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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3338


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 11:44 am    Post subject: Children's Books We've Read  Reply with quote

The recent TV programme about illustrated children's books drew my attention to a new one (2008) by David Almond called "The Savage". I found a copy and read it in a sitting in about twenty-five minutes.
It's a story within a story.
The storyteller, Blue, is remembering a time in the past when his father died, and how he and his mother and sister coped with it. He also remembers his problems with a school bully. And, more especially, he remembers how at that time he wrote a story for school called "The Savage" about a wild inarticulate boy who lives in the woods and kills things.  His other self?
The book is told in alternate chapters - one strand being Blue's narrative in the present - the second is "The Savage" printed in a different type-face and with spelling mistakes as Blue might have written it when younger. Just when you think you have the story, and Almond's theme, sussed, he then he pulls the rug from under your feet as reality and the story of the "savage" begin to blur, and you don't know where reality ends and fantasy begins.
I thought this was a beautifully conceived book.  Expertly told, innovative and touching. The chapters of the book telling the story of the savage are illustrated by David McKean with splashy seemingly undisciplined, blue/ green pictures which capture the savage's life and locations beautifully.  
Recommended.  I should think for thoughtful readers about ten years old.


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3338


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read my second children's book in a week.  "The Boy In The Dress" by David Walliams (Little Britain). It's an entertaining and amusing read about Dennis, a twelve-year old, who, as well as being a first-class footballer, happens to like reading Vogue and dressing in girl's clothing. As might be expected, this gets him into all sorts of bother and conflicts with parent, teachers and friends.  The resolution is charming and not quite believable. There is no suggestion in the book that Dennis is an embryonic gay.  The book seems simply to be advocating a tolerance for differences.  It's an effective and plainly written story. Walliams is no Phillip Pullman. I thought he was overfond of strident typographical effects, like two full pages of HAHAHAHAHA when the school is laughing at Dennis. And I could have done without the numerous topical references to modern products and TV programmes - including "Lttle Britain" - which I thought were an attempt to make the book seem modern at all costs. They'll date the book very quickly. I was also irritated by the use of the Americanism "like" instead of "as if" in the main narrative (boo to his editor) , although I suppose it's acceptable in conversation. I smiled a lot and laughed once or twice. The drawings are by Quentin Blake. (Harper/Collins H/B/12.99/2008)


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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3338


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yesterday I read quickly J.K. Rowling's new book "The Tales of Beedle the Bard". It's a collection of five fairy tales supposed to have been written in the 15thC for the entertainment of wizards and wizards. Muggles are permitted to read them.  However, the stories reveal rather a lot about Wizard/Witch prejudice towards Muggles which, as a Muggle myself, I found somewhat distressing.
Rowling has attempted to capture the style and flavour of stories like Grimm's Fairy Tales, and for a lot of the time she has succeeded. Although occasionally there are awkwardnesses when something doesn't feel quite right.  They are rather dark in tone and there is a surprising amount about Death.  "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" for example, is a grim story about a wizard who rejects love which ends with two violent deaths. The most traditional is "The Tale of the The Three Brothers" in which the protagonists try to outwit Death (shades of Chaucer). My favourite was "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" about a foolish king who wants to be a magician.  The other tales are "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" and "The Fountain of Fair Fortune". I thought this was the weakest with more incident than its short length could happily contain.
The stories are supposed to have been translated by Hermione Granger(from Harry Potter) and there are entertaining and Learned Footnotes with all kinds of references and afternotes to each story, allegedly written by the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore.  
I was amused by Rowling's invention of W.A.D.A. - Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Art.


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evangeline



Joined: 04 Dec 2008
Posts: 12


Location: USA-Ohio

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of my favorite children's book is controversial.  It is the 1899 original Little Black Sambo.  This was the very first book I ever owned and could read.  I loved it!  It is a story of a Indian boy who outwits 3 tigers.  I can distinctly remember the words and the pictures.  Sadly, in our ever PC world, the book is actually banned by many libraries and of course, out of print, because "Sambo" is a derogatory term in some countries for dark-skinned people.  As an innocent child, though, it was and still is my favorite children's book.  As an adult, I still have never heard the word Sambo used in a negative connotation.  I intend to purchase a copy of this on E-Bay when I can find one in good condition and not too expensive.


