What do you do after school on a Friday when the mercury hits 41 degrees and the Canberra Times tells you to go easy on the electricity? You go to a book launch! So this week the kids and I popped into Dymocks Belconnen for the launch of the third book in Jack Heath’s Choose Your Own Ending series, Countdown to Danger: Deadly Heist.
Jack’s enthusiasm was infectious as he introduced the book to the crowd of kids, parents and grandparents. Deadly Heist was a dangerous adventure with disaster at every choice and this group of Canberrans was ready for the challenge.
With the audience keenly clutching their books, Jack sat down at his signing table covered appropriately in play money bookmarks and blocks of gold (edible of course).
I knew we were onto a winner with Deadly Heist when Mr 7 started reading the book in the queue so after we met Jack, who was delightful, and got our books signed we went straight home to sit in air conditioned comfort. The kids happily eschewed their Friday afternoon screen time for a literary adventure so I read the book aloud to Mr 7 and Mr 9.
We read the back cover. “30 minutes. 30 endings. You choose if you live or die.” The Countdown to Danger books are set in real time, so we began, there was no time to lose!
You are waiting at the bank with your friend, Kye, when three people enter. You’re not sure why, but there’s something dodgy about them. Before long the ne’er do wells are robbing the bank and taking hostages and you have to work out what on earth to do about it.
Early on we chose our character, we had the choice of a boy or a girl. We chose our character and were soon crawling through air vents, wresting villains with laser pistols and falling from the top of a building to our doom on the concrete below.
Mr 9 started cheering when he was convinced we were safe only to perish at the end of the page. We tried again, this time choosing different options, crying out in disappointment when we died again and again, some deaths more gory than others. When we finally saved the day, the boys cheered before saying, “Now go back to the bit with the cable! See if we can survive another way!”
We survived twice in the end but the boys will be back another day, maybe in another guise, to enter the Deadly Heist and risk their lives in the face of a scarred redhead with a laser pistol.
It’s great to see so many authors nowadays writing for reluctant readers. Not every child is a bookworm, but every child deserves the chance to find a book that speaks to them. The Countdown to Danger books with their ‘real time’ pacing and action movie atmosphere have enough twists and turns to hook in even the most reluctant reader.
Jack Heath is a prolific writer with books aimed at children, teenagers and adults coming out in the next two years. The kids and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
A post-book activity
With the heist still fresh in our minds, we decided to have a game of modified Rob the Nest, renamed Rob the Bank. To play all you need are beanbags (moneybags) and a timer. If you don’t have those, appropriate substitutes would do like cups, pieces of Lego or even balled up socks (clean ones!).
· Take a pile of beanbags each to a corner of the room.
· Set a timer. We set ours for 2 minutes as we didn’t have the stamina to match the 30 Minutes of Deadly Heist.
· Run back and forth stealing moneybags from each other until the timer runs out.
· You may only steal one moneybag at a time, carrying more than one will see you sent to prison.
· When the timer runs out, the robber with the most moneybags wins and the other players are arrested by the police and hauled off to jail until the next round.
· If you’re playing with an even number of people, you can form two teams. The first team can be the robbers while the other team play police, grabbing the moneybags and returning them to the bank.
Rob the Bank was a fun game that had us shrieking and laughing. We managed to avoid long prison sentences and inadvertent head clashes. Wins all round!
Countdown to Danger: Deadly Heist was written by Jack Heath and published by Scholastic Australia.