Just Your Ordinary Farm
Over the last couple of years I have read two juvenile/young adult books by Tad Williams & Deborah Beale about a place that is not just your ordinary farm. It’s anything but that. And I would have loved to be able to visit this farm to experience its slowly revealed marvels. It’s a place where dragons bellow and unicorns thunder across the countryside.
The books don’t just appeal to the younger persons but the younger old people like me who don’t care that they are reading books not in our age group! As a child I had a very vivid imagination (and still do) and was the local story teller for the other kids.
At that time my stories often combined the Wild West and fantasy with some sort of horse or unicorn theme. You know, riding along in the old covered wagon pulled by fantastic horses of all colours with unicorns dancing around the wagon train. What fun we used to have! Until the outlaws came riding on dragons or Herne of the Wild Hunt came racing from the sky. What fun we used to have when things were simpler and our imaginations weren’t handed ready made enjoyment.
So I found Ordinary Farm a lot of fun and a producer of nostalgia for simpler times.
As is often the case with Tad’s writing, the first book eases its way slowly to something evolving to extraordinary as the pages turn. He is a master of building suspense without making it obvious. Just when you get ready for a somewhat sedate read the story turns on its head.
Ordinary Farm is named that just to be contrary! The farm is home to a diverse, to say the least, mix of animals including humans. But let’s not reveal the surprises too much. Now how to review these books without spoiling the read for anyone.
I really dislike reading reviews that tell all. What’s the point of reading the book or watching the movie if you already know the main features of the story line. Tantalising hints are my objective.
However some stage needs to be set. So let’s just say the main protagonists are two ‘children’.
Two Ordinary Children
There is Lucinda who appears to be a normal pubescent girl; you know the kind that does everything possible to make her mother’s life hell. Lucinda has left her brains on hold until she grows out of the teenage ‘soapies’ stage; the teen boy stars, the clothes worn and the girls involved. Like many people she acts as if this is real life and not a staged make believe world!
Tyler, her brother, is a prepubescent boy with all the traits of ‘no-one else in the world exists’ except the other boys who are his close friends. Along with this is a complete disregard for anyone not living on gaming. Tyler loves his play devices, has a vivid imagination and plunges into things headfirst without any regard to consequences.
These two are about to be pitched into the adventure of their lives.
One Extraordinary Mother
Lucinda and Tyler’s mother has certainly found that raising two kids isn’t easy, especially on her own. Her husband walked out and now has a second family. The story implies that he doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge his first family’s existence.
Desperately trying to get herself a life, she decides to go to a retreat for part of the summer. While having the usual family debate about where the two children will stay, a letter arrives for her. The letter reveals that, fortuitously, a long lost uncle appears and he wants to have the children come and stay at his farm over the summer. The overall timing is very convenient. It just happens to coincide the dates of the retreat with the holiday on the ‘farm’. Isn’t it amazing what turns out when you are the authors!
A furious, hurtful verbal ‘no we won’t’ battle ensues but fortunately mother wins. And the two ‘kiddies’ are packed off to the farm. Good thing for them it was the bedlam of this ordinary farm they were heading to and not the notorious Bedlam.
The Ordinary (not) Support Cast
Tad and Deborah have extremely eclectic imaginations so the sky is the limit with the support roles. From the past, from myth and fairy tale, through a portal the ancillary beings emerge. All have special parts to play; to build up the atmosphere and angst that drives these tales.
The two authors combine a mix of fantasy genres and include a touch of science fiction with the mad scientist and his gadgets. There is comic fantasy (to some people like me with a slightly skewed sense of humour), portals to another place, time travel and contemporary myth. The contemporary myth varies from the norm as the two worlds are evenly visible. And, although I am waiting on the next book to confirm this, there is some anticipation of romantic fantasy. And there is a touch of dark fantasy threading its way through the two books.
Heroes yet Unsung
Do the two children contain the ability to save the ordinary farm? Initially one wonders about this; do they have a role or are they onlookers. The stories progress on a straight forward path until the bizarre starts appearing, like small hiccups to the plot. The time travel certainly is linear. It’s just the lines keep changing direction. Oh what fun!
Now let’s go back to the question! Are these two kids the heroes? At first it appears they won’t and may even be casualties with their mistakes and the tunnel vision of Tyler. You get the feeling you would like to shake Lucinda and throttle Tyler (no actual child harm meant here but boy can those two be frustrating). I guess this gives some real life feel to the story, as parents and friends of parents must often get these feelings with the young!
Well if or when you get the books you will find out the answer to this question.
A NOT so Ordinary Ending for these Children. And what is to come?
On their journey through the story so far Lucinda and Tyler are finally starting to work like a brother and sister team. As a result they are slowly improving from the empty brained teenage girl and obnoxious young boy twit to somewhat resembling actual thinking humans. Just imagine what their future holds.
These first two books leave a number of questions unanswered. Therefore the end is not yet known as I believe there is another book on the way. If Tad and Deborah keep to Tad’s usual trend the next could be the last book or not.
I highly recommend these books for the young or young hearted who just like a good exciting read.
Hi Helen, This sounds great! My daughter is an almost 10 year old voracious reader and she is constantly looking for new things to read. She loves fantasy and I’m so excited to discover this here on your site. It sounds perfect for her age. Your review was tantalizing – I can tell how much you enjoy a good read! Thanks so much for this!
You are very welcome Sarah. I find well written books for young people are often better than most books for adults. So please feel free to browse here and find her something good. I suggest the Ordinary Farm books if she hasn’t already read them. Cheers, Helen
Sounds very like “The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe”, or “Tales of Narnia” type of stories – something interesting and fascinating all at the same time – real adventure and excitement. We all need some of this in our lives these days, don’t we !!
We love reading about mythical creatures like dragons and unicorns. They are portrayed as such amazing creatures.
This is a great description of a potentially great read.
You have a really good aptitude for saying just enough to whet your readers appetite.
It has certainly made me want to read more.
Hi guys, I am so glad you visited my ‘fantasy project’ and caught the fact that I am only trying to tantalise folks. A full review of anything often spoils the story for me and I don’t want to do that to anyone else. I am currently reading an eBook for someone who caught my site off of Facebook. He asked me to review his book and I will as soon as I finish reading it. One thing the book has shown me is the need to do things properly as taught in WA. I had to un-PDF the book into a Word document and reformat it so I could read it. The original font was tiny and I had to zoom it up so far that I was constantly moving the page around so I could read everything on it. I am enjoying this book called “The Thief of Time”. I will post the review once done so keep in touch as it is a good Urban Fantasy and you would probably like it.
Hello across the miles, Miss Helen!
It’s been a while since I dropped in for a visit. My oh my have you and your site blossomed with your new pages and the flavor of your recommendations. I found this post delightful and humorous for the referrals to the teen and pre-teen in the story line.
Do you think this story would be over the head of a 6 year old? She loves to have me read to her and a good story more and more keeps her interest even though her attention can be scattered if she is having a ‘disorganized’ day (she is special needs).
Now I am looking for a link in your site to go and get this little story and I think I may have missed it. Is it downloadable on the Kobo eReader?
Linda, The book is listed as all ages. From young children to old ones like me! I believe your daughter will enjoy it even if some goes over her head. The way you read it to her, tonal inflections et al, will make all the difference. However I think you will enjoy the story too and that will get across to her. So give it a go. She can reread it later in her life to pick up what she missed. Kids get lots of things adults don’t give them credit for. I haven’t put links on the page yet as I am trying to amalgamate all my affiliates on one page to cut down the over all number. However I will go in now and put a link there just for you! Thanks for commenting.