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The Book:

Not massively impressed with this, really. Of course, it’s unfair to judge it too harshly – it is a children’s story, written to entertain, and it isn’t trying to be anything more than that. But there’s such a thing as a good children’s book, and there’s such a thing as a bad one.

It could have done with some tightening – the first quarter of the book is set in one day, and the rest is set over the course of years, which is a little odd because it isn’t handled very well. It rambles in places. Sometimes the characters have accents and sometimes they don’t (side note: writing dialect is not as easy as simply using bad grammar).

As for the content, I’m sure it was trying to be ‘of its time’ (it’s set during the French Revolution), but I don’t think a children’s book published now needs to refer to French people as “Frenchies”, or associate evil, inhuman pirates with turbans and Muslim names. These stereotypes don’t need to be perpetuated and passed on to children.

On a lighter note, I laughed out loud when the important papers the characters had spent most of the book trying to deliver, were waved aside as “not important”. The story moved on and the papers weren’t spoken of again.

Then there was the line, “the pirate pointed a pistol at Harry’s favourite head.” Brilliant.

The illustrations are striking, but the story means this book is not a keeper.

The Background:

I went to a local garden for my Dad’s birthday and, in the gift shop, I found a pretty little children’s book with a sticker on the front saying ‘Story set in Cornwall’.

I’ve been trying to think about ways in which I can earn from writing – because that’s what I eventually want to do – so I decided to read the book and see what it was like.

Writing children’s stories is not easy – the finished product must appear effortless – but I’d like to give it a go. Besides, writing a short children’s story set in an area of local interest is bound to be marketable (there’s always a gift shop!). At this stage anything that will get me writing, and maybe earn me some money too, has to be a good thing.

So that’s why I bought this book. I read it in one evening and – although it might seem a bit like cheating in terms of the 50 a year challenge – it was valid research into the competition! That’s the story I’m sticking to anyway…

– gildius –