Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters

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“A high metallic strike made me jump. But it was only the living room clock. It struck twelve, and the last stroke faded away.

And as it faded away, the wind stopped whistling in the chimney. The water stopped gurgling in the pipes. The breeze stopped rustling in the trees. 

I had never known such silence. It was as though the world was holding its breath.”

Christmas Eve, the air just before it snows, getting ready to go out somewhere special. Things that hold a sense of delicious anticipation that make the main event even better. Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters has this from the very start;  a tantalising piece of children’s historical fiction that gives me this exact same feeling. And being surrounded with such a compelling combination of anticipation and action, it’s wonderfully easy to get caught up.

We join Evie as she goes to stay with godmother Anna while her mum’s on honeymoon. Thrown into the unknown setting of Anna’s flat in an old converted manor house, Evie begins to pick up on the history around her and learns about the tragic Sophia Fane: a previous inhabitant who left an intriguing inscription on the window of Evie’s room.

Later that night as the clock strikes twelve, Evie finds herself invited into the past- specifically to 1814 and Sophia’s time. She has a role to play in Sophia’s fate, but even in the past time marches forward. Will Evie manage to help Sophia and still get back to her own time or will she remain trapped in the past?

Evie’s Ghost is a beauty of a book that will have young readers and listeners on the edge of their seats asking for the next chapter. Teachers looking for a riveting class reader will appreciate this and will love the way Helen Peters creates drama and empathy, especially around Evie’s perceptions of the past and the people she meets. There are differences to consider throughout and the author strikes a sensitive balance between noting advantages of the modern world and suggesting sacrifices made for it.

There is enormous value beyond the pages of Evie’s Ghost, especially for Upper Key Stage Two classes looking to study the past in a really meaningful way. Use it to create great drama opportunities in relation to the story, then take it further and encourage children to find their own inner Evie to explore their own slice of local history outside of the classroom and away from the internet.

Evie’s Ghost: perceptive, inspiring, absorbing, and a must for fans of historical fiction.

 


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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Best Friends & Storms and Rainbows

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Previously in The Unicorns of Blossom Wood…

Having reviewed The first two Unicorns of Blossom Wood books last year and been delighted with the response they received from my class, I’m really pleased to see two new titles have been added to the collection. I’ve found children to adore these illustrated stories, and I’m happy to say both boys and girls and of all primary ages. I teach in Year Six and the first two books were a big success with my class- more on this later.

As with Books One and Two, Catherine Coe continues to tell the story of three cousins holidaying together. It’s rare for Cora, Lei and Isabelle to spend time as a family as they are from different parts of the world.

To recap the story so far: the adventures really start when one day the cousins find some hoof prints in a cove near their campsite. When they step into them, they are instantly transported to a magical land called Blossom Wood where they transform into unicorns.

You can read my reviews of the first two books here to find out more about these adventures.

Storms and Rainbows

In Book Three, the girls are all feeling a bit frustrated. It’s been a whole week since their last Blossom Wood visit and also Lei’s upset because unlike her cousins she doesn’t know what her unicorn magic is yet. She decides to take matters into her own hands and visit Blossom Wood alone to try to find out, but it seems her magic is even more powerful than she ever imagined…

It’s soon up to Lei and the other girls to save the Blossom Wood animals from imminent disaster!

Best Friends

All good things must come to an end and sadly it’s the last night of the holiday. Just as the girls think they may never visit Blossom Wood again, an opportunity arises and they get their final chance to return! Once there, they’re excited to find that Loulou the squirrel (fabulous name for a squirrel isn’t it?) is organising a talent show. Lei, Cora and Isabelle are the first to help her sort out everything and even plan a sleepover in the magical wood. But not all is well and the cousins discover something is making Loulou really sad. Can their unicorn magic save the day one more time?

As with the rest of the series there are always a variety of quizzes and activities at the back of the book, plus introductions to other books.

