Blast from the Past–Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

19302Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
6/28/2007–148 pages–children’s fiction
Borrowed from public library
★★★★

This has to be one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read. I love the movie I have, and, while some of Pippi’s adventures are only present in one or the other, the spirit and style of Pippi Longstocking is one that will enchant many children for years to come.

Definitely didn’t know before that this was originally a Swedish child’s book or that it was written 57 years ago. Learn something new every day.

Around the World in 12 Books (#4 Tanzania)–a bit late

TitleKele’s Secret
Author: Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrated by: Catherine Stock
Length: 14 pages
ISBN: 9780525675006
Published in: 1997
Genre: children’s fiction
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: Around the World in 12 Books
(I had originally planned on reading Paradise by Abdulrazak, but my library didn’t carry it, even through interlibrary loan. This was the closest I could come to a story set in Tanzania by a Tanzanian author. I promise, I’m not reading children’s books just because they’re easier and quick. Quite obviously, I still couldn’t finish this by the end of April.)

Summary: A young boy lives with his grandparents on their coffee farm. One of his duties is to collect the eggs, so he follows a hen named Kele to find where she is hiding her eggs.

It’s a little hard to answer the challenge questions in regards to a children’s books. But I’ll try my best.

What did you learn about the country’s culture, history etc. from reading this book? Any new insights, any shifts in your perception, or did it align with what you knew/understood already?

Well, I can honestly say that this book was too short, simple, and shallow to glean anything from it by way of actual knowledge of Tanzania. (It was only fourteen pages and, as a children’s book, it didn’t go so far as to really provide information–it was a story for stories sake.)  There was a glossary in the back of the book, that explained things like “Koko” and “Akwi” (that’s grandma/old woman and grandpa/old man).

How did land, geography, flora and fauna feature in the book? Did it have a distinct feel that helped you visualise and made you feel like you were there, or was the story more focused on plot?

I actually did get to see one person’s perspective of the land, etc. Catherine Stock, the illustrator, had some wonderful illustrations for the story. (According to the book jacket, she traveled to Tanzania to see the land Mollel was describing.)  It would have been hard to visualize the land without the illustrations because I have no idea what Tanzania looks like.

Did the story make you want to visit/revisit the country, or explore it in a new way if you live there already; did it make you want to read more stories set in the country?

There wasn’t a whole lot of stuff in the book to recommend or not recommend visiting Tanzania. However, I’m sure the place is a little different now, as the story was semi-autobiographical in that Mollel also grew up on a coffee farm with his grandparents, and that was awhile ago.

 

Mary Poppins by PL Travers

TitleMary Poppins
Author: PL Travers
Narrator: Sophie Thompson
Genre: children’s fiction
ISBN: 9780739366790
Length: 3.75 hours
Published: 1934
Source: public library
Rating: 3.5/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: I had just finished reading Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews and she ended the memoir right before she started working on the film Mary Poppins so I just thought to finally read that book since I never had.

Summary (from Amazon):

For all her offended sniffs and humphs, Mary Poppins is likely the most exciting nanny England–and the world–has ever seen. Young Jane and Michael Banks have no idea what’s in store for them when Mary Poppins blows in on the east wind one autumn evening. Soon, though, the children are having tea on the ceiling, flying around the world in a minute (visiting polar bears and hyacinth macaws on the way), and secretly watching as their unusual nanny pastes gold paper stars to the sky. Mary’s stern and haughty exterior belies the delightful nonsense she harbors; her charges, as well as her literary fans, respect and adore her.

Grownups who have forgotten Mary Poppins’s true charms will be tickled pink to rediscover this uniquely unsentimental fantasy. Younger readers will walk into Mary’s world without batting an eye–of course the animals in the zoo exchange places with people on the night of the full moon. Certainly a falling star landing on a cow’s horn will make her dance ceaselessly. Why wouldn’t one be able to enter into a chalk picture? The only disappointing aspect of this classic is that it doesn’t go on forever! (Ages 9 to 12) –Emilie Coulter

My Thoughts: This book is NOTHING like the Walt Disney musical film.

