Chicken Soup Press, Inc.

JOACHIM'S MAGIC M. L. Stainer, author of The Lyon Saga books, has now undertaken an equally serious subject:  the story of Joachim Gans, master metallurgist to Elizabeth I, and the first documented Jew in the New World.  The story is told from the point of view of Joachim’s young apprentice, Reis Courtney, who has volunteered his services to the wild-looking foreigner.  The literary style successfully melds two seemingly incompatible elements: bold action, dramatic choices, blood and gore adventure with its opposite: philosophical meditations on the meaning of life and how to treat others in a hostile world. There is real character development in this 200-page novel as Reis learns the value of a human life. His growing admiration for his shunned master leads him to ponder the various ways of absorbing life’s often bitter lessons. Gayle Finlayson - 

Jacksonville University, Community College of Vermont.

Our Other Reviews

THE YELLOW LION

 

First in a series of twelve books on color. 6-year-old John meets his fear head-on in a yellow lion who visits only when Mom is out. He battles the lion and wins by sucking it up in the vacuum cleaner. A clever book in rhyme, introducing varied hues of yellow, such as golden, lemon, etc. At the end, the lion trots off into the sunset and John goes on to a new adventure. Ten nature facts about lions are included. A fun read for youngsters! (Mom of 2)
 
Mom goes shopping and a yellow lion comes to visit in this first projected series of twelve verse books. The lion is symbol of John's fears and only visits when his parents are gone. John decides to combat the lion -- Midwest Book Review, Jan. 1996
 
BLUE FROGS
 
The books, which are all in humorous rhyme and include nature facts about the animal featured, are geared for children ages 4-8. In this delightful tale, John discovers a pond full of blue frogs and travels through space with them to their own planet. The book is chock full of vocabulary words naming different shades of blue. Children everywhere will enjoy this book -- New York Teacher, Dec. 1997
 
THE GREEN GIRAFFE
 
I asked my Grandfather to help me write this review. He read me the book and I really enjoyed it. I liked the way the words rhymed and I loved the pictures. Every page was delightful and at first, I felt sorry for the giraffe. I liked the ending. - Mathew Slesinski, age 21/2.
 
John's adventures continue in this delightful story. John helps to disguise a runaway giraffe who taps on his window pane at night. It seems the giraffe has escaped because the zoo is planning to ship him back to Africa. John camouflages him by painting him green so he can hide in the backyard. Trouble begins when the giraffe eats all the leaves off Mom's trees. This third in the John's Colorful World series is just as enchanting as the first two books. Children ages 4-8 will learn a color vocabulary and discover interesting facts about giraffes in "Genuine Giraffe Gems." Highly recommended! -- Netherfield Productions, Dec. 1997
 
THE LYON'S ROAR
 
Every now and then, a book comes along that touches the heart of the dedicated historian and teacher of children. This first of a series of books based on the unsuccessful attempt of Sir Walter Raleigh to colonize the new-found Americas is just one such book. The refreshing thing is that M. L. Stainer has incorporated the true history of John White's and Simon Fernandes' battles which had the utmost effect on the ultimate fate of this - "The Lost Colony." The interaction between the colonists and the Native-Americans are just as reported in the official records of that period. We eagerly await her future books on the fate of her leading character Jessabel Archard and her struggles in a new land as a youthful 14 year old girl/woman. In all probability, the ultimate fate of the colony will be a refreshing theory to the old presentation of Paul Green's -- Harry L. Thompson, Curator, Port o' Plymouth/Roanoke River Museum

It is historical fiction but a perfect complement to the study of early colonial history.... -- Kliatt Reviews
 
Even reluctant readers will keep turning the pages as they seek answers to the many questions raised. This is a fascinating glimpse at what might have happened to a group of people about whom little historical fiction is written. School Library Journal, August 1998.
 
 
THE LYON'S CUB
 
A GRAVESIDE REQUEST September 6, 1999
The title refers to the ship mentioned in the first book of this series: the RED LYON. A ship which left hopeful English colonists stranded on Roanoak Island off Virginia in 1587. Stainer explores various theories to account for the historically "lost", almost legendary band of brave settlers who disappeared. It is now 1588 and 16-year old Jess Archarde proves a worthy descendant (i.e. Cub) of the LYON, whose captain pursued a dream to found a cittee of Raleigh in the hostile New World. He was supposed to return with supplies, but he did not--at least not in time.

The original settlers have argued over different means of survival, with hardship and sorrow as frequent companions. While the Armada is gathering strength for an audacious assault on Elizabeth's England, the loyal colonists suffer political anxiety, attacks from warlike Indians (not their kindly hosts on Cracatoan Island) and diminishing numbers. Plus there is always the very read danger of falling into the hands of marauding Spanish privateers, who prowl the coast seeking their enemy, the English.

Despite this tenuous existence, young Jess undertakes a solemn vow and dangerous pilgrimmage: to find the grave of her best friend's husband, there to conduct a proper Christian burial. Neither her father nor her Indian suitor can dissuade her from this folly, for Jess is determined to keep her promise to her bereaved friend, hampered at home with a baby. Jess and her companions endure terrible privation and even slavery, until they escape with two special mementoes of the Spanish garrison. History, Adventure, Danger and of course, Romance Lite! Middle School girls will want to follow Jess' story through the entire LYON series. Stainer weaves an interesting and infomrative tale, thanks to many short chapters, frequent illustrations (by James Melvin) and extensive dialogue. Even though Jess herself is completely fictional, the family name is on record. This conjectured History is highly palatable--ENJOY!

