The Land Of Roar – Jenny McLachlan Illustrated by Ben Mantle

This book is effervescent with magic, imagination and joyful revelry in a childlike wonder truly lit up the corners of my heart that have been striving to be seen since the age of not believing.

With flavours of Peter Pan, Neverending Story, Hook and a dash of Narnian portal magic but in a wonderfully unique way this is a sonnet to the imagination of children and the hope to retain or regain it.

Cover by Ben Mantle- please note it has divine fully illustrated French flaps

Whilst clearing Grandad’s attic for a ‘grown-up den’ the remnants of childhood games in a place called Roar entered through a foldaway bed stir something deep and longing in Arthur Trout. His twin Rose on the other hand is too interested in makeup and Youtubers to even listen let alone care.

But when Grandad is snatched through the mattress, Arthur begins to wonder if there was something more to the games, and he follows through reawakening the neglected corners of his imagination. But in the twins absence their biggest nemesis has only grown in power, taking advantage of the land falling apart and now, he’s got Grandad.

With wizard ninjas, furries, dragons and a tribe of lost girls can Arthur Roar again? And what about Rose?

When I got into the middle of the mattress I just shut my eyes and imagined Roar, then when I came out the other side I was there.’

The route to Roar through an old fashioned fold-up bed is a wonderfully creative one!

My grandparents had a bed just like this in their spare bedroom when I was growing up, with the hard plastic cupboard like top so this concept sang to my heart.

Illustration from the book
Illustration by Ben Mantle from the book

The idea of portal magic is one of my favourites, and this one stresses that the Land Of Roar is one of pure imagination from the children which is different to many others.

The beauty of Roar is in the childlike wonder, the interpretation of grown up words like Archie Playgo and the nonsense languages that Rose speaks to dragons and merpeople. The apples that taste of butterscotch and the imagination that makes a wizard-ninja and a mermaid Witch and a villain shaped of a brother’s darkest fears.

Honestly? I’d give anything to play Roar with Rose again. Just me and her, and a load of dragons and unicorns and no thoughts of starting secondary school. But it’s impossible.

The dynamics between Rose & Arthur are built into the very bones of Roar, with Rose always having been the vocal, the brave and the leader, teasing her brother with dragons at her command, and Arthur may grumble but was happy to tag along in the wake of his glorious sister.

Since their 8th birthday however something changed, a rift has been between them as Rose has been pressured by her friends to let go of childish things and be ‘cool’ as shown by her obsession with her phone, makeup, accessories and Youtubers… and to let go of Arthur too. Arthur’s pain at the loss of that bond with his sister is palpable, his loneliness brings his sense of worth into question of who he is without Rose, and whether he can hold onto who he is in the cruel world of secondary school.

There is a very tender moment between the two that was very beautiful and speaks a lot to children (and adults looking back) who are pressured to surrender their magic to be mundane enough to pass.

Yes, I want to say, leave it up here and let’s bring the swords and dressing up clothes back up too. But what would be the point? Rose is never going to play Roar or any other game with me.

When I was a child I used to swear I would never be at ‘The Age Of Not Believing’ as Angela Lansbury sang about in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. However, like most I did succumb and perhaps like Rose in this book certainly less by my own hand and more by the demands of peers to fit in -of course the agonising twist is I never fit in and everyone then spends the rest of their life trying to recapture what makes them special and different.

I hope that the stories, dreams and worlds of my childhood are still there, locked within the treasure chests I sank in tears and despair letting go of my magic in the hope it brought relief from the taunting. I wish I had had the strength to hold onto the magic, and I hope this book encourages children like I was to find a way to blend their weird and wonderstuff into their new world.

You’re at the age of not believing
When all the make-believe is through
When you set aside your childhood heroes
And your dreams are lost up on a shelf
You’re at the age of not believing
And worst of all you doubt yourself
‘The Age Of Not Believing‘ Robert & Richard Sherman

This book is perfectly pitched for the Middle Grade age, to tell them to cling on tightly, but also to reawaken those of us who have been through the age of not believing, maybe even still lost within.

The illustrations throughout are wonderful, engaging and inspiring, adding much to the adventure and are perfectly placed. I especially love the punctuation of pictures because they engage reluctant readers and they also encourage to the readers who still love illustrations of picture books which is certainly in the spirit of the book!

The Map Of Roar (I wish I had a colour version)

The Land Of Roar whispers to the dreamers, the wanderers and those who still hope for their own portal to a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, a grandfather clock or cupboard, even if we have been made weary or hurt by the mundane world and tells us to cry out ‘HEAR ME ROAR!!!’

It’s going to be painful waiting another year for the sequel but I could definitely see some prequels working as picture books or highly illustrated Early readers, my girls would be the biggest fans!

The Land Of Roar by Jenny McLachlan & Illustrated by Ben Mantle is published by Egmont.

9 thoughts on “The Land Of Roar – Jenny McLachlan Illustrated by Ben Mantle

  1. I’m really encouraged to hear how much you loved this.
    I have to admit when it was announced as our book of the month, I wasn’t sold. And I’ve been harrumphing about needing to read it since!
    However, I did start the first couple if chapters on my way home today and I’m enjoying it more than expected though it is still early days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can get what you mean from the synopsis it does sound like your typical portal magic Narnia type story but the sibling dynamics and the crystal clear fact this is a world dependent on these children’s imagination not all children’s imaginations or a separate magical world like Neverland or Narnia. That point is quite different especially as the world is dying around them- it’s kinda like Hook in a way.
      I loved it as you can see!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes it foes sound like it has a definite point of difference to many and I’m taking it as a positive sign that you loved it so much. I’ll let you know what I think!

      Liked by 1 person

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