Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
Katherine is a worrier . . . about her new home, a new morning, spiders, snakes, strangers, and more. And it’s hard for adults – except her mother – to understand that someone her size and age can have so many problems. If only she could be a warrior!
Seven-year-old Katherine loves big words and she’s quite inquisitive. She loves learning new information, but sometimes doing so riles the buffaloes in her tummy. Like now, as she awakens in her new home in a new city, Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. With her two favorite pals, Bienkie her GO-TO Bear and Boongie Rabbit, and the constant repeating of her mantra (“There is nothing to fear but fear itself!”), she ventures from her bed to the window and is excited to see the lough, a rundown garden, the beach, and a castle!
Her first expedition must be to the garden, and the creatures there are thrilled, yet cautious. The fairies have said that Katherine of Carrick will save them, but she’s just a little girl and how can she protect them from Sammy the Bull and the Terribles? One of the garden’s occupants is Methuselah, who is very old and knowledgeable. He doesn’t want her to know who he is right now, so he waits quietly and watches. Once Katherine discovers him, she will also want to know his secrets, and he’s not certain he’s willing or ready to share them, even though so much time has passed.
While exploring the garden, Katherine learns that the house has a secret. She loves mysteries and immediately sets out to unravel the creatures’ riddle to find the secret. Once she does, she also discovers an old leather bag with a coat of arms on it, which becomes her grab bag. All is peaceful and calm until Sir Faithful Fortescue squawks an alarm: The garden is under attack!
The Terribles have arrived, claiming ownership of her garden, but Katherine isn’t about to let these big, brash boys continue their destructive ways. She confronts the terrible children, who warn her that Sammy the Bull will not allow her to get away with this. The garden belongs to them, not her. Knowing they will return, she comes up with a plan and with the rest of the League of the Little People (Bienkie, Boongie, and the garden creatures) organizes for the next invasion. But Katherine also worries. Being brave once often means that she must continue being brave; she’s just not certain she can.
Then Sammy the Bull arrives and he’s not even sure Katherine is a girl. After all, she doesn’t dress like a girl and she defies him. As far as Katherine is concerned, it’s obvious that Sammy hasn’t a clue about girls. After all, she rides her bike and loves adventure, and history is filled with heroines who do not play with dolls or hide in the house. The arguing eventually turns to pirates and Sammy dares Katherine to say how many girl pirates there were. She doesn’t know, but she’s certain there were some. Thinking he is smarter, Sammy dares her to name a real girl pirate, or the garden belongs to him and the Terribles. It’s a challenge she can’t refuse, even if it means that she must be braver than ever.
Morwenna Banks brings Katherine and all her friends (and enemies) to life in a way that allows the listener to be right beside Katherine from the moment the adventure starts all the way to the end. Her inflection is spot on in all the right places and she is truly gifted in giving each character a unique voice. The book is written for children ages seven and up, but even adults will enjoy listening. (I also had access to the e-book, which includes color pictures, but Banks does such a fabulous job that I ended up using the book to write my notes for this review.) I particularly love the way she emphasizes “girl” pirates and says Katherine’s favorite words, “Supermurgatroid” and “Humongous!” I wanted to cry when Katherine’s world falls apart when Sammy injures Bienkie, and I laughed a lot at Katherine’s dilemma about how to go to the bathroom in Kveldulf, a Viking longboat. The Twisted Sisters reminded me of the three witches in MacBeth. I particularly enjoyed meeting Harry Gold and his Pieces of 8, an assortment of men from the past who assist Katherine in her quest for girl pirates. As she journeys through history, we meet Simon Danseker, Eustace the Black Monk, John Paul Jones, Woodes Rogers, Nathaniel Mist, Daniel Defoe, and a woman pirate (although I won’t say which one).
If I have any reservation about this audiobook, it’s the cover art. It’s not appealing to the eye and gives the wrong impression about what the book is about. This was not the case with either the cover art for the hardback or paperback versions – both of which come closer to hinting at what the book is about. The audio version is more reminiscent of virtual reality or steampunk, neither of which has anything to do with the story.
Each evening, when I sat to listen to the story while doing jigsaw puzzles, I found myself eager to discover where Katherine’s journey would lead her and who she would meet next. I wanted the tale to go on and on, but alas it does come to an end . . . but Annie Holmes assures listeners that Katherine will return in Katherine of Carrick: The Secret History of the Mongols. I heartily recommend this audiobook to readers and I am amazed at how ingeniously Annie Holmes wove a wide array of history into a children’s tale filled with magic and detecting. Best of all? It’s a story about Girls and Girl Pirates!
Review Copyrighted ©2019 Cindy Vallar
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