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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Muddle Earth* by Paul Stewart, illustrated by Chris Riddell- young readers fantasy book review
Also by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell:

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf

Far-Flung Adventures: Hugo Pepper

Far-Flung Adventures: Corby Flood

Far-Flung Adventures: Fergus Crane

The Edge Chronicles 8: The Winter Knights

The Edge Chronicles 9: Clash of the Sky Galleons
Muddle Earth
by Paul Stewart, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Ages 9-12 464 pages Delacorte August 2007 Hardcover    

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a warrior-hero, with the fate of the world in your hands? Former ordinary schoolboy Joe Jefferson finds out exactly what it would be like when he is summoned by the incompetent wizard-in-training Randalf the Wise of Muddle Earth.

All of the other wizards have mysteriously disappeared, leaving Randalf, Veronica - who is his “familiar” or helper - the talking blue budgie, and a three-eyed troll named Norbert to save Muddle Earth from the evil plans of Dr. Cuddles. Muddle Earth is the latest novel by the writing team of Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, who are perhaps best known for writing “The Edge Chronicles.” It follows the adventures of Joe, aka “Joe the Barbarian,” and his dog, Henry, in the magical world of Muddle Earth, and is really three books in one: Englebert the Enormous, Here Be Dragons, and Doctor Cuddles of Giggle Glade.

Randalf the Wise’s first attempts at summoning a warrior-hero didn’t go very well, as the wise-cracking Veronica likes to remind him. For instance, there’s this exchange of words, when the three Muddle Earthers have mistaken Joe’s dog for the warrior-hero Randalf has called up to help them. Norbert is referred to as the “knobbly one,” and Randalf as the “portly one”:
“He doesn’t say much, sir,” the hefty, knobbly one was saying.

. “Obviously the strong, silent type, Norbert,” the portly figure replied.

. “Unlike Quentin the Cake-Decorator,” said the budgie.
The first warrior-hero was, as Veronica mentions, “Quentin the Cake-Decorator,” and his side-kick was his pet poodle, Mary. Left to his own devices when Randalf unceremoniously turns tail and runs away when the going gets tough, by the third book he’s joined forces with Dr. Cuddles. They rightly figure that Joe and Henry may not be the sort of warrior-heroes Randalf was trying to summon, but the two would have to be better than Quentin and Mary.

The Horned Baron, who is the ruler of Muddle Earth, plays a large part in each of the three books. He is the person who hires Randalf to accomplish different tasks for him, which also necessitates the services of a warrior-hero such as Joe. He is married to Ingrid, an overbearing, overweight sort of woman who expects The Horned Baron to be at her constant beck and call. His hobbies include “Ruling, and doing whatever Ingrid tells him.”

Over the course of the three volumes that make up Muddle Earth, Joe has to face goblins, trolls, dragons, and last but not least, the scheming evil mastermind Dr. Cuddles, who lives in Giggle Glade. There’s a lot of action and adventure, geared to kids probably twelve and younger, with plenty of silliness and very mild violence that shouldn’t offend the most delicate of sensibilities. The novels that I’ve read that are the closest to comparing with Muddle Earth are the “Myth Adventures” series by Robert Aspirin. Both are fun, entertaining reads filled with magical creatures and situations.

If you like tales of wizards, trolls, talking parakeets with an attitude, and adventure, you should love Muddle Earth. It’s perfect for kids who are perhaps too young for the “Harry Potter” series, though there is a fair chance many Potter fans will also enjoy this collaboration, as I did. It’s a silly and action-packed read that kids of all ages will get a kick out of, and it’s a good introduction to Stewart and Riddel’s other books, like “The Edge Chronicles” and another of their series, “Far-Flung Adventures.”

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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