The Various by Steve Augarde

Another book read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Reading Challenge! I read this one for the category “Read the first book in a series that is new to you“, which is worth 15 points. The Various is the first book in the Touchstone Trilogy.

The plot:
This is the story of 12-year-old Midge, who is sent to stay with her eccentric uncle over the summer while her mother tours with her orchestra, and her adventures with “The Various” –  a band of fairies, or little people, or whatever you want to call them. For many years, The Various have lived in the woods bordering on Uncle Brian’s farm, hidden away from human eyes. When the two world’s begin to clash, The Various are threatened with extinction. This is a tale of friendship, loyalty and adventure.

My review:
This was one of those books that made me wish my commute was longer so I could carry on reading. I LOVED it! It has all the ingredients of my favourite childhood books – perfectly ordinary girl stumbles on something extraordinary and has an adventure. Midge (whose real name is Margaret) is a believable character and I liked her a lot. I especially liked that, when she was in danger, she actually thought about the best thing to do (for example, realising that hiding in something would mean being trapped once she was found) instead of panicking and doing the exact opposite of the sensible thing – think horror films where people realise the killer is in the house and run up the stairs rather than out the front door! None of that here. She seems quite mature for her age, but as the only child of a single parent, I thought it made sense for her to have grown up fairly fast. I also liked Midge’s cousins, Katie and George. Katie is a fairly typical 13-year-old girl, more interested in clothes and boys than hanging around with her younger brother and cousin, but she comes good in the end (after stopping to change her clothes on the way, of course!). The language of the Various is quite old-fashioned with some made up words, which makes them difficult to understand at times, but I got used to that over the course of the book and I actually thought that was a nice touch. 5 stars for this one. Now to get hold of the other two books in the series…

The Mysterious Woods of Whistleroot by Christopher Pennell

Another book review for the Summer 2014 Reading Challenge with Megan from Semi-Charmed Kinda Life. I read this one for the category “Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore”, which is worth 10 points. Depending on the source, the age range is given as 8-10 or 9-12. Either way, it fits into the category.

book4The plot:
Eleven-year-old Carly Bitter Bean is an orphan. Since birth, she has only ever been able to sleep during the day. No matter how hard she tries, once the sun sets she just cannot sleep. Understandably, this has led to having a rather lonely life – it’s difficult to make friends when you’re only awake when everyone else is sleeping. All that changes when she meets Lewis, a talking rat who appears at her window one night asking her to join his band, and is then befriended by a mysterious boy at school, Green. Together, they set out to find out why the owls – who had previously enjoyed listening to the rats’ music – have suddenly started killing them instead…

My review:
I wish this book had been around when I was a child! I would have devoured it right around the time I was in my Faraway Tree/Wishing Chair/Narnia phase. But that’s not to say I couldn’t enjoy it as an adult. I really liked how the characters were drawn, and that the aspects that weren’t obviously fantasy (like talking rats) were realistic. In so many children’s fantasy books, the protagonists don’t seem to have any connection to real-life activities, or they manage to miss school for days on end and nobody even asks why. I liked that Carly still had to go to school (where she was constantly in trouble for falling asleep and also teased by her classmates for being “weird”. Not that I’m advocating bullying, but a girl who was constantly falling asleep in school and never came out to play (because after school she had to use the remaining daylight hours to sleep) would be teased). Also, when Green missed a few days of school, he returned with a note for the teacher explaining his absence… just like in real life! I also like the fact that, although Carly’s aunt (who she lives with) wasn’t a particularly likeable character, she wasn’t portrayed as some charicature of wicked with no redeeming qualities. Yes, she neglected Carly and made no effort to stay awake with her, but she did leave food out and make sure she went to school. The plotline was interesting, fun and adventurous. It wasn’t exactly a challenging story, but that’s hardly surprising considering the age range it’s actually meant for! Many adults would probably find it a bit childish, but personally I would see that as a good thing in a children’s book! I would recommend this one for fans of The Faraway Tree series, Narnia and any other stories that involve talking animals or fairytale folk come to life.