Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – NOVEMBER READ – The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Published December 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, and she’s making an awful mess of it. She’s always getting her spells wrong and she can’t even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?

What did I think?:

When we chose this book as part of our yearly Kid-Lit challenge I was quite excited. I don’t remember reading it as a child – perhaps I was slightly old for it at the time and now I’ve read it, I can confirm I don’t recall this book at all. It was a pleasant surprise to read about a magical school that wasn’t Hogwarts (dear though it is to me Potter fans) and have such an unlikely heroine in Mildred Hubble. In some ways, The Worst Witch reminded me very much of my other literary heroines who often get themselves into sticky situations. For example, my beloved Katie Carr in What Katy Did or Anne Shirley in Anne Of Green Gables.

Jill Murphy, author of The Worst Witch series

I can imagine if this was your favourite book as a youngster, re-reading The Worst Witch would invoke waves of nostalgia and if I had read this book at the right time, I would have felt exactly the same way, longing to be at a school of witchcraft just like Mildred Hubble. The description of Mildred’s daily life and adventures at the school is cosy, comforting and exciting at the same time – particularly near the finale where Mildred has to prove herself and save the school against some very shady and malicious characters. Jill Murphy gets into the mind of a young girl wonderfully well and provides an excellent role model for her readers in Mildred. She’s clumsy and struggles with basic witchcraft but at the end of the day, she has a good heart and is brave and loyal, even to those who have done her wrong.

This is a fantastic opening to the series that although I won’t be continuing it myself, I will definitely be recommending it to all the children I know.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher.

Banned Books 2019 – NOVEMBER READ – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Published December 30, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the eleventh banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

First published: 1960

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, racism

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourite classics and so advance warning – I might be slightly biased towards it. In attempting to look at it with a critical eye, this novel has been challenged even since its release in 1960. Reasons for banning it include the reasons above, the theme of rape and the fact that it made some people feel “uncomfortable.” It is true that there are problems with the novel, we are hearing the point of view of a white narrator and a white father who swoops in and saves the day. However for me, it was one of the first book that reminded me that no-one should be treated differently, regardless of their colour or beliefs. So no, I don’t think it ever should have been challenged or banned, especially as late on as 2011.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I am biased towards this book because it is one of my favourite books. I didn’t read it at school, but took it upon myself to read it for pleasure not long after I finished school at 15. I’m so pleased I did because it’s one I frequently re-read as I love it so much. I don’t believe that it should have been challenged or banned because I think it’s a highly educative book. I understand that some themes may have made people uncomfortable, but is that a reason to challenge it? I don’t think so.

How about now?

BETH: James LaRue, the director of American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom is unconvinced by some of the challenges that have been posed against this novel stating: “the whole point of classics is they challenge the way we think about things,” and I must whole-heartedly agree. The novel does go into some dark places with some abhorrent attitudes which does make for difficult reading at times. However, it is through reading that we learn, understand and develop a wider view on important issues. Reading about these issues has been such an eye-opening experience throughout my life so far and I would hate for that opportunity to be taken away from anyone else because of a challenge or ban.

CHRISSI: Like I mentioned, I think books like this are educative. I think they make the reader think about their own worldview. We can challenge what we read. If everything is censored, then we can’t have our thinking challenged and I think that’s dangerous! Everyone should have the opportunity to read things that make us think.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I gave this novel 5 out of 5 stars on my last re-read (review available on my blog) and I think it’s always going to have a special place in my heart. I haven’t read Go Set A Watchman yet (I do realise there were some major issues and controversies about this follow-up to Mockingbird) but for the moment, I’ll live in blissful ignorance and enjoy To Kill A Mockingbird for the classic that it is.

CHRISSI: This is one of my favourite books, so of course I loved it. It will always be a special book to me. 🙂

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BANNED BOOKS: Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – OCTOBER READ – Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Published November 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twelve stories about animals, insects, and other subjects include How the Camel Got His Hump. The Butterfly That Stamped, and How the Alphabet Was Made.

