Classic children’s fiction

All posts tagged Classic children’s fiction

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JANUARY READ – Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Pevensie siblings are back to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

What did I think?:

Welcome to the first book of Kid Lit 2017! Chrissi and I have chosen to continue with the Chronicles of Narnia series as we’ve been reading it from when we first started blogging four years ago and I especially really wanted to read right until the very end. We are also reading in chronological order rather than publication order, so Prince Caspian is the fourth book in the Narnia adventures and one I don’t really remember from when I read the series as a child so I was keen to re-discover it.

I was delighted to find that our favourite siblings from The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe are back in the magical land of Narnia, called back from Susan’s magical horn, given to her from the great Aslan himself. The horn summons help when the user is in need and the user, Prince Caspian is in dire straits indeed. He is the rightful heir to the throne of Narnia but the kingship has been taken over by the wicked King Miraz and his band of soldiers, the Telmarines. They reject all the “old Narnian” ways, even by punishing people talking about the old days and the talking creatures that are left have fled into hiding to escape persecution/certain death.

Prince Caspian, the true king, is now a threat to King Miraz and is helped to flee by his tutor, a half-dwarf who puts him in touch with the Old Narnians, two dwarfs and a kindly badger called Trufflehunter. They in turn round up all the other talking creatures to form a war council (with some of the most wonderful characters I have ever read about!) and summon the ancient rulers of Narnia – Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy back from England. The siblings find Narnia completely changed from when they were last Kings and Queens. Cair Paravel has gone to ruin, the creatures in the trees have all gone to sleep and all the other talking creatures daren’t show their faces for fear of what would happen under King Miraz. However, Lucy swears that she keeps seeing Aslan through the trees and perhaps with his help, they can put Prince Caspian in his rightful place and return Narnia to how it used to be.

I’m always going to love going back into the world of Narnia I think, no matter how long it has been. Prince Caspian started very promisingly and took me straight back to that magical place, especially when we got to the talking creatures (which made me do a silent fist pump, I have to admit). Like Mr Tumnus and Mr and Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe we have a whole host of loveable animals to coo over but the absolute best and I’m sure Chrissi would agree was the delightful head of the mouse army – Reepicheep who also has the honour of having the cover of the book. He was completely adorable, I loved his attitude, his bravery and his determination and was definitely one of my highlights of the book.

Apart from that, it was lovely to catch up with the Pevensie siblings and even if Susan irritated me slightly in this outing it was quite sobering to realise that the next book in the series may feature just two of the original foursome. The only slight issues I have with the book is the ending which unfortunately I feel was just too rushed and perhaps slightly confusing for younger readers. As for the religious references, to be honest, I don’t really read it like that. I’m aware of it as an adult but it doesn’t seem terribly overt and obvious and I just appreciate it for the fantasy and great adventure story that it is.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review check out her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock

 

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2017 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Welcome 2017! Welcome to a new year of Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit. Without further ado, here are the titles we have chosen for the year ahead:

JANUARY- Prince Caspian- C.S. Lewis
FEBRUARY- The Cuckoo Sister- Vivian Alcock
MARCH- Awful Auntie- David Walliams
APRIL- A Snicker of Magic- Natalie Lloyd
MAY- The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan
JUNE- The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross
JULY- The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket
AUGUST- Fortunately, the Milk- Neil Gaiman
SEPTEMBER- Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay
OCTOBER- Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken
NOVEMBER- Witch Child – Celia Rees
DECEMBER- Finding Jennifer Jones- Anne Cassidy
So much to look forward to this year. We are carrying on with a couple of series we have really enjoyed like the Narnia series which we have been reading since 2013. I am particularly looking forward to Prince Caspian as it’s one of the Narnia books I don’t really remember. We also have The Prime Minister’s Brain following up from The Demon Headmaster in 2016, Finding Jennifer Jones which is the sequel to Looking For JJ by Anne Cassidy and of course another book from David Walliams, an author whom we are really enjoying! There are some stand alone titles on here too that we thought looked intriguing and an old favourite – The Cuckoo Sister, which we both remember fondly from our childhood. Bring on Kid-Lit 2017, we’re ready for ya!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – The Round Up