Special Powers

Best Friends and Storms & Rainbows are full of fun and adventure, magic and warmth. They bring a smile to my face, as all of the books have. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a success the series has been in my classroom. Most of the children have read them and many have had them back to re-read. I’ve had pupils spending free time reading them in preference to playing games with their friends. They’ve been inspired to draw pictures of the characters both at home and at school. This unicorn magic is clearly rubbing off!

I’ve been so chuffed with how much the children have loved the books and in particular two girls who were previously thought of as reluctant readers. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood helped them to discover the kind of books they enjoy; before they read them they were very unsure and struggled to settle with a text at all. Today I worked with those girls and was pleased to see that they were both reading stories of a similar genre and very happily involved in them. I know they’ll be delighted when I take these two new titles in tomorrow.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood magically turn children into readers- now that’s what I call a special power!

 

Thanks to Scholastic for sending me these copies.

 


The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

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Missing!

Apologies first. I would usually start a post with a quote from the book. Also, I wish this were a better picture. Unfortunately, I can’t include a quote or take a less blurry photo because my copy of The Apprentice Witch was last seen doing the rounds of my Year Six class about two weeks ago. I don’t expect to see it any time soon, or possibly ever. But the approval of ten year old children is a wonderful thing and better than any review I can write!

Arianwyn

When Arianwyn fails her witch’s evaluation- the only one of her cohort to do so- all she wants to do is run away as fast as possible. However, as this isn’t really an option, Arianwyn waits while her fate is decided by her grandmother (a respected elder) and Director Coot, head of the Civil Witchcraft Authority. Arianwyn will, it seems, become an apprentice witch with the chance to be re-evaluated in six months time. In the meantime, she will be posted to Lull: a remote village on the outskirts of the great wood crying out for a village witch, qualified or otherwise. And so her new chapter begins and a new world is introduced to lucky readers aged 9 years plus.

Book Induced Insomnia

The Apprentice Witch is a riveting read and hopefully just the beginning of our visits to Arianwyn’s world. This is a great story with so much for the reader to discover, and with the tantalising promise of adventure still to come. It simply bursts with magic, excitement, and the best and most varied cast of characters I’ve read for a very long time. I was totally absorbed and read into the early hours with that wonderful feeling of inability to put the book down and go to sleep.

Children will find this an easy book to connect with. There’s a compelling warmth and a lot of love coming through here that make it all the more special for the reader.

In thinking this I was reminded of the words of Ursula Le Guin, another splendid fantasy writer:

“The book is what is real, You read it, you and it form a relationship, perhaps a trivial one, perhaps a deep and lasting one. As you read it word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation.”

The Apprentice Witch invites children to experience a wonderful world as it unfolds and develops and that feels very real to me. A book bound to inspire a life long love of fantasy fiction.

 

 


The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

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Beyond Boundaries

Some authors send their readers straight into their worlds: there is no door into Tolkien’s Middle Earth, no way of gaining entrance to Le Guin’s Earthsea. The only way in is by opening the book and beginning to read.

Others provide a portal, some means of gaining entrance; usually a deliberate action by the protagonist, if not at first then afterwards. Lucy may have stumbled into Narnia during a game of hide and seek, but each time after she wanted to visit. Pullman’s Will Parry sees his parallel world and makes a decision to enter and Rowling’s Harry Potter is shown the various ways into the wizarding community of Britain.

Whether travelling by rabbit hole or wardrobe, tornado or train, there is a reassurance from the outset that as we are clear about the way in, we may also feel in some way secure about a way out. We are relatively free to enjoy the excitement and dangers of another world with a degree of detachment.

When you set out to read The Other Alice, you’re granted no such protection…

The Other Alice

In The Other Alice, Michelle Harrison’s other world isn’t sought or visited via a handy entrance; instead it comes to us unannounced and most definitely without invitation. The boundaries of truth and fiction become wonderfully hazy. Magic doesn’t seem like the stuff of fantasy stories anymore, but real and ancient and quite possible. Harrison has a knack of making magic and fantasy so close and so conceivable that it feels risky. Be careful what you wish for; it might just come true.

