An exuberant, roller-coaster family adventure with a mad-cap cast of all-too-believable characters experiencing their dream holidays and worst nightmares.
Catherine Jinks was born in Brisbane in 1963 and grew up in Sydney and Papua New Guinea. She studied medieval history at university and her love of reading led her to become a writer. Her books for children, teenagers and adults have been published to wide acclaim all over the world, and have won numerous awards. Catherine's most recent books include the bestselling Evil Genius series and her paranormal spoofs, The Reformed Vampire Support Group and The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group.
Catherine lives in the Blue Mountains in NSW with her husband, journalist Peter Dockrill, and their daughter Hannah.
This is a story about your best and worst nightmare. Join the gang of three children and three adults as they become trapped in what they think is paradise. Marcus is the only one who can see through the enticements and he has to convince the others of the dangers they’re in. The last nightmare is getting back to reality where there are no planes at an airport and they have to find the lift in each scenario to move away.
Catherine has a wonderful knack of leading the reader on to more bizarre and outrageous fantasies. You know it’s a fantasy but will they escape? They catch the evil perpetrator but will she escape? Plenty of drama and adventure with a love story thrown in. A book for the middle years with opportunities of working with amusement parks, beaches and holidays, as well as fitting in with the following Australian curriculum for English.
Achievement standard for Year 5 Australian curriculum for English:
‘…They describe how sound and imagery influence interpretations of characters, settings and events in texts. They compare ways in which their own and others’ viewpoints about texts are shaped by individual values and experiences, and expand their own understanding by taking account of different opinions and interpretations.’
Fulfils Year 6 of the Australian curriculum for English:
‘Literary texts that support and extend students in Years 5 and 6 as independent readers describe complex sequences, a range of non-stereotypical characters and elaborated events including flashbacks and shifts in time. These texts explore themes of interpersonal relationships and ethical dilemmas within real-world and fantasy settings.’
Michael P. Mardel, VIC
Adventure, suspense and excitement! In her highly original and clever story, The Paradise Trap, Catherine Jinks takes her readers on their own roller coaster ride as her characters work their way through the trap, journeying from such dream worlds as a fun fair or a perfect beach to the nightmare of a sinking ship in a storm, and, most horrifying in its insidiousness, to an airport where all the planes are cancelled – never quite certain whether they have at last escaped or not. Each of the dream holidays quickly turn to nightmares, devised especially for the three children and the adults who come to help them, with an evil siren at the very centre, drawing them in with sweet promises. If it wasn’t for Marcus’ quick thinking, they would all be stuck forever.
The Paradise Trap is an easy and enjoyable read for children in Years 5 and 6, just scary enough to keep the heart racing, and lends itself to some philosophical discussions about how different people think and how we all see and react differently to the world around us. In the classroom, this book could be also used to show how the specific characteristics of protagonists (and antagonists) are developed to add to the story, and how descriptions are used to draw emotive response from the reader. Comparisons between the different scenarios, and how they appeal to different characters in the story, could then be used to launch some creative writing where children could explore their own ideal holiday, or their worst nightmare, encouraging young writers to show not tell what they see and how they feel and react in their fantastical holiday. This could then be made into a class book for everyone to share and enjoy, or uploaded as a multi-media exercise on a class website.
Cate Whittle, ACT
What’s your dream holiday? A dream of a luxurious beach? Of exciting nightclubs, of admirers? A buffet of all-you-can-eat food, perhaps, or party games and lollypops in bright colours?
And what’s your idea of a nightmare holiday? Having to listen to boring old relatives drone on about their illnesses, a dingy hotel, being stuck in traffic for hours with nothing to do, being chased by aggressive foreigners up and down streets you don’t recognise? In The Paradise Trap Marcus goes on his mother’s dream holiday, only to find that it soon becomes a nightmare holiday for him, his mother, and the set of new friends they’ve just made, the Huckstepps. A mysterious door that Marcus finds can unleash the secrets to dream holidays and nightmare holidays for everyone, though it becomes clear soon that dreams are not all they seem and can have a nightmarish quality about them.
The concepts and plot devices used in The Paradise Trap are not really original ones. Fantasy worlds behind secret doors, perfection that is but an illusion and gives way to fear and nightmares … these are common enough in fantasy stories. Jinks’ novel, though, is well written and has fun and interesting characters, and manages to add a few more interesting ideas that lifts the story from feeling tired and makes it an easy and enjoyable novel aimed at young teens.
The Huckstepps, with their crazy inventor father, the children named after scientists, and their mother Coco who craves spas, saunas and massages, are a set of minor characters who make the story sparkle. Not to mention their slightly dysfunctional robot servant Prot. This story would be a good place to start discussion in classrooms about themes of dreams, personal “fantasy worlds” and how close they may come to disaster. Do we want the same dream our entire lives? Are some things too good to be true? Jake notices that his fantasy could not have been a real dream holiday because he spots the missing “essence” of the people around him in the dream. Is it possible to have a perfect holiday with real people, or would their essence, and their flaws, always get in the way of the fantasy?
Another strong theme in the novel is the use of technology and inventions, games, robots and how fast the world evolves over time. It could be worthwhile discussing what sort of inventions people might expect in their future, or how they’d expect to be viewed by people fifty or a hundred years ago with the lifestyle they have now. Marcus is a good hero in this adventure story, but it really is the kooky cast of other characters that holds this story together and makes you want to keep reading.
Rebecca Fung, NSW
When Holly, arrives home, having bought a dilapidated caravan, and announces that they are going to visit her favourite childhood holiday destination, Marcus is less than excited. When they arrive at Paradise Beach, they find that nothing is as his mother remembers…until they stumble across an old friend from her annual sojourns to this very same location. Although Coco’s children, Newt and Edison, lack interest in the beach, they have a van with all of the modern conveniences, including a robot, thanks to their father, the inventor. When the boys visit Marcus’s caravan, they are surprised to discover the entrance to a cellar. Their explorations lead them to a fairground where Ed decides he’d like to stay. When Marcus goes to seek help from his mother and the Huckstepps, their return to the cellar brings many more surprises and discoveries, not all of which are pleasant.
This is an engaging story in which the reader learns the meaning of the term, “Be careful what you wish for”. Not every dream holiday turns out as planned and some become more like nightmares as this book shows. Perhaps more for children in Years 5 to 7, the adventure and fantasy keep one eagerly reading to see whether or not Miss Molpe will triumph. A great title, encompassing the themes of change and technology, with a focus on the dreams and desires of individuals, this would be a great discussion starter if used as a shared text. Alongside other novels which focus on portals to alternate worlds and the motivation for their creation, this would be great used as a comparative text. Due to its strong cast of characters and a string of events which are both suspenseful and entertaining, The Paradise Trap will definitely be an enjoyable read for both boys and girls alike.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School, SA
Holly, a solo mum, wants to take her son Marcus to Diamond Beach to have a proper camping holiday, just as she remembered from her childhood. Marcus is bitterly disappointed when he sees the decrepit old caravan they have bought and wishes he could have stayed home with his computer. Upon arrival, Holly and Marcus start to explore the much changed holiday park, when Holly meets Coco, an old friend, now married to an inventor with two children and a robot. Marcus and Edison go back to explore the old caravan and after managing to open a seat, discover steps to a cellar. Curiosity gets the better of them and Edison opens the door to his dream holiday: a theme park. Marcus quickly realizes what it is: a trap set by the previous owner, wicked Mrs Molpe, who has evil powers. As more members of the two families are trapped in their dream holidays, Marcus must use all his ingenuity and courage to save them from what actually is a nightmare.
This book is a bit of Back to the Future meets Alice in Wonderland with some Greek mythology thrown in, and the result is a fast-paced unpredictable novel. The characters in this story are a little quirky but very believable, complete with age-appropriate attitudes and behaviours. I loved that this 311 page novel has a bit of many genres: fantasy, horror, adventure and a hint of romance; and it would appeal to a wide range of children aged 9 to 15.
