It’s been a while since we’ve had a new review of the Vale of Strange books, so it’s great to see this very positive newly published assessment of The Shop on Peculiar Hill from Sebastian J Brook, Site Editor of the entertaining and comprehensive website, Dr Who Online. He told me: “I have to commend you on a truly fantastic book. I mean this when I say it’s one of the best Children’s Fantasies I’ve read in a loooong time. It’s up there with Lemony and JKR – seriously!”
What a nice guy! I think I might leave that summary lying around in a few places. You can read the full review here. And while you’re about it, why not stop and take a look at all the latest Dr Who news? (Did you know John Bishop was joining the cast?) There’s a lot to read on there. As Sebastian explains, the site is “bigger on the inside”…
Mr Ian Eagleton, inventor of the celebrated Reading Realm gadget for use with those infernal iPlod devices which everyone seems to use these days, has been kind enough to speak well of my Vale of Strange novels on several occasions, so I am delighted to be able to reciprocate here with some very well deserved words of praise for his own magnificent book, which by all accounts has been flying off the shelves as fast as he can squeeze it out of his exceptionally vivid imagination.
When I was young, my aunt had an apron which was covered in pictures of the seaside. She held me in goggle-eyed fascination as she showed me what she said was the house she used to live in and the street leading down from it to the beach, with its row of multicoloured changing huts, and the nearby harbour where the fishermen landed their catches and mended their nets. James Mayhew’s illustrations for Ian Eagleton’s fabulous fable ‘Nen and the Lonely Fisherman’ seem likely to have a similar power to enchant, their windswept multi-hued blues and contrasting patches of golden yellow providing a memorable setting for the story of the merman Nen and his new friend Ernest the fisherman, who come together across a great chasm of loneliness and differentness to find happiness together.
It’s a story of triumph over adversity, hope in the face of despair, of what can be done if we follow our dreams and don’t give way unnecessarily to the fears of those such as Nen’s father, who – it turns out – may have just a little more advice to share then they have of wisdom.
One of my favourite parts of the book is where we see the deep sea angler fish, which have always terrified me with their bulging mouths full of sharp pointed teeth, each of them dangling an illuminated fishing rod from their mouths to ensnare their unwary prey. But on this occasion the angler fish themselves have to flee in terror when Nen’s father Pelagius unleashes a great tempest upon the ocean, and their gruesome mouths gape open in fear as they try to escape. (Serves them right for scaring us all…)
I guess you could argue that this whole book is about emerging from darkness to live in the light. It has many issues to raise about our attitude to others, how we treat our planet, and our right to lead the kind of life that we want to lead. I think we may find that children have plenty to say on these matters – and I would guess they may have even more to say after reading this splendid book.
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