Friday 24 February 2023

The SharkHeaded Bear Thing - Barry Hutchison and Chris Mould - Benjamin Blank Book 1

The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing
Benjamin Blank Book 1
Chris Mould (Illustrator)
ISBN 9780857632692
eISBN 9780857632708

Early last year before reading this I encountered the works of J.D. Kirk I also discovered that Kirk publishes children’s books as Barry Hutchison, and other adult fiction as Barry J. Hutchison. I have read 20 stories published under the Kirk Name and I am now branching out to the ones under the Hutchinson names. He is coming up on 175 books across the three pen names, according to his website. But I have been unable to find a complete list. This is the ninth under one of the Hutchison names. If I had known that or I might not have picked up this first one. Friends call me a ‘completionist’ in that when I find an author I like, I try to read everything they have published. I have enjoyed all I have read from his pen and this one was no different.

The description of this novel is:

“In an alternate 15th century, where dragons roam, sailing ships transform into submarines, and blacksmiths build steampunk robots, ten-year-old orphan Benjamin Blank battles monsters, rescues maidens and discovers fantastic new lands, but never quite manages to get his homework handed in on time. Each adventure sees Ben and his friends, Paradise Little and Wesley Chant, face a new monstrous menace.”

This is a good early chapter book or middle grade read. It is recommended for readers 7-9 years of age but I could see readers who are reluctant readers or who struggle with reading enjoying it up to ages 12 or 13. There are numerous illustrations by Chris Mould done in a pen and ink style. The illustrations add to the story, and are often as humorous as the words by Hutchison. Our main cast of characters include:

Benjamin Blank
Paradise Little
Uncle Tavish
The Mayor of Loosh
Wesley Chant
Shark-Headed Bear-Thing

And in a minor role a Troll.

The story ends with these words:

“As he walked over to join his new friends, Ben couldn’t shake the feeling that, after today, life was about to get a whole lot more interesting.”

This story is an adventure or quest. Paradise shows up looking for a hero, she expects it to be Tavish, which I cannot read or hear as anything other than MacTavish. Tavish says no, and Benjamin is persistent that he can fight the monster and that he has fought many before. And so Paradise and Benjamin are off to rescue the town of Loosh. They journey, encounter and befriend Wesley a wizard in training along the way, a brief side incident with the troll, and a battle against a menagerie of monsters. All of that in just this first volume, it leaves you wondering what is instore for readers in the next two volumes. 

The story was fun. As is often the case with Hutchison’s writings for young readers it has wonderful characters, swift action. It is a story young readers would love. The style reminds me a lot of the works of Dan Gutman, Tony Abbot, Andrew Clements, and Chris d'Lacey. It was an entreating read and I look forward to exploring more books for younger readers under the pen name of Barry Hutchinson.  

Books by J.D. Kirk:

DCI Logan Series:

Robert Hoon Thrillers:

DI Heather Filson Series:

Contributed to:
Everyday Kindness: A Collection of Uplifting Tales to Brighten Your Day

Books as Barry J. Hutchison:
Dan Deadman Space Detective Series:

Space Team Series:
The Search for Splurt 
Song of the Space Siren 
The Guns of Nana Joan 
Return of the Dead Guy 
Planet of the Japes 
The Time Titan of Tomorrow 
The King of Space Must Die 
Sting of the Mustard Mines 
Sentienced to Death
The Hunt for Reduk Topa
A Lot of Weird Space Shizz: Collected Short Stories

Sidekicks Initiative Series:

The Bug Books Series:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Complete Season One

Other Books:

Children’s books as Barry Hutchison:
Invisible Fiends Series:
The Crowmaster 
Doc Mortis 
The Beast 
The Darkest Corners 

The Missing Remote of the Apocalypse
The Book of Doom 

Benjamin Blank Series:

Beaky Malone Series:

Generator Rex Series:

Living Ted Series:
Revenge of the Living Ted
Invasion of the Living Ted

Spectre Collectors Series:
Too Ghoul for School
A New York Nightmare!

Other works:

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