Paradise Sands

Paradise Sands
Levi Pinfold
Walker Studio

Three boys, Bill (the driver), Danny and Bob and their sister (the narrator) are in a car on their way through an arid landscape to see their mother in hospital when the girl suggests stopping to pick some flowers for her.“White roses we follow, towards Teller’s Hollow” sings Bill, as they leave the car and start to pick. “Dead earth to a spring, the house of a King,” he continues the ominous rhyme as they gather a bouquet. Feeling hot and thirsty the boys move towards a spring beside which stands a large palace, silent, imposing and seemingly empty; they take a long, deep drink, then instead of returning to the car, climb the stairs and enter the edifice.

Once inside, hungry and thirsty the boys consume what they find, then plunge into a pool and are transformed into dolphins.

The girl meanwhile has an encounter with the creature calling itself the Teller and offering drink and food to her. ‘I only want to leave with my brothers” comes her response. She’s offered a deal: three days without drinking or eating and things will return to what they were before the family entered his domain. His terms are accepted by the girl and despite being tempted she neither eats nor drinks; 

she does however use some water for another purpose. For this she must pay in the future.

When she returns to the car, her brothers are already there and they drive to the hospital to see their mother and give her the flowers …

This is a truly eerie tale with much left for the reader to ponder upon. Pinfold’s illustrations are mesmerising, unsettling and haunting, drawing us to them again and again in search of further meanings.

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale
Hannah Gold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Harper Collins Children’s Books

Hannah Gold is a wonderful weaver of words. In this story we meet eleven year old Rio who is sent to stay with his grandmother in a small coastal town in California while his musical mum goes to hospital for treatment. Having last met Grandmother Fran over five years ago, and knowing virtually nothing about where she lives, he is reluctant to go but has no choice about leaving his friends and everything familiar.

Then, one day Fran gives Rio a box containing treasures that had belonged to his mum. Inside is a sketchbook of drawings of whales, one of which seems to call to the boy. He discovers she’s named White Beak on account of her distinctive markings. This leads him down to the harbour

and a chance meeting with Marina, a girl around his own age who lives on a boat with her Dad, Birch, and they run whale-watching trips for visitors.

Now, Rio has a focus and perhaps too an anchor, for he feels that if he can find White Beak it will help heal his mother. He discovers that not only has he an affinity for whales, but he is able to hear them when nobody else can.

You’ll likely feel tears welling up at certain places in this beautiful, unputdownable book. The author’s way of embedding information about animals (in this case whales and protection of their environment), within a gripping narrative with brilliant characterisation is awesome. I urge you to dive headlong in, relish the opportunity to lose yourself in this watery world, spot some whales in Levi Pinfold’s illustrations that are as exquisite as Hannah’s writing and notably capture the majesty of White Beak, as well as Rio’s journey both emotional and physical.

The Dam

The Dam
David Almond and Levi Pinfold
Walker Studio

Based on a true story, award-winning author Almond tells in lyrical style a tale of loss and hope, music and memories, memorial and mystery, water and wonder.

One morning early, a father wakes his daughter instructing her to “Bring your fiddle,”. Then together they walk into the valley, an abandoned valley in Northumberland that is soon to be flooded once the Kielder Dam construction is complete.

Now the buildings lie empty, their inhabitants re-housed. The father pulls down the door of a deserted cottage, bidding his daughter to enter.
“Play, Kathryn, play,” he instructs. “Dance, Daddy, dance.” comes her response and so they do.

First there, and then at every other one of the deserted dwellings, filling each one with music as Kathryn plays ‘for all that are gone and for all that are still to come…”

It’s heard by the birds, the beasts, the earth, the trees and the ghosts.

As darkness descends the two walk away leaving behind them drowning beauty, water echoing deep in the dam and drifting forth, rising and echoing too in the waves, leaves and grass they tread upon;

in their memories; in their dreams and right through them in all their internal dams, making them play, making them sing, making them dance, and so it will always be.

Totally riveting, this powerful book is a thing of beauty, elegance, awe and reverence as the author and artist pay homage to a deeply loved landscape: Almond with his spare poetical telling, Pinfold with his majestic windswept spreads, brooding vignettes, and musical, mystical skyscapes.

A treasure of a book.

The Princess and the Suffragette / The Song From Somewhere Else

The Princess and the Suffragette
Holly Webb
Scholastic Children’s Books

This is a sequel of sorts to one of my childhood favourite reads, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess.
It centres on one of the characters from the original story, Lottie, now ten, who has lived at Miss Minchin’s school since she was four.

Now, a few years on, it’s 1911, when the suffragette movement is on the rise, Lottie finds herself becoming friends with one of the maids at the school, a girl named Sally who is interested in the rights of women.
During the next couple of years she also finds herself getting more rebellious and more involved in suffragette activities.

In tandem with her burgeoning rebellion, Lottie discovers that there’s a mystery surrounding her mother, and that what she’d been led to believe about her isn’t the truth.

There’s frankness about Holly Webb’s writing that makes the whole story feel genuine and well researched. She doesn’t avoid mentioning the suffering and brutality that some members of the suffragette movement underwent; and one hopes, her deft manner of talking about it will inspire young readers to understand the importance of standing up for what they believe to be right.

 

The Song From Somewhere Else
A.F.Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Here’s a book that is both beautiful and alarming, terrifying even at times.

Frank (Francesca Patel) is stalked and bullied by the local nasty, Neil Noble, and a couple of his pals; but then a rather odd boy, Nick Underbridge comes to her rescue. You might expect that the girl would be greatful, indeed she knows she ought to be, but at school Nick is said to be smelly and so not exactly the kind of person she’d want any involvement with.
However, for safety she goes back to his house with him intending merely to thank him and leave. It’s a rather strange house – not what she’d expected – filled with abstract painting done by Nick’s dad; there’s a rather strange earthy aroma pervading the place and suddenly she hears music. It’s the most haunting and beautiful music she’s ever heard; and she wants more of it and more, and more. And so, she returns.

What happens thereafter is the development of an unlikely but challenging friendship, and the discovery that within Nick’s home are secrets.

There’s a talking cat involved too.

Part reality, part fantasy, this story is absolutely wonderfully and lyrically told, and entirely convincing – the stuff of dreams, the stuff of nightmares both.
And Levi Pinfold whose images – dark, mysterious and haunting – are a fine complement to Harrold’s telling, equally beautifully illustrates it.

Totally captivating: a magical book to return to over and over.