Hooray! Many thanks to the ever-supportive Ian Eagleton, developer of the fabulous Reading Realm app, for including The Vale of Strange amongst his top five must-read children’s books! At any rate, he did yesterday. He admits he may change his mind from time to time but, hey, we’re relaxed about that, aren’t we guys?
In case you were wondering, the other books that Ian chose were The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer, Poems the Wind Blew In by Karmelo C Iribarren and others, Look Up! by Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Elisa Paganelli, and The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, which actually makes six in all but who’s counting?
Oh, and er, Happy New Year! Sorry you haven’t heard much from us recently but what with having to remember to wash our hands and wear a mask as well as wearing sturdy boots and a hat here in the Vale, we’ve been kept rather busy. We hope to have more news for you soon so, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to the blog or like us on Facebook to make sure you stay up to date, ok? And do stay safe! – love from Grimly and the Team.
If you didn’t get lucky in our previous competition, there’s now a new chance to win one of three signed copies of the paperback edition of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill, this time courtesy of Lovereading4kids You can find out all about how to enter on the lovereading4kids website here, where you’ll also find the Lovereading4kids review of the book.
This is of course the second in the Vale of ￼Strange series, the sequel to The Shop on Peculiar Hill. Lovereading4kids points out that it’s also a stand-alone novel which works very well even if you haven’t read the previous book. They say: ‘this is an exciting book which will certainly be a page turner for those who love￼ all things weird and wonderful’.￼￼￼
The book is one of the Lovereading4kids ‘indie books that we love’ and also ￼one of their featured books. There’s lots more about the book, including more reviews, on our own special page￼ here and you can read some free sample chapters here. Good luck in the competition!￼
Those really nice people at The Reading Realm app called round for a chat a little while ago (when such things were still possible) and Grimly shared a few thoughts about Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill, the second book in the Vale of Strange series. It’s a really good interview. You’ll find out all about one of the new characters in Stranger Days, Peter’s new friend Mala; how Grimly says you can save the world by asking questions; and what might be coming up in the third book in the series. You’ll find it all on the Reading Realm website here.
And if that wasn’t exciting enough, there’s a chance to win one of three signed copies of Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill! To find out how to enter, visit @reading_realm on Twitter.
And before you go, don’t forget that The Reading Realm app is a great resource to encourage kids to read, with lots of games, extracts from books (including The Shop on Peculiar Hill), and tools to help you write and draw stories yourself.
Right then, that’s it… Good luck in the competition, keep safe, and don’t forget your hat!
As I mentioned in the last post (which was, ahem, a few weeks ago now but then we’ve all been busy not meeting people and not going anywhere, haven’t we?) Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill has been chosen as one of the lovereading4kids Indie Books We Love. This means it features on the front page of their website, and to add to the excitement, it is also one of their featured books for 9+ and 11+ readers this month, listed together with other titles such as Liz Flanagan’s exciting Rise of the Shadow Dragons and the new illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ classic story The Iron Man.
To celebrate, we’ve updated the Stranger Days page here on grimlydarkwood.com with all the latest reviews, many of them five star including this one that’s just come in from an Amazon UK customer called JG, who says: “Weird and wonderful escape from reality. Genuinely new and surprising in its inventiveness. I should have been warned about the big spider.”
I’m glad you enjoyed it, JG. I’m sorry if you were startled by the spider (and actually there were three of them but maybe you looked away at that point) but we did say that the Vale of Strange books contain monsters, I seem to remember, so I would have thought that was warning enough. Ok, they were actually giant spiders with really strange webs and the kids almost ran out of unctuous splodger so Amanda almost got eaten but it seems to me that ‘warning – contains monsters!’ just about covers all that, doesn’t it?
What do you think? Should we put more warnings on Vale of Strange books? In which case, what should we warn about? “Caution – contains Uncle Bob!” maybe? Or: “This book mentions chocolate cake rather a lot” Or even: “This book may disturb the balance of the weirdosphere!” What do you think is scary in the books? Write and tell me….
You can contact me, Grimly, via the ‘contact Grimly‘ page (see link in sidebar) or just email me directly at grimlydarkwood03 (at) gmail.com It will be great to hear from you. While I’m waiting, though, there’s something else I need to work out: if something scares you, should I put more of it or less of it in the next book?
There was a brilliant online reading of the opening chapter of The Shop on Peculiar Hill yesterday by Ian Eagleton (developer of The Reading Realm). He really brought the characters to life (I mean even more than they usually are!) I wish I could do all those voices like he can. I particularly liked his Mr Grimble…
Anyway, it’s all still online so it’s well worth a look and a listen. The Reading Realm live readings are going out daily at 11am while the schools are out. You’ll find them on the Reading Realm Facebook page.
