A Poetical Read-it-If Review: Rhyme Schemer…

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Are you the kind of reader that loves it when an author tries something a little bit different…and NAILS it? Me too.  Happily, today’s offering is from an author that does just that.  Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt is a verse novel for a middle grade audience, so I suspected when I requested it for review that I would probably enjoy it.  What did surprise me was the way that Holt has managed to create a clever, funny and sensitive novel that hits all the right notes and authentically portrays the troubles and triumphs of a young lad who is considered to be a bit of a ne’er-do-well.  So, in fact, I ended up loving it. Hurrah!

If you were to describe Kevin as a class bully, you would not be too far off the mark.  Kevin has a reputation for being the kind of guy who might hide all your pencils.  And then politely inform you that your pencils are missing.  And then laugh at you.  Kevin also has four older brothers and two parents who don’t have a lot of time for him.  Kevin also has a particular skill in manipulating pages in classic children’s stories and posting them around the school.  But when a classmate discovers Kevin’s love of poetry, he suddenly realises how much of an impact words can have on other people.  Is it too late for Kevin to redeem himself? Or is he going to be stuck as the villain of the story forever?

rhyme schemerRead it if:

*you’ve ever thought that many classic children’s books could do with a cheeky, handwritten makeover

*you’ve ever felt like the smallest fish in a very large pond…comprised mostly of annoying brother fish

*you’ve ever had a secret passion for something that might be considered a bit embarrassing were it to be revealed in public

*you’re looking for a book with an authentic male protagonist that features poetry in a clever and very engaging way

As someone who enjoys the odd bit of poetry (and a bit of odd poetry) this book could not have been more perfect.  It is a super-quick read – I think I read it in two sittings, but could easily have managed it in one – and has a storyline that had me glued to the pages.  The book opens with Kevin revealing that he is the mastermind behind a spate of guerilla-poetry attacks, in which pages torn from classic children’s books have been manipulated with pencil to create funny new poems and stuck up around his school.  If you can’t imagine what I mean, here’s a handy illustration from the book to demonstrate:

 

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Kevin is a self-proclaimed bully who seems to take great delight in humiliating others, but as we move deeper into Kevin’s journal, we quickly discover that he has family problems that may account, in some part, for his less-than-kind behaviour towards his classmates.  It’s really hard to dislike Kevin though, as his voice is at once self-promoting and self-deprecating – he knows that his behaviour is not winning him friends, but he also seems to know that he has a gift that might open up some opportunities for him if he can keep out of trouble.

This is an ingenious new take on the moving-into-the-teenage-years style of story that will most definitely appeal to kids in the target age group because of the style of humour and excellent characterisation.  I suspect this will also appeal to those with a subversive streak (including, but not limited to, reluctant readers and those who like to deface library books), and those who are just looking for a familiar story of friendship and personal growth told in a fun, accessible fashion.

Actually, writing this review has done two things: it’s encouraged me to pick up That Shakespeare Kid, another verse novel that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for at least six months, and it’s also reminded me to put Rhyme Schemer on my Christmas list. Because now I wish to own it in print, not least because it features the funniest collections on the subject of the school principal’s tie ever written.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Talespins Blog Tour: Read it if and Giveaways!

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tale spins tour

“It’s become quite a trend to take a known story

and tell it a different way.

That’s all well and good, for we can assume

every author has something to say.”   

(Jack’d, Talespins, p 66)

Afternoon all!  I am chuffed as a chuffed thing to be participating in the blog tour for Michael Mullin’s new book Talespins, a poetic retelling of three traditional fairy tales.  Click on the link to check out the other blogs participating the tour, and then go visit!
Tour Schedule

Don’t forget to scroll down right to the end of this post too (after you’ve finished reading it all, word for word…obviously) for GIVEAWAYS! Hurrah!

Now I’ve mentioned before that I am generally not a fan of retellings of fairy tales in any form, but having recently read and enjoyed Scar and the Wolf, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with zombies, I felt that I should probably give this one a go.