THE LYON'S PRIDE
 
I think the Lyons Pride is the best book yet.Right now I'am on the 16th chapter in the Lyons Pride,since the begining of the book I think I personally think that it is truely romantic!All the characters are heart warming,especilly Jess and sweet Elenor. I can't wait until your other books come out. My cousin, Elizabeth read your books too, she finished two of your books in one day! - Tracy Y. Clemensi
 
THE LYON'S THRONE
 
The hardships the Roanoke colonists faced are depicted vividly. The facts known about the colony are mixed well into the plots of the books, making for painless learning... The total effect of the Lyon Saga is a satisfactory one -- North Carolina Libaries, Fall 1998, All Rights Reserved
 
These books can't come out fast enough for me. I love the story! Jess is captured by pirates and returned to England. Queen Elizabeth won't release her or her friends. She must find a way to return to Croatoan Island. M. L. Stainer is a great author and keeps you always wondering what's going to happen next. I recommend this book and the series to everyone. (A Reader from Alabama)
 
THE LYON'S CROWN
 The Jewels in Jess' Crown January 13, 2005
Completing the LYON Quintet, which offers alternative theories about the fate of the "lost" colony of Roanoke, CROWN provides an emotionally-satisfying conclusion to the adventures of Jess Archarde. It is the year 1612 when Jess' three half English-half Native American children arrive by ship in the young colony of Jamestown. Suzanne, William and George were sent away by Jess, also known as Little Bird, from peaceful Croatoan Island. This was the desperate act of a mother to protect them from the smallpox epidemic which claimed her beloved husband, Akaiyan. To soften the sudden loss of maternal guidance, Jess enclosed many pages of her journal for her daughter to read and remember, for she had pledged to oversee her younger brothers. (First-time readers to the series will recap Jess' struggles and joys as an English girl, transplanted across the ocean.)

Although safe from the epidemic, Suzanne and her brothers are not joyously welcomed by the harassed and fearful colonists. Master Robert Ashbury, an old admirer of Jess, had promised them hospitality should the need arise, but his shrewish wife is resentful of a household of strangers (which includes a clinging widow with 3 youngsters). Treating them as little more than unwanted and inefficient servants, Mistress Ashbury recognizes something different in Suzanne' features and carriage. Her suspicions increase until she is openly hostile about their Indian heritage, for these colonists live in frank fear of the natives. How will Jess' children fit into this world, where their native heritage is grounds for stoning?

The author has skillfully interwoven authentic colonial history with an interesting story about her fictitious heroine and the second generation. Readers aged 10-15 should enjoy the entire series, for Jess' probeles and Suzanne's dreams can be understood by all. Deeper themes are hinted at as well; racial relations, possible fates of the lost colonists, and the role of a mother are subtly mentioned. The LYON series will educate as it entertains, hopefully inspiring further, future study about America's multi-ethnic past, focusing attention on Tidewater Virginia and the outer islands.
 
INLAND WIND
 
If you love the sea, you're going to love this little book of poetry. The author, born in England, remembers her childhood summers by the seaside at Herne Bay, then rediscovers her love while visiting North Carolina's Outer Banks. Combining free verse and sonnet form, the poetry is uncomplicated and simply beautiful. This would be a perfect gift for anyone who treasures wind, wave and nature's beauty! F. J. Morris

ROSES AND THORNS 

"Capturing the essence of these beloved characters within the confines of the sonnet form is no mean feat and Selene Goodman succeeds admirably. As a lover of good poetry herself, I can't help but think that Miss Austen would be delighted." -- Jane Dawkins, author, Letters from Pemberley

"Selene Goodman uses this small collection of poetry to recapture the feelings underpinning the relationships of many characters in Pride & Prejudice. In doing so she encourages her readers to glimpse life in the nineteenth century through the looking glass of verse. Thus the language mirrors a time much softer than ours as revealed in the nature of courtship. Beating hearts soar with birds & men are torn between desire & duty, whilst troths are pledged as women are found to be charming. Each sonnet is narrated in a voice that rings true to the original character from Austen's prose fiction text. And so, we revisit with old friends to learn Jane is in doubt of Bingley's true affection; Mr Collins' state of smugness is still sufferable, but only by his good lady wife; & Wickham affirms his need for fortune & fame despite the cost to the true nature of being a gentleman. Of great advantage are the quotes from Pride & Prejudice that support both the content & style of the verse. Roses & Thorns records a way of life that will never be lost if we but continue to read Austen's prose & Goodman's verse. Indeed Goodman's work may best be described as a true gallowglass in that she reflects the world that is forever Austen's England." -- Jill Reece, Jane Austen Society of Australia

"Turning prose to poetry... I shouldn't have been surprised that Pride and Prejudice would be the medium for this literary feat! Roses and Thorns has no visible thorns, and the delight in finding (alongside), the paragraphs that inspired Selene's poems enables the reader to experience anew the pleasures of Pride and Prejudice." -- Patricia Latkin, Jane Austen Books