Saturday, October 31, 2015

Book Review: Majelica's Voyage, The Rescue

In Book One, Magelica’s Voyage, Magelica travelled to The Land of Two Suns with her pet dragon, Tris, and met Queen Raya, ruler of the Isle of Dreams. She was able to help Turtle, the turtle upon whose back the island rests, get started swimming again, so that the people could keep a lookout for Prince William who was feared to be lost at sea. In The Rescue (Magelica’s Voyage, Book 2) we catch up with Magelica as she is drifting off to sleep, nice and comfy in her warm bed, with Tris snuggled next to her. However, Prince William is having a terrible time. He and his goldaron, Goldy, are forced to abandon ship when their ship is wrecked on some rocks. They manage to get to the safety of land, but what a horrible, dark and dreary place it is, filled with fog, gloom, and strange noises coming from the forest. How will they be found? Meanwhile Magelica has a dream that convinces her she has to get to Queen Raya right away to help save Prince William. Can Magelica lead the inhabitants of the Isle of Dreams to save their prince? Is her imagination and belief powerful enough to overcome any setbacks?

 Once again, enchanting illustrations form an integral part of the charm of this book series by Louise Courey Nadeau, and are certain to captivate young readers and their parents. Detail and colour make the images come to life and even tell the story on their own. Familiar characters from Book One appear again which will delight young fans. Of course Odin the warblegrif can’t be left out of any action and Wally the Wizard just wants to get his magic working again. The subtle empowering messages of Book One are amplified here, with songs and end notes to encourage young readers to make their lives magical and to enjoy the positive power of laughter. When Magelica truly believes, trusts, and lets go, she is able to do amazing things, and young readers (and adults!) will benefit from these simple truths. The power to achieve whatever we want is within us, and Magelica’s example helps young readers to believe in themselves and go where life takes them. This is a five-star read for the whole family!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: Patch Goes to London

Patch goes to London by Anjalique Gupta is the adorable story of a very clever little Jack Russell called Patch, and his adventures in London. He has a very loving mom who absolutely dotes on him. They live in India. On his collar, Patch notices a shiny gold thing, a key, and he wonders what it is for. His mom tells him he’ll find out soon enough when his first birthday arrives. Patch can hardly wait because his first birthday is almost here! His friends give him lovely gifts but Patch is eager to see his birthday surprise. The postman delivers a parcel that has come all the way from the United Kingdom. Inside is a wooden chest and, at his mom’s suggestion, Patch uses the key to open it. Wow! What a surprise. Inside he finds a pet passport (with his name on it!) and an air ticket to London. It’s all a big mystery but by going to London, Patch will be able to piece together the clues as they unfold in an absolutely amazing adventure. Join Patch as he collects clues and finds out some incredible news at the end of his adventure.

This is a truly wonderful book for young readers to either read by themselves or enjoy reading with a parent or grandparent. Patch’s cute character is based on a real dog, owned by the author, and he has been lucky enough to travel the world with his human mom. The illustrations by Alexandra Gold on each page are just enchanting and make the book into a vivid adventure for young readers. I loved all the details on each page, which will definitely get kids and parents looking up more about each famous landmark where Patch receives yet more clues. The canine characters that give Patch each new clue are too cute for words and every dog is a different breed, adding more interest for young readers who love animals. The good news is that this is just the first of Patch’s adventures in globe trotting. I wonder where Patch will go next. At the end of the book, young fans can keep up with Patch on his Facebook page and Instagram, where no doubt he’ll drop hints about his next destination. A really lovely read that kids will return to time and time again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Legend of the Scarab King

I have often been asked if the Scarab King, the foundation character of Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is based on a real person. In ancient Egyptian pre-history, two centers of civilization developed: one in the north, around the Nile Delta, (Lower Egypt) and the other in the Nile Valley, to the south (Upper Egypt). Before the unification of Egypt in 3100 BC, the area was divided into small chiefdoms, each ruled over by a king, who was generally the leader of his tribe. The ancient Egyptians did not call the kings of Egypt ‘pharaohs.’ This word was used by the Greeks and Hebrews, and today is commonly used to denote the ancient kings of Egypt. At various times in its ancient past, the country was split up and there were at least several kings ruling different areas at the same time. There were also probably kings who ruled regions of Egypt before recorded history, and in fact, several ancient historians mention legendary kings who were elevated to the status of Egyptian gods. I’ve based my legend of the Scarab King on an idea of what a king of that time may have been like.

