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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Better drowned than Duffers . . "
With its beautifully simplistic cover illustration 'The Salt Stained Book' could all too easily just blend in to the mass of children's books on the shelves today, but I'd urge people to at least look twice, as whoever picks it up will discover their very own buried treasure.
Donny is a young boy living with his Mother and Gran, but when his Gran dies the authorities...
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by Mrs. Janine M. Smith

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing
Bought this for my daughter, who read three chapters before calling it a day.
I decided to read it myself, to see what her problem was and agreed with one of her points; it was too slow to get going; boredom set in.
The book is well written (two stars is for the over all view; I'd give more for the actual writing skill) though I felt it tried to ride on the back...
Published 16 months ago by Y.G. AFri


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Better drowned than Duffers . . ", 11 Jun 2011
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This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
With its beautifully simplistic cover illustration 'The Salt Stained Book' could all too easily just blend in to the mass of children's books on the shelves today, but I'd urge people to at least look twice, as whoever picks it up will discover their very own buried treasure.
Donny is a young boy living with his Mother and Gran, but when his Gran dies the authorities begin to question Donny's mother's capability to look after him. So they both set off for Suffolk to meet up with their mysterious Great Aunt. On the way misfortune takes a hand, Donny is taken into care, and his claims of a `Great Aunt Ellen' coming to meet them are disregarded as a rescue myth.
What ensues is an archetypal adventure story as Donny is determined to meet up with his Great Aunt, and his new friends are just as determined to help him. Whilst also trying to outwit the authorities, including nasty Inspector (Captain) Flint.
This is very much an adventure story in the same vein as Swallows and Amazons, so not surprisingly it does heavily reference a few of Arthur Ransome works. Well if you consider that when she was a child Julia Jones' parents owned Peter Duck (one of Arthur Ransomes Yachts) you can't blame her for wanting to tip a nod to what must have been an amazing influence.
It is a fantastically absorbing read, even with the many sailing terms that landlubbers like me may not quite understand, (but which really doesn't take anything away from the story). The ending, which I won't give away, is such a marvellous `edge of the seat' piece of writing. You also have to admire the way the author elegantly manages to tie up all the important story threads whilst leaving a few tantalisingly dangling, ready to entice you into the next instalment.
The Salt Stained Book is the first in a series of three books called `The Strong Winds Trilogy', and I for one am hooked already
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Salt Stained Book - Julia Jones, 29 May 2011
This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
As one might expect from the biographer of Margery Allingham, Julia Jones is a mistress of the complex and enthralling plot, and this allows her to achieve the seemingly impossible task of bringing the world of Arthur Ransome's books of children, boats and the outdoors to vivid life in the 21st century world of children who are Looked After, who know about (but are forbidden to use) computers and who are trapped in the child care Matrix.

I found it hard to put down; so did my nine year old and sixteen year old sons, who are now demanding the next instalment of a promised trilogy. There is a terrifically satisfying villainess, in the Dolores Umbridge class, who wears Jimmy Choos, drives a convertible, is hideously plausible (to adults) and who revels in the abuse of power over children, with a supporting cast of loathsome policeman, sickeningly PC lady vicar and more.

The sailing scenes are satisfyingly correct and delightfully non-PC. As with Ransome, the locations are precise, well described and real, whilst the characters, with the exception of one family who are slightly too good to be true, are satisfyingly imperfect.

Buy this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read - looking forward to volume 2, 10 Jun 2011
This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
This is a lovely book well suited to it's target younger audience while still being entertaining for adults. It stands alone, features a plot which develops nicely and has some lovely twists.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really enjoyable read, 25 July 2011
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Dr. M. G. Farringdon (Swansea, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
What fun and enjoyment I had reading this book. Our hero, Donny, is thirteen-turning-fourteen who finds himself separated by Social Services et al. from his deaf `hippy' mother and placed into a foster home with the Rev. Wendy and her `house-husband' Gerald. Somehow he must meet the Great Aunt he's never seen, who is travelling from China, and reunite with his mother.

