children’s literature

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – AUGUST READ – The Royal Rabbits Of London (The Royal Rabbits Of London #1) – Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

Published September 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible – by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!
Shylo has always been the runt of the litter, the weakest and quietest of all of his family, his siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it’s up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolical plot! The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis… But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?
The Hobbit meets Fantastic Mr Fox meets Watership Down in this charming novel from bestselling authors Santa and Sebag Montefiore, which proves even the smallest rabbit can be the biggest hero.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have being doing our Kid-Lit challenge for quite a few years now and one of my favourite things about taking part each month is the little gems that come our ways that we weren’t expecting. I wasn’t anticipating very much if I’m completely honest from The Royal Rabbits Of London, although I had heard of Santa Montefiore previously from her adult fiction and her husband, Simon Sebag Montefiore from his historical non-fiction. I was delighted to be completely and utterly charmed by their story, the characters and the artwork and if we weren’t wrapping up our Kid-Lit challenge at the end of this year, I’d be begging Chrissi to continue the series next year.

Santa Montefiore, author of The Royal Rabbits Of London.

The Royal Rabbits of London, as the title may suggest is primarily an adventure story following one plucky little rabbit called Shylo as he overhears a dastardly plot to embarrass the Queen. Shylo is a wonderful little character – the underdog (or should that be under-rabbit?) of the tale who is often mocked by his stronger, more brash siblings for his timid and tentative nature. Uncovering the plot leads to him undertaking an incredible journey from the country to the streets of London and Green Park, to find the elusive Royal Rabbits Of London, who are tasked with protecting the Queen, at any cost. Along the way, we meet a host of fantastic personalities, including the disgusting ratzi’s with their evil plan, an old reclusive rabbit with a huge secret to impart on just the right rabbit for the job (i.e. Shylo) and the Royal Rabbits themselves.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, the second author of The Royal Rabbits Of London.

The Royal Rabbits of London has a fabulous mixture of everything that middle grade fiction should encapsulate. We have an unlikely hero to cheer on and worry about, action, tension and an exciting narrative to enjoy and a satisfying ending that gives you that lovely warm feeling, as if everything is finally settled in the world. Everyone needs a bit of escapism sometimes and Royal Rabbits gives that in spades. You can easily lock yourself away for a short time, enjoy the adventure and the nail-biting moments and lose yourself completely in the fantasy of a group of courageous rabbits fighting for their own form of justice. If you have children, if you adore rabbits or if you like your middle-grade fiction with a dash of good old British familiarity, this is the book for you!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT UP IN SEPTEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – JULY READ – The Dreamsnatcher (Dreamsnatcher #1) – Abi Elphinstone

Published August 12, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twelve-year-old Molly Pecksniff wakes one night in the middle of the forest, lured there by a recurring nightmare – the one with the drums and the rattles and the masks. The Dreamsnatcher is waiting. He has already taken her dreams and now he wants her life.

Because Moll is more important than she knows… The Oracle Bones foretold that she and Gryff, a wildcat that has always been by her side, are the only ones who can fight back against the Dreamsnatcher’s dark magic. Suddenly everything is at stake, and Moll is drawn into a world full of secrets, magic and adventure.

What did I think?:

Life has been so crazy recently that this post which should have gone up the end of July is finally being published in (almost) mid-August – oops! The Dreamsnatcher is our seventh book in the Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge for 2019 and I was particularly excited to dive into this one after hearing great things about both the author and the series in general. I adore the front cover, it’s quirky, cute and magical and the fantastical premise gave me high hopes that I was going to thoroughly enjoy the story.

Abi Elphinstone, author of The Dreamsnatcher

Generally, this is a lovely opening novel to what looks to be an intriguing, imaginative and dangerous world. I can certainly see why the series has legions of fans and so many positive reviews on Goodreads with an impressive average rating of 4.15 stars. As an adult reading The Dreamsnatcher, I can clearly understand why it appeals to children, boasting strong character development, beautiful magical elements, an incredible animal companion, mystery and adventure and the trepidation and terror of never knowing what’s going to happen next. Our female lead, Molly Pecksniff in particular is fantastically memorable and her bravery and attitude leads to her becoming someone that younger readers will be able to both look up to and relate to. I had a particular fondness for her wildcat sidekick, Gryff who captured my heart from the very first opening pages and becomes even more endearing as the story continues.

Without giving anything away, the pace of this story is ridiculously fast whilst still retaining that air of mystery and confusion that the first book in a series should always possess. The action doesn’t let up for a minute and Moll and her friends/family always seem to be finding themselves in precarious situations with little time for rest or relaxation. As a result, it makes for a brilliantly exciting narrative where it becomes impossible to predict the author’s next move. As a work of children’s fiction, this is absolutely perfect and as a younger reader, I can imagine tearing through the pages unable to put the book down. As an adult reader, I seem to live for the quieter moments in my fiction and as a personal preference, I would have loved to see deeper moments where we get to know the other characters a bit better. However, this IS just the first book in the series and I’m sure there is plenty of time for all that in the books that follow!

