Another lovely book from William Joyce, this is the first book of his "Guardians" series. This installment is a magical, fairytale style story of St....moreAnother lovely book from William Joyce, this is the first book of his "Guardians" series. This installment is a magical, fairytale style story of St. Nicholas (here, Nicholas St. North). In Joyce's world, St. North is a master thief who is magically persuaded to travel to the village of Santoff Claussen by the wizard Ombric. Ombric believes St. North is the one person who can help him defeat the evil Pitch and his shadowy Nightmare Men and Fearlings.
I really enjoyed Joyce's creativity in this book, as well as his typical nostalgic artwork. Many of his pet themes are here: St. Nicholas, the moon and moon men, space travel, and small children having big adventures. Every Joyce book is really an experience larger than simply reading a book -- it's more like immersing yourself in a whole new universe, one that you might like never to return from.
I do have a couple of small quibbles with this book, though. For as pretty as the book itself is, I was disappointed that more care wasn't taken with the editing -- simple mistakes, such as "pummel" for "pommel" and "allusive" rather than "elusive" made me sad. An artist of Joyce's caliber should be better served by his editors. On Joyce's part, I do have to admit to a bit of choppiness in the storytelling, but fans of his will know by now that there is sometimes a bit more emphasis on the style than the substance. As a VERY big fan, I accept this in his work -- the beauty of the story and Joyce's incredible artwork simply outweighs any faults I might find in the storytelling (which, for the most part, is still quite compelling).
A medieval mystery of sorts for kids (with a bit of magic thrown in), The Crowfield Curse is a wonderful adventure.
Set in 1347, the story follows monk...moreA medieval mystery of sorts for kids (with a bit of magic thrown in), The Crowfield Curse is a wonderful adventure.
Set in 1347, the story follows monks' apprentice, William, as he finds himself caught up in a battle between light and dark forces that seem to surround the abbey where he lives. After finding a hobgoblin caught in a trap, Will's eyes are opened to the magical creatures around him. There are several "fay" creatures, old pagan gods, witches and healers, and a secret buried deep in the woods.
Will is a great character. He is kind, fair, and tender-hearted, able to move past conventional beliefs in order to see the bigger picture. Although frightened a great deal of the time, he continually strives to do what he believes is best for others -- all adding up to a strong hero.
The mystery that Will is drawn into is genuinely intriguing -- I didn't know how everything was going to turn out, and even after I thought the story was pretty much finished the author threw in another new development.
The hobgoblin, Brother Walter (he refuses to tell William his real name because he doesn't want William to have power over him), is adorable -- I would love to see this made into a film, just so I could see this character brought to life.
The author doesn't skimp on historical detail, even if it is a book meant for children -- this is a very detailed look at medieval life (monastic life, in particular), and it really shows how difficult life was then. I was also interested to see how matter-of-fact the hardships were -- it's hard to imagine anyone today being so philosophical about hard work, hunger, or cold!
I think this would be an interesting choice for older kids, especially those interested in that time period or in magical creatures. This does not have the charm of the Harry Potter series, but it's a wonderful book nonetheless.
My copy includes a preview of the sequel, The Crowfield Demon, which looks to be quite good as well.
I would also note that the cover of this book is very pretty, reminiscent of those old paintings that feature black silhouette characters on top of a painted background. If you look closely, you can see a few of the featured characters represented.(less)
Initially I really enjoyed this book -- the writing is clever and amusing, but I felt the story had several parts that were just jarring, considering...moreInitially I really enjoyed this book -- the writing is clever and amusing, but I felt the story had several parts that were just jarring, considering that this is a kids' book.
Peter Nimble is found as an infant, floating on the ocean in a basket. His eyes have been pecked out by a raven.
Things get no better for Peter after he's rescued by sailors -- he's left at the nearest port town, where officials name him, then abandon him again on the streets to fend for himself. As a baby!!
Now, I know that this actually has happened historically, and that there are many children even today who are left to fend for themselves, but oh my gosh that was harsh!
Peter's life skips a few years, as he is trained by the horrible Mr. Seamus to be a master thief. He is deprived of love, food, kindness, on and on and on. But all of this changes when he meets the mysterious Mr. Pound and steals from him three pairs of fantastic eyes.
