Title: Nelson: Broccoli and Spies
Author: Andrew Levins
Published: 5th January 2021
Synopsis: The second book in the totally outrageous adventures of Nelson Hunter – the boy who hates vegetables. Featuring a serious spy mystery and an epic broccoli-fuelled battle!
Nelson is a hilarious illustrated junior fiction series from DJ, food writer, TEDx speaker, charity founder and all-round funny guy, Andrew Levins.
After Nelson discovers his nemesis – vegetables – are actually the key to his superpowers, he’s determined to learn the truth about his family’s secret. But Nelson has other questions too. Like what is the mysterious flying machine at his grandparents’ farm? And will he really have to eat broccoli to save the day? Yuck!
You’d think that knowing vegetables give you superpowers – a different one based on what vegetable you eat – would make you want to eat more vegetables! Not so with Nelson, despite the best attempts of his best friend, Olive, and his grandmother, who harbours her own secrets that come out in this book – but shh, that’s a secret, and you’ll just have to read Nelson’s latest vegetable venture to find out.
This time, Nelson and his best friend, Olive, are heading to his grandparents’ farm – where his grandmother wants to test out what other vegetables do to him after discovering that pumpkins give Nelson super-powered strength. This time – it is broccoli, and a mystery. A mysterious flying machine has been hovering around the farm, and pumpkins are going missing (not that Nelson minds). But what will Nelson have to eat – and do – to save the day?
This series is fun – and hopefully, will engage reluctant readers and even reluctant vegetable eaters to eat their veggies! Of course, kids being kids will always find a loophole, but this book certainly makes veggies fun through an engaging story, with diverse and exciting characters like Olive and the spritely grandparents – one of whom is a champion tap dancer, and the other has had a Big Secret and still has secrets at the end of the book. As it is part of a series, this is masterfully done to draw readers into each book and to read the rest of the series, though some things from the first book are hinted at in this one, so I didn’t need to go back and read book one first. This is a really good way to write junior and middle grade fiction, so readers can pick up the books anywhere in the series and move forwards and backwards as they are able to.
Lately, books for early readers and junior fiction has had a really interesting trend. The text is coupled with two-tone illustrations – black and white, and a colour that is linked to the plot, or a character. In this instance, it is green and broccoli. In others, it will be different again. This also helps to engage readers, as the illustrations are spread out across the book, and enrich the text, and help tell the story.
This is a fun story and one that will hopefully engage readers, and build their reading confidence. And maybe, it will convince kids to eat their veggies!