That being said, I rather enjoyed this book. Rather than talking about how much it is different from the musical and how, I think I am able to look at this one somewhat objectively. That is easy, since it’s so different. Despite the strictness of Mary Poppins, she allows for magical moments to happen to Jane, Michael, and the twins John and Barbara. While she hardly makes the magic happen, she knows how to let it occur and especially how to turn it into some educational moment to teach the children something. I especially liked the story where John and Barbara, the baby twins, are able to talk to animals and elements (such as sunlight and the sparrow). But that they can’t speak the language after they get teeth and start to learn how to talk. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that this is true? But obviously we don’t remember that sort of thing, being so young. I like this sort of magic. The magic that could so easily be real, not like Harry Potter 😕

While I’m sure that I like this book as a completely separate entity from the film, it was hard to actually rate it. If I hadn’t seen the film hundreds of times, it might have been easy. I figured I’d probably give it a 1 or 2 in comparison to the film (the film is so happy and cheerful, whereas the book isn’t as exciting), but a 3/4 on it’s own. So, obviously, that means I gave it a 3.5 🙂

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

TitleHarriet the Spy
Author: Louise Fitzhugh
Narrator: Anne Bobby
Genre: kid’s lit
ISBN: 9780739338995
Length: 7 hours
Published: 1964
Source: public library
Rating: 3/5
Resolutions/Challenges: none

Reason for Reading: In the 1990s, Nickelodeon came out with a movie, Harriet the Spy. And I loved it as a kid. So I thought I’d see how the book was 🙂

Summary (from Goodreads):

Meet Harriet M. Welsch — one of the most unforgettable, funniest characters in children’s literature. Harriet is a girl with only one ambition in life: to be a spy. She works hard at it — filling her secret notebook with observations about her parents, friends, and neighbors. But when her classmates find her notebook and read her mean comments about them, Harriet finds herself shunned by everyone. How can she put her spying talents to good use and make her friends like her again?

My Thoughts: There isn’t a whole lot to say in regards to this book. It is simple, as much kid fiction goes. And it is pretty much exactly the film. No meaningful differences. And since I will remember the story from the film well, I will, ergo, remember the book . It gets a 3/5 because, even if I enjoy the film, the story isn’t all that wonderful.

But I know has growing up with a diary can get you in trouble. I, myself, started keeping a diary at the age of 11 and because of some innocent “swear” words and three sisters who could read, I got in trouble 😦 But not to the magnitude of Harriet’s dilemma with all her friends learning some bad stuff she said about them.

My Thoughts on Audiobook Format: I liked Bobby’s narration. She did a smart pre-teen voice very well. I definitely prefer an adult doing a child’s voice over an actual child reading. That would probably annoy me a little. And, oddly enough, I think her voice was a lot like Michelle Trachtenberg’s, who played Harriet in the film.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (reread)

TitleHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Author: JK Rowling
Genre: children’s/YA fiction (fantasy)
ISBN: 07807306991
Length: 309 pages
Published: 1997
Source: personal collection
Resolutions/Challenges: the Harry Potter Reading Marathon 2011 hosted by Shannon at Giraffe Days

Reason for Reading: I’ve been really wanting to reread some of the Harry Potter books for the last few months. I don’t know what caused this sudden interest in wanting to read them again, perhaps it’s the second part of the seventh movie coming out soon on a subconscious level. Nevertheless, Shannon began this read-a-long at just the right time–it gave me the perfect excuse to read them 🙂

Summary (from Goodreads):

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

My Thoughts: First of all, I cannot believe that THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED 14 YEARS AGO!! I didn’t read it the first time until sometime in 2001, but anyways…

Secondly, I found that this time around, I was a little bored with the book. I’ve seen the movie hundreds of times (I tend to watch it whenever it’s on TV because I don’t own the DVDs *gasp!*), so the little differences between the book and movie seemed miniscule and I was a little bored. And since Harry is so new to the wizarding world, the plot to this book is rather simple: Something of great importance is hidden at Hogwarts and a bad guy is trying to get it. There’s not a whole lot of details and things that come in later (much longer) books. So the simpleness and redundancy of having seen the story portrayed so many times made me a bit bored. I wouldn’t say I liked it less–I was glad to read something that I already knew after having finished four books last week :O

Here are the Discussion Questions from Shannon’s review post of HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone:

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I’m working on the assumption that most of you are re-reading these books, rather than coming at them for the first time, and that you’ve read the entire series. If this is the first time you’ve read the book, please let us hear your answers for this reading alone.

