The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain – John Boyne (2015) – A Kid-Lit Review

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I’m more than happy to delve into the back catalogue of the writer of my current Book of The Year “The Heart’s Invisible Furies”. This book choice was thanks to me drawing from the Sandown Library Russian Roulette Reading Challenge: “Read A Book With A Red Cover”. I do have John Boyne’s newest adult title “A Ladder To The Sky” lined up to read next, thanks to Netgalley, but I thought I’d explore his writing for a younger audience first.

I am still to read “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas” but I know enough about it (and I’ve seen the film version) to realise that there are parallels here. We begin in Paris in 1936 with 7 year old Pierrot living with his widowed mother. In the first few pages we get shell shock, domestic abuse and suicide all related to his German father unable to adapt to living in post-World War I France. Tragic circumstances pile up forcing Pierrot to leave France for Austria and a home at the top of Obersalzberg.

I actually didn’t know where this book was going (I read nothing about it beforehand) so I’m determined not to give away much plot for there are twists a plenty to satisfy its intended audience.

This is a great novel for an enquiring developing mind. It is a complex book, emotionally speaking.  Perhaps elements of the plot might seem contrived if written for the adult market but it would all make sense for a younger audience and has a moral depth that I’m certainly unused to in Junior Fiction. Pierrot develops from being an extremely likeable character to something of a monster and this feels unusual and chilling. His actions become increasingly difficult to explain away even in a society where the old rules no longer apply. All this would resonate with every reader, child or adult.

There are throughout references to a children’s classic of an earlier generation “Emil And The Detectives” which I certainly loved as a child and Boyne’s novel should have an equally long life for future generations. He has written a powerful, compelling novel which I found difficult to put down and read in a day (which is unusual for me- even for a children’s book) and as in “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” he brought me close to tears on a number of occasions. The characters are memorable and the plot, as in “The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas” would be impossible to forget- and nor should we. It would be a great and lasting purchase for a sophisticated child/young adult.  This is a children’s book now in its third year after publication and its reputation should continue to grow.

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The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain was published by Doubleday in 2015.

 

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100 Essential Books – Bookworm: A Memoir Of Childhood Reading – Lucy Mangan (Square Peg 2018)

 

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Thank you, Lucy Mangan. This book has brought me so much pleasure. I have relished every word, laughed out loud and been bathed in a warm, nostalgic glow which has made me late back from tea breaks and almost missing bus stops. I found myself yearning for a “snow day” so I could just stay at home and fully immerse myself in the author’s childhood.

Lucy Mangan truly deserves the title “Bookworm”. Reading, as a child, at every opportunity, eschewing social situations and getting through vast numbers of books makes her a true authority on children’s literature from a child’s perspective. I didn’t think I read as much when I was young as I do now but I realised I must have done as a sizeable number of books Lucy devoured I had also read. She is a few years younger than me but the world of juvenile publishing did not move as fast as it does today and many of the books in our libraries and schools in the 70’s had been published a generation before. I didn’t come from a home with a lot of books and whereas Lucy’s Dad provided her with a regular supply from when she was quite young, my Dad tended to do the same for me with comics. I have two older sisters so much of their abandoned reading material became mine, because as Lucy rightly points out as a child the bookworm will read whatever is available, so my knowledge of books involving characters such as “My Naughty Little Sister“, or set in girls boarding schools or about girls with ponies (the last being my sister Val’s staple reading diet) is probably greater than most of the men who will read this book.

Lucy is lucky enough to still possess her childhood books. She obviously didn’t have a mother so keen to donate “treasures” to jumble sales to either be sold for a few paltry pennies or occasionally bought back by myself.

Her memoir reinforces the importance of libraries. I can still remember the very first library book I borrowed, (it was a picture book version of “Peter And The Wolf” with a yellow cover. I took it out many times) so that experience obviously firmly imprinted itself in my West London mind as much as it did for Lucy on the South of the River in Catford.

