Broken Branch Falls: A GSQ Review and Author Interview….

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Howdy pardners and welcome to another GSQ Review! Today’s book is also going to be my submission in category eight of the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – a book with wordplay in the title.  So I invite you to put your claw hand in mine as we take a stroll into the leafy suburban utopia that is…Broken Branch Falls by Tara Tyler.  Stay tuned after my review for an interview with Tara about the book and her other, equally intriguing, work.

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At Gingko High in Broken Branch Falls, every beast sticks to their stereotype – goblins are smart, ogres are sporty and stupid, and pixies play pranks.  Gabe Thorntry, is your average goblin boy (except for his ears – large, even for a goblin) and while he dreams of breaking out of his socially-approved role, he knows that this is unlikely ever to happen.  Until, that is, Gabe’s friends convince him to help pull a prank on an opposing football team.  When the prank goes slightly wrong, Gabe finds himself forced to PLAY on the Gingko High team and against all odds, he discovers that he quite enjoys taking on an ogrish activity for once.  But when it becomes obvious that Gabe’s punishment has backfired and interspecies mingling spreads like never before, the High Council make a decision that will ultimately ensure that no species strays outside its own kind – ever again.  Gabe and his friends now have to take on a seemingly insurmountable quest to retrieve the Book of Ages and prove once and for all that with a bit of cooperation, the Beasts will not fall prey to the wars that plagued humanity, and that a mixed society can be more than just a dream.
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Broken Branch Falls is a fun and original take on the dramas of fitting in and finding oneself in the social jungle of high school.  Likeable characters and plenty of incidental humour make the story very easy to fall into and a steady forward progression in the action encourages readers to keep turning the pages. The friendship story and quest saga also cleverly disguise a plot that raises plenty of questions about freedom, social responsibility, the right to choose and the origins of authority.  For a book pitched at middle graders, there’s a lot going on here, so I think Broken Branch Falls will best appeal to those who enjoy a read that balances the lighter moments with some real-life issues….even if the real-life issues are being dealt with by non-humans.
 
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Honestly, there isn’t much I could find to criticise about this book.  For a debut title in the middle grade age bracket, Tyler has got this mostly right.
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Tyler has done a great job of using familiar creatures and building an original world around them.  The alternate history in the plot, in which the humans have wiped themselves out, gives a fantastic depth to the predicament in which Gabe finds himself.  I LOVED the cheeky little touches that made the Beast World come alive, like the fun “goblin ears” hand sign – those are the touches that I feel really bring a book to life and give the characters and the world a genuine, authentic feel.  Just for interest’s sake, I am now in the process of developing a similar hand sign for gargoyles.  I’ll get back to you when it’s ready with details of the launch party.

My overall take on the book?

Broken Branch Falls is a strange mix of action, humour and brain-food, for the thinking lover of MG fantasy!

And now you can meet the brains behind the book!

Tara Tyler has had a hand at everything from waitressing to rocket engineering. After living up and down the Eastern US, she now writes and teaches math in Ohio with her three active boys and Coach Husband. Currently, she has two series, The Cooper Chronicles (techno-thriller detective capers) and Beast World (MG fantasy) She’s an adventure writer who believes every good story should have action, a moral, and a few laughs!

