Tag Archives: Scotland

The Good Hawk: (Shadow Skye – Book 1) – Joseph Elliott

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Walker Books Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781406385854
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

 

Enter a fabulous new adventure-fantasy series that will not just enthral readers with its ‘difference’ being set in a fictional parallel landscape but with its wonderful celebration of another type of difference. Agatha and Jamie are of the Clann-a-Tuath, one of the clans on the isle of Skye and a clan which has abandoned the practice of marriage or child-raising by defined parents. In this clan the whole community takes responsibility for children who are assigned to roles as they grow older. Jamie has become an Angler going out on the boats to fish – which he hates because of his terrible sea-sickness. Agatha is assigned as a Hawk, one who watches from vantage points to protect the clan from invaders. Agatha too has some difficulties with her role although she is closely supervised because as the reader realises from the start, Agatha is ‘different’. Some refer to her as ‘broken’ but others in the clan accept her difference and help her to develop her strengths, such as Maistreas Eilionoir.

In complete contradiction to their long-held customs the clan has arranged a marriage between Jamie and a girl of the clan Raasay in order to (so they think) ensure a strong alliance. In fact, they have been duped and clan Raasay betray them to the deamhain from far-off Norveg, ruthless barbarians with cruel intentions.

So begins an epic quest as Agatha and Jamie, the lone survivors of the attack, determine to track, find and rescue their captured clan members. To the mainland of Scotia where people have long been wiped out by a dreadful plague released upon them by the evil King Edmund in the south the pair flee, reluctantly taking along a captured deamhan who claims to be a prince in his own land, as a bargaining chip. Along their way they encounter a strange tribe, riders and companions of shaggy Highland cattle, who become allies and even stranger a mad Queen who has somehow survived plague and shadow beings alone in her castle for forty years. The rescue is arduous and long and always fraught with danger but throughout both Jamie and Agatha, who may be ‘broken’ but also has special powers, prove themselves as worth heroes over and over again, despite all odds.

This is fantastical, creepy, at times violent, but ultimately a wonderful tale of bravery, loyalty and compassion.

Elliott draws on his experience of working with children with special needs to create a memorable character, in Agatha, who is able, intuitive, fiercely loyal, sweet and funny in spite of, or perhaps because of, her Down’s Syndrome. Jamie is equal to her in many of these attributes and is able to conquer his fear, which is after all the true measure of courage, and draw on hidden strengths.

Readers from around 12 years upwards will love this for its unusual settings and characters, the use of adapted and invented languages and the full-on adventure of the rescue mission.

Alice-Miranda in Scotland [#17]– Jacqueline Harvey

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Random House Australia Children’s

ISBN 9780143786016

May 2018

RRP $16.99

 

What could possibly be more delightful than our favourite BFF immersed in Scotland’s culture and icons?  The inaugural Queen’s Colours leadership program for children is kicking off in the land of Burns, Bruce and Braveheart and Alice-Miranda (after a tricky start) as well as friends from near and far are part of the cohort.

 

With some colorful and memorable new characters to entertain as well as some tricky puzzles to solve along the way, the kids are bound to have loads of fun and great experiences.  Whether its caber tossing or Highland dancing the leaders of the future are keen to have a go and earn some points for their team. Of course, as always there are a few less-than-positive participants although after one initial hiccup this is not the ubiquitous Caprice causing most of the upsets. A rather nasty cousin of Alice-Miranda’s bestie Millie, one Madagascar Slewt is quite the most obnoxious child and makes no bones about her indifference to rules, socially acceptable behavior or consideration of others. What a toad!  Even Alice-Miranda has difficulty overlooking her appalling behavior.

 

Despite that negativity the program is going pretty well until  the intrusion of a real ‘monster’ as well as the fabled one in Loch Ness which threatens in a very real way the safety of Alice-Miranda and her team. Fortunately some resourceful thinking and some daring courage will save the day and as always, Alice-Miranda’s innate compassion and empathy for others shines through.

 

I hardly need to recommend this as the series is perpetually ‘off the shelf’ in our library, one returned copy being snapped up by another borrower time and time again. However, the alacrity with which my review copy was pounced upon for two extremely keen sisters demonstrates admirably the popularity of this character and her stories.

The Snow Angel – Lauren St John

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Harper Collins

Zephyr Books/Head of Zeus

ISBN  9781786695895

October 2017

RRP $19.99

 

It’s a long way from the wide blue skies and shimmering heat haze of Kenya to the bleak snow covered moors of Inverness and for 12 year old Makena the journey is not just a geographical one.

Much loved only child of a science teacher mother and a mountain guide father, Makena burns with passion for the mountains and climbing reckoning them her friends. When her parents are caught up in the Ebola outbreak on a mercy mission to Sierra Leone and die there, Makena’s world implodes into grief, loss of identity and homelessness. A spectacularly unsuccessful relocation to her paternal uncle’s poor home where his wife treats Makena as an unpaid servant ends abruptly and Makena finds herself fending for herself in the slums of Nairobi. Surviving like a gutter rat for a month or more, she is then swept up in a redevelopment which ruthlessly bulldozes the slums and she then finds herself rescued by a charitable organisation for girls and meets Helen. Just as Makena is recuperating from her trauma and a case of cholera, Helen has disappeared back to her parents’ home in Scotland and once again Makena feels herself abandoned.  But unexpectedly, arrangements are made for the young girl to spend a month over Christmas in the wilds of Scotland.  No spoilers here but suffice to say there is a happy ending for all.

This is just beautiful. It is warm and moving and oozes love despite the sadness threading throughout it. It is also somewhat mystical with the recurring motif of a special fox that seems to be akin to a guardian angel. There are lots of points of discussion; forgotten/orphaned children, civil war, rich vs poor, healing and the power of nature and love.

I read this in one sitting (well, lying down last night in bed) as I couldn’t put it down.  Lauren St John’s books about Africa have been wildly popular in my library for the past year or so and my prediction is that this will be just as enthusiastically received.

Check out Lauren’s website here and the book trailer here.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.