Some of the titles alone brought back great memories – “Family From One End Street”, “Tom’s Midnight Garden”, “The Saturdays” “The Phantom Tollbooth”, “The Secret Garden”, “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”, “Lion Witch & The Wardrobe”, The “William” novels were all great favourites with both Lucy and myself. (No mention of a couple of others I was obsessed by “Emil & The Detectives” and “Dr Doolittle”, maybe they were moving out of public favour by Lucy’s time).  She shares her strength of feelings against certain things, she had a limited tolerance of talking animals and fantasy (which saw off both “Babar The Elephant” and Tolkien) and does so in a way which is both stimulating and very funny.

Through the books she read we learn much about her family life which brings in a whole new level of richness into the work. I’m also totally with her on the subject of re-reading, which in my teaching days was often a bugbear for some parents who wanted their children to forge ever onwards to “harder” books. She puts this over masterfully;

“The beauty of a book is that it remains the same for as long as you need it. It’s like being able to ask a teacher or parent to repeat again and again some piece of information or point of fact you haven’t understood with the absolute security of knowing that he/she will do so infinitely. You can’t wear out a book’s patience.”

As well as examining the past she looks to the future and to her own young son, not yet so fussed about reading and announces: “It is my hope that our son will read our amalgamated collection and become the world’s first fully rounded person.” I love that!

Expect perceptive insights on all the major players and books from the period – from the still very popular Enid Blyton (“She was national comfort reading at a time when mental and emotional resources were too depleted to deal with anything more complex”), the religious elements (which also completely passed me by as a child) of CS Lewis (“no child ever has or will be converted to Christianity by reading about Cair Paravel, Aslan, naiads, dryads, hamadryads, fauns and all the rest. If they notice it at all, they are far more likely to be narked than anything else. And they probably won’t notice it at all.”), the development of the first person narrative dating from E Nesbit’s “Story Of The Treasure Seekers” to her 80’s obsession with “Sweet Valley High” (that whole publishing phenomenon passed me by as I was no longer a child by then).  Her thoughts on the joys of reading pile up one after another in this book. I cannot imagine enjoying a book about children’s literature more. It is an essential read for all of us who like to look back and who like to feel we are still young at heart!

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Bookworm was published as a hardback by Square Peg in March 2018 . Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the review copy.

Charmed Life- Diana Wynne Jones (1977) A Kid Lit Review

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I’ve come to the conclusion with children’s literature that the books you read at just the right time in your development as a reader are the ones that really stay with you.  I recently saw an article in the Telegraph ( I think) on children’s fiction where the writer (not sure who… sorry) had picked out 10 Books every child should read.  I had heard of Diana Wynne Jones but not of this book which was claimed to be a novel suffused with magic and superior to Harry Potter.  My interest was piqued, especially as this is a book which dates from the mid 70’s and so I sought out a copy.  (My library service had it available as an E-book).  I think the author of the article (which could have been Lucy Mangan who has just produced a book on children’s fiction which Netgalley have just approved me for review, so if it is I’ll let you know) must have read this book at an impressionable age as given the build-up this was all a little disappointing for me.

 This is the first of seven volumes in the Chrestomanci series.  In this book Chrestomanci is an enigmatic Willie Wonka type character, who may be an enchanter of great power and who certainly has the habit of turning up as soon as his name is said.  He takes on the upbringing of two charges, Gwendolen and Cat, after their parents are killed and the children go to live at Chrestomanci Castle with his own two offspring.  Gwendolen has precocious powers of witchcraft and thinks very highly of herself; her younger brother Cat struggles with self-doubt and is the endearing central character.  It is a tale of magic and parallel worlds as the children come to terms with their new lives in the Castle.

 Books for children of this vintage and older do not seem as plot-driven as modern fiction and once the children are in ensconced in their new home the pace gets a little slow and there are quite a few scenes which ramble a little and are not especially eventful, particularly meal times between the four children, who do not see eye to eye.  It is, however, quite entertaining throughout and may appeal to those who have got through the first couple of Harry Potter novels and are not yet ready for the demands the later instalments of the series place on the reader, but I do feel that many Potter fans will find Jones’ style dated.

