Now and then there is a moment of joy to be found on Kickstarter. Rather than the algorithm pushing yet another company using it to generate pre-sales of a product that will undoubtedly be made no matter what, you instead are given the chance to support a fledgling creator who just wants to share something they have created with love and passion.
The Adventures of GRiNdaL Volume 1 is exactly that. It tells the adventures of the eponymous hero over 100 fully illustrated pages. The hard back book contains three stories aimed at young children, though only the first two were available for review. The tales are simple and easy to follow, told in a relaxed, bedtime-story manner.
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Noёl Mallet is the author and artist responsible for GRiNdal’s creation, though the Kickstarter page is very careful to mention the other creatives behind this project. In a rather charming video, Mallet explains how these stories came from his love of playing the ‘bad’ guys at LARPs and other roleplay games, and there certainly is a feeling of gaming humour with many of the names. ‘Big Dave’ the giant, the Pit & Swet tavern, and the world of Owtdare are a few of the examples. But this adds to the charm. These feel like stories a parent would tell their child, a land of imagination created night by night. There’s something surprisingly intimate in these tales that is often lost in translation in children’s books.
Another plus is that it doesn’t feel like there is a deep, moral lesson to be told. Or, rather, there is, but it’s wonderfully subtle. The tagline on the Kickstarter page is ‘Not all Fairies are good, not all Goblins are bad…’, and that’s about as deep as these stories need to get. Which is just about right.
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The style of the art is simplistic, and may not be to everyone’s taste. Readers expecting Maurice Sendak or Judith Kerr will be disappointed. That’s not to say that Mallet’s work doesn’t have its own charm. The goblins are not classically good looking, to say the least, but there has clearly been fun had in their design. Think more along the lines of Peppa Pig, but with more green, and you’ll be about right.
The base cost is £25, which isn’t an insignificant amount, especially when there are so many classic children books that cost next to nothing at your local charity shop. However, considering that this is a truly independent publishing attempt, as well as the quality of what is being produced, if you can afford it, this feels like a reasonable amount. Of course, as any parent who has had to pick up the same book for the 100th story time will tell you, if your child does fall in love with these stories you will more than get your money’s worth over time. The second tier introduces a large map, which feels very much like a nod to the stories’ gaming pedigree. It looks like a rather nice extra, but again this was unavailable for review.
This feels like a product made with love, which is the best place to start when creating a children’s book. The stories are well pitched, with a driven narrative, likeable characters, and fun illustrations. It also seems to be the perfect first step towards getting your child into gaming. After all, how else can you guarantee regular D&D sessions when you’re finally in the nursing home?
The Adventures of GRiNdaL Volume 1 launched on Kickstarter on 15th September.