Book Review – Poppy Ogopogo by Susan Faw

Here’s a fun fact about me: When my son was little, he wanted me to read Dr. Seuss’s Fox In Socks every night for months. If you’ve ever read Fox In Socks, it was Seuss’s attempt to punish the world for wanting to read to their kids. It’s one long, absolutely brutal tongue twister. Imagine stumbling around drunk in the darkness while Luke Luck, his duck, and a mass of tweetle beetles are putting clothespins on your tongue. And then laughing at you when you try to talk. That’s Fox In Socks.

Amazingly, I got pretty good at it after a few months. By that time, I’d mostly memorized the book and had enough practice to know when to slow down and when to speed up and what places were gotchas.

Now my son is older and unless things get blowed up real good, he’s not interested. As a result, I don’t look into children’s books anymore unless something slides across the table at me.

Hence, Poppy Ogopogo.

First up, for those who don’t know, the Ogopogo is a lake monster in a Canada whose sightings go back over a century. Whether the critter is real or not, it’s usually described as a long, snakelike creature that does sinister things like swimming in a lake without a permit. Canadians are big on lake swimming permits.

Poppy Ogopogo, like a lot of children’s books, is a collaborative affair with words by Susan Faw and art by Alison Baker-Rasmussen. In children’s stories, the art is just as important as the words and must match with the text. It wouldn’t do to have a sweeping, epic tale of love at first sight and have all the pictures be charcoal drawings of demons. Unless it was about falling in love with a demon, but that probably won’t be a children’s story any time soon.

Instead of a story about demons, Poppy Ogopogo is perfectly matched tale of an Ogopogo who just wants some friends and the butterflies who make fun of her for not being a butterfly paired with gorgeous art to bring the characters and actions to life. It also confirmed my bias that butterflies are total jerk-faces.

By and by, catastrophe happens and Poppy finds herself in a conundrum. Whether or not to save the butterflies who treat her much like Luke Luck and those damned tweetle beetles treated me. It’s the perfect lesson to teach children and teach them early. And often, if the state of the world is any indication.

If you want to know what choice Poppy makes, you’ll just have to buy the book. It’s a great tale for young kids, especially those who might have an interest in xenobiology (yes, it’s a thing). But even those kids who probably wouldn’t want to spend their lives hunting down Ogopogos, Sasquatches, and Chupacabras should still be able to get into the vibe of beautifully-written story and the gorgeous artwork.

Poppy Ogopogo isn’t beautiful like the butterflies that live on the shores of the lake. Their mean laughter makes her sad, so instead she plays with her imaginary friends.

One day, the butterflies are swept out into the lake. Will Poppy forgive those who hurt her and become a hero?

Or will she leave them to their cruel fate?

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Book Review – Seer of Souls by Susan Faw

To save the world, they must be born of the world. The battles between the Kingdom of Cathair and the Primordial forces at Daimon Ford are the stuff of legends. Desperate to save the world, two immortals choose to be reborn as mortals, wiping away all memory of their divine existence. But even as Cayden, and his twin sister Avery make the ultimate sacrifice, other gods are plotting against them. At the point of birth, divine intervention and powerful, ancient magic are called upon to snatch their souls from the dying flesh of a princess’s poisoned womb. The royal family of the Kingdom of Cathair has always been the physical Spirit Shield of the world. With the murder of the entire royal family, who guards the secrets within the castle walls? Can the magic of the gods, old and new, ensure the safe keeping of the immortal treasure within, and if they fail, who will choose for the unborn? Helga, the goddess of the underworld, is not amused and has set into play a diabolical scheme of her own. There is a little place called Sanctuary by the Sea and chaos is about to pay a visit… This is Seer of Souls, Book one of the Spirit Shield Saga, a fantasy read for all ages.

Some reviewers have said that this book started slow and only picked up momentum about half-way through. I respectfully disagree; the pace moves along quite nicely throughout the book, it’s just that the pace (and the tension) amp up at the end and, in comparison, make the beginning seem tame.

That’s not a bad thing.

Take your average fantasy story and you’ll see a handful of commonalities: evil king or queen, outsiders, some magic, maybe a dragon or two. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a damsel in need of saving and a plucky band of ne’er-do-wells out to save the day. Seer Of Souls has some of those things, which is to be expected of a fantasy novel. Other things, such as the dragons and damsels in distress, are lacking. Again, not a bad thing. There’s really only so much you can do with damsels in distress when you don’t have a train handy. Call me a traditionalist, I just prefer my damsels in distress to be tied to railroad tracks by a mustache-twirling baddie.

And don’t get me started on dragons.

What Seer Of Souls does have that a lot of the fantasy genre is lacking is a clever bit of intrigue. Instead of huge armies clashing on forlorn battlefields and wizards cracking reality square in the nose, what Faw gives us is a clever way to infiltrate. She’s taken the fantasy genre and given it a good, solid whack on the keister. Maybe it’s just because I don’t read that much fantasy (see my previous bit about damsels and trains), but the change from huge armies clashing made the story seem fresh. More than that, it made the story seem much more personal. This doesn’t have a huge cast of caricatures, it has some realistic people who aren’t certain they’re always doing the right thing. It’s got people with powers who don’t completely understand those powers. It’s also got a antagonist with questionable fashion tastes. All of that makes for a story you can fall into.

This is only book one of The Spirit Shield Saga, but it’s off to a good start. I hope Faw expands on her world – especially the Primordials – and keeps up with the intrigue in future releases.


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