children’s literature

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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 – 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 – 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:

four-stars_0

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):

four-stars_0

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