The Museum of Unfinished Stories

The Other Alice is narrated by Mitch, who is telling us a memory of his childhood. Looking back, he tells us about his older sister Alice who loves writing stories to the point of obsession. Mitch has grown up hearing Alice’s brilliant creations and so is understandably a huge fan of stories and riddles himself.

When Alice vanishes without a trace, it is Mitch who must unravel the mystery and save his sister. By discovering and then using her secret book ‘The Museum of Unfinished Stories’, he begins to reveal the full extent of the problem. This is no ordinary book. How can it be when its characters have seemingly stepped off the page and are walking around Mitch’s home town, including a girl who looks just like Alice?

The thing about book characters is that there are both heroes and villains. With chunks of the ‘The Museum of Unfinished Mysteries’ missing, Mitch cannot hope to decipher alone which is which. By taking a risk and placing his trust in some of his sister’s creations, he begins to solve the riddle…

The Other Alice is one of the best written and most beguiling books I’ve read this year, with hands-down the most intriguing and arresting plot-line. For readers aged 11 years plus, this is a mind-blowing meta-fiction read that will have you reliving the story in your head and looking twice at the people you see in the street. Total immersive brilliance.


The Unicorns of Blossom Wood by Catherine Coe

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unicorns blossom

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood are here to add a little sparkle to children’s bookshelves this autumn. Catherine Coe has added three new titles to her Blossom Wood series, including Festival Time and Believe in Magic. These books follow the scenario of  The Owls of Blossom Wood where the children are transformed into owls, but this time we’re galloping rather than flying!

With a whole lot of imagination packed in to less than 100 pages, children will be transfixed by the adventures of cousins Cora, Isabelle and Lei. The girls are brought together for a camping holiday in England and upon exploring the area they find an entrance to a magical world where they become unicorns and many wonderful things happen.

All three girls come from different backgrounds and the author quickly establishes individual personalities for them. As they explore Blossom Wood, they find are they all different there too and have their own magical gifts. Essentially for young imagineers, both books begin based in reality and with peers. This allows plenty of scope for children to kick off their own unicorn adventures together, wherever they are.

For kids aged six years plus who enjoy playing make-believe, these books are great value for money. Each contains an illustrated story (around 80 pages) plus a range of extra activities such as quizzes, maps, games and fact files, making it a really fun and accessible choice for newer readers.

The variety of activities in the books also brings opportunities here for children to read socially. They can easily share the fun with friends or siblings. This is always a special thing, as reading is so often seen as an activity that must always be solitary and silent, which not all children are naturally comfortable with. The Unicorns of Blossom Wood give their young readers a choice of how to read and I love that.

The Unicorns of Blossom Wood are an enchanting series to inspire young readers.

 

Big thanks to Scholastic for sending me these lovely books.

 


Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery

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Whippets Love Perijee

Whippets Love Perijee

” The best moment with Perijee happened when we were lying out in the cove. There weren’t any clouds that night, not one. If you opened your eyes wide enough you could see all the stars together, looking down on us like a city in the sky. It was just me and Perijee and the waves coming in and nothing else for miles and miles. The sky had never looked so big to me before.

I tried to find one of the stars that Dad told me about, so I could show it to Perijee. He was still about my size then. This was before he tried to take over the world etc.”

Caitlin

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery is a charming story with hidden depths. Children of seven years plus in need of something refreshingly different are going to love it.

Try as she might, Caitlin isn’t having much luck making friends. Living with mum and dad on an otherwise uninhabited island makes friends hard to come by. Caitlin is in a situation where the summer holidays are looming and her best option for company is Frank. Frank’s beard, long hair and lack of shoes might make him the last word in hipsterdom in some places, but on Middle Island he’s just a fairly ineffectual 40 something local fisherman who ferries Caitlin to school each day in his boat. Frank though, like us, recognises how lonely poor Caitlin is.