With an intricate, well thought out plot, frightening villains and our determined, adventurous protagonist, I’m sure that this series will continue to capture the imaginations of children for years to come. It had echoes of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series but stands completely on its own as a unique and interesting work. Although I may not be the target audience for the story, I can appreciate why readers fall in love with the characters, the world and the writing.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN AUGUST ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Royal Rabbits Of London by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

 

Banned Books 2019 – JULY READ – In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Published July 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sendak’s hero Mickey falls through the dark into the Night Kitchen where three fat bakers are making the morning cake. So begins an intoxicating dream fantasy, described by the artist himself as ‘a fantasy ten feet deep in reality’.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the seventh banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

First published: 1970

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)

Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit. 

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Trying not to scream at this moment in time. I’ve just finished this book (as it’s a picture book it took me about 30 seconds!) and sat down to collect my thoughts on why it might be banned. As always, I don’t like to read the reasons until I’ve finished the book and I had a sneaking suspicion nudity might be in there but as for the others? I just can’t deal with it. This book is one of the less recent banned books in our challenge so far, being published in 1970 and although I wasn’t around back then, I’m struggling to understand why a children’s picture book could cause such offence. Especially for the reasons mentioned! Let’s go back to the nudity thing. Yes, there is a cartoon picture of a naked little boy. It’s not gratuitous or explicit in any way and I really can’t comprehend why an innocent drawing could cause a furore. Answers on a postcard please.

CHRISSI: I thought it would be nudity when I saw the pictures. As Beth said, it’s a cartoon naked boy. It’s not an explicit, detailed picture and it’s not on every single page. So do I agree with any of the reasons? No. There really isn’t a reason that I could get behind for challenging this book. Would I read it to my class? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a great story in my opinion. No other reason than that!

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. A challenge on this book was raised as recently as 2004 which means for me that some people somewhere are still having an issue with this book. Okay let’s take nudity out of the question because that might be just some people’s personal preference – which I can kind of understand, innocent though it is. But sexually explicit and offensive language? Was I reading a different book?! Has it been re-published and watered down for the noughties children, amending some lurid details from the seventies? Please can someone enlighten me because if it hasn’t, I don’t understand where the sexual explicitness and offensive language came from. In my eyes, there was none! Ridiculous.

CHRISSI: I honestly can’t see anything wrong with this book. I, too, understand that naked children is a bit of an issue, but it’s a story. There’s nothing sexually explicit about it whatsoever. I’m a bit baffled by it. Like Beth, I’m wondering if the story has been changed?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I understand that Maurice Sendak is a beloved children’s author however for me, this book didn’t quite work. I appreciated the fantastical, whimsical elements but I sadly didn’t connect with it on the level that I wanted to. Perhaps because I’m not the intended age group for the book? It has fans all over the globe though and was nominated for the Caldecott Medal in 1971 so it’s obviously a treasured piece of children’s literature.

CHRISSI: It was very, very odd. I do like whimsical stories but this one didn’t really work for me. I actually finished it and wondered what on earth I’d been reading!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

COMING UP IN AUGUST ON BANNED BOOKS: Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MAY READ – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton

Published May 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jo, Bessie and Fanny move to the country and find an Enchanted Wood right on their doorstep. In the magic Faraway Tree live the magical characters that soon become their new friends – Moon-Face, Silky the fairy, and Saucepan Man. Together they visit the strange lands (the Roundabout Land, the Land of Ice and Snow, Toyland and the Land of Take What You Want) atop the tree and have the most exciting adventures – and narrow escapes.

What did I think?:

The Faraway Tree series will always have a very special place in my heart. I remember it fondly from childhood (and I think it was probably one of the books I read to my sister Chrissi on a regular basis) yet I was almost petrified to read it again, just in case it didn’t live up to those delicious memories and expectations. Luckily, when reading it again I could definitely confirm why I rated Enid Blyton so highly as an author. Reading it as an adult is an interesting experience as parts of it do feel very much “of the time,” however I truly believe that the fantasy and adventure aspects of the story will still continue to delight and appeal to younger children today.

Enid Blyton, author of The Enchanted Wood, the first book in The Faraway Tree series. 

