Here is a page with some of my lovely kid readers’ views on my nonsense adventure for children of all ages:
(and a few adult professions following)
Professional Reviews for Curd
HiT Entertainment: "We really enjoyed the inventive, witty narrative and surreal humour in the book. We can see that Curd the Lion might work very well as a family feature film."
tfou (children’s arm of France’s TF1 TV): "I think it should be a film but we don’t make film at tfou.”
Lovereading4 kids review. Louise Weir, April 2009 (biggest promotion ever given to single book by this website: 7+, 9+, 11+, Book of Month, Debut of Month):
“Reminiscent of the writing of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, this brilliant debut children's novel is completely unputdownable as well as being almost uncategoris- able. The author has succeeded in delivering on a book that incorporates a terrifically funny yet mysterious story, full of larger-than-life highly improbable characters that I couldn’t begin to do justice to by describing them here, other than to say they are wild and wacky and completely original. He’s also delivered a story that is full of tongue- in-cheek humour and skilful wordplay. It’s 174 pages of pure unadulterated pleasure and deserves to be huge.
…this book will be loved by anyone from 7 to 107.”
Dec. 09. Made one of their Books of the Year and Debuts of Year. Was top of their chart in the week before Christmas. Prime personal choice of co-founder.
Professor John Gray, philosopher & author of ‘Straw Dogs’ and ‘Black Mass’. “Alan Gilliland's Curd stories are the best thing that have happened to children’s liter- ature since Alice went through the looking-glass. I was particularly taken by the Labyrinth chapter. The whole book seemed to me delightful - in the magical tradition of George Macdonald, but with an extra dimension of nonsense and wit of its own.
Gilliland’s mix of upside-down logic and serious whimsy is nonsense of the highest calibre.”
Tony Benn has written: “a lovely story book with super illustrations for children of all ages”.
Nobel laureate, Derek Walcott, of the illustrations: “excellent work…” (He ate my lunch at Hay Book Festival)
Chris Bond, Yorkshire Post (extracts from full-page review/article, 7 Nov. 08**): “His wonderfully crafted debut will enchant children and amuse adults in equal measure.
Improbable characters leap from the page amid a sea of riddles and rhymes as the tale unfolds and, like so many great works of children’s literature, Gilliland wrote it for his own children. The whimsical story is beautifully illustrated by Gilliland’s own pencil drawings, which hark back to a time when children’s books weren’t part of some huge merchandising drive.”
Steve Craggs, Northern Echo (extracts from review, 21 Oct. 08***): “There’s a hint of Hobbit, a touch of Alice in Wonderland, an echo of Lear and even a nod in the direc- tion of Terry Pratchett in this phantasmagorical fantasy quest which is an epic enter- tainment for both children and adults alike.
Nonsensical and whimsical – and beautifully illustrated – this story is as delightful on the eye as it is dazzling in the imagination.
Go with the flow and you’re in a magical world in which impossible creatures leap from the pages, riddles have to be unravelled and a mighty battle looms ominously at the lair of the Great Raven.”
Andrew Ffrench, Oxford Mail (extracts from full-page review/article, 5Dec*): “Gilliland’s tale, of a bunch of soft toys that go on a fantastic journey to recover a precious brooch nabbed by a raven, is pitched just right for children of a certain age who are bound to ask: "Do they get the brooch back?"
In the wrong hands, a story about a bunch of soft toys going on a great adventure could be sickly sweet, but Gilliland succeeds in making his story funny and mysteri- ous.
The grandfather from Billinghurst, West Sussex, has produced such a distinctive story, both in terms of presentation, and imaginative reach, that I feel convinced he has a hit on his hands.”
Margaret Mallett, teacher of teachers, in ‘Choosing & Using” (winner of 2011 UK Literacy Society Award):
(section preface) “In a necessarily selective account, I have been concerned to pick out some of the best writers and most memorable titles which have survived over the years and which I think are likely to continue to be read.”
On Curd (excerpt): “Four soft toys go off on a journey to to find a stolen brooch. Sounds cosy? It is not. In fact this is an exciting addition to fantasy novels for chil- dren from about seven years, although it is also a most engrossing adventure story.
The pencil drawing by the author fit the written text perfectly and add atmosphere and often energy to the story.
It is not surprising that this story has been compared to the work of Lewis Car- roll and Edward Lear: riddles and word play, mysteries and surprises are won- derfully interwoven. The play on names is superb.”
