Classic children’s fiction

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – FEBRUARY READ – Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published February 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

What did I think?:

Disclaimer: Roald Dahl was a staple part of my childhood reading so I may be slightly biased or over-passionate about his work as like most children who read him when they were younger, I adored him and his wonderful stories. I was slightly concerned as I am with all the kid-lit Chrissi Reads and I re-visit, if there happens to be a re-read that I won’t enjoy as much as an adult. I’m delighted to say that Matilda has aged very well and I instantly remembered all the joy I got from this little book, the lines I used to be able to recite off by heart and of course, the glorious illustrations by Quentin Blake which just add a little extra something special to Roald Dahl’s expert story-telling.

If you don’t know what Matilda is about (where have you BEEN?), it follows a rather extraordinary little girl who is thoroughly under-appreciated by her family. Matilda is extraordinary as she is highly intelligent, teaches herself to read before she goes to school, can multiply huge sums in her head and once she has exhausted everything in the children’s section of the library, she starts on all the adult books with the help of Mrs Phelps, the kind (yet astounded) librarian. Matilda does eventually go to school like a normal child and her teacher, Miss Honey realises quite quickly how bright she is and gives her more advanced books to study whilst the rest of the children learn their ABC’s. There is a dark side to this narrative however and this is the dreaded headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who terrorises the school, especially young children like Matilda who she has a particular distaste for. However, clever Matilda has more than a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with such a deadly adversary and revenge is certainly sweet indeed for anyone who has ever been unlucky enough to be frightened by The Trunchbull.

Ahhh, this book is everything. It was perfect for a bookish child like myself who delighted in a female protagonist that was intelligent yet gentle and managed to get her own back on the people who wronged her in the most hilarious way. It was also perfect for the bookish adult that I have become who still champions a quirky female heroine who will always hold a special place in my heart. It was such a nostalgic, beautiful reading experience that made me hug the book to my chest within just a few pages at the sheer remembrance of how fantastic the story and the characters are. Roald Dahl has a real quality to his writing that can enable the reader to imagine particular scenes so vividly and there’s still those scenes for me, like The Trunchbull throwing Amanda Thripp round and round in a hammer throw that I pictured as a child and funnily enough, still have the same picture in my head as an adult, completely before the film came into fruition. Now that I’ve been reminded how awesome Roald Dahl is, I can’t wait to re-read more of his work so that I can re-discover that same magic that captivated me as a child and still continues to enchant me today.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – JANUARY READ – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.

What did I think?:

I really can’t believe this is my fifth year of the Kid Lit challenge I participate in with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. This is one of our favourite challenges to do and we always love picking the books we’re going to be reading for the year. Every year, we’re slowly making our way through entire series and The Narnia Chronicles is one of those so it was fitting that we chose the fifth book, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader as our first book for 2018. As an adult reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I remember it being one of my favourites as a child but I couldn’t remember any major details about it, apart from it being set on a ship so I was looking forward to re-discovering it and finding out whether it was still one of my preferred books in the series.

By and large, I really enjoyed this fifth novel, it was lovely to see two of the characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Lucy and Edmund (which were also my two favourites) back again in Narnia and off on another adventure, meeting up with old and new friends and learning a few lessons on the way which C.S. Lewis fondly slots in on a regular basis! They enter Narnia this time through the painting of a ship and manage to bring along a rather unwelcome visitor, their cousin Eustace who does nothing but complain, shirk any hard work, make horrible remarks and generally acts rather unpleasantly until he is taught quite a valuable lesson of his own. The children are on board The Dawn Treader, a Narnian ship in the company of their friend and current ruler of Narnia, Prince Caspian and the wonderful brave mouse, Reepicheep. Their quest is to find out what happened to the old Lords of Narnia, explore forgotten lands and generally have many exciting adventures.

I was really surprised when I read this novel that I actually didn’t remember anything about the plot at all! I remember Eustace as a character, let’s face it, he’s kind of difficult to forget but the rest of the adventures that the children have and the strange lands they discovered I didn’t recall in the slightest. That’s not a bad thing at all, in fact it felt like a fresh, new story to devour and I did enjoy many moments of it. As I mentioned, it was wonderful to be back with Lucy and Edmund again and even Eustace improves on further acquaintance, especially when he goes through a traumatic body-shifting experience of his own. One of the things I adored most about this story though was the illustrations in my copy on my Kindle, which I’ve been lucky to have with all the Narnia books so far. They’re so gorgeous, make me smile even if I’m at a slower point of the narrative and just all around make my heart incredibly happy.