In a nutshell, The Enchanted Wood is the first book in which we meet three siblings (who strangely enough, seem to have had their names changed from the last time I read this book). Their original names in the story I read were Jo, Fanny and Bessie and in this edition it’s Joe, Frannie and Beth. On reading up a bit on it, it’s not the first time Enid Blyton has been censored and altered to protect the delicate minds of future generations of children. However, I’ll try not to get on my soap box (too much) about it and just accept that this has happened. Even if I don’t agree with it!  If you’re interested in reading about this further, there’s a fantastic article HERE. Our three children have just moved house and discover the magical Enchanted Wood, filled with talking animals, elves, goblins and helpful red squirrels. Best of all, there is an enormous tree that they can climb up, reaching other lands through the clouds at the top of the tree and meeting new friends that live within its branches.

Enid Blyton never fails to write an exciting adventure story filled with imaginative worlds and unforgettable magical events. Although her characters don’t seem to vary too much between her different series i.e. none of them have outstanding or memorable features, I don’t think it’s really necessary. As a child reading this, it was much more about the adventures that the children had and the amazing lands that they visited at the top of The Faraway Tree compared with how complex or interesting their personalities were! I loved the sense of tension that Blyton builds up when the children enter a precarious situation and equally appreciated the more joyous moments when they visited worlds like The Land Of Birthdays or The Land of Take-What-You-Want. I remember clearly as a younger reader feeling desperate to visit such lands myself and having such a cosy, warm feeling at Blyton’s descriptive narrative which brought everything alive for me in full, colourful detail. To be honest, I felt exactly the same as an adult and that’s why I can’t give it any less than the full five stars – both for the nostalgia and for how the author seems to know what children want so perfectly.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN JUNE ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – APRIL READ – Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Published May 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find… a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow.

Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…?

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies (especially to my sister!) for getting this post out so late. Chrissi and I usually try to get our kid-lit posts out at the end of the month but this past week, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather and have only got round to doing it now. It’s always a pleasure to pick up a David Walliams book and even though I only discovered him a few years ago and was slightly sceptical, I can really see why he’s so beloved, particularly amongst children. You always know what you’re getting when you pick up one of his books. He has such a wonderful sense of humour, brilliant characterisation and an edge of reality that make his books such a joy to read.

David Walliams, author of Demon Dentist.

I say you always know what to expect when picking up a Walliams books but to be perfectly honest, Demon Dentist completely surprised me. I found it much darker than the author’s previous books with a villainous character that was nothing short of terrifying. However, I loved that he wasn’t afraid to explore some more difficult aspects of life. For example, our young protagonist Alfie’s father is chronically ill in a wheelchair and as a result, some parts of the narrative make for a very emotional and hard-hitting reading experience. Despite his father’s health issues, Alfie still has a wonderful relationship with him and it was heart-warming to read about their interactions. I can only applaud the author for choosing to write about a father-son relationship that is not conventional or expected so as to illustrate that not all families have the luxury of having parents who are healthy and well.

Alfie’s dad, beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross.

Image from: https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/demon-dentist/

In Demon Dentist, Alfie hasn’t been to the dentist for a long, long time after a bad experience when he was younger and his teeth are now rotten. Then when a new dentist, Ms Root comes to town and starts taking a rather obsessive interest in all the children’s teeth, Alfie begins to realise that something is seriously wrong and vows to get to the bottom of it. The villain of the piece who is of course, Ms Root as you may have guessed, is a fantastic villain in every sense of the word. She looks a bit strange, she definitely acts a bit strange and, as with all good baddies, she has an evil plot afoot that involves all the children of the town and their teeth.

As I mentioned earlier, things get quite frightening in Demon Dentist but it’s all done with Walliams’ trademark wit and style accompanied by the most glorious illustrations by Tony Ross. The action never lets up for a second and I whizzed through this book in less than a day very easily as I found it very difficult to put down. Just when I thought there may have been a resolution, there was another crescendo of tension and terror that our poor hero Alfie was subjected to! Eventually it does end – not particularly in a satisfying way I have to say, there is quite a bit of heart-break but it is also accompanied by hope for the future which as it turns out, is a far more realistic ending to a fantastical story.

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

COMING UP IN MAY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – MARCH READ – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) – Rick Riordan

Published March 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, half-human.

But when you’re the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that not all of us will survive…

What did I think?:

Prior to beginning this series on our Kid-Lit journey a few years back now, Chrissi and I had never read anything by Rick Riordan. We were very aware of his popularity and the connection with Greek mythology so I had always been keen to pick something up but it wasn’t until we started his Percy Jackson series with The Lightning Thief and The Sea Of Monsters that we finally realised why he’s such a beloved author. For myself, I have an unwavering connection with Greek mythology after studying it at school for a short period of time and have never forgotten the stories I was told that completely captured my imagination from the moment I came across them. So for our Kid-Lit challenge this year, it was a pleasure to return to Percy Jackson And The Olympians with the third book in the series.

Rick Riordan, author of The Titan’s Curse, third in the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series.

