The Adventures of Jilly and June in Russia – Denise Drew

Welcome back everyone, this review is a follow up on last week’s review and will be the final one from my guest reviewer. 

I hope when you read these reviews that you remember writers all need to start somewhere and being able to provide feedback can help them make improvements. I’ve already seen other small authors improve from my feedback, and I hope these reviews will help Denise continue to grow and improve in the future to make even better stories for us to read our kids in the future.

In this story Jilly and June, a mother and daughter duo, seek out new experiences as they travel across the globe in their magic, flying house. This adventure sees their interest in Russia sparked after eating a warm bowl of borscht. Much of their journey revolves around the harsh weather conditions to reach their destination and their encounters in Moscow. Arriving in the centre of the Red Square, they make friends with traditional nesting doll makers, explore The Kremlin, take in the wonders of the Moscow Metro architecture and the acrobatic feats of the Cossack dance.

After reading The Adventures of Jilly and June in India, I found that their Russian adventure provided more thought into the cultural aspects that the pair were exploring. I liked to see June providing Jilly with a background on The Kremlin,and the Cossack dance to help her understand why they were important to Russian culture. This provides children reading this book more knowledge about the places Jilly and June were visiting, making it a fun way to learn about Russia.


What held this story back was the time spent on aspects that didn’t need to go into detail and other points that should have given more time. There were close to five pages describing the flight over to Russia and in addition to a number of pages describing the weather and how cold the setting was. There is a lot more to Russia than the winter season and this time could be better spent to explore more of what Moscow has to offer than discussing what clothes to wear or what equipment to keep on board the house. The part where Jilly and June are confronted by a crowd in front of their house also fell flat when it had the potential to add more excitement to this scene than it did.

While The Adventures of Jilly and June in Russia is an improvement on their Indian adventure, there is still a lot of work to be done to get the balance of culture, energy and wit in the right places to truly captivate a young audience. The ideas Drew is presenting hold a lot of promise and I am look forward to seeing a revision of her work.


Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the last two reviews on The Adventures of Jilly and June in Russia.

Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Denise Drew was born in Liverpool in 1970. She has raised her daughter, as a single parent, since her daughter was two years old. Never deterred by being a one parent family, Denise worked full time, provided a loving home and continued life in a strong and positive light.

As a small family, they were lucky enough to have holidays every year and this lead Denise to dream of writing adventure stories about her and her daughter travelling the world. Denise would say that she would love to pick up her house and take it on holiday with her, so they could have their home comforts. What an idea! A flying house. A magical house, with sails, that flies them to "wherever takes their fancy".

The Adventures of Jilly and June in India – Denise Drew

Welcome back everyone, this review, and one next week, are a special feature for me. These two reviews are features of a friend of mine and I’m sure you’ll appreciate her point of view on these children’s books. Yes,you heard me right! For the first time ever you will get to hear about children’s books, but don’t expect too many more of these as they aren’t something I specialise in.

In this story Jilly and June, a mother and daughter duo, seek out new experiences as they travel across the globe in their magic, flying house. In this story they set sail for India to learn more about the country that is famous for curry. After navigating their house through a storm, they arrive at their destination and find that there is much more to experience in this vibrant land where the trains are overcrowded, polo matches are played with elephants instead of horses, weddings feature “Bollywood” dance moves and saris, you can drive tuk tuks through mountains and find inner peace through the art of meditation.

Drew brings an innocent curiosity to both Jilly and June as they discover new cultures and social norms, such as adapting to eating meals with their hands instead of cutlery. She also captures the intimate moments in a mother-daughter relationship, highlighting Jilly’s embarrassed reactions when June lets loose dancing at a wedding they attended, and enjoying a meditation session.


While Drew’s fictional perspective feels like it’s coming from good-intentions, there are instances in the book where research to the subject-matter could have been applied more effectively where she describes non-fictional references to avoid racial stereotyping. For instance, when Jilly and June meet with a “Maharajah”,I felt confused as to what time period they were in, since monarchies are now abolished in India. Jilly and June are also introduced to a “Buddha”, again,raising some questions about timelines and suggesting that Drew may have incorrectly referring to a Sadhu. Sadly, these examples left me cringing and I felt as though the writing was based on the idea of exotic glamour that is India, and not a true reflection of the rich culture that it is.

Drew’s desire to travel the world with her daughter in the eyes of Jilly and June draws a sense of wonder and spirit to the book. However, the story is yearning for more context and development to really capture the imagination of today’s children and to give the credit and respect to the cultures Drew is in awe of.More investment into planning content and approach to this story would make it a more inclusive, robust and enjoyable read for children. Unfortunately, I will not be reading this edition with my family any time soon as it’s not the perspective of my son’s heritage I want him to hear.


Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review, next week’s special to follow up this one will be reviewing The Adventures of Jilly and June in Russia, the next book in the series.

Continue to read further down to find out about the author.

Denise Drew was born in Liverpool in 1970. She has raised her daughter, as a single parent, since her daughter was two years old. Never deterred by being a one parent family, Denise worked full time, provided a loving home and continued life in a strong and positive light. 

As a small family, they were lucky enough to have holidays every year and this lead Denise to dream of writing adventure stories about her and her daughter travelling the world. Denise would say that she would love to pick up her house and take it on holiday with her, so they could have their home comforts. What an idea! A flying house. A magical house, with sails, that flies them to "wherever takes their fancy".

