Thursday, 13 September 2012

John and Carole E Barrowman: Hollow Earth - a review

Guest review by Gordana Nesterovic:

I recently listened to the audio book Hollow Earth, read by one of the authors, John Barrowman.  I usually listen to audiobooks while walking my dog and I can say that my dog had the walks of his life with this one, as I stayed out for ages wanting to hear more and more of what happened.  I enjoyed it so much that I then read the print copy to make sure I did not miss anything.

The main characters are twelve year old twins, Mat and Em who have very special powers. The story begins in the National Gallery, in London, where they live with their mother, a talented artist who does a restoration work. Once the extent of their powers is discovered, they are forced to flee to an island off the west coast of Scotland to be protected by their grandfather who has certain powers of his own.

The story twists and turns and is truly gripping. The facts are intertwined with fiction in a wonderful way and the book is inspiring. This amazing story could be a useful tool for teaching different subjects. I could see that children (and adults) would want to visit the National Gallery in London as well as other art galleries after reading it, and I think they would look at art work in different way. I would hope that children would want to be on a train journey from London to Glasgow and on to the small coastal town of Largs from where you could be taken on a boat trip to neighbouring islands. This book could help teaching about Scotland and its history, about art or just get the imagination flowing. I, myself, could not help wondering what artwork was the inspiration for which scene in the book, what was real and what was fiction. I also liked how, at the end of the book, the authors acknowledge that feeling, and give a few facts about where the inspiration for certain things came from. I am sure that the book will make children want to draw as well, and maybe the drawings will be an inspiration for stories of their own. The relationships between some of the characters are heart-warming, as well as thought provoking, and could provide a platform for discussions on many different levels.

The book is aimed at children aged 9 do 12, but I would not entirely agree with that. I think it is a wonderful story that would appeal to young adults and adults as well in a similar way to the Harry Potter series. The end of the book does not give us all the answers and I hope we will not have to wait very long for the sequel. I could also imagine a film. Both versions of the book, audio and print, can be found in the Children's Literature Collection of Strathclyde University Library, or try your public library. For more information, including a link to the Hollow Earth website, see John Barrowman's Books page.

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