Perijee

Then one day, following an enormous storm, Caitlin finds a white and oddly marked prawn washed up on the beach. Much to her surprise, he is warm and living and she gets right on with looking after him. As she tend to him, he grows and changes shape to mimic those around him, with just the strange symbols on his skin remaining the same.

As Caitlin feeds and cares for the creature, he inevitably takes on aspects of her appearance: her human shape and features, her wellies and her bobble hat. She names him Perijee and he becomes like a little brother to her, albeit one who’s growing at an alarming rate.

Their relationship between them is just lovely: heart-melting and gentle, and maybe all the more so because we know that sooner or later Perijee’s size will become a problem.

A Treasure

Perijee & Me is a beautiful story of friendship, acceptance and how the perception of others can affect us. Read simply for the adventures of Perijee and Caitlin and the brilliant touches humour throughout, or delve to a deeper, more metaphorical level if you like. Both are great. For this reason, it reminded me of Maurice Sendak’s ground-breaking and much-loved Where the Wild Things Are, being similarly compelling in feel and value. This feels like an exciting voice and a brand new treasure for children’s literature. Check it out now because this isn’t the last you’ll hear about Perijee & Me.


Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan

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alien rain done

“Quick heavy footsteps walked over the corner of the room. I could hear them on the tiled floor. I held up my tilelight with one trembling hand, but no shaking or confusion could explain what it showed: that no one was there.

The footsteps stopped just short of me and then, horribly, I could feel the definite presence of someone or something breathing into my face. I could hear and feel sharp, angry breaths. 

I bolted for the exit but that door slammed in my face. I grasped the ancient handle with slippery hands and pushed and pulled as hard as I could, forgetting which way it should open. It would not budge. Behind me, the footsteps were approaching stealthily.”

Suitable for readers of eleven plus, Alien Rain by Ruth Morgan is exhilarating and action-packed YA science fiction.

It’s 3016 and Earth has long since been uninhabited due to the devastating effects of war. Although life continues on Mars, with the population living under thick domes in contained cities, there are still many links to home. Our story is part based in New Cardiff, a Martian city built to replicate Cardiff on Earth and originally designed to create a feeling of belonging and familiarity for the first dwellers.

Here we meet Bree, an immediately friendly and likeable teenage girl living in New Cardiff and attending the prestigious Pioneer School.

Bree

When Bree is picked from her fellow students to be part of a mission to Earth, no one is more surprised than she is. Only the most academic students usually get to make up the research teams visiting Earth, and though she has many talents, including empathy and a gift for writing poetry, Bree is not a traditional straight A student. However, once she begins training, she begins to understand her worth and appreciate that diversity within a group creates a stronger team.

As Bree becomes part of the mission at the Cardiff Scientific Survey Organisation (SSO), she learns quickly that the public image of Earth and the classified factual information are two very different things. She is informed that there are dangers on Earth the team will have to face every day, weapons originally developed by Earthlings in the final war. These biological weapons, or dragonmansks, once created to protect, became too powerful and wiped out human life. Now, having established themselves as Earth’s dominant species, they appear indestructible. Because of these creatures, any plans for making Earth habitable again have been written off. Teams from Mars, we learn, are now focused on stripping the planet of its useful resources while they can.

Suspicion

In discovering just how much the SSO is holding back from the general public, a delicious seed of suspicion was created for me. I couldn’t wait for Bree to get to Earth and start to uncover the truth.