1. How many times have you read this particular book? Did you like it more or less on this read?

2. Did anything surprise you on this re-read, something you never noticed before perhaps or a detail that struck you as more important, knowing what’s coming later?

3. What is your favourite scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone?

And my answers:

1) I know I have read this book twice already for sure, but I might have read it thrice. So it’s at least my third time, maybe fourth, reading it. As I stated above, I didn’t really like it less even though I was a little bored.

2) This time around I noticed that Erised, as in the Mirror of Erised, is Desire backwards. I admit, I’d never noticed this before 😦 And I feel a little stupid for never having put that together. But, to be fair, the last time I read it was in 2007 and before that it was 2001. So it’s been awhile.
Also, I never realized that the movie skipped the fact that Harry went home with the Dursleys for a whole month (August) after his trip to Diagon Alley with Hagrid on his birthday. In the movie, Harry’s birthday is July 31st and he’s in the hut on the rock. Then Hagrid takes him to Diagon Alley and he goes straight to the Hogwarts Express. As I never thought anything odd about this (for lack of caring, I guess), I never noticed he went to Privet Drive for all of August.

3) As far as the book goes, my favorite passage is when Harry first goes to Diagon Alley. Those descriptions of things entirely unknown to us in the Muggle world are just so amazing!
As for the movie, I love watching Quidditch. While I realize that’s up to your creative imagination, I definitely like how the movie portrayed it. It’s much cooler than what I originally imagined 🙂

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp

TitleThe Rescuers
Author: Margery Sharp, illustrated by Garth Williams
Genre: fiction (children’s fiction)
ISBN: none
Length:
149 pages
Published
: 1959
Source: public library
Rating: 4/5

Reason for Reading: Disney made a movie in 1977 called The Rescuers and is based on this book. I always like to read books that spur some of my favorite movies, so that is the real reasoning behind reading this book.

Summary (product description):

Miss Bianca is a white mouse of great beauty and supreme self-confidence, who, courtesy of her excellent young friend, the ambassador’s son, resides luxuriously in a porcelain pagoda painted with violets, primroses, and lilies of the valley. Miss Bianca would seem to be a pampered creature, and not, you would suppose, the mouse to dispatch on an especially challenging and extraordinarily perilous mission. However, it is precisely Miss Bianca that the Prisoner’s Aid Society (we all know, don’t we, that mice are the friends of prisoners, tending to their needs in dungeons and oubliettes everywhere) picks out for the job of rescuing a Norwegian poet imprisoned in the legendarily dreadful Black Castle. Miss Bianca, after all, is a poet too, and in any case she is due to travel any day now by diplomatic pouch to Norway. There Miss Bianca will be able to enlist one Nils, known to be bravest mouse in the land, in a desperate and daring endeavor that will take them, together with their trusty companion Bernard, across turbulent seas and over the paws and under maws of cats into one of the darkest places known to man or mouse. It will take everything they’ve got and a good deal more to escape with their own lives, leave aside the poet.

My Thoughts: I thought that this book was pretty good read and it was actually quite filled with action. As a result, I actually read it in only a few hours. Well, that and the fact that it’s a children’s book so it’s not very long anyways. There wasn’t much depth in the story, but I realize that is because of the target audience. I was trying to figure out how the mice would save the Norwegian and found that I was thinking too much and trying to figure out complex ways–in the end the rescue mission was very simple.

But, while there wasn’t much depth in the story because it’s a children’s book, the story itself didn’t seem as if it should be directed at children. I didn’t feel that the story was inappropriate for children, necessarily, but rather that it was just something a child wouldn’t be interested in. Yes, there are mice. And in the mid-1900s, talking mice might have been a crazy idea! But with all of the children’s books and movies today, mice aren’t all that great 🙂 And maybe I’m just feeling this way because I think the Disney movie is more interesting to children than this book.

Book vs. 1977 Disney Film: The stories are essentially different in every way, aside from the names of Bernard and Bianca. And only the names–the characters belonging to these names were quite different between the two. To be quite honest, I’m not sure how the screenwriters for the Disney film even arrived at their story if it was based on this book, they are that different. Perhaps there were parts from the rest of the Rescuers series books that spurred parts of the movie, but I have no way of knowing that quite yet as I haven’t read them. Just don’t expect the same story in the book and the movie.