The Seven Steps to Closure – Donna Joy Usher

Welcome back, this week I read The Seven Steps To Closure by Donna Joy Usher. I started this book while on the plane back home after finishing up Bleddyn Hall and I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of this book because I’ve never read anything that started off with a heartbroken woman. But this was a surprisingly great book and had me hooked in so bad I stayed up until midnight two nights in a row even though I needed to get up for work at 6am. It was worth it though! It was worth crashing and being ridiculously tired the day after I finished the book at midnight, just so I could finish the book.

 

We started off with Tara who is heartbroken a yr after she left her husband after finding out he was cheating on her. With her cousin. At this stage she’s just had her 30th birthday and finds out her husband is already engaged to before she’s even received any divorce papers. What kind of a guy cheats on their wife, let alone with her cousin who she had previously been really close to?!

 

To try and help her get over Jake and allow her to regain control of her life, her 3 girlfriends encourage her to complete the 7 steps to closure from an article in Cosmo. Tara is a little hesitant to do this not thinking it would help. However she realizes that she needs all the help she can get at this stage an agrees to complete all 7 steps to closure. I’m sure most of us have been there at some point in our lives. And it sucks. The fact that she’s got 3 awesome girlfriends there to support her and help her get over her ex is amazing, and more than some people have when in similar situations.

 

The first 2 steps are really quite simple and I was surprised Tara hadn’t already done this as many woman will get a new haircut and wardrobe after a breakup to allow themselves to feel better and more empowered. But I gota say, I was surprised by step 4! Have meaningless sex. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and can go against some peoples beliefs and values so it can be really tricky. Plus if you don’t do this with the right type of guy it can even be detrimental to the healing process. So I’m kind of surprised that Cosmo would recommend women have meaningless sex!

 

Luckily Tara doesn’t sleep with just anyone and passes on a few guys that sounded really creepy. She is however committed to having meaningless sex and so goes out to have drunk meaningless sex. By the sound of what she remembers she found the right type of guy to do this with. And she seems to have held up well the morning after which was a relief to hear.

 

At this stage her friends give her her passport back so she can organise step 5, which is to take an adventurous holiday! Here I was thinking she’d be jetting off in like 3-6 months because that’s normally how long I’d spend organising a holiday since you need to get time off work, flights, hotels etc. I guess having one of her best friends as her boss meant she had more flexibility than most and could organise a holiday to head off in a few short weeks. Now me personally could never do this. My OCD and need to control details would leave me a stressed out wreck trying to organise a holiday on such short notice. But Tara manages it and jet’s off to India to stay with her ex-brother-in-law who also happens to hate Tara’s ex Jake.

 

Fate seems to have kicked in and on the way to India the guy sitting next to her keeps bumping into her, looking at her and overall making her feel uncomfortable. Until he tells her that he was her one night stand. At which point she becomes mortified, which had me feeling mortified along with her. Having to face your one night stand and having to admit that you couldn’t remember them aren’t exactly easy things to do. Luckily he seems pretty cool about it and even proposes that they do some sight seeing together. I started to get a little skeptical about Tara’s safety at this stage. Because to me this seems like a silly thing to do. Although that might just be because of all the crime based tv show’s I’ve watched where the careless girl inevitably gets kidnapped and/ or killed by the hot friendly guy she barely knows.

 

Good news is, while out with her ex-brother-in-law it turns out Matt is also friends with him. So he can’t be that bad! And after a turn of events Matt ends up having Tara tag along with him to see some of India’s sights. Along this trip there are some cringe-worthy moments where I really feel for Tara and I feel like she had to have ruined any chance of ticking off step number 6, have meaningful sex, with Matt. I mean, she got food poisoning and spent a night on the toilet which is bad enough as it is. To then have Matt offer to slide her book to her since she’s likely to be there and offer to put the TV on really loudly so she doesn’t feel as self-conscious has got to kill any feelings in that department, surely right?

 

And if that didn’t, you’d think tripping and landing on a pile of cow shit would definitely do it! Nope. Tara is one lucky girl where none of these things turn Matt off of her. And I sat there thinking, I couldn’t even get a kiss out of my partner when I went through this for almost a day and she gets sex and a relationship within a day of having food poisoning? Life is definitely not fair, and I found myself a little jealous that Tara could just jet off to India, meet a cute guy (ok technically it’s re-meet) on the plane and get to have her very own tour guide take her around to all the best places on just a few weeks or days notice!

 

And then when they got back to Sydney it all falls apart. And I gota say, I was secretly happy that this happened. Then started to feel bad when I found out that she had to publicly watch and hear how both her ex’s were moving on with their lives by getting married to other women.

 

With some encouragement from her friends, Tara ends up trying to crash Matt’s wedding to object to the marriage. Except she rocks up just a little bit late to then be hit in the leg with a golf ball from her ex husband Jake, to then swallow a bee who stung her tongue when she falls to the ground. Which meant that she needed an ambulance since her tongue and face became quite swollen. This really shows that she seems to get hit with the unlucky stick quite a lot. Which really allowed me to feel like I was her. Because I felt so similar to her.

And if she can get her happily ever after, maybe I can as well. Even if I am hard to get along with at times, seem to get hit with the unlucky stick quite a bit and that I don’t always find it easy to express how I feel and would rather withdraw and get away from what’s hurting me. So maybe I can learn to let go of my control like Tara did to really make the most of my life.

The next review will be for “His Fair Lady” by Kathleen Kirkwood. I look forward to seeing your then!

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