Children’s Fiction

Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine by Shelagh Watkins

Reviewer: John C. Brown, Astromomer Royal for Scotland

Except for those with a phobia, flying has always been the stuff of dreams among all ages and, in this age of technological wonders, flying in space has become an integral part of this dreamland. As well as being the stuff of daring do, flying is full of mystery and laden with symbolic escapism, lifting us above the daily grind of adulthood and the growing fears of childhood, and human pettinesses from gossip to bullying, which detracts all age groups from the joy of living.

In Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine, Shelagh Watkins takes us on a flight of fancy, both metaphorical and literal, through these dreams, fears and joys. We are taken rolling and looping in skies through clouds of bereavement, sibling antagonism, and human spitefulness, into a brighter but mysterious world of computer systems, then onward and upward into the heavens and among the planets themselves. Closure of the stormy sky issues, through which child heroes Emmelisa and Dell have struggled, is eventually approached in the final pursuit of Mr. Planemaker’s physics-defying Trail of Light, during which we are constantly surprised.

While all this may sound a bit heavy for kids to read or for a bed-time story, and while it is thought provoking for adults, the yarn is a compulsive tale for kids, spun around daily routines and banalities mixed with fantasy elements and outrageous characters. The unashamedly corny names for the latter will bring a chuckle even to the sworn pun-hater like me. Who has not known a school brat like Mayja Troublemaker and someone with as little spark as her uncle Verry Boringman?

The escape route from these pains in the neck emerges gradually via a series of encounters, first at a strange house being worked on by Anne R Keytect, Bill Dare, Joy Nair and Dek Orator of Dream Homes Inc, then on to Whiz Kid Computer Maintenance in Virtual Realty. Mr. Wizard Kidd leads us further into Hardwareland where many of the workings of computer operating systems are revealed to us with greater insight than many a manual, though in this case the user interface smacks more of magic than of a keyboard. In the CPU building things rapidly progress toward the (virtual) reality of the Planemaker’s Flying Machine PH1. Then, at an ever increasing rate we head with Emmelisa for space itself, with the help of valet Sue Tassistant, coordinator Mish Oncontrol, and master pilot/instructor Astrow Naught. Thereafter, on a solar system tour, some of the strands of the story are tied up, in ways readers must find for themselves or I will spoil the climax.

So, in the end, what does it all mean? I am not sure that I know, or even that Shelagh Watkins does, though surely Cosmos Planemaker the magical family cat knows, if anyone does. What I do know is that this is a refreshing and unusual kids’ story which I, as a hard-nosed scientist – albeit with magic as a hobby – had to read to the end, and that it will likewise enthrall children readers and bed-time story tellers alike. So buy it, lie back, and enjoy it with, or even without the kids.

8 Responses to “Children’s Fiction”

  1. Gregg Seeley Says:

    Big Booby Boom! And the Marble Mayhem by Gregg Seeley

    Reviewer: Debbie Smart, Book Reviewer – Stories For Children Magazine
    Rating: *****

    BIG BOBBY BOOM! AND THE MARBLE MAYHEM is full of humor, fun, adventure and lots mischief. Elliott Blue is the new kid in town and is the target of the chief town bully – Big Bobby Boolacheck – “aka” Big Bobby Boom! The Boolachecks run the town – every aspect of the town. Big Bobby Boom’s henchmen Booker and Biff Muldoon assist Big Bobby Boom with terrorizing not just Elliott – but almost all the other kids at school too. Nobody has dared to stand up or challenge the way things are in the town of Bunsel – all because of the Boolachecks.

    Fortunately, for Elliott, his trusted cousin, Jimmy “The Slick” Blue – shows Elliott a few ingenious tricks of his own when he moves in with Elliott and his family. Readers will enjoy the antics of Elliott and Jimmy as they become infamous pranksters who go head to head with Big Bobby Boom crashing his birthday party, planning a bit of hi-jinx in the hockey rink and spicing up lunchtime with hot pepper pie. —BIG BOBBY BOOM! AND THE MARBLE MAYHEM, written by Gregg Seeley is geared for reluctant and inquisitive readers – as well as being a fun read for anyone who has ever been bullied.

    Reviewer: Rhonda Carver Apex Reviews
    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Equally Comical and heart warming Big Bobby Boom! and the Marble Mayhem is a welcome addition to the world of young adult fiction. A promising debut from an exciting new literary talent.

    Reviewer: Lori Anderson Goodreads
    Rating: *****

    This is such a fun book! I love reading juvenile literature, and this book was a hilarious choice. While the story is a fantastical journey of epic (to a kid!) proportions, the dialogue will ring true to the book’s intended target market…The book starts off with a bang and keeps up a rapid pace all the way to the ending—No slow starts or dead bits here. I hope the book gets a wide readership and is picked up by a larger publishing house—A quick read, great for the adolescent (and adult who perhaps got picked on one too many times in school) —Try this one out!

