Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shelf Life [kids]

The Monster Game, by Precia Davidson, 217 pages
@ SPL: J FIC David

First-time author Precia Davidson, from Brunner, Ontario, is just 23 years old but the insight and perception evident in her recently-published fantasy story for children, the Monster Game, seem to come from an older and wiser mind.

Two friends, Kay and Rob, are transported to Fairyland, an enchanted land where they are changed into fairies. Kay, in fact, becomes the Fairy Queen. The two are immediately absorbed in the history of Fairyland, the search for the Lost Book, and an age-old struggle between the Fairies and the Monsters.

The struggle is not a black-and-white conflict between good and evil creatures or motives, for time after time Kay and Rob must question the true identities of the characters and creatures which they meet in Fairyland. Who is really who? Who can be trusted – and who is deceiving – and why? What are their true motives or aims? What has happened in the past to shape the events, characters and relationships of the present?

In the process of discovering the truth about the characters and events in Fairyland, and doing her best to help the fairies and the monsters, Kay discovers much about herself and what she is really capable of doing.

In a story of self-discovery such as this, it’s unusual that so little background is given about Kay and Rob, such as a description of their families - but it’s a technique that works well.

This is a fantasy story which will enchant (for lack of a better word) the reader, and I (the reviewer) hope that its young author will write a second book.

Note: Precia Davidson has spoken at two area schools this year about her book and about overcoming life’s challenges to follow a dream. Precia, who must now use a wheelchair, has long dreamed of being an author. She began to write The Monster Game at the age of 13 years.

** Recommended for 9 to 14 years of age.

The Stratford Adventure of Adrian & Tiddlywinks, by John Sullivan Hayes, 138 pages
@ SPL: J FIC Hayes

It’s appropriate that during the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 60 th anniversary season, a book written by John Sullivan Hayes has been released. The Stratford Adventure of Adrian & Tiddlywinks, a children’s story about a shy but talented young boy and an equally talented young mouse, is set in the early days of the Festival. It was a time and place familiar to Mr. Hayes, who was a Festival actor, producer and stage manager for approximately 40 years, beginning in 1953 when Tyrone Guthrie invited him to move from England to help launch Stratford’s fledging theatre. The names, personalities (and temperaments) of some of the Festival’s earliest directors, designers and actors are used throughout the story.

In the story, Adrian, the son of a famous Shakespearean actor, moves with his family from England to Stratford Ontario, where his father is acting in the newly-established Stratford Festival. Mr. Fitzroy is all too aware of the challenges and difficulties in the acting profession and tries to discourage his son from following in his footsteps. Beneath Adrian’s shyness, however, is a keen interest and talent for acting. Unknown to his father, he auditions for an apprenticing position and is successful.

Adrian’s story is nicely enhanced with the whimsical subplot of Tiddlywinks, a mouse who also wishes to act. Hidden in the luggage, the thespian mouse accompanies the Fitzroy family from England to Ontario and, like Adrian, successfully auditions for a role (in a production of a mouse acting troupe).

This winsome tale, with its message of pursuing one’s dream despite the obstacles, could be read aloud by an adult (who may be quite interested in the local content and detail) to children as young as six years of age.

** Recommended for 6 to 9 years of age.

These reviews will appear in The Stratford Gazette on August 16th, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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