Published January 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.parentspartner.com/childrens-literature/

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2017. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY- The Demon Headmaster- Gillian Cross

FEBRUARY- Carrie’s War- Nina Bawden

MARCH- The Boy In The Dress- David Walliams

APRIL- Noble Conflict- Malorie Blackman

MAY- The Horse and His Boy- C.S Lewis

JUNE- The Borrowers- Mary Norton

JULY- Maggot Moon- Sally Gardner

AUGUST- Looking For JJ- Anne Cassidy

SEPTEMBER – The Wolves of Willoughby Chase-Joan Aiken

OCTOBER- Ballet Shoes- Noel Streatfeild

NOVEMBER- A Series of Unfortunate Events- Lemony Snicket 

DECEMBER- The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair- Lara Williamson

So, in the style of the “Talking About…” reviews we normally do, we thought we’d answer a quick few questions about our fourth (!!) year of Kid-Lit blogging.

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2016 and why?
BETH: Tough choice this year as there were a few books I really, really loved. If I had to choose one though it would be The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase. Totally surprised me with how much I enjoyed it and it had such a classic, old-time feel to it which was fantastic.
CHRISSI: Mine would be The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair. I can’t pick… sorry! Both had such charm.
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2016 and why?
BETH: Hmmm…..Ballet Shoes. Definitely the most disappointing. I struggled to get through it if I’m honest and got a bit bored about halfway through.
CHRISSI: I would say Ballet Shoes as well. I really thought it would be a book that I loved because I’m a massive fan of books that involve dance and love that era, but no, it wasn’t for me.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2016 that surprised you the most?
BETH: The Horse And His Boy for sure. I didn’t have fond memories of it as a child. In fact, it was my least favourite of all the Narnia books. I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered and I actually really enjoyed it!
CHRISSI: It would be Looking for JJ for me as I didn’t expect to be as gripped as I was by the story. I devoured it!
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2016?
BETH: I fell completely under the spell of Lara Williamson after reading The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair and would really love to read her debut novel A Boy Called Hope.
CHRISSI: I will definitely continue with the Percy Jackson series. I don’t know if I can wait each kid-lit year to read the series though!

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming tomorrow – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2017! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – The Bad Beginning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #1) – Lemony Snicket

Published November 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read The Unfortunate Series Of Events books for so long now and with a new series about to be released on Netflix I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin finding out what exactly everyone has been raving on about! I didn’t realise that this was such a long series (thirteen books) but the first book was so short and easy to read that I don’t think it will take me long to catch up with things. Overall, I was completely charmed by this first offering in the series, in the introduction the author warns the reader that there may be no happy endings or Enid Blyton-esque fairy-tale adventures for his characters, but, to be perfectly honest, that just made me warm to the story even more.

So, in a nutshell, this story focuses on three children (the Baudelaires) who have become orphans when their parents tragically perish in a fire at their house. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to live with a (very) distant relative, Count Olaf who treats them abominably. They have to do multiple chores, mainly to cater to his and his theatre friends every whim and it is also clear that he is no way interested in their well-being or happiness. However, he IS very interested in the fortune left to them by their parents which at the present time will revert to Violet when she comes of age. Unless their wicked guardian can get his hands on it earlier of course, by any means necessary.

This first volume in The Unfortunate Series Of Events was a real delight to read, although I was pretty certain I was going to love it just going on the synopsis alone. I only have a slight niggle to report but positive things first! The characters were wonderful and I instantly fell in love/hated them very early on. We have brave, intelligent Violet who has a great mind for inventions and her quick wits come in very useful in defying our dastardly villain. Then there is sensitive Klaus who loves his books (a boy after my own heart) and little Sunny who is can hardly talk yet but manages to make herself completely understood and is obsessed with teeth – not sure why…but I loved it! Then of course, the nasty Count Olaf who by the ending of the first book I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more from in the future and I’m so glad as I did rather enjoy hating him. The only niggle I have with the excellent narrative is that the author chooses to explain a lot of words to the reader which I felt interrupted the flow slightly and I could have done without it. However, this does not take anything away from a powerful beginning to a series that I can clearly see going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to carry on with it!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – OCTOBER READ – Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Published October 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it’s going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she’d rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream.

