Tag Archives: fantasy

The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson

I love reading translated fiction, especially for children.  Some of my favourite stories were not originally published in English – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke was originally published in German and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was originally published in Spanish.  Thank goodness for publishers like the wonderful Gecko Press who translate the best books in to English for children to enjoy here in New Zealand.  Gecko Press’ latest translated gem is The Ice Sea Pirates by Frida Nilsson.  This wonderful story brought back memories of the first time I read my favourite book, Inkheart, as it took me on an adventure that swept me away.

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Siri lives on a small island with her younger sister, Miki, and her old, tired father.  An outing on a nearby island to collect berries ends in tragedy as Miki is taken by pirates.  These are not just any pirates, but those from the Snow Raven, a ship from the stories that Siri tells her sister.  The Snow Raven is captained by the most wicked pirate in all the seas, Captain Whitehead, a pirate with hair white as snow and a heart as empty as an ice cave.  Children who are taken by Whitehead are never seen again as they get sent to work in his mines until their bodies and minds are broken.  Siri knows that she is the only person who can save her sister and so sets out to get her back by any means.

The Ice Sea Pirates is an adventure story full of pirates, wolves, mermaids, frozen landscapes and a whole lot of heart.  It is a story about an incredibly brave girl who never gives up on her search for her sister.  Frida Nilsson, and her skilled translator, Robert Graves, transport the reader to the unforgiving Ice Sea and make you feel that you are right there beside Siri the whole way.  You feel the biting,  icy wind, feel Siri’s gnawing hunger and her heartache for the friends she makes along the way, and hear the creaking and groaning of the frozen sea.  The writing is beautiful.  Some of the descriptions of the characters and places were so perfect that I had to reread them several times.

Siri is one of those characters that becomes your best friend.  You are right there beside her and get inside her head.  She goes through so much on her journey to find her sister – she leaves home by herself to rescue her sister, faces down white wolves, stows away on boats with angry men, and stands up to vicious pirates – but she never gives up.  She is determined to find her sister, rescue her friend and protect those who cannot protect themselves.

I loved The Ice Sea Pirates and I know that Siri and her story will stay with me for a long time.  It is the perfect read aloud for ages 9 and up and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure stories with a touch of magic and wonder.

 

 

 

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The Turners by Mick Elliott

Sometimes you pick up a book and you just know that kids are going to love it.  It could be the cover that jumps out at you or the blurb that hooks you in and makes you want to read the book.  Mick Elliott’s new book, The Turners, has huge kid-appeal, from the awesome cover featuring a shape-shifting kid to the promise of killer pigs and snake-men on the cover.

the-turnersLeo Lennox has an epic problem: it’s his thirteenth birthday and he has just grown a tail.

You’d think that growing a tail in the middle of the school library would be the worst thing that could happen to you, but Leo is about to discover that things can always get worse – and a whole lot weirder. Now, as he discovers an unthinkable family secret, Leo must team up with his infuriating older sister to escape snake-skinned henchmen, ancient shape-shifters and a whispering villain determined to feed him to a pack of genetically engineered killer pigs – all while trying to control his new shape-shifting powers.

The Turners is a crazy, hilarious thrill-ride packed with shapeshifters, weird genetic experiments and family secrets.  Mick Elliott drops you straight into the action with the strange, embarassing situation that Leo finds himself in.  The story gallops and leaps along, with never a dull moment, as you join Leo and Abbie on their search for answers.

There is something in The Turners to appeal to anyone.  There is the mystery of Turners with their genetic anomoly that allows them to turn into different animals, (from rodents and birds to mammals and reptiles), the adventure that Leo and Abbie find themselves on in their search for answers, some delightfully sinister villains, and genetically engineered pigs and hamsters.  The Turners is also perfect for those kids who love a funny story.  There are some hilarious moments in the story, especially when it comes to turning in to different animals.  My favourite part is when Leo interupts his sister Abbie when she is trying to show him how an expert Turns.  It ends in Leo being sprayed with sloth urine (I know kids will love this part).