 Diana Wynne Jones was a prolific writer who died in 2011.  She is most revered for her Chrestomanci novels (I still don’t know why I have not heard of these before) and “Howl’s Moving Castle”.  “Charmed Life” was the winner of the 1978 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.  She is held in great esteem by many fantasy writers for both her children’s and adult novels.  She did suggest that the 4th book of the series, the Carnegie Medal commended “The Lives Of Christopher Chant” (1988) be read as the follow-up to this.  I would be interested to see where she goes with the characters she introduces in this series opener.  This book alone does not attain the status of children’s classic as far as I am concerned, but as a whole the series may still have potential.

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Charmed Life was originally published by Macmillan in 1977.  I read the Harper Collins edition which was republished in 2007.

How To Embarrass Teachers – Paul Cookson (Ed) (2008) – A Kid-Lit Review

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Is this the perfect back to school book?  A collection of 47 poems and a quiz would seem to be the best antidote for back- to -school blues for both junior school pupils and teachers.

Paul Cookson is a prolific children’s poet and editor of collections with school based poems being a major focus in books such as “Crazy Classroom” (2013), “The Truth About Teachers” (2013), “The Works; Every Poem You Will Need At School” (2014) as well as anthologies on monsters, football, Halloween, disgusting poems and families, so a child-centred poet if ever there was one.  He often collaborates with David Harmer with whom he set up a “Spill The Beans” school based show.  Harmer is one of the poets enlisted for this collection.  There are a couple of very well-known names in Roger McGough and Brian Patten but it’s very much the lesser known poets here who have given me the most pleasure.

There’s a number of over-riding themes in the embarrassment of teachers- practical jokes, wigs and secrets known about the teacher dominate.  The blur between the “teacher” and the private life of the individual provides a rich vein of humour and this works splendidly in Cookson’s own “Mum Goes To Weight Watchers With Mrs Donohue”, an evocative title which just sums up the predicament as Mum is keen to share her knowledge of the teacher with her offspring;

“What she eats and how last week she gained a pound or two

Gossip from the staffroom, who cannot stand who”

The sheer joy of mum’s information comes across strongly as does her retelling of the aerobics class where Mrs Donohue’s leotard gives way;

“Bursting open to reveal her knickers old and blue”

The narrator’s lips may be temporarily sealed but only until the time is right.

The delight of finding something unexpected about teachers comes across very well.  In two poems the summer break provides an escape from machismo for two male teachers in Claire Bevan’s “The Rugby Teacher’s Holiday” and Gareth Owen’s great character study of “Oh Mr Porter”.  This is also evident in Celia Gentile’s deliciously naughty “Skimpily Red” where a pupil witnesses the purchase of a sexy undergarment from Next.

“Miss Nixon’s rather strict and prim

She teaches us RE

The knickers she was purchasing

Were silk and r-e-d.”

 A visit to the cinema with Miss canoodling with her boyfriend in the seat in front provides great excitement in “Did Miss Enjoy The Movie?” by Richard Caley;

“This was great, two things to watch

The film and Miss Smith too

Perhaps I should have turned away

But then again, would you?”

 Classroom jokes can be practical as in David Harmer’s strongest effort on show “Tricks With My New Rubber Mouse” with its great depiction of a prank played on “dear trembly Mr Taut” or can be used to just pass the time such as in the game played by the pupils every time “Miss Fidgetbum” sniffs and coughs in Trevor Millum’s poem.  Double standards are always a cause for classroom outrage as evidenced by Marian Swinger’s “Good Manners” and school life is depicted in its technicolour awfulness in moments provided by the overzealous caretaker in the poem by Trevor Harvey and the school fete where the kids can’t get to throw sponges at the Headteacher in the stocks because the teachers are all there first in the poem by Andrew Collett.

Most of these poems rhyme, have quite simple forms and read aloud beautifully.  If I was still teaching this book would form part of my “emergency pack” in my bag.  Not as essential as Michael Rosen whose “Quick! Let’s Get Out Of Here” would be pulled out of my bag regularly but it would certainly get a new class on the teacher’s side even if it might just give them undesirable ideas.

