The Girl with the Shark’s Teeth

This is an enchanting story, full of adventure, danger and hidden secrets, waiting to be discovered.  But it is also a story of heritage, self-discovery and acceptance.

Minnow lives aboard The Seafarer (a stunning pirate boat with a mermaid figurehead) with her mother, Mercy, and faithful husky, Miyuki.  She is naturally drawn towards the water, and feels out of place and awkward on land. 

The story opens with the kidnapping of her mother by three men who believe that Mercy is the key to help them capture a mermaid.  Isn’t the existence of mermaids just part of old myths and folklore, so why are they adamant that her Mum can help them capture one?  What secrets has she been withholding from her daughter?

Left with strict instructions to go to her Grandmother in Iceland, Minnow travels there aboard The Seafarer where she meets Raife, who shares her love of the sea.  Minnow has no intention of staying safe at her Grandmother’s, but has every intention of rescuing her mother before it is too late.  Once at her Grandmother’s, Minnow makes a startling discovery.  Because of who she really is, she has the power to open the Gateway to the secret Wild Deep and venture across it in a desperate and urgent mission to free her mother. 

The world of the Wild Deep is exquisitely revealed, and creates a real sense of wonder and beauty, not only at the landscape but also at the dazzling seafolk of lore which Minnow and Raife find there.  They are both beautiful and dangerous, with some prepared to help and others to hinder.   They emit a real sense of threat and menace which creates plenty of action and tension as the children try to outwit and escape from them as they struggle to cross this new world.  Will the Deep release Minnow to allow her to attempt to rescue her mother?  Will there be a price to pay?  Will Minnow be imprisoned there, unable to leave, or will she be free to travel in both worlds?

Minnow is a strong, courageous, quick-witted girl who is willing to face her fears, fight for survival in dangerous situations and make difficult decisions to protect her friends.  She builds a close bond with Raife as they come to trust, rely on and protect each other.  She is a girl of two worlds who is resolved to fit into both, with all the determination, strength and courage that this demands.

A fascinating read for children of 8+.

The Apprentice Witch

“Oh, jinxing-jiggery!”  What an absolutely bewitching read this was. 

Despite failing her evaluation to become a fully-fledged witch, Arianwyn Gribble, is sent to Lull, which hasn’t had a resident witch for many years, to continue her apprenticeship.  She is soon taking on the role of town protector, making charms and banishing dark creatures, although everything doesn’t always go according to plan:  don’t mention the snotlings!

Just as Arianwyn is beginning to fit in, her life is turned upside down by the arrival of someone from her past, which causes all sorts of difficulties, and danger, for Arianwyn and the inhabitants of Lull.

This wonderfully-imagined world has a fascinating collection of creatures:  terrifying, awesome, endearing, pesky. The story is full of fast-paced action and build-up of tension, which kept me turning page after page … until I got to the end … and was left with that warm sigh of contentment I get from finishing a genuinely good book.  I’m so glad there are two more in this series for me to enjoy:  A Witch Alone and A Witch Come True.

Where do I begin with Arianwyn?  She is such an amazing character, and one of my new favourites in middle-grade fantasy.  Despite being full of self-doubt, she is kind-hearted and determined to try her best, not only thinking of others before herself, but always being prepared to see the best in everyone.  Her courage and strength of character shine through, despite her fear and doubt, so that she is able to control her demons in the town’s greatest moment of need.

I can’t wait to introduce this fantastic book to my class, who I know will adore Arianwyn as much as I do.