Children’s Classics

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2017 – FEBRUARY READ – The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock

Published February 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“Since the day I found out about Emma, I seemed to have gone to the bad. I was rude. I told lies. I listened at doors and read other people’s letters if they left them about. I was always losing things . . . watches, cameras, and silver bracelets. And whenever my mother reproached me, I screamed at her, ‘Look who’s talking? Who lost her own baby? Who lost my sister? Just because you wanted a new dress?'”

Convinced that her family’s problems will end if only Emma is returned by the person who snatched her from her baby carriage, Kate longs for the older sister she never knew. But when a thin, spiky-haired stranger with hard eyes shows up with a letter claiming she’s the long-lost sister, there’s more trouble than ever. This “Emma” is certainly not the sister Kate imagined.

What did I think?:

The Cuckoo Sister appeared on our Kid Lit list for this year after a strange, nostalgic moment experienced by my sister, Chrissi Reads. This book was one of our (many) favourites from childhood but we hadn’t thought about it for years. One day, she suddenly remembered it and had such a clear picture of what the cover looked like from the copy I had owned leading me to go on a frantic Google search for that exact cover and led to us placing the book on the list for 2017.

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It follows a young girl called Kate who finds out that her parents had another baby before she was born – a little girl that they called Emma. Tragically, after leaving the baby in a pram outside a shop while her mother went hunting for a new dress, the baby disappeared, ruining her parents life. Well, now a girl two years older than Kate has appeared on the family doorstep with a letter from the woman who raised her saying that the child was her sister Emma (although she now went by the name of Rosie) and apologising for taking her all those years ago. Kate has had a picture in her head about what her sister looked like and often fantasised about what would happen when her sister finally returned. However, what turns up on the doorstep is the furthest away from what Kate or her parents could ever have imagined. Is this really Emma, Kate’s long lost sister? And can they learn to be a family again, despite their huge differences?

Well, this book brought back a wave of wonderful memories from when I used to read it to myself and to my sister when we were younger. It was lovely to see the old cover again and it was odd how much I remembered certain sentences, phrases, incidents of text all these years later. For nostalgia’s sake alone, I’m really glad we re-read it. I have to admit however to feeling slightly disappointed regarding the story. So far, with other books we’ve re-read, a case in point being The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, all those old feelings about the novel came flooding back. Not so with this book unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved re-visiting a story that I clearly loved as a youngster but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time. I felt more anger towards Kate for being a spoilt brat in regards to her reaction to her sister and at times, the abominable way she treated her parents and found Rosie herself very difficult to get to know and love as a character. Perhaps it’s one of those children’s books that you can only read and enjoy when you’re a certain age? I’m not sure but it was an interesting re-reading experience and I’m still glad that we chose to put it on the list for this year.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: Awful Auntie by David Walliams

The Girl Who Walked On Air – Emma Carroll

Published February 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned as a baby at Chipchase’s Travelling Circus, Louie dreams of becoming a ‘Showstopper’. Yet Mr Chipchase only ever lets her sell tickets. No Death-Defying Stunts for her. So in secret, Louie practises her act- the tightrope- and dreams of being the Girl Who Walked on Air. All she needs is to be given the chance to shine.

One night a terrible accident occurs. Now the circus needs Louie’s help, and with rival show Wellbeloved’s stealing their crowds, Mr Chipchase needs a Showstopper- fast.

Against his better judgement, he lets Louie perform. She is a sensation and gets an offer from the sinister Mr Wellbeloved himself to perform in America. But nothing is quite as it seems and soon Louie’s bravery is tested not just on the highwire but in confronting her past and the shady characters in the world of the circus . . .

Fans of Frost Hollow Hall will love this epic adventure, where courage takes many different forms.

What did I think?:

The Girl Who Walked On Air is the wonderfully talented Emma Carroll’s second novel for children, aimed around the middle grade reading age but… (and this is a big BUT), I truly believe that her books can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, especially those adults who love an imaginative plot and beautifully drawn characters like Louie Reynolds, our heroine for the story.

I first came across Emma’s writing with her fantastic debut, Frost Hollow Hall which completely captured my heart and I can’t recommend highly enough. Well, if she hasn’t gone and done it again with The Girl Who Walked On Air! Set in the grounds of a Victorian circus it features a young girl called Louie who was abandoned by her mother at Mr Chipchase’s circus and is looked after by the kindly Jasper, a trapeze artist and her guardian angel. She has big dreams of being a performer, or to be exact – a “showstopper,” on the tightrope wire. She practices constantly, watched over by her loyal little dog Pip, but Mr Chipchase is determined that she is only good enough to sell tickets and mend costumes.

