Jolie Dubriel’s Red and Blue is a fascinating, re-imagined tale that combines both classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes with many twists and turns. Dubriel takes old favorite characters and story lines you knew, loved, and memorized during your childhood story times and weaves them together as one beautiful story of secrecy, heartbreak, and the power of love. Obstacles and setbacks are sprinkled in along the way on the journey from once upon a time to happily ever after. Nostalgic characters Little Red Riding Hood and Little Boy Blue are now grown-up characters who play the lead parts. Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole, and other classic figures also pepper this amazingly creative compilation.
Like any classic fairy tale, this book is not without tragedy. As is par for the course, there are separations of young children from parents and premature deaths of parental figures. There are hearts broken and healed. Red and Blue are coming of age characters who are growing up, discovering who they are, who they want to be, and who they begin to have feelings for. Stories from the past surface that throw wrenches in plans and change life trajectories. The story is full of conflicts and characters trying to solve them. The dynamic as old as time, good vs. evil, is also prevalent in parts of the story.
I love a good anthropomorphic animal or inanimate object, and those characters seen in the Kingdom of Rhyme do not disappoint in this area. Animals and objects are personified throughout the story. Fish, salamanders, cats, and dogs walk around in suits as servants and guards in King Cole’s castle. A dish runs and talks with a spoon through the forest. A cow jumps over the moon. These are the kinds of things that a nostalgic childhood reader will love. The half human/half animal or object cast of characters are reminiscent of those kinds of splits found in The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, The Sword in the Stone, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
I like the twist that Red’s story takes regarding her relationship with wolves. Red and her grandmother have their classic encounter with the Big Bad Wolf, and miraculously survive. Later, her loving stepfather gifts her with a little wolf pup that grows to be her best friend and companion. It’s refreshing to see the girl have the upper hand over a wolf in one of these tales.
What classic tale would be complete without magic? The ultimate symbol of magic in this story is Little Boy Blue’s golden horn. He is unaware of its power, but has been cautioned to keep it with him always. Blue has grown up with the horn strapped to his back while working on a farm. It is only later that Blue will discover his true identity and the power that the horn truly holds.
I really enjoyed how Dubriel took so many classic and loved stories and characters and wove them together into one cohesive story. It is truly a feel-good kind of read. It is a love story that keeps its innocence. There is some tragedy and conflict, but I think it’s appropriate for pretty much anyone. Middle schoolers through adults will enjoy this book. Jolie Dubriel may have written a “new classic” with this book.
Pages: 192 | ASIN: B079WCF5ZF
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Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where they’re introduced to many strange guests. What served as your inspiration for this imaginative hotel and its occupants?
The concept was really born from the title. I had wanted to write a counting book for a while but one that carried a stronger narrative than many others in this particular category. After I had the title, everything else just came together. I think that there is something about doors that sparks a natural curiosity, particularly in young children. I wanted to extend that curiosity by placing the story in a setting that would really compound the mystery. A magical castle, to me, holds a lot of intrigue and seemed like an excellent place to begin a curious journey.
There are a lot of interesting creatures behind each door. My favorite was the miniature giants. What was your favorite to write and animate?
I have so many! For most of the characters there is a fascinating juxtaposition between the general perception of their stereotype and a characteristic they embody in the story. Some of the other creatures are simply a play on popular culture. However a few of them are just plain cute. If I had to choose only one favourite, I think it would be from this last category – the big-headed monkeys.
While I was writing this character, I had in my mind something so adorable that it would make a great stuffed toy. What’s exciting about working with Lenny is that we both think similarly. She was able to take my thoughts for this idea and really bring it to life with brilliant expression. They may not be a typical mythical creature, but I think they nevertheless compliment the overall enjoyment of exploring this hotel by diffusing the expectation that each character needs to have some kind of creepy characteristic.
The story is told in rhyme and each door has a theme which, I think, makes this book great for the classroom. Was it challenging to write the story in this way or was it natural?
After I had the idea, the story itself flowed quite naturally. The fantastical nature of the castle meant that each door wasn’t restricted to a single concept or any established rules. I think this is (in part) what both pulls you along in the story and tempts you to linger – every door is a portal to its own unique and perhaps unexpected theme.
I don’t want it to send like I’m begging, but please tell me this story is going to be expanded on in future books?
Ooh, now that’s an interesting question. It was definitely a fun story to write so I wouldn’t rule out a sequel. I’ll let you know…
The magical Hotel of Hoo is a mysterious place with some very unusual occupants. As our guests explore the strange hotel, they are invited to experience everything it has to offer with just one warning… don’t ever look behind door 32.
This imaginative picture book aims to take children beyond the first ten cardinal numbers, and introduces them to the patterns of counting in a fun and accessible way. With rooms to explore and unique objects to count, children will enjoy lingering on each page as they make their way closer to the forbidden door.
Posted in Interviews
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Stygian, by Sean Michael, is a thematic arrangement of 52 poems based on the author’s life, interspersed with occasional quotes. The anthology is completed by an additional three poems in memory of three late friends. Stygian is organised in chronological order, from the author’s tragic childhood to the events that likely contributed to his incarceration, as mentioned in the author’s biography; in this way, the collection presents itself as a poetic autobiography. It’s a frank and dark work, which doesn’t hold back from the usage of swear words or in the stark descriptions of abuse, neglect and self-harm, so readers should use their discretion.
There’s a lot that could be said about this author, but after a read through, what stood out the most was the wide variety of poetic styles he used. The contents range from poems that read almost like a rap, written with short staccato lines and a regular rhyme scheme, to others that feel classical, with long and flowing verses. Partly, this seems to be a stylistic choice, and a clever one, too. Poems from his youth embody the language of a child, such as the word “doggie”, while the adult mind raids the full English lexicon to produce descriptions containing such gems as “empyrean” and “tenebrous”. It’ll give your linguistic knowledge a workout, that’s for sure. Other poems have a more contemporary feel; one appears to be a piece of prose, while The Monster is written entirely in capital letters.
However, there is much to recommend; poems like Sleeping with my Shoes On, which throws away a rhyme scheme to convey a sense of childish excitement, at odds with the glimpses of a deprived childhood. My personal favourites are The Man in the Box and the subsequent Endless Tunnels of Darkness which are beautifully descriptive and flowing summaries of the author’s life (and therefore Stygian) and his emotions about his current situation.
The order of other poems feels like an emotional jump as a reader, yet this is easily explained by the author’s unsettled life – art reflecting life in every way. It is uncomfortable to read the memories described in Away From the Disarray or Something to Cry About, but this is beside the point, which is to honestly portray everything the author has been through.
With this in mind, it can only be said that this is an effective piece of work. Just as no human can be fully understood by another. The content cannot be dismissed, because it is true, although it could be argued that it was still a little raw in places – like the emotions it conveys. The author does show great competency with a range of styles, though, and I would personally love to read more from him on other topics after he has developed some of his ideas further.
Pages: 97 | ASIN: B01G5WFHUE
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