SWARM: Operation Sting by Simon Cheshire was given to me by the Amazon Vine programme in exchange for my honest review.
If you are a school librarian, or you work with children’s literacy it is a fact of life that you cannot always read books you yourself will like, and you cannot try to persuade children who like something you don’t approve of or like, that they will like the book the way you sell it to them.
If you want credibility if you are working in this kind of situation, you really need to have read the things that the children you work with will like and do like, so that you can discuss those books with them, and so that when you do have the opportunity to recommend something a little more highbrow, or to your taste, or just out of left field in terms of a child’s usual reading habits, they will trust your opinion.
This is why I ended up with SWARM: Operation Sting on my bedside table. Not because I really think that books about insect nano bots who are being employed by a secret team within government intelligence to save the world is awesome. Far from it, but because I know a lot of people who will think this kind of situation is awesome, and I want to be able to talk to them about it.
Having said that, after fearing the worse from Operation Sting, and thinking I might be letting myself in for another Astrosaurs or Beast Quest type book, I was pleasantly surprised. It is written with intelligence and a nice sense of humour. It has a decent enough plot and the start of what will be some interesting characters (it is the first in a series), and although it was hardly Proust, it was better than a lot of things I get sent.
The book would be ideal for those children who love Astrosaurs and Beast Quest but who have run out of books, or steam. It might also cross over to children who like spy genre novels and a bit of futuristic Sherlockian style detecting. The books are perfect transitional/chapter books with illustrations, fact sheets and dossiers and nice short chapters. It is heavy on action, light on characterisation and doesn’t demand too much of the reader, but at the same time is not at all patronising. There are some nice in jokes if you’re reading this with a child. The two scientists running the government lab are called Turing and Berners, after Alan Turing and Tim Berners Lee, which I thought was a nice touch.
The books are aimed squarely at boys, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for girls either. I recommend them for the seven to ten age bracket, and younger if you are prepared to read them as a bed time story or have a particularly advanced child.