The cover and design for The Turners is brilliant too.  The bright orange and green makes the book jump off the shelf and the cover illustration makes you want to find out what the story is about.  The title also has a very cool lizard scale effect as well.

The Turners is the first part of a trilogy by Mick Elliott and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  It’s perfect for ages 9+ and would make a great read aloud for Years 5-8.

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Interview with Elizabeth Pulford, author of Bloodtree Chronicles

Elizabeth Pulford is one of our great Kiwi authors.  She has written books for all ages, from picture books to novels for children, young adults and adults.  Elizabeth has two new books that have just been released, a picture book called Finding Monkey Moon and the first book in her fantastic new Bloodtree Chronicles series, Sanspell.  You can read my review of Bloodtree Chronicles: Sanspell here on the blog.

I had a few questions about the Bloodtree Chronicles and Elizabeth has very kindly answered them for me.  Read on to find out more about Elizabeth’s new series and her favourite story worlds.

  • What inspired you to write the Bloodtree Chronicles?

It was more a case of resistance in the beginning. I was having time away from writing in the garden when into my head slipped the first line of Sanspell. I told it to go away and that I wasn’t interested. Then an hour or so later the same line, word for word, arrived. I ignored it. Later than evening it made another appearance so I wrote it down, not really interested. Two days later I found the piece of paper and typed it into the computer. As soon as I did that my curiosity was stirred and I started to ask questions, eg ‘whose mother’s dress was it?’ It went on from there until the idea caught me completely and wouldn’t let me go.

  • In Sanspell, Abigail gets transported into the Silvering Kingdom, a magical place made of stories.  If you could be transported into a story, which one would you choose?

Definitely the Robin Hood stories. I would love to be in his gang and living in Sherwood Forest.

  • What sort of character would you be in the Silvering Kingdom?

Zezmena. I always think villains are so interesting. What makes them behave the way they do? What makes them tick? Trying to find the one redeeming quality that they keep hidden beneath all their evil deeds.

  • What is your favourite fantasy world?

The Magic Faraway Tree world created by Enid Blyton. Growing up there was an old apple tree in our garden. I kept wishing for this to be the same as the Faraway Tree and that Moonface would appear. Sadly it never happened!

  • In the next two books in the Bloodtree Chronicles you take us to Bragonsthyme and Thatchthorpe. Can you give us a taste of what Abigail might find in these stories?

The Bragonsthyme’s story is frozen. To be a proper fairy story it needs to have a happy ending, otherwise it cannot help the Bloodtree to heal. It is up to Abigail / Spindale (with help from Flint and Bramble) to find its ending.

In Thatchthorpe the King of Silvering Kingdom dies. Rackenard sees his chance to rule, thereby putting the Bloodtree at a greater risk than it has ever been. The only way to stop this happening is finding the two parts of the magical code, which will reveal to the people of the kingdom who is the true king.

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Bloodtree Chronicles: Sanspell by Elizabeth Pulford

Imagine that your mother suddenly starts packing a suitcase for you and tells you that the time has come and you must hurry.  She is sending you somewhere, but she doesn’t tell you where.  She tells you that this place is unlike anywhere you have ever been and when you get there you must call yourself a different name.  She gives you a locket that you should never remove from around your neck.  The next thing you know, you are standing in the snow in a strange land – a land that only you can save.

When the Bloodtree loses its last leaf, there will be no more stories in the Silvering Kingdom …The Silvering Kingdom is the home of fairy tales but the kingdom and all those within are in danger of vanishing because the Bloodtree – the source of all stories – has been poisoned. ‘Sanspell’ is a story that has been cursed. It is up to Abigail (Spindale) to enter the fairy tale world and save the story-tree. Together with Flint, whose mother Trinket is being held captive by the evil Rackenard, they set off on a journey: three drops of Trinket’s blood is what is required to save the tree. The race is on …but can they survive the wicked Zezmena’s spells?