This sends her and new arrival at the circus Gabriel, straight into the clutches of Mr Wellbeloved, who manages a rival circus and insists on only the most death defying stunts to bring in the punters. As Louie learns more about who she is as a person, where her heart lies and just what lengths she will go to in becoming a star, she also discovers a lot about friendship and just who can be trusted in a fickle world where money and pure greed is, sadly, the only yardstick by which success is measured.

Once again, Emma Carroll has given us some brilliant characters which have stayed with me long after finishing the book. Louie, just like Tilly in Frost Hollow Hall is beautifully drawn. She is impetuous, independent, brave and indeed flawed but ever so realistic as a young girl which in turn, made her infinitely more loveable as a result. I really enjoyed reading about her relationships with Jasper and her friends Ned and Gabriel and was touched by the dark side of her past and her desperation to find out where she came from and where she belonged. The setting of the circus that the author chose was just as stunning and so descriptive that I felt I could picture events scene by scene, character by character, which led to many difficulties putting it down!

As I mentioned earlier, please don’t be dissuaded that the author writes for children, I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by adults just as much. The Girl Who Walked On Air took me right back to my childhood when I used to just sit in a room and read right until the book was finished (and if this went past my bedtime, it was continued under my duvet with a torch!). I didn’t need the torch as an adult, but I certainly read from the beginning to the end in one sitting and loved every moment.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JANUARY READ – Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Pevensie siblings are back to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

What did I think?:

Welcome to the first book of Kid Lit 2017! Chrissi and I have chosen to continue with the Chronicles of Narnia series as we’ve been reading it from when we first started blogging four years ago and I especially really wanted to read right until the very end. We are also reading in chronological order rather than publication order, so Prince Caspian is the fourth book in the Narnia adventures and one I don’t really remember from when I read the series as a child so I was keen to re-discover it.

I was delighted to find that our favourite siblings from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are back in the magical land of Narnia, called back from Susan’s magical horn, given to her from the great Aslan himself. The horn summons help when the user is in need and the user, Prince Caspian is in dire straits indeed. He is the rightful heir to the throne of Narnia but the kingship has been taken over by the wicked King Miraz and his band of soldiers, the Telmarines. They reject all the “old Narnian” ways, even by punishing people talking about the old days and the talking creatures that are left have fled into hiding to escape persecution/certain death.

Prince Caspian, the true king, is now a threat to King Miraz and is helped to flee by his tutor, a half-dwarf who puts him in touch with the Old Narnians, two dwarfs and a kindly badger called Trufflehunter. They in turn round up all the other talking creatures to form a war council (with some of the most wonderful characters I have ever read about!) and summon the ancient rulers of Narnia – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy back from England. The siblings find Narnia completely changed from when they were last Kings and Queens. Cair Paravel has gone to ruin, the creatures in the trees have all gone to sleep and all the other talking creatures daren’t show their faces for fear of what would happen under King Miraz. However, Lucy swears that she keeps seeing Aslan through the trees and perhaps with his help, they can put Prince Caspian in his rightful place and return Narnia to how it used to be.

I’m always going to love going back into the world of Narnia I think, no matter how long it has been. Prince Caspian started very promisingly and took me straight back to that magical place, especially when we got to the talking creatures (which made me do a silent fist pump, I have to admit). Like Mr Tumnus and Mr and Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe we have a whole host of loveable animals to coo over but the absolute best and I’m sure Chrissi would agree was the delightful head of the mouse army – Reepicheep who also has the honour of having the cover of the book. He was completely adorable, I loved his attitude, his bravery and his determination and was definitely one of my highlights of the book.

Apart from that, it was lovely to catch up with the Pevensie siblings and even if Susan irritated me slightly in this outing it was quite sobering to realise that the next book in the series may feature just two of the original foursome. The only slight issues I have with the book is the ending which unfortunately I feel was just too rushed and perhaps slightly confusing for younger readers. As for the religious references, to be honest, I don’t really read it like that. I’m aware of it as an adult but it doesn’t seem terribly overt and obvious and I just appreciate it for the fantasy and great adventure story that it is.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review check out her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock

 

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2017 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Welcome 2017! Welcome to a new year of Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit. Without further ado, here are the titles we have chosen for the year ahead:

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 much to look forward to this year. We are carrying on with a couple of series we have really enjoyed like the Narnia series which we have been reading since 2013. I am particularly looking forward to Prince Caspian as it’s one of the Narnia books I don’t really remember. We also have The Prime Minister’s Brain following up from The Demon Headmaster in 2016, Finding Jennifer Jones which is the sequel to Looking For JJ by Anne Cassidy and of course another book from David Walliams, an author whom we are really enjoying! There are some stand alone titles on here too that we thought looked intriguing and an old favourite – The Cuckoo Sister, which we both remember fondly from our childhood. Bring on Kid-Lit 2017, we’re ready for ya!

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?!

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):

four-stars_0

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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