Category Archives: Reviews

Rereading: I WILL ADVENTURE by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Like Gray’s better known book “Adam of the Road,” this is a story of medieval England, taking place in the year 1596. The illustrations are nicely done, but not as good as those by Robert Lawson in “Adam.”

Andrew Talbot is the youngest son in a large family living in the county of Kent in southeastern Britain. He can’t seem to behave and do what everyone else wants, and longs for adventure. The opportunity comes when a visiting uncle invites Andrew to come to his home in London to be his page. Andrew is thrilled at the chance, and his family supports the decision, but on the way, at a stop in Canterbury, Andrew falls under the spell of a performance given by a traveling company of “Romeo and Juliet” by one of the company’s own cast, William Shakespeare. Andrew’s new desire is to become an actor, and he meets Shakespeare in hopes of getting his help, but the playwright thinks he should stick to his promise and become a page. When Andrew gets to his uncle’s home in London, he finds he isn’t really needed or wanted, and has a miserable time made worse by his own temper and practical jokes that misfire. an a visit to see Shakespeare’s newest play change his fortunes, or must he run away home defeated?

Well written, historical accuracy and fine characters made this worth reading. Recommended.

I Will Adventure by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Rereading: TREASURE OF THE ISLE OF MIST by W.W. Tarn

This book is something of an oddity, as it’s the only fiction by a man known otherwise for scholarly works mainly on ancient Greece. It’s a fairy tale written for his daughter, and beautifully illustrated by Robert Lawson for this 1934 edition, the book was originally published in 1920.

Fiona and her father, known as The Student, live on The Isle of Mist, a small island on the west coast of Scotland. Their neighbors include a mysterious old hawker, and a family who live in The Student’s larger rented ancestral home nearby, a man and his son, Fiona’s friend, known in this story as The Urchin, and currently also the home of a relative of theirs named Jeconiah, whose secret reason for being there is to search for the island’s reputed hidden treasure. Fiona and The Urchin are also searching for that treasure in places like a haunted cave, where The Urchin disappears, apparently taken by the fairies who live underground nearby. Fiona is determined to find The Urchin and get him back, and she has help from the animals of the island, but she must walk the perilous road through faery, where nothing is as it seems and danger is waiting at every wrong turn, to find him. Jeconiah is also making trouble for everyone, not caring who he hurts in his greed.

Beautifully told, a cracking good magical adventure story with fine characters and excellent illustrations. Highly recommended.

Treasure of the Isle of Mist by W W Tarn

Rereading: FREDDY AND THE POPINJAY by Walter R. Brooks

Illustrations by Kurt Wiese

The twelfth book in the Freddy the Pig series is full of fun ideas, great characters, and amusing adventures, though by this time the series was becoming fairly predictable. Freddy, his friend Jinx the black cat, and other talking animals on the Bean Farm in New York State create their own fun, like the jousting match seen above, and also deal with a variety of troublemakers and problems, in this case a neighbor boy who’s throwing stones at them, a wildcat who wants to be their neighbor, and a few folks in town who hate talking animals, and animals in general. The title character is a robin who gets fixed up with extra fancy feathers to become a living ladies’ hat decoration that becomes all the rage in town.

Brooks’ insights into human nature are spot on as always, even if some of them are presented in animal form. Recommended.

Freddy and the Popinjay by Walter R Brooks

Rereading: RUSTY’S SPACE SHIP by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

This is a silly fantasy disguised as science fiction that I loved as a child. Published in 1957, Rusty is building his own space ship in the family garage out of wood, when his neighbor Susan comes by to find out what he’s up to. Rusty’s dog Cookie is happy to see Susan, while Rusty would rather have another boy to play with, but Susan will do in a pinch. They’re interrupted by a heavily disguised person who lays claim to the round metal saucer Rusty has found and used as the nose shield on his ship. Before they know it, all three (and the dog) are launching into space through the power of that flying saucer, and their kidnapper is revealed as a lizard-like alien named Tiphia from some distant world. Tiphia has been tasked by his leader Gwump to locate and retrieve the missing saucer, and he’s bringing the children and dog too. One problem is that Tiphia has suffered a memory loss on his trip, and no longer remembers where his home planet is, so the group ends up taking a tour of our solar system to find it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book is the wonderful illustrations by comics artist Bernard Krigstein. They really make the story much more fun, and Krigstein manages to make the author’s poor attempts at science somewhat more believable. Still a fun read and recommended.

Rusty’s Space Ship by Evelyn Sibley Lampman

Rereading: THE RIDDLE OF THE RED WHALE by Edward Fenton

Cover art by Jo Ann Stover

This is the second of two mystery novels for young readers by Fenton, a sequel to “The Phantom of Walkaway Hill.” James is back visiting his cousins Amanda and Obie at their isolated farmhouse in the country on Walkaway Hill, and they soon meet the new owner of another house at the bottom of their hill, Mr. Vanniver, as well as Miss Button, a real estate agent who sold both houses, and who dresses flamboyantly in red, and drives a bright red car. Before long, a new mystery arises at Mr. Vanniver’s house: someone has broken in and vandalized some pieces of luggage he bought, and another person has been making nosy inquiries about him. The owner of an antique and junk shop says they’re looking for a red whale, but no one knows what that means. Could there be a Russian connection tied to a nearby Russian embassy summer retreat? A local woman thinks Mr. Vanniver is a spy, and is causing more trouble. When James finally gets an idea about the red whale and how to find it, the children are soon in serious trouble.

Recommended, though as a mystery it’s a bit frustrating, as there’s no clear trail of clues to the final reveal. The writing style of narrator James is entertaining and sometimes funny, reminding me a bit of Keith Robertson’s Henry Reed books.

The Mystery of the Red Whale by Edward Fenton