Talespins features three short stories-in-verse aimed at an audience of middle grade and above.  The first story, 8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf, is narrated by Creepy (the aforementioned previously unmentioned 8th dwarf) and presents a well-known and oft-repeated lament of unattractive suitors down through the ages.  The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny relates the results of a hip young princess’s ill-advised scheme to wreak revenge on a bullying schoolfriend, and Jack’d presents the Giant’s side of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk tale, with a guest appearance by Death.

I thoroughly enjoyed these tales.  In my experience of ferreting out fantastic ebooks for children and young people, I have found time and again that some novice authors grossly underestimate the difficulty of constructing GOOD rhyming text.   Good rhyming text has cadence.  It has meter.  It has a rhythm that allows someone reading aloud to perform the story, rather than just read it.  One of my major pet peeves is the creation and sale of books (usually in e-format, and usually self-published by people who have bypassed entirely any decent process of editing) by those who believe that just slapping two random sentences one after the other and chucking two rhyming words at the end constitutes good writing for children.  I am absurdly happy therefore, to assure you that to read Talespins is to experience GOOD rhyming text.

There are a few spots in which the meter is a bit out, particularly in the middle story of the three, but overall, Mullin has done a great job at sustaining the rhyme and rhythm throughout these reasonably long (for verse) short stories.

tale-spinsRead it if:

* you believe that not all fairy tales should end happily ever after

* you’ve ever been referred to amongst your group of friends, in word or thought, as “the one with the unfortunate face”

* you fervently adhere to the idea that every school’s bullying policy should allow for retaliatory use of potions moste potente by victims against their perpetrators

* you have a recurring dream involving magic beans, a poorly maintained elevator shaft, and the clammy hand of death on your shoulder

 Given that I have now enjoyed TWO fairy tale retellings in as many weeks, I should probably rethink my stance on rejecting them out of hand.  If you are looking for a quick, fun and feisty read for a young’un around your shelf these holidays, you could do a lot worse than securing a copy of Talespins.

Incidentally, Talespins would also be the perfect choice for those participating in the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge for 2014, in category eight (a book with wordplay in the title).  If you have no idea what I’m on about, perhaps you should click on this large and attractive button, and enlighten yourself, sign up and set your thill-seeking missiles to FUN!

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 Now that your participation in the Safari is all settled (welcome aboard!), you should have a look below at some more info about Talespins and its author, Michael Mullin.  Right at the bottom of the post, because I always save the best ’til last, are two giveaways – one for US residents only ….*sniff*…fine…us internationals know when we’re not wanted…*sob*….and one for the rest of us.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Tale Spins
A trilogy of alternative fairytales and retellings. Discover the real Snow White story through the eyes of Creepy, the unknown 8th dwarf! Meet a teen princess who hires “The Frog Prince” witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl at school! And learn how the giant, boy thief and magic beans tale truly went down!

Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Praise for Tale Spins

Not usually enamoured of either re-tellings or poetry I was totally taken aback by just how much I relished this trilogy of alternative fairytales and re-tellings aimed at the Young Adult market. ~Tracy (Goodreads)

TaleSpins was like walking into a vintage store and finding a true treasure. This book takes the fairytales we all grew up on and gives them an interesting and modernized version that I enjoyed. ~Rose (Goodreads)

mike mullin

Author Michael Mullin

Michael Mullin is a native New Englander living in Pasadena. He is the author of TaleSpins, a trilogy of alternative fairy tales and retellings for YA readers. TaleSpins stories (in the 1-book collection) are “8: The Previously Untold Story of the Previously Unknown 8th Dwarf”; “The Plight and Plot of Princess Penny”; and “Jack’d”. Michael is also the co-author of the successful “Larry Gets Lost” children’s book series. His screenplay “Zooing Time” was recognized by the WGA’s Written By magazine. Before all this writing, he taught preschool and college, two positions he found disconcertingly similar.

Website * Facebook * Twitter

Tour Giveaways

Giveaway #1 – Open to US only

Mike Mullin Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway #2 $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 1/21/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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