A Blue Poetry Paintbox chosen by John Foster (Review)

A Blue Poetry Paintbox chosen by John Foster

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Blurb

You’ll find castles and giants, and dragon to dance with, races to run and snow to have fun with, monsters, monkeys, magicians and foxes, in this fourth colourful Poetry Paintbox anthology, for children aged six years and over.

Review

Ok, so I know I am way over six years of age and not a child but I like to think I am a child at heart. I have been sorting through some of the books that are still at my parents’, house and found my first ever poetry book out. This poetry book holds a lot of memories, I believe I got it from the Book People who used to come into schools and you could order books from them. I also remember bringing it into school for an assembly and the teacher borrowed it and then lost it, I was devastated and my mom was furious. Thankfully the teacher found it about two years later just before I left school. The other day I sat down and happily read it cover to cover remembering my old favourites and the poems I did not enjoy so much.

As a child I did not appreciate how this book was laid out, I never realised that all the poems are linked in pairs. So there are two poems about dragons, two poems about the sea and so on and so forth. The poems are by different authors and all have wonderful illustrations. The two poems about dragons were my particular favourites as a child.

The only thing that annoyed me with certain poems was that they went rolling along and then the last line makes the whole poem stumble, because it does not feel like it quite fits. However this could be because the adult me is now getting too picky.

There are 54 poems in the book, some better than others but mainly all enjoyable and a fun read for children and adults. I gave this book 4 Dragons out of 5 Dragons for all the happy memories it has brought back. I leave you with one of my favourites.

There was an old pirate

There was an old pirate called Pete

Who captured a whole fishing fleet.

He said ‘Don’t be scared.

All your lives will be spared.

I only want something to eat!’

Wendy Larmont

 

Lady Book Dragon.

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Review 22: Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien

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About the author and illustrator

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein. He moved to England when he was three years old and was home schooled with his younger brother and taught by his mother. Tolkien served in the First World War and after the war he established a distinguished academic career and was recognised as one of the finest philologists in the world. He is best known as the creator of Middle Earth and the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was awarded a CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University in 1972. He died on 2nd September 1973 at the age of 81.

Blurb

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful colour drawing. They were from Father Christmas, telling wonderful tales of life at the North Pole.

  • How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place.
  • How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of father Christmas’s house into the dining-room.
  • How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made age Man in it fall into the back garden.
  • How there were wars with the troublesome horse of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house!

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories.

Review

I got this book off my best friend for my birthday as she knows I love all things Tolkien and she knew I had not got this book. I am so pleased I saved this book for Christmas as it really put me in a Festive mood and made me smile from ear to ear.

The first letter in the book is sent in 1920 to John, Tolkien’s oldest child and we meet Father Christmas, the letter is only short but there is a beautiful drawing of Father Christmas that could easily be made into a Christmas card. There is then a gap and the next letter is in 1923, then basically from then on there is a letter until 1943 when Tolkien’s children are all too old for Father Christmas.

The first letters are sent to just John and then Michael and Christopher are added and finally Priscilla, although as each child reaches a certain age and they stop writing to Father Christmas they are dropped off the letters. Although good old Father Christmas always asks after the older children and pets in the house, so they are not forgotten.

Some letters are very short if Father Christmas is busy that year and some are very long, especially if Father Christmas has a tale to tell the children. Father Christmas has a helper called Polar Bear who is in fact a Polar Bear, a very special bear who does not age and is very strong but also rather clumsy and causes poor Father Christmas a great deal of extra work. Eventually Father Christmas also gets some Elves to help him get everything ready for Christmas.

The effort Tolkien put into the letters is amazing, the handwriting is unique to Father Christmas and is shaky like a very old man is writing and the illustrations are stunning. I loved reading all the letters and I can imagine how Tolkien’s children must have been so excited when the letters arrived each year. It really is like magic, Tolkien made sure his children believed in the wonder of magic and fairytales, the things all children should believe in and let their imaginations run wild.

This edition of the book is beautiful, it has all the pictures of the original letters so we can see all the handwriting Tolkien created and opposite is a typed up version so the reader can read the text with ease. Then there are also all the illustrations in colour with the letters. The fact that the book is also printed on excellent quality shiny paper is perfect for showing off Tolkien’s work.

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I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars because of the magic and beauty it had but it did not get the full 5 stars because it made me sad at the end when the children were too old for letters off Father Christmas. In my opinion you are never too old for Father Christmas and believing in the magic.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 21: Magic Windows by Ernest Nister

Magic Windows: An Antique Revolving Picture Book by Ernest Nister

About the Author

Ernest Nister was a born in 1841 in Germany and was a publisher and printer of movable books for children, he also printed greetings cards, post cards and calendars. He refined the techniques used in the design of pop up books, magic windows and dissolving pictures. He published all his books from a toy-making centre based in Nuremberg in the nineteenth century.

Review

As some of you know from my Christmas Eve Traditions post, I read this book ever year, but I have never reviewed it before, so I thought it was time to have a review.

This book has a very dear place in my heart so I am afraid I am rather biased but I will try to give a non biased review.

This book is essentially a picture book, on each double page you have a poem on the left page and a relating image on the right that when you slide the ribbon across changes image. An example of the changing image is below.

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The book only has 7 poems and relating pictures so it is only small but because of how the moving pictures are built the pages are double thickness so the book is thicker than expected for so few poems and pictures. However the illustrations are beautiful and you do get two per page instead of one due to the magic window element. The poems are very cute and simple and perfect for children, but for today’s modern children I am not sure they would hold a child’s attention but I am sure the moving pictures would have them hooked.

I’m not sure I appreciated this book as a child but as an adult I love it. I love the beauty of the illustrations and the simplicity of the moving images which work so well and the little poems that are so easy to understand and just make you smile.

This book is a reproduction of the original which came out in the Victorian period and for this reason I do think most children would sadly find the book boring but for the older reader I think they would appreciate the skill and beauty of the book and find enjoyment from reading it.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars purely because I love it to bits but when I was a child I would have probably given it a 3 out of 5 because I did not appreciate the poetry but enjoyed the pictures.

Lady Book Dragon.

Christmas Eve Traditions

Christmas Eve is here!

My main little tradition for Christmas Eve is after Midnight Mass before I go to bed I read Magic Windows by Ernest Nister. This book is very special to me, I remember when I was about 5 or 6 and sitting on my parents bedroom floor and opening my stocking and getting this book. I instantly loved it and ever since I read it after Midnight Mass, I know technically it is Christmas morning but in my mind it is still Christmas Eve.

Some how as I have got older this book has gained more meaning for me, yes it is basically a picture book with some poems in and is definitely for children but after all the stress that can come with Christmas prep this calms me down and reminds me of the magic of Christmas. Last year was my first Christmas in my new house with my husband, the first Christmas not spent with my parents and the first time I would cook Christmas dinner and to be honest it was all a bit daunting as well as exciting. Reading this book before sleep really helped me and I got a good nights sleep and woke up excited for Christmas. Amazing what a little book can mean to one person. I do not think my parents ever imagined the significance this book would have in my life.

Anyway this is one of my little traditions, do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Good Night and I hope Father Christmas is generous to you all.

Lady Book Dragon

The Nutcracker

It’s nearly Christmas!!!

Last night I finally started The Nutcracker. I must admit I usually start this a lot earlier in December but due to being ill for a week and catching up with work and Christmas decorating, my reading has fallen a big behind but I hope I will be back on track soon.

Yesterday I had a lovely day spent with my husband and parents. It began with my husband and I performing a recital for a Christmas Tree Festival at the church my husband plays organ at. Then we came home for a quick breather, I even managed to do a bit of reading. I finished one book and read another very short book. Then we picked my parents up and went to see the new Mary Poppins film, followed by dinner out. The film was fantastic and it was wonderful to spend time with my husband and parents and not be having to rush off somewhere. It was a chance to relax, smile and share a laugh.

I have two reviews waiting to be written but I promise they will be up soon. I decided to watch Father Ted last night instead of writing reviews. Apologies but it was the first ever episode and I had never seen it before.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and are all ready for Christmas.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 20: The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo

The Snowman (A new story inspired by the original tale by Raymond Briggs) by Michael Morpurgo and illustarted by Robin Shaw

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About the author

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Michael Morpurgo has written over 130 books, many of them award winning. His best known work is War Horse which has also been turned into a stage play and a film. In 2003 he was made Children’s Laureate. He set up a charity with his wife called Farms for City Children and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. In 2017 he was awarded a Knighthood for his charitable work and literature.

About the illustrator

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Robin Shaw is an award winning animator and illustrator, he is also a director of animated commercials. He has worked closely with Raymond Briggs in the past and was part of the directing team of The Snowman and the Snowdog. In 2017 he designed a series of animated sequences for Paddington 2.

Blurb

When James wakes to see snow falling one December morning, he rushes outside to make a snowman. With coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf, and a tangerine nose, the snowman is perfect. James can hardly bear to inside that evening and leave him. But in the middle of the night, he wakes and creeps out to see his snowman again- and to his amazement, the snowman comes to life…

Review

Firstly, I have a confession, I have never read The Snowman by Raymond Briggs but I have watched it on television many, many times. I have only seen The Snowman and the Snowdog once and it almost destroyed me emotionally so I have never seen it again. So when I saw this book sat on the supermarket shelf I immediately picked it up. I was a little worried as I always fear rewrites as most of the time they are never as good as the original, but then I saw it was done by Michael Morpurgo and realised I should have no fears because the man is a genius.

I was so pleased I trusted my instincts, as the story was wonderful, another triumph by Morpurgo. The story is based around James a little boy who suffers with a stammer and who is desperate to have a friend. James lives with his parents on a farm and for Christmas his grandma is staying with them at the farm. Grandma’s favourite story to read James at bedtime is The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.

During the night James’ wish is answered and it snows and so he builds a snowman, a giant of a snowman who towers above everyone wearing a green scarf and hat with a big tangerine nose. James loves this snowman and wants to spend all day with him, he is also really proud of his new friend and is desperate for his family to meet the snowman. Finally at nighttime he leaves the snowman but then in the night something magical happens, and James is not the only one to witness the magic of the snowman.

The story is very similar to the original but with a few subtle differences but this is what makes it a different tale to stand on its own. The story is full of magic and is very respectful of the original, this is just like a sequel to the original in fact. I also loved that when Morpurgo was approached to write this story he was worried and so approached Raymond Briggs who thankfully gave his blessing. The respect that Morpurgo has for Raymond Briggs’ story is humbling and comes through in his version of The Snowman.

I loved the character of James, I felt sorry for him, happy for him and he just made me smile and think aww. I also really liked Grandma, she is a Grandma who still believes in magic. I think this is a fantastic book for children and adults and a perfect read for around Christmas. The illustrations were also beautiful and really added to the story. I hope it gets turned into an animated film, as I think it would be perfect. I gave this book 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Plus I loved the extras at the end of the story, the Christmas traditions from other countries and the perfect method for making the best snowman.

Lady Book Dragon

Review 18: Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo

Coming Home by Michael Morgurgo

Illustrated by Kerry Hyndman

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About the Author

Michael Morpurgo has written over 130 books, many of them award winning. His best known work is War Horse which has also been turned into a stage play and a film. In 2003 he was made Children’s Laureate. He set up a charity with his wife called Farms for City Children and in 1999 he was awarded an MBE for his charitable work. In 2017 he was awarded a Knighthood for his charitable work and literature.

About the Illustrator

Hyndman has a degree in fine art from Newcastle University and an MA in Illustration from Kingston University. She now works as a freelance illustrator and map maker based in London. Hyndman is also an associate lecturer in Illustration at Goldsmiths University.

Blurb

A plucky little robin sets out on an epic journey. Through dark forests, driving rain, clapping thunder and flashing lightning. Across frozen wastes, huge mountains and stormy seas he flies. And all the while he’s dreaming of home. Of her. But will he ever get there?

Review

Another book off my Christmas reading list. This is my accidental find as I was trying to find another book called Coming Home but forgot the author’s name and so just typed in the title and this came up. I am so pleased I did find it as it was a beautiful book to read.

A very quick read for me but enjoyable, and the illustrations were excellent. This book is all about a robin’s flight home, through perilous conditions but all he thinks about is getting home to his mate.

This book is very short, even for a children’s book and to be honest a little scary, I was very worried about the little robin especially when he was attacked. I am not entirely sure a child would enjoy it in some places, unless they are made of stronger stuff than I.

The story is fast paced and Morpurgo’s use of language is simple but perfectly descriptive and rolls along. It made me want to say it out loud, it was so full of drama and had a rhythm to it, which is probably why I read it so quickly. I went back through it when I had finished it to truly enjoy and look at the illustrations. My favourite illustration is below, the details of the birds are just stunning, I would happily have it framed on my wall.

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At the end of the story there is a list of facts about Scandinavian robins, this list is brilliant! I never even knew there were Scandinavian robins, let alone their migrating habits and that they are almost identical to our own English robins. 

This book I rated 4 stars out of 5, it did not get the full 5 because it was just too short for me! I wanted more about the little robin. I leave you with another of my favourite pages. A beautiful read for both children and adults.

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Lady Book Dragon.

Review 16: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

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About the author

Chris Van Allsburg was born June 1949 and is an American author and illustrator of children’s books. Van Allsburg attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan and majored in sculpture. Van Allsburg started sketching at home and his wife encouraged him to illustrate children’s books, he then went on to write and illustrate his first children’s book The Garden of Abdul Gasazi in 1979. He has won two Caldecott Medals for U.S picture book illustration, both books he also wrote. To date Van Allsburg has written and illustrated about twenty books and has also illustrated children’s books for HarperCollins.

Blurb

Late on Christmas Eve, a boy boards a mysterious train: The Polar Express bound for the North Pole. When he arrives there, Santa offers him any gift he desires. The boy modestly asks for a bell from a reindeer’s harness, but this turns out to be a very special gift…

Review

So this book was not on my Christmas reading list but I bought some Christmas presents from Waterstones and this might have slipped in on the order. I know have a problem with buying books but I regret nothing!

This evening after a long day teaching I managed to put a few more Christmas decorations up and I rewarded myself with a mug of tea and this book to read. I was really looking forward to this book as I love the film. I have been singing the soundtrack from the film all evening.

The book is about a little boy who is excitedly waiting on Christmas Eve to see Father Christmas but instead a train pulls up outside his house. This little boy is desperately hoping to hear the sleigh bells even though his friend has told him he will never hear them as Father Christmas does not exist. The little boy gets on the Polar Express to go to the North Pole to see who will be chosen to receive the first Christmas present from Father Christmas.

I enjoyed the story of the book and the significance of the little boy’s chosen gift of the sleigh bell, it made me smile but at the same time it also made me sad. The sadness came because the book shows the truth we all know so well, some people forget the magic of Christmas and lose the wonder. This I hope I never lose, no matter how busy I get at Christmas or how stressed I hope I still see the wonder, magic and beauty of the Christmas season.

The story is a lovely little children’s story and the illustrations are beautiful but I must admit I found the movie more impressive, maybe because I have known the movie longer and always loved it. I also just felt the story was rushed and I wanted the story to be a bit longer and padded out, I just could not seem to gel with the author’s writing style. I give the story 3 out of 5 stars because it made me feel a little blue instead of the warm fuzzy feeling I was after.

Lady Book Dragon

 

Review 14: Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

About the Author

Judith Kerr was born in 1923 in Berlin, she came to England with her family in 1933. Kerr is a British author and illustrator, who has written and illustrated many children’s books and some books for older children. Kerr was awarded an OBE in 2012 for services to children’s literature and Holocaust education.

Blurb

Strange things are happening at Mog’s house. So she runs up on the roof and there she stays… until she returns to the house with a bump!

Review

My first Christmas read this year and it was a great start. I love the Mog books even though I have not read them all, just the ones my nephews and niece own. Now some of you might be worried about a grown woman reading children’s books, but I think it is perfectly normal to read children’s books and it brings a bit of magic in to your life and Christmas is all about magic.

If you have not already met Mog, Mog is cat, a rather nervous cat who does not like change. Mog’s family are getting ready for Christmas but this is all very confusing to Mog and so Mog takes action.

This children’s book shows how confusing a time Christmas can be to animals, the house starts to change with decorations being put up and a tree going from being outside to inside. There are also strangers coming around to visit and all these new things can be overwhelming. The story is enchanting but at the same time educational to children so they understand that Christmas can also be scary to animals.

Being a cat owner I fully understand Mog’s feelings as my cats also find it difficult to deal with new experiences and people in the house. Thankfully it is all a happy ending in Mog’s Christmas story.

I really enjoyed this story and the beautiful illustrations and it brought back happy memories for me. I gave the story 4 out of 5 stars, it did not get 5 stars because I just think Kerr portrayed Mog as a little bit too dumb and cats are not that dumb.

Christmas Reading List

Happy Advent! Today is the first day of Advent and so the Christmas reading has begun.

And here it is! My Christmas reading list.

I am very excited and I can not wait for tomorrow. I will see how my reading goes as I might add to the list as December goes on. The Christmas reading list runs from 1st December to 6th January when the Christmas decorations come down.

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry

I chose this one because I read a short story by Venronica Henry recently and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would try one of her Christmas books.

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Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

My best friend bought me this book for my birthday present and I have been saving it for my Christmas read. I am really excited about this as I absolutely adore Tolkien.

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Five at the Office Christmas Party by Bruno Vincent (based on the characters created by Enid Blyton)

These books are my guilty pleasure, I think I have read them all apart from this one, as again I have been saving it for Christmas.

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Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Not really a Christmas book I know but I could not resist. This book is so beautiful and special I just thought it was ideal for Christmas reading. Also the new Mary Poppins film Mary Poppins Returns is out soon and one of my saxophone students plays one of the children in the film, so I thought I had better read the book.

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Coming Home by Michael Morpurgo

I am a bit of a Morpurgo fan and when I saw this book I had to have it. I do love children’s books they always make me smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I found this book by complete accident as I was looking online for another book called Coming Home and this came up in the search. Hopefully it will be a lucky find.

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Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr

This was chosen quite simply because I have very fond memories of reading Mog stories to my neice and nephews. I have missed Mog so much I decided to buy this as a little treat to myself.

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The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Here is the big finale! As I have mentioned in a previous post I always read a new version of The Nutchracker on the run up to Christmas and here is my new copy. Another pretty book, I do love pretty books.

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I would love to hear if anybody else has a Christmas reading list. Please feel free to post a link to your blog in the comments.

Happy Advent and Happy Reading.

Lady Book Dragon