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 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