Review: The Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan

Myth and reality intermingle in a refreshing representation of Damascus.

Publication date: 11th April 2016
Publisher: Lantana Publishing

The Jasmine Sneeze is a fantastically vibrant read which takes the reader through a world of senses, accompanied by a comical cat. Sauntering through the city of Damascus, the reader follows Haroun on his quest to appease the Jasmine Spirit.

I haven’t read such a satisfying picture book in a while. The story flows perfectly and has just the right balance of conflict and character progression. Haroun is thoroughly likeable – despite being a bit of a grump when it comes to jasmine – and the Jasmine spirit is portray wonderfully. She has a childlike quality, both quick to anger and quick to forgive. A real joy to follow.

The illustrations are mesmerising, with bright block colours and complementary shades. Kaadan creates a magical landscape and brings Damascus to life. Haroun is adorable and humorous, and you can almost smell the jasmine. The only thing I might note, is that the font can be distracting: a simple sans serif which can seem incongruous in its colourful surroundings.

I recommend this as a wonderful feel-good book. It cannot fail to entertain readers of all ages and genders. There are quite a few words, so it might not be perfect for very early readers, but it can easily be read by more confident children or with an adult. All in all, definitely a book worth owning.

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Review: Wildwitch: Wildfire by Lene Kaaberbøl and Rohan Eason, translated by Charlotte Barslund

The Worst Witch meets the Hunger Games.

Publication Date: 21st January 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Children’s

Wildwitch: Wildfire was a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with interesting characters and a compelling plot. Part bildungsroman, part fantasy, part court drama, Kaaberbøl’s story allows the reader to follow young Clara’s journey from her normal life, to a new and magical world.

The writing is clear and enticing, a testament both to the original and to Barslund’s translation. Apart from creating an impressive and wondrous imaginarium, where ‘wildwitches’ protect and control the natural world, ruled by their own councils and laws, the novel’s greatest attraction is the simplicity with which Clara carries herself; the way honesty is rewarded above skill. Unlike other novels in similar genres, where the main character miraculously acquires the skills they need under pressure, Clara does not surpass herself, nor is she surprised by what she can do in her trials. She is simply true to herself, and the only thing she needs is confidence in her and the desire to keep learning.

There are a few aspects which remain unexplained, perhaps unnecessarily – how did Clara perform magic with iron around her throat? Why is Chimera after her? What does Oscar think of all this? The important thing about these questions is that they don’t affect the reader during the novel, only after, demonstrating the fluency and pace of the story. Wildfire is just the first in a series – these unanswered questions certainly cement the reader’s desire to keep reading the Wildwitch series.

The illustrations are sensitive and work well with the tone of the story. Eason has created classic images with creative twists, that add atmospheric touches to this beautiful novel.

I recommend Wildwitch: Wildfire – and the ensuing addiction to the series – to any children with a penchant for magical writing, and anyone who holds out a secret hope that there are powers yet to be discovered. I would also encourage those with a love for the natural world to give this novel their full attention, as it is wonderfully represented. Overall, a fantastic read, and one that you’ll find hard to put down.