fairytales · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Magical Myths And Legends. Chosen by Michael Morpurgo.

Review: Magical Myths And Legends. Chosen by Michael Morpurgo.

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Every tale in this book is centuries old. So explains the introduction by Michael Morpurgo which explains that even before we had books, we had stories. 

Regular readers of my blog know that I have a passion for folk tales and legends. They are the stuff on which our dreams are built. They are the place from which other forms of storytelling evolved. It is lovely to see this collection of ten tales about well-known figures like Icarus and Robin Hood. 

This is the perfect introductory book to myths and legends. It looks a challenging size, but the text is large and the illustrations take up most of the page, so it is actually limited to one or two paragraphs per page. This makes it brilliant for less-confident readers, or for sharing aloud in shorter time-spaces, such as bedtime or the gap between lessons and play. 

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It also has a good range of origins – Greek Myths, and English folk tales, and Viking legends among them – and the stories are told and illustrated by different creators. I was particularly charmed, as a Millenial, that many of these the storytellers of my childhood. It felt like something I might have picked up in my childhood library (albeit in the fresher, prettier publishing style of today). Perhaps myths and folk-tales feel like this anyway, but reading words by Tony Bradman and Jeanne Willis added to this effect. These are some of the most established and practiced children’s authors working today. 

The range of illustration styles makes each story feel distinctive. Readers will soon have their favourites, and it is impossible to pick this up without flicking through to pick. 

I am impressed with this as an early collection of folk tales, and as stories that can be shared between people of all ages. This is the perfect book for reading out loud. 

 

Thanks to Oxford University Press for my gifted copy of Magical Myths And Legends. Opinions my own.

 

Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

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Synopsis: 

Martha knows there are secrets in her family and she is also able to learn things about a person’s past by brushing their clothes. Martha travels to Skjebne in Norway after rising concerns about her grandmother. She finds Mormor dead and a strange boy hiding inside the cabin.

As things grow increasingly spooky, Martha learns about the skeletons in the family closet and the secrets of the twisted tree in the garden.BBD35E74-4B7A-46CA-8F8F-0E29FC08A586Review:

An atmospheric and folksy thriller set against the Norwegian climate. Think gnarled tree branches and sharp claws and souls threatening to engulf the earth.

I read this story very quickly on a dark winter’s evening. It sounds like a cliché but it really is one of those books which demands that you get cozy and see the tale through. Rachel Burge’s descriptive writing is so strong that you can almost feel the cold Norweigan air as you read her sentences. If you enjoy books which hook you on setting alone, this one is for you.

There is a sense that Martha’s life is stagnant. She hasn’t moved on from the accident which left her blind in one eye, while her mother has never embraced the family secrets. As the story opens there is a sense that something has to shift. I love how Martha unpicks things and then embraces the changes which need to happen.

This is in many ways a story about trauma-recovery. Martha is still haunted by the events of her accident and the scars on her face are a daily reminder of what happened. She is acutely aware of people’s reactions to her face and builds a new sense of self based partly on those reactions. Martha’s is fascinated with her scars, and she divides her life into pre and post-trauma as if her accident is a turning point. These observations about trauma recovery show that the character was well developed. Real human beings are not a set of traits – they are also about reactions.  

The tree itself is almost a character. Without any spoilers, it is centuries old and it is at the heart of the story. I always enjoy stories based on folklore and mythology, and I loved the backstory about the tree.

This is the perfect story for the dark nights which will come before spring and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers which are atmospheric rather than gory. A beautiful and haunting tale.