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evangeline



Joined: 04 Dec 2008
Posts: 12


Location: USA-Ohio

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My second favorite children's book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons.  This is a delightful book about why commas make a difference!  I have purchased this for several of my adult teacher friends and they love it!  The illustrations and situations are so silly that they can bring a chuckle to most!

Example:

Eat here, and get gas  v Eat here and get gas.

Becky walked on, her head a little higher than usual.
Becky walked on her head, a little higher than usual.

Slow, children crossing v Slow children crossing!

My 7 year old grandson loves this book, also!


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Apple



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 1751



PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember reading a book when I was younger called There is a happy land by Keith Waterhouse, looking at life in a northern town through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, living (I think) between the two world wars, or could be later, but the 11+ is mentioned and going to grammer school, and the feel of the story was of that era.

I remember it had a profound effect on me when I read it as a child - a group read at school, and then a few years later I managed to get hold of a copy which the local library was selling.  I don't know what happened to it though.

I always remember the title but the story now seems to be a bit vague, and lost in time, but I do recall a little girl getting murdered in it or something like that (or am I making that up or thinking of something else?)


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2931


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our library has a huge edition of Little Black Sambo - it is about 60cm high (2 feet) - and it is a modern version, though the words are identical to the original.  But I think the pictures are different.  I found it delightful.  It doesn't go out much, probably as much because of its size and where it therefore has to sit in the library (up high on a shelf instead of mixed in with the others).

I don't think of Eats, Shoots and Leaves as a children's book.  I would think much of the grammar in it is far beyond most youngster's abilities.  Or perhaps there is a children's version of this that I don't know.

Cheers, Caro.


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Thursday Next



Joined: 26 Nov 2008
Posts: 250


Location: UK

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been reading a lot of Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler books with my son who is nearly 2. I think they are a bit over his head, really, but he enjoys the repetition and I find them funny and cleverly written. The Gruffalo and Monkey Puzzle are favourites, but we recently got Charlie Cook's Favourite Book out of the library and we both love it Smile


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Posts: 2104


Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My boy's almost 21 months but still won't sit through an entire book (eg 'The Gruffalo'). He was an early page-turner, and likes very much to be in control himself! However, he is starting to show an interest in letterforms - particularly 'O's, which are his favourite at the moment, but also 'A's and 'B's. But I think the mixture of upper and lower case letters is confusing him somewhat. English is so confusing for a beginner anyway - when he presses the lift button we tell him to press 'G for George', but of course it's 'G for Ground' really.



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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 3338


Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I try to keep up to a certain extent with current children's writers and have just finished "Noughts and Crosses" by Malorie Blackman. First published in 2001, it's been very popular and reprinted often.  
It takes place in an imaginary Britain where the dominant class are the Crosses (who are black) and the Noughts (who are white).  The Noughts until fairly recently have been the slave class to the Crosses. Black and white are right and wrong.  The story is told in alternating short sections by Sephy (a Cross girl) and Callum (a Nought boy). They are close friends, but their friendship is fraught with difficulties. Eventually when Callum gets older he joins a terrorist group and the book ends tragically.  
Blackman cleverly reverses stereotypes, and the book will certainly cause teenage readers to consider attitudes to race and class.  
I don't think Blackman is a very elegant writer.  Her prose style is very basic and unadorned. But that might be because she is writing in the first person as two teenagers.
I must say that I was struck by the uncompromising nature of this book and refelected on how much teenage books seem to have changed since I was young.  There was no optimism. Is that acceptable in a children's book?  It ends very bleakly.  I wonder if the two sequels offer any hope.



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