Beth and Chrissi Do Kid Lit- The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch (The Worst Witch, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Mildred Hubble is starting her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches—and making a mess of it! She can’t ride her broomstick without crashing, she’s always getting her spells mixed up, and worst of all, the teacher’s pet, Ethel, has just become her sworn enemy.

Thoughts:

I read a few books in this series when I was younger. I remember really enjoying it and I have quite a few children in my current class who read this series. I love that it is still appealing to young children now. I think it’s because it’s harmless, magical fun with a great heroine.

Mildred Hubble really wants to be a good witch, however, she can’t stop getting into trouble. Her spells are often unsuccessful no matter how hard she tries. I love this about Mildred. God knows children don’t need to read about perfect characters. They need to read about heroines that have relatable character traits and I believe Jill Murphy does that with Mildred. I love Mildred’s friends and foe (Ethel is a wonderfully awful character!) I think there’s a lot to love in a gentle book about witches. 

I think this book is a perfect read for those children not quite ready for Harry Potter yet. It’s the perfect gateway book in my opinion!

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge:
The Christmasaurus- Tom Fletcher

Banned Books #64- To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird, #1)

First published: 1960
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, racism

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

BETH: To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourite classics and so advance warning – I might be slightly biased towards it. In attempting to look at it with a critical eye, this novel has been challenged even since its release in 1960. Reasons for banning it include the reasons above, the theme of rape and the fact that it made some people feel “uncomfortable.” It is true that there are problems with the novel, we are hearing the point of view of a white narrator and a white father who swoops in and saves the day. However for me, it was one of the first book that reminded me that no-one should be treated differently, regardless of their colour or beliefs. So no, I don’t think it ever should have been challenged or banned, especially as late on as 2011.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I am biased towards this book because it is one of my favourite books. I didn’t read it at school, but took it upon myself to read it for pleasure not long after I finished school at 15. I’m so pleased I did because it’s one I frequently re-read as I love it so much. I don’t believe that it should have been challenged or banned because I think it’s a highly educative book. I understand that some themes may have made people uncomfortable, but is that a reason to challenge it? I don’t think so.

How about now?

BETH: James LaRue, the director of American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom is unconvinced by some of the challenges that have been posed against this novel stating: “the whole point of classics is they challenge the way we think about things,” and I must whole-heartedly agree. The novel does go into some dark places with some abhorrent attitudes which does make for difficult reading at times. However, it is through reading that we learn, understand and develop a wider view on important issues. Reading about these issues has been such an eye-opening experience throughout my life so far and I would hate for that opportunity to be taken away from anyone else because of a challenge or ban.

CHRISSI: Like I mentioned, I think books like this are educative. I think they make the reader think about their own worldview. We can challenge what we read. If everything is censored, then we can’t have our thinking challenged and I think that’s dangerous! Everyone should have the opportunity to read things that make us think.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I gave this novel 5 out of 5 stars on my last re-read (review available on my blog) and I think it’s always going to have a special place in my heart. I haven’t read Go Set A Watchman yet (I do realise there were some major issues and controversies about this follow-up to Mockingbird) but for the moment, I’ll live in blissful ignorance and enjoy To Kill A Mockingbird for the classic that it is.

CHRISSI:  This is one of my favourite books, so of course I loved it. It will always be a special book to me. 🙂

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Just So Stories

Just So Stories (Illustrated) by [Kipling, Rudyard]

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The stories, first published in 1902, are pourquoi (French for “why”) or origin stories, fantastic accounts of how various phenomena came about. A forerunner of these stories is Kipling’s “How Fear Came,” included in his The Second Jungle Book (1895). In it, Mowgli hears the story of how the tiger got his stripes.

The Just So Stories typically have the theme of a particular animal being modified from an original form to its current form by the acts of man, or some magical being. For example, the Whale has a tiny throat because he swallowed a mariner, who tied a raft inside to block the whale from swallowing other men. The Camel has a hump given to him by a djinn as punishment for the camel’s refusing to work (the hump allows the camel to work longer between times of eating). The Leopard’s spots were painted by an Ethiopian (after the Ethiopian painted himself black). The Kangaroo gets its powerful hind legs, long tail, and hopping gait after being chased all day by a dingo, sent by a minor god responding to the Kangaroo’s request to be made different from all other animals.