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How To Embarrass Teachers was published by Macmillan’s Children’s Books in 2008

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken (1962) – A Kid-Lit Review

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It’s funny how the mind plays tricks. I can still remember borrowing this from the library when I was a child but I was convinced that it was a much bigger book.  This suggests I tackled it at a transition time from early readers and short read-alones and considered its 192 pages to be particularly massive.  I don’t recall if I actually got through it on this occasion (I suspect not) but I’m sure I’ve read it since and found myself picking up a copy recently.

I met Joan Aiken because back in my teaching days in London I taught her grand-children.  She is one of the most important children’s writers of the twentieth century and this is her best known book.

The first third of this, the opening novel in a sequence which includes “Black Hearts In Battersea” and “Night Birds In Nantucket” is outstanding. Aiken has created an England which feels both familiar and strange.  The reason for this strangeness is dealt with in her author’s note before the story has begun, which sets it into the alternative history category.  In 1832 King James III ascended the throne, the Dover-Calais Channel Tunnel has been opened and Britain has become over-run by wolves who made it through the tunnel to escape hard European winters.

The scene is set for a chilling winter opening.  Sir Willoughby Green is embarking on a long sea journey for the sake of his wife’s health leaving daughter Bonnie with a recently discovered distant relative who arrives at the grand old house of Willoughby Chase to be the governess.  Also due at the house is Bonnie’s cousin, Sylvia, an orphan who is leaving her frail impoverished aunt to begin a new life at the Chase.  After the tension of the impending departures is set up beautifully we are treated to Sylvia’s journey by train where the wolves menace and threaten in a snow-filled chilling piece of writing as good as anything to be found in children’s fiction.  It would have certainly scared the living daylights out of me had I got to this part in the original library book (more reason to think I abandoned it as it would certainly have stuck in my mind).

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Once Sylvia gets to Willoughby Chase the cruel plans of the governess begin to dominate.  She’s a wicked woman indeed but lacks some of the roundness to make her a classic children’s villain (although I know that Stephanie Beacham’s portrayal in the 1989 film version gave many nightmares).  As the action moves away from the house, the novel’s depth and its darkness, the snow and wolves melt away somewhat and it becomes a more standard escape story.  It remains good throughout but doesn’t quite sustain the promise of that first third.

The alternative history side (apart from the wolves) is underplayed here but I think it becomes more prominent in the other books in the sequence.  I think I might be starting to get a bit picky here, it seems like I’m expecting “Game Of Thrones” in a 1960’s children’s book.  It is, however, a lasting classic which possesses plenty of what makes a children’s book great and it is one that should continue to bring joy to generations.

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I read a Red Fox paperback edition of “The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase” which was first published in 1962.

Awful Auntie – David Walliams (2014) – A Kid-Lit Review

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It’s been a couple of years since I read David Walliams’ “The Demon Dentist” and in that time his reputation as a writer (and his book sales) have continued to soar.  Just the other week the Duchess Of Cornwall’s Bookshelves Project celebrated her 70th birthday with a list of the UK’s favourite children’s books.  It’s quite a wide-ranging list and Walliams has two titles on it- neither of which I’ve read so I’ve obviously got more treats in store.

I thought “Demon Dentist” was “up there with the best of Dahl” and had everything that a children’s book should have. “Awful Auntie” was his next publication so it might be hoped he’d pushed the quality boundaries further.  He hasn’t really and if “DD” is up with the best of Dahl (that’s “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”, “The Witches” and “Matilda”) then this is nestling in with the mid-range of “The Twits” and “George’s Marvelous Medicine”.  I feel these are appropriate comparisons as they both share a one-dimensional overly sadistic undertone which stops this feeling as well rounded as its predecessor.

Set in the dilapidated Saxby Hall in 1933 the twelve year old main character Stella awakes to find her life has changed.  Her parents are no longer around and she is being held captive by the monstrous Aunt Alberta, a character without even the slightest drop of humanity who has as a side-kick a giant owl.  Agatha wants to claim the Hall as her own and is prepared to murder all around her to get it.  Stella has to use the Hall’s past to attempt to thwart her Aunt’s plans.  Such misery heaped on Stella becomes disturbing more than funny.  Walliams attempts to lighten the atmosphere by having her step temporarily away from life-threatening situations to make some mundane comments to her captor seems jarring to adult readers but most children will no doubt lap this up.  I think there’s also an over-reliance on lists to bring out the humour (Walliams does do this well as did Dahl) as here it does not add much to the flow of the novel, which highlights that the plot is sparser this time around.  The Tony Ross illustrations are great fun and would add much to the enjoyment, especially the plans and maps.

