Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2014

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2014 – The Round Up

Published January 11, 2015 by bibliobeth

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2014 was the second year that Chrissi and I rolled out our Kid-Lit challenge. Again, it was a really fun thing to do which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Please see below for the links to my reviews and check out Chrissi’s blog HERE for her fabulous reviews.

JANUARY – Aesop’s Fables by Aesop

FEBRUARY – Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll

MARCH – Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

APRIL – The Magician’s Nephew – C.S. Lewis

MAY – Peter Pan – J.M. Barrie

JUNE – The Wind In The Willows – Kenneth Grahame

JULY – The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz – L. Frank Baum

AUGUST – The Swiss Family Robinson – Johann Wyss

SEPTEMBER – Swallows And Amazons – Arthur Ransome

OCTOBER – Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

NOVEMBER – White Fang – Jack London

DECEMBER – The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

So, in the style of the “Talking About…” reviews we normally do, we thought we’d answer a quick few questions about our second year of blogging in Kid-Lit.

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2014 and why?
BETH: I am totally torn between three… Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden. I was delighted to find that I loved all three as an adult as much (if not more) than I loved them as a child. Little Women is an undeniable classic, Anne is just one of those characters you completely fall in love with and I love the style of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s storytelling.
CHRISSI: Little Women. When Little Women is an option out of books, I’m always going to mention it. Oh yes!
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2014 and why?
BETH: I think it would have to be The Swiss Family Robinson I’m afraid. I was bitterly disappointed with this book and expected so much more from it. Some passages sent me into complete boredom and it felt slightly too “preachy” for my liking.
CHRISSI: I’m the same as Beth for this answer. Unfortunately I found The Swiss Family Robinson DIRE! Such a shame.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Magician’s Nephew. This was one of my old favourites from childhood (along with the rest of the Narnia series) and there were whole parts of the story that I had forgotten so it was exciting to re-read and remember them all over again.
CHRISSI: Anne of Green Gables. I hadn’t read it prior to this challenge and I was surprised at how charming it was.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2013?
BETH: Once again, the writing of Frances Hodgson Burnett has made me long to read another of her books – perhaps we can put her on the list for 2016 Chrissi? Otherwise, I think I’m definitely going to read The Making Of A Marchioness this year.
CHRISSI: Oh yes. Let’s read more of Frances Hodgson Burnett! ❤

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2014 – DECEMBER READ – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Published December 31, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

What did I think?:

The Secret Garden is the last title in the Kid-Lit Challenge for 2014 and I am so pleased that it was picked, I know it’s also a big favourite of Chrissi’s. I was slightly concerned as always, that re-reading it as an adult would dampen some of its charm but luckily that was definitely not the case! Our main character is Mary Lennox, a ten year old girl whom when we meet her is living in India with her mother and a host of servants including her personal Ayah who she treats abominably. For Mary is selfish, spoilt and used to getting her own way and when she doesn’t – well, the people around her certainly know about it. Even playing with other children in the area fares no better as Mary is equally rotten to them causing them to tease and name her “Mistress Mary, quite contrary.” Then a bout of cholera sweeps over the household, taking the servants and Mary’s mother with it, leaving her forgotten about and orphaned in her rooms until someone happens upon her (in quite a tantrum for having being left alone) and sends her to her uncle’s home in England.

Mr Craven of Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire is a peculiar character and one Mary feels slightly wary of as she is told by the housekeeper, Mrs Medlock, that he is not to be disturbed and quite frankly, is not really bothered about her being in his keep. Therefore, she is to amuse herself. But with no access to books, toys, etc and finding out from the servant Martha who sweeps her fire each morning that she is to dress herself (horror upon horrors), the only thing to do is to get out in the fresh air and wander through the gardens of the property. There she comes into contact with Ben Weatherstaff, the surly yet lovable head gardener and it is through him that she makes her first friend, a wonderful little robin. This robin has no fear of the old gardener and to Mary’s delight, often alights at his feet while Ben talks to it as if it were you or me in his broad Yorkshire accent. Through Ben and Martha, whose chatter she comes to quite enjoy, she learns the sad story behind Misselthwaite Manor. The mistress of the house, Mrs Craven, died while quite young and since then Mr Craven has never been the same, caught up in grief and often confining himself to his rooms. She once had a glorious garden, but when she died, Mr Craven angrily locked the door and buried the key so no one else could enjoy it. Mary finds herself caught up with the romance and sadness of the story and one morning, while chattering away to her new robin friend, he begins digging in the earth close to a wall in which she is certain lies the forgotten garden. Lo and behold, he uncovers the key and Mary is able to enter the “secret” garden for the first time.

