Monday, 16 December 2019

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan, illustrated by Ben Mantle, review by Lynda Waterhouse

I discovered this book in WH Smith’s at Piccadilly Station in Manchester. First I had to wade through the shelves of David Walliams and Julia Donaldson, then I had a struggle to read the title because of the large ‘3for2’ sticker obscuring it. The tag line, ‘believing is just the beginning’, intrigued me; the illustrated map of Roar with its Bad Side and gentle puns such as  Archie Playgo made me smile.  The first sentence, ’There is a wizard in Grandad’s attic’, clinched the deal and with minutes to spare I bought the book and boarded the train.
The story is told by eleven year old Arthur Trout. It is the summer holidays and twins Arthur and Rose Trout are spending it with their Grandad before they start secondary school. Arthur and Rose used to be close but Rose is changing. She is looking for new friendships and seems more interested in hanging out with 13 year old Mazen Bailey, playing on the trampoline or going to Claire’s Accessories.
Grandad offers them the use of his attic to create their own space. Arthur and Rose jump at the chance until they discover that they have to empty it first. It is crammed with their old toys including Prosecco the rocking horse and the mouldy old Z-bed that used to be the portal to the imaginary land that they created and filled with all the things they loved like mermaids and ninja wizards and all the things that they are afraid of too.
When Grandad disappears through the Z-bed Arthur and Rose returns to the Land of Roar to rescue him, they face their own fears and rediscover the power of imagination and creativity.
This is a wonderful story.  It made me smile, laugh and cry. It also has truly scary moments with sinister scarecrows and a terrifying villain called Crowky (I shudder just mentioning his name). It has all the ingredients of a classic children’s book. I hope it becomes one. It is beautifully written with a light touch and warmth that only a skilful writer can create. Ben Mantle’s illustrations are both humorous and just the right amount of scary as they flow across the pages.
A perfect read for anyone but especially for Year 6 children who have been bludgeoned by SATS preparation and are facing secondary transfer.

ISBN 978-14052-9367-9


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