Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Books, Books, Books

Ever dream of other worlds? Yeah, me too. Ever since Lucy stepped through that wardrobe, I’ve thought about them. (let me just say, that’s been close to 30 years now) Recently, my son and I finished 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson. The story begins with young Henry York traveling to Kansas, to a little town also called Henry, to stay with relatives because his parents have gone missing.

Henry’s parents are very overprotective….car seats, helmets, the whole nine yards and then some. Some of the situations have led Henry into some awkward and embarrassing situations at boarding school. More than anything, Henry is hoping to learn to play baseball.

Henry’s Aunt Dottie and Uncle Frank have three daughters (Penny, Henrietta, and Anastasia), a farm, and a mysterious locked room that was formerly occupied by Grandpa. The bedroom has been locked since he passed away some time ago, so why does Henry see (or think he sees) someone come out, go to the restroom, and back in the middle of the night?

Things are going along fine. Henry is given a tiny room in the attic. He gets along well with his cousins, Aunt Dottie, and especially Uncle Frank. He even gets to play baseball with some local boys. Then one night, the plaster mysteriously cracks in the wall of Henry’s bedroom and he discovers two knobs sticking out. After chipping away the plaster over most of the wall, he discovers 99 cupboard doors of varying size and shape, and made of different materials. Henry doesn’t know it yet, but each cupboard leads to a different place, some nice, others not so nice. He and his cousins will learn much about their family. Interesting things. Things that Henry’s parents, Uncle Frank and Aunt Dottie haven’t told them. One is that Henry’s parents aren’t his parents. This doesn’t come as too big of a surprise to Henry, but where did he come from? Is he from our world, or one of these mysterious other worlds?

Figuring out how the cupboards work, how to get into Grandpa’s room, and what to make of the clues found there are just a part of the adventures in this story. At the end we are left with almost as many unanswered questions as we are with answers. Good thing this is the first book in a series. Don’t you think?

In writing this post, I looked up the author's website, which I have linked through the above picture. I just have to say, that I enjoyed his "unprofessional bio" very much, and think you would too. Also, because of the image at the top of that page, I must continue reading this series. I have to now. (not that I wasn't planning to anyway) That little guy is too cute, and I want to know more about him.

Our next book that we are reading together is called Standard Hero Behavior, by John David Anderson. This book caught my eye as something we would enjoy, and upon reading the inside flap, I was sure. I laughed several times just reading the flap. A good sign. I’ll let you know when we finish this one.

I hope very much that everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving (to all here in the U.S. that is). Things have been pretty busy, and we are starting big time into our new Outreach project at work. Never a dull moment, I can tell you that! Time to write, that is the precious commodity. And sleep. Oh, and sanity......nah, forget that one. ; )

I am thinking about my next posting covering some excellent picture books that I have read lately. (several by Neil Gaiman......what can I say? He's kind of brilliant!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

At Last Pt. 2

Ah, now where was I? Conference is over, time to get back to business as usual…until next week and Thanksgiving that is. OK…

The second book in the Touchstone Trilogy, Celandine, takes us into the past. We learn more about the circumstances that have led to the five tribes living in the wood atop Howard’s Hill. We learn about Celandine, and others in Midge’s family. Glimpse subtle, but intriguing instances that make you wonder....enough that I had to go back and re-read scenes in the first book to see if there were clues.

It is a wonderful story of a girl who must go off to boarding school for the first time, dealing with bullies, misunderstandings within her family, a beloved brother who has gone off to war, and haunting memories of little people living in the mysterious wood near her home among whom she has dear friends with whom she would rather live.

It is also the story of Una, a young Ickri, daughter of the leader, who must convince her people to journey far to reunite the Touchstone with the mysterious Orbis. That together these two objects form a device that will allow them to return to the far-off home from whence they came. Hers is a story of heartache, treachery, intrigue, and much mystery.

[That just reminds me that I didn’t get into any of the stories within the Various, only the human element. I didn’t tell you about Little Marten, or Henty, or the cats. The old, and cracked Queen, her advisers, and especially the really interesting Maven the Green (she’s a mysterious one)….not even the Touchstone....none of that…..Guess you’ll just have to read it, huh?]

The third and final book of the trilogy is called Winter Wood.

We find ourselves back in the present day, with Midge beginning to put more pieces of the puzzle of her Great Aunt Celandine’s story together.

We have assumed that Great Aunt Celandine is dead, but maybe not?