Children will relish guessing the twists in the plots.  He uses a small cast here and at least one character (Gibbons the ancient butler) is under-used.  There’s actually a complaint letter at the back of the book from recurring character, shop-owner Raj, who is moaning about his non-appearance in the book because of its 1930s setting and I thought that was written with more sparkle than a chunk of the preceding 400 pages.  “Awful Auntie” did fall a little short of my high expectations.  I feel that “Demon Dentist” is a better balanced book and has the feel of a lasting children’s classic whilst this over-emphasised dark slapstick to cover up Aunt Agatha’s evil machinations.  I expect Walliams to be outrageous but I think he over-eggs it here and loses something in the process. Kids, however, are a different breed and the continuing popularity of things like the film “Home Alone” suggest that this kind of slapstick-under-peril is perennially popular and the 1451 (at time of writing) 5 star reviews on Amazon would suggest I might be a little out of touch here but I just think he’s done and will do better.

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Awful Auntie was published by Harper Collins in 2014

The Young Oxford History Of Britain & Ireland (OUP 1996)- A Real Life Review

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I have gaps in my historical knowledge.  It’s likely that most of us educated in England would admit that.  At school I studied certain periods of history (some more than once).  I went on to study History at college but the eras largely overlapped with what I had done at school, leaving gaps of time about which I knew very little.  And I’ll admit that my knowledge of Scottish, Welsh and Irish history is even sparser.  This 500 page book is written for a young audience (although not that young, given the demands it makes on the reader, so probably early/mid-teens).  It seemed to offer an ideal overview of British and Irish history.  The general editor is Professor Kenneth O Morgan and it has been put together by five authors with distinguished historical backgrounds.  It spans from the time when the land mass which became Britain and Ireland was still joined to looking ahead to what the new Millennium might bring.  The text is generously broken up with pictures, photos, maps and diagrams.

On reading it I can confirm that it provided me with a good overview and showed me how our history fits together.  Obviously, given its scope and audience it’s all rather fleeting.  I can’t claim to be that more knowledgeable about the periods I knew less about (Medieval and The Georgians, for example), but what is impressive is the range of subjects covered both within the text and through the illustrations.  Photos, portraits, diagrams and maps are used very effectively and they do enrich the text and can often give little snippets of information not included elsewhere.  At the back there is a list of the English Royal Line Of Succession and Scottish Kings  & Queens (I was largely unfamiliar with this particular list) and UK Prime Ministers up to, because of the publication of the book, John Major.  Obviously, this type of book dates easily but twenty-one years on it does not seem jarring.  Here, the vast scope and range of the book is to its benefit.

The index looks pretty comprehensive and this would most likely provide most readers’ introduction to the text.  I’ve read it from cover to cover, but probably most would dip in and out.  This is going to last me a little while, until once again I start chiding myself about how little I know about the country in which I live and then I’ll no doubt seek out something similar.

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The Young Oxford History Of Britain and Ireland was published by the Oxford University Press in  1996.

Cirque Du Freak- Darren Shan (Harper Collins 2000) – A Kid-Lit Review

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There’s clever things going on here.  This is the first in the series of twelve books under the title “The Saga of Darren Shan” written by Darren Shan and narrated by Darren Shan.  I had to Google to find out just who Darren Shan is.  There’s not that many clues in the book.  I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be set in the UK, Europe or Australia/New Zealand- which would lead all these markets to identify closely with the work.  I discovered that Darren Shan is Irish author Darren O’Shaughnessy who has also written the eight book Demonata series for older children/teens.  There’s also the 13 book “Zom-B”, a number of other series and books written for adults under the name Darren Dash. (You have to enter your date of birth on his website to find this out, not wanting to encourage children to seek out his adult horror).  A prolific writer and this is the book that started everything off.

