Haiku Review: The Feral Child…

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Morning all! Before Mad Martha takes you on a haiku holiday,  I feel obligated to let you know that as of right now, my current giveaway, in which you can score yourself any book of your choice from the Book Depository up to the value of $12 AUD, will be closing in just over 14 hours.  Go here to find the rafflecopter link – and entries are fairly low at the moment, so your odds will be good!  Now on to today’s business – Brucey out!

Good morning poppets, it’s Mad Martha with you this fine weekend morning – one day later than expected due to the extreme lack of motivation that springs from returning from a beachside holiday.  But more on that later in the week.  I received today’s offering, The Feral Child by Che Golden from the publisher via Edelweiss, in return for an honest review – thanks!

The Feral Child is a celtic middle-grade fantasy adventure featuring Maddy, who, after her parents pass away, finds herself moving from London to Blarney in Ireland, to live with her elderly grandparents and be tormented by her annoying cousins.  One rainy afternoon, Maddy is confronted and nearly kidnapped by a strange red-haired boy, who later turns up at her bedroom window in a strange and terrifying form.  After the boy kidnaps Maddy’s young neighbour Stephen and leaves a changeling in his place, nobody seems to take Maddy’s story seriously and she takes matters into her own hands. With her cousins Danny and Roisin, Maddy sets off to steal Stephen back from the Fey.  Cue adventure!

feral child

Scary faeries, wolves,

carnivore horses, oh my !

Must I save the child?

In some ways, The Feral Child is a fairly formulaic example of its kind.  Moody, damaged adolescent scorned by family and friends finds a secret power and goes on a heroic quest to right a wrong when no one else will step forward, finding redemption and friendship along the way.  I can think of a number of books for this age-group straight away that follow this plot line almost to the letter.  Where this one stands apart is in the characterisation – Maddy, Danny and Roisin are really believable kids.  There’s no cliched or stereotypical dialogue here, and the characters stay true to their personalities, taking on changes slowly throughout the story.  This is refreshing because often in middle grade fiction the reader will be treated to, for example, an annoying, bullying character for most of the story, who miraculously changes into a caring, heroic sort of a kid after one significant event.  In Golden’s story, the children’s perosnalities evolve in a much more natural way – at the end of the story, they’re still recognisable as the same people they were at the beginning, albeit with a slightly more mature outlook on their situation.

Another strong point of the story is the tense atmosphere that emerges when the sinister faeries come into the plot.  The villains in this book are genuinely creepy – particularly the elven mounts *shudder* – and really add to the sense of danger the characters are facing.

This is a solid pick for middle graders who enjoy fantasy and mythology in their reading. This new edition is due for publication in June this year, but is already available for purchase around the place if you want to get your paws on it now.   Oh, and it’s a perfect choice Bruce’s Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge in category one (a book with something related to safari in the title) or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title). Just sayin’!

Adios until we meet again, cherubs, and don’t forget the giveaway – time is ticking!

Mad Martha

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Scar and the Wolf: Read it if….

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Evening my lovelies!  Today’s offering, Scar and the Wolf, is a quirky little (and I mean that literally – only 85 pages!) read based on a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.  The difference here is that the main character, Scar (short for Scarlet), is a zombie. She’s also missing a nose, but that’s to be expected if you’re a member of the walking undead.

I must admit that I’m generally not a fan of fairy tales, fractured, re-imagined or otherwise and this did taint my enjoyment of this book just a little. But really, it was only a teensy amount.  The book pretty much follows the traditional plot of the story – girl goes walking, girl meets wolf disguised as friend, girl invites wolf to her granny’s house, wolf beats girl to aforementioned house, wolf eats granny, wolf eats girl, girl and granny triumph over wolf after extracting themselves from wolf’s innards – with some added putrefied extras and some classic zombie character names.  There are also two disenfranchised spare body parts along for the ride – Pokey and Sniffy – that provide some comic relief.

scar and the wolfRead it if:

* you like your middle grade fiction to contain more than a whiff of decay, putrescence and general rot

* you would happily line up for hours to purchase a haggis of finest quality

* you believe that even zombie teens should have access to fashionable all-weather wear

* you fervently adhere to the accepted norms of social etiquette, including the rule that the old “Got your nose!” gag should only be performed on those with non-detachable body parts, lest awkwardness ensue

I was really, really looking forward to this book after reading the carefully crafted blurb.  I had tummy butterflies on thinking about it, I kept putting off reading it because I wanted to stretch out the moment of anticipation….and it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.  Admittedly, this may be because I was hoping for an in-depth, fleshed out (pun intended) YA type of story that exploited the fairy tale genre but existed in a fresh, new world of undeath.  I also wanted it to be illustrated.  That would have been the icing on the festering unearthday cake.

This is middle grade fiction, pure and simple however, and for what it is, it’s great.  It weaves in the angst of a young teen trying to fit in and feel grown up, the ups and downs of friendship, and what it means to take responsibility for one’s actions.  There’s plenty of humour and little gross-out moments that middle-graders will appreciate.  It’s short enough not to be daunting to reluctant readers but engaging enough for more able readers to feel like they’ve got some bang for their reading buck.  And best of all, this is the debut book in the series.  I for one will definitely be looking out for the second book, Moldylocks and the Bear.