As well as the readings, there’s lots more entertainment for kids including competitions, quizzes, and a chance to learn sign language. They produced a brilliant Shop on Peculiar Hill themed activity pack yesterday which included instructions for designing your own version of Evil Island! You can find it – along with a full recording of yesterday’s live event (The Shop on Peculiar Hill Reading included) here.
And of course, don’t forget the Reading Realm app for iPad itself, full of lots of excerpts from books (including The Shop on Peculiar Hill) and fun and games to play around them!
That nice Ian Eagleton, developer of the ReadingRealm app, is running a series of live readings and other activities to entertain the kids during these challenging times. Here’s his schedule for the week ahead and I’m delighted to report that Tuesday’s session will include a read along extract from none other than that exciting and mysterious fantasy adventure, The Shop on Peculiar Hill by Grimly Darkwood. Do tune in or synchronise your algorithms or whatever it is you do these days and join in the fun. You will find the live readings over at the Reading Realm Facebook page (as opposed to the Reading Realm Group Facebook page where you won’t find them, this being an entirely different kettle of strange creatures). Ian helpfully points out that the Ebook version of The Shop on Peculiar Hill is currently available from Amazon for just 99p, so if the reading whets your appetite for further strangeness, you know where to go…
Feeling bored? Even in these difficult times, travel is still permitted to the Vale of Strange to enjoy the scary, funny, fantastic adventures of Peter and his friends as they tussle with all manner of monsters. Recommended ages: 8 to 80+ The Shop on Peculiar Hill, the first book in the series, can be bought on Kindle from Amazon for just 99p (or 99 cents, or a similar bargain basement price in your own currency).
We’ve recently had some very good new reviews of The Shop on Peculiar Hill:
“I really like this book. A great adventure in a very strange place. It has a Dr. Seuss vibe with all the weird creatures and reminded me of some of the OZ adventures. The author is very good at leaving you in the dark while making you die of curiosity to find out what’s really going on right up to the end. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!” Amazon customer, Canada
“A fantastic read: was a little unsure about this book at first but absolutely loved it.” Amazon customer, Australia
“An amazingly well written book. Made me use my imagination again and I haven’t done that in forever! Would highly recommend and cannot wait to read the next one!” Goodreads reader
“I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Read it to your kids, read it for yourself. It’s ace.” Scottish reader on Facebook
Many thanks to Hayley who has sent in some incisive questions about ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’. If you have any questions on the Vale of Strange books which you would like to ask, please do send them in. You can contact us via the Contact Grimly page, using either the contact box or the email address you will find on the page.
Please note that unless you tell us otherwise, we will assume you are happy for your questions to be answered here on the blog. To make it all as simple as possible, please mark your email ‘Questions for the blog’.
Now over to Hayley with the first of her four questions. Grimly himself will be providing the answers (we hope). Grimly! Are you there?
What is the deal with the marmalade? Why does it have crosses on the lid and why do you have turn it anticlockwise 3 times before you open it?
Ah yes, hum, well, (slurps cup of tea) very good question. Thanks, Hayley! The truth is that although the world of the Vale of Strange is very different to our own, it has quite a lot in common with us too. In our own world, we have plenty of so called ‘traditional remedies’ which are thought to fight off illnesses, and various superstitious actions (such as crossing our fingers) which are said to protect us against bad luck. We can’t assume that all of these necessarily work.
It is just the same in the world of the Vale of Strange. The ritual with the marmalade first emerged in the distant past and has been handed down over the years to the present generation of Peculiarshire residents along with unge and glop. These latter are protective substances against strange creatures which are commonly used but for which there is not a great deal of scientific evidence. Unge is placed in a bowl on the dining table but scientists who have studied it claim it is no more effective against bogeys and other strange creatures than a bowl of sugar or a vase of flowers would be.
Glop has a more impressive reputation but is only effective if used properly. You may have noticed that Amanda has never suggested that she and Peter should take plenty of glop in their bags when they set off into the Vale of Strange. This is because you can’t just throw it at bogeys. It has to be prepared in advance. You spread a ring of it around your house a few weeks before the start of the bogey season. Then as the days go by, it reacts with the soil of the ground around it to form a substance called glopthwock which the bogeys don’t like. As long as this ring is inspected every few weeks and repaired as necessary – chiefly reinforcing any sections which have been eaten away by snails (which unfortunately find glopthwock delicious) – the glop will provide a useful bogey deterrent.
Aunt Maggie uses glop of course, not least because she makes it herself, and she and Uncle Bob conscientiously inspect and repair the protective ring around their shop throughout the winter. Some of their neighbours, however, don’t have the patience for this and would rather just have a bogey pole handy to fend off the creatures instead.
