Mermaid Academy: Isla and Bubble / The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure

Mermaid Academy: Isla and Bubble
Julie Sykes and Linda Chapman, illustrated by Lucy Truman
Nosy Crow

Fans of the Unicorn Academy books will love this, the first of a magical new series set beneath the waves of Wild Sea. Just as the pupils of that establishment have captured the hearts of countless younger readers, I’m sure those of Mermaid Academy, led by headteacher, Dr Oceania, will do likewise, starting with Isla and the twins, Isobel and Cora who join the school on the same day.

Once the new pupils have been allocated their dorms, rather than lessons, they all participate in a treasure hunt intended to enable them to get to know one another, the dolphins and their new environment. Isla is a spirited character with a tendency to be headstrong, so when it comes to saving the woolly seahorses, even if that means breaking one of the Academy’s strict rules and venturing beyond its walls, she feels compelled to do so, however much danger that puts her team in.

Can she perhaps use her bubbliness to extricate them all from an emergency situation?

With adventure, friendship and discovering their magic and bonding with a special dolphin awaiting, (not to mention Lucy Truman’s black and white illustrations) who wouldn’t want to join Isla as she dives into this underwater world and helps protect its fauna and flora.

The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure
Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Mark Beech
Hodder Children’s Books

The Faraway Tree is a series of popular children’s books by British author Enid Blyton. Blyton’s classic The Magic Faraway Tree, first published in 1939, was Jacqueline Wilson’s own favourite book as a very young child. Now the accomplished, popular contemporary children’s author, Wilson, has woven a new story that revisits this much-loved magical world in A New Adventure, that is just right for the next generation of young readers.

Those familiar with the original classic will remember some of their favourite characters, Moonface, Silky the fairy and The Saucepanman who loves to make up songs (and is now selling his wares on-line); but it’s the turn of a new family to experience what the magical tree has to offer.The family – dad, mum and three children are to spend their six week holiday staying at Rose Cottage and almost immediately, Birdy the youngest of the children meets a fairy outside her window. She invites the little girl to the Faraway Tree and so begins their adventure.

The next day Milo (10, the oldest), Mia about a year younger and Birdy (fourish), led by a talking rabbit, venture into the Enchanted Wood where among the whispering leaves stands the Faraway Tree: the tree that offers those who climb to the top, the opportunity to discover extraordinary places. Newly created by Jacqueline Wilson, the places the children experience are the Land of Unicorns – Mia absolutely loves this one,

the Land of Bouncy Castles, the Land of Princes and Princesses and finally, the Land of Dragons where a dangerous encounter awaits one of their number. This fourth story ends somewhat suddenly, I suspect to leave the way open for another Wilson sortie into the Enchanted Wood.

While keeping a strong sense of the original place, Jacqueline Wilson has challenged the stereotypical Blyton attitudes and language, one example being the way Mia is quick to admonish Mr Moonface: “Why on earth should it be Silky’s job to clean up after you … It’s terribly old-fashioned to expect a woman o keep a house tidy, … My mum and dad share all the chores and we have to help too.”

Also helping to give the book a modern feel that is just right for 21st century readers are Mark Burgess’ lively, often gently humorous illustrations.

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