Mary doesn’t know a whole lot about gardening but is desperate to do something with her little secret haven so confides in Martha that she would quite like to learn a bit about gardens and how to keep them. Martha is pleased that a transformation of sorts seems to be happening with Mary and that she no longer seems so surly or mean-faced so she introduces her to her brother Dickon, who knows everything there is to know about how things grow. Dickon is a fascinating character and although Mary has never had a friend in her life, the two like each other instantly and revel in the joy of their secret garden. Dickon teaches Mary how to plant and grow seeds and seems to be a regular Dr Doolittle with an animal friend constantly in tow, including a crow, two squirrels, a fox cub and a newborn lamb. This isn’t the end of the story however, we still have an interesting character to meet. After Mary hears crying in the night and is fobbed off by the staff whom she knows to be hiding something, she happens upon a boy lying in bed. It turns out he is Colin, son of her uncle, whom when born was weak and seemed destined to be a cripple or a hunchback. He keeps to his bed, constantly fearing a lump appearing upon his back with frequent hysterical and demanding fits, determined that he is not long for this world. It is only with Mary and Dickon’s help and the magic of the secret garden that he is able to appreciate life once more. As a result, his father Mr Craven also may once again know the joy that he has missed.

This is a beautiful story by Frances Hodgson Burnett and definitely one of my favourite children’s classics. It was wonderful to find out that it has stood the test of time and I think children today would still enjoy either reading it themselves or listening to it being read. The main character Mary goes on quite a dramatic journey as a person and it was lovely to see her transformation from a blatantly horrible little creature to an enthusiastic, passionate, kind and giving child as the book nears its end. I also enjoyed that it had its morals and messages but they were fairly subtle rather than being pushed or preached to as you can sometimes find in certain classic novels. And who doesn’t love a story with animals in? The addition of the friendly robin, crow, fox etc was a great touch by the author and one in which I think would appeal to many children. Basically, I can’t find much wrong with this timeless children’s story and I’m even now looking forward to when I decide to re-read it again!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Look out for Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit in 2015, titles to be revealed tomorrow!

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – NOVEMBER READ – White Fang by Jack London

Published November 30, 2014 by bibliobeth

White Fang

What’s it all about?:

In the desolate, frozen wilds of northwest Canada, White Fang, a part dog, part wolf cub soon finds himself the sole survivor of a litter of five. In his lonely world, he soon learned to follow the harsh law of the North- kill or be killed.
But nothing in his young life prepared him for the cruelty of the bully Beauty Smith, who buys White Fang from his Indian master and turns him into a vicious killer- a pit dog forced to fight for money.
Will White Fang ever know the kindness of a gentle master or will he die a fierce deadly killer?
A classic adventure novel detailing the savagery of life in the northern wilds. Its central character is a ferocious and magnificent creature, through whose experiences we feel the harsh rhythms and patterns of wilderness life among animals and men.

What did I think?:

I was really pleased that Chrissi and I chose White Fang as one of our Kid-Lit reads for this year, I remember loving the book as a young teenager and also enjoying the film that was made. I had a bit of a fear of wolves when I was younger and it’s safe to say that this definitely went some way to easing those frightened feelings. As the novel begins, we are transported to the desolate wild landscape of North West Canada where two friends, Bill and Henry and their sled of dogs are being chased and hunted by a pack of wolves. The author writes the scenes so vividly that you can almost sense the freezing temperatures and the savagery of the land that the two men are travelling through. They attempt to keep the cold (and wolves) at bay by means of a fire when they camp at night, but each morning they wake to find they are another dog down – taken by the pack of wolves that just seem to be getting hungrier. One wolf in particular, a she-wolf, is particularly obtrusive and shows little fear of the humans, leading the men to suspect that she has had dealings with people before. This is in fact, White Fang’s mother.

