Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons

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Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A tale of little people, and the big deeds two of the younger ones have to endure to set the world to rights. A book low on tweeness, medium in charm and high in narrative enjoyment.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 159 Date: November 2007
Publisher: Clyke Books
ISBN: 978-0955644207

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The Clykes are tiny humanoid creatures that like to live in homes they have hollowed out from the base of dry stone walls. They prefer to live alongside, and overlook, organic farms, and seem to prefer our author's homeland in Cumbria. They have a lot of the fine life about their living – plenty of communal adventures and feasts, lots of birthday parties – naturally, when you reach 200 with ease – and just oodles of camaraderie and joy.

They also have threats to their existence – birds of prey, for one, as well as stoats and other nasties. And when a particular scrape leaves the whole clan in great misfortune and peril, it is down to two of the braver Clykes to go out into the big wide world, retrieve what has been lost and put things to rights.

The story of their perilous adventure takes in wondrous animals, manmade obstacles and the general scope of the great wide world. Dorcan is the more anxious one about being on the road with such a task, comfort-eating as he goes; Sabrax the more brazen and bold one. These characters, coming across as teenage Clykes, are the crux of the story, and it's very pleasing to report they are in no way twee.

The book serves equally well as a children's read, for the 9-13 age bracket, but has enough charm to let it branch out of that constriction – and it would well be acceptable to those who do not read such gentle fantasy books also. The Clyke world is well portrayed, and the story of the pair going out with their camping and climbing gear is nicely commendable. The plotting is very good – despite the gentle familiarity the book has with other similar examples there are still some gentle surprises to catch you out and disarming moments to enjoy.

I can't suggest this will set the world afire, but nor can I say there is much particularly wrong with it. I do think it a bit unfortunate in a book for the younger reader to saddle a major character with the name Cataporinganio. I think the balance between the teens' adventure and the events back at their home might have been a little better – and perhaps shown more of the general misfortune befalling the society, and not just the one person.

Also I think the book would easily have handled more references to the human world, without losing any individuality, and becoming The Borrowers. Human signs and objects are mentioned, but there might have been more. It soon becomes obvious to us what the Mailcann must be (a post box the Clykes name a forest after, obviously) but the book shies away from giving it a mention.

All told, however, the read, while rather on the short side for adults, still has a lot of merit. I'm not sure I was completely convinced by some of the elements of the story, but the read is a very visual one, and the plotting and the characterisation only go further to make it a very pleasant little book. I wouldn't go so far as saying it deserves nine sequels, but I wish the author well with the rest of the Clyke adventures that will clearly follow, and thank him for sending the Bookbag site a copy to review.

Journey to Mailcann is an easily recommendable story for the young, and those seeking a gentle little fantasy saga of the little people. If this type of book appeals to you then we can recommend Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle.

Buy Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons at

Buy Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Journey to Mailcann by James Fitzsimmons at


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