What did I think?:

Apologies for the late posting of our kid-lit once again. Chrissi and I are so busy at the moment that we’re struggling to find time to keep up to date with this but we’re determined to finish our series this year. Interestingly, Just So Stories is I think, going to be quite a difficult book to review for us both. Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) Kipling’s Jungle Book which is a classic of children’s literature – much like Just So Stories. However, with some exceptions within this collection, I found myself skim reading some of the stories here and not enjoying them as much as I hoped I would have done. This is my second reading of the collection and a few stories were very familiar and enjoyable however, I couldn’t recall the vast majority of them which made me wonder if I had skim read the others on the first reading, just like this second experience!

Rudyard Kipling, author of Just So Stories

I really do love the sentiment behind why Kipling developed this collection. The first few started out as bedtime stories for his daughter Effie who liked them told “just so” without changing sentences or missing out necessary information. It consists of mainly stories of how animals got to be the way they are today and in this collection, they were either changed by other animals, human beings or by magical entities. For example, the crocodile who was responsible for how the elephant got his trunk, the man who was responsible for the whale’s throat (and in turn is the reason for why these huge creatures only eat small prey) and the djinn who gives the camel a hump as punishment for his refusal to work.

In practice, as a huge animal lover, this book sounds like a perfect read and to be honest, I do think the idea of how each animal evolved is entertaining and very charming. However, I just didn’t connect with a few stories and the writing style didn’t capture my attention and make me want to read on. I’ve read that in some editions of this book, Kipling has illustrated it himself and I feel that would have been an added bonus that I would have appreciated in the edition I read and may have even led to a slightly higher rating! However I have to be honest and just admit that the majority of this book probably wasn’t for me. There are a few stand-out stories like the above mentioned tale about the elephant and one entitled The Cat That Walked By Himself which has always been a favourite of mine. Overall though, I just couldn’t find enough enthusiasm to enjoy these tales as much as I’m sure the multitude of Kipling fans will.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Banned Books 2019 – OCTOBER READ – The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Published November 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A nineteenth-century boy from a Mississippi River town recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave, encountering a family involved in a feud, two scoundrels pretending to be royalty, and Tom Sawyer’s aunt who mistakes him for Tom.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the ninth banned book in our series for 2019! Apologies for the late posting of this review, life has been quite hectic for both of us recently. As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

First published: 1884

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)

Reasons: offensive language

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  I can probably speak for my sister right now and confirm that Huckleberry Finn was a bit of a tricky book for us both to read and analyse. Full disclosure right now – I didn’t manage to finish it so this post is being written without having read to the end. I can only report back on the small portion that I did manage to read. Personally, I think that the reasoning for challenging or banning should be a little more specific – in my opinion, “offensive language” is slightly vague and does not get to the real heart of the matter that this book covers. After a little internet searching and my limited experience of the book,

I found it was mainly the racist terms/attitudes and the dialect used by the main character that were most offensive. As someone who finds these kind of things abhorrent obviously I don’t agree with it but I can also understand that this book is probably a product of its time. Not that it makes it acceptable, it doesn’t! However, I think we still need to read about the past to appreciate where we need to be in the future.

CHRISSI: This was a struggle to read and finish. Like Beth, I didn’t manage to finish this book and found myself skim reading. For me, I found the racist attitudes hard to read and it made me uncomfortable. Therefore from that side of things, I do understand why this book might be challenged. Although I think it’s more likely to be challenged nowadays when the type of language isn’t seen as acceptable.

How about now?

BETH: This novel was challenged/banned as recently as 2002 which makes me believe that some readers are quite rightly upset by its contents – particularly the language that is used. As a white person, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to fully appreciate how upsetting that might be but I can acknowledge why people would be offended. From my point of view, I think if a book is presented in the right way i.e. taught that this kind of language is no longer acceptable then those studying it can always learn something from it to build a better future without racism or discrimination. I think everyone should have access to all literature – no matter what the issue, purely for the chance to learn. If things are hidden away or restricted, understanding abhorrent attitudes will be slightly more difficult.

