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Tag Archives: Children’s Literature

Stop Politicising My Dumplings!

It’s Monday and catching up on the YouTube I follow after a few day’s absence was predictably depressing.  There was a ‘woke’ BBC sketch (this is the BBC that has admitted it would never commission something like Monty Python these days) that has been doing the rounds recently which was mildly amusing – at best – but (and although I don’t always agree with him) this Jonathan Pie tirade really gets the message across in a much more forceful way.

It’s a much-needed rant and I believe he speaks for many sane people on the subject, just with more expletives.  We only get one life, we should concentrate on saving the culture as well as the physical planet.  It would be great to hold all these virtue signallers to account and mock them mercilessly – as nobody has the right not to be offended – but if you notice, more and more websites are disabling or deleting comments that echo Mr Pie’s…funny that.

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The Singularity Wheel – Michael S. Fedison

A quick mention to avoid the blurb if you haven’t read the first book The Eye-Dancers, it is best to start there, if you carry on you may pick up minor spoilers that could potentially ruin the full enjoyment of your reading experience.

Five years ago, Monica Tisdale, the “ghost girl,” invaded their dreams and led them through the void. Now she is back, more desperate and more powerful than ever.

For Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski, the intervening five years have seen them advance to the cusp of their senior year in high school. They have girlfriend troubles, job stresses, future careers to consider. They don’t have the time, or the inclination, to be whisked away to Monica’s world again.

But when Monica calls on them to leap into the abyss and bridge the gap between dimensions, she will not take no for an answer. She has tapped into the deepest pools of her mysterious powers, leading to consequences as unforeseen as they are disastrous. For Monica, the multiverse, the concept of a limitless number of parallel selves and parallel worlds, has become all too real. And all too terrifying.

Through it all, she knows that Mitchell and his friends are the only ones who can save her.

If she doesn’t kill them first.

This cover is one of the most eye-catching of the year, that I have come across to date. Everything from the font, to the space spade symbol is really classy, not that a book should be judged by its cover.  It’s been all change in the intervening five years since the children returned home, and having grown into teenagers with all the associated problems, this new story takes on a more mature aspect.  As you would expect with more grown up protagonists, the peril stakes have also risen, which is always a good thing.

After a few chapters, reminding us of the characters and bringing them up to date with their lives, the story really gets going.  This time around there is less detail focussing on the world which is to be expected to avoid repetition, although the reader still feels that nostalgic, comfortable connection. I do like those little details, and exploring the town of Colbyville was one of the highlights of The Eye-Dancers, for me. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 31/05/2018 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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Moondial – Helen Cresswell

Minty has heard stories of strange happenings in the big house across the road from her Aunt’s cottage.  And when she walks through the gates, the lodge-keeper knows it is Minty who holds the key to the mysteries.  She only has to discover the secret power of the moondial, and she will be ready to carry out the dangerous mission that awaits her…

As a child I must have watched the television show half a dozen times so having been given the book by my parents a couple of Christmases ago, I have made sure to hold onto it.  Having read through the story twice so far and thoroughly loving it both times, it surely deserves more attention, especially for the younger generations.

The Nostalgia factor aside, the book itself holds up remarkably well.  It’s a beautifully told story, full of haunting set pieces (one of which was quite sinister and sent a bit of a shiver up my spine, which is a rare thing to happen), and it positively oozes charm and a sense of adventure and discovery.

Things gets going quickly and thickly layers on a sense of the secrets waiting to be discovered.  The prologue starts off this trend by setting up the reader with that feeling of solitariness and an encouragement to visualise the described surroundings.  Once involved with the imagining, the vulnerability and aloneness of the night are very effective in the scene setting. It’s a simple step to immerse one’s self in the atmosphere of the book after that.

This is a great read for all ages, a wonderful story of place and time, of ages, and the feel of history set in physical stone, and how that is an echo both forwards and backwards in time to our age.  The contemplation and interpretation of ornamental garden decorations has never been so interesting and has surely inspired the imagination of many a writer.  The part it plays within the story is both puzzling and charming.  Without giving any spoilers out ,the story itself manages to take in several strands both of present and past, and weave them in such a way as to give them equal time although the pressing story of the present isn’t as interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/05/2018 in Children's Literature

 

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Who Are You? Gender Bias – #KidLitWomen

Who Are You? Gender Bias – #KidLitWomen

A thought provoking post, well worth a read, and a comment!

Jilanne Hoffmann

In 2015, I sat in a darkened auditorium in a hotel in Los Angeles, wanting to throw up. I had word poisoning.

What was the source? The messenger’s message.

In that dark room, Shannon Hale, a keynote speaker at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference, was turning the spotlight on gender bias. She recounted stories of school visits, featuring her Princess Academy books, where boys either openly booed the idea of princesses or had been excluded from her assemblies because teachers or school admin believed “boys wouldn’t be interested in her books.”