For the sake of the story the main character Darren is a schoolboy.  I liked the flaws in his character which are evident from the start.  He tells us things are going to get bad for him and they actually get worse than I was expecting in this introductory tale.  He kicks off with a prologue in which he details his fascination with spiders leading to his parents buying him a tarantula for a pet.  Things go bad when, after watching a cartoon character being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner and emerging unscathed he tries it on his spider with predictably grisly results.  Darren also lies and steals in this novel so is certainly not squeaky clean and that is likeable in a novel for older children.

One of Darren’s friends finds a flyer for a secret freak show.  Entry by invitation only.  What Darren discovers at the freak show will change his life for good.

Arachnophobes may not get beyond the  prologue but if they do there are a few more challenges ahead.  In fact, the whole thing is rather creepy and really quite effective.  I could imagine if I was twelve years old I’d be reading the series end to end and perhaps not getting that much adult approval because of it.

Writer Darren sets up character Darren’s predicament well and on completion you can tell that there is significant mileage in this series.  For an author who is undeniably churning them out it doesn’t feel like a tale churned out, although, of course this is the first of the series.  For an adult reader it’s a quick, guilty pleasure type read, recalling the days of staying up late to watch TV horror films and getting the odd frisson from “Scooby Doo”.  For older children it’s a move on from the likes of the “Goosebumps” books but with a stronger  structure and more authentic chills.

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Cirque Du Freak was first published by Harper Collins in 2000.

The Author Strikes Back – Benita Jayne – A Kid-Lit Special

I have recently joined Facebook after resisting for many years.  The reason behind this was a school reunion that I was not able to go to which had its own Facebook group and photographs.  I found myself itching to see how well or otherwise people had aged.  Within a very short time I was back in touch with people who I had not had any contact with for, in some case, 30+ years.  I discovered that one of these, the writer of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”, the first book in the Angel Messengers Series,  Benita Jayne, I knew under another name and that she was my old school pal who I used to travel on the 207 bus to school in the mornings.  Benita and I have had our own little reunion thanks to the “Sacred Crystal Pyramid” and I am delighted to welcome her to my Author Strikes Back thread where she has gamely answered questions which sprung to my mind whilst reading her book.  So without further ado……………………

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Benita Jayne

How did the idea of a series based around the Angelic Kingdom develop and why was Amethyst a good candidate to enter the kingdom?

I regularly use meditation to relax. During my relaxed state I had the vision to create guided  meditations (describing the place in detail like reading a book) that can take a person on a journey to a healing Angelic world to help reduce stress, aid relaxation and inner healing. The  places that were created for meditation were magical and this inspired me to create an adventure book, based around the places descibed.

I wanted Amethyst not to be the usual type of character that would journey to these places.  The experience for her would be unbelievable, hence her reaction from being a feisty character to one of awe and disbelief. To me she was the girl I wish I could have been.

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What comes across well is your warmness towards the healing power of angels.  Can you tell us more about that?

I have used Reiki angelic healing for quite some time for myself, friends and family. Some experiences have been overwhelming and have created my passion to explore this area further. I have read and heard of many accounts of amazing and lovely experiences with Angels. There are many different beliefs and I respect everyone’s personal belief, however Angels cross many different religons and cultures. I wanted to share my experiences in the form of a fantasy adventure book.

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With children’s books we are often aiming to create lasting memories.  What children’s books have been close to you since childhood?

The books that I remember most were the Enid Blyton Adventure series of books. It is funny how you never forget the characters and amazing adventures they have. To me they remain an important part of your childhood experience. Like your favourite sweets and TV characters, when you remember them it brings a good feeling inside.

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Do you know, the Enid Blyton Adventure books really never made an impression on me when I was a child, whereas I do read adventure books now.  The Enid Blyton books I loved were her magical stories aimed at younger readers.  I was particularly obsessed with a tale about a pixie market for a number of years.  It’s amazing to think now how much influence she wielded on quite a few generations of young readers.  Anyway, I digress…next question

It’s very clear that the Angel Messenger series is a labour of love.  You have developed a website  which has  special message cards and have been in charge of design and cover illustration for both books and website.  How important is this multi-media approach for children’s books today?