CHRISSI: I can totally understand why this book has been challenged in recent times. The language used is completely offensive. However, I agree with Beth, if this book is used to examine how things used to be- then I can totally see its worth. I know many people have enjoyed this book, so there’s surely something about it!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately as mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, I didn’t get on with Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t that I was offended by the language – although some of the attitudes did make me cross but I found it slow and difficult to read. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or feel invested in the plot.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t finish it because I found it difficult to read. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve tried to read this book. I see so many people loving this book and it’s really not for me. I just can’t get into the plot, no matter how hard I try!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BANNED BOOKS: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – SEPTEMBER READ – I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Published October 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…’

This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra’s father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches. Their step-mother Topaz has habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love…

What did I think?:

Apologies for the late posting of our September kid-lit! Both Chrissi and I have been so busy with normal life events that it’s been difficult to read, write and schedule our regular monthly posts. I am however looking forward to telling you all about my experience of I Capture The Castle as it’s been a book that has languished on my shelves for some years now and I never seem to have had the time or will to get round to reading it before now. As you can see from the image above in my post, this particular edition was too gorgeous to resist and once I saw it, I knew I had to have it. What can I say? I’m a sucker for pretty books. Did the inside match the inside? Generally, yes but to be perfectly honest, I think I would have benefited from reading this book a lot earlier in my life, perhaps as a young teenager.

Dodie Smith, author of I Capture The Castle.

I Capture The Castle is quintessentially, a coming of age story that follows our female protagonist, Cassandra and her journal entries as she attempts to capture on paper both the castle that she lives in, and the everyday life of its inhabitants and the people that come to visit. We hear in glorious detail about the eccentricities of her step-mother Topaz, an artist’s model who prefers to be nude rather than clothed, a quirk that is absorbed quite normally into daily life within the castle. Then there is Cassandra’s older sister Rose, who is determined to marry and lift herself out of the poverty that the family has become accustomed to, no matter if she loves the man in question or not. One of the most interesting characters for me was the father, a famous author who wrote one successful book and has had writers block ever since, mostly isolating himself from the rest of the household and enjoying detective stories and crossword puzzles. Finally, we learn about Stephen who is not related to the rest of the family but is a son of a former servant and the younger brother, Thomas who plays a rather quieter role in the proceedings.

There were so many things to like about this novel and I guess that’s why I’m struggling with my rating slightly. I adored the setting – mid 1930’s England and of course, the castle which almost becomes a character in its own right. Alongside this, the “human” characters of the piece were drawn wonderfully. They were such an eclectic, interesting mix and I never felt as if I could predict what any one of them might do next. Occasionally, they were infuriating and I didn’t understand why they made the choices they did but for myself as a reader, it was an endlessly fascinating voyage of discovery. I don’t really have any particular criticisms to make, there’s nothing very much to dislike at all and as a debut novel, it’s an extraordinary piece of work.

The reason I’ve plumped for the rating that I have (and believe me, I’ve been back and forth between three stars and four) is that at points, I loved everything Dodie Smith was doing – particularly with the characterisation. At other points, I didn’t connect with it as much as I would have liked and it felt as if I was waiting for something that didn’t end up materialising. I fully believe that if I had read it when I was younger, I would have got so much more from the experience and my rating would have been higher but reading it for the first time as an adult? It was a case of right book, wrong time. This does NOT take away from the fact that it’s a wonderful read that I would highly recommend.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP ON OCTOBER IN BETH AND CHRISSI DO KIT-LIT: Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Banned Books 2019 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published October 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the ninth banned book in our series for 2019! Apologies for the late posting of this review, life has been quite hectic for both of us recently. As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

First published: 2008

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)

Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: It’s strange to think that it’s been over ten years since The Hunger Games was first published. I still count it as a relatively recent release but it’s crazy to see how the time has flown and how much has changed in the world since it first came out. The Hunger Games is an interesting one when it comes to banning books. One on hand, you can see why some people might have a problem with it – the theme of multiple teenagers fighting to the death in an arena with one survivor might not be to everyone’s taste. I have to agree that there is violence and of course, quite a few nasty deaths but when it was challenged in 2010 I don’t think this was anything remarkable or unique from what readers could find elsewhere, especially with the advent of the internet and social media.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe it’s been so long since it was released! This is one of those books where I can sort of understand why it’s banned. However, this book was never marketed as a child’s book. It’s in the Young Adult genre and I’m pretty sure that most young adults can deal with the content in The Hunger Games and much more besides. Sometimes real life can feel just as scary (although hopefully nowhere near as violent!)

How about now?

