Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2013

All posts in the Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2013 category

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – DECEMBER READ – The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

Published January 5, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Three children, forced to alter their comfortable lifestyle when their father is taken away by strangers, move with their mother to a simple cottage near a railway station where their days are filled with excitement and adventure. First published in 1906, this beloved children’s classic has charmed generations of readers.

What did I think?:

I haven’t read this book for a while and I was slightly worried what I would think of it as an adult. I was also concerned for my sister and fellow blogger ChrissiReads as I know this was one of her favourite books ever as a child. Luckily, I had no need to fret as I loved it just the same as I did when I was younger. The story introduces us to three children, Roberta (Bobbie), Peter and Phyllis who live a charmed life with their mother and father in a large house with a few servants in England. Their world is turned upside down however when their father is taken away one night and the children are given no explanation for what has occurred or when their father will be returning – they are only told he is on “business.” Furthermore, they are forced to move to a much smaller house in the countryside with their mother and must live for a while as “a poor family,” watching every morsel of food and lump of coal to try and cut costs as much as possible. The children try to make the best of their change in situation, and discover the wonders of the railway which lies very close to their new home, and gives them many opportunities for adventure.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this story on re-reading it, was the way that the author wrote about children. It felt much more authentic than other books of the time as the characters of the children were real. That is to say they had faults, they argued, they played, they got into scrapes etc, and this made the tale more enjoyable as I felt they were incredibly relatable to any child reading it. I also loved the adventures they managed to get themselves into – from Peter’s attempts to procure a bit more coal for the family to saving a baby and dog when a fire breaks out on a barge, there was always some kind of action in the story to look forward to. There are also morals to be learned for the children (and perhaps the reader!) without them being forced down our throat, which I always appreciate. The Railway Children is definitely a classic piece of children’s literature, and I think it will continue to be treasured for years to come.

To read Chrissi’s review, please visit her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Please look out for Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit, twelve new titles for 2014!

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – NOVEMBER READ – Northern Nights/The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

Published November 30, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however,nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

What did I think?:

This book was my choice for the November read of the Kid-Lit Challenge that I participate in with my sister and firstly, I cannot believe I haven’t read any Philip Pullman before. Having heard a lot about the Dark Materials series, I was eager to include it in the challenge (any excuse for a return to childhood…) and am so glad I did. Our heroine is a young girl called Lyra Belacqua who lives amongst the scholars in Jordan College, but enjoys a happy and free existence amongst the street children of the town who become her playmates. Things become slightly more sinister for Lyra however, when her uncle (Lord Asriel) pays a visit. Lyra hides in a wardrobe and happens to witness one of the scholars attempting to poison him. Then she hears her uncle give a lecture to the scholars which both terrifies and intrigues her. Something about “dust” and the separation of children from their daemon counterparts makes her blood run cold, and starts an exciting and dangerous journey for Lyra and her faithful daemon Pantalaimon which involves kidnapped children, travelling gypsies, armoured polar bears and flying witches.

There are so many different layers to this story that at times it seems hard to keep up and in this way, may not be suitable for very young readers although I wouldn’t like to under-estimate them! One of my favourite parts of the story was the idea of each person having a daemon which is able to shift to differing animals during childhood depending on the situation and the mood the child is experiencing. For example, Lyra’s daemon shifts from a moth or a mouse when he needs to hide or assess a situation, to a bird or a panther for protection. Around the time of puberty, the daemon will choose one form and stick to it for the rest of the child’s life which may be based on the child’s own personality. The daemon is also so intimately connected with the child that they will both feel the other’s pain, or any other emotional sensations. I challenge anyone to read this book and not wonder what their own particular daemon would be? For me, I’m thinking ring-tailed lemur or emperor tamarin monkey but anyway…

As for the characters, I think they’re amongst the most wonderful ever written in literature. A strong statement I know, but I love the gutsy, honest and open Lyra, who is clearly a role model for children everywhere, the evil persuasiveness of Mrs Coulter, the fighting spirit and loyalty of the armoured bear Iorek Byrnison and the vivid imagery behind the author’s animal daemons. The story itself is very convoluted as mentioned before, but filled with excitement and drama that had me racing towards the end and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. I can’t wait now to read the second in the series – The Subtle Knive, and am intrigued to watch the film starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, to see how good a job they made of it.