There are splendid descriptions of Political Correctness gone mad and of Jobsworths wielding their power, a couple of whom cross the line to bullying. Stereotypes? I don't think so.

Donny finds Allies, from other children at the Vicarage and at school plus a couple of sensible parents, his school tutor, Mr. McMullen, and two local ladies. With the help of his Allies, instinct and a copy of 'Swallows and Amazons' Donny starts learning to sail a dinghy.

Readers familiar with Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows & Amazons' books will enjoy spotting the allusions, though these are not confined to Ransome's books. How had I missed that to Donny's tutor until he says, "Did a bit of sailing myself years ago. Down channel"?

There are charming illustrations and vignettes by Claudia Myatt.

This is Part One of a trilogy. Hurry along Parts Two and Three, please!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This landlubber loved it, 15 April 2012
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Never having read any Arthur Ransome, I'm in a position to say this book works totally in its own right as a gripping adventure story for all ages (though I gather it contains much that will appeal to fans of SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS.) Donny, the gutsy teenage hero, has readers rooting for him from the word go as he looks after his deaf and unstable mother and stands up to bullying authority figures. Donny is backed up by a motley crew of children - all believable and well-differentiated as characters and occasionally very funny. (The Manchester United dreamcatchers will have me smiling for a while.) The gradual development of damaged Anna's friendship with Donny was one of the many moving but feel-good aspects of the book. The final section of the book where Donny sets off alone in his boat to find his piratical great-aunt was breathtaking. Jones' writing seemed to really hit its stride and it was impossible to put the Kindle down.

So I'll be acquiring volumes 2 & 3 of the STRONG WINDS trilogy. I might even look out for this Ransome chap to see what I've been missing.

Finally, a word of praise for the illustrator. Even though I was reading on a Kindle, Claudia Myatt's charming little illustrations added much to my enjoyment of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust the judgement of Gryff Rhys Jones., 27 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
I finished reading this first book of the trilogy last night and was very relieved that it delivered in the end, because early on I had more than a few doubts about it. I would never have trusted the reviews in the first place if it wasn't for the bit about Griff Rhys Jones on the cover ("I loved it"), but by a quarter of the way through I had completely lost my faith in him too. I could see that the book had potential, but parts of it badly needed to be rewritten. The first two pages were the worst, expressed in an over-dramatic style with short sentences which made it look like an early piece of homework for a creative writing class. Fortunately that style was dropped as soon as the real action began, but if I had been looking at the book in a shop I might easily have made the mistake of putting it back straight away. The style from then on was fine, leaving the author suitably invisible for the most part (in a good way), although there were problems with the dialogue where some of the language that came out of the main character's mouth, and his behaviour at times of conflict, did not appear to belong to him, looking like clumsy attempts to make him seem like a modern kid with "attitude": he had been given no time to develop the attitude problem which he displayed, and his normal use of language did not contain any of the ugly playful features that suddenly issued forth when he was placed into upsetting situations which would more naturally have led to him drop rather than acquire them.

Those were not the only things about the book that broke the spell. When Donny first sails, the action is rushed and an opportunity to sell sailing to the reader is missed, but the situation itself is also contrived and not thought out properly (the rescue boat could have been kept out of the way with another incident). The second time he sails, the opportunity to enjoy sailing with him is again lost as the writer rushes to get him straight into an incident instead of taking her time and giving the story a chance for some magic to find its way into it, and we never see any evidence of him getting a real chance to learn how to sail. The book also suffers from awkward transitions; the main character has dreams that provide him with knowledge he shouldn't have [edit: this is actually a feature of all three books and is not a fault, but merely a departure from realism and justified by the native American connection]; unlikely coincidences concerning his origins pile up [edit: unlikely connections between the children in the story occur through all three books]; and Donny fails to recognise something obvious (relating to the title of the book) which he then understands later on without the reader getting to enjoy seeing the point of his realisation.

It is an avalanche of little faults which really ought to have been picked up by an editor so that the author could put them right before publication. However, despite all the many things that are wrong with this book, most readers will have no difficulty in forgiving the whole lot of them because it manages to do something extremely well which will win them over regardless, provided that they don't give up on it too soon. It took me a long time to warm to the characters, but as the story goes on it is impossible not to start to like them, and towards the end it is so emotionally involving that any male reading it would do well to have an onion-peeling session planned so that he can use that as an excuse for any difficulty he has with dampness around the eyes. Griff Rhys Jones loved it, and by the end of it, so did I. Yes, it could be improved substantially, but I cannot justify giving it anything less than a five star rating.

Edit: Having now read all three books of the trilogy, I can tell you that the second volume is substantially better than this one (though not quite faultless) and that the third volume takes another leap upwards, demonstrating that the author can mix it with the best children's writers of today and should not feel in any way inferior. These books seriously deserve to be much better known. I'm hooked now for the whole series, however many more books follow this trilogy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting journey with an expert writer at the helm!, 31 Aug 2013
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First I must out myself as a Swallows and Amazons fan of long standing (or long sailing) and I've also sailed myself. My children loved the books too and we went to see their locations and stood at the Peak of Darien. So I was excited to discover this series. Julia Jones has achieved a wonderful blend of the pre-war S&A world and ours, not only creating a splendid story in its own right, but perhaps introducing contemporary children to Ransome's books. In the past, child characters in fiction were free to adventure without parents through the agency of boarding schools, and also the greater physical freedom allowed to children in those harder but in some ways more innocent times. Nowadays, adoring helicopter parents would be getting in the way of adventures and independence, and writers like Jaqueline Wilson have created characters with various problems which ensure absent parents at least part of the time: the care system etc: simultaneously extending the range of characters from the mostly affluent middle class of past fiction to a more diverse demographic. Jones has used both methods in one book, creating at the same time many sub-plots and characters with their own journeys and dangers, resulting in some very moving and involving situations and friendships. The writing is top-notch, and the story full of action, with references to Ransome's gang cleverly woven in. As the story goes on, we are tantalised by the search for the protagonist Donny's 'Great- Aunt', but she's a pirate - not like the 'GA' in Swallows and Amazons who is the ultimate buzz-kill. I want to know more about her! The book has a satisfying end but with questions unanswered, and exciting possibilities for the later books in this excellent series. The whole book has the clean, weathered, salt-dried feel of a beach hut, the simple and rather retro cover, the title, the lovely illustrations by Claudia Myatt.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Read, 5 Sep 2012
Jacqueline Wilson meets Arthur Ransome. Classic sailing adventure with a modern twist. Loved the subtle (and not so subtle!) references to Swallows and Amazons. Can't wait to start the next book in the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant, 24 April 2012
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This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
I finished reading this at 1.15 this morning, and I'm knackered! But what a great read! I haven't enjoyed a children's/crossover book so much for years - possibly since the first Meg Rossoff. It's partly a homage to Arthur Ransome of course, and I think he'd have heartily approved. It's tougher than Ransome, with real villains, real heroines, good adults, sideswipes at daft political correctness combined with a wholly liberal outlook on life, realistic teen and children's language, and a total belief that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing than messing about in boats. Except there's no messing here - it's all part of a gripping, cliff-hanging plot. Just excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the unknown sailor within!, 19 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) (Paperback)
This is a fantastic book which shows that the ethos and spirit of Swallows and Amazons is still alive and well and just as applicable to a modern story. The language and characters will appeal to children today but the author's skill in combining this with Ransome's love of sailing and adventure is what makes it such an enjoyable book. I also love the way it shows that a sense of adventure and the ability to make allies can help get you through the worst of experiences. I'd recommend this to old and young fans of Ransome as well as anyone who knows they're a true sailor at heart, even if they've never had the chance to prove it.
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The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy)
The Salt-Stained Book (Strong Winds Trilogy) by Julia Jones (Paperback - 16 Jun 2011)
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