This is also the first book where if I hand’t known whom C.S. Lewis meant Aslan to represent, I think I would have probably guessed – it felt a lot more obvious. This kind of thing really doesn’t bother me though, I’m not especially religious but I don’t have any problems with it either, if it’s a great story with some fascinating creatures and exciting adventures, that’s good enough for me!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2018: Matilda by Roald Dahl.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2018 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image from: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2017/04/03/even-more-outlandish-further-thoughts-on-the-role-of-translation-and-childrens-literature/

JANUARY – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader -C.S. Lewis

FEBRUARY- Matilda-Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

APRIL- Ratburger- David Walliams

MAY – The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)-Lemony Snicket

JUNE- The Face On The Milk Carton-Caroline B. Cooney

JULY – Murder Most Unladylike- Robin Stevens

AUGUST- The Creakers- Tom Fletcher

SEPTEMBER – Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing -Judy Blume

OCTOBER- Nightbirds on Nantucket  (The Wolves Chronicles #3)- Joan Aiken

NOVEMBER – Number The Stars- Lois Lowry

DECEMBER- Time Travelling With A Hamster- Ross Welford

Generally, we had a wonderful Kid-Lit year in 2017 but generally, I didn’t think it was as strong as 2016. However, lots of beauties to look forward to on this list. We are continuing with our Narnia series with The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, the fifth book in the Chronicles by C.S. Lewis, The Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket with the third book in the series and the third book in The Wolves Chronicles by Anne Cassidy which we’re very much excited about. We’ve also got some old classics like Matilda by Roald Dahl and one of my favourite childhood authors, Judy Blume to look forward to and some newer authors like Tom Fletcher and Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I’m expecting great things for this year and I can hardly wait. Join us at the end of January for our first post!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2017 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/02/17/beware-the-bigoted-subtext-of-childrens-literature.html

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2018. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY- Prince Caspian- C.S. Lewis
FEBRUARY- The Cuckoo Sister- Vivian Alcock
MARCH- Awful Auntie- David Walliams
APRIL- A Snicker of Magic- Natalie Lloyd
MAY- The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #2)- Rick Riordan
JUNE- The Prime Minister’s Brain- Gillian Cross
JULY- The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket
AUGUST- Fortunately, the Milk- Neil Gaiman
SEPTEMBER- Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay
OCTOBER- Black Hearts in Battersea- Joan Aiken
NOVEMBER- Witch Child – Celia Rees
DECEMBER- Finding Jennifer Jones- Anne Cassidy

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

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: It’s a toss up between two for me – Awful Auntie by David Walliams who I’ve really fallen in love with as a children’s author for his unique style often compared to Roald Dahl. The second is Fortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman which I was utterly charmed by, especially the wonderful illustrations by Chris Riddell.
CHRISSI: For me, there was a stand out read this year for me and that was Awful Auntie. David Walliams is such a fantastic writer for children and I love the subtle humour that appeals to adults too.
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2017 and why?
BETH: That’s an easy one I’m afraid. It was Witch Child by Celia Rees. Unfortunately I found this book a bit of a slog and wasn’t overly impressed with the story.
CHRISSI: Same as Beth for me, I didn’t get on with Witch ChildI’m afraid I was a little bored by it, which is a great shame!
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2017 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Cuckoo Sister by Vivian Alcock. It was a huge favourite of mine as a child and I went into it anticipating that I would love it just as much. It was a shame that I didn’t but it was still a nostalgic reading experience.
CHRISSI:  I don’t like to look like I’m copying what Beth says each time, but for me it was also The Cuckoo Sister. I was expecting such a fabulous, nostalgic reading experience and I was left wondering why I liked it so much as a child.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2017?
BETH: Definitely more from Rick Riordan who writes the Percy Jackson series. I love the fantasy and mythology elements, I’m really enjoying the characters and hoping to continue with at it at some point next year.
CHRISSI:  I will definitely read more from David Walliams. Big fan over here!

