“It’s finally here!”, I hear you all cry! Yes, after some crazy PGCE times I have finally managed to get this review out! Hope you enjoy!
Book 1: Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis (Fiction)
Well it’s been a good long while since I’ve read any Lewis so here we go!
More famous for his children’s fantasy novels (which happen to be my absolute all-time faves…) and his works of Christian apologetics (which have to rank a fairly close second…), C. S. Lewis also gained plaudits for this H. G. Wells-inspired Sci-fi trilogy which I have finally got around to starting reading. On an innocuous cross-country hiking trip, Dr Ransom finds himself caught up in a far greater trip – to another planet. After the horrible men who coerce him to travel with them, he can only imagine what the terrifying life-forms may be like on the planet they eventually reach. Using his skills as a Professor of Linguistics, Ransom attempts to survive, then thrive, in this brand new world of myth and mystery. I always strive to be fair and honest when reviewing books. With that in mind, this book will not be for everyone. It is certainly not the book I would recommend to a first-time reader of Lewis. The narrative may be a little wordy for some tastes, as you might expect for someone of Lewis’ high academic standing! HOWEVER, it is a novel full of wonders. I had to constantly remind myself that it was written not only before satellites and the space race, but before the second world war. Whilst the myth of travelling to a planet via conventional means and finding life has now been dispelled, Out of the Silent Planet is in many ways actually fairly plausible for the era in which it was written! Whilst it does not contain the overt allusions to Christianity that his later Narnia books do, it would not be a Lewis work if there was no kind of moralistic undertone, or indeed references to his other great love: mythology. Indeed, in amongst the world-creation he is now renowned for, Lewis has here spun a tantalising tale which draws together a theme of realism that humans are not as virtuous as we may like to present, tinged with the hope that hope is not yet lost. An excellent book for the Lewis fan, but do start with Narnia if you’re meeting him for the first time!
Book 2: Oliver and the Seawigs – Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (KidLit, Lower KS2)
Well didn’t that month go by quickly? A few more read this month than last, but that has by no means led to a lack of quality! As always, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by some of these books and do let me know, by means of comments and shares, if you found it helpful!
Book 1: The Dark Wild – Piers Torday (KidLit, Upper KS2/3)
Last month we kicked off with a book from Piers Torday’s excellent ‘Wild’ trilogy. It went well. We’re doing the same this month! The Dark Wild picks up where The Last Wild finishes, with the young Kester Jaynes seeking to save the world as he knows it! This part of the trilogy finds him exploring more of the city of his birth, encountering terrifying enemies both old and new and once again depending on his remarkable gift and eclectic friendships. As with book one, there are strong moral themes running through the book, particularly those of environmental care and personal courage in the face of adversity. Overall, the Dark Wild is another fine, rip-roaring adventure in a series which has won fans both young and…slightly less young!
Book 2: The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean in an Armchair – Lara Williamson (KidLit, Upper KS2)
‘Morris Lessmore loved words. Loved stories. Loved books. But every story has its upsets…’
Mr Morris Lessmore loves words. He loves stories. He loves books. He writes each day in his own book, pouring out his joys and sorrows, wishes and dreams, hopes and frustrations. But one day, quite unexpectedly and quite literally, Morris’ life gets flipped upside down and his world changes from colour to grey, order to disorder, security to uncertainty. As he begins his new sad journey, he discovers first one book and then many more. Thus begins a new life among lived amongst a plethora of pages, where he learns each day the wonder of the word and the beauty of the book.
A few days late, but I’ve taken time out of my assignment writing to get this month review written! I preach well-being in one of my first blog posts and so I’ve had to put it into practice! Isn’t accountability fun? Anyhow, I didn’t read as much this month due to placement and other things, but I have an INCREDIBLY strong selection of books below for your perusal!
Book 1: The Last Wild – Piers Torday (KidLit, Upper KS2)
I feel hopelessly behind the times reviewing this wonderful book…although I did review Harry Potter last month so I guess anything goes!
Kester Jaynes wakes up, as he does every day, in Spectrum Hall, a home for troubled children. Mute since tragedy struck him years before, he does his best to stay out of trouble in a dreary prison where he is served nothing but ‘formula’. But one day his world changes forever when he realises he CAN talk, just not in the way he thought…
Set in a world where wild animals no longer (officially…) exist, The Last Wild tells a story of adventure, courage and unlikely friendship as Kester must fight against the odds to save what is good in the world, all while piecing together his own family mystery. I was utterly gripped as I followed Kester’s exploration of this familiar, yet tragically different world. In him we have the unlikeliest of heroes, supported by the unlikeliest of teams. Every character is considered and well-defined, and I am unashamed to say I fell in love with the lot of them!
