Colin Meloy returns to the Impassable Wilderness in the second instalment of the brilliant Wildwood Chronicles.
All seemed well in Wildwood after Prue and Curtis rescued her baby brother from the clutches of the Dowager Governess. Prue returned home while Curtis stayed behind to learn how to be a bandit. But the peace Prue and Curtis won for Wildwood is on shaky ground.
My Nanna wasn’t your regular nanna. There were no cakes baking in the oven, no large rounded figure that swept down at you for hugs when you visited and no soft purple hair that was very much the rage when I was a kid. My nanna was wiry, short and loved to tell me stories.
‘Do you want to hear a story?’ she would ask.
‘Yes,’ I would always answer.
‘Well sit down I’ll tell you a story.’
I would spend part of my holidays with my nanna in Warragamba, NSW, a town with identical fibro houses built especially for the men who were working on the famous dam. I used to sleep in a feather bed that was so tall, I had to step on a suitcase to climb into it and it was from there that my nanna used to tell me stories about ghosts.
My nanna could see ghosts, like many of the women in her family over generations. She would tell me about cousins who had passed away that she could see down the street, long-dead sisters sipping tea and men fishing in boats late at night whose hair turned stark white at meeting ghosts in the middle of lakes in the early hours while fishing.
I would sit frozen solid in fascination at her stories and never want her to stop. These nights with nanna, fired in me a life-long love of ghost stories.
I was fascinated by people who could see ghosts and weren’t in the last fazed by it. I’d also been playing with the idea of fear, what causes it and wondered whether the things we were afraid of were worthy of our terror. For this I needed a young girl who was initially afraid of something but in getting to know this thing better, found it wasn’t nearly as frightening as she thought it was. I then had to search for that other great ingredient of all stories….location. Where would I like to live if I were a 12 year-old-girl? I had it! An amusement park. The one I invented was very much inspired by Brighton Pier in England. These were the beginnings of The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen, a story about a girl whose family ran an amusement park and who, on her twelfth birthday, spies something very unusual and after a few more curious sightings, is told that her family has a one-hundred-year-old secret….and it has something to do with ghosts.
But there was someone else who furthered my love of ghost stories.
This year was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and whilst idly ambling through research about this remarkable author and social reformer, I discovered he shared a love of ghost stories too. It was started by his nanny, Mary Weller, who used to frighten the six-year-old Charlie with penny-dreadful-style gore-fests like those in “Captain Murderer and the Devil’s Bargain”. Of his nanny he would say, “…Her name was Mercy, though she had none on me.”
I also discovered he not only claimed to see ghosts like my nanna but he was the founding member of a club called Ghost Club. One hundred and fifty years later, the club still meets today to talk about and investigate ghostly happenings in the UK. This would be the inspiration for my next book where I would create my own ghost club and have as its most successful ghost catchers, two 11-year-old twins called Angeline and Edgar Usher. Like the real clubsters, they would go to haunted sites, track down ghosts and convince them to stop their haunting ways. So in this way it would be more Scooby Doo than Ghostbusters and my Ghost Club was born.
As much as I loved my feisty, no-nonsense nanna and her lack of fear around ghosts, I always thought if I ever saw one, I’d go running scared.
But I didn’t.
I’ve only ever seen one ghost and it was late at night when I’d climbed onto another high bed that I had when I lived in an old warehouse. I’d knelt at the top of the bed, grabbed the curtains on either side of my window and was about to pull them closed when I saw the face of my nanna. She never said anything, simply stared straight at me. I didn’t run, I didn’t scream and I wasn’t the least bit scared. After a few minutes, she faded away. I calmly drew the curtains shut, feeling as if Nanna was still looking out for me and had a deep and restful sleep. Which was probably one more peaceful sleep than Dickens had after Mary Wellar paid him a visit and began his love of ghost stories almost two hundred years ago.
Visit the next stop on Deborah’s blog tour: http://bugreviews.wordpress.com/
Did you miss the previous stop? See http://westwords.com.au/
To see all the stops on the tour see http://www.DeborahAbela.com
I have been reading the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON series to my six-year-old daughter all year since we watched the Dreamworks’ DVD. Apart from character names the books bear little resemblance to the movie but that hasn’t stopped us reading all nine books in the series and we are both already eagerly awaiting book ten which I presume (and hope) will be released late next year.
