Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – The Round Up

Published January 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.parentspartner.com/childrens-literature/

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2017. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY- The Demon Headmaster- Gillian Cross

FEBRUARY- Carrie’s War- Nina Bawden

MARCH- The Boy In The Dress- David Walliams

APRIL- Noble Conflict- Malorie Blackman

MAY- The Horse and His Boy- C.S Lewis

JUNE- The Borrowers- Mary Norton

JULY- Maggot Moon- Sally Gardner

AUGUST- Looking For JJ- Anne Cassidy

SEPTEMBER – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase-Joan Aiken

OCTOBER- Ballet Shoes- Noel Streatfeild

NOVEMBER- A Series of Unfortunate Events- Lemony Snicket 

DECEMBER- The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair- Lara Williamson

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

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2016 and why?
BETH: Tough choice this year as there were a few books I really, really loved. If I had to choose one though it would be The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase. Totally surprised me with how much I enjoyed it and it had such a classic, old-time feel to it which was fantastic.
CHRISSI: Mine would be The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair. I can’t pick… sorry! Both had such charm.
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2016 and why?
BETH: Hmmm…..Ballet Shoes. Definitely the most disappointing. I struggled to get through it if I’m honest and got a bit bored about halfway through.
CHRISSI: I would say Ballet Shoes as well. I really thought it would be a book that I loved because I’m a massive fan of books that involve dance and love that era, but no, it wasn’t for me.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2016 that surprised you the most?
BETH: The Horse And His Boy for sure. I didn’t have fond memories of it as a child. In fact, it was my least favourite of all the Narnia books. I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered and I actually really enjoyed it!
CHRISSI: It would be Looking for JJ for me as I didn’t expect to be as gripped as I was by the story. I devoured it!
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2016?
BETH: I fell completely under the spell of Lara Williamson after reading The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair and would really love to read her debut novel A Boy Called Hope.
CHRISSI: I will definitely continue with the Percy Jackson series. I don’t know if I can wait each kid-lit year to read the series though!

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming tomorrow – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2017! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – DECEMBER READ – The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair by Lara Williamson

Published December 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her. Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

What did I think?:

I’m always a bit sad when a year of Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit comes to an end as we enjoy it so much! For the final book of the year we chose The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair, partially because of the brilliant title and partially because of the great reviews on GoodReads. Apart from that, we really didn’t know much about it. It was only when I read the “about the author” part at the epilogue of the book that I realised that this was the author who also wrote the book A Boy Called Hope which has also has some excellent reviews and I am still to read (but very much looking forward to it now after this book!). But honestly, I cannot praise this book enough and it was a very welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it, ending our Kid-Lit year on an undeniable high.

Just to say, the synopsis above (from GoodReads), does not do justice to how great this story is. Our main character is a young boy called Becket who lives with his little brother Billy and his father and is still trying to cope with his mother’s death after she gave birth to Billy. They had previously been living with a woman lived Pearl, who his father was seeing but for some strange reason their father packed them all up in a hurry and moved them to a dingy little flat at some distance from their old house. They have been forbidden from any form of contact with Pearl, have to start at a new school and are, plain and simple, miserable. They were hoping with Pearl in their lives, they had the chance to have a “second mother,” and finally become a family. The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair shows how Becket deals with this latest upheaval in his life as he struggles with the grief for his mother, tries to forge a relationship with his father and get Pearl back into their lives and makes sure that his little brother and his new friend, Brian the snail are well looked after.

This book makes me want to do a lot of love-heart emoji’s. It is so beautifully written and absolutely hilarious which I completely wasn’t expecting. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud, but this one – oh my goodness. The characters are so warm and loveable, especially Becket and Billy, the latter of whom is so painfully honest but in such a funny way, like small children often are. The armchair in the title was the favourite chair of the boys mother and used by them to remember her and when Billy has bad dreams, the two curl up in it and Becket tells him a story of his own that calms him down and allows him to sleep again. The whole book is very fairy-tale esque (another bonus for me!) and filled with the most beautiful, emotional moments that would help anyone struggling with grief themselves. This is a wonderful story that I’m so glad I read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating:

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BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017 – THE TITLES ARE REVEALED – COMING 2ND JANUARY!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – The Bad Beginning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #1) – Lemony Snicket

Published November 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read The Unfortunate Series Of Events books for so long now and with a new series about to be released on Netflix I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin finding out what exactly everyone has been raving on about! I didn’t realise that this was such a long series (thirteen books) but the first book was so short and easy to read that I don’t think it will take me long to catch up with things. Overall, I was completely charmed by this first offering in the series, in the introduction the author warns the reader that there may be no happy endings or Enid Blyton-esque fairy-tale adventures for his characters, but, to be perfectly honest, that just made me warm to the story even more.

