Classic children’s fiction

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – JUNE READ – What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Published July 10, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stubborn and reckless, twelve-year-old Katy Carr really wants to do so many wonderful things in her life. (becoming a graceful young lady is just one of them!). But her quick temper and mischievous nature are making it extremely difficult, and a serious accident that leaves her paralyzed temporarily puts everything on hold.
During a long period of recovery, Katy learns gentle lessons in behavior from her invalid cousin, Helen, who inspires Katy with her kindness, beauty, and generosity. Determined to become more like Helen, Katy endures physical and emotional pain while learning some difficult lessons in the school of life.
Fans of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables will enjoy reading this unforgettable tale of a spunky heroine who learns patience and responsibility as a teenager growing up in nineteenth-century America.

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies for this review being up so late if you happen to have been waiting for it. Chrissi and I read What Katy Did for our Kid-Lit challenge with full intentions to post it at the end of June but unfortunately our busy lives got in the way and we had to delay it slightly. Luckily, I could wax lyrical about this book to anyone who will listen to me as it remains a firm favourite of mine, so I was in no fear of forgetting what it was all about. I’ve read What Katy Did more times that I can possibly imagine as both a child and an adult and whilst parts of the writing are very much “of that time,” and appear slightly dated, it still holds every bit of its original charm as when I first read it many years ago.

Sarah Chauncey Woolsey who wrote under the pen name Susan Coolidge.

There are a few different classics that will always have a special place in my heart and What Katy Did, originally published all the way back in 1872 is one of those rare treats that feels so comforting and familiar every time I pick it up. What makes it so delightful? Mainly Katy herself! As a child, I think Katy Carr was one of the very few female leads I came across that I identified with and admired so fervently. As the eldest child, she has a lot of responsibility for her younger siblings but can’t help but find herself in the most awkward of situations, led by her determination, independence and occasional clumsiness. The wonderful thing about Katy is that she feels things ever so deeply, especially when she knows she’s made a mistake or let someone down and she tries so hard to be a better person and learn from her transgressions.

The Carr children lost their mother when Katy was very young and have been raised primarily by their Aunt Izzy with more distant (yet still loving) support from their father. Aunt Izzy can be seen as quite a prickly, particular character and has very specific ideas about how children should behave. Our poor female lead Katy has quite a difficult relationship with her at the beginning of the novel as although she tries to take a motherly role for the other children, she keeps unwittingly getting things wrong or disappointing her aunt. It’s only when Katy goes through a devastating incident herself and meets up with her Cousin Helen who is sadly, in a similar situation that Katy’s real journey as a person begins and she learns the true meaning of being “good.”

This book warms my heart every time I have the pleasure of reading it. As I’ve become an adult and perhaps more cynical, I have to admit, I don’t see it through the same rose-tinted glasses that I used to. Occasionally, it can get quite preachy (which I’m not sure is completely necessary). However, I wouldn’t say that affects my enjoyment of the story in any way. The brilliance of Katy as a character, the messes she gets into, the things she does that she regrets and the little lessons she learns along the way are all entertaining to read about. Furthermore, the familiarity of the narrative is always welcome – I always finish What Katy Did feeling uplifted, hopeful and content.

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 JULY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone.

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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):

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

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.

Banned Books 2019 – FEBRUARY READ – 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?!