Hello all and welcome to a post that’s very close to my stony heart. Today I have for you two books for the littlies that feature my stony brethren. Yes, that’s right, at least two authors have loved Gargoyle kind so much that they felt the need to create stories around them. Admittedly these books don’t feature my sub-genus (the type of gargoyle found only on bookshelves) but all publicity is good publicity as they say. The two titles through which we will be taking a scenic constitutional are Heart of Rock, a shortish story in a very fairy-tale-ish vein by Becca Price, and middle grade crowd-pleaser, The Gargoyle in my Yard by Philippa Dowding.
First up – Heart of Rock. I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher, Wyrm Tales Press (great name!), via Netgalley. Thanks!
In this read-in-one-sitting fable, a community of wizards come under attack from hideous Night Mares (ie: flying monster horses, not bad dreams). In order to save their people from this menace, the wizards carve oversized gargoyles out of stone and bring them to life using a rock that has been formed by nature into the shape of a heart. After defeating the nightmares, the wizards and gargoyles part on friendly terms. Years pass and another kingdom falls under what seems like an insurmountable attack. After hearing of the legend of the heart of rock, a champion sets out to regain it and ensure the safety of his home. But the gargoyles need the Heart of Rock to survive – whose need will triumph?
When I first read the blurb for this book I was expecting an epic adventure, so I was slightly surprised to find out that it really is just a short story – only 36 pages of text with some small illustrations throughout. After readjusting my expectations slightly, I was drawn in by the traditional fairy tale style of narration that Price uses throughout. The story is quite simple, with the wizards, then the new kingdom, then the gargoyles facing a seemingly impossible dilemma, and then overcoming it. The plot follows a fairly stable trajectory, with nothing too scary or unexpected occuring.
As a standalone story, I felt it was a bit lacking, but at the end of the book the author notes that this story will be released as part of a collection of fairy-tale style stories. I think that in that context, it will be well received by young readers and their grown-ups, due to the overall themes of considering the needs of others and working together to achieve shared goals.
I would have liked the gargoyles to have had a bit more personality to them, but the fable style of story-telling didn’t really allow for any in-depth character development. Incidentally, if Price were to extend this story to a full-length YA title, I’d be interested in picking it up!
*Parents who will choke on their own words if they have to read “Snow White”, “Cinderella” or “The Princess and the Pea” to their fairy-tale mad offspring one more time
*Early readers who enjoy the familiar style of a traditional fairy tale, but are keen to experience a new storyline
Next up, I have The Gargoyle in My Yard by Philippa Dowding, book one of the Lost Gargoyle series for early middle grade readers.
Twelve year old Katherine has a mother that loves garden statues, but Katherine begins to think she’s losing her mind when she glimpses the new gargoyle statue her mother has bought stomping her prize Asters – in Katherine’s new sneakers, no less. Even more surprising is the fact that Katherine’s mother knows that the little gargoyle is actually alive! But now what is the Newberry family to do? With a 400-year-old, grumpy, house-guest scaring, apple munching gargoyle living in your backyard, it suddenly becomes very difficult to host a barbecue or invite little children up the path for Halloween. Katherine and her family have to figure out a way to keep Gargoth happy before things get out of hand.
This is such a charming little book. Katherine is a sensible sort of a kid and I very much enjoyed the twist that got her parents involved in solving the problem of Gargoth. In fact it’s nice to see a book for kids of this age group in which the protagonist’s parents are (a) living and (b) useful! Gargoth himself undergoes some poignant character development also as we find out more about his back story and how he came to be stranded in the Newberry’s yard.
This would be a lovely serial read aloud before bed for kids aged seven to ten. Because the story is reasonably short and manageable, the book would also be a perfect choice for confident readers aged from around nine to twelve. The writing is laced with humour and the imagery is certainly chuckle-worthy at times. The book would definitely appeal to kids who are looking for a bit of magic and fantasy in their reading and a story that features a not-often-seen fantastical creature.
I also very much appreciated Dowding’s sympathetic rendering of gargoyle history and the often lonely predicaments that we gargoyles find ourselves in. As a bookshelf gargoyle I am shielded from much of this in that I spend much time surrounded by humans and small, domesticated animals, but for those of my species that live out-of-doors (or on top of doors or as knockers on doors) the sense of being overlooked can become overwhelming.
Do something compassionate. Smile at a gargoyle today.
As this is also part of a trilogy, I will be putting books two and three on my TBR list forthwith.
* kids who have sophisticated taste regarding preferred mythical creatures in their reading
* anyone looking for a fun, light read that also has some poignant moments and pathos
So there you have it. If there are any other Gargoyle-ish books out there, I’d love to hear about them so that I can add them to my list. It always pays to keep abreast of what the humans are putting out there about us.
Until next time,