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PLAY ON WORDS

Many children’s and young adults’ books are now released together with a website designed to continue the experience after the book is finished, to complement the book whilst it is being read, or simply to encourage the book to be read. Oliver Nicholas tries out some of the best . . .

The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog and other books by Jeremy Strong


The Books: A wonderful and popular award-winning series of books featuring Streaker, “the fastest dog in the world,” who is badly behaved and always in trouble! These books will delight children in the 7+ age bracket.

The Website: In their words, you can “play games, get hot gossip, enter fabbity competitions, download krazy stuff, get sneaky peeks at books old and new . . . there are buckets of things to do.” Fantastic fun – I loved it! www.jeremystrong.co.uk

The Artemis Fowl Series – Eoin Colfer


The Books: I have to admit that I count down with great excitement the days left until the publication of each new book in this series. Artemis Fowl is an Irish child prodigy and master criminal and the books follow his devious schemes for money-making and his encounters with the magical creatures living below the surface of the earth, in particular, the elf Holly Short a member of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance). The characters and stories are simply brilliant and will enchant and delight both older children and young adults.

The Website: is a slick, well-produced website with games that link to the books and inspire you to read them. The content is good quality, interesting and really does complement the book series.www.artemisfowl.com

The Young Bond Series – Charlie Higson


The Books: This series of books follows the young James Bond’s life before he appears in the Ian Fleming books. As a young boy at Eton in the 1930s, James is thrown into a number of exciting adventures that are thoroughly enjoyed worldwide by both boys and girls . . . and adults too! They are well written and more avid fans of the Ian Fleming books will enjoy the references to objects and events that crop up ‘later’ in Fleming’s own books.

The Website: is a simple but effective website which gives you downloads, games, character images and book extracts. To play the games, you simply join the “Danger Society” and begin. The website is regularly updated with news and fans will be pleased to know that a new book is due for release in May 2011.

I would also highly recommend the audio books read by the author which will brighten up any long journey, and the e-books that are now available for all of the titles in this series. www.youngbond.com

Jacqueline Wilson


Unsurprisingly for such a popular author, Jacqueline Wilson’s website is brilliantly bright, fun and easy to use. It is an easy place to play games linked to the books, join the fan club, explore the books’ characters and the books themselves, and enter competitions. There is also a good resource area with projects for teachers or just for fun at home. www.jacquelinewilson.co.uk

Flat Stanley


A blast from the past! The travels of Flat Stanley have been updated and are now more popular than ever. The books and website get kids to learn all about the world, make friends by sending Flat Stanleys to other children in different countries, and encourage them to write creatively. The website also gives parents and teachers tips and projects to work on with the kids. www.flatstanleybooks.com

Diary of a Wimpy Kid


This bestselling series and the feature film have the most fantastic accompanying website, set up as a club with news, games and a “Reading is Fun” group. The author, Jeff Kinney, an online game developer and designer, wanted to be a cartoonist but found it difficult to break in to newspapers so he started playing with a style that mixed cartoons and “traditional” writing. Now he is a No.1 New York Times bestselling author and named in 2009 as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. The Ugly Truth, his fifth and latest book, has just been published.

Got kids that are put off by books? Audio books are a great way to get them engaged or try getting them to read them on a Kindle e-book reader . . .


“Billionaire Boy” by David Walliams


Walliams’ new offering has been released to great reviews and is available as an audio book – read by the author himself and his side-kick, Matt Lucas. Ages 9+ “A hilarious, touching and extraordinary new fable from the author of The Boy in the Dress and Mr Stink: Joe has a lot of reasons to be happy. About a billion of them, in fact. You see, Joe’s rich. Really, really rich. Joe’s got his own bowling alley, his own cinema, even his own butler who is also an orangutan. He’s the wealthiest twelve-year-old in the land. But Joe isn’t happy. Why not? Because he’s got a billion pounds… and not a single friend. But then someone comes along, someone who likes Joe for Joe, not for his money. The problem is, Joe’s about to learn that when money is involved, nothing is what it seems.The best things in life are free, they say – and if Joe’s not careful, he’s going to lose them all . . .” HarperCollins

“I shall wear midnight” by Terry Pratchett  - the latest in the Tiffany Aching series. For young teens upwards.

“Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling and Philip Pullman -  This vintage classic has just been re-released in electronic form and is still as spellbinding as it always was. Can be enjoyed by all ages even the very young.

“Young Sherlock Holmes: Red Leech” by Andrew Lane Young Sherlock’s second outing is every bit as good as his first. Ages 9+ There are not so many for the younger child but you can be sure they will be out soon.