Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review & Guest Blog Post: The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

The Kingdom of Silk series
Note from Nayu: Blogging gremlins were at work and refused to let me centre all the text in this post. Sorry! I hope they cooperate in the future so I can make it look uniform. 
This review is slightly different in that I need to explain how I came across this sweet series which explores so many issues that families face in a way that isn't too frightening for readers of all ages, and provides ways to cope when life goes a bit haywire. I was invited to read and review book 6, The Tender Moments of Saffron SilkI read it, loved it, and since it was an ebook I asked to read the rest of the series too, which I gobbled up in no time. So here's the order of books which they were written and ideally could be read, although they can be read on their own quite easily.

Book #1 with charming illustrations
The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard and Caroline Magerl, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E Cot death from the view of an older brother makes a powerful read. Tissues are needed

Book #2 with more wonderful illustrations
Layla Queen of Hearts by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E A tale of a girl who might as well have been born a silk who learns about dementia directly

Book #3 Perry is one special boy
Perry Angel's Suitcase by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E A new member of the Silk family arrives, only he thinks he won't be wanted. You'll see just how wrong he is.

Book #4 As touch a read as all the others
All The Colours of Paradise by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E Time to learn more about Perry, why he has 2 days of homeschool each week and why his mother is a secret.

Book #5 More tissues needed
Plum Pudding and Paper Moons by Glenda Millard, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E Scarlett's wishes were so like my own at her age.

Today's main review focus Book #6

5th March 2015, Phoenix Yard Books, 128 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Content: tissues, humour, family love, friendship 

Summary from Phoenix Yard Books
Series summary
In Glenda Millard’s beautifully written and multi-award-winning Kingdom of Silk series, set in the evocatively realized Australian countryside, we meet the uncommon Silk family. Parents Ben and Annie Silk have a brood of five daughters (‘the Rainbow Girls’), a son named Griffin, Griffin’s best friend Layla who ‘might as well be a Silk’, Nell - the ‘tiny bit magic’ fairy grandmother, and Perry Angel – an adopted son who joins the Silk family midway through the series.

Through these whimsical, lyrical stories, Glenda Millard writes about families like no other writer writes about families. The books explore important themes of love, loss, friendships, home and belonging, in ways that pull at the heartstrings but are never over-sentimental. Honey for the soul.

The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk summary
Everyone knows that Saffron Silk has a talent for pretending to be someone else but when the firebirds rage inside her head, and it hurts even to breathe, Saffron barely has the energy to be herself.

Saffron's family don't know about the firebirds that come to warn her of terrible headaches. And Saffron doesn't know how to tell them. But her brother Perry Angel has learnt to read hearts and recognise tender moments, and Perry knows that Saffron is frightened. Frightened of what might be wrong with her and afraid that she might have to leave the Kingdom of Silk forever..
Nayu's thoughts  
Like with many other books I review I ended up reading book first, then the previous 4/5 books, then I reread this one. I'm glad I was able to read the others (thanks to the lovely publicist), because my initial thoughts were that Saffron's father was a bit of a lunatic, her family was a bit too wacky, and I didn't entirely understand the various relationships. The first time round I fully related to Saffron's fear of what was wrong with her, just because it is so scary having your body do things which you've no control over & don't understand. The care and support of her friends and family made me cry (I cry when I'm happy, sad, & overwhelmed), especially that of Perry whose personal sacrifice I fully understood when I read the stories where he first appears.

This entire series is such a sweet read, covering emotionally complex issues in a way that makes sense. I want a grandmother like Nell! She is heaps of fun, sees the positive in everything, and knows that not everyone can learn the same way, which is why Perry ends up being homeschooled 2 days a week and attending school for the rest. It is never openly said (as far as I can remember) but it's obvious that Perry has some form of Autism or Aspergers, and the way his adopted brother and sisters view him is touching. I loved how Layla brightens everyone's life after their dear sister Tishkin passes away. 

I admire Saffron's parents for sticking with their way of life and not minding what other people think, for picking meaningful names, for being able to follow their dreams. Liking handicrafts made me like Saffron's dad being a wood carver and a baker – the naming books sounds exquisite! This is a series I'll reread because they are touching, and the illustrations heighten the meaning behind the story. A family focused read with lots of grandmother magic!

Find out more on Glenda's website.

Suggested read
For another series which focuses on a family check out The Chocolate Box Girls by Cathy Cassidy and includes Sweet Honey (Children's, 11 years +, 10E/10E)

How to create magic when writing about serious issues for children by Glenda Millard

Nayu: It is such a pleasure to find out more from Glenda how she write a series which covers so many challenges in life that ideally people wouldn't face but find they have to. A huge thank you Glenda for creating a life enriching series.

There are times when most of us need a diversion from life’s difficulties. And what better way to do that than to read a book? For there is magic in books; carpet-ride magic, that transports us to places we’ve never been; perhaps to Treasure Island, 40,000 leagues under the sea or even down a rabbit hole to Wonderland. This kind of magic is capable of transforming us into people we are not; into heroes, warriors or little princes from faraway planets.

And then there is that other kind of book-magic where we discover characters who are just like us, from families like ours. Characters who think like us, act like us and feel the way we do. They might be shy, guilty, angry, embarrassed or broken-hearted.
Age or gender is no barrier, we are interested to see how these characters react, how they cope with feelings of loneliness, fear or oddness. Engaging with literary characters such as these is, at best, like meeting someone in real life and finding comfort in discovering a shared experience, a common background. We feel less alone, more hopeful and courageous.

Each of the seven books of the Kingdom of Silk series is based on events that commonly occur in real families. In the 6th book, ‘The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk,’ Saffron, the youngest of six daughters, is ill. While she and her family anxiously await diagnosis, Saffron reflects on something her grandmother told her. Books are many things, Nell says, lullabies for the weary, ointment for the wounded, armour for the fearful and nests for those in need of a home. This has been, and continues to be, my experience as a reader and one that I hope readers of my books (both children and adults) will enjoy.

I have been a reader for far longer than I’ve been a writer. The books I love best are always the ones I can lose myself in. For that is what we do when we are immersed in a book. We lose all sense of self and become. Yes, we become; someone else, somewhere else. Since I have become a writer, my motivation is to write books that my readers can lose themselves in. I want to cast the spell of becoming over my readers. I want them to weep for the loss of baby Tishkin, to sing for joy at the coming of Perry Angel, to see the daisy-covered hills and smell the eucalyptus trees of the small town of Cameron’s Creek, far away over oceans and seas in the great southern land of Australia.

Nell Silk uses imaginative play, ‘dress-ups’ and her own brand of magic to communicate with children. I am soon to be blessed with a grandchild of my own. I hope to be a Nell kind of grandmother. One who still remembers what it was like to be a little girl, wanting people to explain things, give me answers to questions that were important to me, in a way that was loving, kind and understandable. One who believes that children have a right to answers. And most of all, one who can find the right words to talk about the things that are hardest to say.

So if there is magic in what children’s authors write when touching on difficult topics, I suggest it is this; we do our best to enchant the reader, to cast the spell of ‘becoming’ over them, making it possible for them to believe in the worlds we have created and feel for the people who inhabit them.

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