She wrote to me afterwards: “In ‘Choosing and Using’ I wanted to help student teach- ers know about some of the very best books for children after my lifetime in teaching children and students. Your book about Curd the Lion is hugely original and imagination stretching. My grandchildren are all 4 and under, but I will be getting them each a copy to treasure in the future. I wonder what you are working on now.
You deserve every success.”
John Cohen, Editor, Reading Time (journal of Children’s Book Council of Australia, Feb. 09, extracts from review)
“This is an extraordinary book from a former graphics editor of The Telegraph, UK.
What Gilliland has done is to lift what might have been another toy story onto a lit- erary gold plate. His ability to play on words as well as to keep the story moving is a rare skill.
The result is that the story can be enjoyed as a simple adventure as well as for its tongue-in-cheek word repartee that is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.”
“Brian Sibley, author & broadcaster, WINNER of BEST ADAPTATION for The History of Titus Groan in the BBC Audio Drama Awards, 2012, wrote in his Ex Libris blog (excerpts).
“For some time now, I have been meaning to blog about Alan Gilliland's delightful book for children (their parents and the young at heart in general) The Amazing Ad- ventures of Curd the Lion (and Us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond.
It is a heady mix of the tried and trusted format featuring nursery-toys-come-to-life with riddling, punning, nonsense in the style of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear punc- tuating a twisting, turning roller-coaster adventure story filled with dangers, out- landish encounters and weird and wonderful beings.
There are a mass of subtexts and literary and historical allusions within the story (it is not accidental, for example, that the creature encountered named the 'Dodongs' is an anagram of that Carrollian alter ego, 'Dodgson') and readers armed with the map be- low can trace the route of Curd & Co's adventures in the real location of Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales.
With delightful illustrations by the author, this a perfect read-aloud book for bedtime readers – and their listeners!
Visit Alan Gilliland's website for more information about this and his other books. And you can read many more glowing reviews of this unique and wonderfully quirky book on Lovereading4kids.”
Parents in Touch review Jan, 2011:
“Thank you so much for the lovely book. It certainly lives up to all the reviews.
I have put the review at http://www.parentsintouch.co.uk/Book-reviews-fiction-5- to-11
Best wishes Sarah“
Alan sent me some fantastic children's reviews of his book, so I couldn’t wait to read it! I wasn’t disappointed - this is a really striking book right from the first look. In large format, lavishly illustrated in black & white, it is hard to categorise this book, which will appeal to all ages, including adults. With undertones of Alice in Wonder- land and Edward Lear, this is a really funny as well as mysterious story. The twins are blamed when the Great Raven steals their mother’s brooch. If they can’t find it, their party will be cancelled and their 4 animals given to the Charity Shop. Can the animals rescue the brooch? This is a really gripping, unputdownable book, with a plethora of wonderful characters. Here’s just one of those reviews:Emily aged 9, of Fareham, Hants. “WOW!!! what a book. i couldn't wait to finish it! [and as i finished it in 24hrs you can see how desperate I was!!!] It had a surprise on each page. The illustrations are fab and made the characters jump out of the pages. It is the best i've ever read and i've read… the whole of Harry Potter.”
National newspaper children’s critic (letter to the author):
“I’ve enjoyed reading it enormously and certainly it has that quality vital in a chil- dren’s book, if it is to last, of appealing to different levels of understanding and, onion-like, revealing a little more with each reading. …that’s the beauty of a text
such as yours, one which at the same time informs and extends the reading experi- ence. I really like your drawings, with their shades of Heath Robinson, E H Shep- ard….”
The Book Depository Website Review (Dec 08):
“Alan Gilliland both wrote and illustrated The Amazing Adventures…. It is a won- derful fantasy quest, surprisingly set in Yorkshire, for both children and young adults.
Happily, Gilliland’s writing is as strong as his illustrations are delightful. If you like Tolkien, Pullman, Pratchett or even CS Lewis then you’ll enjoy this magical, fantasy adventure.”
Literary consultancy: in depth report. (Opening paragraphs):
“I have really enjoyed reading this story. It’s witty, lively, amusing and extremely original. Comparisons that come to mind are of the highest order, such as the ‘Alice’ books by Lewis Carroll, the ‘Oz’ books by Frank L Baum, and ‘The Phantom Toll- booth’ by Norton Juster – books in which a central character makes a journey through a topsy-turvy land where wit and wordplay assume transformative powers.