Thoughts:

I had dipped in and out of Just So stories being a primary school teacher. I’ve had to use some of them before. Whilst I can appreciate that they’re charming and classic, there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me about them. I don’t find them inspiring to teach or to read. I know that’s probably sacrilege, but that’s how I feel and I pride myself on being honest on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally appreciate that Rudyard Kipling was a talented writer and I do think he deserves his place in literature. It’s just that this collection of stories doesn’t work for me.

I loved that the stories involved animals. That’s always a winning formula for me. I also liked how the stories had a mix of magic, legend and mythical elements. They were fairy tale-esque and that’s something I always appreciate. The stories explain things like how the alphabet was invented to its audience. I assume it’s directed at children. The narrator of the story often speaks to the reader. I sometimes found this a little disjointing, but it was something that I got used to.

The stories are sweet and I can imagine many enjoy them. They just didn’t capture my heart.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge:
The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

Banned Books #63- The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

For October’s Banned Books (late again!), we read The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
First published: 1884
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)
Reasons: offensive language

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

BETH: I can probably speak for my sister right now and confirm that Huckleberry Finn was a bit of a tricky book for us both to read and analyse. Full disclosure right now – I didn’t manage to finish it so this post is being written without having read to the end. I can only report back on the small portion that I did manage to read. Personally, I think that the reasoning for challenging or banning should be a little more specific – in my opinion, “offensive language” is slightly vague and does not get to the real heart of the matter that this book covers. After a little internet searching and my limited experience of the book, I found it was mainly the racist terms/attitudes and the dialect used by the main character that were most offensive. As someone who finds these kind of things abhorrent obviously I don’t agree with it but I can also understand that this book is probably a product of its time. Not that it makes it acceptable, it doesn’t! However, I think we still need to read about the past to appreciate where we need to be in the future.

CHRISSI: This was a struggle to read and finish. Like Beth, I didn’t manage to finish this book and found myself skim reading. For me, I found the racist attitudes hard to read and it made me uncomfortable. Therefore from that side of things, I do understand why this book might be challenged. Although I think it’s more likely to be challenged nowadays when the type of language isn’t seen as acceptable.

How about now?

BETH: This novel was challenged/banned as recently as 2002 which makes me believe that some readers are quite rightly upset by its contents – particularly the language that is used. As a white person, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to fully appreciate how upsetting that might be but I can acknowledge why people would be offended. From my point of view, I think if a book is presented in the right way i.e. taught that this kind of language is no longer acceptable then those studying it can always learn something from it to build a better future without racism or discrimination. I think everyone should have access to all literature – no matter what the issue, purely for the chance to learn. If things are hidden away or restricted, understanding abhorrent attitudes will be slightly more difficult.

CHRISSI: I can totally understand why this book has been challenged in recent times. The language used is completely offensive. However, I agree with Beth, if this book is used to examine how things used to be- then I can totally see its worth. I know many people have enjoyed this book, so there’s surely something about it!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately as mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, I didn’t get on with Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t that I was offended by the language – although some of the attitudes did make me cross but I found it slow and difficult to read. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or feel invested in the plot.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t finish it because I found it difficult to read. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve tried to read this book. I see so many people loving this book and it’s really not for me. I just can’t get into the plot, no matter how hard I try!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

New In… Chrissi’s Children’s Book Collection #1

I thought I’d share some children’s books that I’ve recently purchased. I’ve been working on my first Master’s assignment this half term holiday so I’ve needed to balance my school work with my Master’s work. It’s a struggle, let me tell you. It might be clear now why I’m quite absent on this blog, but I’m trying to be here when I can.

I’m currently planning a PSHE (personal, social, health education) unit around sustainability. Me being me, I’ve decided to use some books as hooks for the start of the lesson. I’m excited about them, so wanted to share them!

Book images go to Goodreads!

The Last Wolf- Mini Grey

The Last Wolf

This is an adorable story of Little Red Riding Hood gone green. As in environmental friendly and aware. She goes off to hunt a wolf and realises there’s only one left. She finds out more about the animals situation and does what she can to save them. I’m going to use this book in one of our first lessons.

The Last Tree- Ingrid Chabbert & Guridi

The Last Tree

Another beautiful picture book. This one revolves around a boy who has a discussion with his dad about what his dad’s childhood was like. The boy realises that the environment has changed significantly. When there’s a plan to build a new set of houses, the boy digs up and replants the tree.

The next two books are about plastic pollution and I’ll use them in lessons where we come up with alternatives for plastic. 

Plastic Sucks- Dougie Poynter

Plastic Sucks! You Can Make A Difference

I’m planning to use sections of this book to help them with ideas of how they can make a difference.