So, in a nutshell, this story focuses on three children (the Baudelaires) who have become orphans when their parents tragically perish in a fire at their house. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to live with a (very) distant relative, Count Olaf who treats them abominably. They have to do multiple chores, mainly to cater to his and his theatre friends every whim and it is also clear that he is no way interested in their well-being or happiness. However, he IS very interested in the fortune left to them by their parents which at the present time will revert to Violet when she comes of age. Unless their wicked guardian can get his hands on it earlier of course, by any means necessary.

This first volume in The Unfortunate Series Of Events was a real delight to read, although I was pretty certain I was going to love it just going on the synopsis alone. I only have a slight niggle to report but positive things first! The characters were wonderful and I instantly fell in love/hated them very early on. We have brave, intelligent Violet who has a great mind for inventions and her quick wits come in very useful in defying our dastardly villain. Then there is sensitive Klaus who loves his books (a boy after my own heart) and little Sunny who is can hardly talk yet but manages to make herself completely understood and is obsessed with teeth – not sure why…but I loved it! Then of course, the nasty Count Olaf who by the ending of the first book I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more from in the future and I’m so glad as I did rather enjoy hating him. The only niggle I have with the excellent narrative is that the author chooses to explain a lot of words to the reader which I felt interrupted the flow slightly and I could have done without it. However, this does not take anything away from a powerful beginning to a series that I can clearly see going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to carry on with it!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – OCTOBER READ – Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Published October 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it’s going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she’d rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream.

What did I think?:

When this book was first published in 1936, it was considered quite ground-breaking. It was the first children’s book to do many things – the first to be set at a stage school, the first to feature ballet in London and the first to feature children who become self-reliant rather than referring to adults when things go slightly wrong. This book appears to have passed me by as a child and we decided to feature it on this years Kid-Lit list because of the number of positive reviews and because Chrissi has a particular fondness for books that involve dance in some way. However, I found myself having quite mixed opinions about the story and am slightly disappointed that I didn’t connect with it in a way that others obviously have.

The book features three little girls that have had quite a peculiar upbringing. They were brought to England and adopted as babies by a man they know as GUM (aka Great Uncle Matthew) who originally collected fossils but was told on no uncertain terms by his housekeeper that there was no room to store any more. The girls are raised as sisters by his niece Sylvia (whom the girls call Garnie as short for Guardian) and her old nanny and give themselves the surname Fossil as homage to GUM.

While he is away working for an unstated number of years the children are entered into a stage school after each discovers they have individual talents. Pauline is a marvellous actress, Posy can dance beautifully and Petrova is highly intelligent although not sure she really fits in anywhere and would rather be fiddling with a car or flying an aeroplane. The book follows their lives and their experiences as they grow up and as GUM’s money that he left for their upbringing starts to dry up, features the children working themselves to make ends meet and vowing each year to make their names in history to repay GUM, Garnie and Nana for all their kindness.

There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Like a lot of children’s books written around this time, it has a certain flavour or rather, nostalgia when you’re reading it that makes you feel quite warm inside and comfortable. This was certainly the case on a number of occasions for me. It’s lovely to read a book that takes you back to a time when things were a lot simpler and everyone knows where they stand. Saying that, after a little while of reading, I did start to become a little restless. Everything meanders along quite swimmingly in the narrative, but it didn’t really feel for me like the story went anywhere – there was no real excitement, thrilling occurrences or huge character development and it did feel that there was so much potential for that to happen and it was all just lost.