You should read Alien Rain for the following reasons:

  • I’m loving the love for Cardiff. There are stunning descriptions of Cardiff, written by someone who really knows it well and has the skills to re-imagine it as a post-apocalyptic world. Ruth Morgan brings beauty to dystopia and it feels extraordinary. Plus, it’ll open your eyes to the everyday loveliness of our planet, something I was all too happy to be reminded of.
  • It’s a more than slightly addictive page turner, that will take you through a range of events and emotional responses. I read Alien Rain straight after the brilliant Alone by D. J. Brazier and was still very much in the jungle, but within a few pages Ruth Morgan’s writing had transported me fully to Mars. I stayed up half the night reading Alien Rain, because I so wanted to reach the next twist in the tale. I wasn’t disappointed.
  • Adults who want to read but find time is not on their side will enjoy this just as much as their young adult counterparts. YA authors are amazing. They manage to convey concisely what most ‘regular’ fiction authors would find hard to achieve in double the page count. Alien Rain is a great example of a book that knows how to get you hooked and keep you enthralled in under 300 pages.
  • Alien Rain champions the importance of being yourself and recognising the power of all your talents, not just using the measure of academic results. I also loved the closeness depicted in the book between science and the arts, which are linked by the common goal of discovery. It sends a good message to young readers.

Alien Rain is a great read for superior beings, regardless of planetary provenance. Out of this world.

 

Big thanks to Firefly Press for sending me this copy.


In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll: Rooting for Alice

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“…I fight the urge to run. I’m not a chicken. It’s only a load of old trees. Making myself breathe normally, I walk back towards the gate. I’m nearly there, nearly calm again, when to my left I see something white flicker between the trees. Quick as it appears, it’s gone.

There’s someone else in this wood.”

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In Darkling Wood

A story of magic in a very real world, Emma Carroll’s In Darkling Wood can make anything feel possible. Suitable for readers of nine years plus.

When her mum gets a call in the middle of the night with news of a heart donor for her little brother, Alice is as prepared as she can be. She’s worried for Theo of course, but clear on how lucky they all are to have had a compatible heart become available. Alice can be forgiven for thinking this will be the sum total of her upheaval for the next few weeks, as that would after all be quite enough to cope with. What she finds out though, on arriving at the hospital, is that she won’t be staying with her best friend as she previously assumed, but with her paternal grandmother: a woman she wouldn’t recognise if she passed her in the street.

Root Cause

This is what brings Alice to Darkling Wood. Darkling Wood- what a great name. Already exciting. Don’t you just love books that uproot the protagonist and place them in new settings, new situations? Children’s writers are particularly brilliant at this: think of CS Lewis and the Pevensie children, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s removal of Mary Lennox to Yorkshire, and of course Alice discovering Wonderland. Now we have Emma Carroll’s Alice in Darkling Wood, a new addition to this theme, and one that fits very well into our modern world.

The reason behind Alice’s relocation is solid, grounding, real-life stuff that draws us to her side and has us hoping for a good outcome. Instead, she finds she has even more to contend with. Firstly, she is stranded with her Grandmother Nell, away from the modern comforts of mobile signal and internet access- to all intents and purposes, already in the past. Secondly, it turns out that Granny is about as popular with her neighbours as Brian Blessed in a library, having decided to cut down the ancient woodland surrounding her house. The locals consider Darkling Wood to be not only beautiful but magical and mysterious too, something Alice can already feel for herself. Nell however, sees only the encroaching trees and imminent risk of damage to her property. This makes Alice by association unpopular at the school she has had to join whilst she stays in the area, which isolates her in ways she’s never experienced before.

Thank goodness for Flo then, a girl around her own age who she meets in the woods and appears to be from the local traveller camp. She might be a little bit eccentric, with her red coat and talk of fairies, but at least she’s on Alice’s side. This is just the beginning of Alice’s adventures, and ours too as we are given insights into not only Alice’s world, but also another one that began nearly one hundred years ago…

Family Tree

Emma Carroll is a wonderful storyteller and with In Darkling Wood she has taken quite a gollop of different aspects- the past and the present, the real world and a magical alternative- and blended them seamlessly into Alice’s story. There’s also a sensitively handled take on modern family life, with not only illness included but also estrangement and disunity. Less skilled writers could find this much information hard to handle in a three hundred page book, but in Emma Carroll’s hands it feels real, which of course is all good and proper, as life doesn’t hand you experiences sequentially, rather preferring the layering option. As a reader, it feels very natural and easy. It’s only in recalling the plot for this review that I fully realised how cleverly written it is. As for the magic, we can only hope for a little of that in our own lives and until then, escaping into books like In Darkling Wood is the closest possible thing.

