Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

NICI’ S CHRISTMAS TALE by Jean Gill – my review

SOMEONE TO ADMIRE, INDEED

And I am not talking about Nici the dog, the main character in this short story. Although I may as well, all things considered. I am talking about the author, Jean Gill. As a long-time fan of Jean Gill’s writing, I can honestly say this lady is one of the few people who leave me speechless and grateful to be able to witness their genius at work. She respects her characters and readers, and does her absolute best every time, without being arrogant or smug about it. This story is yet another proof of it. It is written just as it should be, wholesome, decent, discrete and revealing at the same time, offering you the life of a character in all its humbleness and relevance. I am not going to retell the contents to you, just offer my views on its creation.

The way this story is written is such a clever way of fitting a prequel into a spin-off sequel, to use the words so often used for various series of stories, be they movies or books. It can be read as a stand-alone, but, in my opinion, its richness will best be appreciated by fans of The Troubadours series (this reader included), as it tells parts of the original stories from the point of view of the main heroine’s loyal canine companion Nici, a character and protagonist of all the 4 books in the series in his own right. It will be like watching a familiar movie filmed with a different camera, from a different angle, and discovering things you hadn’t noticed before.

Reading Nici’s tale, at first, my mind must have felt like that of a dog’s, when it sniffs trails and traces around, looking for nothing special yet waiting eagerly to hit that special spot and then follow it through. And it did, of course. As Nici tells his story to his puppies, and you read about him hearing a girl sing, the entire thing just leaps into its rightful place and you blaze through the text with your heart warm and that feeling of peace in your chest. The tone is evocative of The Troubadours, the details and events well-paced, and overall – it is a wonderful haven for fans of the Troubadours series… As you reach the end, and I mean the very final line, it is just perfection. Full-circle for me, as the last line of the story links to the first book by Jean Gill I had read and fell in love with.

What I love about Nici’s Christmas Tale, as well as all of Jean Gill’s writing, is the way you can relate to the characters and events, regardless of the time or species in the book – she has that amazing, effortless ability of sneaking in lines about life and its timeless issues that just stop you and make you think, not just about the story, but about life and your own choices. I will try to explain, without giving away any spoilers. At one point, Nici tells his children about a herd tragedy, and you can feel his survivor’s guilt in the words, just as you would a human’s. It might even help you understand somebody in your surroundings.

We can all learn a lot from Nici, and from Jean Gill, too. About how to respect all life, how to cherish friends, family and kindness, and how to learn from our mistakes and appreciate our own growth.

I will leave you all with just one quote this time, with the author’s permission, but this one speaks to me the most.

‘Such a small thing to cling to, hope.’

(On a more personal note…

This story arrived to me last Christmas and it would have been a delightful read even then, were it not for the fact that I was unable to see then, due to a health mishap. As many of Jean Gill’s reader fans, I am delighted with her newsletter every time it hits my inbox (one of the few I actually do read and even answer sometimes), and this tale was the author’s gift to readers. See? Delightful surprises sometimes lurk in newsletters, where you least expect them;). I am happy to have been able to read it now. So well-fitted to the entire timeline.)

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A fun new children’s funbook!

It is funny how giddy I feel over this new project!

This is a special funbook edition of the story Winky’s Colours, prepared by the author who is also a teacher and a parent. Apart from the original story about Winky, this funbook is also filled with worksheets, riddles, colouring pages and wordgames, and all the illustrations are black&white. Have fun!

Winky is a little penguin who lives his life with a black&white family in nature filled with black, white and gray. All he dreams of are colours! So one day he decides to leave his home and go on an expedition to find colours. He will meet friends, face life-risking adventure and find more than he expected.
#childrensbook #learning

bit.ly/2Dbivyl

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Rhino Magic

An excerpt from Rhino Magic, my story in Looking into the Abyss:

‘Mummie, mummie, come here quickly! You’ve got to see this!’

Ginger dragged her feet from the kitchen to the living room for the hundredth time that day. There was no gingerly step left in her to justify her name, not after a sleepless night spent trying to get her son’s fever down.

‘What, honey?’

She struggled to sound interested, and failed miserably. Jake was kneeling on the bed and pointing at the TV, his blurred eyes sparkling with excitement, above the gloomy eyebags and thin cheeks.

He used to be so big and strong that they called him their beast. No seven-year-old should have to suffer kidney problems.

‘The man in the show… the documentary… he said the rhino is considered to be the unicorn’s cousin. Unicorn! Can you believe it?’

Thank you for inviting me onto this project, @Paul White.