On a side note, the book appears that it will be reissued this year. There is a lovely looking edition to come out this July, at least according to Amazon.com. Same illustrations as the first edition I read, but a prettier cover, to be sure 🙂

Lisa & Lottie by Erich Kästner

TitleLisa and Lottie (originally Das Oppelte Lottchen)
Author: Erich Kästner
Genre: children’s fiction
ISBN: none (old edition)
Length: 136 pages
Year Published: 1949
Source: public library
Rating: 5/5
Challenges/Resolutions: Years of Books Goal

Summary: Lottie Horn and Lisa Palfy meet at a summer camp for girls when they are nine years old. The surprise is, they look exactly like each other! Lottie–from Munich–only has a mother; Lisa–from Vienna–only has a father. It doesn’t take long for the girls to discover what they really are to each other: twin sisters! At the end of camp, they decide to switch places to get to know their other parent. But when it turns out that their plans to reconcile their parents is threatened by a young woman out to marry their father, things start to get a little crazy 🙂

My Thoughts: I already knew how the story ended because I’ve seen both film versions of The Parent Trap, which are based on this children’s book and I just assumed that the ending couldn’t deviate too far. But it was still a wonderful book. These girls are quite smart for being only nine years old–they seem older than that, in my opinion. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to this novel, probably because of the intended audience. Even the part that should be the most complex isn’t very: the part when the girls’ parents decide whether or not to get back together. They just sort of decide without any discussion or anything. (This part in the movies is much more interesting.) But I realize that could get complicated for younger readers, so I understand why it’s written that way.

Book vs. Films (1961 & 1998 versions of The Parent Trap)
I think that the book and the films are just great 🙂 The stories follow the same storyline, but the smaller details are pretty much all different. That makes them different enough that I can enjoy each in its own right. I’d love to read the book to my future kids. Although I never understood why exactly in both of the films, they used a non-twin girl. Wouldn’t it have just been really easy to use real twins in the films? But, then again, if they used real twins, they might not be “identical” enough. For some reason this never occurred to me 😕 Duh!

Holiday Children’s Books: Part III (Finale)

Happy Festivus! 😀

Holiday Children’s Books: Part IHoliday Children’s Books: Part II

My last post–at least this year–about children’s holiday books 🙂

Hershel and the Holiday Goblins by Eric A Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
This was a funny little story. Goblins are keeping a small village from celebrating Hanukkah, just because they don’t like it. So Hershel comes to town and decides he’ll defeat the goblins. And, not surprisingly (as it is a children’s book), Hershel is victorious! The illustrations for this book were lovely, and they reminded my of Steven Kellogg’s art. I don’t know if the story is original or if it is supposed to take on after some tradition, but I’m guessing it’s original–the goblins don’t really seem like they would fit with an older tale, but I could be wrong. But the pictures might be a little frightening for young kids, so be aware.

Where Did They Hide My Presents? Silly Dilly Christmas Songs by Alan Katz and David Catrow
These songs were hilarious! They are just new words set to traditional holiday songs, such as “The Sugarplum Fairy” song set to the Little Drummer Boy 😀 I think this book would be great to accompany a CD of holiday music that has no words, just instrumental holiday songs. That way young children, who might not have the tunes memorized and/or might have trouble putting new words to the songs could have more fun. This is definitely a book I want to have 🙂

Hanna’s Christmas by Melissa Peterson, illustrated by Melissa Iwai
This story is about Hanna, who moved with her family from Sweden to America. From what I understand, much of Scandinavia and some of Eastern Europe celebrates St. Lucia’s Day. Hanna was upset that, because her family moved during the holiday season, they weren’t going to be able to celebrate. But she managed to make a St. Lucia’s Day celebration of sorts for her family with the help of a mischievous tomten, which hid in a crate from her Grandma back in Sweden. The story was nice and presented another holiday that children around the world celebrate aside from Christmas. For that reason, I really liked it 🙂

Holiday Children’s Books: Part II

I’ve been reading some children’s books about the holidays recently and I already wrote one post about them, located here: Holiday Children’s Books: Part I. There is a assortment of books for this post as well, although they are sort of grouped into categories.