  2. Tim Lane Says:

    Flight on Fire Mountain by Tim Lane

    Reviewer: Kirkus Reviews

    A young paraglider finds his inner strength high above a blazing inferno.

    Licensed-paragliding pilot Lane puts his firsthand knowledge of the aerial sport to good use in this brief but thrilling adventure novel for young adults. The book centers on 17-year-old Josh, a shy student struggling with burgeoning adulthood. He competes with a new stepmother, a wicked stepbrother and a spirited stepsister for the affections of his well-meaning father, Peter, who mentors his son in his paragliding hobby. Peter also firmly scolds Josh for neglecting vital equipment, like his helmet and the strap for his indispensable glasses, a hint of challenges to come. A couple of botched routine flights put Josh on edge, testing his mettle and bracing him for what comes next. Peter asks him to bring an errant glider back to an instructor’s house in the San Bernardino Mountains when a forest fire engulfs the location. Josh is close to panic when he remembers his father’s advice: “Work the problem. Don’t let the problem work you.” In a literal leap of faith, Josh takes to the air, negotiating smoky skies and violent updrafts in a series of precarious takeoffs and landings. His parents’ simultaneous rescue efforts are superfluous, but the flight sequences above the raging forest fire are both plausible and bracing. Josh even gets to play hero, saving a distressed 8-year-old camper by taking her on a risky tandem flight. In the end, he delivers her safely, despite the loss of his helmet, glasses and even the glider itself, sunk in a shallow lake. The story is squarely aimed at adolescents, the writing undemanding and straightforward, but Lane delivers an earnest drama worthy of an after-school special.

    A rousing, unusual story about a boy who takes to the air but lands squarely on his own two feet.

    Reviewer: Lynn, Peterson,

    “Flight on Fire Mountain” is an intriguing coming of age story about a teenaged boy who grows up in the hours that he must survive a forest fire. It’s a gripping book that reads just like watching an action movie. Josh Randal is the child of a broken family. His parents are divorced, and “paragliding was just about the only thing he and his dad did together anymore.”

    As I read about Josh, I realized that author Tim Lane has a true understanding of familial relationships. He gets what it’s like to be a teenager, to have so many things you want to do while parents won’t let you have the freedom to do them. He even understands how difficult it can be to be taught a skill by a parent! Josh wants to spend time with his father, win his father’s approval, and be independent from him all at the same time.

    While Josh’s story of surviving a forest fire by paragliding over it is the main one, Lane masterfully interweaves the stories of the child Theresa, the reporter Stephanie, and the five campers. While each story effects the main storyline, they also serve to contrast between childhood and adulthood, and they particularly show how Josh grows into an effective adult free from the childish whims that often infect the lives and decisions of adults. Not only does Josh survive the forest fire and grow into a man that day, but he also learns to be confident with himself, a lesson many adults have yet to learn.

    Reviewer: Reading Time (November 1, 2009)

    This is a novel about paragliding, written by a paraglider who introduces in great detail many of the skills and experiences there are in this unusual occupation. Josh is a sixteen-year-old paraglider and, before the events of this incredible day he had been going through a period of change and adjustment. His parents had been divorced and the new relationships with a step-family were causing him struggles and conflicts of loyalty.

    On this particular day he is on his way flying to deliver a paraglider to his father. Getting through a fearsome forest fire, finding a little girl lost in the fire-stricken forest and bringing her and the paraglider eventually to safety, all this called for all the skills of navigation and decision-making he could muster. Once involved in Josh’s hideous situation the reader will be almost completely unable to stop reading. We absolutely must know if and how Josh survives. While to begin with the story, with all its paragliding technicalities may seem more suited to male readers, every reader, both boys and girls, plus adults, must find reading it an enthralling experience. Written in fairly mature but straight-forward language it is a most absorbing story for adolescent readers.

  3. marycunningham Says:

    Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle by Mary Cunningham

    Reviewer: Blog Critics: Mayra Calvani

    Reviews In Brief: The Magician’s Castle by Mary Cunningham

    The Magician’s Castle is the fourth book in Mary Cunningham’s Cynthia’s Attic mystery/time-travel series for middle-grade readers. The action and adventure novels feature two best friends, Gus and Cynthia, who travel back and forth in time through an old trunk that lies hidden in the cobweb-filled attic of Cynthia’s house.

    This time, Cynthia must travel back in time in order to find Gus, who stayed behind at the end of the third book. The problem is, an antique dealer steals the trunk and Cynthia must go through a series of obstacles to find it. When at last she does, an old magician named Sebastian the Great follows her, creating trouble. The old magician is searching for his long lost love, Kathryn, who disappeared through the magic trunk many years ago. An intriguing Book of Spells and a 1914 Swiss castle are just some of the things our young protagonists encounter as they travel back and forth in time.