Please see my sister Chrissi’s fabulous post HERE for her views on this book.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – OCTOBER READ – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Published November 7, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens’s tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

What did I think?:

This novel by Charles Dickens is an undeniable classic, and has been immortalised in a lot of people’s minds by the excellent film that was directed in 1968 starring Ron Moody, Harry Secombe, and Oliver Reed. Dickens opens our eyes to a very different London, reeking of poverty and pickpockets to tell the story of a young orphan named Oliver, who runs away from his apprenticeship to a coffin-maker. After meeting the notorious Artful Dodger on the road, he is taken under the wing of Fagin, a “gentleman” who runs a gang of thieves – mainly young boys. Poor Oliver does not do too well on his first outing as a potential pickpocket, he is mistakenly arrested, but then taken into the house of the kind Mr Brownlow, once it is realised that he is not a thief. But life never runs smoothly for Oliver as while carrying out an errand for Mr Brownlow, he is re-captured by Fagin’s gang and forced to complete a burglary assignment with the menacing and terrifying Bill Sikes. He has one friend in this criminal web thankfully, the wonderful Nancy, who has a soft spot for Oliver and assists him as much as she can which leads to incredible dangers for her. At the end of the novel, a lot of mysteries regarding Oliver and his parentage are tied up, leading to hope and happiness for the young orphan in the future.

I do love the story of Oliver Twist and it was a “must pick” for our Kid-Lit challenge this year. The way in which Dickens announces the poverty and hardship of the poor, and the cruel treatment of orphans is almost revolutionary, and his analysis of the social classes in comparison is second to none. Morally speaking, Oliver is the perfect child and resists the many opportunities thrown his way to turn to the dark side, and become just another pickpocket on the streets. The characters written in this novel are also absolute classics – the gang leader Fagin with his jewel-hoarding and fondness for a silk handkerchief, the loveable and tragic Nancy and the evil Bill Sikes are just a few in a list that remain fondly etched on my memories. What did surprise me whilst reading was the anti-semitism displayed by Dickens, as he rarely refers to Fagin by his name, but just as The Jew! And obviously, there is the old stereotype of hoarding treasures like a miser that he attributes to the character, which our current times would claim to be discriminatory and racist. That aside, this is a beautiful classic that I think everyone should read, and that I think will continue to delight readers for years to come.

Please see Chrissi’s fabulous review HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – SEPTEMBER READ – A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Published September 30, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

What did I think?:

This book is the September read for my Kid-Lit challenge this year which I participate in with my sister ChrissiReads. I have to admit that I have never actually heard of this book before, and was shocked to see how popular it is. I’m not certain if it was more popular in the U.S, but wasn’t widely read in the U.K? Either way, I’m very pleased that I’ve finally read it and can see what all the fuss is about. The story centres around the Murry family, mainly the daughter Meg (who was an incredibly likeable character to me from the start) her youngest brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin. It opens on a very windy evening where Meg is having trouble sleeping in her attic bedroom so ventures down to the kitchen where she joins Charles Wallace and her mother in a midnight snack. The reader is told that their father is absent, but everything seems to be slightly peculiar and mysterious, and there is no telling where he is and when he might return. A stranger blows into the kitchen whom Charles Wallace seems to know as Mrs Whatsit, who mentions the word “tesseract,” in connection with their father, kicking off an exciting adventure where Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin travel through space and different worlds in order to help and rescue their father, learning a few life lessons along the way.

This was such a lovely book to read, and I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed reading it as a child. It has  a bit of everything and I think that is part of its charm – magic, strange creatures, relatable characters that can serve as decent role models, humour, a couple of scary moments to get the heart pounding, oh and a giant, evil pulsating brain. (Shouldn’t every story have one of those?!) It has morals without coming across as preachy, teaches the value of our families and encourages children to grow and develop as individuals by addressing them as if they were adults, not idiots, which I found personally refreshing. There is the suggestion of faith through Christianity, but I don’t find this comes across in an obnoxious manner, and would not be offensive to any atheists. This is a beautiful piece of classic children’s literature and I would definitely be interested to read the other books in the series, while images from this story will remain with me for a while. Especially the pulsating brain.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – AUGUST READ – The Children of the New Forest – Frederick Marryat

Published August 22, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In The Children of the New Forest, Marryat describes the trials and triumphs of the four Beverley children, orphaned during the English Civil War and forced to take refuge with a poor woodsman in the New Forest.

What did I think?:

This book tells the story of four children – Edward, Humphrey, Alice and Edith, whose distinguished father Colonel Beverley is killed during the English Civil War while fighting the cause of King Charles and as a result, they become orphaned. An old forester, Jacob Armitage, whilst walking in the woods one days hears a group of men fighting against the king aka Roundheads forging a plan to set fire to Colonel Beverley’s mansion, burning everything within, meaning that the children are in mortal danger. He immediately sets out to the grand house to warn the children’s aunt and guardian, who refuses to leave the property. He manages to persuade her that he should take the children however, and raise them as his own grand-children while teaching them the ways of the forest so they may be able to provide for themselves whilst concealing their identities. This is due to the king having fled, and Cromwell having England under his thumb. If the children’s identities are revealed, it could be incredibly dangerous for them. The children pass some happy years in this manner with the love and tutelage of the old man, until he dies, and the children have to learn to survive on their own.