I did love the characters, especially their independence and ambition and appreciated the feminist viewpoint that must have been quite original in those times but…. by the end of the book, I just felt slightly disappointed by it all. This book has a lot of positives and I think children who love the idea of stage school or dancing will enjoy it but for me it just left a couple of boxes unticked which was a shame. My rating below is based on the quality of the writing and the first half of the novel which showed a lot of promise and strength.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published September 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’t it all about?:

Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the goose boy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I picked The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase on a bit of a whim when we were researching our list for 2016 but oh my goodness I am ever so glad we did, as this little gem seems to have flown completely under my radar prior to now. Even better, I’ve now discovered that it’s part of a series (The Wolves Chronicles) of twelve books set in the same fictional early 19th century world where wolves have entered Britain through a new “channel tunnel,” terrorising the occupants of more rural areas. Oh, I’m definitely going to be exploring this series! The author herself wrote over one hundred books for adults and children in her lifetime, winning the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature.

This is the story of two cousins, wealthy Bonnie Willoughby and her poorer cousin Sylvia who comes by train to live with Bonnie when her Aunt Jane cannot physically or financially support her any longer. Bonnie has a huge heart and a fiesty spirit and is delighted to welcome Sylvia into her home, taking her firmly under her wing and showering her with love. Bonnie’s parents are due to go abroad for a while due to Bonnie’s mothers ill health and so her father has appointed a guardian, Miss Slighcarp to look after the children in their absence. However, Miss Slighcarp is not all she seems and has grand (and very evil) plans for Willoughby Chase that categorically do not involve the children. Before long, both girls are shunted off to an orphanage where the owner, Miss Brisket makes them work their fingers to the bone to earn their keep on very little nourishment. Meanwhile, the dastardly Miss Slighcarp and her partner in crime Mr Grimshaw have completely taken over Mr Willoughby’s wealth, house and livelihood with wicked plans to ensure that he and his wife never return from their travels.

Chrissi actually finished this book before I started it and she immediately texted me and told me how much she loved it, comparing it to A Little Princess (one of her all-time favourite books). This was high praise indeed and I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to love it too. Just how much however, I certainly wasn’t prepared for! First published in 1962, this book reads like every classic piece of children’s literature should and has everything going for it so that it can be enjoyed by future generations for I hope, many years to come. We have wonderful characterisation – from the good (Bonnie, Sylvia, Pattern the maid) to the downright nasty villainous types (Miss Slighcarp, Mr Grimshaw) and a thrilling plot that is so enthralling you can easily read this book in one sitting. It’s the sort of book that’s perfect to read as Autumn is closing in, with a nice blanket, cup of hot chocolate and even a little shiver down the spine as you read about two loveable little girls and criminals you’re just praying will get their comeuppance.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Miss Slighcarp, Bonnie and Sylvia – illustration by Pat Marriott

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – Looking For JJ (Jennifer Jones #1) by Anne Cassidy

Published August 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town toward Berwick Waters. Later that day, only two of them came back. . . .

Alice Tully knows exactly what happened that spring day six years ago, though it’s still hard for her to believe it. She’ll never be able to forget, even though she’s trying to lead a normal life–she has a job, friends, and a boyfriend whom she adores. But Alice’s past is dangerous, and violent, and sad . . . and it’s about to rip her new life apart.

A gripping and emotionally searing novel by accomplished British author Anne Cassidy, Looking for JJ infuses a terrifying subject with humanity and hope.

What did I think?:

It’s always difficult to decide what twelve books Chrissi and I should put on our kid lit list at the start of every year as there is such a wealth of brilliant children’s literature out there yet I don’t think we are ever going to struggle over what to choose! Anne Cassidy is an author I’ve heard of but I’ve never read any of her work before and Looking For JJ was suggested as one of the top books for younger readers, although it does probably sit firmly in the young adult category rather than “kid lit,” due to some of the more adult content.

JJ is the nickname of Jennifer Jones who when she is ten years old does something absolutely terrible in a moment of madness, something that she regrets deeply and something that she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Due to the enormity and severity of what she does, after spending some time in a young offender’s institution she is released and given a brand new identity – that of Alice Tully and a new home with a wonderful social worker called Rosie who keeps an eye on Alice and helps her to adjust to her new life whilst she prepares to go to university and study history.

We learn about Alice’s life in the present time as she begins to integrate herself back into society, working part-time at a local coffee shop and even forging a tentative relationship with her boyfriend, Frankie. Of course, Alice can’t forget the dreadful things that happened in her past and we also get an insight into her life as a child when she was Jennifer, especially the toxic relationship she had with her mother and her struggles to adapt to foster care or short stays with a rather indifferent grandmother when her mother decides that she can’t deal with looking after her at certain points in her life. Piece by piece, the trauma and deep sadness of Alice/Jennifer’s childhood becomes apparent and we begin to see what happened to precipitate the events of that awful day that changed her life forever.

