His Name Was Walter

walter

From Australia’s favourite storyteller comes a story, within a story, that shows us the extraordinary power of true love and solves a decades-old mystery. ‘Once upon a time, in a dark city far away, there lived a boy called Walter, who had nothing but his name to call his own …’ The handwritten book, with its strangely vivid illustrations, has been hidden in the old house for a long, long time. Tonight, four kids and their teacher will find it. Tonight, at last, the haunting story of Walter and the mysterious, tragic girl called Sparrow will be read – right to the very end … From one of Australia’s most renowned children’s authors, comes an extraordinary story within a story – a mystery, a prophecy, a long-buried secret. And five people who will remember this night as long as they live.

What an amazing book! I love Emily Rodda when she writes in this manner – encompassing touches of yesteryear, folklore, fantasy, reality and mystery.  Everything about this book is divine – the language, the characters and the writing.

Emily Rodda has written an excellent novel where four children and a teacher on a history excursion get stranded overnight in a scary house and they find a book and become enthralled by the story of Walter.

When I started this book, I didn’t have high expectations, but I soon became mesmerised by the story or more particularly the story within the story.

The story within the story at first seems like nonsense – a boy raised by bees, who work for mice, meets a witch who turns into a cat, lives with a landlord who’s a chicken and falls in love with a young woman who turns into a sparrow. At first, I started to think that my reservations about this book were justified, but soon I was caught up in young Walter’s story and I was utterly captivated and like the four children on the excursion who have found the handwritten book I couldn’t put this book down.

What I loved the most was that as a reader I was given an active role alongside the school excursion children in solving Walter’s fascinating mystery. The way Emily Rodda incorporated the reality of the day with the handwritten story of Walter was terrific. What a skilled writer!

His Name Was Walter will bewitch readers with its fantasy and mystery elements and then Rodda ties it all up with a neat, beautiful bow. Absolutely enchanting.

The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Publisher: Flatiron Books

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but from reviews that I have glanced over, I knew that it was a combination of twisted fairytale and emotional horror. I would venture to say that this isn’t a book for everyone. If you like your stories dark, black and cruel dive on in because you won’t be disappointed, but if you aren’t a fan of fantasy, well this book won’t be for you.

I think all of us at some time or another wonder what it would be like to venture into a novel we are reading. I think it was this premise that drew me to this novel. I will admit that there were times when I wondered if The Hazel Wood was a little “too much”, but then again if you like dark and twisted fantasy, this is the book for you.

The story revolves around Alice. Alice’s mother (Ella) is missing and Alice is determined to find her. The twist being that Alice thinks Ella has been kidnapped by sinister characters from land set in a fairy tale called The Hinterland.

Ella’s mother was a reclusive author of a cult book of fairy tales and it would seem that Ella has spent her whole life trying to escape her mother’s eccentric fans, life and bad luck. Alice has never read her grandmother’s collection of fairy tales nor has she ever met her grandmother. Her mother has protected her from that world. Of course, being denied access to this world has created an insatiable appetite on Alice’s behalf to know more. Also, Alice is convinced that Ella’s disappearance is directly connected to her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Alice’s grandmother is dead and finding a copy of her grandmother’s book is proving to be difficult. Alice enlists the help of her classmate and superfan of her grandmother’s book, Ellery Finch. Together, Alice and Ellery go off in search of The Hinterland.

Alice is a complicated character  – she is angry, prickly, princess-pretty and seems to believe that the world is against her. The supporting characters are strong and they provide a nice contrast to Alice.  Ellery is sensitive, kind, biracial and geeky. Her step-sister Audrey is marvellous – she is sultry, opinionated and whip-smart.

The Hazel Wood is beautifully written and Albert’s writing will bewitch you, but if you like your books realistic and you only tip your toe into the world of fantasy this book is not for you. It is also one of the most beautiful books I own, with a stunning cover and decorative endpapers.

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