“Many thousands of years ago, long before the time of the great pharaohs, the gods walked with men on earth. It was a time that has long been forgotten. In the ancient land of Kemet, there lived a wise and good king. He was a humble man who looked to the earth and nature, the birds, beasts, and insects for inspiration on how to rule with wisdom and skill. He searched for a creature as his totem; a creature that would be a sacred symbol of his kingship and his beliefs. But what to choose, he wondered. There were already so many royal symbols: the serpent, the lion, the falcon, the scorpion, the sun …

The king was baffled. He had no answer. One day, against the counsel of his advisors and courtiers, he walked out alone into the desert. He believed an answer would come to him there in that vast expanse of sun and sand. After a few hours of walking, he became hot and tired, and regretted his decision. He sat down and just watched the scenery around him. Movement in the sand next to his sandal caught his attention. An insignificant black insect, a scarab beetle, scurried past him, rolling a ball of dung in which to lay its eggs.

“Khephri! The sacred scarab and god of the rising sun,” said the king. “The giver of new life and the symbol of the sun’s rebirth each day after the blackness of night.”

He chose this beetle, so humble and yet so vital in the Egyptian circle of life and mythology, as his totem, his symbol. He made the name Khephri part of his own name and had images of the sacred scarab carved onto the temple walls. Then he commanded his royal goldsmith to fashion a magnificent scarab from gold and jewels to hang around his neck. In the middle of the scarab, the jeweller placed the First Stone of Power, given to the king by the Seven Sages to help him rule wisely and well. The king became known thereafter as the Scarab King.

The king was tall, strong, and handsome. He loved to hunt. He was an excellent sportsman and a wonderful king. His people loved and admired him. Under his reign, the kingdom prospered. People were well fed, employed, and enjoyed their lives. The king married a beautiful girl but, sadly, they had no children. He had a stepbrother, Seti, who took his name from the dark god of chaos and storms, the god Set. Seti was the opposite of his handsome stepbrother who worshipped the sun god, Ra.

Seti was jealous of his stepbrother. He wished to rule in his brother’s place. One problem stood in his way. According to custom, in order for a succeeding king to take up his rightful place on the throne, a secret ceremony was held between the old king and his appointed heir or successor. The new king would receive special instructions: magical chants, particular hand signals, and other aspects of the mystic rituals that passed from king to king. Then the priests would know that the new king was a genuine successor, and not a pretender to the throne.

Seti needed to know the secret rituals. When he asked his stepbrother about them, the Scarab King replied, “Ah, Seti, why do you pester me with these questions? Why do you ask for what cannot be given? You will never rule after me because you do not share my beliefs in life. You think only of yourself when a king must think of his people first. Do not ask me these questions again! I have chosen my cousin on my mother’s side to succeed me. Senreset is a good and wise man. He will make an excellent ruler.”

Seti seethed with anger as the king dismissed him from the royal chambers. Once he knew the secret words and signals, the kingdom would be his.

Of course, the chicken-hearted priests will accept me, he thought. They believe in the ritual. I believe in the power. Once I am king, I will have the First Stone of Power, and then my control over the kingdom will be complete.

He sent his men to bribe the High Priest to reveal the secret rituals, but the man refused. Seti tried three times, but each time the High Priest sent them away. Seti was so angry that he ordered his men to slay the High Priest. However, his men were afraid of the wrath of Ra, and they disobeyed. Finally, Seti went himself to the High Priest. Although the man trembled before the king’s stepbrother, he would not reveal the sacred secrets of the rituals of kingship. Seti knew that the Scarab King, being healthy and strong, would live for many years. There was only one thing left to do: he must kill the king! He lured his stepbrother into a lonely part of the palace, under the pretext of discussing building plans. Then, when diagrams that Seti had brought along distracted the king, Seti struck him down.

The king fell to the ground, bleeding from the fatal blow. As the king lay dying, he groaned and grasped Seti by one hand. “You will never find it, my brother, and you will not be king for long. Your heart will be weighed on the Great Scales and you will be found lacking.”

Seti, frightened by these words, felt under the king’s tunic for the scarab. It was not there. Seti shrieked for his men and, within minutes, they had overrun the palace. Seti questioned the king’s priests closely, threatening them with torture, but they pretended not to know where the sacred scarab and the king’s regalia were kept. They also denied knowing the magic words of the ritual. Seti cursed the heavens and the gods for defeating his plans. His screams rose skyward and the city trembled beneath his wrath. The Secret of Power had gone with the king to his grave. However, Seti thought that when the king was buried, one of his priests would place the scarab in the king’s sarcophagus according to custom. If he could find the scarab, he could try to turn its power to his purposes.

But the king’s loyal followers prepared his body, placing it in a sarcophagus of solid gold, and transported it at night, along with all the treasure, to a secret tomb so that none would violate it. They descended into the entrails of the earth and hid the body in the Place of Divine Inundation, protecting it with magical incantations. The Scarab King, like the sacred scarab, returned to the earth, later to rise in the sky as a star.”