To be honest, when I started this book, I had a bit of trouble understanding how children could enjoy it. The subject matter seemed slightly too complex, and there are not many what I call “major action sequences.” In fact, not much goes on of much interest, apart from a few fairly exciting hunting expeditions. It was almost what I can imagine the children of Narnia’s lives to be like minus the war, wardrobe and talking animals. There are some interesting characters, Pablo their adopted gypsy boy was quite entertaining, along with the villain of the piece whose vendetta against the Edward I quite enjoyed and the adorable old forester Jacob Armitage. Disappointedly, the female characters seem like non-entities, with not much to say for themselves which is a shame. Not that this book is all bad… the historical element is very intriguing, and I wouldn’t mind learning more about this period of history. As a classic piece of children’s literature however, I think there were MUCH better books written around this time.

Please see my sister Chrissi’s fabulous review HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – JULY READ – Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

Published July 26, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The tale of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a friendly spider, saved her pig Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs.

An affectionate pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, White reminds readers to open their eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.

What did I think?:

This is the July read for the Kid-Lit challenge that I am participating in with my sister, and my choice, as I remember loving this book as a child. My opinion hasn’t changed, it is a wonderful and completely charming read, and I really enjoyed re-visiting it. A little girl called Fern begs her father to save a little pig, its crime being the runt of the litter. She names the pig Wilbur, and raises the pig herself, feeding it with a bottle and taking it for walks in a pram. Eventually, Wilbur becomes a bit too costly for Fern’s parents but he is sent to live on a neighbouring farm where Fern can visit him everyday.  In his new surroundings, Wilbur becomes a bit lonely for a friend to play with, and disaster strikes when he hears that he is been fattened up for a reason… for the farmer’s pork dinner! Then in swoops Charlotte, a friendly and creative spider who comes up with a perfect idea to save Wilbur’s bacon (pardon the pun!)

Apart from being a terrific story, I also loved the illustrations in this book by Garth Williams which I had completely forgotten about, and are a perfect addition for younger readers. And who couldn’t love the barnyard animals? I even found myself feeling a bit warm towards the sly and greedy rat Templeton when he assists Charlotte and Wilbur in their mission, even if he’s only thinking of his stomach and the reward he will be granted for his help. And the end – I remember feeling heartbroken every time I read it… this is a huge compliment to the author as I am a incurable arachnophobic. A brilliant tale for children (and the child in everyone) that I highly recommend and I have to say that Wilbur is most definitely SOME PIG.

Please see my sister Chrissi’s fabulous review HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit – JUNE READ – A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Published June 26, 2013 by bibliobeth

A Little Princess

What’s it all about?:

Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative student at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, is devastated when her adored, indulgent father dies. Now penniless and banished to a room in the attic, Sara is demeaned, abused, and forced to work as a servant. How this resourceful girl’s fortunes change again is at the center of A Little Princess, one of the best-loved stories in all of children’s literature.

What did I think?:

A Little Princess is the June read for the Kid-Lit Challenge I participate in with Chrissi and is her choice, as she fondly remembers it from our childhood. The classic story introduces us to Sara Crewe, brought up in India with her wealthy father who decides to send her to school in England so she can get the best education possible. Sara does not want for anything, and her kind and generous father lavishes her with gifts, leading the other little girls at the school to envy and admire her, giving her the title of “princess.” Sadly, this does not last long when her father dies, and Sara becomes penniless. The evil Miss Minchin, ruler of the school, reduces her to little more than a slave, confiscating all her beautiful gifts as payment for her keep, treating her like a skivvy by giving her numerous errands to run, and making her sleep in a cold, uncomfortable attic. When an Indian gentlemen moves into the house across from the school, is there a chance Sara’s fortunes could change?

I didn’t realise how much I loved this story until I read it as an adult. It is beautifully told, with a wonderful heroine that children can look up to and emulate and a host of morals that we can all learn a little something from. I especially enjoyed Sara’s world of make-believe and trusting in a bit of “magic,” to get through the struggles she faces in everyday life. Throughout it all, Sara remains a model for humanity, remaining humble, kind and generous to others, and childishly optimistic for the future creating a world of “pretend” that she can fall back on and escape to. I highly recommend this book as a classic piece of children’s literature that is an absolute joy to read.

Please see my sister Chrissi’s fabulous review HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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