Book Reviews

adventure stories for reluctant readers!

I write books with boy heroes, but a group of girls asked me, at one of my book signings, ‘Why do you always have boy heroes, what about us?’
So girls, my novel, ‘In the Snake-Dragon’s Claws’, about the night of Halloween, previously published as ‘Thin Time’, is written for you!

First Wolf

Wonderful! If you want a book to get your child (or yourself!) interested in the Anglo-Saxon period, then this is the book to do it. The author has an amazing knowledge of Northumberland and Lindisfarne which is written into the story without taking it over. The period of the piece is also extremely well written, giving excellent descriptions of life, clothing and food etc. There is a young hero that you will be rooting, a strange helper that you will find intriguing, a villain you will be booing and a young girl that you will like. Gripping!

Merissa (Archaeolibrarian) Amazon reviewer.

Totally Absorbing! I love Carole Anne Carr’s books. This was the first one to be published and I still think the best (although Candle Dark and Thin Time are both great reads!). As soon as I had read the first couple of pages I was hooked and truly could not put it down. I know it is aimed at a younger audience (I am in my thirties I will say no more!), but it reminded me of books I had read over and over in my youth such as ‘I am David’ by Anne Holm and ‘The Silver Sword’ by Ian Serrailier. As with all of Carole’s books the story is engaging and all the way through you are rooting for the hero. There is enough tension which makes you want to turn to the next page and the next! The characters and backdrops are very real, with enough narrative for you to picture it without wading through lots of descriptive text. It is obvious that Carole has fully researched the period and thoroughly immerses herself in it to enable you to do the same. An amazing author – I cannot wait for the second book in the series!

Shelly-G, reviewer on Amazon.

From the moment I read the first paragraph of Carole Anne Carr’s First Wolf I was hooked. We follow the journey of twelve year old Toland and his family who are forced to flee from the horrible Eorl Uhtred who is attacking villages, and due to Toland’s father’s refusal to give Eorl Uhtred what he wants, their village is next. I really cared about what happened to Toland and I was amazed by the ferocity of his sense of honour and courage as he helps his grandmother, mother and younger brother to safety. I forgot several times in the book that he is a boy and not a man. Despite his disability and young age, his dogged determination to follow his father’s instructions and the quest entrusted upon him by the monks of Lindisfarne endeared me to him and his plight. It’s a coming of age book that shows older children that although unfair and bad things do sometimes happen, the power of the good in people does win through over the bad. Sometimes children are forced to take control and lead the way. Poor Toland has enough trials and danger to last him a life time in First Wolf, but with his beloved dog Bodo by his side, and his friendship with a young girl Kendra, and help from others they meet on the way, mixed in with a little mythology and the supernatural, First Wolf is an excellent read.

Book review of First Wolf by writer and journalist Julie Phillips.

In a world and time more like our own than we would admit, Carole Anne Carr creates a story woven with child-understanding, Anglo-Saxon history, and mythical allusions. While full of adventure, action, and mystery, this hero-tale is anchored in a young boy’s rite of passage that involves the killing of his first wolf and his survival in the destructive adult world in which he lives. More evident in our early history, than in our present time of science and technology, are the boy’s otherworldly helpers who are everywhere around him, and central to this story is Toland’s dedication to fulfilling his promise to the monks of Lindisfarne, despite the threats to his life that this single-minded focus brings. From the beginning, the story holds readers both young and old and does not fail to surprise throughout. Left wanting more of this boy-man’s life, I would pose that readers will not let Carole rest until she returns to this period of history. Attempting to describe the lives of those who lived in Northumbria in the Dark Ages presents her with many difficulties, but in our return to the 8th century we are given glimpses of beliefs that have been passed down to us through the ages and that we still hold more deeply than we ever recognise.

Paddy Kennington - Ph.D., LPC, NCC, EMDR Level II.

If only more people knew about it! I first heard about this book when the author visited a bookshop, and I was lucky enough to get it signed… and it’s brilliant. Really absorbing, extremely gripping and basically a must read.

Alex S - Amazon Reviewer.