#love #education #storytelling #quote #charity #books #teaching #story
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Patches by Kathryn Curzon – my review

What a wonderful, soothing, therapeutic story for children, but also adults, on how to help someone dealing with sadness. A beautifully told narrative about a kind, loving woodland creature who finds someone so sad he or she is practically invisible, and then, bit by bit, day by day, not forcing it but being there… patch by patch, sadness is gone and friendship heals hope. Lovely metaphor with imagery suitable for children. I enjoyed reading this, and I congratulate the author on managing to sustain a picturesque and serene tone, inviting to be read, maybe not out loud, but with a loving whisper. Recommended to all.

This book on Amazon

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Yahooty Who? – my review

I stumbled upon this cute book in my search and downloaded it based on the very optimistic cover and blurb.

Although primarily driven by beautiful illustrations and a cute little house ‘elf’ Yahooty, the wonderful visual aspect of the story is accompanied successfully with lovely rhyme, which flows smoothly for the most part. The story itself does not contain a traditional plot, but is phrased as suggestive questions for the little readers (or listeners). I enjoyed the playful tone, lots of useful vocabulary which will help expand the children’s own, and the repetitive pattern which will definitely engage the kids.

Yahooty must be in kahootz with parents though, especially regarding certain house cleaning tasks, so a parent might even get the idea to get kids to help with cleaning in hopes of actually meeting Yahooty. Just sayin’;).

Book link

PS: found this on their Twitter:

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THE DRAGON DREAMER by J. S. Burke – my review

Combining two of my most favourite elements, the ocean and fantasy, has certainly not put this author in an easy spot with me as a reader. My expectations were really high.

The author’s fascination with sealife is obvious, and it is intriguing how she intertwines it with the dragon world. There is so much lovely detail in the descriptions, and almost a science to it. I enjoyed the author’s comparison of the daily rituals of sea and dragon life with the human perspective. In fact, most of the story can be taken as a metaphor to our world, even the environmental issues, conflict and the importance of stories for the growth of a species. Although there are absolutely no human characters in this story (which took some time for me to get used to), all the characters and their relationships are developed well, with lots of love and respect. The weather threats and action sequences are intense, but it is the life described that I particularly enjoyed. This entire world has been created with amazing consistency and attention to detail.

The admirable symbiosys of skills from completely different creatures, shows us how humans should learn, united by a common goal – life on this planet. And how interesting it is that the author has both species celebrate and encourage art, creativity and healing, in contrast to humans! Dreamers they are, truly.

Any child or adult who loves to explore and go on nature adventures, will thoroughly enjoy comparing this fantasy world to nature lessons at school. Teachers could find it useful in dealing with biology, environment, even art. If your child has the heart of a zoologist, oceanologist, artist, and is a fantasy fan, this book might just be perfect for them.

What I especially liked in the story is the strong emphasis on learning and communication – each species can learn from another when willing to communicate.

Here is an interesting quote, one I wish we could implement to human life more often.

“…crowding can lead to fights. Art is good way to channel all that edgy energy.”

Dragon Dreamer

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Happy World Penguin Day:)

Happy #WorldPenguinDay!

How far would you go in search of your dreams? Winky goes farther than he’s ever been and finds more than he’s expected!

#childrensbooks #kidlit #parenting #polaranimals #envirnoment #educational

#ebook https://tinyurl.com/yb5a76wx

#paperback https://tinyurl.com/yask4nhy

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Visiting award-winning author Ashley Uzzell with my book Spikes for Hank

It is such a rare privilege to be a guest on a blog with a children’s book. So happy Hank made it:)

Thank you, Ashley Uzzell!

https://wp.me/p6WQKo-cq

By the way, if any of you enjoy wordsearches, this book has its own here: https://thewordsearch.com/puzzle/284113/spikes-for-hank/ and it’s free:)

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Franky the Finicky Flamingo by Wanda Luthman – my review

What a lovely children’s book, fun for kids and helpful to parents whose children are fussy about food.

In a very gentle way, through rhyme and colourful illustrations, without laying blame or preaching, the author guides us, along with Franky, to the realization why food is important (I love the metaphor about the colour fading, which is also why the illustrations are rich in colour elsewhere). Furthermore, the children are shown that not all kinds of food are good for everyone, and the goal is to find what is healthy for your particular body and lifestyle.

Eating suitable and healthy food lets you live an active, fun-filled life, and share your adventures with your friends nd family. And keep your ‘colours’:). I can see this book used by parents, teachers, even nutritionists, especially in kindergartens. Another good one, Ms Luthman!

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Have you learned to love your spikes?

We are all born with some part of ourselves we don’t especially like. In fact, sometimes we hate it and wish we were different.

But with time, and a little help from our friends and family, we all discover we are as we are for a reason, and each of us is special and unique in our own way.

Sometimes, quite often in fact, what we thought our weakness turns out to be our most prized possession. Would it not be a dull world if we were all the same?

From the Foreword to Spikes for Hank, #childrensbook

#ebook https://tinyurl.com/y8np4as5

#paperback https://tinyurl.com/y86wkq56

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