A Scintillating Sparkler of a Children’s Book – The Wishnotist by Trevor Forest


Wow! I just read a scintillating wee sparkler of a children’s book.

I’ve been a primary school teacher for nearly thirty-five years. I’ve worked with the full age range from four to twelve. For most of the last decade I’ve worked with children with special needs alongside their ‘mainstream’ peers. During my career, I must have shared hundreds of books with children. Amongst those books there have been gems and there have been disappointments. Some of the gems are ones that I have owned and shared with my pupils for most of those thirty-plus years. They range from picture books to full length novels. So I feel at least a little qualified to judge what makes a good book for children.

And I’ve just read another gem. The Wishnotist by Trevor Forest is a diamond. As I’ve done with most of Trevor’s books, I shared the reading with some of the pupils at the primary school where I teach. They were wowed too.

The Wishnotist is a wise, witty, warm, wacky, weird and wonderful story. It’s an action-packed tale with the moral  ‘be careful what you wish for.’ It’s a contemporary story full of  characters and references that are instantly recognisable to the target readership –  i.e. children in the upper stages of primary school and early high school. The pace of the storytelling is also perfectly judged for this age group. But what makes it really stand out is that although it has elements of fantasy and magic and although it is also humorous in places, it is a story with real depth.

Jack, the main character, has to resist the pressure put on him by the mysterious Wishnotist to reveal his heart’s desire and make a wish. The story addresses Jack’s typically adolescent confusion and emotional turmoil  as he copes with growing up, with his ambiguous feelings towards his disabled brother and his first experience of fancying a girl. And when he does eventually cave in to the Wishnotist’s pressure, the ending is poignant and moving.

Back in March last year I reviewed Trevor’s book ‘Peggy Larkin’s War’ here on the blog. Since then I’ve read Trevor’s other books  -‘Abigail Pink’s Angel’, ‘Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies’, the ‘Magic Molly’ trilogy – all about a young trainee witch – and the outrageous and hilarious ‘Stanley Stickle Hates Homework’.

Trevor’s gift for writing for children is characterised by his ability to communicate directly with his target readers without talking down to them. He can also make the fantastic and the magical perfectly plausible. He also has that rare ability to tell a high interest story in language that is accessible to young readers and manages to combine this with keeping the adult ‘supporter’ interested too. His books are ideal first novels for children who have perhaps struggled to become independent in their reading.

But most of all Trevor Forest is simply a wonderful  and truthful storyteller. The Wishnotist is the latest example of this fact.

Captivating, enchanting, entertaining – quality writing for children

‘Peggy Larkin’s War’ by Trevor Forest

It’s often a sign of
quality in a children’s book that it has equal appeal for adults. And, in the
case of ‘Peggy Larkin’s War’, this is certainly true.

Set at the beginning
of World War Two, it tells the story of Peggy Larkin, a young girl who is
evacuated from London
to the countryside. There’s the mystery of a locked room in the house that
Peggy lodges in and of the reason behind the sadness of Mrs Henderson, the
house’s owner. There’s also the sinister presence of a stranger in the woods. The
story follows Peggy as she endures separation from her parents and makes a
brave attempt to settle into her new life. Along the way she makes a new friend
and demonstrates remarkable stoicism and resilience.

Forest’s writing is excellent and is pitched
perfectly for its intended readership of upper primary school age children. He
doesn’t patronise and he writes with an immediacy and economy that will appeal
to children. Forest never intrudes into the story, and it never feels like he’s
trying to educate or preach. This is child-friendly, accessible entertainment.
It’s all about the story. It’s vividly told and it’s easy to visualise the characters and settings. It has the feel of a BBC children’s drama at times.

The only disappointing
aspect for me was the book’s brevity. Having set up such great characters and a
setting with so many possibilities, it would have been good to have further
chapters and more adventures for Peggy.

It would also be great
to see this book in paperback. At the moment it’s only available for Kindle and
at least as far as my own pupils are concerned primary school children don’t
tend to own e-book readers. It’s got a cracking good cover for one thing. But
more importantly than that, it would be a good book to have in school libraries
and in World War Two project boxes.

But in the mean time
parents, grandparents and teachers it would be well worth purchasing Peggy’s
story for your Kindle’s and reading this aloud to the children in your lives.