Monday, January 18, 2021

Fairfield Amish Romance: 15 Story Amish Romance by Diane Burkholder, Elanor Miller, Susan Vail and Isabell Weaver

 Grab your copy by clicking on the image


These are very gentle, heart-warming romances.  They also give some insight into the Amish way of life.  For many readers the stories will be too simplistic. For some they will come as escapism and reassurance. There is also a suggestion that life is predestined by an omniscient God though the way the stories unfold suggest rather a God  who had ideas for us but who leaves us to choose  whether  or not to go along with his suggestions.    

There are a lot of grammatical and punctuation errors in the text but not so many that they detract from the progression of the stories.  Neither does some loose writing or that fact that in one story two characters’ names are confused. The stories retain their value anyway as they show us an alternative way of life.  

The chapters within each story are short and the stories themselves are not too long.

This comes as a Kindle book only. The Amish may have a simple way of life but they are quite enterprising. A newsletter and other books are offered at the end of the book.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Silver Chair


2009, first published 1953

Jill and Eustace attend an experimental school where they are bullied and are not learning a lot.  They escape through an open door in a wall and find themselves in Narnia.  Aslan, the Christ-like talking lion,  meets them and gives them their mission:  they are to find the lost Prince Rilian.

Eustace has been to Narnia before and is shocked that the king he had known as a young man has become old.  Our world and Narnia exist on different time scales.

They are lulled into a false sense of security when they visit the castle of the gentle giants – and just manage to escape before they are eaten for dinner.

They must have their wits about them and remember the four signs which Jill almost forgets at one point as she has stopped reciting them to herself each evening.  

Do they have free will or is everything predestined? Aslan has to prompt them so is he really orchestrating everything?   

They succeed and when they get back to their own world there is a delightful joke for any adult reading the book: the head teacher is dismissed and joins the inspectorate but she is not very good at that and has to go into politics.

The language is a little old-fashioned but that reflects the time it was written. The Prince can seem pompous at times. The book is It is quite long for this reader – 272 pages though it uses a large font. There are a few line drawings – artist’s impressions of some of the characters.    

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Lamplighter Book 2 by D M Cornish

2010, first published 2008  

Roassmünd Bookchild graduates early form the Lamplighter Academy. Strange things have been happening there, not least of which that a girl joins the academy.  Roassamünd is three times attacked by monsters and three times overcomes them.

The story resolves suddenly but is left open for a continuation.

The world D.M Cornish invents is strange and complex but very well thought out. At the end there is an entire glossary and many charts and lists that show how everything works there. There is some invitation for fascination and fan ficti0n.

Each chapter begins with a definition.

The characters are well drawn and rounded.  The protagonist invites our empathy.  

The language is complex and though the content will suit fluent readers the high register of the text may make this book more suitable for older readers.  There are some interesting plays on words and many invented expressions.  

There are several drawings throughout the book of the players in the story.  This may detract from the picture we form in our heads. Oddly they match very well what I have imagined.

This is a long text. It will challenge all readers.   

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Age Between – Personal Reflections on Youth Fiction




Fincham Press is the academic press of the University of Roehampton and it is so appropriate that they should produce this account of these liminal readers and those who write for them. The University of Roehampton is a centre of excellence for the study of children’s literature.

The subtitle is apt.  This is a reflective book in which Aidan Chambers tells us of and rationalizes his journey into becoming a full time writer, writing mainly for the young adult, for that age between.

Yet the work is more than just a reflection. Chambers presents us with a sound definition of what the young adult text is and who are the readers and writers of those texts. He identifies key texts, his selection demonstrating a history of the genre and recommending a canon. He also analyses his own texts, showing that they conform to the habits and etiquette he has identified.

He also demonstrates here a piece of metatext. He argues that we don’t grow so much because of our experiences rather than because of our reflection about those experiences. Writing about them is a form of reflection. In writing about what these texts do and how they  are made he establishes his own rationale about writing for young people.

I used the word “liminal” in my opening sentence because that is important in Chambers’ argument. The young adult exists between two ages and in many of the texts discussed, including some of his own, the protagonists and other characters are often in a liminal space for other reasons.

Chambers admits to some limitation to his arguments. He has only referred to British and American texts.  He has not referred to texts written in other English-speaking countries, or to those in other languages.  He highlights the lack of translated texts for young people. With some relief I note that his arguments coincide with my own and my study did include texts from other English-speaking countries and written in other languages. Chambers highlights IBBY and IRSCL as offering a way forward on this.  

Usefully for many of us, Chambers recognizes that it isn’t only young people who read these texts.  Adults other than school librarians and teachers read perhaps in order to redefine their own youth. He gives us permissions to carry on reading.

The final thirty pages are an interview with of Chambers by Doctor Deborah Cogan Thacker, who has a special interest in youth literature and literary theory. They cover the topics of voice, adult character in young adult literature, the implied reader, reader response, reading for companionship, multiple personalities, ethics, morality, responsibility, multiple points of view, preparation and research, the reader as co-author, and the connection between reading and writing.

This has all the hallmarks of an academic book: its price, the fact that it is produced by an academic press, and some sound and valid arguments demonstrated well by the texts discussed. It  is also a very readable book for any adult interested in this area of literature. As one would expect of Chambers it is well written.                          


Friday, November 20, 2020

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris



Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris introduce us to some strong images of nature.  As we turn the pages we can hear the wind swirling in the trees, we can feel the cold softness of the snow and we can hear the cry of the birds.

The verses make an extraordinary use of language.

The book is very tactile and is one anyone would be proud to have on their bookshelf.

Who is the reader, though? This could be a book for sharing though the language is possibly a little sophisticated for the preschool child.  It would be excellent for reading aloud – either by  an adult or by a reasonably fluent new reader. The latter would be aided by the simple font.

It is longer than standard picture book though is divided into “chapters” with a few pages being dedicated to a particular animal or plant.

The illustrations are superb and would provide a good talking point.-  

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest



The story is set in Blackpool 1935 around the time of the second big switch on of the illuminations. Gracie, her mum and brother George take over the running of the Majestic boarding house. Seaside boarding-houses of this era were a little different from the 21st century B & B. The family have to provide three meals a day for their guests. And they almost fall at the first post; Mum disappears and they don’t know how to cook.  However, the maid Phyllis helps as do their two new friends Violet and Tom.

There are many details of time and place here. Susan Brownrigg paints a vivid picture of what Blackpool was like then. Even the road where the boarding house is situated actually exists, though the place itself doesn’t. We have a lot of details about the trams, the tram depot, the Illuminations, the Winter Gardens and the piers.  We also have plenty of atmosphere.  One of the characters is even involved in the Mass Observation Project, though in real life this didn’t happen until 1937. Observers studied ordinary working people from Bolton, renamed Worktown.

Then there is the disappearance of their mother and the mystery surrounding Presto the magician who is also a crook. They are aided by the League of Shining Stars, a detective agency run by children.  This is inspired by the League of the Silver Star which appeared in the Blackpool edition of the Lancashire gazette.  Children were invited to become members and take part in competitions.

Mum is found.  Presto is outwitted. Gracie finds she does like living at a boarding house in Blackpool. Phyllis’s job is made permanent and she is given a pay rise. They decide that children will be offered a full English breakfast as well.

The book is 192 pages long.  The text is blocked but double-spaced. The font has a serif. The chapters are relatively short.  Chapter headings are in cursive font and are fronted with a picture of a suitcase with a question mark on it. At the end of the book there is a glossary which contains a lot more information about Blackpool,  a note form the author on her research and an author bio.           

Fairfield Amish Romance: 15 Story Amish Romance by Diane Burkholder, Elanor Miller, Susan Vail and Isabell Weaver

 Grab your copy by clicking on the image 2016   These are very gentle, heart-warming romances.   They also give some insight into the A...