Sunday, 1 April 2012

Children's Book Review : The Gemini Spell - Jennie Dodd

When I first started reading The Gemini Spell, I was slightly perplexed because I had the strange sensation that I was reading two different books at once. On the one hand, we have a highly realistic, detailed account of sisters Chaney and Dakota competing in a horse show with their beloved steeds and a very insightful look at sibling squabbles and teenage strops. But then the book segues into a fantastical, magical tale of fairies, potions and evil spells. I initially found it quite hard to reconcile the two, although it is possibly quite fitting to have a book of two halves called The Gemini Spell !

Reading the cover letter from author Jennie Dodd that came with the review copy gave a rather heart-warming explanation for this duality though. She explains : "I met my granddaughters for the first time in 2004 - Chaney was just celebrating her 5th birthday. After reading Black Beauty, she begged me to write a story about a horse for her. I visited Australia again in 2008 - my second meeting with the girls - and read The Hobbit and this time the request was for a book with magic in it. You can imagine how difficult it is living so far away and being able to see so little of them. The book has certainly helped to bring us closer together and they have loved being the main characters in it. Over time, two totally separate stories have become intertwined into one." Aha, that explains it then !

Within a few chapters, the book did seem more unified and the horsey tale, full of fascinating snippets of information for anyone who loves animals or who dreams of having their own horse, blends seamlessly into the fantastical tale of fairy love, envy and desire for revenge.

Despite writing for a young audience, Jennie certainly doesn't dumb down her vocabulary and intersperses her narrative with fascinating facts about the wildlife and geography of her Australian setting. The fairies aren't the only mystical characters and I particularly like the Aboriginal shaman, full of ancient wisdom and storytelling traditions, who looks over Chaney and Dakota from afar with a mixture of pride and benevolence, much as I imagine Jennie watching over her grandchildren from afar.

But that's purely my viewpoint as a parent. 10-year-old Sophie just took the whole thing - fairies and all - at face value and thought it was "a really exciting read, that was especially good because you could learn interesting things about Australia as you read it." The tale of where Buggy's nickname came from made her laugh too ! I thought it had a slightly olde-worlde, Enid Blytonesque feel to it, which probably comes from the wholesome values, sense of adventure and good grammar (so many children's books these days seem to dumb down their language, presumably to appeal to the text-speak, instant message writing style of many modern youngsters). We really enjoying reading it together at bedtime every night.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: New Generation Publishing (1 Dec 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1908775254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908775252
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.3 cm 

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  1. I might have to give this one a try.

  2. This sounds lovely. I have a 10 year old daughter too. Hoping this might spark her interest.


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