Scientists have carried out numerous tests on glop but differ in their opinion as to how effective it is at keeping bogeys away. This is probably because the tests have not all been carried out in the same place, so the strength of glopthwock produced by the soil on which the glop is spread may have varied from one test site to another.
To return to the original subject of your question, however, scientists have paid much less attention to the effect of turning a jar of marmalade three times widdershins etc. There have been only two trials concerning this, neither of which have indicated any deterrent effect on bogeys, but some of the scientists on one of the trials thought the marmalade tasted a bit better afterwards.
Does the strangeness make everyone in the town strange or does it not affect them?
Humans have a very high resistance to strangeness. This is not something which is fully understood. However, the latest theory is that it is due to the high concentration of a substance called mezzrinine in the human body. This substance appears to take in all the available strangeness itself, so blocking absorption into the rest of the body. Humans are therefore unlikely to become strange, even when exposed to very high concentrations of strangeness.
This may be why the unfortunate tourists who get eaten by monsters in the Vale have the effect of keeping down levels of strangeness, strange-hungry mezzrinine being released into the atmosphere as part of the process of digestion – in the same sort of way as cows produce carbon dioxide. But the end effect of all this mezzrinine in the atmosphere is not global warming (as in the case of the cows) but lower levels of strangeness. These lower levels are welcomed by the citizens of Peculiarshire, of course, not because higher levels would make them strange (which they wouldn’t) but because higher levels would encourage the bogeys and other strange creatures to fly nearby and generally make a nuisance of themselves.
I think there will be more about mezzrinine in the third book in the series, which will be out, er, eventually…
Does Peter find a way to keep the strangness at bay without the tourists?
This is a much easier question to answer but I’d rather not do it just here because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, the second book in the series. I will only comment that there may be some progress made concerning this problem, but the proof (as the lifkins would put it) is in the pudding. To find out more, read ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, available now from Amazon!
Do Amanda and Peter end up together?
I was quite amused when another of our readers described Amanda and Peter as ‘the love interest’ in the book. It seemed to me that they were a little bit young for romance, but that is probably just me being old-fashioned! Anyway, I am afraid I don’t know what the answer is because we haven’t got there yet. We are only two books into the series.
What do you think? Do you think they’ll end up together? On the evidence of the first book I would be a little bit scared for Peter if they did. Don’t you think Amanda would push him around? On the other hand, maybe Peter is well capable of standing up for himself. He is very adamant at the end of the first book about not going back to the Vale for instance. But does he stick to that decision in the second book? And if he doesn’t, who is it that talks him into going back into the Vale? Is it Amanda – or somebody else?
So that’s it then. Many thanks to Hayley again for sending in those questions! What would you like to know about the world of the Vale of Strange? There’s a lot of things that aren’t explained in the books. This is your chance to become a Vale of Strange insider. Send in your questions and you could be talking to Grimly here too…
“The author’s vivid imagination, exceptional story-telling and brilliant writing make this a fantasy novel you will recall in years to come.”
Following on from Mani’s review the other day, it’s great to see yet more encouraging words about ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ from Peggy Jo Wipf at Readers’ Favorite. The whole of her five star review follows.
‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ by Grimly Darkwood continues the tale of The Vale of Strange. Darkwood flawlessly ties book one to book two by making you feel you hadn’t been away from The Vale of Strange for longer than a minute. This book is a roller coaster ride the whole way through as new adventures come to Peter and Amanda.
Peter and his Uncle Bob are called to the big old house at the top of the hill to assist a new family when all manner of strange events and mysterious people begin to appear. Guatemala (Mala) is a girl Peter’s age that lives with her explorer father, Mr. Flipper, and her Uncle Percival Crow. Who knew that excavating a swimming pool would bring about a trip to The Vale of Strange for Peter and Mala, with a disgruntled Amanda?
Grimly Darkwood skillfully moves ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ along at a breath-taking pace as it sweeps us into a plot that keeps the reader both interested and intrigued. The previous characters continue to add humor, snarky attitudes, and moral correctness to a story with many twists and turns. The new characters add their own qualities of loyalty, persistence, and excitement. The author’s vivid imagination, exceptional story-telling and brilliant writing make this a fantasy novel you will recall in years to come. The novel is bizarre enough for readers to enjoy the creativity of the author and expect more from this country that is trying to find a solution to their “strange” problem.
Many thanks to Peggy Jo Wipf for that review.
What about you? Have you read ‘Stranger Days’ yet? If so, what did you think of the book? Do you agree that it was like a rollercoaster ride? Or was it more like being on a Big Wheel? Or gently drifting on a lilo under a cloudless blue sky into shark-infested waters? Do write and tell us what you thought…
‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ is available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle.