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Once Upon a Castle Paperback – July 24, 2012
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About the Author
Alan S. Blood worked in the Civil Service, Advertising and journalism (edited three publications) before qualifying as a Teacher from the University of Reading. He enjoyed a long, distinguished career in the Teaching Profession, in both Primary and Secondary levels of education, in several parts of the UK which eventually led to Senior Management. His main subject area was English and, at one time, he was Head of English and Drama. Throughout, he gained considerable knowledge of literature that children and adolescents enjoy. Alan now devotes his time to writing novels, plays, screenplays and poetry. He won top award in the ‘Hastings International Poetry Festival’ (2003) with his controversial ‘litter’ poem ‘CONTRITE CAN CANNOT’. The paranormal genre features in much of his work. ‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’ is a ghost story written for young people (but also enjoyed by adults) set in World War 11. It concerns both a real and a phantom castle based upon Alan’s experience of strange castles on the wild Northumbrian coast of England on cold, dark wintry afternoon. Alan Blood has widely travelled the world and undertook research in Chile where some of his supernatural crime thriller ‘CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ is set. He was previously a Cotswold Morris Dancer and the novel is a conflict between the forces of good and evil linking a Chilean ‘Machi’ and ‘organised crime’ to murders in a Suffolk Morris Men side. Alan enjoys wildlife photography in the Welsh countryside, painting and scraperboard engraving and lives in a rambling Victorian (1873) house.
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Top customer reviews
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All of the pieces separately were interesting, and you knew that they were all connected somehow. But the book was very vague with almost no explanation on how they all fit together. Part of me thinks that there is something wrong with me, since this is supposedly a children's book.
And I was a little sad at the ending.
Unfortunately, I can't recommend this book unless I wanted to confuse someone with it.
It's the early 1940's, when World War II is beginning, and the children have to go live with their cousin Victoria and Uncle Leslie while their mother, a nurse, is needed for the war efforts. Plus, their father, a naval captain, is already on the front lines, so the children have no choice but to stay with their relatives.
Everything goes well until they meet a strange but friendly mutt they named "Scamp." They try to chase after it, but lose its trail before long. Although they continue to look for the dog, they never find it.
A couple of weeks later, while staying with Victoria and Uncle Leslie, Miss Urquart, a retired headmistress, comes to privately tutor them. The kids hate it so much, they decide to find that castle and shirk their educational duties. This is what begins their "adventure." Once they finally arrive at the crest of the huge hill near the castle, a fog rolls in, and VIKINGS appear! They seem to be in battle, and a few notice the children. Mary and Tom are naturally scared, and they hear Scamp barking away, trying to get to them. Just as they fear the Vikings have them in their grasp, the children lose consciousness, and wind up on a boat; but it's not a Viking boat.
It's an English Carrier of some sort, and the ship's Captain knows their father, ironically enough, but cannot believe the children's story of meeting the Vikings when they relate it to him. The captain and crew decide to return the kids back to the hill, where they are discovered and rescued by Victoria, Uncle Leslie, and Ms. M, the housekeeper. The relief the adults experience in finding the kids is obvious, but even they don't believe their story. Except...Uncle Leslie does.
A visit from the children's father prompts them to revisit the story. The father does some research, and when he returns to his post, he sends a communique' that floors everyone. I'll leave it as a surprise, but suffice it to say, it confirms what the children had been saying all along: the Vikings were real.
The story increases in eeriness when the Mary and Tom's mother arrive to spend time with the children. Once again, the children tell their mother what happened. The mother, just like the father, does some investigation; however, she takes the entire family with her to the hill, to find out what happened exactly.
Several things happen to further cement the story of the children, and a disastrous incident happens to Uncle Leslie which brings several factors to light, including the fact that his family history has Scandinavian and Viking heritage. It's interesting the way they tie Uncle Leslie to the Viking story, but I wasn't sure how his "incident" reinforced the story of the Viking battle and the castle.
"Once Upon a Castle" is an interesting ghost story. I thought it would be longer, so it could flesh out some more details about the Vikings, the castle, and how everything developed to create the ghost story. But other than that, it was good, and I enjoyed it. I give it 3.5 stars.
This is a rather short book, around 75 pages, but a delightful read for kids and pre-teens. But a head's up for parents, your kiddo may need help with understanding a few words throughout the book, or use it as a great opportunity to sit and read together!
True to Alan's style, he paints beautiful portraits of the setting throughout the book, filling your imagination with amazing images of the older days of London. He guides you through the war torn city as Tom and Mary make the journey to the safety of the countryside. Along the way depicting the shift in scenery from the chaos of war, to the splendor of country living.
The plot moves at a good pace, adequate for a child with even the shortest of attention spans. Shortly after arriving at their new home, the twins are met with the enticing mystery of the castle in the distance. I even found myself drawn into the hidden reasons the mystical mist seemed to make the castle vanish. And why was it no one else could see what the children saw!
Alan filled the story with lovely characters, each lively in their own way yet true to how (I would imagine) people spoke and behaved in those times. It felt as if you really did step back in time and became apart of this close, loving family.
The ending held some interesting twists, and neatly tied up any lingering loose ends. Overall this was a really cute, interesting read that I'm sure my kids would enjoy. I loved the way Alan again plucked me from my living room and gently set me in another time and place. He masterfully portrays setting, blended with characters your child will enjoy and come to feel as friends. I would recommend this to anyone with kids 8+ years old, not only for the wonderful adventures, but also for the vivid look at life during WWII. Bravo to Alan for another great read!
**I received a free copy from the author for review
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