Hello, I’m Martha Grimstone, and at last I’m here in the big city attending the Queen’s Music Academy, where so many famous musicians made their beginnings.
I have my very own wing at Lady Sterling’s manor, and I’m excited beyond words, for soon I’ll learn how to use my music to turn back the storms that threaten my valley. I simply cannot wait for my teachers to show me all I need to know. But why won’t they let me play my own compositions….?
“The Grimstones: Music School” is a gothic fairytale about a new friend with the wrong name, a family of uncooperative bats, and what happens when a school of very great tradition encounters all the four seasons in one day.
I don’t generally read middle grade fiction but my ten year old daughter’s enthusiasm for this title had me intrigued enough to dedicate an afternoon to this little book. Initially I was skeptical. Is this another book capitalising on the gothic/steampunk trend in children’s and adolescent fiction at the moment? I doubted it would reach the high standard set by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). It didn’t, but then again not many authors do. However, what Asphyxia’s story lacks in literary merit she makes up for in other ways. Her world is undeniably spellbinding and her central protagonist Martha is appealingly eccentric. However, what impressed me most was the unique approach to storytelling that utilised a variety of text types including letters, diary entries, lists, notes, invitations and a selection of mesmerizing illustrations and photographs.
I loved the quirky and organic nature of this book. Students will undoubtedly enjoy exploring the story behind the book through the companion website and online clips. Having done this myself I did question whether this journey would have been more faithfully reflected through an even larger book with greater emphasis on the images and less on text. In short, I wondered if the project may have functioned better as a picture book.
Although this story is clearly marketed towards middle grade students I feel strongly that it may draw a much broader audience than this. There is great scope for using this with students across a range of curriculum areas, including the Language Arts, Visual Arts, Music, Drama and Technology. It should hold strong appeal as a shared text for classes in the lower end of the middle years and it provides substantial opportunities for students of all grade bands to investigate multiliteracies thus supporting their own text production.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden
**Allen & Unwin provided me with a free review copy of this book. I have otherwise not been paid or rewarded for any review or endorsement of this book and the above opinions reflect my unbiased view.