*I received (and edited) a free ARC of this story, with thanks to the authors. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Nature-Girl vs Worst Nightmare is the debut novel from six year old Rose McKinney, with just a smidge of help from her mother, author J.J. Barnes.
Deep in the Sparkling Forest, Nature-Girl and her friends are training to be super heroes at Miss Sparkle’s Academy for Magical Children.
When old enemy Worst Nightmare sends an army of Bad Dreams to attack the school, Nature-Girl must use everything she’s learned, and face her biggest fears, if she’s going to stop him.
Nature-Girl vs Worst Nightmare is the first book from the new Siren Smalls brand for Siren Stories, a collection of books for children aged 6-12, full of magic, adventure and danger.
Minishine and Babybows were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Nature-Girl vs. Worst Nightmare, which is the first in a planned series of Nature-Girl adventures by talented young author, Rose McKinney (aged 6), with assistance from her equally talented author mother, J.J. Barnes.
I read Nature-Girl every night for bedtime while I was editing it, so that I could get a first-hand opinion from the intended audience. They both absolutely loved it! This was their reaction when they received the finished paperback copy (bought and paid for)…
They both instantly demanded I provide more in the series (write quicker, authors!!!) and also wanted to know when the film and TV series would be available, which is an excellent question as the book is eminently suited for adaptation to the big and smaller screens.
Speaking of the book though, I assume you would like to know a little bit about WHY we are so excited…!
Nature-Girl vs. Worst Nightmare is a fantasy adventure aimed at children around 5-9 (although Babybows is 3 and thought it was great). The writing level is ideal for older children to read themselves, or for advanced-reader 6 year olds. We chose to read it to them as a bedtime story chapter book. This has the added benefit for us, that we can chat about the story and characters as we go along, and there was plenty to chat about here!
The book features Rose, Elsie, Joe and Boo, a team of best friends who are training to be superheroes as The Sparkles, at Miss Sparkle’s Academy for Magical Children. Each child has a superhero name and a different superpower: Nature-Girl can call on plants and trees for assistance; Panda-Girl can talk to animals; Bird-Boy can fly and Speedy has super-speed. Each of the children also has their own distinct personality, making them easily distinguishable and engaging from the very start.
Babybows loved Boo best, because his go-to solution is also whacking things with big sticks, and he liked Joe too because ‘he’s a boy and I’m a boy’ (he doesn’t really need complex characterisation!). Minishine was torn between Rose and Elsie as her favourite, as Elsie exhibits the same quiet seriousness and urge to follow the rules that Minishine herself tends towards, but Rose’s journey is incredibly compelling and MS was taken by her braveness and the way she faced up to her mistakes. Personally, I liked Miss Natalie (one of the teachers) because she loves reading… so I can see where BB gets his simplicity from!
The plot follows The Sparkles as they face up against some nasty critters called Bad Dreams, and eventually against the Bad Dreams’ lord and creator, Worst Nightmare. These baddies are a creation of utter genius, because instead of simply kicking bottoms and zapping spells (although there is some of that), the children have to face up to their own fears and the fears of the adults around them. This led to some really good discussions with my two about how even grown-ups can be scared, but it’s how you deal with your fears that matters.
Another running theme is the ‘magic of friendship’ (tips hat respectfully to My Little Pony). The Sparkles, especially Rose, have to learn to work together and trust each other and themselves instead of just relying on their ‘powers’ to get them out of every tricky situation.
I couldn’t recommend this book more to parents and children alike. No one has more creativity and imagination than the average 6 year old, and Rose McKinney has definitely proved that she is far from average. I can’t wait what to see what she comes up with next!
Elsie gulped. “I don’t know if we’re ready.”
Rose looked at them seriously. “Who are we?” she asked them.
“The Sparkles,” said Boo.
“And what do we want?” asked Rose.
“To protect people and stop Worst Nightmare,” said Elsie.
“And how are we going to do it?” asked Rose.
“Together,” said Joe.
Rose clapped her hands. “Then let’s go!” she said.
– Rose McKinney & J.J. Barnes, Nature-Girl vs. Worst Nightmare
Nature-Girl vs. Worst Nightmare is available on Amazon right now!