teen

Review: The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott.

Review: The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott.

The Good HAwk

Extract:

She’s right, it is the Fourth. It’s the one chime we are taught to listen out for. All of the fourths – from all around the wall – are being struck over and over again; I’ve never heard them all ringing at the same time before. 

(The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott. P81.) 

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Synopsis:

Agatha is a hawk. It is her job to patrol the sea wall to protect the boats on the water. When she makes a big mistake, and people question her right to be there, she determines to prove that she is capable of doing her job.

Jamie has been made an Angler against his wishes. He is afraid of the sea, afraid of the boats, and not at all happy about his arranged marriage to a girl from another clan.

When the clan us attacked and the survivors taken prisoner, Jamie and Agatha escape together. They come up with a plan to help their clan but first they must travel through the deserted mainland – a country decimated years ago by dark shadows and terrible magic.

Jamie and Agatha learn all sorts about themselves along the way, but they are not the only ones with secrets.

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Review:

Enter an Ancient Scotland ravaged by plague and dark shadows. Jamie is filled with anxiety about his future. Agatha has Down’s Syndrome and is fed-up of other people underestimating her abilities. When their clan is betrayed in a brutal scene (think demons who rip the heads straight off their quarry), Jamie and Agatha team up to rescue the survivors who were imprisoned and taken away on boats. Together they travel across the land and meet other people including a tribe of bull-herders who are interested in Agatha’s incredible empathy with animals.

With high stakes and an intriguing setting, this makes for a strong adventure.

This is a book with strong characters. Agatha and Jamie share the narration and it is impossible not to want to know what happens to them later down the line. It is a sign of a good character when you care as much about whether they get what they originally wanted (ie Agatha wants to return to her job as a sea hawk) than about whether they sort the massive obstacles in their lives (you know, like those terrifying shadow demons). Think Moana. Who cares whether she beats the coconut pirate things when we so badly want her to accept her inner-Voyager. The Good Hawk is definitely one of those stories. The adventure was strong but I cared especially about Agatha and Jamie who felt so very real.

Ancient Scotland is a fascinating and underexplored setting. Many readers have been excited to see a book for young people set in the world of clans. There has been a middle grade series in the USA and a couple of children’s films, but aside from those the first story to come to mind is by Rosemary Sutcliff and was published over 50 years ago. Joseph Elliot shows the beliefs and ways of life of different clans and tribes and this makes the world vivid and memorable.

Be warned: the attack scenes don’t shy away from detail. Think heads torn from bodies and characters we’ve connected with in grave peril. This doesn’t detract from the story and is used to make the action more real but some readers might prefer to know this in advance. 

With fantastic scenes and strong character building, The Good Hawk is set to be a talked-about adventure.

 

Thanks to Walker Books Ltd for my copy of The Good Hawk. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews · teen

Review: Monster Slayer by Brian Patten and Chris Riddell.

Review: Monster Slayer by Brian Patten and Chris Riddell.

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Synopsis: 

In ancient times, long ago, a King built a Great Hall. He intended it to be a special place for all his people, a place of peace and celebration, but the sound of music awoke a monster. Grendel feasted upon the sleeping warriors and left the community in devastation.

Warriors came from distant lands, but none could defeat Grendel. Then Beowulf came, and with his tricks and cunning, he defeated Grendel. But little did Beowulf know that an even greater monster lay in wait …

A strong retelling of a classic tale.

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Review:

Have you ever played the ultimate bookish game of thinking up dream author/illustrator partnerships for classic or modern classic tales? Just me? Monster Slayer is a fine example of a retelling done right. Brian Patten is a champion wordsmith whose prose chimes in all the right places. Chris Riddell is famed for his slightly gothic line drawings. Together they make the perfect team to tell one of the oldest tales around.

I was nine or ten, and a true bookworm, when Beowulf was put under by nose. I was supposed to like it. I turned it down. Thinking back, I couldn’t picture the historical setting and the author tried too hard to be clever with language in homage to the original text. A clear, well-told story is the very best thing. Monster Slayer reads as if it is being read aloud. The twists and turns come in all the right places and the set-up allows the reader to truly care about the community that is being ravaged by Grendel’s visits.

Together with the illustrations – think full-page line drawings of drooling monsters – and this makes a book that is impossible not to pick up. 

 This edition follows Beowulf up until his battle with Grendel’s Mother and ends on a heroic note. 

Barrington Stoke is committed to breaking down barriers to reading. Shortened versions of classic tales allow readers to get the story into their heads and enjoy the drama of the tale. This is a fabulous introduction to a timeless story. The engaging text, together with the illustrations, make an experience for everybody to enjoy. 

 

Thanks to Barrington Stoke for my copy of Monster Slayer. Opinions my own.

teen

Review: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

Review: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

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Extract:

Here’s an even worse part. They want us to get to know each other and become close like sisters (or maybe even twins because we’re the same age?) because it’s possible we might become a “family”.

(To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg Wolitzer. P9.)

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Avery is a bookworm and serial worrier from New York. Bett is a surfer and carefree spirit form California. Both are usually the centre of their dads’ lives, so when those dads meet at a conference, Bett tracks down Avery’s school email to propose that drastic action should be taken.

The dads are two-steps ahead. While they go off on a motorcycle tour of China, they have booked Bett and Avery into the same summer camp. To their surprise, they form the sisterly-bond their dads had hoped for and are all set to live happily-ever-after as a new family.

Things don’t go quite so to plan for their Dads. Determined not to part, Bett and Avery set off on the summer adventure of a lifetime and discover the true extent of family and friendship.

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Review:

The Parent Trap has been given a timely and brilliant makeover in this story of two girls from opposite sides of America. I am delighted to see a nod to the classic story. The Lindsay Lohan version was a staple when I was growing up, and there was a particular age (maybe 9 – 13ish) where I thought it was the most impossibly cool thing on the planet.

I have to admit that Bett and Avery have a heck of a lot more character. Bett isn’t a rule-breaker so much as a rule-maker. She makes her own rules. She is a good judge of her own limits (for example, as a proficient diver she is quite happy to jump from a zipwire into a lake) but less so of how her example will endanger others. Avery is superficially polite, but she worries to the point of driving everyone around her up the wall. Their characters are so individual that I can tell you exactly who they are even now I’ve finished the story.

The story is told through a series of letters and emails. Many of the emails are sent between Bett and Avery, but there are also messages from their dad’s, from Bett’s grandmother and from other characters they meet along the way. Although it takes a little keeping up with who is sending each message, it is worth the effort as it creates a totally rounded picture of each character.

This is a great one for the teen market. As a guideline ‘teen’ covers readers aged 10-14. What I liked about this story was it didn’t try to be YA for eleven-year-olds. It respects its audience exactly at the stage they are and tells a great contemporary story.

Grab a packet of marshmallows and some biscuits, get the smores made and get to know this great cast of characters. Whether you are a night owl like Avery or a Dogfish like Bett, you will relate to this story of friendship and family bonds.

 

Thanks to Egmont for my gifted copy of To Night Owl From Dogfish. Opinions remain my own.