A gothic fairytale in small town America

far far awayTITLE = FAR, FAR AWAY

AUTHOR = TOM MCNEAL

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, GOTHIC HORROR, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNITY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an unusual tale, filled with ghosts and the whisper of grim fairytales, where children go missing and evil lurks around the corner. There is a real sense of other-wordliness about this story partly because the narrator is none other than the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, of the Grimm brothers’ fame).

Unable to crossover after his death and meet his beloved brother Wilhelm, Jacob believes his destiny is to look after Jeremy Johnson Johnson and ensure that he doesn’t fall into the clutches of the “Finder of Occasions”. So he whispers in Jeremy’s ear and tells him spooky fairytales.

Jeremy is a quiet boy, with few friends – partly because he hears voices (Jacob’s whispers) and partly because he loves reading fairytales (surprise, surprise). He is a kindly lad who cares for his father, bedridden with grief since his wife left them many years ago. But Jeremy is shunned by the townspeople after an unfortunate prank … is the beguiling Ginger simply leading him astray? Or can she help him find his way to fame and fortune … so that he can save his home from the debt collectors?

Jeremy & Ginger need to stay one step ahead of the “Finder of Occasions” … whoever he may be… for if they are caught they may join the ranks of other missing children. Can Jacob help save them or is he too busy watching the wrong person?

A spooky tale that mesmerises readers into believing in fairytales … and hoping for the best for our young hero, Jeremy and his friend, Ginger. This book has won numerous awards, including the California Book Award Gold Medal (2013), it has been shortlisted for the US National Book Award (2013) and been a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Awards (2013) as well as gaining many, many acclaimed reviews from school libraries. A great choice if you are interested in spooky fairytale-like stories.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Beauty & the Beast Fairytale revisited

scarlet in the snow smallTITLE = SCARLET IN THE SNOW

AUTHOR = SOPHIE MASSON

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, FOLK TALES  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Sophie Masson has woven a beautiful new version of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale in this book. Natasha lives with her sisters and mother in an old house in the country. Since their father died, life has been a little harder and her mother has been more care-worn but still Natasha is happy. Unlike her older sisters, she does not miss the balls and gowns that used to be part of their lives when they lived in the city, she is happy roaming the countryside and making up stories. That is, until the day she is lost in a blizzard and comes upon a beautiful red rose in an isolated garden.

The consequences of picking that rose will change Natasha’s life forever. Suddenly she is thrust into a world of witchcraft and magic, so Natasha will need every ounce of courage she can muster to face each day and the trials she must face. Apart from cruel witches there is also the savage beast to contend with and a magic curse from times long ago. Natasha finds she must leave her cosy home behind her and journey to faraway places in her efforts to solve the mystery of the brutish beast and the curse that lies behind her new life… and his. For if she can save his life there may just be a chance of romance and happiness for Natasha too.

A beautifully told story which sets this well-known tale in exotic European-like countries, the romance of the legend is convincingly woven into this tale of mystery and revenge. A joyful read for anyone who loves fairytales in a new guise. And if you enjoy this book, you may like to read another of Sophie Masson’s fairytale retellings: “Moonlight and Ashes” or other retellings of the same tale, such as “Beauty”.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Cinderella revisited

TITLE = MOONLIGHT & ASHES

AUTHOR = SOPHIE MASSON

GENRE = FANTASY, FAIRY TALES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

This is a new version of the Cinderella fairytale which is sure to appeal to young readers. Like Cinderella, Selena finds herself reduced to being a servant girl for her father and his new wife after her own mother has died. Like Cinderella, Selena has two stepsisters who bully her. But unlike Cinderella, Selena has a magical past, she has a destiny which may well set her on a collision course with the young prince. Indeed, far from finding the royal heir to be a “Prince Charming”, Selena believes him to be a thoroughly unpleasant young man who may well be set to destroy her homeland.

If Selena’s heart has been stolen, it is certainly not by the prince but rather she may be falling for his bestfriend, Max, who the prince has thrown in gaol. Can the two work together to stay alive and save the kingdom or is it safer for Selena to work on her own??

An intriguing story that adds a touch of magic to an old favourite. Read more about the author here.

Recommended (dma) ***