The rest of the book follows Peter on his adventures. A lot of it is fascinating, and the author has one heck of a great imagination. But it's almost overwhelming, all of the characters and dramas and twists and turns. I found myself losing interest as the book progressed, even though I thought it was well written.
Maybe it's just not my thing, but this book definitely will not be the end of my search for a new Harry Potter type series. I'm not sure if I would read a sequel if the author publishes one.(less)
"I have to flee to a secret place," Angela said. "There'll be all sorts of perils: Highwaymen. Wolf packs. And if I survive, even worse. I'll be on a...more"I have to flee to a secret place," Angela said. "There'll be all sorts of perils: Highwaymen. Wolf packs. And if I survive, even worse. I'll be on a quest to free my parents from the devil himself: Archduke Arnulf and his Necromancer! I need someone I can count on."
"That's me!" Hans exclaimed.
Found by a grave robber when he was an infant, Hans grows up not knowing his past or his place in the world. He is horrified by the thought of following in his foster father's footsteps as a grave robber, but cannot imagine another life for himself.
Angela is weeks away from her 13th birthday, when she is expected to marry the Archduke (whose previous wives have all met with unfortunate accidents).
When Angela and Hans meet, their lives and fates entwine in some very unexpected ways, but can they work together to save not just themselves, but the entire Archduchy of Waldland?
The author skillfully combines various elements into a fun story of betrayal, attempted murder, hidden identities, evil sorcerers, grave robbing, highwaymen, stolen birthrights, and even dancing bears!
For ages 10 and up, this is an old-style adventure, a fast and easy read that will keep you turning pages until the very end.
Adults and older children will see many of the twists before they happen, but it really doesn't take away from the enjoyment of reading this tale. The chapters are very short, and the language is fairly simply -- aside from a few words that may need to be looked up or explained by an adult, as well as a smattering of italian -- making this a good possibility for reluctant readers.
There are just a couple of things parents should be aware of: the Necromancer and his Weevils might be quite scary for some children, and there is some imagery in his descriptions that might be disturbing. The Archduke Arnulf is also somewhat frightening, and there are also scenes in a dungeon and an asylum that might be difficult for sensitive kids. (view spoiler)[The Archduke falls into a pit of lye at the end of the story, and there is a description of his skin "bubbling" and "melting". The Necromancer also receives his comeuppance, being delivered to the asylum while under the effects of a potion which makes him appear to be dead. When we last see him, he is taken to be dissected -- presumably while still aware of his surroundings. (hide spoiler)]
While not as complex -- and certainly not as magical -- as the Harry Potter series (the magic in this book is all explained rationally), I could see this as a nice follow up for readers who miss having new HP books to enjoy.
I would love to see further adventures from this author, and I highly recommend this book.
EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to mention the charming illustrations by Jim Kay that are featured at the beginning of each chapter and act -- although not in colour, they are quite lovely and evoke each scene and character perfectly. The book's cover also feature's this artists's work -- in colour this time -- and there are so many tiny details to enjoy. Very nice work!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Without a doubt, one of the best -- possibly THE best -- book on horsemanship. Period.
There are so many things I love about this book -- written in 1...moreWithout a doubt, one of the best -- possibly THE best -- book on horsemanship. Period.
There are so many things I love about this book -- written in 1966 (and surprisingly not dated after all these years), the author's tone is playful yet cultured. This was before we, as a nation, all began speaking as children. The language in this book is a joy to read, and the author illustrates the various subjects with charming line drawings.
I've ridden for many years, so I'm familiar with most of the information in this book -- I've heard of "collection" and "flexing", and yet it has never been explained to me IN DETAIL exactly what these terms mean in a very specific way, or why it is important to understand these concepts and how they relate to riding. I can honestly say that I've learned more about the technical aspects of riding by reading this book than I've learned in 43 years of hands on experience.
Even if you think you know everything there is to know about horses, you just might find something new within these pages, or just clarify a few aspects you might have been fuzzy on. Yes, this is BASIC information, but if you don't have the basics down, you will never be a truly accomplished rider.