The strange thing is I started creating the Angel message cards before the book. I wanted to be able to inspire young people, to feel they are amazing, caring, capable of following their personal dreams. The book concept was born from the characters on the cards and the places I had created in my meditations. 

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My background is in design and illustration so it was a passion to create something that would work and support the series of books. The messages have been developed further and are now an extension of the books inspiration.  I wanted to share the experience of the angelic adventure being able to build confidence, vision, hopes and dreams.

Many books and characters now exist in a multi media form, Harry Potter is a prime example. I think multi media is now expected by the majority of industries, including books. 

The essence of a book can sometimes be lost in translation in a film as some of the detail and thoughts of the characters are lost.  Some of the popular books are then seen as a highly commercial and profitable business in the world of licensing and manufacturing and may dilute the original thoughts and message of the author. 

However if multi media is thoughtfully created,  it can be used in a positive way to communicate very important messages from the author to the reader. 

What’s next for Benita Jayne?

It is very important for me to help children know they are special no matter what their beliefs, culture or country they belong to. I have left the story open to enable me to take the characters to many places in the world to explore different countries and cultures. 

I am thinking about creating meditations for young people to help with daily stress, relaxation to help with studying and being creative. Look out for the next exciting announcements on angelmessengers.co.uk or follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for inspirational messages.

Many thanks for Benita for answering the questions and I would like to wish her luck with the rest of her Angel Messengers series of books. The first in the series, “The Sacred Crystal Pyramid” can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the book title.  The book has attracted some great reviews.

Let’s not leave it another 30 years, Benita!

 

 

The Sacred Crystal Pyramid – Benita Jayne (2013) – A Kid-Lit Review

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The YA and teen book market is flourishing and there is particular demand for series titles.  A lot of what is being published in the UK is dealing with big, often sensitive issues, which is important but there is a gap for those who want more lightness – a reader perhaps who has devoured their way through the popular Rainbow Magic series and books of that ilk and who has moved on to the stage where they are looking for something a little meatier without going on to full-out fantasy or gritty social issues.

Enter Benita Jayne, whose debut novel in her “Angel Messengers” series might provide a satisfactory bridge.  There’s a good lead character here, the feisty Amethyst, relocated to a new home in Wiltshire and prepared to play the fool on her first day at a new school.  A discovery at home leads Amethyst and new pal Rosalina into the Angelic Kingdom where a battle between forces of light and darkness is being planned.  The transition from school story to the world of angels did jar a little for me as Amethyst, who has played the teenage lack of acceptance card until then becomes disappointingly docile entering the world of angels.  The girls are trained to play their part in the oncoming battle and I would have liked to see Amethyst’s feistiness come through during this training.  I couldn’t imagine the earlier Amethyst instantly accepting instructions such as “I would like you to feel immense love in your hearts whilst directing your wands towards the dark energies.” The training section felt a little rushed with the characters temporarily losing their identities (overpowered by the angels?).  I know there’s a desire to get on with the main event (the battle) but a series gives the luxury of being able to get the groundwork just right.  Once out of the Angelic Kingdom Amethyst and Rosalina reverted to type chatting about the couple of boys they met there.

The problem I have with a lot of books that deal with the fantastic is that events can dominate characters.  It is tricky to get the balance just right but when it works the results can be superb.  Benita Jayne has managed to portray good, convincing characters but they become inconsistent in the Angelic Kingdom.

Once we are onto the quest to recover the Crystal Pyramid from the darkness the author’s enthusiasm for the realm of angels shines through and there’s a strong section when Amethyst faces peril and does more closely resemble the earth-bound teenager and things do come to a satisfactory conclusion.  I would be interested to know where Benita Jayne goes next with this series as she hasn’t really set anything up so she can probably take the series anywhere.  There’s much mileage in the healing power of angels and the points where they touch our lives.  I’m sure there will be many readers willing to find out more about these angel messengers.

threestars

The Sacred Crystal Pyramid was independently published in 2013.  It can be purchased from Amazon by following this link