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!

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!

Blog Tour- The Magical Sunglasses (Children’s book)

How did I get it?:
Received for the blog tour!

Synopsis:

What would you do if you had one day with magical powers? This fun, bouncy read captures the imagination, and demonstrates the power of courage and self-belief. Inclusive book for early school aged children. Message for everyone.

Thoughts:

This book is SO cute. It’s a short and snappy story with rhyme that explores the inner power that children have. In the story, the children are told by their teacher that there’s magical sunglasses that will help them face their fears. The children all try them on and face their fears. Little do they know that they actually have the magic within them. It’s such a sweet story.

I can imagine that the younger range of primary school children would really enjoy this book. I’ll definitely pass it onto the infant school teachers in my school. I think 4-7 year olds would thoroughly enjoy the short, rhyming story. The illustrations are bright and colourful and it’s such an engaging story!

Where She Went (If I Stay #2)

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

It’s been three years since the devastating accident… three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.

Thoughts:

I really liked If I Stay and have been meaning to read the sequel for so long now. I finally got around to reading it and I’m pleased I did. It was such an emotional read. It is told from Adam’s point of view which is lovely to read. I enjoyed reading from Mia’s point of view in the first book, but it felt important to me to learn how Adam was feeling.

In If I Stay, Mia loses her family. Adam also struggles with the loss of Mia’s family because he was incredibly close to them too. Since the loss of Mia’s family, Adam rockets to fame in a band. Adam experiences severe anxiety and ends up crumbling under the pressure of fame. Adam is still reeling from Mia disappearing on him. He still thinks of her, despite being in a new relationship. The relationship is not working but Adam is sticking with it, despite his girlfriend feeling he’s still into Mia. It’s so lovely to read from Adam’s point of view. We know that Mia experienced a lot of loss and her life completely changed. Everyone treads on egg shells around Mia, not wanting to upset her. I felt like Adam’s grief is pretty much forgotten. He’s sad and unhappy with what happened. He’s miserable in his current relationship and with the fame he’s experiencing. It’s all so heart-breaking.

One night, Adam comes across Mia playing a show. He goes and then ends up spending some time with her as they get ready to go their separate ways. Adam has to go meet up with his band and Mia is going to Tokyo to play in a concert. This is where the story becomes a little bit predictable. I knew how things were going to end up. Yet, I didn’t mind because I WANTED them to reconnect.

I love Mia and Adam as characters and thought this was a really cute story to read. I’d highly recommend reading this dualogy if you haven’t already!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A really engaging follow up to If I Stay! Worth reading!

Blog Tour- Invisible Us by Dougie Arnold

Invisible Us

How did I get it?:
Sent to me for the blog tour. This does not affect my opinion of the book!

Synopsis:

Can you imagine being almost invisible? Well, that’s exactly what Gecko felt he was, so decided to set out on an adventure to find some new friends like him. Join Gecko on his journey and you will be amazed at the fantastic creatures he meets. Have fun trying to find them in this magical story.

Thoughts:

I was asked to review this sweet book and I jumped at the chance to explore a new picture book. I’m a primary (elementary) school teacher so I’m always looking out for new picture books. I’m also keen to try authors that aren’t as well known as you can find some real gems.

Invisible Us is a story about a Gecko who doesn’t seem to fit in because he was camouflaged by his habitat. Gecko goes on an adventure and finds other animals that are also ‘invisible’ because of where they live. I loved the story of friendship and how even though the animals looked different, they had something in common. What a lovely message for young children.

Unfortunately, it being the start of the school year, I didn’t have the opportunity to share this book with the children as we’ve been super busy. I am going to take it into school for them to enjoy. There’s so much to look at with the lovely illustrations so I’m sure it’s going to be a book they’ll enjoy!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A super sweet story about friendship! Perfect for 4-7 year olds.