In Darkling Wood shows us that magic can be closer than you think.

Themes for Teachers

As ever, Emma Carroll gives fresh insights in history, this time focussing on The First World War from the perspective of the family left at home. Other themes teachers might want to explore through the text are Alice’s transitions, to another school and also staying with an unknown relative. In Darkling Wood also considers environmental issues and how people respond to them and is an excellent book for sparking conversation on different points of view and empathy. Classes could have lots of fun developing their own family trees as they consider Alice’s, as there is opportunity to explore the metaphor of the threatened woodland and Alice’s own precarious family situation. I’d recommend this as particularly lending itself to Year Six pupils because of the aspect of transition but also as a way of bringing a little magic to their last year in primary, which is the least we can do.

 


Scary Fairy: One Wish by Michelle Harrison

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One Wish by Michelle Harrison

one wish

 

 

Moonface Don’t Live Here Anymore.

As a continuation of my obsession with all things fairy, I was drawn to One Wish by Michelle Harrison. Initially after a nice, soft read to balance recent reviews I’ve written, this seemed like a no-brainer of a choice. Billed by Waterstones as a recommended read for those who enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series- perfect. All, as often is the way with fairies though, was not as it seemed…

Being compared to Enid Blyton for a start off is something of a poisoned chalice. Not because of the elements of Blyton’s work that, ahem, ‘worked better’ in the olden times, but because she’s HUGE, an absolute titan of children’s literature and a master story-teller. Who wants to be saddled with that comparison? Plus, this book is nothing like Enid’s stuff. This is proper scary. Scarier, I might say, even than Madame Slap and her boarding school for naughty children; scarier than meeting the Angry Pixie on washing day. More devastating than the Saucepan Man, and I’ve got to say he always came across as a bit dodgy. No, don’t be fooled by these placid comparisons, nor the sparkly, friendly cover art- it really doesn’t fit the content of the book. So, not for younger kids who prefer a gentler read- got it? Let’s move on then.

Make a Wish…

Tanya has been able to see fairies all her life, but by the time we meet her she could really do without it. These fairies are frankly sinister, big on retribution and have a list of stringent rules Tanya is expected to follow that’s as long as your arm. And that’s just the ones who are looking out for her, her guardians. So when she discovers a notably cantankerous one living in the holiday cottage her mum and she are staying at, her reaction isn’t terribly ‘Cottingley’ or whimsical. Plus, it’s not the best time for Tanya anyway. It’s her first holiday since her mum and dad split up so she’s having to adjust to changes in her life left, right and centre. The last thing she needs is an evil gnome whispering insults to her from under the floorboards. Harrison makes it clear from the first chapter that we will be edging towards the darker end of the spectrum and that no one’s going to be laughing and lightly cupping delicately dancing sprites any time soon.

Understandably keen to get out of the house, Tanya heads out with her dog Oberon (You’ll love him. A book simply isn’t a proper one without a good dog) to explore. Adventure beckons and she discovers a Wishing Tree with an excellent side line in spouting poetry, a kindred spirit who can also see fairies, and a whole big fat bunch of trouble. As Tanya summons her courage to help save her new pal from dark forces, you’ll also have to prepare for a quest that will lead you out of our ordinary, predictable world and towards the possibility of imminent peril. Sometimes, it’s true, my attention drifted from the plot a little and occasionally I felt it wasn’t moving fast enough, but then I’d be pulled up as Harrison would utterly nail it with an irresistible description of events that would leave me reeling and often chilled to the bones!