Elizabeth Pulford emerses readers in her fantastic story of the Silvering Kingdom in Sanspell, the first book in her new series, Bloodtree Chronicles.  This is the sort of book that you just want to curl up with on a Winter’s day, wrapped in a blanket with a hot drink.  Elizabeth really makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the snowy Silvering Kingdom with Abigail.

Abigail loves stories and uses books as an escape from her life.  She doesn’t have many friends and is bullied at school, so she feels far from special.  However, when she is transported to the Silvering Kingdom and the Sanspell story she discovers that she is incredibly important and it is up to her to save the Bloodtree and the characters that inhabit the story.

Like Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series this is a story about the magic of stories.  I love the way that Elizabeth Pulford has created the story within the story.  The story of the Silvering Kingdom is written by Abigail’s aunties and there is a visual record of the story on the walls of their house.  As the story changes, the illustrations change.  The aunties are so used to creating the story that when Abigail takes the story in her own direction they are not sure what to do.

Special mention needs to be made of Donovan Bixley’s stunning cover and design.  His cover is one that will catch the eyes of young readers and make them want to read this wonderful book.  The silver foil catches the light and highlights different parts depending on how you look at it.

Sanspell has me hooked on the Bloodtree Chronicles!  I can’t wait for Elizabeth Pulford to take me to Bragonsthyme and Thatchthorpe in the next two books in the series.

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Interview with R.L. Stedman

author photoR.L. Stedman is the author of the award winning A Necklace of Souls.  She has just released the sequel, A Skillful Warrior, which carries on the story of Dana and Will (read all about it here).  I had a few questions for Rachel about her new book, her journey to publication and what stories she has for us next.  You can read her answers below and enter the draw to win a copy of the new edition of A Necklace of Souls.

  • I was very excited to hear that you had written a sequel to A Necklace of Souls!  Can you tell us a little about what happens in A Skillful Warrior?

In Skillful, Dana and Will, along with N’tombe and Jed, have left the Kingdom of the Rose. They are searching for a weapon that can defeat the army of the emperor. This quest should be straightforward, but of course its not. There’s an army following them, they don’t really know what the weapon is and Dana is having really, really bad dreams. And when I say bad, I mean they’re a lot worse than the average nightmare. And then Jed gets entangled with a pirate-woman and … No. I don’t want to give too much away! But basically the story is about both Will and Dana beginning to realise what they can do, and in learning to be comfortable with their abilities. I kind of think of Skillful as Dana growing up.

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  • A Necklace of Souls won the Tessa Duder Award and the Best First Book Award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  What do awards like these mean to you as an author? Do they motivate you to keep writing?

The awards are nice, and its cool to be able to see stickers on your book that say ‘winner of so and so’ like it makes you amazing but TBH it doesn’t mean that much in terms of sales. However, I do enjoy putting ‘Award-Winning Author’ under my name! The awards don’t motivate me to continue writing, because I love writing so much that I would do it regardless. But I think the fact that I’ve won a few prizes now helps to give people confidence that my books are (hopefully) a good read.

  • You have self-published A Skillful Warrior, the reprint of A Necklace of Souls and your thriller, Inner Fire.  What has your journey to publication been like since your first book?

Quite tricky, would be the honest truth. A number of publishers were interested in Skillful but they all said the market for YA fiction in New Zealand is very limited, and after thinking about it for a few months, most said no. But over this time I was getting emails from readers pleading for the sequel (Skillful is dedicated to a reader from Norway!) and I felt I had to get it published just for them. So that’s why I decided to do it myself.

Inner Fire was my trial piece, I wanted to learn how to self-publish on something different to Necklace, in case it all went terribly wrong or was a total failure…In actual fact though, self-publishing (I prefer to call it “independant publishing”) has been more fun than I had thought. I’ve loved being able to chose my own cover designs – I’ve worked with two different covers for Necklace and I love both. I really enjoy the look and feel of the books; the paper is nice and thick, the layout looks professional and the binding is really solid. It’s nice to hold it in your hands!