The series follows the adventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third who we meet as an 11-year-old (and who turns 13 in book 9). Hiccup is learning how to be a Viking, which he is not very god at. His training involves having a dragon as your obedient companion which he must train for hunting and other essential Viking activities such as being a pirate. Hiccup also has to deal with the fact that he is the heir to the Hooligan Tribe as his father, Stoick the Vast, is the chief which puts considerably pressure on Hiccup to be the best possible Viking.
The adventures Hiccup has are truly fantastic and a deeper, larger mystery slowly emerges over the course of the books as bits and pieces Hiccup picks up along the way slowly come together. Cowell combines well-balanced humour (silly and clever) with truly great original stories that even I am addicted to. Hiccup must overcome the odds in a number of different ways usually with the help of his two best friends; Fishlegs, an even more unlikely Viking and Camicazi, a girl from a neighbouring tribe who is the best burglar in the archipelago in which the Vikings inhabit. The best way I can think of to describe the series is that it is like Asterix goes to Hogwarts.
The books are great for reading aloud for a 5-7 year old and suitable for an 8-12 year old reader. And despite the movie baring no resemblance to the books it is pretty good too!
The series in order:
- How to Train Your Dragon
- How to Be a Pirate
- How to Speak Dragonese
- How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse
- How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale
- A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons
- How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm
- How to Break a Dragon’s Heart
- How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword
previously published on Bite The Book http://bitethebook.com/2011/11/10/colin-meloy%E2%80%99s-wildwood/
I am a massive fan of The Decemberists so when I heard earlier this year than Colin Meloy had written a book I was very excited. That fact that it was a kids book didn’t put me off and the fact that it had a magical world feel to only increased my anticipation. Especially considering my favourite album of The Decemberists is the rock-operatic The Hazards of Love which is a story told across the 17 tracks of the album.
A few reviewers have compared WILDWOOD to The Chronicles of Narnia and maybe in a way it is a modern day version of those stories but I personally think it is infinitely better than the Narnia books and doesn’t need the comparison. The book is set in modern day Portland and focuses on Prue McKeel who takes her one year old brother to the park only to have him carried off by a murder of crows. The crows carry her baby brother off into The Impassable Wood. An area of Portland that has never been settled or developed and is seemingly off limits to everybody. But Prue must get her brother back and with the help of her friend Curtis she sets off on a magical adventure through Wildwood, a land where animals and humans live together but where trouble has been brewing amongst warring tribes and factions.
Meloy has created a totally believable world and I was fascinated by the politics and hierarchies he created within it. I would recommend in for 10 and up only because it gets a little dark in places and a bit of blood spilt. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see where the series goes and if they ever make a movie I hope it’s a condition that Colin does the soundtrack!
What’s the attraction of the Renaissance?
For me, it started with the art. I’ve written quite often about the formative effect of my first visit to Florence, when I was twenty, and an English Literature student. I was free to roam the city every afternoon and, as well as falling in love with it as a place, I went into lots of galleries, churches and museums. That was when my taste was formed and I became a fan of the Renaissance (though for painting I prefer Medieval Italian, since the High Renaissance tips into Mannerism, which I can’t abide).
The sculpture of Michelangelo, Donatello and Cellini, the architecture of Brunelleschi, the frescoes of Fra Angelico and Masaccio – all spoke to me in a way that only great art can. “I know what I like” is a much-derided sentiment in regard to art but if you don’t like it you can’t really engage with it or to anything to deepen your understanding of it.
“No more Madonna and Child altarpieces,” my daughters would protest. “You and Stevie go to the Pinacoteca (of whatever city) and we’ll meet you later.” So, yes, the Renaissance for me begins and ends with the art. But then, I got interested in the history – the powerful and fabulously rich de’ Medici family, Macchiavelli, the Borgias. What a fascinating period!
And the philosophy – the beginning of humanism with Ficino, Bruno, Bembo, who were all guests at Lorenzo de’ Medici’s table. When we talk of “Renaissance Man” (I’m afraid it’s always ‘man’), we think of Lorenzo, the scholar poet, patron of the arts, swordsman and lover. And you can’t find out about Lorenzo, who died in his early forties, without learning about the Pazzi conspiracy which wounded him and killed his brother Giuliano during High Mass in the Duomo in Florence on 26th April, 1478.