Nova Gibson, Massey Primary School, New Zealand
Holly Bradshaw seems to be your average kind of mum. Concerned about her son Marcus’s fascination with computer games and gadgetry she invests in a rundown caravan and insists on a summer sojourn at Diamond Beach. Holly dreams that Marcus will enjoy the experiences she enjoyed as a child. Perhaps the dreams of childhood should remain there, as whenever we as adults take a trip down ‘memory lane’ nothing is ever as we once perceived. This is what Holly discovers upon her arrival at the beach. Of course Marcus is not too impressed to have this holiday forced upon him and soon realises that he is in for a strange adventure.
Catherine Jinks takes us into a world of fantasy where Marcus is introduced to the Huckstepp family. Their idea of a caravan experience is unusual to say the least. They own the Taj Mahal of caravans with many additional entertainment areas designed to keep all family members occupied during the summer. They never actually venture to the beach because all the luxuries are available on their camping site. The cellar beneath the Bradshaw caravan soon reveals a world of holiday dreams and, as each member of the Huckstepp family gets drawn into the fantasy world, Marcus becomes more caught up in the twists and turns of the adventure.
Having recently read Colin Thompson’s How to Live Forever to my class I could see some similarities in the storyline. I am sure that my current class would enjoy this story but at over 300 pages it would be a challenge for some of my students to read it independently. Jinks captivates the reader with her vivid setting descriptions and these could be used in conference groups as examples of rich descriptive writing. Her characters, while being somewhat strange, are actually quite believable. Children can relate to the moody teenage sister Newt who is permanently engaged in mobile phone conversations and the compulsion to text 24/7. We have all come across a Coco Huckstepp who wants us to indulge in fake nails, eyelashes and orange tan. Stirling, the father, who tinkers with robots is a likeable character too. I would recommend this novel to confident readers who enjoy fantasy and are not put off by the number of pages.
Therese Reghenzani, Saint Paul’s Primary School, Monbulk, VIC
Marcus doesn’t even want to go away for summer. His mother has strong memories of her childhood holidays at Diamond Beach. They buy an old caravan and head off for a summer holiday not full of much promise. His mother wants him to experience the real life not the fake life of his computer games. Little does she know that what they are about to experience is out of this world. Of course Diamond Beach doesn’t hold up to memories but Marcus discovers that the old caravan has a cellar! Marcus and a new friend, Edison, climb down into a subterranean murky underworld where they discover two doors. They open one into a carnival. Marcus thinks he is hallucinating until Edison disappears and Marcus has to convince others of the new found fantasy world under the caravan – a constantly changing world where dream holidays come true but in a horrific way. Each character gets caught up in the ‘Paradise Trap’ and Marcus has to figure out a way out back to reality at Diamond Beach.
A mixture of adventure, horror, fantasy, even humour to me — The Paradise Trap is a meaty read which perhaps went on too long, but would suit years 5 to 9. It could be used as a starter for a creative writing exercise, and would be a good read-a-loud with plenty of suspense along the way.
Kimberley Atkinson, Robertson Road School, New Zealand
Holly, Marcus’s mum, has a surprise. They are going on holiday – a caravan holiday. The caravan is second hand and smells of dirty socks. Their destination is Diamond Beach where Holly went as a child and knows Marcus will have a great time like she did. Once they arrive Holly meets up with her friends from when she holidayed there as a girl. Marcus and their children go and look at his caravan and the adventure begins in the cellar underneath. The holiday changes from remembering the good old days to surviving it. The author brings together characters whose strengths and weaknesses ensure they work together to escape their dream holidays. Each character finds out more about themselves and the other members of the group.
Students who love fantasy and can immerse themselves in other worlds will enjoy the story as it moves from one fantasy holiday to another. The text is dense and the book is long. Good readers will be excited that the story is extensive and that they get lots of detail. Taking each holiday description out of the book and sharing separately with students will give them the foundation to write their own descriptions of a holiday for other students and/or to write about their own worst or best holiday.
Roxanne Steenbergen, Windermere Primary School, TAS