Independent publishing offers an author a lot more freedom. When you’ve put your heart and soul into a book, it is very rewarding to be able to call all the shots on how it is presented. I like the way I can chose my own illustrations and my own font and chose the price it will retail at. I like being in control of my own timeline, too.

I don’t think it would suit everyone but I’m fortunate that it does work for me. I have a business degree and do a lot of contracting/project work in my day job – that experience has helped me a lot.

  • What books would you recommend to those who have enjoyed A Necklace of Souls and A Skillful Warrior?

The Belgariad by David Eddings

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardego,

Any book by Juliet Marilliar.

The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee.

The Merlin Chronicles by Mary Stewart.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

  • You have a book coming soon for younger readers.  What is it about?

It’s called The Prankster and the Ghost. It was shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2012 as Practically Joking. I love it so much! It’s funny and sad and (warning) contains lots of practical jokes.

The story is about two boys (I always seem to have two protagonists, I really need to stop that), called Tayla and Jamie.

Tayla is in a car accident. In pain, he pushes himself out of his body, and begins to haunt the hospital ward. Being a ghost is kind of boring, although it does allow him to play some excellent practical jokes on the nurses. Until an inspector arrives on the ward. ‘I’m sending you to school,’ she says. ‘Because every child deserves an education, even if they’re dead.’ Tayla thinks this is stupid. What’s the point in educating dead kids? Besides, he isn’t dead. He’s just not in his body.

Meanwhile, Jamie, newly arrived from Scotland, finds no-one can understand his accent. All his practical jokes go badly wrong, and at his new school there are some ruins that he’s sure are haunted…

Prankster is set in North Otago and is about friendship and learning to live with loss. And practical jokes, of course. It’s suitable for ages 8 upwards.

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Sequel to the award-winning A Necklace of Souls

A Necklace of Souls was one of my favourite books of 2013.  Written by fantastic local author, R.L. Stedman, A Necklace of Souls won the Tessa Duder Award in 2013 and went on to win the Best First Book Award at the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  It’s a truly original fantasy story that follows Dana as she comes to terms with having to bear the burden of the Necklace of Souls.  You can read my review here on the blog.

A Necklace of Souls finished on a cliff-hangar and I’ve been waiting to find out what happens next for Dana and Will.  I’m pleased to say that the wait is finally over.  The sequel, A Skillful Warrior, is available now (as an ebook exclusive) on Amazon.  Here is the blurb and the wonderful cover:

‘The warrior’s principal task: to make each moment count.’

Dana and Will must find the weapon to defeat the Emperor. But his army is close behind and the Kingdom and its Guardian have vanished – only N’tombe and Jed remain. As the comrades flee, Dana is hampered by dreams of dragons and by a deep, unbearable sorrow. A fire is coming, and she is in its path. Dana and Will must learn to overcome despair and to fight on, despite the darkness. For a warrior must adapt, or die.

R.L. Stedman has also republished A Necklace of Souls with a new cover too so look out for this one:

Grab A Skillful Warrior and A Necklace of Souls now on your e-reader.

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Happy 10th Birthday to Percy Jackson!

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, the book that introduced us to Percy Jackson, Camp Half Blood and the modern day Greek gods, turns 10 this year.  It’s hard to believe that this series has been around so long but it certainly seems to be as popular as ever.  It’s been good to see Rick Riordan writing new series featuring different mythologies (Egyptian mythology in The Red Pyramid and Norse mythology in the soon to be released Magnus Chase series) which really hook kids in and get them interested in mythology. One of my sons absolutely loves Percy Jackson and is an expert in Greek mythology!

The Lightning Thief has sold millions of copies worldwide and got plenty of accolades over the years:

  • Time magazine’s 2014 List of 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time
  • a New York Times Notable Book of 2015
  • School Library Journal Best Book of 2005
  • more than six years on the New York Times bestseller list (and counting)
  • Plus a major movie!

