The Children’s Book Review | July 2, 2019
Written by Grimly Darkwood
Age Range: 7-10
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Journey Fiction (2018)
What to Expect: Fun, playful language, fantasy, and exciting narrative.
What makes Peculiar Hill peculiar? It might be the fact that the tomatoes purr or that toast always lands butter-side up on a Thursday, or maybe it is the number of tourists who get eaten by bogeys. Whatever the answer might be, the inhabitants make the best of it: from the Strange show to the glossy brochure advertising the Vale of Strange as a “government recommended” holiday, everyone does their best to treat the threat of being eaten as one of the perks of life. When Peter first comes to live at Peculiar Hill, he is amused by the strangeness all around him, and the grown-ups’ attempts to be casually cautious about it. However, Peter soon learns that there is a dark secret that lies beneath the strangeness and, that there is active resistance to his attempts to combat the evil he has discovered. Can Peter really save the inhabitants of Peculiar Hill from themselves?
The Shop on Peculiar Hill, with its quirky language and dry humor, is reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events. This book also pays attention to material details: Pete Lyon’s cover illustration feels similar to the minutely detailed illustrations of Discworld or Spiderwick, and the page-design and printing are equally gothic, making the volume feel substantial and well-produced. Like Lemony Snickett, the pseudonymous author of Peculiar Hill treats readers to complex chains of clauses and wonderfully random descriptive details, trusting them to tease a narrative from his playful language. By far the most enjoyable feature of the novel, however, is the hero, Peter, whose quiet pragmatism in the midst of all this madness makes him instantly relatable. Readers are invited to see Peculiar Hill for what it really is: a parody of the ridiculousness of much of the adult world. The Shop on Peculiar Hill is not just a wonderfully entertaining fantasy adventure, therefore, but a gentle invitation to readers to expand their understanding of language and to look closely at how grown-ups use it. For those who loved A Series of Unfortunate Events and Spiderwick, this series looks like it might be a promising successor.
Click here to sample two free chapters of The Shop on Peculiar Hill.
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About the Author
Grimly Darkwood was born in the year nineteen hundred and blinkety blonk, which was a very long time ago. In those days, things were very different from how they are today. Carts were more common than cars, cellphones had not been invented, and if you were very lucky, the highlight of your day was to find a free plastic spaceman in a packet of corn flakes.
Grimly thought that the sights and sounds of such days were gone forever. He was therefore surprised when, while studying the night sky with his telescope, he began to observe life on a planet which had much in common with those distant days.
The Shop on Peculiar Hill is the first of Grimly’s accounts of life in a part of that distant planet, a vicinity known as The Vale of Strange. He is determined that more such tales will follow, in spite of attacks from mysterious ‘intergalactic forces’ which, he says, are trying to sabotage his telescope and clog up his ball point pen.
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. This non-biased review of “The Shop on Peculiar Hill” was sponsored* by Grimly Darkwood. Learn more about getting a book review …