We also assumed that Scurl is gone….maybe we shouldn’t make assumptions.

It is winter, and though the wood is now safe from being sold, there are still shortages and strife between the tribes. The leadership of the tribes is in question. Pegs has some really surprising revelations to share. We learn more about the fate of Una. Will Henty and Little Marten be allowed to be together?

This is my favorite book of the three. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Not only is it very well written, they all are, but the story has twists and surprises that keep you hooked until the very last page (and then some). I wanted it to go on, but was also very pleased with the ending. I would love to hear your thoughts. Has anyone out there read them? If not, read them! : ) You can also read them in German, and soon, French.....if you want. At least the first one, not sure if they've done all three. (I know, where is the research? I'm slacking.)

This link will take you to Steve Augarde's Amazon page....the U.S. one. This is his blog, which is fun and interesting, and not all about books.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oh, Yeah....

I HAVE to share this link.....I hope it works. Neil Gaiman did an episode of Arthur. Such a cool one too! I hope you enjoy!

I will be back as soon as I can with Pt. 2 of my previous post. I have a conference half of next week, so not sure when I'll be getting it written and up. Please bear with me. Hey, after having gone so long, at least I got Pt. 1 done. Right? : )

Until then: "Neil Gaiman, what are you doing in my falafel?" Watch it!

Then you can thank me.

At Last: Pt. 1

The Touchstone Trilogy, by Steve Augarde is a brilliant series of what I am dubbing “not-quite-fantasy”. The Various, introduces us to Midge, a young girl who’s concert violinist mother sends her to stay at the family farm with her uncle and cousins. On the property is an impenetrable wood at the top of a hill. In this wood, unbeknownst to the humans, live five tribes of little people, collectively known as “the various”.

The Various have an interesting system of society, but are troubled by food shortages, prejudice, and the constant possibility of discovery by the giants known as Gorji (humans). The Ickri are the ruling class and hunters. The only ones with wings, which are used for gliding rather than flight. Tinklers and Troggles are cave dwellers who are very looked down upon and considered strange. (Tinklers being called such for the sound made when working metal.) Naiads are the farmers. Wisps the fishermen and most often glimpsed by humans, being the only ones to leave the safety of the wood.

Needless to say, Midge discovers this world of little people inadvertently when she discovers an injured winged horse called Pegs (mysterious and rare even among the Various) in one of the abandoned barns on the farm.

When Midge’s Uncle Brian considers selling off the wood to a developer, Midge has to find a way to save the woods’ inhabitants, while safeguarding the secret of their existence. She is taken into the wood by Pegs, and finds his people much different than the popular vision of fairies. Taller than one might think, roughly two feet in height, they are shabby and ragged, some are even dirty and hairy. They are a rugged lot, eking out an existence under less than desirable circumstances. She also has to defend herself from those among the warrior clan, led by the creepy and vicious Scurl, who believe that no Gorji can be trusted, and she should therefore die before she tells others about them.

Midge also discovers things about her Great Aunt Celandine, who is veiled in almost as much mystery as the Various themselves…..according to family legend, she was a bit off….claimed to have seen fairies, of all things. Did Midge’s Great Aunt know about the Various? Midge learns that she is not the first “Gorji maiden” to find out about the Various, and there are those who believe that she is the mysterious Celandine returned…..some believe that the story of Celandine is just that, a story. But then, how does that explain the tiny cup that mysteriously appears inscribed to Celandine?

Ok, this is making me want to completely re-read the series…..

The Touchstone trilogy is without doubt one of the most original stories….I cannot begin to say enough good about them. It is strange, as much as I usually go for the magical, fantastical, and un-ordinary, this series is strangely ordinary. It is a completely feasible (not that I think that the more magical things are less feasible) story set in extremely realistic settings in the UK. I would completely be unsurprised if Steve Augarde admitted that he didn’t come up with it, but in fact was only telling the tale of something that happened on his own land, or that of a close friend. Really. Call me gullible, but it is just that believable. I used to try and try to get to Narnia….even though I knew that A.) that world was ended already (I read The Last Battle) and B.) no one ever got to Narnia by trying. I have a great imagination, and am completely open to the possibility of a magical world hiding within our own. But the Various aren’t really magical…..mysterious, yes. Maybe even Mystical. Totally and completely just another race of being that the human world has not “discovered”.

This is the "new and improved" US cover art. I don't like it as well as the "real" cover art. I am sure that it would attract younger readers.

To be continued....