If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Middle Grade authors Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: Majelica's Voyage

Magelica’sVoyage by Louise Courey Nadeau is an enchanting magical fantasy for young readers aged 5-10. Magelica has no knowledge of her parents or where she came from, but the story is that she hatched out of a sapphire coloured egg. Magelica, with her pet dragon Tris, must run home to her Guardian Angel Gri’s cottage when a violent storm breaks. In her headlong rush through the forest, she loses her precious feather necklace. Odin, a strange looking creature called a warblegrif (which looks like a large fuzzy ball!), has found her necklace and come to return it to Magelica. However, he has a special request: Queen Raya, Empress of the Isle of Dreams, desperately needs Magelica’s help! The Isle of Dreams is located on an ancient Turtle’s back, but disaster has struck – the Turtle is not moving and if the Turtle doesn’t move, Queen Raya will not be able to find the missing Prince Will. Odin whisks Magelica and Tris off to the land with two suns, travelling in Magelica’s old bathtub. Can Magelica help Turtle?

What a beautiful story with utterly enchanting and magical illustrations in glowing colours to keep young readers totally captivated. Each moment of the story is depicted in the most imaginative way.  The characters Magelica meets are equally fascinating, from mournful Turtle, to the adorable baby dragon Tris (who hasn’t quite mastered the art of flying) to the eccentric but skilled wizard Wally, to the dignified Queen Raya. Magelica discovers that through believing in herself and using her imagination amazing things are possible.  There are songs and magical moments to draw young readers into Magelica’s adventure, and wonderful empowering messages woven subtly into the dialogue. Young readers will learn through Magelica’s experiences to believe in themselves and their dreams, to use their imaginations, and how to live each day with love. I really enjoyed the little guidance section at the end where young readers are shown how to use their imaginations and open their hearts. This is an excellent way for adults such as parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers to open up a discussion with kids to explore these ideas further. Also available in French and Spanish, this is a 5 star must-have for personal and school libraries!
Enjoy this gorgeous book video!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Mystery of Dragons!

Who doesn’t love dragons? When I was writing The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I was determined to find a place for dragons, or at the very least, a book about dragons. I managed to fit one in, actually a book not just about dragons, but a bestiary, which is a book about various animals and mythical creatures, and something that was very popular in the Middle Ages.

Artist's impression of Excalibur
Stories of dragons appear all throughout history and almost every culture has their own idea about dragons. Some reasons for this could be the finding of dinosaur fossils. Dragons could be used to describe the bones of gigantic unknown creatures. Adam is disappointed at first when he hears a description of the ‘serpents’ on Excalibur, Arthur’s sword, because they don’t seem to resemble the creatures he saw on the hilt of the ancient sword in the Ashmolean Museum. However, he then finds out that in fact… Then Archie said, ‘Of course, the serpent and the dragon were intertwined in Celtic mythology, the dragon being in essence a large serpent with legs and wings.’”

In Celtic mythology, the dragon was believed to inhabit a world that was parallel to the physical world. Druids believed that the dragon’s power affected the ‘ley’ or energy of the land. They believed that the path the dragons took, called a ‘vein,’ was important to the flow of energy through the physical world. Where dragons trod, magical power flowed, and where they laired were invariably places of great sanctity and mystical harmony. Areas where a dragon passed often, where dragon paths crossed, or places a dragon stopped to rest became more powerful than the areas surrounding it. Druids hunted for these lines and made ley lines maps for their people, instructing them to build their temples and homes along the lines in order to harvest the energies. Stonehenge is thought to be one of those places. In addition, some believe that the Celtic cross surrounded by a circle is a symbol of the crossing ley lines and the circle of life is centered on that power.

King Arthur himself was burdened by dreams of dragons; although it is unclear which color he saw. He saw them specifically at the time of Mordred’s conception and before his death. He is eaten by dragons in his final dream and it is at his next battle that Mordred kills him. It is said that when a king sees dragons then ruin will come to his kingdom and himself.

There are two types of dragons in Celtic lore. There is the standard winged version with four legs that most people are familiar with and there is a sea serpent that is depicted as either a giant wingless serpent or a huge serpent with wings, but no legs. The dragon was a gatekeeper to other worlds and guardian to the secrets and treasures of the universe. They were often depicted side by side with the Celtic gods. As creatures that protect the Earth and all living things, Celtic dragons are considered the most powerful of all the Celtic symbols.

Dragons are used as a symbol of power and wisdom among leaders. Dragons are seen on many coats of arms. The Welsh flag proudly displays the Red Dragon and their motto reads: Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Cychwyn, meaning ‘The Red Dragon Leads the Way.’ Y Ddraig Goch, the red dragon, was derived from the Great Red Serpent that had represented the Welsh god Dewi.

As a heraldic symbol, the dragon varies greatly, especially the ears. The wings are always that of a bat, and its tongue and tail can be barbed or smooth. King Arthur was one of the first leaders to use the red dragon. It was prominently shown on his helmet. Dragons are often depicted in Celtic artwork, many times drawn with their tails in their mouths. This symbolizes the cycle of nature in the world and immortality. The dragon is usually twisted upon itself, with tail, ears, and body parts weaving in and out of other parts, much like a regular knot work piece.

If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Middle Grade authors Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!