children’s literature

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – MAY READ – The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3) – Lemony Snicket

Published May 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted; but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all. If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair. I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I think I was a little bit older when the Unfortunate Series Of Events books first came out so they kind of passed me by. This is why I love doing the Kid-Lit challenge with Chrissi though, I get to re-visit old childhood favourites and discover ones that I missed. The Wide Window is the third in the series so if you want to check out what I thought about The Bad Beginning and The Reptile Room I’ll link my reviews in the book titles. I initially fancied suggesting this series for our Kid-Lit challenge as I had always been curious to check them out and also to watch the Netflix series at some point which looks equally brilliant. So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying my adventures with the Baudelaire orphans and although life treats them abominably, I’m always intrigued to discover both what mishap might befall them next and how they manage to overthrow the wicked Count Olaf’s plans each time he turns up.

Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, author of The Series Of Unfortunate Events stories.

In the third outing of this series and the dramatic events that led to the Baudelaire children being removed from their Uncle Monty’s house, Violet, Klaus and baby Sunny are sent to live with their Aunt Josephine in a house on the top of a cliff overlooking Lake Lachrymose. As soon as they get there, the children begin to have worries about their new guardian. She worries about everything – not just ordinary anxieties but things that affect her life drastically. For example, she won’t turn radiators on because they might explode, she won’t answer the telephone in case she is electrocuted, she won’t cook anything hot in case the stove catches on fire and she stacks tin cans by the door of each room so she can be alerted by anyone trying to burgle the house. Of course, as you might have suspected if you’ve read the previous books in the series, Count Olaf returns, once again in disguise as Captain Sham to flatter Aunt Josephine and persuade her by any means necessary to give up her claim on the children, his motive being to access that huge Baudelaire fortune.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in the Netflix series.

Once again, this is another gripping episode of the misfortunes of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. I adore that each child has their own personality and talent, Violet for inventing things, Klaus for reading and learning and Sunny for er….biting. It does come in handy I promise, especially when dealing with that dastardly Count Olaf. Yes, you could say that each story follows the same old pattern; i.e. Count Olaf appears in disguise, nobody believes the children when they tell a responsible adult that it’s him (especially Mr Poe who is starting to get on my wick a little bit) and eventually, after an exciting incident, the children foil Olaf’s plans and he runs away to lick his wounds rather than getting captured and imprisoned for his crimes. But at the same time, I think the repetitive nature of the plot works in its favour too. As the older reader, we are always kind of aware of this formula but the younger reader can delight in the blessed relief of Olaf being defeated once more by some very industrious children.

I’m definitely going to continue with this series, after all, I do have that little glimmer of hope that the villain of the piece will be vanquished eventually and it’s always fun to see the unique way in which the children manage to get themselves out of a sticky mess time and time again.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN JUNE ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket was the thirty-third book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – APRIL READ – Ratburger by David Walliams

Published April 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The fifth screamingly funny novel from David Walliams, number one bestseller and fastest growing children’s author in the country. Hot on the heels of bestselling Gangsta Granny comes another hilarious, action-packed and touching novel – the story of a little girl called Zoe. Things are not looking good for Zoe. Her stepmother Sheila is so lazy she gets Zoe to pick her nose for her. The school bully Tina Trotts makes her life a misery – mainly by flobbing on her head. And now the evil Burt from Burt’s Burgers is after her pet rat! And guess what he wants to do with it? The clue is in the title…From the author that is being called ‘a new Roald Dahl’, Ratburger is not to be missed!

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have made no secret of the fact that we love David Walliams’ writing for children and we’ve covered a few books now of his in our Kid-Lit challenge, so it was a bit of a no-brainer whether we would be putting another of his books up this year for discussion! Ratburger was another absolute joy to read and as before, the illustrations by Tony Ross were just the icing on the cake. In fact, if I consider all the David Walliams books we’ve read so far, I’m struggling to pick a favourite. This is a line up where each book is special and individual in its own right, each one has a host of glorious characters of heroes to adore and villains to despise, and Ratburger is another wonderful treat easily comparable to all the others.

In this story, our protagonist is a small girl called Zoe who lives with her beloved father and (evil) stepmother, Sheila who is addicted to prawn cocktail crisps and treats her step-daughter abominably. Zoe’s father has retreated into himself immensely since her mother died and soon after, he lost his dream job in the ice cream factory. Now he spends all of his days drowning his sorrows in the pub, reluctant to hunt too hard for another job. One of the only perks of Zoe’s life is her new pet rat, Armitage (DON’T ask how she gave him his name but if you do know, have a good giggle with me in the comments!). Like her pet before him, she starts to teach him tricks and dreams of the day when she can leave the bullies at school behind and start her own performing animals show.

However, this wouldn’t be a David Walliams book without a bit of trepidation, an unfortunate incident and a dastardly villain and our poor heroine happens to come across a very nasty individual who has grand plans for Armitage. Zoe then ends up in a very precarious situation where she must rescue her pet rat from a dangerous and hugely gruesome ending at the hands of a very odd man who makes very “special” burgers for a living.

This book is perfect for your average middle grade reader and like every other book I’ve read from this author, the humour is just right for that age group and perhaps even for a slightly immature adult like myself? Themes like death, bullying, being a bit different, chasing your dreams and family dynamics are introduced for the younger reader very delicately and at no time did I feel it was “too much,” or inappropriate. There are a couple of ruder bits but I promise you they’re incredibly tame and are more likely to make a child chuckle rather than scarring him/her for life! I’ve heard this described on Goodreads as more of a boy’s book but I one hundred percent dispute that statement. I can’t even imagine why the reviewer thought it was aimed more towards the male sex, I think both boys and girls would enjoy it equally. And hey, a brave female lead is ALWAYS appreciated here on this blog so thank you David Walliams for giving us Zoe, a determined, dreamy young girl who knows what she wants and will stop at nothing until she gets it despite the hardship she may suffer along the way.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT UP IN MAY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3) – Lemony Snicket.

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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

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.