Very few people know that Alice Tully is Jennifer Jones, including her boyfriend, Frankie mainly for her own safety so you can imagine the horror that ensues when a private detective comes sniffing around, certain that Jennifer Jones has been released and is living under a new identity. She has absolutely no contact with her mother for reasons that will become apparent as the story continues, but memories of her and the way she was treated as a child still get deep underneath her skin. Alice is forced to confront the ghosts of her past on a daily basis but none more so when her new identity is compromised and the whole life that she is has built as this new person may now be in jeopardy.

As I mentioned earlier, this book was a bit of a surprise and I definitely didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Both the plot and characters were truly spell-binding and the book was pretty much impossible to put down – I easily finished it on the same day I began reading it! It may not be entirely suitable for younger readers as, at times, there is quite a bit of adult content but I don’t want to give too much away by saying exactly what this is. As part of the young adult genre however, it is a brilliant, thrilling ride that is sure to captivate and surprise readers until the very end. Chrissi recently informed me that there is a follow up to this novel – Finding Jennifer Jones and I’m certain that this will be going on my TBR list for the near future!

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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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – JULY READ – Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Published July 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In Sally Gardner’s stunning novel, set in a ruthless regime, an unlikely teenager risks all to expose the truth about a heralded moon landing.

What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the “train-track thinkers.” So when Standish and his only friend and neighbour, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big…One hundred very short chapters, told in an utterly original first-person voice, propel readers through a narrative that is by turns gripping and darkly humorous, bleak and chilling, tender and transporting.

What did I think?:

I’m a regular subscriber to New Books Magazine here in the UK whom I was lucky enough to do an interview for a while back and with every issue, they offer you the opportunity to purchase books and just pay the postage cost. So when I read the synopsis of Maggot Moon I was instantly compelled to buy it and sadly, due to the sheer number of books I have it languished on my shelves hidden for quite some time until the beginning of this year when Chrissi and I started to compile our Kid Lit list for this year when I remembered about it and begged for it to be included.

I’m so glad I did because this is one of the most special, compelling, incredibly unique and indeed sinister books that I have read for a while. It’s easy to see why it has won the awards it has – The Costa Children’s Book Award in 2012 and the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2013 and tells the story of an alternate universe in the 1950’s under a totalitarian regime not unlike the Nazi’s (it actually begged the question is this what the world would have been like if the Nazi’s had won?).

Standish Treadwell is a young schoolboy living in dark days under a right wing, fascist dictatorship. Unfortunately, he happens to be a bit different from the ideal according to “The Motherland.” He has one blue eye and one brown one, he is dyslexic and his parents have mysteriously vanished and feared dead after his mother dared to speak up against the regime. This leads to him and his Gramps being relegated to Zone Seven, the poor area of town designated for all outcasts, political troublemakers and basically anyone else who does not conform to the propaganda that is being spouted at them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Standish doesn’t have a great life. He is tormented at school by both teachers and students and lives from hand to mouth as his Gramps tends a meagre vegetable garden to try and get them enough to eat. His life improves dramatically however when a new family moves into the house next to him and he makes a friend, Hector and a whole new planet, Juniper in his imagination that the boys can escape to when things get a bit too much. Then Hector too disappears, something terrible happens at school and he and his grandfather take in a special visitor that they could pay for with their lives. Determined and brave Standish is desperate to expose the regime for what they really are by revealing one of their biggest secrets but the dangers of doing so could mean he and Gramps could lose what little they already have.

This book is beautifully presented in short snippets of chapters that say so much in very few words. I have to admit to being unsure at the start but by about ten chapters in I was completely hooked. I absolutely love how young adult fiction is really pushing the boundaries at the moment and this book does exactly that. It is brutal, raw, violent and highly emotional but so touching and heart-rending that it’s impossible to put it down once begun. I fell in love instantly with brave Standish and his grandfather and cherished every word I read as each one was so expertly conceived and written. The illustrations of flies, rats and maggots on each page tell their own story as you go through and gave the book even more punch than there is just with the text. Although at times I was slightly disgusted, I knew exactly what the author was trying to do and was incredibly affected by it. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone who likes their stories a bit different, a bit quirky, a bit heart-breaking – just read it!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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