BETH: For the most part, I don’t think there’s any need to challenge The Hunger Games for the reasons that it is sexually explicit or unsuited to the age group. Firstly, Katniss lies down with Peeta (to keep warm I hasten to add!) and has a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. I really don’t see anything terrible about that. Particularly as this IS a young adult novel and a large proportion of that audience hanker after a bit of romance and a sympathetic male lead. Whilst we’re on the topic of young adult fiction I don’t see why it’s inappropriate for the age group. I agree the story is incredibly brutal and horrific in points but when are we going to stop wrapping kids in cotton wool and shielding them from all the bad stuff in the world? No, The Hunger Games isn’t a part of real life (thank goodness!) but that’s precisely my point. It’s a fantastical world that we can escape from whenever we like – we just have to put down the book or never pick it up in the first place. No one is forcing anyone to read it, it’s personal choice. It may be unsuitable for younger readers, that’s true but that’s exactly why it’s labelled as YOUNG ADULT FICTION.

CHRISSI: I think there are far more violent games, stories and films on the internet. Yes, the subject matter is intense and it’s not exactly ‘nice’. Yet I can guarantee that every young adult that reads this book will know it’s not real life and will be able to handle a bit of escapism. I mean, come on! In my opinion, although it’s not fluffy content and it is tough and violent, it’s fiction and people know that!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved The Hunger Games when I first read it and I still love it every time I crack it open again. It’s not just a tale about fighting, violence and terrible deaths. It’s a coming of age story about loyalty, love, friendship, family and justice and the lengths someone will go to in order to protect everything they hold dear. It looks at a regime that has frightening echoes of things happening right now across our own world and it’s about real people who go above and beyond in the bravery to try and survive. I’ll always be a fan.

CHRISSI: I really enjoy this book every time I revisit it. I love the story line and think the characters are awesome. It’s a story I can take something from each time. I’d highly recommend it, if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN OCTOBER ON BANNED BOOKS: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – AUGUST READ – The Royal Rabbits Of London (The Royal Rabbits Of London #1) – Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

Published September 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible – by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!
Shylo has always been the runt of the litter, the weakest and quietest of all of his family, his siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it’s up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolical plot! The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis… But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?
The Hobbit meets Fantastic Mr Fox meets Watership Down in this charming novel from bestselling authors Santa and Sebag Montefiore, which proves even the smallest rabbit can be the biggest hero.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have being doing our Kid-Lit challenge for quite a few years now and one of my favourite things about taking part each month is the little gems that come our ways that we weren’t expecting. I wasn’t anticipating very much if I’m completely honest from The Royal Rabbits Of London, although I had heard of Santa Montefiore previously from her adult fiction and her husband, Simon Sebag Montefiore from his historical non-fiction. I was delighted to be completely and utterly charmed by their story, the characters and the artwork and if we weren’t wrapping up our Kid-Lit challenge at the end of this year, I’d be begging Chrissi to continue the series next year.

Santa Montefiore, author of The Royal Rabbits Of London.

The Royal Rabbits of London, as the title may suggest is primarily an adventure story following one plucky little rabbit called Shylo as he overhears a dastardly plot to embarrass the Queen. Shylo is a wonderful little character – the underdog (or should that be under-rabbit?) of the tale who is often mocked by his stronger, more brash siblings for his timid and tentative nature. Uncovering the plot leads to him undertaking an incredible journey from the country to the streets of London and Green Park, to find the elusive Royal Rabbits Of London, who are tasked with protecting the Queen, at any cost. Along the way, we meet a host of fantastic personalities, including the disgusting ratzi’s with their evil plan, an old reclusive rabbit with a huge secret to impart on just the right rabbit for the job (i.e. Shylo) and the Royal Rabbits themselves.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, the second author of The Royal Rabbits Of London.

The Royal Rabbits of London has a fabulous mixture of everything that middle grade fiction should encapsulate. We have an unlikely hero to cheer on and worry about, action, tension and an exciting narrative to enjoy and a satisfying ending that gives you that lovely warm feeling, as if everything is finally settled in the world. Everyone needs a bit of escapism sometimes and Royal Rabbits gives that in spades. You can easily lock yourself away for a short time, enjoy the adventure and the nail-biting moments and lose yourself completely in the fantasy of a group of courageous rabbits fighting for their own form of justice. If you have children, if you adore rabbits or if you like your middle-grade fiction with a dash of good old British familiarity, this is the book for you!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT UP IN SEPTEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith