Tag Archives: Coteau Books

Review: The Griffin of Darkwood by Becky Citra

The Griffin of Darkwood by Becky CitraThe Griffin of Darkwood
Becky Citra
Coteau Books
Published on August 15, 2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About The Griffin of Darkwood
After 12-year-old Will Poppy’s mother dies, he finds himself moving to a run-down castle with an aunt he loathes and servants who are up to no good – and that’s just the beginning of his troubles.

Will Poppy has always been fascinated with writing – he thinks there’s something almost… magical about it. But when his mother dies, Will finds himself stuck living with his awful aunt, unable to write a single word (despite the fact that two Muses will not leave him alone) and handed a mysterious package which includes an old picture of his grandparents and a piece of cloth with the words “The Griffin of Darkwood” on it.

When his aunt decides to move both of them to a small village, Will is excited for a new adventure – in a castle no less! But after a rude welcome to the town that includes stories about a curse, and an introduction to the servants of the castle who evidently mean to cause him harm, Will’s sense of dread about the whole village rises.

What is the curse the villagers claim has been on the castle for hundreds of years, and what does it have to do with the disappearance of a young girl forty years ago? More importantly, what’s the Griffin of Darkwood, and what does it have to do with Will and his family?

My Review
My favorite thing about this book was the small town where Will and his aunt move after Will’s mom dies. I liked the sense of mystery and magic the town had and the connections between Will and the town the story revealed. Will’s friends made a fun cast of characters, too. I liked the way he related to each and the surprises that came from those relationships.

The Griffin of Darkwood is a pretty quick read with a nice balance between its more sinister elements of mystery and its themes of courage and community. After the heartbreak of losing his mom and being thrust into the care of his cruel aunt, Will finds comfort in new friends and mentors in the small village where he and his aunt move. At the same time, Will struggles to dodge his aunt’s schemes and the disdain of the two castle servants, who seem to wish him ill.

In Will’s grief over his mom’s death, he gives up writing. He learns, however, that telling stories is a powerful ability, and may be something of an inescapable gift. I liked the way his writing fit into the story as a whole.

Readers who enjoy fantasy stories and mysteries will find The Griffin of Darkwood a great addition to their bookshelves and reading lists. See below for content information.

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Cultural Elements
No real cultural information or descriptions given.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Will and his mother see literal representations of their Muses—companions who visit them as they write. After his mother dies, Will continues to see his Muse and hers.

At a local bookstore, Will briefly spots literary characters like Gandalf. The shop owner doesn’t seem surprised. The castle where Will and his aunt move is haunted by ghosts. Rumor says there’s a curse on the castle.

An old woman shows Will a crystal ball and he has a terrible vision. She tells him it’s because he “fell into” the crystal ball.

Will meets with a friend who uses Tarot cards to check her future. She suggests they consult a Ouija board for more information about Will’s quest.

Someone tells Will about a legendary tapestry weaver whose tapestries changed the future. Whatever he wove came to be.

Violent Content
A man threatens to kill Will. Will and his friends hear rumors of someone once tortured in the dungeon of the castle where Will lives.

A Sparrowhawk (bird of prey) catches a pigeon. A man tells Will that the bird will kill its prey.

Will finds tapestries depicting a group hunting for a griffin.

Drug Content


Author Interview: Kathleen Cook Waldron

Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview with author Kathleen Cook Waldron, author of Between Shadows, a middle grade novel about a boy who has recently lost his grandfather and returns to the cabin where they shared memories together. Between Shadows was recently named a finalist for the Silver Birch award. Read my review here.

I met Kathy before I knew she was an author. She and her husband were on a cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary. My husband and I took the same cruise for our honeymoon trip. We really enjoyed spending time with Kathy and Mark, so finding out that Kathy was also a children’s book author was a fun bonus. I’m excited to be able to share more of the story behind the story and the inspiration for Between Shadows.

Author Interview with Kathleen Cook Waldron

I find that a story was often inspired by a question. Was there a question that inspired you to write Between Shadows?

I wondered what would happen if a child were to inherit a cabin on mostly wild land? What if his family wanted or felt they needed to sell it? How would he feel? What could he do? The plot for Between Shadows grew out of those questions. The original idea came from my husband’s and my personal experience of buying land with no registered access, deciding to build a log house on it, then asking ourselves how we were going to get to it.

I love that the story rose out of that personal moment. It definitely comes across in the story– Ari’s relationship with the cabin and the wilderness feel deep and alive. I love that Ari’s grandfather’s cabin is painted all different colors. Did something inspire you to create the cabin that way? Where did you draw inspiration for Ari’s grandfather from?

The inspiration for the rainbow-colored cabin came from the possibility of combining our log home maintenance with the half-empty paint cans stacked in our storage room. Rather than re-staining the logs their natural color, why not use up some of that old paint instead? Ari’s grandfather is a blend of my own wonderful grandfather with the one man who lived in our tiny community of Mahood Falls who seemed to be the only person whom all our neighbors both liked and admired.