What did I think?:

When this book was first published in 1936, it was considered quite ground-breaking. It was the first children’s book to do many things – the first to be set at a stage school, the first to feature ballet in London and the first to feature children who become self-reliant rather than referring to adults when things go slightly wrong. This book appears to have passed me by as a child and we decided to feature it on this years Kid-Lit list because of the number of positive reviews and because Chrissi has a particular fondness for books that involve dance in some way. However, I found myself having quite mixed opinions about the story and am slightly disappointed that I didn’t connect with it in a way that others obviously have.

The book features three little girls that have had quite a peculiar upbringing. They were brought to England and adopted as babies by a man they know as GUM (aka Great Uncle Matthew) who originally collected fossils but was told on no uncertain terms by his housekeeper that there was no room to store any more. The girls are raised as sisters by his niece Sylvia (whom the girls call Garnie as short for Guardian) and her old nanny and give themselves the surname Fossil as homage to GUM.

While he is away working for an unstated number of years the children are entered into a stage school after each discovers they have individual talents. Pauline is a marvellous actress, Posy can dance beautifully and Petrova is highly intelligent although not sure she really fits in anywhere and would rather be fiddling with a car or flying an aeroplane. The book follows their lives and their experiences as they grow up and as GUM’s money that he left for their upbringing starts to dry up, features the children working themselves to make ends meet and vowing each year to make their names in history to repay GUM, Garnie and Nana for all their kindness.

There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Like a lot of children’s books written around this time, it has a certain flavour or rather, nostalgia when you’re reading it that makes you feel quite warm inside and comfortable. This was certainly the case on a number of occasions for me. It’s lovely to read a book that takes you back to a time when things were a lot simpler and everyone knows where they stand. Saying that, after a little while of reading, I did start to become a little restless. Everything meanders along quite swimmingly in the narrative, but it didn’t really feel for me like the story went anywhere – there was no real excitement, thrilling occurrences or huge character development and it did feel that there was so much potential for that to happen and it was all just lost.

I did love the characters, especially their independence and ambition and appreciated the feminist viewpoint that must have been quite original in those times but…. by the end of the book, I just felt slightly disappointed by it all. This book has a lot of positives and I think children who love the idea of stage school or dancing will enjoy it but for me it just left a couple of boxes unticked which was a shame. My rating below is based on the quality of the writing and the first half of the novel which showed a lot of promise and strength.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Published September 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’t it all about?:

Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.

With the help of Simon the goose boy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I picked The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase on a bit of a whim when we were researching our list for 2016 but oh my goodness I am ever so glad we did, as this little gem seems to have flown completely under my radar prior to now. Even better, I’ve now discovered that it’s part of a series (The Wolves Chronicles) of twelve books set in the same fictional early 19th century world where wolves have entered Britain through a new “channel tunnel,” terrorising the occupants of more rural areas. Oh, I’m definitely going to be exploring this series! The author herself wrote over one hundred books for adults and children in her lifetime, winning the Guardian Prize for Children’s Fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE for her services to children’s literature.

This is the story of two cousins, wealthy Bonnie Willoughby and her poorer cousin Sylvia who comes by train to live with Bonnie when her Aunt Jane cannot physically or financially support her any longer. Bonnie has a huge heart and a fiesty spirit and is delighted to welcome Sylvia into her home, taking her firmly under her wing and showering her with love. Bonnie’s parents are due to go abroad for a while due to Bonnie’s mothers ill health and so her father has appointed a guardian, Miss Slighcarp to look after the children in their absence. However, Miss Slighcarp is not all she seems and has grand (and very evil) plans for Willoughby Chase that categorically do not involve the children. Before long, both girls are shunted off to an orphanage where the owner, Miss Brisket makes them work their fingers to the bone to earn their keep on very little nourishment. Meanwhile, the dastardly Miss Slighcarp and her partner in crime Mr Grimshaw have completely taken over Mr Willoughby’s wealth, house and livelihood with wicked plans to ensure that he and his wife never return from their travels.