While I hadn’t said those exact words, I was standing at the top of the slippery slope that takes one there. I had been volunteering in our school’s library and was guilty of saying: “This book has boy written all over it” or “Girls will really like this book.” Possibly more than once.

Fast…

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Posted by on 04/04/2018 in Children's Literature

 

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The Eye-Dancers – Michael S. Fedison

Seventh-grader Mitchell Brant and three of his classmates inexplicably wake up at the back edge of a softball field to the sounds of a game, the cheering of the crowd. None of them remembers coming here. And as they soon learn, “here” is like no place they’ve ever seen. Cars resemble antiques from the 1950s. There are no cell phones, no PCs. Even the spelling of words is slightly off.

A compulsive liar, constantly telling fantastic stories to garner attention and approval, Mitchell can only wish this were just one more of his tall tales. But it isn’t. It’s all too real. Together, as they confront unexpected and life-threatening dangers, Mitchell and his friends must overcome their bickering and insecurities to learn what happened, where they are, and how to get back home.

The answers can be found only in the mysterious little girl with the blue, hypnotic eyes. The one they had each dreamed of three nights in a row before arriving here. She is their only hope. And, as they eventually discover, they are her only hope.

And time is running out.

The Eye-Dancers, is a story of friendship that has a great nostalgic vibe, bearing similarities in feeling to such coming of age stories like Stephen King’s The Body (the film being titled Stand By Me), mixed in with a classic sci-fi, à la The Twilight Zone.  Both of which infuse the prose with their respective flavours and make this story extremely enjoyable to read.

There are plenty of real world YA issues covered here, from self-doubt to broken families, all without getting too heavy.  It’s the mixture of the real life and fantastical, and the way Fedison balances it, that is a real strength for this book. The mystery itself is not as clear-cut or clichéd as adult readers long familiar with the genre may guess at when reading the blurb, which is a relief and not at all surprising, considering the author’s blog posts, the link of which you will find at the bottom of this post. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/03/2018 in Children's Literature, Fiction, Sci-Fi

 

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It’s Fun to Stay at the YEAG!

This blog post should have gone out yesterday but the internet was inexplicably down for a while so belatedly this is coming out today:

Not content with just one avenue of helping children, I am now helping promote an annual book – familiar to some of you – that encourages children to read, get into Sci-Fi, use their imaginations, and to be more literate which makes for a better society in general.

it has been good to get back in touch with Dreaming Robot Press who have been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of the upcoming anthology, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide 2018.  For those of you that don’t know, the YEAG is a book that aims to be inclusive of all, sometimes drop in subtle morals and most of all give children the passion for books and exploring their minds.

With such an unlimited scope for stories, each adventure promises to be a joy and my review of last year’s 2017 YEAG will give you a taster of the sort of thing you can expect, as I delve into the new one.  For now though the Kickstarter campaign, although having reached its target and soon to close is still worth checking out if you feeling like sharing the love and helping to support this project, head on over to their Kickstarter page.  Your contribution is appreciated.

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Posted by on 12/07/2017 in Children's Literature, Sci-Fi

 

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The Lyons Orphanage – Charlie King

Sam Watkins, an orphaned young teenager, possesses the ability to read the minds of almost everyone he meets.

Howard Lyons, the owner of the orphanage where Sam has lived since he was a baby, has been reluctant to let Sam leave the orphanage.

Unable to read the mind of Mr Lyons, he takes it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind the owner’s decisions and learn more about the origin of his ability, his parents and the potential of his power.

However, Sam’s investigation and mind-reading abilities reveal a power struggle at the top of a faltering orphanage between Mr. Lyons and his assistant Natalie.

Sam’s involvement in this conflict leads him to look for ways to save the orphanage and uncover the true motivations of both the owner and his assistant while trying to learn about his past.

Orphanages don’t seem to pop up in the books I read very often – unless a it’s a grim Dickensian version, that is – so it was a refreshing backdrop for a story.  I had no idea what to expect from it really and by the end I knew I would never expect what I did get from it.  That’s all the hints you will get plot wise as it is fun to discover where it branches off from your expectations.

From the outset there was plenty of character building and this foundation really allows the reader to get invested in the plot.  All this does well to build up a fast paced story where what the characters do and think matters, leading to an ending where all the threads all come together in a pleasingly dramatic fashion.

Main protagonist Sam is a very mature thirteen year old, perhaps too mature for his age but owing to his circumstances, this is perhaps a case of me not understanding the emotional complexities of an orphan.  Not that this was a negative point, it was refreshing to see kids with strong personalities having serious conversations without then resorting to lying about a hurting scar as one book series that-shall-not-be-named did so tiresomely. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 29/06/2017 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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