To celebrate 10 years of Percy Jackson Rick Riordan and his publishers have put together an event kit so you can host your own Percy Jackson party.  I love it when publishers to this as they create some great resources that you can use in your library or your school for free.  The event kit includes ideas for games and some activity sheets for kids.  I’m hoping to hold a Percy Jackson party in my library and here is the link if you want to download the kit and host your own party – http://readriordan.com/book/the-lightning-thief/.

Do your children love Percy Jackson? How will you celebrate Percy Jackson’s 10th Anniversary?

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Guest Post: Juliet Jacka on Night of the Perigee Moon

Think up your best insult, and be in to win a copy of Juliet Jacka’s award-winning Night of the Perigee Moon.

Do you like magical talents, talking cats, dogs and bats? Or how about fantastical feasts, yo-yo masters and entomologists in the making?

Then my book’s for you. Here’s the blurb.

All Tilly Angelica wants for her thirteenth birthday is to be normal! But with her changeover party looming and her mad, magical family gathering from near and far, Tilly is set to inherit a terrifying or tantalising talent of her own. But what if she inherits Hortense’s talent of super-smelling, with an oversize nose to match?

As the enchanted Angelicas gather and Arial Manor becomes a madhouse, Tilly’s troubles are tripled by her creepy cousin Prosper, and his sinister plot to bewitch the family by harnessing the powers of the Perigee Moon.

Halfway through the book, my heroine Tilly has to come up with a hit list of inventive insults. Here are three of her favourite ones.

“You’re an ox, an ass, a slubberdegullion!”

“You belligerent fleck of llama spit.”

“Earth vexing hedge pig.”

Can you come up with something similar? Send me your best one-liners (no rude words, thanks!), and the winner gets a free, signed copy of my book.

Have fun! Get inventive. Then email me at nightofperigeemoon@gmail.com

Juliet
Night of the Perigee Moon, winner of the 2013 Tom Fitzgibbon Award.

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House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat.  Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me.  I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I love the world of Fontania that Barbara introduced us to in The Traveling Restaurant.  I reviewed it in September last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.  You can also read my interview with Barbara Else and Barbara’s guest post about The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

Last year, Barbara Else took us on a magical journey through the land of Fontania, with Sibilla and The Traveling Restaurant.  Now she takes us back to Fontania and introduces us to some wonderful new characters in The Queen and the Nobody Boy.

Hodie is the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania.  Fed-up, he decides to leave and better himself.

The young Queen, 12 -year-old Sibilla, is fed-up too.  Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a magical story, full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, stinky trolls and poisonous toads. Trouble is brewing from the very beginning of the story.  The Emperor of Um’Binnia threatens war with Fontania and he hopes to destroy what magic there may be in the world.  The Fontanians have been looking for ‘The Ties’ for many years, but nobody really seems to know what they are, and for the Emperor to carry out his plans he must get his hands on them too.  Little do they know how important an odd-job boy might be.

Your favourite characters from The Travelling Restaurant return, including Sibilla and the pirate chef, Murgott.  Hodie is the main character of this tale of Fontania.  Even though he’s not treated very well in the Palace, he’s smart and brave, and determined to make something of himself.   My favourite quote from the book sums up Hodie, ‘Whether a boy was somebody or nobody, if he was normal he was expected to be curious.’  Hodie and Sibilla meet lots of other interesting characters on their journey, including a rather strange Um’Binnian spy called Ogg’ward, and a very persistent squirrel.  The Um’Binnians themselves are quite interesting.  They have a different way of speaking and their names look and sound strange.

If you loved The Traveling Restaurant you have to get your hands on The Queen and the Nobody Boy, but if you haven’t read it this book will make you fall in love with the land of Fontania.  You certainly won’t be able to go past this book on the shelf without wanting to see what magic is inside, thanks to Sam Broad’s brilliant cover.

4 out of 5 stars

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