Chrissi actually finished this book before I started it and she immediately texted me and told me how much she loved it, comparing it to A Little Princess (one of her all-time favourite books). This was high praise indeed and I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to love it too. Just how much however, I certainly wasn’t prepared for! First published in 1962, this book reads like every classic piece of children’s literature should and has everything going for it so that it can be enjoyed by future generations for I hope, many years to come. We have wonderful characterisation – from the good (Bonnie, Sylvia, Pattern the maid) to the downright nasty villainous types (Miss Slighcarp, Mr Grimshaw) and a thrilling plot that is so enthralling you can easily read this book in one sitting. It’s the sort of book that’s perfect to read as Autumn is closing in, with a nice blanket, cup of hot chocolate and even a little shiver down the spine as you read about two loveable little girls and criminals you’re just praying will get their comeuppance.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Miss Slighcarp, Bonnie and Sylvia – illustration by Pat Marriott

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – JUNE READ – The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Published July 3, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Beneath the kitchen floor is the world of the Borrowers — Pod and Homily Clock and their daughter, Arrietty. In their tiny home, matchboxes double as roomy dressers and postage stamps hang on the walls like paintings. Whatever the Clocks need they simply “borrow” from the “human beans” who live above them. It’s a comfortable life, but boring if you’re a kid. Only Pod is allowed to venture into the house above, because the danger of being seen by a human is too great. Borrowers who are seen by humans are never seen again. Yet Arrietty won’t listen. There is a human boy up there, and Arrietty is desperate for a friend.

What did I think?:

The Borrowers was one of those classic children’s books that I never took the opportunity to read when I was younger although I am aware of the gist of the story, mainly through the film that was made with British actor Jim Broadbent. One of my favourite films when I was younger (and a bit of a guilty pleasure!) was Honey I Shrunk The Kids and I remember being fascinated about how frightening the human world must look to someone no bigger than an ant so I was looking forward to seeing how this particular world would be portrayed.

The borrowers are little people who live in “normal-sized” humans houses, mainly under the floorboards or behind furniture to escape notice if they possibly can. Of course, they have to live and eat the same way as you or I do so they designate a member or members of their family as borrowers who sneak out whilst the house is quiet and borrow items that they need from the regular humans. This can include bits of leftover food or drink, or things they can find useful round the house like cotton reels to use as stools, blotting paper to use as carpets or even postage stamps which they can hang as portraits on their walls.

The particular family we learn about in this story is the Clocks, (named as they live behind the large grandfather clock in the hall) consisting of father and mother Pod and Homily and their only daughter Arrietty. Arrietty has never known life above the floorboards of their little den although she can occasionally see a bit of the garden and the sunshine through the grating in the wall. Her mother and father are very protective of her but soon realise that they have to be honest and warn her about the dangers of being seen by the humans that live upstairs.

Far from being horrified though, Arrietty is enthralled by their tales which sound far more exciting than the life she currently leads. She begs her mother and father to let her go out borrowing one time with her father Pod to experience what life is like beyond the clock. Although extremely worried, her parents reluctantly agree and Arrietty gets to see this whole new magical world where everything is much larger, much more thrilling and indeed much more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. However, when Arrietty herself is seen by a young boy who is living at the house at the time, she realises the small world she has become so accustomed to has the potential to change forever.

This was a lovely story to read and I particularly enjoyed the illustrations in my Kindle version by Joe Krush which added  an extra bit of magic to an imaginative and exciting plot. Arrietty was probably my favourite character in the narrative – I have to admit, her mother Homily annoyed me slightly and the young boy in the story was also ever so slightly irritating although I warmed to him a lot more when he started helping the Borrowers out as the tension rose and their lives became threatened. I can imagine a lot of readers falling in love with the independent, brave yet soft-hearted Arrietty and I admired her resilience as everything she has known comes crashing down around her. There are a lot of great things about the story that young children will love and Mary Norton certainly writes in an entertaining way that kept me engaged until the end.

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

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art