Children’s Classics

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – FEBRUARY READ – Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

What did I think?:

Disclaimer: Roald Dahl was a staple part of my childhood reading so I may be slightly biased or over-passionate about his work as like most children who read him when they were younger, I adored him and his wonderful stories. I was slightly concerned as I am with all the kid-lit Chrissi Reads and I re-visit, if there happens to be a re-read that I won’t enjoy as much as an adult. I’m delighted to say that Matilda has aged very well and I instantly remembered all the joy I got from this little book, the lines I used to be able to recite off by heart and of course, the glorious illustrations by Quentin Blake which just add a little extra something special to Roald Dahl’s expert story-telling.

If you don’t know what Matilda is about (where have you BEEN?), it follows a rather extraordinary little girl who is thoroughly under-appreciated by her family. Matilda is extraordinary as she is highly intelligent, teaches herself to read before she goes to school, can multiply huge sums in her head and once she has exhausted everything in the children’s section of the library, she starts on all the adult books with the help of Mrs Phelps, the kind (yet astounded) librarian. Matilda does eventually go to school like a normal child and her teacher, Miss Honey realises quite quickly how bright she is and gives her more advanced books to study whilst the rest of the children learn their ABC’s. There is a dark side to this narrative however and this is the dreaded headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who terrorises the school, especially young children like Matilda who she has a particular distaste for. However, clever Matilda has more than a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with such a deadly adversary and revenge is certainly sweet indeed for anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to be frightened by The Trunchbull.

Ahhh, this book is everything. It was perfect for a bookish child like myself who delighted in a female protagonist that was intelligent yet gentle and managed to get her own back on the people who wronged her in the most hilarious way. It was also perfect for the bookish adult that I have become who still champions a quirky female heroine who will always hold a special place in my heart. It was such a nostalgic, beautiful reading experience that made me hug the book to my chest within just a few pages at the sheer remembrance of how fantastic the story and the characters are. Roald Dahl has a real quality to his writing that can enable the reader to imagine particular scenes so vividly and there’s still those scenes for me, like The Trunchbull throwing Amanda Thripp round and round in a hammer throw that I pictured as a child and funnily enough, still have the same picture in my head as an adult, completely before the film came into fruition. Now that I’ve been reminded how awesome Roald Dahl is, I can’t wait to re-read more of his work so that I can re-discover that same magic that captivated me as a child and still continues to enchant me today.

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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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

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The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

Published February 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

What did I think?:

The Lie Tree has been on my radar for the longest time, ever since it won the Costa Book Award back in 2015 and I was delighted when the lovely booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath recommended it as one of the books I simply had to read on a reading spa I went to with my sister Chrissi Reads. Now, they picked some outstanding books perfectly tailored for my reading tastes but this book was one of their more intuitive choices and one that had me jumping up and down about it within just a few pages. I think I was merely twenty pages through when I had the urge to tweet gushing all about it and I had barely begun! You know when you start reading a book and everything slots into place? The lyrical writing, the atmospheric setting, the mystery of the characters, the magical elements? They were all spectacular and I knew it was a book destined to make it to my all-time favourites book shelf.

This is the story of Faith and her family who are fleeing England after a scandal involving her father’s work as a natural scientist. They encamp themselves upon a small island where they believe at first the rumours haven’t followed them and the Reverend can continue his rather secretive work in relative peace. Faith is an intelligent, determined girl who takes great interest in her father’s studies although the fact that she is a woman in 19th century England does not bode well for her future intellectual development i.e. she is not expected to pursue anything else other than marrying well. However, when her father meets an untimely end under suspicious circumstances, Faith is desperate to peruse his current research, in search for answers about his mysterious death, his very strange behaviour and his often rattled demeanour in order to uncover the secrets behind a very special plant, The Lie Tree. It is only when she discovers what The Lie Tree can potentially provide that Faith begins to realise she may have opened a bigger can of worms than she ever could have expected.

This gorgeous novel was so much more than I anticipated and I thank Frances Hardinge from the bottom of my heart for every word of it. The language used is sumptuous and glorious and I loved the combination of the historical setting with the fantastical element of the Lie Tree mixed with subtle hints of feminist undertones. Each character and their intricate relationships was developed so beautifully that they felt completely authentic, especially with the addition of flaws that only served to increase my belief in each one of them. I have to talk briefly about Faith’s relationship with both her parents, which broke my heart at times. I clocked her mother, Myrtle immediately as being disinterested, two-faced and not in the slightest maternal but it was Faith’s relationship with her father that really floored me and at one point, almost had me in tears.

There’s a particular scene with Faith and the Reverend just prior to his death where he tells her exactly what he and the rest of the world expects of her as a female and it’s just a horrific, passionate exchange that was upsetting yet very illuminating to read. Faith is herself as I alluded to, flawed and becomes enamoured with the power provided to her by The Lie Tree. She makes some really terrible decisions, suffers for her bravery and hurts a few people in the process but at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but admire her for her tenacity and dogged determination to ensure that her father’s death was avenged. Basically, I can’t gush enough about the magnificent nature of this novel, it is a very worthy Costa Award winner and for me, proof that a book can still capture my heart within twenty pages.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was the sixteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – JANUARY READ – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.

What did I think?:

I really can’t believe this is my fifth year of the Kid Lit challenge I participate in with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. This is one of our favourite challenges to do and we always love picking the books we’re going to be reading for the year. Every year, we’re slowly making our way through entire series and The Narnia Chronicles is one of those so it was fitting that we chose the fifth book, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader as our first book for 2018. As an adult reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I remember it being one of my favourites as a child but I couldn’t remember any major details about it, apart from it being set on a ship so I was looking forward to re-discovering it and finding out whether it was still one of my preferred books in the series.

By and large, I really enjoyed this fifth novel, it was lovely to see two of the characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Lucy and Edmund (which were also my two favourites) back again in Narnia and off on another adventure, meeting up with old and new friends and learning a few lessons on the way which C.S. Lewis fondly slots in on a regular basis! They enter Narnia this time through the painting of a ship and manage to bring along a rather unwelcome visitor, their cousin Eustace who does nothing but complain, shirk any hard work, make horrible remarks and generally acts rather unpleasantly until he is taught quite a valuable lesson of his own. The children are on board The Dawn Treader, a Narnian ship in the company of their friend and current ruler of Narnia, Prince Caspian and the wonderful brave mouse, Reepicheep. Their quest is to find out what happened to the old Lords of Narnia, explore forgotten lands and generally have many exciting adventures.

I was really surprised when I read this novel that I actually didn’t remember anything about the plot at all! I remember Eustace as a character, let’s face it, he’s kind of difficult to forget but the rest of the adventures that the children have and the strange lands they discovered I didn’t recall in the slightest. That’s not a bad thing at all, in fact it felt like a fresh, new story to devour and I did enjoy many moments of it. As I mentioned, it was wonderful to be back with Lucy and Edmund again and even Eustace improves on further acquaintance, especially when he goes through a traumatic body-shifting experience of his own. One of the things I adored most about this story though was the illustrations in my copy on my Kindle, which I’ve been lucky to have with all the Narnia books so far. They’re so gorgeous, make me smile even if I’m at a slower point of the narrative and just all around make my heart incredibly happy.

This is also the first book where if I hand’t known whom C.S. Lewis meant Aslan to represent, I think I would have probably guessed – it felt a lot more obvious. This kind of thing really doesn’t bother me though, I’m not especially religious but I don’t have any problems with it either, if it’s a great story with some fascinating creatures and exciting adventures, that’s good enough for me!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2018: Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2018 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2017/04/03/even-more-outlandish-further-thoughts-on-the-role-of-translation-and-childrens-literature/

JANUARY – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader -C.S. Lewis

FEBRUARY- Matilda-Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

APRIL- Ratburger- David Walliams

MAY – The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)-Lemony Snicket

JUNE- The Face On The Milk Carton-Caroline B. Cooney

JULY – Murder Most Unladylike- Robin Stevens

AUGUST- The Creakers- Tom Fletcher

SEPTEMBER – Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing -Judy Blume

OCTOBER- Nightbirds on Nantucket  (The Wolves Chronicles #3)- Joan Aiken

NOVEMBER – Number The Stars- Lois Lowry

DECEMBER- Time Travelling With A Hamster- Ross Welford

Generally, we had a wonderful Kid-Lit year in 2017 but generally, I didn’t think it was as strong as 2016. However, lots of beauties to look forward to on this list. We are continuing with our Narnia series with The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, the fifth book in the Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, The Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket with the third book in the series and the third book in The Wolves Chronicles by Anne Cassidy which we’re very much excited about. We’ve also got some old classics like Matilda by Roald Dahl and one of my favourite childhood authors, Judy Blume to look forward to and some newer authors like Tom Fletcher and Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I’m expecting great things for this year and I can hardly wait. Join us at the end of January for our first post!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2017 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/17/beware-the-bigoted-subtext-of-childrens-literature.html

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 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 2018. 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- Prince Caspian- C.S. Lewis
FEBRUARY- The Cuckoo Sister- Vivian Alcock
MARCH- Awful Auntie- David Walliams
APRIL- A Snicker of Magic- Natalie Lloyd
MAY- The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan
JUNE- The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross
JULY- The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket
AUGUST- Fortunately, the Milk- Neil Gaiman
SEPTEMBER- Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay
OCTOBER- Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken
NOVEMBER- Witch Child – Celia Rees
DECEMBER- Finding Jennifer Jones- Anne Cassidy

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

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: It’s a toss up between two for me – Awful Auntie by David Walliams who I’ve really fallen in love with as a children’s author for his unique style often compared to Roald Dahl. The second is Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman which I was utterly charmed by, especially the wonderful illustrations by Chris Riddell.
CHRISSI: For me, there was a stand out read this year for me and that was Awful Auntie. David Walliams is such a fantastic writer for children and I love the subtle humour that appeals to adults too.
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: That’s an easy one I’m afraid. It was Witch Child by Celia Rees. Unfortunately I found this book a bit of a slog and wasn’t overly impressed with the story.
CHRISSI: Same as Beth for me, I didn’t get on with Witch ChildI’m afraid I was a little bored by it, which is a great shame!
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2017 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock. It was a huge favourite of mine as a child and I went into it anticipating that I would love it just as much. It was a shame that I didn’t but it was still a nostalgic reading experience.
CHRISSI:  I don’t like to look like I’m copying what Beth says each time, but for me it was also The Cuckoo Sister. I was expecting such a fabulous, nostalgic reading experience and I was left wondering why I liked it so much as a child.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2017?
BETH: Definitely more from Rick Riordan who writes the Percy Jackson series. I love the fantasy and mythology elements, I’m really enjoying the characters and hoping to continue with at it at some point next year.
CHRISSI:  I will definitely read more from David Walliams. Big fan over here!

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 on January 2nd – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2018! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – NOVEMBER READ – Witch Child by Celia Rees

Published November 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
Just two weeks after publication, Celia Rees’s WITCH CHILD spirited its way onto the Book Sense Children’s Only 76 list as one of the Top 10 books that independent booksellers like to handsell. Within a month, this riveting book sold out its first two hardcover printings. Now, Candlewick Press is pleased to announce the publication of WITCH CHILD in paperback.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have been very lucky with the choices for our Kid Lit challenge this year and I’ve been delighted with what we’ve read so far. However, I’m sorry to say Witch Child fell a little bit short for me in comparison and if it hadn’t been so short and I hadn’t been so intrigued by the main character, I probably would have given up. It’s not written like many other pieces of young adult fiction and I think that’s a positive thing to say about it. In a way, it feels quite adult and not a book that specifically panders to a younger audience but personally speaking, I just found it too slow in points to capture my attention like I had hoped.

Witch Child is a historical fiction novel told in the format of a diary from the 1600’s, written by our young female protagonist, Mary Newbury. When the story opens, she has had to witness the brutal death of her grandmother after being put on trial for being a witch and yes, she floated which instantly made her a friend of Satan. There have been whispers about Mary too, being her grand-daughter of course, but she manages to escape overseas to America on a ship with a group of Puritans to start a new life and escape the rumours surrounding her “powers.” However, on reaching the settlement, Mary is once again in danger, especially as she fraternises with the Native American people whose way of life/ideals are seen as blasphemy to the Puritan way of life. The threat to her life becomes once again very substantial leading to her taking drastic measures to save herself from certain death.

I’ll start with the things I liked about this novel. Firstly, I loved the character of Mary herself. She was extremely personable, very easy to like and sympathise with and I did find myself eager to find out what her fate was going to be. As I mentioned before, I think it’s written in quite a unique style and I appreciated the difference when I compare it to other works of young adult fiction. Sadly however, points of the narrative were just so very tedious, especially the parts where Mary is on the ship that I found myself skipping entire paragraphs just to get to another part that I could feel slightly more excited about. Furthermore, I didn’t really feel that other characters, for example, Rebekah and Martha were as fleshed out as they had the potential to be and this was a shame as I was quite interested in both their personalities and back stories. This book has so many terrific ratings on Goodreads, I’m sure I’m in the minority that feel the way about it, perhaps it was just a case of wrong reader? I’d love to know if you’ve read it and what you think, especially if you feel the exact opposite and adore this story. I’m open to being talked round!

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

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Finding Jennifer Jones (Jennifer Jones #2) by Anne Cassidy.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – OCTOBER READ – Black Hearts In Battersea (Wolves Chronicles #2) – Joan Aiken

Published November 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Simon, the foundling from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting. Instead he finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a wicked crew’s fiendish caper to overthrow the good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. With the help of his friend Sophie and the resourceful waif Dido, Simon narrowly escapes a series of madcap close calls and dangerous run-ins. In a time and place where villains do nothing halfway, Simon is faced with wild wolves, poisoned pies, kidnapping, and a wrecked ship. This is a cleverly contrived tale of intrigue and misadventure.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first came across Joan Aiken when we read the first book in this fantastic series, The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase last year as part of our Kid Lit challenge. We both loved it so much that we were determined to read the next in the series, Black Hearts In Battersea this year – and here it is! I have to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy Black Hearts In Battersea quite as much as the first book in the series but I was still utterly charmed and delighted by the characters, the setting and the general “feel” of the books which really comes across beautifully in the author’s evocative writing.

In this second instalment, we follow one of my favourite characters from The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, Simon as he leaves home for a new, exciting adventure in London to pursue one of his dreams, painting. He is due to meet up with an old friend destined to become his mentor, Dr Field but when he arrives at his lodgings, the Twite family that reside there deny ever having heard of him. He manages to persuade them to give him a room (in the same room that his friend was supposed to be staying in….hmm!) and it is not long before his friendly, hard-working nature lands him with a job with the local smithy, Cobb and a chance to show off his artistic talent at a prestigious school for painters. He also manages to reconnect with another good friend, Sophie who is working as a maid in waiting for the Duchess of Battersea and he squeezes in a couple of rounds of chess with the rather eccentric Duke of Battersea when he too falls for Simon’s easy charm.

Along with all of this, Simon is working hard to try and piece together what has happened to Dr Field and look after the youngest girl in the Twite family, Dido who he feels is sorely neglected. It is not long before all the connections start to fall into place and Simon manages to uncover a horrific plan involving the Battersea family and some Hanoverian plotters who are determined to cause as much mayhem as possible to get what they believe is the true ruler of England on the throne. With the help of Dido, Sophie and the Duke of Battersea’s nephew, Simon embarks on a dangerous plot to protect his new friends and discovers a lot more about his own humble beginnings in the process.

One of my favourite things about The Wolves Chronicles is most definitely the characterisation. Simon, who was a relatively minor character in the first book, really comes into his own in Black Hearts In Battersea and I completely fell in love with his winning personality and protective nature, especially when it came to Dido Twite. Speaking of Dido, how wonderful is she? When she first appeared she was absolutely awful and I thought her mannerisms (and her mouth) were going to irritate me through the entire story. Then she turns it around and becomes someone you just want to look after and take far, far away from her hideous family. She has a little heroine moment near the end of the novel that I adored but really can’t say too much about for fear of spoilers, I just want everyone to read this and fall in love with Dido too. When I compare it with the first book I have to say I enjoyed the plot of Wolves more but I don’t think this should put you off reading this one in any way – it has its moments of quietness and contemplation where we’re simply enjoying getting to know the characters, but then there are these action sequences involving shipwrecks, hot air balloons and explosions that completely take your breath away.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Witch Child by Celia Rees.