The many puns, allusions and conundrums scattered through the story are ingenious
… (you have the sort of mind that seizes on double meanings and juggles with words to dazzling effect). And the illustrations are simply excellent.”
Katherine Langrish | March 15, 2011 at 10:53 | Reply to BookWitch blog
I agree this is a really unusual book – with brilliant illustrations, too. Think Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, lots of wordplay and paradoxical fun, and you’ll be there. Not for every child, perhaps, but any budding chess players or crossword puzzle fiends will have a whale of a time. It demands something of the reader, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Curd the Lion and friends
Posted on March 15, 2011 by bookwitch| 7 Comments
I’m in agreement with Tony Benn and Derek Walcott. The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion and us in the Land at the Back of Beyond (phew, got there at last…) is pretty good. Alan Gilliland, who wrote the story and illustrated the whole book him- self, has been hard at work getting people of note to read and comment on his book. Now he’s targeted the bookwitch as well.
It’s, well, it’s about these four soft toys who go on an adventure to the Back of Be- yond. Once you’ve decided that soft toys do these things, it’s perfectly natural. After all, what is Winnie the Pooh if not a soft toy?
Just the idea of calling a toy lion Curd the Lion requires a sense of humour, and the book is riddled with puns and other playful twists of words and phrases. Most of them will pass over the heads of young readers, but an adult will have fun. (‘What is pon- dering? It’s what you do by a pond.’) And I reckon that reading this book aloud to a child would be the most fun. It’s quite long, at over 150 pages, and the pages are large to accommodate all the pictures.
Curd belongs to Henry and so does Pilgrim Crow, whereas the hyena Sweeney the Heenie and the snake O’Flattery are Henry’s twin sister Henrietta’s toys. The Mum’s brooch has disappeared and she is angry. If not found, she will take the toys to Oxfam (or similar) and have them sold.
Obviously the toys love their children, so they set out to find the brooch, because Curd actually witnessed it being taken by the Great Raven. They encounter many creatures and many dangers en route to the Back of Beyond, but Curd’s bravery and wisdom gets them there and back. Naturally.
The black and white illustrations are magical, although I have to admit to being slight- ly scared by the man in the moon on the cover. Alan seems to have a long and solid background doing this kind of thing, and he has wisely formed his own publishing company to look after his books, as well as a blog. It might mean that it’s more diffi- cult to get the books into the shops. I don’t know. Alan seems to work hard, doing signings all over the place, and I’d say that as long as the book gets to children, it will be popular.
I surprised myself by wanting to read about this cheesy sounding lion, and also by enjoying it as much as I did. But now I really do want a piece of Brie.
Wednesday of Whimsy #1- Curd the Lion
March 17, 2010 by 5minutespeace
2 Votes (5 star)
The first to feature in ‘Wednesday of Whimsy’ and in competition for one of the longest titles in children’s literature is The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and us) in the Land at the Back of Beyond by Alan Gilliland (author and illustra- tor) …sound confused? Yes I was too.
9780955548611 published by Raven’s Quill
I think if I explained the story to you, it’s safe to assume you would still be confused but I will tell you this; it is a fantastic book where you really can escape into another world with pets Curd the lion, Pilgrim crow, Sweeney the heenie and O’flattery the snake. I bet you can’t offer any better pet names.
The tale follows twins Henry and Henrietta who live in a cottage near the land at the back of beyond…the sort of place you know nothing about yet stop and stare at every- time you go near. This place is a place where dodongs and emperors live and promis-
es to offer a wealth of dreams to the children who enter it through Gilliland’s illustra- tions.
I truly believe the illustrations really set this story apart from others. Because Gilliland is the author and illustrator he has the scope of understanding for what needs to be shown through his drawings. His illustrations fill every page and make it a joy to look through. A most wonderful, inspiring book. The kids will dream for days about far away lands with talking insects and things with two heads.
Egmont Publishers asked for Curd the Lion. This was their response:
Curd is wonderful - very much in the grand tradition of Alice and The Phantom Toll- booth, and the illustrations so evocative, but again we felt that the prose style and el- ements of the story arc, whilst enjoyable and fantastical, would need to be more ac- cessible to appeal successfully to children, rather than as a more adult-orientated gift purchase.
The Flight of Birds and its intended sequels make up what is obviously a very ambi- tious project, but after much discussion our editorial team felt that in some of its themes, and taking into account the literariness of its prose and complexity of its structure, it might be more suited to an adult publisher, or perhaps a teen imprint that is part of an adult publishing house.