Only a small portion of White Fang’s early life is spent in the wild, although he learns enough to know what to hunt and who to avoid, for example a prickly porcupine! A group of Indian settlers end up taking the two wolves in, and it is obvious that his mother has spent time with these people before. Sadly, they are separated but White Fang quickly begins to understand the rules of this little world he inhabits. His human masters are “gods,” and have the power to recriminate him with blows if he steps out of line. He must also find his space in the pecking order of dogs which involves a lot of brawls with puppies that torment him with the knowledge that he is not like them. It’s survival of the fittest and asserting your place within the pack and White Fang soon learns that it’s fight or be fought.

Unfortunately, things can only get worse for White Fang. A man called Beauty Smith buys White Fang from his Indian master Grey Beaver, sensing potential and smelling the opportunity to make some money as he observes the wolf’s aggression, stamina and thirst for a fight. Beauty is a despicable human being who uses dogs in blood sports, pitting them against each other while men make bets on which dog will win in a fight. Indeed, he’s stepped on a goldmine with White Fang, who proceeds to win every fight he is entered in, becoming increasingly bloodthirsty, vicious and vengeful. And if he doesn’t perform to Beauty’s standards? Well, he’s clubbed to within an inch of his life, of course, so the wolf begins to associate the white “gods” with punishment and pain.

Something changes in White Fang’s next fight however – he is pitted against a bulldog whom for once, he can’t seem to bring down. A man called Weedon Scott is observing the fight and is disgusted to see how the wolf is treated. Intervening, he forcibly removes White Fang from the fight and his terrible owner and attempts to nurse the wolf back to health, the last fight having left him struggling for life. While the wolf recovers, Scott valiantly tries to win his trust, teaching him that not all white men will cause him pain. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the book, as a confused White Fang receives some much needed love and tenderness into his life and reciprocates love and loyalty in return.

Re-reading this book as an adult, I was delighted to discover that I loved it just as much as I did years ago. My heart still goes out to White Fang as he undergoes so much cruelty then is saved from near death by the hero of the story, Weedon Scott. The transformation in White Fang when he is cared for properly by Scott is amazing and when the wolf steps in to defend his master and all his “possessions,” it still almost brings me to tears. The beautiful writing by Jack London immediately transports you to White Fang’s world and I was sorry when the story ended. This is a timeless classic that I really hope a new generation takes to their heart the way I have taken it to mine.

For Chrissi’s take on White Fang, please see her review HERE

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – OCTOBER READ – Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Published October 30, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“Matthew had taken the scrawny little hand awkwardly in his; then and there he decided what to do. He could not tell this child with the glowing eyes that there had been a mistake. . . .”

When eleven-year-old Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables with nothing but a carpetbag and an overactive imagination, she knows that she has found her home. But first she must convince the Cuthberts to let her stay, even though she isn’t the boy they’d hoped for. The loquacious Anne quickly finds her way into their hearts, as she has with generations of readers, and her charming, ingenious adventures in Avonlea, filled with colourful characters and tender escapades, linger forever in our memories.

What did I think?:

I was very excited when Chrissi and I picked Anne of Green Gables as part of our Kid-Lit 2014 as it is one of my favourite children’s books ever and I remember reading it over and over again, delighted by the story and utterly charmed by Anne Shirley. It’s certainly a book that you can re-read quite easily as an adult and has definitely stood the test of time for me personally. The story begins with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother and sister team and owners of a farm called Green Gables. Time is marching on and Marilla begins to worry that her brother needs a little help around the farm so she has the brilliant idea of requesting a boy from the local orphanage that they can give a home to and that can assist Matthew as and when required. Matthew goes off to the station in the buggy to meet the new arrival (closely watched by Rachel Lynde, who has to know everyone’s business). Imagine his shock when waiting for him on the platform is a small freckled girl with red hair. The hair becomes important, believe me. Matthew is a quiet, shy sort of man especially around the female of the species and does not have the heart to leave Anne (spelled with an e) Shirley in the station so takes her home to Marilla, who is better at this decision-making thing. By the time they reach Green Gables, Matthew has become slightly enamoured with the bold, chattering little girl and decides to himself he wouldn’t mind having her around. Not so with Marilla. She is dumb-struck at the sight of Anne’s white, hopeful little face who is carting her “worldly goods” in a small bag with her. When Anne realises that they were expecting a boy she is devastated/in the “depths of despair,” but strangely enough, her funny little speeches, empassioned and straight from the heart strike something in Marilla who finds herself quite amused by the orphan and they decide to keep her.

