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.
“Here is your chance to celebrate some brilliant but overlooked books,” tweeted Andrew Rough a few days ago, and many thanks to the ever-supportive Ian Eagleton for choosing The Shop on Peculiar Hill and Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill amongst his responses. He also selected The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer (which is on my Kindle and will probably be even more exciting if I actually get round to reading it, which I am DEFINITELY GOING TO DO NEXT) and also a new book to me, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas and Erin E Stead.
Ian himself has an exciting week coming up because his own book Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (with illustrations by James Mayhew) is released on June 1 and there’s also an Instagram reading of the book by none other than Stephen Fry on 29 May!
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 missed the great reading of The Shop on Peculiar Hill Chapter One by Ian Eagleton, developer of the terrific The Reading Realm app, you can now catch it on YouTube.
The video is set to start at 14 min and 40 seconds in, which is about where Ian starts reading Chapter One, but the whole video is fun. Amongst other things, Ian reads a poem called The Owl and The Pussycat in sign language plus a snippet of my biography!
Ian is continuing to do readings, quizzes etc while the schools are out, about a couple of times a week at 11am, so do take a look at them. If you want to catch them live, you can find them on the Reading Realm Facebook page.
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…
If you are one of the many who have only just discovered the Vale of Strange books, you may not have ￼read this interview with their author Grimly Darkwood. Grimly was in conversation with Ian Eagleton who is the developer of the excellent app for iPad ‘The Reading Realm’. This app encourages children to read with games and quizzes. An extract from the first Vale of Strange book, ￼’The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, is one of the texts which Ian has used in his app.
The conversation took place a few months ago and the interview appeared on The Reading Realm site in November, shortly before the publication of the second￼ Vale of Strange book, ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’. It’s really worth a read if you haven’t seen it. Here’s a brief extract in which Grimly describes what he hoped to achieve when he started out writing the books:
￼“In writing The Shop on Peculiar Hill, I wanted to produce a book that was funny as well as scary, mysterious as well as exciting, and fun for adults to read as well as for children. I hope readers will think I’ve succeeded.”
If you read one of the Vale of Strange books over the Christmas holiday, don’t forget to write and tell us what you think of it or send us your impressions of the Vale, either in print or in pictures. You are also welcome to send in any questions you have about the books. ￼￼We always love to get feedback from you.
And finally, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at Grimly HQ!
If you haven’t yet read The Shop on Peculiar Hill, the first book in the Vale of Strange series, this is the ideal time to give it a try. The eBook version is available FREE for five days only, starting today! The final day of this special offer will be Saturday 30 November. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!
Please pass this news on to any friends, relatives etc. who you think might enjoy the book. It is aimed at middle grade children (aged 8 to 12 or thereabouts) but feedback suggests that it can be enjoyed by people of just about any age from 7 upwards, adults included. As Grimly said in his recent interview with Ian Eagleton, designer of the Reading Realm app, ‘In writing The Shop on Peculiar Hill, I wanted to produce a book that was funny as well as scary, mysterious as well as exciting, and fun for adults to read as well as for children. I hope readers will think I’ve succeeded.’
This is your ideal chance to see if you think he’s right – and without paying a penny! Download your free E-book now at Amazon UK, Amazon.com, and – as far as I know – other Amazon sites worldwide! And if you enjoy it, don’t forget that the sequel, ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’ can be pre-ordered in E-book format now and purchased as a paperback on Amazon from Sunday 1st December (i.e. this coming Sunday).
Happy reading! – and please let us know what you think…
Here’s a really great interview with Grimly by Ian Eagleton, designer of the briliant app The Reading Realm, which can be downloaded now for iPad and has all sorts of quizzes and games to encourage children to read. Ian asks some very interesting questions about the influences on Grimly and how it felt to create the Vale of Strange. Enjoy…
We still don’t have a definite publication date for ‘Stranger Days on Peculiar Hill’, Book Two of the ‘Vale of Strange’ series. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear, but in the meantime the excitement is building. Here’s a great tweet from Ian Eagleton who has developed the wonderful ‘The Reading Realm’ app to encourage children to read using extracts of text with games and quizzes. The updated app, which features an extract from ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’, has just been released today! It’s really great to have Ian’s support for the book, which he describes as ‘one of my fav books this year for children 10+. What a hidden gem!’
As you’ll see from the tweet, Ian is also looking forward to the new book and is going to run a competition to give away a signed copy. Ahead of that, Mani of ‘Mani’s Book Corner’ will be doing a Cover Reveal of Pete Lyon’s wonderful cover for ‘Stranger Days’ on her ‘Mani’s Book Corner’ blog. You may remember she featured a great review of ‘The Shop on Peculiar Hill’ earlier this year. We’ll let you know when Mani’s Cover Reveal will be – along with the publication date – as soon as we know!