Without ruining anything for the previous books, Rick Riordan’s stories follow a teenage boy, Percy Jackson who is a half-blood i.e. one of his parents was an Olympian God. During this series, the gods on Mount Olympus have become embroiled in a battle with some darker forces and there is a mysterious prophecy that may affect Percy and all his friends as they continue to grow up and fight the forces of evil. So what can you expect from The Titan’s Curse? If you’ve read anything by Riordan I’m guessing more of the same really – a fantastic adventure story, brave deeds perpetuated by incredibly plucky youngsters and a host of mythical gods, goddesses and monsters birthed directed from the pages of Greek mythology. The difference with this set of books is that all these occurrences happen in a contemporary world so I’m sure you can imagine the havoc it would wreak – particularly on a busy commute or populated area with “normal,” human residents trying to get through their daily life!

Mount Olympus, home to the Greek Gods.

Apart from the mythological aspects, I’m really starting to feel a strong connection with the characters that the author is creating in this series. I love how he develops the female leads with strong personalities, independence of mind and great feats of strength and intelligence. He doesn’t let them fade into the background or under the shadow of his great teenage hero, Percy Jackson which I really appreciated and in general, they all have an air of mystery to them that makes me want to get to know them a little bit better. Percy himself is of course a marvellous protagonist. At fourteen years old in The Titan’s Curse, he still has a lot to learn about life but in retrospect, this only makes him more realistic as a teenage boy and a slightly reluctant hero. Additionally, one of my favourite parts of the series has to be the author’s humour interjected at perfect moments through the narrative. It certainly brings something extra to the story and at times, provides a welcome relief from the more action-packed, hair-raising sequences and situations that our characters find themselves in.

Finally, Riordan always seems to end each book in this series with a resolution of sorts but at the same time, a jaw dropping cliffhanger in order to make sure the reader is immediately excited to read the next book. We know about this dreaded prophecy, we understand bad things are happening under the surface and that Percy and his friends are in a lot of danger however we are left feeling absolutely clueless about what on earth could happen next. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series and joining Percy on yet another gripping quest.

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

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Demon Dentist by David Walliams.

Banned Books 2019 – MARCH READ – Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

Published March 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Bobby and Jamie are getting married, but Bobby’s niece Chloe is worried that she won’t be his favorite person anymore. Will Uncle Bobby still think she is special? Sarah Brannen’s warm story is set in an alternative family as Uncle Bobby marries his boyfriend. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding embraces Bobby’s relationship with Jamie, but keeps its focus where it truly belongs: on an uncle and niece’s love for each other.

Beautifully told and charmingly illustrated, this simple yet moving story begs to be read time and again.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the third banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen

First published: 2008

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: homosexuality, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: No, no and no some more. I get so wound up when a book as sweet and inoffensive like this is challenged on grounds of homosexuality. I don’t understand it that as recently as ten years ago (which still feels to me like yesterday!) that individuals were challenging books for children because it featured gay characters. I think I would understand (but definitely NOT accept) the challenging if it was in less enlightened times when homosexuality was illegal and a lot of people had a problem with it. But to use it as a reason to restrict access to a book in the 2000’s. Really?

CHRISSI: What Beth said. I actually find it offensive that this book was even challenged! It is such a sweet story and it’s told in such a gentle way. What message does it send young children if a book like this is challenged/banned? That’s it wrong to have a homosexual in your family? Argh, it makes me so cross. I know a lot of children who do have two mothers and my heart hurts to think that they would believe it’s ‘wrong’. Children should see a representation of every type of family to open their minds and address stereotypes.

How about now?

BETH: I think you can already see from my previous answer that I very much disagree. Since 2008, I would have loved to believe we are becoming more accepting of individuals beliefs and desires but sadly, although I think there has been a lot of progress, there is still a lot more work to do. There will always be people who have quite extreme ideas about what is right and what is wrong and they’re entitled to their own opinion but when they use it to try and change other people’s minds/hurt the target individuals that they have a problem with, that’s when I have a problem too.

CHRISSI: I think there’s so much work to be done. Children are so much more accepting than adults and I wonder when that acceptance starts to get lost, or why it gets lost. When is it that we begin to judge so much? I know children don’t. When I get asked why a certain person has two mothers/fathers in class, the children accept it without questioning. Books like this NEED to be about so children know that it’s not abnormal to have a different family set up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I found this book to be a very adorable and informative read, especially for younger children. It’s a fantastic way of introducing children to LGBT issues and the fact that people should be free to love/marry whomever they want. I would be happy to read it with any children I come across and would be delighted to see it in schools, available for children to enjoy.

CHRISSI: It’s adorable and I’d be happy to read it to any child in my school!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN APRIL ON BANNED BOOKS: We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.