Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Song of the Winns The Gerander Trilogy Book One by Frances Watts

As a new year begins I am excited to review a new Australian book, the first in a trilogy – The Gerander Trilogy. In Book One The Song of the Winns we meet our four heroes, the triplets Alistair, Alex and Alice and their new friend and fellow ginger mouse Tibby Rose.

Frances Watts does not reveal the story of this Kingdom until page 177 and normally I would not reveal so much of the plot in this blog but I do think this information sets the scene. Long long ago the kingdom of Greater Gerander was one large united country then the queen had triplets and as an inheritance the land was divided into three countries Souris, Shetlock and Gerander each with a ruler. Over time circumstances change and Gerander is overtaken by Souris for the usual strategic reasons of wealth, borders and access to sea ports. Zanzibar, the rightful heir to the kingdom of Gerander has been in hiding and in prison. Now there are those fighting for reunification but while Souris has a queen (the author hints that she is an evil character), Shetlock has a democracy. While all this sounds very political and it is please don't be put off, The Song of the Winns is at its heart an adventure involving children who are on a quest to rescue their brother who has been kidnapped.

All the characters in this book (except for one very helpful owl) are mice. There is no trace of the human world and so this book is not about mice adapting human dwellings, foods etc for their own use as you have might have read in Tumtum and Nutmeg. Each chapter alternates between Alex and Alice as they journey to find Alistair and then the adventures of Alistair and Tibby Rose as they travel to take Alistair home. Along the way they meet true friends such as Timmy the Winns. “Alistair found himself looking into the amused eyes of a very striking mouse indeed. Tall and slim, his fur was a deep midnight blue - all except his left arm and right leg, where were colours Alistair had seen on mice before but never in such a jumble. There was brown and white and black and grey and …yes, even a flash of ginger.” Alistair is a ginger mouse and so is Tibby Rose and this colour shows their link to Gerander and means their lives are in constant danger. Fortunately Alistair has some experience of dyes and so early on the two companions use blackberries to stain their fur purple.

Being a ginger mouse is a vital part of the mystery but be warned it is not completely solved leaving the way open for Book Two where I am sure we will read more about Zanzibar, the Winns river and the destiny of the triplets themselves.

This book made me laugh out loud, gasp with fright, lick my lips (yes there is some yummy food), and above all else it made me want to read and read and read. For younger Primary readers this book is a delight. It would be a lovely book to have as a read-a-loud, a thrilling bedtime story for the whole family to enjoy. If you enjoyed Tumtum and Nutmeg and are ready for a longer story, or you have discovered Frankel Mouse by Odo Hirsch, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, or A Rats Tale by Tor Seidler then this might be the next book for you to explore. You can read more about the author and I have found a set of teaching notes too.

Take a close look at the cover - it is charming and shows Alistair and Tibby Rose and most importantly a small scarf which will be vital in Book Two.

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