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming on January 2nd – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2018! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – OCTOBER READ – Black Hearts In Battersea (Wolves Chronicles #2) – Joan Aiken

Published November 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Simon, the foundling from The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, arrives in London to meet an old friend and pursue the study of painting. Instead he finds himself unwittingly in the middle of a wicked crew’s fiendish caper to overthrow the good King James and the Duke and Duchess of Battersea. With the help of his friend Sophie and the resourceful waif Dido, Simon narrowly escapes a series of madcap close calls and dangerous run-ins. In a time and place where villains do nothing halfway, Simon is faced with wild wolves, poisoned pies, kidnapping, and a wrecked ship. This is a cleverly contrived tale of intrigue and misadventure.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I first came across Joan Aiken when we read the first book in this fantastic series, The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase last year as part of our Kid Lit challenge. We both loved it so much that we were determined to read the next in the series, Black Hearts In Battersea this year – and here it is! I have to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy Black Hearts In Battersea quite as much as the first book in the series but I was still utterly charmed and delighted by the characters, the setting and the general “feel” of the books which really comes across beautifully in the author’s evocative writing.

In this second instalment, we follow one of my favourite characters from The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, Simon as he leaves home for a new, exciting adventure in London to pursue one of his dreams, painting. He is due to meet up with an old friend destined to become his mentor, Dr Field but when he arrives at his lodgings, the Twite family that reside there deny ever having heard of him. He manages to persuade them to give him a room (in the same room that his friend was supposed to be staying in….hmm!) and it is not long before his friendly, hard-working nature lands him with a job with the local smithy, Cobb and a chance to show off his artistic talent at a prestigious school for painters. He also manages to reconnect with another good friend, Sophie who is working as a maid in waiting for the Duchess of Battersea and he squeezes in a couple of rounds of chess with the rather eccentric Duke of Battersea when he too falls for Simon’s easy charm.

Along with all of this, Simon is working hard to try and piece together what has happened to Dr Field and look after the youngest girl in the Twite family, Dido who he feels is sorely neglected. It is not long before all the connections start to fall into place and Simon manages to uncover a horrific plan involving the Battersea family and some Hanoverian plotters who are determined to cause as much mayhem as possible to get what they believe is the true ruler of England on the throne. With the help of Dido, Sophie and the Duke of Battersea’s nephew, Simon embarks on a dangerous plot to protect his new friends and discovers a lot more about his own humble beginnings in the process.

One of my favourite things about The Wolves Chronicles is most definitely the characterisation. Simon, who was a relatively minor character in the first book, really comes into his own in Black Hearts In Battersea and I completely fell in love with his winning personality and protective nature, especially when it came to Dido Twite. Speaking of Dido, how wonderful is she? When she first appeared she was absolutely awful and I thought her mannerisms (and her mouth) were going to irritate me through the entire story. Then she turns it around and becomes someone you just want to look after and take far, far away from her hideous family. She has a little heroine moment near the end of the novel that I adored but really can’t say too much about for fear of spoilers, I just want everyone to read this and fall in love with Dido too. When I compare it with the first book I have to say I enjoyed the plot of Wolves more but I don’t think this should put you off reading this one in any way – it has its moments of quietness and contemplation where we’re simply enjoying getting to know the characters, but then there are these action sequences involving shipwrecks, hot air balloons and explosions that completely take your breath away.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP IN NOVEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Witch Child by Celia Rees.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – SEPTEMBER READ – Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay

Published September 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The four Casson children, whose mother, Eve, is a fine-arts painter, have all been given the names of paint colors. Cadmium (Caddy), is the eldest; then Saffron (Saffy); Indigo, the only boy; and Rose, the youngest. When Saffy discovers quite by accident that she has been adopted, she is deeply upset, though the others assure her that it makes no difference at all. Saffy is the daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who lived in Siena, Italy, and died in a car crash. Grandad brought Saffy, as a very small child, back from Siena.

At Grandad’s death he leaves something to each of the children. To Saffy, it is “her angel,” although no one knows its identity. How Saffy discovers what her angel is, with the help of an energetic new friend, lies at the heart of this enchanting story. Unforgettable characters come alive in often deeply humorous and always absorbing events to be treasured for a long, long time.

What did I think?:

Hello everyone and welcome to the September episode of a regular feature on bibliobeth that I have taken part in with my sister Chrissi Reads pretty much as long as I have been blogging – Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit. This month’s choice, Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay comes highly recommended with some stellar reviews on GoodReads and now after reading it, I can certainly see why. I was utterly charmed by this sweet middle grade read and the Casson family in general and am now wondering if I should continue the series just to check out what this colourful family get up to in the future. I’d love to know if anyone has read the entire set of books, are the rest of them as good as the first and is it worth reading on?

