmgghb" in reply. I will take this a compliment on the book - he was not willing to interrupt his reading to reply. He proceeded to the loo and came out a few minutes later, book still in hand, returned to his room and was not seen again until the book was finished.
After the book was complete, I was able to get a more detailed reply from him. He does still like James Bond the best of all, but this book comes in a very close second. Considering just how much he loves James Bond - that is very high praise indeed. He has since read the following two books in this series, and is eagerly awaiting the release of the fourth in August. I was impressed by the fact that when January ended and February began he immediately counted up the months remaining stating " Five more months until the new Alex Rider book comes out". There are of course many Alex Rider books released in ordinary paperback editions, but he really does want to wait for the graphic editions.
My son especially loved the fight scenes in this book - the very part I found to unrealistic - as well as all the gadgets. He also especially liked the parts where Alex shows off his skill in martial arts, as my son is involved in karate as well. I do think my son ( only a yellow belt now) hopes he will be capable of such moves by the time he reaches black belt as Alex has, but they are a bit like "Kill Bill" if you ask me. I think these are features that will appeal to most boys. This book has plenty of action and excitement and is ideal for boys who may get bored easily with a slower moving story. At age 7, my son is outgrowing his beloved collection of picture books, but he does still find that illustrations really add to the overall experience for him. By discovering graphic novels he is able to keep his love of books alive until he is ready for more adult novels, although he did make an exception for the Charlie Higgins books and read those in ordinary hardback editions. This is a book that he really taken quite a lot of enjoyment from, and it has filled many a rainy day.
I Loved the Young Bond books almost as much as my son did, but I do not feel this book is really suitable for most adults. It isn't bad, I've read it to my son twice in addition to him having read it himself a few times - but it really does not cross over into the adult market in the way the Charlie Higgins books do. Personally, I found the shoot outs and action scenes too unrealistic, and I found the idea of MI6 snatching up young children and forcing them to train with special forces and take up a role as an agent as way too far fetched. I find the idea of such a young boy out maneuvering special forces equally unlikely. But - I did not buy this book for myself, and I am most certainly not in the target audience, teenage and preteen boys. My son did not have any problem with these aspects of the story - and in fact I think he liked a child being more clever than the adults. I would not recommend this for the average adult reader, but I wholeheartedly recommend this for boys ages 6-14, as well as more adventure loving girls in the same age group. If your child enjoyed the movie, then this book is a good bet. I also recommend it for fans of Young James Bond, or any type of action and adventure reader.
Although I am not particularly interested in the story myself. I am delighted with my purchase. I am very happy that this book helps keep reading a fun and exciting subject for my son. True, it is not great literature, but a child who learns to read well through any type of books will always have the ability to seek out great literature as they grow older. This book makes reading fun, and it also makes it easy by providing clues in the form of illustrations for unfamiliar words. I have always believed that a child who truly loves books will overcome most obstacles to learn to read. I will continue to offer my son as many graphic novels as I can afford as another source of reading material to encourage him, and I do wish these were widely available in schools and libraries as well. With everything we spend on education - maybe it is time we started spending on really good books for schools and libraries!