Kids Fight Plastic- Martin Dorey

Kids Fight Plastic: How to be a #2minutesuperhero

Again, I aim to use parts of this book, even though I’m sure they’re going to want me to read it all at some point!

It’s been fun to put this post together! 🙂 I hope to do more of its kind in the future.

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- I Capture The Castle

I Capture the Castle

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is the first line of this timeless, witty and enchanting novel about growing up. Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian and impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Her journal records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer’s block. However, all their lives are turned upside down when the American heirs to the castle arrive and Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the first time…

Thoughts:

I had been meaning to read this book for such a long time, so I was pleased when it was picked for our kid-lit challenge. It centres around Cassandra, who lives in a crumbling castle with her sister, stepmother and little brother. There’s also Stephen, the orphaned child of a former servant who lives with the family. Cassandra’s father had written a highly successful book, but since has had severe writer’s block. Cassandra’s father hasn’t done much since releasing his first book. He leases the castle, but is not overly successful in his working life. Through Cassandra’s journal, we learn about family events.

The family are fascinating to follow. Cassandra is an easy character to like. I immediately was invested in their story, eager to know what was going to happen to them. I think Dodie Smith’s writing stands the test of time. It’s still very readable.

I don’t know if it’s something about classics but I never seem to get as stuck into them as I want to. They don’t grip me as much as I like. I think it’s the slower pace to them. I’m really interested to see what Beth made of it. It certainly had that Pride and Prejudice vibe that I know she’ll enjoy.

For Beth’s wonderful review, please check out here blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Reading next for the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge:
Just So- Rudyard Kipling

Banned Books #62- The Hunger Games

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to a very late September post for Banned Books. In September, we read The Hunger Games. 

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
First published: 2008
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

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

BETH: It’s strange to think that it’s been over ten years since The Hunger Games was first published. I still count it as a relatively recent release but it’s crazy to see how the time has flown and how much has changed in the world since it first came out. The Hunger Games is an interesting one when it comes to banning books. One on hand, you can see why some people might have a problem with it – the theme of multiple teenagers fighting to the death in an arena with one survivor might not be to everyone’s taste. I have to agree that there is violence and of course, quite a few nasty deaths but when it was challenged in 2010 I don’t think this was anything remarkable or unique from what readers could find elsewhere, especially with the advent of the internet and social media.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe it’s been so long since it was released! This is one of those books where I can sort of understand why it’s banned. However, this book was never marketed as a child’s book. It’s in the Young Adult genre and I’m pretty sure that most young adults can deal with the content in The Hunger Games and much more besides. Sometimes real life can feel just as scary (although hopefully nowhere near as violent!)

How about now?

BETH: For the most part, I don’t think there’s any need to challenge The Hunger Games for the reasons that it is sexually explicit or unsuited to the age group. Firstly, Katniss lies down with Peeta (to keep warm I hasten to add!) and has a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. I really don’t see anything terrible about that. Particularly as this IS a young adult novel and a large proportion of that audience hanker after a bit of romance and a sympathetic male lead. Whilst we’re on the topic of young adult fiction I don’t see why it’s inappropriate for the age group. I agree the story is incredibly brutal and horrific in points but when are we going to stop wrapping kids in cotton wool and shielding them from all the bad stuff in the world? No, The Hunger Games isn’t a part of real life (thank goodness!) but that’s precisely my point. It’s a fantastical world that we can escape from whenever we like – we just have to put down the book or never pick it up in the first place. No one is forcing anyone to read it, it’s personal choice. It may be unsuitable for younger readers, that’s true but that’s exactly why it’s labelled as YOUNG ADULT FICTION.

CHRISSI: I think there are far more violent games, stories and films on the internet. Yes, the subject matter is intense and it’s not exactly ‘nice’. Yet I can guarantee that every young adult that reads this book will know it’s not real life and will be able to handle a bit of escapism. I mean, come on! In my opinion, although it’s not fluffy content and it is tough and violent, it’s fiction and people know that!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved The Hunger Games when I first read it and I still love it every time I crack it open again. It’s not just a tale about fighting, violence and terrible deaths. It’s a coming of age story about loyalty, love, friendship, family and justice and the lengths someone will go to in order to protect everything they hold dear. It looks at a regime that has frightening echoes of things happening right now across our own world and it’s about real people who go above and beyond in the bravery to try and survive. I’ll always be a fan.

CHRISSI: I really enjoy this book every time I revisit it. I love the story line and think the characters are awesome. It’s a story I can take something from each time. I’d highly recommend it, if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!