If this doesn’t get your son reading, nothing will! This is a rollicking, fast paced, action adventure with a believable young protagonist set in Anglo-Saxon Britain. Full of dramatic incident, every chapter ends on a cliff-hanger which keeps you turning the pages…. This reminded me of adventure books I read as a child; the sort that kept me awake and reading with a torch under the covers. Although ideal as a work to encourage a child to become reading-mad, it is completely absorbing for adults. (I am 57). I liked the sympathetic, though never sentimental, treatment of animals and children throughout the story. The author’s familiarity with the era, and confidence in depicting it, shines through. The events interwoven into the story seem credible without being invasive, although I am no expert in the period. I enjoyed the north-east English setting. There is a magical smattering of the supernatural which lifts the story out of the pragmatically historical and into a bewitching mythical world which is still recognisably our own. The baddie is horrid and there is enough nastiness for lads to get into. But there is a very beguiling, resourceful female character whom I am sure I would have loved when I was a girl. It leaves you wanting more, which is why I think it would be excellent to encourage independent reading in the target age group.

R. Healy - “fernhill gardener” (United Kingdom)

Candle Dark

The Industrial Revolution changed the world in broad strokes. More important is how it changed the lives of individuals, like the hero of this book. Children in the labor force then suffered terribly, without a hope for an upward mobility. This book provided a hope for light in a dark dark place.

Susan Kane - Amazon Reviewer.

5 out of 5 stars Wonderful book! I don’t often read ‘childrens’ fiction but this book grabbed me from the start. Carole Anne Carr takes you on an adventure, the book is fast moving and you can feel your heart beating as fast as the characters. Her description of life in by gone days in the Ironbridge Gorge is amazing, you can really see it as it was and how life was like for people in those days. I can’t recommend this book enough for both young and not so young.

Sue Horder-Mason - Amazon Reviewer.

Carole strikes gold dust again, This is the third book I have read by Carole Ann Carr and once again she does not disappoint. Candle Dark takes us through the life of a young child Josh in the Industrial Revolution. We follow his struggle to survive in the desperate poverty and treacherous working conditions of the time. Through Carol’s clever writing we see her fiction bring her characters and this time period to life.You feel as though you are down the pit with Josh and his beloved pit pony, Drummer. You feel Josh’s fear as he tries to escape the cruel and dangerous pit manager Issac Whitlock. You feel his anxiety for his father.You crawl with anguish for Josh’s dilemma – the choice between running away from it all or staying to protect and provide for his family. Candle Dark is an enjoyable book which will inform and educate as well as entertain.

Julie Phillips

5 out of 5 stars Exciting and very moving. Thoroughly enjoyed this book even though it was written as a child’s book I couldn’t put it down. Very well written and extemely moving and I want to read more.

Lizzie - Amazon Reviewer.

Want to find a brilliant children’s book which will encourage them to read while offering historical accuracy? Check out this latest novel. In ‘Candle Dark’, published and written by Shropshire-based author Carole Anne Carr, she has once again used her wealth of experience as a primary school teacher to create a world set against a backdrop of what life was really like for children working in coal mines in the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire during the 18th century. This book highlights the hardships of life down the mines for youngsters as it follows the book’s hero, Joshua, on an exciting adventure. Carole has written a novel that will not only engage children but also encourage them to read for pleasure. This publication can be enjoyed by youngsters and adults alike, and offers a valuable teaching tool for those keen to learn more about life in Ironbridge at that time.  I really enjoyed this, it is superbly written and it proved to be very difficult to put it down! Although the characters and events are imaginary, Carole has portrayed the  working conditions and the life of the family living in the Gorge at a time of rapid industrial growth, and as well as being an exciting read, is a wonderful teaching tool for Key Stage 2. The author is at present writing a sequel to Candle Dark, entitledRiver Dark, which has the River Severn and the trows as an integral part of the story.

Sophie Corness

What a wonderful book! Not just for children, this is a gripping read. Only downside is that it is not long enough – and that is never a bad thing to say of a book! I would recommend this book wholeheartedly.

R. Williams - Amazon Reviewer.

Little Boy Good-For-Nothing and the Shongololo

Brave Little Boy Good-For-Nothing must go to the rain-keeper’s hut to bring back the rain-cloud and save his village from drought. Fierce crocodiles guard the rain-cloud, but with the help of his friend the Shongololo, the lion and the moon-moths, he rescues the animals that go bump in the night, sets free the moon, and becomes Little Boy Good-For-Something. This short story for 5 to 7 year olds, has charming and colourful illustrations by the author and the children of an Infants School with whom she worked. The atmosphere and characters of the African village are captured in the bright colours of the illustrations. The story is one of the triumph of a small child over seemingly insurmountable odds, with the help of the animals who could have been his enemies, but rewarded his kindness and good nature. From being thought worthless by most, he has earned his proper place and respect in his village – the place his granny always knew he deserved. In this tale children can become acquainted with the flora and fauna and social norms of an African village and the children who drew the pictures have also shown imagination and accuracy in their depiction of the many animals Dakarai encounters.

Goodreads critic

 Lovely book for my grandson.

Marion Richards - Amazon Reviewer.

I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads scheme. I have an 8 year old bro and he thoroughly enjoyed it. Read it a few time since. I always encourage to read as many different books as possible. He really enjoys a good book.This is a great book for ids illustrated by kids and the author. It’s a refreshing look at the Golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”My issues: What is a shongololo? I know now but would’ve liked to during reading. Why is he ‘good-for-nothing’?I know it’s a common saying but he’s only little and at that age a lot of children aren’t experts in an field and everyone is always good for and at something.My brother was a bit concerned of the little boys’s and his family’s potential ostracism. More of what I like! The culture differences shown. I like learning about other cultures and I think all children should be exposed to other ways of life. Overall it’s a good book for early readers…5-7 and perfect for reading out loud.

Sa Toya - Amazon Reviewer.

Thin Time

The life changes that we all face as we grow into our mature selves, often bring the pain of loss before the joy of understanding, and Alice’s journey in the story In the Snake-Dragon’s Claws, with her many friends and helpers, and her meeting with the Green Man of All-Knowing, are growth experiences that are both fearful and welcome. As parents know, the stages of a child’s development can be fraught with tensions and testing behaviours, but they are necessary to enable the child to grow into an adult. Human effort and angst, leading to adult maturity, are accompanied by vulnerability and inner reflection: who will help me and why is this happening to me!  Such developmental milestones are described in mythology, fiction, poetry, and endless, ‘if-only I had done so and so’, tales, and in Alice’s quest to find the seeds that will bring life back to the world. The author has captured human yearning in the real life struggles of Alice, as she comes to understand the confusion that has up-ended her world.  The loss of her mother, and her gradual acceptance of her father’s marriage to a new ‘mother’, leads to a healing process that brings about her progress and reflection.  These life changes, though sometimes unpleasant, are part of the family’s shared experience. As Alice and her friends grapple with the Snake-Dragon in the Cave of Mists, she also comes to embrace her new family who help her grow into the young adult she is becoming. Surrounded by a circle of both human and spiritual helpers, Alice reaches out to embrace divine intervention at ‘thin time’, and in doing so is able to take steps towards becoming what she is intended to be.

Patricia (Paddy) Kennington - TSSFPh.D., LPC, NCC, Certified EMDR Therapist.

Ludlow author Carole Anne Car truly understands children. Her fourth book, In the Snake-Dragon’s Claws, previously published as Thin Time, makes it quite clear as she explores relationships between step-families, and emotions such as honesty, truth, courage and love. She certainly knows how to tell a great tale. Thin Time, which is set in the famous Shropshire village church of Tong near Shifnal, with its life sized effigies of knights in armour, is no exception. In her latest publication, she weaves a fantastic adventure incorporating enchantment, fantasy, local history and Norse mythology.Alice may seem like an unlikely heroine, for she is rebellious and does not want to accept the task the four hundred year old dog Fymm has given her, but she is a child that youngsters can truly identify with. Passing through the Tree of Life with her small step-brother Thomas, Fymm the grumpy dog, Ratatosk the squirrel that can’t be trusted, and Bridd the cockerel from the church tower, she must face Niddhogg the snake-dragon armed only with a stone and a gargoyle’s shield. Inspired by her years as a primary school teacher, Carole is a master storyteller and her fans, old and young, will be looking forward to the sequel when once again Alice must set off on her quest. And both children and parents will enjoy visiting Tong church and searching for the four hundred year old dog Fymm!