Hanukkah/Jewish Stories

The Jar of Fools: Eight Hanukkah Stories from Chelm by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
These eight stories were very entertaining. Kimmel notes at the back of the book that some of these stories are retellings of traditional Yiddish tales, some are adaptations of stories from other traditions, and some are purely original 🙂 I think that the stories would be great for any children, especially older children who might see how the “fools” of Chelm are not very bright. I think my favorite story out of this collection was The Magic Spoon. In it, a stranger brings a magic spoon to Chelm and creates latkes from nothing–but the latkes would taste better with extra potatoes, onions, meal, and eggs. (So he tricks the “fools” into bringing all the ingredients…) Reading some of these Hanukkah stories have really made me want to make some latkes! I’ve never had them, let alone baked them. So it could be something fun to do during the holidays–they sound tasty!! (PS- I didn’t really care for the illustrations in this book.)

When Mindy Saved Hanukkah by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
I loved this story. Such a good moral/lesson, too: no matter how big or little you are, you can be a hero. Of course, these “little” people weren’t children, but actual little people, a la the Borrowers 🙂 But children will understand that they can do things that make a difference, and I think that’s important for children to know. Oh, an the illustrations in this book were AMAZING! A great addition to the story 🙂

Kwanzaa Stories

K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book by Juwanda G. Ford, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
A very straightforwardly educational book. And there is nothing wrong with that. If a young child asked his or her parents what is Kwanzaa, I would say this is an excellent book to tell them what the holiday means and what traditions happen during Kwanzaa. It even has the seven principles at the very beginning, so you can tell the children what is at the root of Kwanzaa. Another book with great illustrations 😀

The Gifts of Kwanzaa by Synthia Saint James
Another straightforward book to introduce children to Kwanzaa. Reading the “About Kwanzaa” information in the front, I saw that there are seven symbols of Kwanzaa–I didn’t know that. I just knew about the seven principles. But this book does lay out which principle is celebrated on which day during the holiday, something none of the other books have done. But I don’t know if there is a set order for these principles and their corresponding days or if that’s a family/individual choice.

Santa’s Kwanzaa by Garen Eileen Thomas, illustrated by Guy Francis
I think this story is a wonderful way to sort of combine Christmas and Kwanzaa, as it’s perfectly reasonable for some families to celebrate both holidays. Basically, the story sets Santa Claus as a man of African descent–who say’s he can’t be anyway?! And as he returns home to the North Pole after working all of Christmas, a surprise Kwanzaa celebration awaits him. It’s written in a rhyme, much like the original ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. But I think this book is a great way to combine two holidays. And, again, the illustrations were beautiful 🙂

Various Santa Stories

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
I wish I had this book as a child. It tells us how Santa got his job: he was a chimney sweep, a postman, a cook at a diner, a zookeeper (who preferred the reindeer), and a guy who performed at the circus with his reindeer friends. Finally, elves hired him to deliver their toys for free to all the children. It’s such a great story, and everything obviously illustrates how each job prepared Santa Claus to do what he does now 😀 Another one with great illustrations.

Santa Duck by David Milgrim
I’m not sure about this one. It’s not a bad book, but I just thought it was sort of lacking in story. Perhaps it is meant for even younger children than the other children’s books I’m reading. And that’s why I feel it’s lacking? Not sure. Nicholas Duck dresses up as Santa and everyone mistakes him for Santa. So he passes this information on to the real Santa when he meets him and Santa asks him to help next year, too. It’s a fairly simple story…

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev
Santa’s favorite story is the story of the birth of God’s son. It’s a pretty short story. But Santa “reminds” the readers that Christmas doesn’t really have anything to do with him–Jesus is the big deal. So it might be easiest to tell children the story of Jesus’ birth first, so they know all of it (since this just sort of mentioned it). But, again, the story of Jesus’ birth can be presented as a religious story or a fictional story, depending on your own religious standing. And while the cover below says “Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas”, my cover is a bit different, so I didn’t know this was going to happen. It sort of took me by surprise, honestly. Beautiful watercolor illustrations!

I do have another children’s book about Santa, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L Frank Baum (author of the Wizard of Oz series). But it’s actually a hefty book, so I think it might be long enough to warrant it’s own review. If not, I’ll just tag it on to the end of this and delete this little message 🙂