A review of Hal Junior: The Secret Signal by Simon Haynes

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Hal Junior: The Secret Signal
by Simon Haynes
Bowman Press
180 pages, Paperback ISBN: 978-1-877034-07-7, Kindle Ebook ISBN: 978-1-877034-01-5

Hal Junior is unlikely hero. He’s just a little bit naughty, a tiny bit confused, and a bit behind on his schoolwork, but that doesn’t stop him from saving the day like his own hero Captain Spacejock, the protagonist from Haynes’ earlier novels. Hal Jr is educated by a robot, his home is a space station, his homework has just been sucked into the recycling hatch, his mother has just been promoted to head of research, and trouble is brewing. What follows is a fun, lighthearted, lightning fast adventure with a sci fi twist that children will love.

Reluctant readers of all ages will enjoy this book because it’s full of cinematic action and as many sound effects as a comic strip or Matthew Riley novel (without the exploding heads and continual expletives): “zzingg”, “gadoinnnggg!” “Clatter clatter crash!”. Younger readers from about 8 or 9 will also enjoy it, identifying with Hal’s perfect combination of insouciance and curiosity. There are all sorts of fun things in the book, from morse code to a mysterious watch recovered from the junk heap, a reverse canon that shoots garbage, and even a guide on how to build Hal’s homework paper plane.

Though Hal himself is quite funny, additional humour and lightness is provided by captioned drawings throughout the book, including a running pun around “this page has been left intentionally blank”. The space station setting is well depicted, and readers will share Hal’s excitement as they tour the Tiger supply ship. The relationship between Hal and his best friend, brainiac Stinky provides a strong humourous thread blending Hal’s courage and bravado with Stinky’s problem solving ability. Readers will want to hear more about these two and the inevitable scrapes that they get themselves into.

With Hal Junior, clearly anything goes, there are endless adventures to be had on the space station. This is a charming book full of wacky, innovative fun that can be read quickly and easily by readers of all ages. It’s a perfect way to encourage readers to keep reading.

About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of Sleep Before Evening, Repulsion Thrust, Quark Soup, and a number of collaborations and anthologies. Find out more about Magdalena and grab a free copy of her book The Literary Lunch at www.magdalenaball.com.

Article first published as Book Review: Hal Junior: The Secret Signal by Simon Haynes on Blogcritics.