As much as this story is exciting, it is also funny, touching, emotional and relevant. It would lead perfectly into topics around extinction and environmental issues amongst many others. I am currently reading part two of the trilogy and it is already shaping up to be as good! Torday has amassed a legion of fans and you do not want to miss out reading this and becoming one of them!
“Pick whatever you like the most. Then I’ll tell you its story.”
These simple words from an elderly man to his great-granddaughter at their first meeting set the scene for a remarkable story of poverty, immigration and the power of stories in whatever form they come.
In response to the quote at the top of this review, a Kindergarten-aged girl brings her great-grandfather an old cigar box, filled with dozens of little matchboxes. Explaining that this box constitutes his ‘diary’, since he could not always read and write, he begins to use the things he has collected in the boxes to tell his extraordinary story of how he came from famine in First World War era Italy, through poverty growing up in America during the depression years, to finally pursuing and succeeding in his passion. Each part of his journey is represented by an object, so that as the story progresses we learn more and more about his family’s experiences of being uprooted by circumstances outside of their control, travelling across the sea full of trepidation about what might be ahead, and having to adapt to a new land where they were poor and unwanted.
We’ve reached the end of month 2 of the #52books2017 challenge! Although my return to uni and placement really showed this month as I read fewer books than I would have liked, the picture book element has developed a little so I’m on track all-in-all. As last month, here are the books I’ve read, with my star book of the month!
Book 1: The Dreamsnatcher – Abi Elphinstone (KidLit, Upper KS2)
The first book of a fabulous trilogy, The Dreamsnatcher begins the exciting tale of Moll, a gypsy girl living in a small forest community. Although she loves her camp dearly, she is gripped by the feeling that she does not quite fit in, and decides to investigate the recurring nightmares that she feels may hold the key. She soon realises that the forces she finds herself up against are more terrifying and more powerful than she ever imagined. With her wildcat friend Gryff, she must decide who is friend or foe and save the world as she knows it! Full of thrills, excitement and more than a little magic, this well-researched, pacey debut has deservedly earned Abi Elphinstone many fans child and adult alike!
– STAR READ – Book 2: The Shadow Keeper – Abi Elphinstone (KidLit,Upper KS2) – STAR READ –
‘This Dave. This Dave’s Cave. But Dave not happy…Dave want new cave.’
This Dave’s Cave. Dave like cave. Cave perfect. But Dave think. What if better cave? Better rocks. Better grass. Better Wi-fi (ok, Mr B added). Dave find new caves. But none perfect. Dave sad. Will Dave find dream cave?
‘The sweet smell of the little green flowers floated around him as he worked, but he was too busy to notice…’
I’ve said previously that one thing I love about picture books is that there is such a variety. Some of the books I will recommend and review are bright, colourful, cheery stories with rhyme, rhythm and a laugh-a-minute. And others will make you think, consider and reflect on the world. This is very much the latter. Illustrated by Jon Klassen, most famous perhaps for his hilarious, subversive ‘hat’ series, ‘House Held Up by Trees’ is a haunting and almost accusatory story of misplaced priorities and man’s feeble attempts to subdue nature.
‘One day in a forest, a young bear cub found something he’d never seen before.’
Thus begins the beautiful tale of an ordinary bear with an extraordinary talent, and a heart-wrenching decision to make.
Upon finding a piano in the forest, an inquisitive young bear cub is at first put off by the strange noises it makes. Persevering, he begins to discover a remarkable talent, and soon he is enthralling his friends and family in their woodland home. One day, his skills are discovered by a man and his daughter, who tell him of a great city full of people who would love to hear his playing if he would only go there with them. Will he stay with his friends and family in the forest, or will he step out of his comfort zone into a whole new world of stardom? If he leaves his home behind in pursuit of fame and fortune, will he ever be able to go back to the life he once had? And who is ‘the most important audience of all’?
One of my PGCE tutors recently began her introduction to the world of children’s literature by spinning the saddest of yarns. She told the tale of a gift and a talent for reading, of being led at an early age away from the comfort of picture books and into a new world of…chapter books [Insert Thunderclap here]! Of growing up with pages upon pages of prose, with just a smattering of illustrative accompaniment. Of leaving behind the ‘childish’ world of picture books as she had grown out of such things.The reason I have been able to recall this story in such emotive detail is because it is also my own! I have grown up with a severe lack of nostalgia surrounding picture books due to being moved to more ‘age-appropriate’ texts from a very early age.
Now, both the tutor in question and I would be at pains to inform you that we loved the books we read growing up, but we would also point to this as the reason for our current ‘condition’. There can be no doubt about it: I am a PictFictAddict! Before I outline where I’m going to be heading with my future posts in this ‘series’, I thought I’d share just three reasons of many why, over twenty years late, I finally LOVE PicFic!