Classic children’s fiction

All posts tagged Classic children’s fiction

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – NOVEMBER READ – The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Published December 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, and she’s making an awful mess of it. She’s always getting her spells wrong and she can’t even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?

What did I think?:

When we chose this book as part of our yearly Kid-Lit challenge I was quite excited. I don’t remember reading it as a child – perhaps I was slightly old for it at the time and now I’ve read it, I can confirm I don’t recall this book at all. It was a pleasant surprise to read about a magical school that wasn’t Hogwarts (dear though it is to me Potter fans) and have such an unlikely heroine in Mildred Hubble. In some ways, The Worst Witch reminded me very much of my other literary heroines who often get themselves into sticky situations. For example, my beloved Katie Carr in What Katy Did or Anne Shirley in Anne Of Green Gables.

Jill Murphy, author of The Worst Witch series

I can imagine if this was your favourite book as a youngster, re-reading The Worst Witch would invoke waves of nostalgia and if I had read this book at the right time, I would have felt exactly the same way, longing to be at a school of witchcraft just like Mildred Hubble. The description of Mildred’s daily life and adventures at the school is cosy, comforting and exciting at the same time – particularly near the finale where Mildred has to prove herself and save the school against some very shady and malicious characters. Jill Murphy gets into the mind of a young girl wonderfully well and provides an excellent role model for her readers in Mildred. She’s clumsy and struggles with basic witchcraft but at the end of the day, she has a good heart and is brave and loyal, even to those who have done her wrong.

This is a fantastic opening to the series that although I won’t be continuing it myself, I will definitely be recommending it to all the children I know.

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

NEXT UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher.

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – OCTOBER READ – Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Published November 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twelve stories about animals, insects, and other subjects include How the Camel Got His Hump. The Butterfly That Stamped, and How the Alphabet Was Made.

What did I think?:

Apologies for the late posting of our kid-lit once again. Chrissi and I are so busy at the moment that we’re struggling to find time to keep up to date with this but we’re determined to finish our series this year. Interestingly, Just So Stories is I think, going to be quite a difficult book to review for us both. Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) Kipling’s Jungle Book which is a classic of children’s literature – much like Just So Stories. However, with some exceptions within this collection, I found myself skim reading some of the stories here and not enjoying them as much as I hoped I would have done. This is my second reading of the collection and a few stories were very familiar and enjoyable however, I couldn’t recall the vast majority of them which made me wonder if I had skim read the others on the first reading, just like this second experience!

Rudyard Kipling, author of Just So Stories

I really do love the sentiment behind why Kipling developed this collection. The first few started out as bedtime stories for his daughter Effie who liked them told “just so” without changing sentences or missing out necessary information. It consists of mainly stories of how animals got to be the way they are today and in this collection, they were either changed by other animals, human beings or by magical entities. For example, the crocodile who was responsible for how the elephant got his trunk, the man who was responsible for the whale’s throat (and in turn is the reason for why these huge creatures only eat small prey) and the djinn who gives the camel a hump as punishment for his refusal to work.

In practice, as a huge animal lover, this book sounds like a perfect read and to be honest, I do think the idea of how each animal evolved is entertaining and very charming. However, I just didn’t connect with a few stories and the writing style didn’t capture my attention and make me want to read on. I’ve read that in some editions of this book, Kipling has illustrated it himself and I feel that would have been an added bonus that I would have appreciated in the edition I read and may have even led to a slightly higher rating! However I have to be honest and just admit that the majority of this book probably wasn’t for me. There are a few stand-out stories like the above mentioned tale about the elephant and one entitled The Cat That Walked By Himself which has always been a favourite of mine. Overall though, I just couldn’t find enough enthusiasm to enjoy these tales as much as I’m sure the multitude of Kipling fans will.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

1194984978279254934two_star_rating_saurabh__01.svg

COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT – The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – SEPTEMBER READ – I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Published October 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…’

This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra’s father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches. Their step-mother Topaz has habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love…

What did I think?:

Apologies for the late posting of our September kid-lit! Both Chrissi and I have been so busy with normal life events that it’s been difficult to read, write and schedule our regular monthly posts. I am however looking forward to telling you all about my experience of I Capture The Castle as it’s been a book that has languished on my shelves for some years now and I never seem to have had the time or will to get round to reading it before now. As you can see from the image above in my post, this particular edition was too gorgeous to resist and once I saw it, I knew I had to have it. What can I say? I’m a sucker for pretty books. Did the inside match the inside? Generally, yes but to be perfectly honest, I think I would have benefited from reading this book a lot earlier in my life, perhaps as a young teenager.

Dodie Smith, author of I Capture The Castle.

I Capture The Castle is quintessentially, a coming of age story that follows our female protagonist, Cassandra and her journal entries as she attempts to capture on paper both the castle that she lives in, and the everyday life of its inhabitants and the people that come to visit. We hear in glorious detail about the eccentricities of her step-mother Topaz, an artist’s model who prefers to be nude rather than clothed, a quirk that is absorbed quite normally into daily life within the castle. Then there is Cassandra’s older sister Rose, who is determined to marry and lift herself out of the poverty that the family has become accustomed to, no matter if she loves the man in question or not. One of the most interesting characters for me was the father, a famous author who wrote one successful book and has had writers block ever since, mostly isolating himself from the rest of the household and enjoying detective stories and crossword puzzles. Finally, we learn about Stephen who is not related to the rest of the family but is a son of a former servant and the younger brother, Thomas who plays a rather quieter role in the proceedings.

There were so many things to like about this novel and I guess that’s why I’m struggling with my rating slightly. I adored the setting – mid 1930’s England and of course, the castle which almost becomes a character in its own right. Alongside this, the “human” characters of the piece were drawn wonderfully. They were such an eclectic, interesting mix and I never felt as if I could predict what any one of them might do next. Occasionally, they were infuriating and I didn’t understand why they made the choices they did but for myself as a reader, it was an endlessly fascinating voyage of discovery. I don’t really have any particular criticisms to make, there’s nothing very much to dislike at all and as a debut novel, it’s an extraordinary piece of work.

The reason I’ve plumped for the rating that I have (and believe me, I’ve been back and forth between three stars and four) is that at points, I loved everything Dodie Smith was doing – particularly with the characterisation. At other points, I didn’t connect with it as much as I would have liked and it felt as if I was waiting for something that didn’t end up materialising. I fully believe that if I had read it when I was younger, I would have got so much more from the experience and my rating would have been higher but reading it for the first time as an adult? It was a case of right book, wrong time. This does NOT take away from the fact that it’s a wonderful read that I would highly recommend.

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 ON OCTOBER IN BETH AND CHRISSI DO KIT-LIT: Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

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

Published July 29, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

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

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

First published: 1970

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

Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit. 

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

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

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

How about now?

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

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

What did you think of this book?:

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

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

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

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

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – 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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

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

Published May 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – 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):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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