Is there a scene or moment in Between Shadows that really sticks with you? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

One of the scenes I had the most fun writing was when all the neighbors arrived unannounced. I loved the noise and chaos of it, not to mention Dad and Aunt Laurel’s reactions. It was the kind of show of support I would wish for myself as well as a turning point in the story. It presented a glimmer of hope for Ari and Tam that their plan might actually work.

That was a great scene. We definitely need community when we go through hard times– sometimes more than we realize we do. What do you most hope that readers take away from Between Shadows?

I hope readers take away the importance of staying connected to family, to nature, and to our heritage. Specifically, I hope readers who have lost someone they love can take comfort from Ari and knowing they aren’t alone.

So true. Grief is never easy to navigate. It’s good to have those connections to help us get through. What is one question about Between Shadows you are often asked by readers?

Many readers have asked why Aunt Laurel seems so mean. My answer is that she is mourning her father’s death, and all of us react differently to loss. She reacts with anger at the world and a need to try to control everyone and everything around her. I hope readers can see her opening up as the story progresses.

Yes! It’s so true that we all respond differently to loss. Some reactions are harder to empathize with than others. Grief is a tough topic to tackle in a middle grade novel, but so important. And you did a great job! In fact, you were recently nominated for the Silver Birch award for Between Shadows. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about the award and your experience as a nominee?

The Silver Birch award is the largest children’s choice award in Canada. Tens of thousands of children participate every year in choosing the winner. It is part of the Forest of Reading program in Ontario which has a different tree to represent each different category. Other provinces across Canada have similar tree-related reading programs. The Silver Birch nomination is the most prestigious award recognition I’ve had in my writing career. Many nominees have said it’s the closest most children’s writers come to rock stardom. Going from venue to venue, meeting hundreds of keen, young readers, all cheering for their favorite books and authors was a truly unforgettable experience. I want more than ever to keep writing so perhaps I can do it again!

That sounds amazing — and an honor well-deserved! I hope you get to do it again, too. I’m excited to read your next book. Speaking of reading… Where is your favorite place to read?

I’m a compulsive reader and will read anything from magazines in the dentist’s office to shampoo bottles in the bathroom. Reading outside In the summer is my favorite break from other outdoor activities. The rest of the year, I like to start and end my day by reading in bed. Reading both wakes me up and puts me to sleep. How lucky is that!

That’s incredibly lucky! How fun. Thanks so much for stopping by to share with us today.

About Between Shadows

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | My Review

It’s bittersweet: Ari’s beloved grandfather has died, but he’s left Ari an amazing gift – the inheritance of his log cabin and all the land he owned. Tucked into a small lakeside community, the cabin and its land are unusual, full of secrets to discover…and very, very marketable. With the family’s money troubles, the only sensible option from his dad and aunt’s point of view is to sell it at a prime price to a luxury hotel developer.

As the grown-ups proceed with the paperwork, Ari sets about discovering everything his new property has to offer. Hidden beaches, forest trails, locked doors – and even an extraordinary (and exasperating) new friend who introduces him to a world into which he sees himself just…fitting. Not only is it the perfect place to live, it’s a connection with his grandfather that is too precious to lose. But the deadline to sign away the property is approaching. How can Ari speak up for his hopes, for his grandfather, and for the land itself?

About Kathleen Cook Waldron

Website | Goodreads

Kathleen Cook Waldron was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. After teaching in Colorado’s bilingual and summer migrant schools, Kathleen and her family moved to the Cariboo area of British Columbia. Inspired by The Secret Garden, MAD magazine and Spiderman comics, Kathleen is the author several critically acclaimed children’s picture books including Roundup at the Palace and A Winter’s Yarn.



Review: Between Shadows by Kathleen Cook Waldron

Between Shadows
Kathleen Cook Waldron
Coteau Books

When his grandfather dies unexpectedly, Ari and his remaining family gather at the cabin deep in the woods. At the reading of the will, another surprise greets Ari, his dad and his aunt: Grandpa left the cabin and all his land to Ari. Uninterested in the remote property that conjures painful memories, Ari’s dad and aunt make plans to sell everything. Ari is determined to change their minds.

Author Kathleen Cook Waldron brings to the story her own experience living in the bush. The details of the cabin and surrounding land and community are told in vivid detail so that even the most urban readers can perfectly picture the serene woods, playful stream and peaceful lake.

Through Waldron’s clean storytelling, we follow a grieving family as they wrestle with loss. I loved how each member of Ari’s family reconnected with his grandfather through the experience of staying at the cabin. Though he’s no longer present, his love for his family is so clear in the things he left behind. Each character discovers and responds to these unwritten love letters from their father or grandfather. In these moments, Waldron’s writing is moving, subtle and clever.

This is a great story about the opportunity grieving families have to rediscover their lost loved one and renew relationships with one another. The rustic setting gently reminds us to consider what’s really important.

Language Content

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content


Drug Content