But, back to the book for a moment. Saffy’s Angel is the story of the Casson family, four children who have all been named after colours – the youngest Rose, the only boy Indigo, our main protagonist Saffron and her older sister Cadmium. Their father works away quite a lot and they are mainly looked after by their mother who works as an artist, is incredibly creative but slightly scatty and as a result, their house resembles a bit of a bear pit. However, the children are encouraged to express their artistic sides and although their lives are quite haphazard at times, their is a lot of love and support in the family. Unfortunately, things take a sudden shift when two things happen to disrupt the normal but crazy flow in the Casson household. Firstly, Saffy finds out that her mother is actually her auntie (and obviously her brother and sisters are now, in fact her cousins) and secondly, her beloved grandfather who brought her over from Siena, Italy when her mother passed away has in turn died too. Her Grandad leaves Saffy an angel in his will and the rest of the novel follows Saffy as she makes a new friend and sets off on an adventure to find the mysterious angel and learn more about herself as a person.

I was entranced by this novel from the first few pages, mainly because of the vibrant cast of characters that Hilary McKay has created but also because of the wonderful humour which had me chuckling instantly. I loved each of the children individually and for different reasons but generally speaking they all came alive, bursting off the page with their own quirky personalities and strange little ways. I loved how a younger Caddy made her hamster dance over the kitchen table after dipping its little feet in a pot of paint, I adored Indigo and his daily fight with the things that scare him and when three of the children take a road trip to Wales, I laughed fit to burst at Rose when she wrote hilarious signs to hold up at cars behind them to explain Caddy’s erratic driving behaviour! Hilary McKay has a fantastic gift for writing characters that not only make you snort tea through your nose (yes, this actually happened) but are so heart-warming that you actually feel quite bereft when the book is finished and you have to leave them behind. I’m really hoping that Chrissi has enjoyed this book as much as I have as just writing this review has made me one hundred percent certain that I want to re-visit the Casson family once again and perhaps I can persuade her to put it on our Kid-Lit list next year!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN OCTOBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Black Hearts In Battersea by Joan Aiken.

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JUNE READ – The Prime Minister’s Brain (The Demon Headmaster #2) by Gillian Cross

Published June 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone at school is playing the new computer game, Octopus Dare – but only Dinah is good enough to beat it. As it begins to take hold, Dinah realizes that the game is trying to control her. But why is it happening, and how is the Demon Headmaster involved?

What did I think?:

The Prime Minister’s Brain, first published in 1985 by Puffin Books is another of our Kid-Lit books with a bit of history behind it. It’s the follow up to The Demon Headmaster which Chrissi and I reviewed in our Kid Lit challenge last year and was also one of our favourite childhood reads. Reading The Prime Minister’s Brain as an adult was a real nostalgia trip for me and, as a sequel, although it doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of brilliance as The Demon Headmaster did, was still a great reading experience and a nice journey down memory lane.

In The Prime Minister’s Brain, Dinah has been officially adopted by the Hunter family and has two new brothers, Lloyd and Harvey and a host of new friends who all teamed up in The Demon Headmaster to form the unstoppable group SPLAT aka Society For The Protection Of Our Lives Against Them. In this story, there is a new craze going around the school, an addictive computer game with a puzzle to solve called Octopus Dare. Clever Dinah manages to solve the puzzle and is invited to London to compete in a challenge with dozens of other children (or Brains). Dinah is slightly worried and a little uneasy about the project so the children of SPLAT decide to make a holiday of it and accompany her. When they get there, they are right to be wary. The competition turns out to be a lot more sinister than they could have expected and Dinah begins to realise that the organiser of the challenge has much darker and frankly, insane reasons in wanting to solve a computer puzzle.

As I mentioned before it was lovely to re-visit the world of The Demon Headmaster again. I remember reading the sequel as a child and enjoying it but still favouring the original and first story. I felt the same this time round but still relished the experience for the memories it brought back. The characters are wonderful, particularly the children although I found myself slightly more irritated by grumpy little Ingrid as an adult! Of course, the Demon Headmaster himself is fantastic and your quintessential villain, perfectly drawn by Gillian Cross and ever so readable and easy to hate. I understand there might be about four books in the entire series and I don’t think Chrissi and I have ever read more than the first two so there is potential to carry on and see what dastardly deeds that rogue headmaster gets up to next. However, part of me doesn’t want to spoil the nostalgic feelings I do have towards the series so far so we’ll have to wait and see!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) by Lemony Snicket.