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.

Review 17: Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers

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About the author

Pamela Lyndon Travers was born in Australia in 1899 and her birth name was Helen Lyndon Goff. She was first published in her teenage years and also worked briefly as a Shakespearean actress. At the age of 25 she emigrated to England and changed her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers, she adopted the pen name P. L. Travers in 1933, when she started writing the Mary Poppins series. Walt Disney tried for years to get the rights for Mary Poppins to be made into a film, he even visited her several times at her house in London. Eventually Disney obtained the rights and the film Mary Poppins film was released in 1964. Travers did write many other novels, poetry and works of non-fiction but she is mainly remembered for Mary Poppins. She received an OBE in 1977 and died in 1996.

Blurb

When Mary Poppins arrives at their house on a gust of the East Wind, and slides up the banister, Jane and Michael Banks’s lives are turned magically and wonderfully upside down…

Review

Another book off my Christmas reading list finished and enjoyed. I’ve never read any of the Mary Poppins stories before but I have watched the film many times over, I used to happily sing along to all the songs and must admit I still do. I must admit I am looking forward to the new film coming out but only because one of my students stars in the film. I am not usually a fan of remakes if truth be told. When Waterstones emailed advertising this book I ordered it straight away and got a signed copy, always a thrill.

The first thing I noticed was that the story is abridged which was a little disappointing but the gorgeous illustrations more than made up for that. The story is based around the Banks family who are in need of another nanny and that is where Mary Poppins comes in.

The Banks family consists of Mr Banks the father and head of the house who is rather tight with money and goes out to work each day at the bank. Mrs Banks is the mother and is always out being very busy doing things and making sure the house is running correctly. The children are Michael and Jane the two oldest and the main characters of the story and the young twins John and Barbara who have a chapter of their own but are not otherwise really mentioned. Then there is Mrs Ellen who is the cook, Ellen the maid and Robertson Ay who is the butler but who is also a little useless.

Michael and Jane are rather naughty children and have driven away another Nanny and so Mary Poppins turns up to be the new Nanny. Mary Poppins instantly comes across as different to the children, to begin with she seems to arrive with the wind and then she sits at the bottom of the banister and slides up the staircase. The children know that Mary is different and soon begin to realise her ways and methods. The other thing I love about the children is their view of the world, a good example of this is the fact that they think their dad physically makes money at the bank. When I read this I had the image of Mr Banks sat there cutting out and minting coins and this is what I think the children also imagine their father does each day at work. I found the image adorable and it put a big smile on my face. Travers is a talented writer in this respect and fully understands the way a child’s mind works.

Mary Poppins was a bit of a surprise to me, firstly I could not believe how vain she is, she is constantly looking at her own reflection and deliberately wears clothes and hats that she knows are different and look good on her. The two children get frustrated with her when they go out as she constantly stops at windows to look at herself. In this respect I do not think she sets a good example to the children and I would not like to be around a person who did this either so I understand the children’s frustration. Mary Poppins is also very bossy which I was not happy about but she did get results from the children so I suppose it worked. I also found it odd how she called all birds sparrows, even pigeons, thankfully the children knew better.

I did not find Michael and Jane to be very naughty and thought that the previous nanny must have had a very low threshold of behaviour for the children to drive her to leave. I found the children inquisitive and just like normal happy high spirited children but maybe my opinion is a modern opinion and the time the story was written children were still meant to be seen and not heard.

My favourite chapter was in fact the chapter based around John and Barbara and how when they reach the age of one everything changes. I found this chapter really sweet and it made me smile, it also made me a little sad but in a good way. The illustrations for this chapter also reminded me greatly of the TV series that Child created called Charlie and Lola. The other highlight of this chapter was the cheeky starling.

I did enjoy this book and I want to read the full version and maybe some of the sequels but it did disappoint in some areas, the main being Mary Poppins, she just came across as grumpy. The best characters were the children I loved their naivety and their undying love of Mary Poppins even though they can see her flaws they still love her and have also learnt how to get what they want from her. The other reason I enjoyed this book so much was the illustrations, Child is very talented and she really made the story come alive. I only gave this book 3 out 5 stars because it felt like a lot had been cut from the story and it seemed to detract from the storyline and at times felt rushed and disjointed. Also I struggled to accept Mary Poppins at times.

A beautiful book well worth the read and I will happily recommend it to children and adults. I will leave you with my favourite illustration from the book.

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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