The Doofuzz Dudes Rescue Moondar (2006), The Doofuzz Dudes: The Princess Detector (2006), The Doofuzz Dudes: The Babbling Bottles (2006), and The Doofuzz Dudes: the Black Pearl of Laramoth, all by Roslyn J. Motter, (White Hawk Publishing), illustrated by Kimberly Nelson. Ages 7-9.
I'm going to start by saying right out front that my seven year old adores, just adores, this series. Here are his thoughts: "The Doofuzz Dudes series is good for kids seven and older because it's very creative and has a lot of magic. (Five year old brother, a bit plaintively: But I like it). I really like this series, and my friends will like it too. It's really good. I like the writing and pictures, as well as the front covers. I enjoyed it. The use of words is very creative and increases some kids' vocabularies along with their reading and writing skills."
He is, in fact, the intended audience. And these books are great for the 7-8 year old boy, who has perhaps read the Dragon Slayer Academy series, but isn't ready for Harry Potter.
Back in February, Australian writer Roslyn J. Motter offered me books 1-4 of the Doofuzz Dudes series. Thinking they might appeal to my son (and how right I was), I accepted. When they arrived, I started reading to myself...but didn't get very far. So the four books languished for a while in one of my many book piles, until one day my son found them.
"Wow! What are these?" he asked. "They look cool!' And indeed the cover appeal of the books is quite high. So I started reading them out loud to him, and before long he was sufficiently engaged so as to read large chunks of the text to me (which is a most excellent thing for him to do, being not yet a truly independent reader). Before long, this had become his favorite series in the world. When he was asked to make a book character puppet for school, he chose Zarundok, a wizard character who appears in all the books. We read them slowly, because I kept making him do his share, but he was always anxious to get back to them. And he is looking forward to book number 5, which will be out in the relatively near future.
These are books that I would unhesitatingly give as birthday gifts to his contemporaries (particularly since they aren't available in bookstores in the USA, reducing the chances that the kid will already have them). As soon as we've finished this review, my son will be lending them to his friends. I'd like my public library to have copies, because I truly think they'll circulate, but it's looking like we'll be keeping our copies.
So, here's what they are:
In book one, we meet our hero, Toby Doofuzz, who is just about to turn nine. On his birthday party treasure hunt, Toby, his brother, and two friends (who call themselves the Doofuzz Dudes) find a mysterious chest buried in a cave. And in the chest is a book, "Spells for a Magical King," and a jeweled crown. Toby puts on the crown, and begins to read...and out of the book jump hundreds of small people. "All hail King Toby!" they cry, and so begins the quest of King Toby and his friends to restore these people, the Moondarians, to their homeland. Into a magical world they journey, lead by the wizard Zarundok, with each chapter bringing a new challenge--guard geese, a joking giant, the Puzzle Master, a dragon, biting trees, and the evil Prince Florian--until the inhabitants of Moondar are safely home.
In books two, three, and four, the boys return to face new challenges with Zarundok's help, meeting scores of fantastical creatures and journeying to strange new places. And always the shadow of Prince Florian looms over their adventures!
Episodic adventures in short chapters are a type of storytelling that, I think, works well for kids who aren't flying off on their own into longer and more complex books. However, these aren't books that most adult readers would want to curl up with, because the linear narrative style and episodic plots mightn't be quite complex enough to satisfy (at least they weren't for me). Likewise, the books' characters, although real enough for my son's purposes, don't quite achieve flesh and blood status in my more critical/jaded adult mind. However, the fourth book is by far the best, and book 5 may be better still.
The books are illustrated by the author's young niece, and for me, combined with the writing style, this created an illusion that the books themselves were written by someone young. I think that this is part of what makes the books so kid friendly--the unintimidating story telling might well make it easier for kids to become absorbed by the fantastical world of Moondar.
As I mentioned above, you won't be able to walk into a bookstore in the US and buy these books, but you can order them online here. For more information about the books, here's the Doofuzz Dudes website.