 

Hold Your Breath…

The best scary films build up to their thrills over time and would lose their impact if we just carved out the parts that make you jump. Like them, One Wish cannot be effectively split into handy chunks for your enjoyment, so no quotes today I’m afraid. What I can offer you however, is the information that since reading the book, if I catch a smell of earth after it’s freshly rained, I get the distinct feeling that fairies may be around…and I love it when a book can do that to you. You’ll know by now whether this is something you or someone you know might enjoy. Honestly, I’m not a fan of scary books in the slightest, but I really enjoyed it and if I could handle it then most kids 11+ will have no problem!

GGG Enticing, alluring and deliciously frightening at times. In a good way.

 

After a second opinion? I love this site- check out their review:

http://moontrug.com/one-wish-by-michelle-harrison/

 


Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island- Ginger Beer Not Provided.

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Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children by Gillian Philip

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What Ho, It’s the Hols!

Kids love stories which begin at the onset of the big summer holiday- weeks stretching out ahead and untold potential for adventures. Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children is one of those books,starting (how unusual) in a sea plane taking siblings Molly and Jack to the island where they’ll be spending the summer with a rich aunt, uncle and a cousin they don’t know. In a fully gargoyled manor house surrounded by micro climates of instantaneous mists and dodgy looking adults acting shiftily, there is more than a nod to Blyton here; in fact what you can’t see from the snipped out section of book cover above is the large gold disc proclaiming FOR FANS OF ENID BLYTON just to make its affiliation crystal clear.

Lashings and Lashings of Adventure!

And we’re into it quickly with the children’s obligatory exploration of the island (almost as fatal as being a lone female at the start of a horror film) and naturally making straight for the one place they’ve been warned away from….der-der-derrrr…the cliffs! In come those pesky mists and before you can say “who’s up for a midnight feast?”, young Jack has disappeared. But the really strange thing is, apart from Molly and her cousin Art, no one remembers him. It’s as if he never existed. And so begins the challenge: will Molly and Art solve the mystery and recover Jack? And what’s the deal with the extremely realistic stone statues of children that are dotted around the island? Seemingly frozen in time, do they have anything to do with the strange goings on? Primary aged children will be hooked!

Blasts From the Past

Anyone who’s read Enid Blyton, or indeed any books released around the time of rationing will be well familiar with the eternal references to food: hunks of crusty bread, hard boiled eggs, jam tarts and ginger beer. Supposedly the perfect austerity diet and rather splendid too. Philip does her bit for the food in fiction cause (which I’ve just started, please join) by adding hot milk with nutmeg to the mix. Not saying it’s had a massive effect on me or anything, but I’ve made myself one of these every evening since I read it and this hasn’t happened since The Posset Incident of ’86.

In the spirit of Blyton, you may also notice a spot of mild gender stereotyping going on, so be aware that you might also find this to be the case. I’m not going to go into any detail however as although that I believe there was an opportunity here to write an old fashioned adventure story which entirely challenged gender roles, this is still a good story and you’ll need to draw your own conclusions. I’d be really interested to know what you think.

Catering for Today’s Kids

What sets it apart from Blyton’s era is the scary factor that kids love nowadays and which adults have recognised they can handle. The author uses distinctly unseasonal and unpredictable weather to spice up the plot and although it’s not a new technique, it’s always thrilling for a midnight bolt of lightning to illuminate a sinister silhouette!

Ravenstorm Island is a seriously good stage for children’s fiction and in this book we only explore one facet of its potential. As the series continues, more of the island’s secrets will no doubt be revealed. Philip is an expert in tantalising her audience with hints of lake monsters and gargoyles that might just come to life. For less dedicated readers or those new to ‘free reading’, there’s enough magic in this book for children to simply enjoy this story, but for those who are enthralled there’s the opportunity to continue the series with The Ship of Ghosts -already in the pipeline.

GGG- Gogogo- I’m not emotional but I liked it.

You can get your hands on The Lost Children from September 4th.