Books for Young Adventurers: The Kitty Hawk Series
Iain Reading’s sprightly young protagonist Kitty Hawk will take you on one hell of a ride in this latest mystery-solving YA series.
Kitty Hawk is a young aviator with an ambition to fly round the world during her gap year. She’s Canadian, but she’s named after the town of Kitty Hawk in the United States, where the Wright Brothers made the first ever airplane flight. A great reference for airplane enthusiasts, and a great predicate for the spirit of adventure that’s to permeate the series.
The first book in the series, Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold, takes us on a whirlwind journey through the Alaskan wilderness as Kitty becomes embroiled in a plot over stolen gold. She’s flown up the West Coast to research whales over the summer, but a boat of suspicious cargo and an overheard campfire conversation drags her further north towards the Yukon and the site of a historic gold rush town.
I’ve skipped over the next two in the series to get to Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic, the part of her journey where she travels to the UK. I’d say it’s definitely a good story for us British readers – with lots of familiar locations and a Sherlock Holmes-inspired plot with lots of cryptographic puzzles to solve. All I’ll say is, I’ll certainly be looking more closely at the cartouches on Cleopatra’s Needle next time I’m in London!
I like Kitty. I can’t resist a protagonist who is a jet-setting go-getter (try saying that fast!). Kitty is relentlessly outgoing, and what I like most is her lack of ego. It’s refreshing, and keeps the plot focused on the action and the intrigue. Kitty seems honest, likeable and clearly loves finding out new things. She is the quintessential Age of Exploration adventurer in the body of a modern teenage girl.
The great thing about this series of novels is that you end up finding out a lot about various things, like the Yukon gold rush, why there’s an Alaskan town called Chicken, how humpback whales feed, or what really happened the night the Titanic sank. So many little nuggets of information are hidden in these books, and being a curious person I soon discovered that all this info checks out as true. Iain Reading has really done his research, and these books are a great way to find out more about the world we live in.
As Iain himself says, “There are a million amazing things to see and as many more ways for all of us to see them, as our heroine and friend Kitty Hawk finds out in the course of her various adventures.”
A nice touch that Iain Reading did initially was to organise the book chapters the way that old 17th- and 18th-Century explorers’ diaries used to be laid out. This typically consists of an overall chapter name, which is then divided into subheadings that referred distinctly to the events that occur in each subsection.
Any history buff will greatly appreciate this stylistic reference. My only disappointment was that Reading soon stopped doing this in later books. However, he’s also seen fit to put GPS coordinates of the locations Kitty visits into the books, which is incredibly cool – especially as there’s one or two ghost towns I now really want to visit! And at the back of each book there are appendices that offer ways of finding out more about the locations, events and histories discussed in the book.
A few phrases felt overused in the series (I can’t look at a picture of a De Havilland Beaver now without the adjective ‘trusty’ popping into my head), but any linguistic heaviness was made up for by the pace and the energy of the plot.
This is a great set of novels for the adventure aficionado. Whether young or old, you’re guaranteed to learn something, and have a riveting time doing so!
main image © Iain Reading