The rest of the book follows Anne story as she grows up at Green Gables. She gets herself into a lot of interesting situations and learns a lot along the way. Some of my favourites and stand-out moments were when Gilbert Blythe teases her about her hair colour so she proceeds to crack her slate over his head, then later on she attempts to dye her hair but it goes horribly wrong, finally the scene where she gets her “bosom friend” and “kindred spirit,” Diana, hideously drunk on what she thinks was raspberry cordial makes me laugh every time I read it. It is also lovely to see her relationship with Matthew and Marilla grow and develop, especially in times of great sadness. Although Anne does grow and learn as a person through the book, she still remains the sweet and endearing character that she has always been and that is why I’m proud to say that she was one of my first literary heroines (and probably still is!).

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

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – SEPTEMBER READ – Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Published September 30, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

John, Susan, Titty and Roger sail their boat, Swallow, to a deserted Island for a sumer camping trip. Exploring and playing sailors is an adventure in itself but the island holds more excitement in store. Two fierce Amazon Pirates, Nancy and Peggy, challenge them to war and a summer of battles and alliances ensues.

What did I think?:

I first came across Swallows and Amazons as a child and really enjoyed it, as a result I believe I borrowed the other books in the series from the library as fast as I could read them! Reading it again as an adult was fun and brought back many fond memories of the four children and their adventures on Wild Cat Island. The book was published in 1930 and was inspired by the author Arthur Ransome teaching the children of his friends, the Altounyans to sail one summer. In fact, three of the names of our main protagonists were taken directly from that family. In the novel, the four oldest Walker children are staying with their mother, nurse and baby sister Vicky (known affectionately as “fat Vicky”) in a farm on the Lake District during the school holidays. The children are keen sailors, especially the eldest John and Susan and when the story begins, their father, who is away at sea has just given the children permission to camp upon one of the uninhabited islands so that they can play at being shipwrecked like the characters in their favourite books, Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island.

The children are delighted at the opportunity and commandeer a vessel called the Swallow for getting to the island and for using during their stay. It is not long however, before their daydreams of pirates is realised as they spy another boat which bears the Jolly Roger flag and the name Amazon, which visits their island and attempt to claim it as their own. Luckily the “pirates” are two other children, Nancy and Peggy who are also keen sailors and become firm friends with the Walker children after a truce is agreed. The Amazon girls have an uncle whom all the children name “Captain Flint,” a nod to Treasure Island. The ex-sailor owns a houseboat on the lake with a green parrot he keeps for company as he has been practically disowned by Nancy and Peggy due to his recent lack of effort and nonchalance when it comes to sailing/pirating skills! The six children have a whale of a time on the island together and have many adventures as they live out their fantasy of being marooned by a shipwreck.

I think I probably enjoyed this book more as a child than an adult although it does rise head and shoulders above the disappointing Swiss Family Robinson which Chrissi and I reviewed for our Kid Lit choice last month. I remember loving the idea of camping out on an island which is completely uninhabited, making the possibilities for exploring and playing endless. Even though the book was written in 1930, it reads almost like a piece of modern fiction and I think would still be relevant and exciting for children today. Favourite part? The boat war between the Swallows and the Amazons which was both exciting and filled with suspense. Sometimes I found that all the references to sailing went slightly over my head and to be honest, I switched off slightly at any points where the detail seemed a bit technical. Apart from that, it was wonderful to read a book where you had a glimpse into the imagination of children which sadly in real life, disappears far too quickly.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – AUGUST READ – The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

Published September 7, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

One of the world’s best-loved stories of shipwreck and survival, The Swiss Family Robinson portrays a family’s struggle to create a new life for themselves on a strange and fantastic tropical island. Blown off course by a raging storm, a Swiss pastor, his wife, their four young sons, plus two dogs and a shipload of livestock must rely on one another in order to adapt to their needs the natural wonders of their exotic new home. Inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, this classic story of invention and adventure has fired the imaginations of readers since it first appeared in 1812.

What did I think?:

One Christmas as a child, I received a box full of about ten mini-paperbacks that were a sort of diluted version of the classics, making it easier for younger children to understand. I remember one of these books being The Swiss Family Robinson, which was actually one of my favourites, so I was intrigued to read the “full” version as an adult so that I could compare it with what I remember. I actually found it quite a different experience! The family Robinson are marooned on a desert island after their shipwreck at sea amidst a wild storm. They must learn to survive on the island with supplies that they can forage for themselves from the damaged ship. They actually manage to do well, all things considered, which made me slightly sceptical as they seemed to have quite a lot of luck with finding particular food to eat, or equipment that they could build a tree-house with etc. In fact, if I was trapped on a desert island, I’d definitely hope it would be this one, as it seemed to have everything they could possibly require!

