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Faerie Heart
Faerie Heart
by Livi Michael
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A faerie's tale, 21 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Faerie Heart (Paperback)
In a Dark Age village lives Keri, a girl who wants nothing more than to leave behind the chores and `girl stuff' that fills her life and run away to the forest in search of fairies. At every opportunity she leaves the village in search of the magic the fill the tales that are told by the fireside. As a result of one of these escapades, her little brother is dying and in desperation she calls on Mabb, Queen of the Faeries, to take Keri and spare her little brother's life.

Mabb grants Keri's wish and Keri quickly learns to be careful what you wish for. Mabb is beautiful but cruel and manipulative. When Keri tries to escape she finds that time has passed differently with in the faerie realm, and though once more in the human world it is not the world she knew. She must go back to Mabb and her magical world and fight to get back to her family.

This book seems to separate into two sections although it is actually written in three. The first section sees Keri fighting against the restrictions she feels are placed upon her life. She does not at all enjoy the gender stereotype that she is being encouraged to conform to, particularly disliking the `girl chores' she must do. Instead she longs to discover a new path for her life to take, which we feel will resonate with many children. The book then seems to swing quite quickly to a different Keri, who has been forced to assess her life. This is the section of the book that we most enjoyed as the characters are portrayed very well and the emotions expressed are quite unusual in a children's book. There is of course heartache and longing for her family, remorse over her previous behaviour but there is also some discussion of mortality and the feeling of being other. Having said that, all the ideas are written in a way that is definitely accessible to children and are wrapped in a very enjoyable story.


My Unwilling Witch Goes To Ballet School (Rumblewick Diaries)
My Unwilling Witch Goes To Ballet School (Rumblewick Diaries)
by Hiawyn Oram
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unwilling witch?, 21 Aug. 2009
A witch that doesn't wear black? And doesn't cackle? And would rather go for a smoothie with human children than scare them? Haggy Aggy, the unwilling witch, is a fabulous main character for the Unwilling Witch series. She and her familiar, the cat Rumblewick, get into a scrape when Haggy Aggy decides to become a ballet dancer. Straightening her hair and dressing in feathers and frills gets her in trouble with the Head Hags, trouble through which Rumblewick has to think their way. Many plies, arabesques and tantrums later and all is well for the unwilling witch.

This book is great for children that who to gain a little more confidence reading alone. While there are some troublesome words, such as pirouette, the author has helpfully included a child friendly glossary at the back of the book, which I think is a great idea. Oram's writing reads like poetry in some places, which will pull kids along with the flow and means that the story also has a great rhythm for reading aloud. The illustrations are all amusing and well done, enhancing the story rather than detracting from it. This series has a feel of the Worst Witch with a modern twist to it, and could be perfect as a primer for younger children before they move onto that series.


Can't You Sleep, Little Bear
Can't You Sleep, Little Bear
by Martin Waddell
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for bed, 21 Aug. 2009
As a bedtime read, this book is perfection. Little bear has been put to bed, but cannot (or will not!) go to sleep as he is scared of the dark. Big Bear tries to banish the dark with lanterns of varying size, but there is always a little bit more dark on the edges of the light. Finally, Big Bear takes Little Bear outside to see that the stars and moon are throwing off all the light Little Bear needs, but Little Bear doesn't hear this, as he is fast asleep.

The story is charming, interesting but calm enough for an evening story. The artwork is well done and colourful enough to entice very young readers. As the subject of the book is bedtime, the pictures are quite dark in colour and tone, which is comforting and relaxing. Whilst this is not a new book, its charm keeps it a favourite for parents and children alike.


The Troll
The Troll
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Troll, 21 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Troll (Hardcover)
Julia Donaldson, the incredibly popular author of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, released her new book, The Troll, last month. While it has very bright, busy and visually arresting illustrations, The Troll suffers from its crossed storylines, that result in a book that seems to be confused about what it is.

The main thread of the story is a retelling of the classic Billy Goats Gruff story. The troll, hearing the goat approach prepares to attack, only to find that he is mistaken and the animal is in fact a mouse or a rabbit. Each animal points him onwards to the next bridge, where he will surely find a goat, until the troll reaches the sea. There he finds a treasure chest full of gold (which he tips into the sea), and, sick of eating fish, climbs into the treasure chest to sleep while he awaits his goat.

The second thread of the story involves a group of pirates, sailing the seas in search of treasure. All are terrible cooks, and each expedition to an island to find the gold results in failure and a member of the crew cooking something awful. Finally they reach the island on which the troll is sleeping and attempt to make him walk the plank. The story is resolved when the crew realise the troll can cook, and make him the ship's cook. The only problem is, they want to eat fish!

Julia Donaldson is well known for her rhyming writing style, and this book is a diversion from that. It is quite an entertaining story, and older children may enjoy making the links between what seems like unrelated storylines. Having said that, the story alternates frequently between the troll and the pirates, with not much to indicate that they are the same story until the end of the book, which can become confusing for young readers. I think that the book may have benefited from being two separate stories, but nonetheless enjoyed the illustrations and believe it would be a good choice for older readers of picture books.


Rowan the Strange
Rowan the Strange
by Julie Hearn
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of this years best novels!, 21 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Rowan the Strange (Hardcover)
This compelling tale is the story of a young teenager, Rowan, diagnosed with schizophrenia on the eve of the Second World War. His sudden and uncontrollable aggressive urges have forced his frightened family to send him to psychiatric hospital where he is subjected to the experimental treatment of electroconvulsive therapy. Julie Hearn's raw descriptions of the process and Rowan's illness chart his progress and contrast his experiences with those of companion and friend Dorothea, a feisty young girl who believes she sees fairies and whose time at the hospital is far from trouble free. The writer skilfully tells the story from Rowans perspective, giving you an insight into the emotions felt by the patients and the feelings of fear and confusion they deal with in a world where every small act of kindness is like a gift and highlights there terrible vulnerability. Small moments of pleasant normality such as tea and cake in the sun are blissful events and fill the reader with hope for the characters well being. But these isolated, everyday episodes act as short periods of calm that contrast starkly with the often shockingly sad and traumatic occurrences on the ward.

Additional themes are cleverly woven throughout the story, such as the exclusion felt by the inmates of the hospital caused by the feelings of fear, hatred and contempt directed at the patients by society and even the nurses and doctors. The overall sense of fear is increased by the approach of the war and grows to encompass the German doctor charged with the well being of the main characters who is constantly viewed with suspicion and dislike. It gives the story a tense and ugly undercurrent that runs throughout the plot and occasionally triggers some catastrophic event that will turn the story on its head once again.
This is a truly heartfelt story that we feel deserves at least a nomination for a major award. Julie Hearn's skill as a historical author has reached new heights as this novel outshines many of its contemporaries.


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