Meet Martha Grimstone, a girl trying to find her own special talent in the world, in this sweetly gothic fairytale told in a collage of words, photos and drawings.
Asphyxia is a circus performer turned puppeteer, and a writer. She is also deaf. Her name is unusual, but she is an unusual person! Asphyxia grew up in Melbourne surrounded by an unruly mob of brothers, sisters and cousins. As one of the eldest, she took it upon herself to direct everyone in elaborate games about witches, faeries, pixies, goblins and evil characters. She wrote her first book at twelve and entered it in the St Kilda Writers' Festival competition, where it won first prize. Since then, she has been a ballerina, a circus performer, a puppeteer, and a creator of her own theatrical productions, where she tells stories physically and with sign language. The Grimstones - Hatched and Mortimer Revealed have toured around Australia and overseas to great acclaim. The Grimstones books are based on these shows. For more information about the Grimstones, visit thegrimstones.com.
This is a delightful book for upper primary girls. The protagonist is Martha Grimstone who keeps a diary of her unusual household and her plans to be magnificent. There’s a grandfather who has an apothecary at home, a mother who sews and cries a lot, especially at her husband’s crypt, and Aunt Gertrude who runs the household and makes sure they’re all fed (though not to Martha’s liking) and is often cranky.
The text is liberally sprinkled with photos of gothic puppets depicting the characters. Their creation is explained at the end of the story. Martha spends a lot of her time thinking of ways to be magnificent. But at each turn she upsets someone and gets into trouble. She makes a dress that will help her collect the quail eggs, balance a loaf of bread on her head with a cage around it to keep birds away, whilst at the same time sloshing a pail of milk that she’s had to collect. Unfortunately, Martha uses the black taffeta that was for a customer and mother will have to use the black velvet that she’d bought for a dress for Martha.
Martha upsets her grandfather by making a replacement for an ointment and the dire consequences that prevail, including being banned from his apothecary after the next episode.The final act, and where ‘hatched’ in the title comes in, Martha casts a spell to make a baby for her mother and hopefully stop her crying.
Michael P Mardel, downunderonline.org
Quirky and original, The Grimstones is just the sort of book that an eight to fourteen year-old would love. It is a gothic fairy story that has a heart-warming ending and includes a touch of magic. The Grimstones originally began as a puppet show. The author loved making dolls as a child and began experimenting with puppets. The result is a family of Goth puppets featuring in theatrical productions. The stories in the shows became books. As a result the text is complemented with interesting images of the puppets and the world they inhabit.
This book is a diary written by young Martha Grimstone on a quest. Her grandfather is an alchemist, her mother a talented seamstress (who cries a lake of tears every night over her dearly departed husband) and her Aunt Gertrude manages the house and educates Martha. Martha’s quest is to find out what will eventually make her Lady Martha the Magnificent: “What can I excel at?” Unfortunately Martha’s attempts at emulating her mother and grandfather end in comical disaster. However as in all fairy tales, there is a happy(ish) ending with Martha finding a way to stem her mother’s constant lake of tears. She does not find out what has happened to her father and the way is open for the sequel: Mortimer Revealed.
The imaginative way in which this original story is pulled together will have the reader hooked from the opening of the first page. The diary format is evident in the hand -drawn images that are 'taped' on to diary pages, the photos that are ‘pinned’ on with photo corners and the pen squiggles that are used to decorate the pages. Martha is such a credible character that readers will identify with her and love her. The language is descriptive, accurately capturing the character of Martha and her observations of those around her. The endnotes explain the creative process that has gone into the making of The Grimstones.
Nova Gibson, Massey Primary
What an interesting book. The illustrations are the first thing that grabs your attention. The characters are made from what looks like paper mache puppets. They are placed in different settings throughout the book creating a distinct image for the type of characters they are.
The Grimstones are an unusual family who live in an old house that has been in the family for generations. Martha Grimstone lives with Elcho Grimstone (grandfather), Velvetta Grimstone (mumma) and Aunt Gertrude. Martha has discovered the wonderful world of diary writing and proceeds to put all her thoughts down on paper. She is fixated on finding her special talent. She wants to be Martha the Magnificent. Her quest is to find out what she can be brilliant at. She tries hard to invent new things such as a bread protector to stop the birds eating the bread on her way home from the bakery. She gets her inspirations from her Grandfather who uses herbs and potions to heal the towns folk and her mother who is a wiz with a sewing machine. Martha is quiet a lonely child and she feels her diary is her only friend.
This book lends itself well to the exploration of being different and living in a family that is different from a regular one. Self- esteem issues could also be explored using this book. I would recommend this book to year 4 -7 students. An interesting read.
Kathy Hotz, Hercules Road State School