children’s literature

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – The BFG by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Captured by a giant! The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants-rather than the BFG-she would have soon become breakfast.

When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

What did I think?:

Aren’t your favourite childhood authors the best? Like Judy Blume, Roald Dahl was another leading light for me during my middle grade years and I have such wonderful memories of reading his books over and over again. In fact, I think I read my copy of The BFG so many times that the pages literally starting coming out of the book and I was forced to replace it with a bright, shiny new one. Never a problem for a bookworm, right? Reading Roald Dahl also fills me with warm fuzzy feelings for my sister, Chrissi Reads as when we were younger, I used to read stories like this, Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory as her bedtime stories before she dropped off to sleep. Who better to re-read The BFG as an adult with than Chrissi on our Kid-Lit challenge? Would the story stand the test of time? It was time to find out.

Roald Dahl, author of The BFG.

I entered the world of The BFG and his little friend, Sophie with a bubble of anticipation and joy in my heart combined with a smug, tiny feeling that was impossible to shake. There was no way Roald Dahl would let me down as an adult! I was hugely confident of that fact. However, I wasn’t prepared for how charmed and delighted I would feel re-visiting the world that Dahl has created. The author has a peculiar, unique sort of talent for writing stories that appeal to both children and adults alike and his free, easy way with words, classic humour and unforgettable characters makes for such a rewarding reading experience that it’s always a pleasure to sit down with one of his works, no matter what age it’s geared towards.

The BFG and Sophie, illustrated by Quentin Blake: an image lovingly entwined in my memory as the cover image from my first copy of the novel as a youngster.

Of course, I don’t think I can talk about the magic of Roald Dahl’s writing without mentioning the gorgeousness of the illustrations that accompany these great words by the fantastic, inimitable Quentin Blake. I adore the vivid, beautifully imaginative drawings that bring each character’s personality to life so vibrantly, it becomes impossible to think of a character such as The BFG without also thinking of those glorious, big-eared images too. Finally, who couldn’t fail to become enamoured by Dahl’s characters themselves – a humble, whizzpopping, big friendly giant who gets his words mixed up to hilarious effect but has a heart of pure gold and is devastated by the thought of hundreds of innocent “human beans,” being gobbled up every night! He and Sophie make the perfect team to rid the world of the blood-thirsty evil giants and I could read about their adventures for days on end.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan.

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Banned Books 2019 – Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

Published February 25, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“Without this child, we shall all die.”

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the second 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:

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

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….

Northern Lights/The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman

First published: 1995

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

Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

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

BETH:  Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI:  I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop-eared rabbit.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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

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COMING UP IN MARCH ON BANNED BOOKS: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen.

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The BFG by Roald Dahl.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2019 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the reveal for myself and Chrissi Reads Kid-Lit challenge for 2019. We’re very excited for our list this year and think we’ve picked some wonderful titles, a mixture of old favourites, authors we’ve read before but are keen to read more of and new-to-us authors/reads. Without further ado, here’s what we’ll be reading this year. Join us at the end of January for our first post!

JANUARY – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret- Judy Blume

FEBRUARY- The BFG -Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)- Rick Riordan

APRIL- Demon Dentist- David Walliams

MAY – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1)- Enid Blyton

JUNE- What Katy Did- Susan Coolidge

JULY – The Dreamsnatcher (Dreamsnatcher #1) Abi Elphinstone

AUGUST- The Royal Rabbits of London- Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

SEPTEMBER – I Capture The Castle- Dodie Smith

OCTOBER- Just So- Rudyard Kipling

NOVEMBER – The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

DECEMBER- The Christmasaurus- Tom Fletcher

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018, 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 2019. 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 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

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 2018 and why?
BETH: This is such an easy one for me! It would be Matilda by Roald Dahl. It was a childhood favourite of mine and each time I re-read it I fall more and more in love with it. Sorry other kid-lit authors on this list – it was always going to be a no-brainer with the king that is Roald Dahl.
CHRISSI: It has to be the legendary Matilda. It’s a wonderful story that is one of my all time favourites. I don’t think many will ever beat it. I found out recently that my 6 year old nephew loves Matilda which is amazing!
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2018 and why?
BETH: This is so tough but I would have to pick something that might be controversial – The Girl Of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It was so gorgeously written but unfortunately I just didn’t connect with it as much as I was hoping to.
CHRISSI: The Voyage of The Dawn Treaderby C.S. Lewis. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it, if I’m honest. I don’t recall reading this one as a child and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started it and gave up! Young Chrissi had no problems DNF-ing books.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2018 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney? I was eagerly anticipating this book as both Chrissi and I were huge Cooney fans back when she wrote Point Horror. However, I believe we were both a bit disappointed with this particular offering and unfortunately, it surprised us in a bad way. 😦
CHRISSI:  I have to agree with Beth. I had such high expectations for The Face On The Milk Carton but I really did find it to be a quite unremarkable read which was a shame.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2018?
BETH: Most definitely, from Tom Fletcher. I was really excited to read something from him as I had heard such great things about his children’s books. The Creakers was everything I had anticipated and who knows, perhaps there will be something else on our Kid-Lit list for 2019 from him?
CHRISSI:  Ooh yes. I want to read more from Tom Fletcher and David Walliams for sure. I’m loving that young children (and young at heart adults!) have so many wonderful authors out there to explore.

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 2019! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kit-Lit 2018 – DECEMBER READ – Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford

Published December 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve.

The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’…”

When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…

What did I think?:

When Chrissi first chose this book for our kid-lit challenge this year, I have to admit I was intrigued. Who couldn’t be with that title? I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before now and when I read the synopsis and it mentioned our lead character travelling back to the 1980’s I started to get a little bit excited. I grew up in the 1980’s and recently have been on a real nostalgia trip, particularly for the music of that era which I’ve always adored. BBC Four here in the UK have been re-playing classic Top Of The Pops episodes from the eighties in order and I’ve had the most wonderful trip down memory lane enjoying tunes from 1986, when I would have been six years old and just getting into music in a big way. I was gleefully anticipating some eighties references that might take me back to that time through the magic of literature and perhaps that was what was a slight disappointment about this novel for me – my expectations and the fact they weren’t really met in this specific way.

Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling With A Hamster.

I have to stress though that I am nit-picking. In general, this is a brilliant read for children and what I was personally expecting shouldn’t be taken into account if you’re considering whether to pick this book up or not. Time Travelling With A Hamster is about so much more than just the 1980’s. It’s about the relationship between families and in addition, the different generations within the same family. It packs a definitive emotional wallop to the system as we follow our young protagonist travelling back in time to prevent his father’s death in the future. As a story of time travel, it’s a fascinating and exciting account of how events can be altered dramatically by tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions that end up having enormous repercussions for more than one individual in the future.

One of the stars of the story is a small hamster named Alan Shearer. NOTE: Not the ACTUAL Alan Shearer, obviously!

As a fantastical adventure story, Time Travelling With A Hamster does everything you would expect and hope for as a work of children’s literature. There is some interesting character development in both our lead, Albert and his father Pythagoras (or Pye for short) and there is the wonderful addition of Grandpa Byron and his phenomenal feats of memory to give the reader a warm, gooey feeling inside. It certainly made me remember my own grandfather, a remarkable man, with fondness and longing for the times we spent together and the close bond that we were incredibly lucky to have had. The story rattles along at a nice pace and it certainly made for a pleasurable reading experience, particularly with the inclusion of several surprising events that I wasn’t expecting and always appreciate to shock me out of that comfortable, safe and predictable narrative.

With the element of time travel, the diversity of the characters and the loveable hamster companion, I can see why many children would really enjoy this story and I would definitely be open to reading more from this author in the future.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP ON 2ND JANUARY 2019: Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – The Titles Are Revealed!

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – NOVEMBER READ – Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Published December 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.

What did I think?:

I had a sneaking suspicion before I suggested this title to Chrissi for our Kid-Lit list this year that I was going to enjoy it and I’ve got to say, I love it when my hunches about a novel are spot on! I’ve already read two books in Lowry’s infamous Giver series so I was aware of the power of her writing style and when reading the synopsis and discovering it was set during World War II (another of my favourite time periods to read about) I was quietly confident that I was on to a winner. I was anticipating an emotional and dramatic narrative considering the atrocities that were perpetuated against the Jewish people during the war but I wasn’t expecting such beautiful and understated characters that carried out unbelievable feats of bravery where it made for an astonishing and compelling read.

Lois Lowry, author of Number The Stars.

This is the story of ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish best friend, Ellen Rosen, two ordinary little girls living in Copenhagen, Denmark whose lives like everyone elses is turned upside down when Denmark surrenders to the Nazi’s and German soldiers enter their town, assuming control and terrifying everyone at any given opportunity. The brutality of the Nazi’s increases exponentially as they begin to carry out their twisted ideals in Copenhagen by slowly removing any Jewish members of the population. Desperate to help, Annemarie’s family takes Ellen into their home, pretending she is one of them and with the help of the Danish Resistance, make new plans to help all the other Jewish people in the town that haven’t already been “re-located” so they may escape almost inevitable death.

King Christian X of Denmark making his regular pilgrimage by horse through Copenhagen in 1940, as referenced in Number The Stars.

What a lovely and moving story this was! I’m always in two minds about how I feel after reading World War II narratives but I particularly enjoy reading stories set in different countries that I haven’t read about before so as to learn how they coped, especially if they had to suffer Nazi occupation. Part of me feels disgusted and devastated by the treatment shown, particularly to the Jewish contingent but another part of me is always compelled to keep reading and absorbing as much as I can about this terrible period of our worlds history, to ensure it is never forgotten and (fingers crossed) will hopefully never happen again.

The story felt remarkably authentic and it’s obvious the author did her research on Denmark at this troubled time. I adored the inclusion of King Christian X who defiantly continued to ride through the town on his horse and see his people despite the ominous presence of the Nazi soldiers who wondered at his audacity! The fact that this actually used to happen made me feel quite emotional and it made me consider the terrible decision he had to make about surrendering to the Germans. Denmark was a small country with a relatively small army in comparison to the German military and I completely understand why he made the decision he did – in order to save many more lives than if he had stood against them in war.

Number The Stars has an intriguing, very readable and gripping plot coupled with some fantastic characterisation in Annemarie and her family. Although Annemarie was perhaps the most developed of the characters (I would have liked to have known a bit more about the characters within the Danish Resistance), she was an instantly loveable and endearing part of the story and I appreciated her journey from a frightened ten year old girl to a brave, determined fighter who is put into the most horrific situations but takes it all in her stride in order to protect her friends and family.

This is a stunning story with an important message and I really hope it continues to be read by children all over the world for years to come.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford.