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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The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann (Review)

The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, translated by Anthea Bell

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About the author

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Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was born in 1776 in Konigsbarg, Prussia (which is now Kaliningrad, Russia). His educational background was law, but his real love was music. As a young man he moved to Germany hoping to begin a musical career, he went on to become a composer, director and conductor. As a way to help his income he took up writing in his thirties. He wrote four novels and approximately fifty stories and novellas and was possibly one of the most influential writers of his time. He passed away in 1822.

About the illustrator

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Robert Ingpen was born in 1936 in Geelong, Australia. He studied illustration art and book design at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 1986 he was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal for his contributions to children’s literature and he has been honoured with Membership of the Order of Australia.

About the translator

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Anthea Bell was born in 1936 and was an English translator of literary works, her speciality was children’s literature. She translated French, German and Danish into English. She is best known for translating the Astrix comics into English. She past away on the 18th October 2018.

Blurb

The Nutcracker is well-loved by many, and is perhaps best known as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, performed as a favourite Christmas spectacle the world over. The ballet was based on a French retelling of the story, and Hoffmann’s German original is rarely translated in its entirety. This version includes the familiar tale of the gentle young girl and her love for the enchanted Nutcracker – a Christmas gift from her enigmatic Godfather Drosselmeier – who leads the toy soldiers in a dramatic battle against the sinister Mouse King, and whisks her away to the Kingdom of Toys. But it also retains the original ‘story within the story’, told to Marie by Drosselmeier when she is ill in bed: The Tale of the Hard Nut, about the cursed Princess Pirlipat, which explains the background of how the poor Nutcracker came to be.

Review

I do love reading Christmas stories on the run up to Christmas as amongst the chaos of preparing for Christmas they provide some calm. Very sorry this review is rather late. I actually forgot to do this review with the chaos of Christmas and New Year and it was only when I started sorting and tidying up books that I realised I had not written the review.

Anyway back to The Nutcracker by E.T.A Hoffmann and translated by Anthea Bell with the wonderful illustrations by Robert Ingpen. I love the story of the Nutcracker and have previously read the translated versions by Alexander Dumas and Joachim Neugroschel. However I found Dumas’ translation very difficult to follow as it lacked fluency and did not have the story within a story. I believe the ballet is based on Dumas’ translation. Bell’s translation however flows beautifully and made the book a joy to read, including The Tale of the Hard Nut also helps the story make sense and helps the reader understand how the Nutcracker came to be.

The Nutcracker is a wonderful fairytale story for all ages young and old with some very subtle morals hidden in there. I loved Marie’s young innocence and Godfather Drosselmeir’s kindness with a hidden layer of something sinister. Fritz, Marie’s brother however is a little trying for me and is clearly just a spoilt child, who probably due to being the only son has been allowed to get away with a lot more than his older and younger sisters. Luise the older sister I feel for, as she is not mentioned much and her character is not greatly expanded and she seems to be rather ignored by her siblings and parents.

The beautiful illustrations in the book are stunning and really aid your imagination in visualising the story. And of course the main lesson that you learn from Marie at the end is a lovely ending to the story. It really is a timeless story that can not help bring a smile to your face and make you look forward to Christmas.

I highly recommend this book and translation and look forward to reading it again on a future Christmas. I have given this book a very fiery 5 Dragons out of 5 Dragons.

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 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.