    I have read all of the books in the series and I have to say, the author doesn’t disappoint. This latest novel is action-packed and full of twists and turns that will keep most middle-grade readers glued to the pages. The pace moves pretty quickly and the dialogue is interesting and even witty at times. The banter between the two best friends is often funny, adding humor to the story.

    The Magician’s Castle, as well as the earlier books, is especially appealing for girls. However, I recommend the books be read in order, as they might be confusing for new readers as stand-alone works.

  4. Lori E. Mazzola Says:

    Tales of the Tree People by Lori Mazzola


    Lori Mazzola’s book “Tales of the Tree People” is an excellent example of magical realism, a genre of writing where magical elements or illogical scenarios seem realistic, or even normal. This book is a story about a brother and sister, Mars and Venus, who befriend a willow named Weeping Wendy. With their new friend, the siblings begin a journey to enlightenment.

    Both the religious and environmental communities celebrate this book. If you’re both environmentally conscious and religious, this is an excellent book with Christian foundations to teach your children about the importance of our environment and the need for its conservation.

    As the story goes, the children discover a God-given gift that helps them to save the earth. This exciting adventure teaches the children morals, and, as the book cover suggests, also teaches them to experience the “beauty, wonder, and complexity of God’s creations.” In any discussion about raising awareness or “getting people to care” about the environment, the key is always to get them to appreciate it first, and this book delivers that point.

    “Tales of the Tree People” is an imaginary world where the impossible is made possible. It teaches children that with a little faith, even the most far-fetched of dreams come true. While the story itself stretches reality, the messages and morals of the book are concrete and genuine.

    While this book teaches Christian lessons, it also teaches important environmental lessons. Mazzola is a fan of John Muir, one of the most famous and influential American naturalists and conservationists. Mazzola, like many others, consider Muir to be the “Father of our National Parks,” a “Wilderness Prophet,” and “Citizen of the Universe.”

    Mazzola’s awe of Muir is apparent in this children’s book. As both Muir and Mazzola’s book teach, one person can do very big and very important things, one step at a time. It gives humble reminders that one person, or one child, for that matter, really can make a difference.

    It’s important to empower our children with a sense of being able to do anything they set their minds to, especially when it comes to environmental efforts. When looked at in isolation, so many environmental efforts can seem pointless and hopeless at times. This book is a glittering example of hope in a world that seems oppressive to those of us who wish to change it. Your children will love this book, and you will, too.

  5. Mark Glamack Says:

    Littluns: And the Book of Darkness by Mark Glamack

    Reviewer: Sara Hassler at MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

    Adventure, courage, and determination surround loyal friends in the fantasy novel Littluns and the Book of Darkness. Movie Producer and Director now Author, Mark Glamack, uses his background in animation and writing to create this family friendly and Christian based young adult novel. With a mission to positively motivate, educate, enlighten and inspire through entertaining content, Glamack uses his own spiritual guiding light to draw his readers into the struggle between good and evil in this debut novel. The Littluns and the Book of Darkness will entertain audiences of all ages with its fast paced, intriguing storyline and elaborate illustrated life of the Littluns world in the Hollow Hills of the land, Terra Fermata. Author, Mark Glamack, shows off his artistic talent with colorful and meticulous illustrations. His veteran motion picture experience shines with expertly written detailed scene changes and engages readers with screenwriting skills that make his audience feel like they’ve been deep inside a high production animated movie. Glamack has exceeded his goal in depicting the journey of life, how to choose between the light and dark side of the world while showing the gifts of friendship and how they can influence us in the shadows of our own life choices. Littluns and the Book of Darkness is a delightful, skillfully written novel that will capture both young and mature readers and leave them with full hearts and the tools necessary to know the difference between good and evil. Littluns and the Book of Darkness is a wonderful gift for lovers of fantasy, for parents and educators who want to offer a faith based book and for librarians who want to expand their offerings.

  6. Mahalia Solages Says:

    Whirly, Twirly Topsy Turvy Day – New children’s book explores the frenzied pace of modern day society.

  7. Mahalia Solages Says:

    What Morning is This? by Mahalia Solages

  8. Olive Peart Says:

    Linked by Olive Peart

    Reviewer: Judge’s commentary, Writer’s Digest Awards Contest

    ‘This book about a black and a white kid switching bodies handles race very well. This is a brave thing to do and done successfully…. Great character development….’

    Reviewer: Jennifer Manente, NYC Public School Teacher

    ‘Linked is an enticing story about a bond between two young teens from different backgrounds.
    I was immediately hooked when their strange connection began and loved following their stories…’

    ‘Same age, same height, same grade—they could have been identical twins, but they were not. Yet they lived in the same imperfect world with overwhelming family problems. Greg’s father had walked out after striking his mother. Steve’s father refused to leave after repeatedly abusing his mother. Each boy, in his own way, was begging for help. They lived in different homes. They had different personalities. One was black and the other was white and they had switched!‘

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