You may recall that a wee while ago I had the great good fortune to win a contest on Kate's blog, as a result of which I received a signed copy of Kate's first book, The Dread Crew. (I feel like a bit of a charlatan about winning, as all I had to do was complete a meme about book stuff - you'd have had to use cattle prods to keep me away from that, frankly.)
Anyway, the book duly arrived and I fondled it in awe - it really is a beautiful book. I mean physically beautiful - it is beautifully bound and the illustrations are just fabulous. At the risk of sounding ancient, they really don't illustrate children's books like that anymore, and they should. It sat around in my house over Christmas and various people at various times picked it up, stroked it, flipped through its pages.
I planned to keep it in its pristine condition (I am notoriously poor at keeping books "nice". All my books end up with heavily creased spines as I read them one-handed in various situations, and with scratched and dented covers from being stuffed hurriedly into my handbag as I leave for work - have to have something to read on the bus.) I must confess, however, that I have failed. My pre-publication, author-signed copy is looking a little dented and scruffy. Once I had started reading it, I couldn't leave it behind so into the bag it went, beside the hairbrush and the heirloom collection of old bus tickets and Sainsbury's receipts.
The Dread Crew is a children's book, but like all the best children's books, that just means that adults can ostensibly buy it for someone else and read it themselves on the sly. I knew in advance that I would like at least some aspects of it, for Kate is a Nova Scotian and the story is set in the deep woods of the Maritimes, my favourite part of the world. And indeed, I was not disappointed in that. But the book as a whole was..........I find it hard to pinpoint the precise, correct word. Entrancing, I think is closest. I would not want to even try to describe the plot, involving as it does exceptionally smelly pirates, a fearsome wood ship, peacocks and goats locked in low-key warfare, an adventurous, talented and insightful grandpa and a Gooperator.
It's the kind of book that, as a child, I particularly loved: a clever and resourceful child (that would be me, of course) discovers that behind the facade of normal life, strange and wonderful things not only exist, but thrive, and are there for the discovering.
Whether or not you have already learned to appreciate Kate's wonderfully lyrical writing style from her blog, you will enjoy her book. The subject matter may be different (different from just about anything else you have ever read, probably!) but Kate's unique, startlingly original turns of phrase, her vividly quirky descriptions and most of all her sly, earthy humour are all there. With pirates. Pirates! How can you resist?
Thank you Kate. My now slightly battered and grubby copy will be treasured. Like fine junk!