Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield
Page Truly and the Journey to Nearandfar
by L. B. Gschwandtner
Kids ages: 7-11
Kindle e-book: AUD S $2.99
Paperback: AUD S $9.99 (Amazon prices)
When non-believer Page Truly leaves a tooth under her pillow for the tooth fairy, she can’t begin to imagine the adventure that’s in store for her. Thanks to the antics of brothers Max and Michael, the three are taken on a whirlwind ride to Nearandfar with tooth fairy (only one of many), Serenfay and Bag, her, well, bag. Unlike regular bags, however, this one can communicate and for the most part has a lot more common sense than the flighty fairy. Having been shrunk to fairy size, the children find themselves in the Bog, a once beautiful place now inhabited by the despicable Looger, a slime-spitting bug and his equally despicable minions. Looger wants a fairy wand and has stolen Serenfay’s as well as a new experimental model that looks a lot like a mobile phone. Now that creepy critter has what he wants, he plans on eating Page’s captured brothers—as well as her, if he can catch her, that is.
Having been alerted to the happenings in the Bog by a spy, the fairies of Nearandfar mount an attack on the repulsive Looger and company, a war to rival the wariest of wars, and it is only through Page’s quick thinking and insight that her brothers are saved and Looger captured. But what to do with the bug-eyed slime spitting beetle? Page, it transpires, has the perfect solution.
Kids have loved fairy stories probably since the first one tottered upon the earth. I, for one, adored them as a youngster, and until around age eight my only goal in life was to be a fairy. (Sadly this is just one of many dreams that never came to pass.) There is a lot to like where this particular story is concerned, not least of which is Page’s unique solution to the problem of Looger, a dark force that has impacted not only on his environment, but on every living creature within it. In a world where kids are used to the kill or be killed mentality of video games, it’s a pleasure to find a story that demonstrates how the most obvious solution to a problem is not necessarily the best. So, too, it demonstrates creativity and compassion, and shows readers how that which is evident on the surface is not necessarily what lies beneath.
Another big plus with this story is its action. The plot takes off at a good clip and never slows. This is an absolute must when it comes to keeping young minds engaged. Descriptions are well thought out and kept to a minimum, allowing the cast of characters to carry most of the load. Two of its brightest stars are Serenfay and Bag; the banter between these two is snappy and amusing. Page’s character, too, is well developed, as are the Nearandfar fairies and Looger. Even Max and Michael, whose roles are relatively minor, are well developed.
This is a story that at its heart explores forgiveness, love, courage and the importance of having dreams. It also delves into the nature of good and evil and subtly explores what it takes for one to become the other.
While this is Gschwandtner’s first novel for children, she is no stranger to fiction having published a number of short prose and poetry pieces, as well as her well-received first novel: The Naked Gardener. In addition she has received awards from: Writer’s Digest, the Lorian Hemingway short fiction competition, and Tom Howard Short Story Contest.
Jenny Mounfield is the author of a three published novels for children, her most recent being, The Ice-cream Man (Ford Street Publishing www.fordstreetpublishing.com) as well as a number of short stories for both children and adults published in print and online. She has reviewed children’s fiction for e-zine, Buzz Words since 2006 and has recently completed her first novel for adults. She lives in south-east Queensland Australia with her husband and three teenage children.