Sophie Bignall


I cannot tell you how much I loved the poems – they really are absolutely wonderful, Carole. You draw the reader in from the first line, and one feels not only totally engaged, but often greatly moved. Your artistic sensitivity is in evidence throughout – the pictures you paint, the colour and texture, and general appeal to the senses – and I just love your imagery and wonderful use of metaphor. To me Kaleidoscope is a very fine collection of poems, and I do hope you continue down this road – and seek a wider audience. Joys and heartache of becoming a woman as seen through poetry.

A message from a reader on Facebook.

5 out of 5 stars Poetry and Reconciliation. `Woman to Woman’ by Carole Anne Carr, is a story of child-woman growing into woman-child. Her shared lyrics become a vehicle to convey dreams, memories, hopes, and desires for “the more.” Through her poems, Carole invites us to relive and feel both the clarity and confusion of moving from child to adult. Her poetry encourages us to re-experience the poignant and the painful, self-realisation, and the recognition of human failure. We return to past decisions, joys, failures, and the anguish of being alive and moving on. We remember with more than mental thoughts, pictures and sounds. We remember with our feelings and our body sensations. This is the human energy that is tapped by Carole Carr in her collections of poems which well up within us. In Kaleidoscope, We read her words and simultaneously experience moments in our own lives that bring forth poignant, sad, and joyful “puffs” of unity with the images in her poems. In Carole’s reflections as a poet, we are brought to awareness of the recent and far past in our lives to savour, to mourn, to celebrate.

Patricia Kennington, TSSF, Ph.D., Spiritual Director - Amazon Reviewer.

5 out of 5 stars If you love great poetry, I’m confident you’ll love this collection. Other reviewers have summarised the intriguing evocations of childhood and then the adult persona who has become, in a way, a child again as she thinks about her experiences of a lifetime in England and Africa, places that in themselves resonate with me emotionally, not because I have ever lived in either of these places, or even been there, but because of the history associated with them. Those poems are fascinating as are all of the others especially because of the sensory images Ms. Carr uses to draw us emotionally into each poem. Only a poet as skilled as Ms. Carr could write poems that capture times and places in such a way that they become universal. Skilled in associational movement and concrete imagery, she draws me into the poem in such a way that I feel as if I’m, for example, the “teenager, consumed by a religious fervour” or the “princess, dazzling, beautiful / where the hot bellied dragon / gazes in awe at the sight of her.” These are only two of the poems where Ms. Carr exhibits her skill with free verse. I was also impressed with her rhyming skills that reminded me of the great poets Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur. The rhymed poem I especially like is the delightful “Writers’ Weekend,” with its apt Dickensian allusion. For example, the following stanza: “Huddled by the fire we shut the door the fuel in the bucket’s growing less. Oliver like, I dare to ask for more but, sad to say, with just as much success.” I especially smiled at the last line, which ends in surprise, a surprise enhanced by the fact that it stands alone and doesn’t rhyme with anything before it. Form enhancing meaning. I’m still smiling. EVERY poem in this collection begins in delight and ends in surprise, as every great poem does. Great poems are also those you can read again and again and experience something new each time. There is so much to enjoy and ponder from the narrative flow, the vivid imagery, the wry humour, and the interesting characters that include the poet as she shares with us a lifetime of wisdom and discovery. I’m very glad I have a print copy of Kaleidoscope, as well as a copy for my Kindle. I encourage anyone who loves poetry to get this in any form. I hope Ms. Carr will write more poems, but if not, there are her children’s books. I especially want to read Candle Dark. Such an intriguing title.

Ann Carbine Best - Amazon Reviewer.

5 out of 5 stars vivid, lyrical. Carole Anne Carr’s poetry is truly amazing. She strings words together in a vivid, lyrical manner. The words jump off the pages, as they are spellbinding and compelling. I hope another poetry collection is in the works from this author.

Sharif - Amazon Reviewer.