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Firstly, congratulations on a beast-packed romp! Did you ever consider including gargoyles in BBF?
THANK YOU!! No. There aren’t even any castles in this one, but there are in the third one – maybe a gargoyle can show up there! (my favorite gargoyles are from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame!)
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If you could have been a member of one of the beast species in BBF, which would you choose?
My first choice would be a dragon, then I could fly! I had an awesome dragon collection growing up.
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Who do you picture as the ideal reader of BBF, and what would you like them to take from it?
Middle graders or anyone who likes fantasy – I think it’s an entertaining story with a solid message behind it that you can do anything you set your mind to, and you should be able to stand up for your rights.
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Was it hard to come up with an original world for your story in such a crowded genre? And how did you think up all the little quirks, like the goblin-ears hand sign?
I feel like I live in a fantasy world… It wasn’t too hard to create this world – I started with how things are, like kids in high school and living in our world, and adapted them to the characters and setting. I tweaked our society to keep it simple and relate-able, yet unique, how they communicate, jobs, slang, etc, plus their magical specialties, and I didn’t go too far so it seemed more natural. I think epic fantasy (like the Hobbit) is much harder. That’s like starting from scratch!
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You’ve also published a novel for adults – is there a different process that you go through when writing for a younger audience?
Well, I feel a lot younger than I am, so writing younger was easy. The adult story, POP TRAVEL is definitely for a more mature audience. It’s a futuristic techno-thriller, but it’s not dark and dismally serious. I love action and adventure and humor, so those elements are in all my stories. POP TRAVEL has more mature vocabulary and situations, but I think it still appeals to a younger audience, as well. My 13 & 14 yo boys enjoyed it and they don’t like to read… I say it’s PG-13.
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Have you got any projects in the works right now that we should look out for? And will there be gargoyles appearing?
I’m hoping to have SIMULATION ready to submit in September (next book after POP TRAVEL). And I’m writing the rough draft of CRADLE ROCK (sequel to BBF in the Beast World series). Plus, in my spare time (ha!) I’m working on an anti-princess story that I’m hoping to put on youtube with storyboard animations (via my awesome illustrator) and songs! Just wish I had more time for it all! (I will have to animate a gargoyle just for you in WHEN THE WIND BLOWS, book three in Beast World)
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I really enjoyed the book as well – really original world and story.
I’m so glad you did! This is all so exciting! Thanks for your fun questions! You ROCK! (get it? gargoyle? hee hee)
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AhAAA! I see what you did there! BBF was released on June 24, so it’s hot off the press and ready for your grubby little paws to grab.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – if you’d like to find out more about this challenge, and jump on the safari bus, simply click here!

Until next time,
Bruce

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Small Fry Safari Challenge Haiku Review: Mirror…

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small fryBonjour my lovelies, it is Mad Martha with you today for a haiku review that is doubling as a submission in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge.  If you haven’t yet heard about this fantastic and very user-friendly challenge you can click on the attractive button to the right.  If you’d like to take a peek at some of the other challengees’ submissions, you can find them helpfully collated here.

I am pleased to submit the very first entry in category two, which in my opinion is the trickiest of the lot: a book with a piece of furniture in the title.  My submission is Mirror by Jeannie Baker.  I submit it under the sub-clause that a mirror is a furnishing, and therefore fits the category. Hey, it’s my challenge and I can bend the rules if I want to.

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If you haven’t yet encountered Mirror (or indeed, any work by Jeannie Baker), then you, my dear friend, are missing out, for this particular work is a triumph of artistic and conceptual design.  The wordless picture book follows the story of two young boys – one in Sydney, Australia and the other in the Valley of Roses in Morocco.  In an ingenious twist however, the story follows the boys simultaneously across four pages, with each single page folding out to a double page spread, as pictured below.  **Please note that the TARDIS pictured was merely being used to aid in keeping the pages still and has no relation to the events depicted in Mirror. As far as I know, anyway.**

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In this way, the daily activities of each boy and his family are displayed side by side in glorious detail. On one side, information is displayed in English and on the other, Arabic, and so the book really reflects the concept of “two sides to every story”.  Throughout the book keen-eyed readers are treated to Baker’s trademark collage art and the opportunity to search for repeated motifs across the boys’ activities.  Apart from being a visual treat, the book is also a brilliant starting point for discussing similarities in the lives of those who seem, on the surface, to be living in very different contexts.

So here is my haiku:

Holding a mirror

to our preconceived notions

inspires reflection

 And here’s some more of the artwork to whet your appetite:

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 Now, I suggest you pursue this title without delay! And there’s still plenty of time to sign up for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – it’s only eight books in total that you have to read to be able to say you have conquered the Safari!  Join us on the Safari bus, we’d love to have you along.

Ta-ra my dears,

Mad Martha

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