So a time of extreme violence and danger, even if you were the richest and most influential person in your city. But also a time when art and literature and music were highly valued, when the whole population of a city would turn out to see a new altarpiece being carried to its destination and set up for all to see. The last time something like that happened in the UK was probably the dedication of the new Coventry Cathedral by Basil Spence, in 1963, where new works of art by John Piper, Jacob Epstein and Graham Sutherland made it into all the papers and Benjamin Britten’s great War Requiem was premièred.
So, yes, I would like to live in a time when the things that matter to me like art and music and literature have a high profile, rather than the ephemeral celebrity of TV and film “stars” and musicians and artists whose output is very unvaried and aimed primarily to shock, since the arts can do so many other things as well.
But I’m well aware that it would NOT be much fun to live in the Renaissance, even in beautiful Florence, especially as a woman! Think of the dentistry, the plumbing, childbirth and surgery without pain relief, political factions whose members stab each other in the back, literally, instead of figuratively like our modern-day politicians.
And while some of these things could have been mitigated by living in a beautiful palazzo or villa, gazing at great art and wearing voluptuously gorgeous velvets, silks and jewels, this only works if you are a wealthy aristocrat. If you are a humble stonemason like Gabriele in David, or a servant like his friend Grazia, you would be dependent on others even for getting enough to eat.
I try not to romanticise the Renaissance and the Middle Ages, but I can’t deny their attraction for me as a place to spend time and to set my books.
By Mary Hoffman
Ari longs to be a boy so that she can learn the secrets of dragon summoning. When the last summoner, her blind grandfather, makes one last trip to raise the dragons for the king Ari goes too, to act as his eyes. Together they raise dragons to fight in the king’s army. But the king is cruel to the dragons and Ari and her grandfather long to set all the dragons free. This is a well written novel for younger readers, a tale of adventure for both boys and girls.
by Kat Lamb
It is hard to describe the plot of this book without giving something important away. Lets just say that it is a sumptuous adventure tale set in a feudal world and interwoven with magic. The most compelling reason to read this book is Taggle the talking cat. I don’t know how many times he made me laugh out loud with his very cat-like attitudes. The other compelling reason is Plain Kate. A girl with very real fear who consciously decides to be heroic. A dark fairy tale very worth reading.
by Kat Lamb
“I will NOT do bothering and I will NOT do interrupting.”- Lola
It has been 7 years since Lauren Child last wrote a Charlie & Lola adventure. She has still been writing and illustrating fantastic books in that time but we haven’t seen the beloved siblings except in the BBC adapted TV series and subsequent tie in books. The TV series really captured the essence of the original three books and the tie-in books also honoured Lauren Child’s style very well…but there is nothing like an original Lauren Child Charlie & Lola story.
I never understood the appeal of Charlie & Lola until I had kids. Before I thought the swirling, non-linear text would be just too confusing and the collage-esque illustration unappealing. But I was wrong! And the more I read them the more I fell in love with them too.
The new picture book, SLIGHTLY INVISIBLE, once again perfectly captures the trials and tribulations of these two beloved characters. Charlie wants to play with his best friend Marv but Lola keeps joining in. So Charlie and Marv decide to make an invisibility potion but somebody else drinks it before they have a chance! In typical fashion everything is resolved through a big adventure and everyone is happy and getting along in the end.
I hope this signals a more regular return to these two wonderful characters.
Matthew Reinhart is an incredible paper technician (I think that’s the correct term for a pop-up book creator) and in his latest book he has turned his immense skills to the DC Super Heroes. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League literally leap from the page and the Batman page even includes a Bat Signal that lights up! Not only does every page have a massive pop up of the featured DC character but there also a myriad of smaller pop-ups within each page. Coupled with these is a rich and detailed history of each character and their place in the DC universe. This is definitely a book that grown ups will want to spend as much time with (if not more) than the kids!
We have started a blog at Pages & Pages for readers at our bookshop to submit their own reviews. www.fanthepages.com
To start reviewing for us email a review of any book you have read to email@example.com . We will then post the review on this blog.
You can then come into the store and choose your next book to review from our advanced reading copies.
Each time you submit a review you can choose another reading copy
Reviewers of all ages welcome!