Might I also point out, that this title would be perfect for  the Small Fry Safari KidLit Readers Challenge 2014 in category one (a book with something related to safari in the title), category four (a book with someone’s name in the title) or category seven (a book with something unsightly in the title)?  Click on the attractive button below to find out more and sign up with the other intrepid explorers already commited!

Until next time,

Bruce

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Retro Reading: Books about Puberty…..

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Yes, it’s that time again – time to link arms with a trusted confidante (ie: me) and take a stroll down memory lane. BYO mosquito repellent and hayfever medication.

Recently I have been contemplating that most treacherous of life events – puberty.  A younger colleague of mine has just begun on this road to adult gargoyle-hood and is most vexed at the appearance of mould where there was no mould before.  It was while I was advising him of the necessity of a meticulous morning-and-evening cleansing routine to keep this problem in check, that I decided I should re-read some classics related to this special time for young gargoyles and fleshlings alike.

To that end I selected two that I remembered well (or at least I thought I did…): the perennial favourite Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume and Pig City by Louis Sachar.

are you there godIt may come as a surprise to those of you who have read Are You There God?…., but on re-reading I had absolutely no recollection of any of the content pertaining to Margaret’s investigations into different religions. None, whatsoever.  How could this be? I wondered – clearly, this was an important part of the main character’s growth and development throughout the plot.  It’s even mentioned in the title, for goodness sake.

It was about this time that I began to suspect that on my initial reading, drawn by content arguably more interesting to a young buck undergoing certain important life changes, that I may have skipped the bits about religion and flicked through to the advice about increasing one’s bust…..Yes, dear reader, I believe that I may have been guilty of skipping large chunks of the story in order to get to the spicy bits! Surely, though, this small infraction can be forgiven – as creatures of stone, gargoyles have a vested interest in busts (of the artistic, sculptural variety) and advice as to how to make a bigger one could be just the ticket for a gargoyle without a lower half to take a step up in the world, so to speak.

In re-reading Pig City, you will be pleased to know I did not uncover any nasty surprises about content I had forgotten, for this book was certainly on high rotation in my reading list at that time.  Strangely though, I had forgotten all about the book itself until I recently overheard something that jogged my memory and I felt an immediate need to search it out.

pig city

The story follows the sixth-grade school year of Laura Sibbie and friends as they grope their way up, down and across the social ladder through the creation of various clubs.  The initiations and subsequent fall-out of these friendships make up the bulk of the story, and very entertaining it is too.  This is a much milder take on the beginnings of adolescence than that presented in Judy Blume’s work – the characters still have the charm and innocence that Blume’s more wordly girls do not.

Having had its first outing in 1987 though, I wonder how much the events in Pig City mirror the experiences of today’s children in grade six and seven.  I can’t help but feel that the squabbles depicted here would nowadays be more likely to occur in a younger age group than the technology-savvy, know-all-about-it pre-teens of the post-noughties.

I must say, having re-dipped the toe into books about this life event, I feel I must seek out more as the embarrassing predicaments in which the characters find themselves are really quite fun to read about.

Any suggestions from fellow bloggers about classic “growing up” reads to tackle?

Until next time,

Bruce

Read it if…: The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk

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Afternoon all….every so often a children’s author comes along who I suspect is sneakily writing for adults under the guise of writing for children. Glenda Millard, author of the Kingdom of Silk series, is one of these.  She is sneaky in another way too, in that she ALWAYS manages to publish new books in this series without me knowing.  Such is the circumstance in which I discovered The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk, which is number six in the series.

For those unfamiliar with Millard’s work, she has an incredible ability to discuss sad and scary issues, including the death of a child, Alzheimer’s disease, and the difficulties faced by children in care, in a way that is both accessible to children and deeply touching to adults.  In this particular offering, Saffron, the youngest of the Silk girls, is experiencing the fear that comes with unexplained symptoms of illness.

Read it if:

* you wish that your childhood had been played out against the backdrop of a large family, a sprawling backyard and special connections between loved ones

* you have ever experienced the fear of facing a problem that you felt was too big for you to overcome

* you are prepared to fall in love with the whimsy and innocence of Stephen Michael King’s beautiful illustrations

* there is an old (or young, or young-at-heart) hippy hiding somewhere inside you

*you like books that are packed with heart; that remain with you after reading; that transport you to a better place and can be read in one sitting

This series has grown to become one of my all time favourites – librarians and teachers, in particular, you will certainly find something to entertain and engage your class with this series of books.  And for adults, you may find yourself experiencing some healing you didn’t even know you needed….

For those interested, the other books in the series, in order are:

The Naming of Tishkin Silk; Layla, Queen of Hearts; Perry Angel’s Suitcase; All the Colours of Paradise; Plum Puddings and Paper Moons

Until next time,

Bruce