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Mr Majeika and the Ghost Train - Humphrey Carpenter

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Genre: Junior Books / Author: Humphrey Carpenter / Edition: New Ed / Paperback / Reading Level: Ages 4-8 / 96 Pages / Book is published 2004-02-26 by Puffin

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      18.05.2011 08:03
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      Great for young readers

      I have fond memories of watching the 'Mr Majeika' series on television, during the 1980s so have relished the opportunity of sharing the books with my eight year old son. Mr Majeika was actually created back in 1984 but Humphrey Carpenter continued writing the popular series for many years, until sadly passing away in 2005.

      Mr Majeika is a failed wizard who has turned his hand to teaching, so there is always something interesting and unusual about to happen whenever Class Three go to school. Here, what should be a simple school trip to the fair, turns into a bit of a disaster when the class have a ride on a ghost train and get spirited away! It's down to Jody to track down the rest of her classmates and rescue them and Mr Majeika.

      My son loves this series and this particular story really seemed to capture his imagination. I think the combination of familar settings and people (such as an ordinary school, children and a teacher) alongside the magical world of Mr Majeika and figures such as witches, dragons and bewitched characters, really keeps his interest. All of the usual characters feature here, including Wilhemina Warlock, Majeika's arch enemy. Jody is one of the strongest characters within this story and it makes a pleasant change to have a really strong young female character within a story for this age group. There is also a girl who cries at the drop of a hat, though, so things soon balance out!

      This story is a particularly imaginative one. The children's adventures take them deep below ground and they meet the man in charge of the Weather Room. Here, the weather outside is controlled by a single man who has to operate various different machines, depending on whether rain, sunshine or wind etc is required. The problem is he struggles to keep on top of everything - which is, apparently, why the weather never seems to stick to the forecast! This was quite a fun idea and helped to stimulate some conversations with my son, especially as he has been looking at the topic of imaginary worlds at school.

      Although my son is a confident reader, he still prefers me to read these stories aloud. The language used in this particular book is pretty straightforward and the vocabulary is such that readers of around six upwards should be able to manage this with minimal help. If anything, as an adult reader, I found the language a little too simplistic and would have preferred a little more variety in the choice of adjectives. There is a spiteful school boy, Hamish Bigmore, for example, and everything that he did or said was done 'nastily.' I'm sure a couple of different alternatives could have been thrown in for a little variety!

      The story is certainly easy to read and should appeal to children from the ages of around six to ten years old, as there isn't enough action to keep older children entertained. It is a fairly short read with the story broken up into chapters of a reasonable length and interspersed with the odd line drawing which helps to break up the text and bring the story to life.

      This paperback can currently be purchased from Amazon for £4.99 (with used copies from 1p plus postage) or, for much better value, the entire set of 14 paperbacks can be picked up from the Book People for just £12.99. I would recommend buying the complete set as it is such a bargain.

      My son has enjoyed all of the Majeika stories to date but this one is one of his favourites. I would certainly recommend this one, as well as the series as a whole for even the most reluctant young reader.

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