Some parts of this novel felt quite tedious, when they were building a certain house/piece of equipment as it went into minute detail over every process that they went through, which some readers may find quite interesting but it became a bit monotonous after the third living quarters on the island was built. Hmmm… it was almost like this family was living in paradise! I think the book became a lot more interesting towards the end when the family come across a tribe of native people (“savages” in their words) who kidnap a couple of members of the family, which leaves the father in a desperate situation of trying to find them and appease the locals to ensure their return. The king of the tribe and the missionary who was educating them in Christian values were quite intriguing characters and I felt the story became a lot more readable at this point, when it wasn’t just building another place to live, or finding a new and exciting plant.

What I didn’t expect and I’m certain wasn’t included in my version of The Swiss Family Robinson was the references to religion. Okay, fair enough, the father of the family is a pastor, so it is pretty obvious that he is going to teach his family Christian values at all times. Nevertheless, at times to me it came across as slightly forced, as the religious references were quite extensive. As a result, I think it would be a fantastic book for a church to promote, as it does teach important values – both religious and moral that we should all try to encompass. So, final thoughts, yes I was slightly disappointed as it didn’t fit with what I had read as a child, but I still think it’s a great adventure story with some good life lessons.

Please see Chrissi’s fabulous review on The Swiss Family Robinson on her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit 2014 – JULY READ – The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Published July 31, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dorothy, the Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and a host of other curious creatures come to life as they set out on an exciting quest down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the elusive Wizard. After a cyclone transports her to the land of Oz, Dorothy must seek out the great wizard in order to return to Kansas.

What did I think?:

Growing up, the classic 1939 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland was one of my favourite films and I think at one point I watched it on a daily basis! I was really pleased when Chrissi and I chose this book as part of our Kid-Lit challenge for this year as I’ve never actually read the original book, although the cover art with the Lion wearing the green glasses seems very familiar to me. As I was reading, I realised that the book is quite different in comparison to the film, but I still believe it is a fantastic adaptation. For those who haven’t read the book or seen the film (where have you BEEN?) here is a quick summary of the story.

Dorothy Gale  lives in Kansas, described as quite a grey and dreary place with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and is fairly content with her life there, despite its monotony. However, Kansas is tornado country and when the cyclone hits Dorothy is unable to get to the storm shelter in time and before she realises what is happening the entire house is whisked away to a new land, Oz. Dorothy awakes to a bright, colourful place where she meets the Munchkins, the little people of the country. To her horror, she finds out that her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her, although the Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North are clearly overjoyed at this turn of events.

All Dorothy wants to do is go home to Kansas and she is told if she follows the Yellow Brick Road she will eventually come to the Emerald City where a great Wizard (Oz) may be able to help her. The Good Witch of the North kisses her forehead as a mark of protection and gifts her the pair of silver shoes that the Wicked Witch was wearing, advising her that they are very powerful and to keep them with her. Along the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy manages to make a few friends and useful allies. They are the Scarecrow, who decides to go along with Dorothy and ask Oz for some brains, the Tin Man who dearly wishes for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who just wants a bit of courage. The friends have quite an adventure along the way but sadly Oz will not grant their wishes until they bring proof that they have killed The Wicked Witch of the West. It is only then that Dorothy will be able to return to Kansas and her beloved aunt and uncle.

I was slightly wary about reading this book, purely because I have so much love for the film. In general, it did not let me down, although I was a bit surprised about the differences between the two. The first glaring contrast is Dorothy’s new shoes being SILVER not ruby, that they do not meet the Wicked Witch of the West until they are required to kill her and there are a greater variety of creatures that the Wicked Witch sends to try and destroy them. Ah well, at least there’s not so much pressure on the Winged Monkeys, I suppose! Without a doubt this story was destined to become a children’s classic and even though it was written in 1900 I think both children and adults will still get a lot out of it and it will remain popular for many years. I fell in love with all the characters once again and thoroughly enjoyed reading about their adventures as they sought their hearts desire.

Please check out Chrissi’s fabulous review on her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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