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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'The Grimstones' series by Asphyxia

  Received from the Publisher

From the Hatched BLURB:

Hello, my name is Martha Grimstone. Shall I tell you my best secret? One day I'm going to be Lady Martha the Magnificent. I don't know what my special talent is, but I hope to find it any day now.

I live in a grand old house in a valley full of rare and precious herbs, which my grandfather uses to heal and comfort people. But they haven't worked on Mama; she cries a lake of tears every night. If only I could get into Grandpa Grimstone's apothecary and work my very own spell!

Hatched is a gothic fairytale about a girl who keeps her secrets safe between two pieces of cardboard, a mother who sews garments lined with love, and a giant egg that seems to take forever to hatch.

Martha Grimstone lives with her mother and grandfather in a dilapidated house built by her Grimstone ancestors. Her grandfather, Elcho, is a talented apothecary, using the many herbs and plants that grow in abundance around the old house to heal people. But Elcho cannot cure Velvetta Grimstone; Martha’s mother who cries for her lost love and Martha’s father, Mortimer. Also living in the Grimstone house is Aunt Gertrude – a terrible cook and Martha’s tutor – and August; the resident repairman and gardener whose family has served the Grimstone’s for many generations. And of course there’s father, who rests in the family crypt.

Everyone in the Grimstone household has their chores and talents. Mother is a talented seamstress, grandfather is a respected healer, August the reliable housekeeper and Aunt Gertrude, who runs the household like a navy captain. The only person who feels out of place in the Grimstone family is Martha – and that’s just because she hasn’t found her special talent yet. But all that’s about to change. . .

‘The Grimstones’ is a new children’s book series by Asphyxia.

‘The Grimstones’ is a book series companion to a puppet show of the same name. Asphyxia is a circus performer, puppeteer and writer. ‘The Grimstones’ puppet plays have toured Australia and overseas, and have now been adapted into children’s books (a sort of companion to the plays) for readers eight and older.

The heart of the story is a family trying to repair itself. Martha’s mother misses her father, Mortimer, who died when Martha was a child. Velvetta visits Mortimer’s crypt daily and not even grandpa Elcho’s herbs can stop her river of tears.

Martha has started a diary as she tries to grasp her special Grimstone family talent – and within its pages she draws pictures of the plants that grow wild around the old dilapidated house, as well as some of Elcho’s remedy recipes.

‘The Grimstones’ is a Gothic series – a cross between Mary Shelley and Tim Burton for the younger set. And I know that sounds odd and scary for younger readers. The puppets do have a ghostly, drawn appearance – with black-rimmed eyes and white complexions. And there is talk of a family crypt and the death of Martha’s father. But the books have real heart – at its crux, ‘The Grimstones’ is about family. It’s about moving on from tragedy and appreciating what you have instead of what you’ve lost. And Martha is a charming young narrator with a detailed eye and endless empathy for her mother’s heartache.

The novels are chapter books, but instead of illustrations, photos from the puppet play accompany the story. And this is the real brilliance of ‘The Grimstones’ – Asphyxia’s set designs and puppets are absolutely gorgeous. At the end of ‘Hatched’ there are pictures from the author’s workshop, where we see that mother Velvetta’s little Bobbin & Co. sewing machine was handcrafted from a piece of wood.

‘The Grimstones’ series is Gothic fairytale, told in puppet pictures and with a really lovely, heartfelt story at its centre. The books are sort of the best of Tim Burton (with lovely Gothicism and intricate puppetry) with a delicate but difficult story at its centre, not dissimilar to Neil Gaiman and the like. I think this is a fantastic series for younger readers – especially if parents take their children to the puppet show and give them an extra dose of this fantastical world.


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