Friday, 25 October 2019

Review Five: bookgroup at a distance

I Believe in Unicorns - Michael Morpurgo

I love many of Michael Morpurgo's books - if you read too many in a row then they can become a little samey but the writing always make them a satisfying read. He also manages to cover some very serious topics in a way that isn't sensationalist in anyway.

Anyhow our third joint read was something completely different, being a hugely popular contemporary read. Kentishbookboy's thoughts are purple and mine are in brown.

I Believe in Unicorns

Eight-year-old Tomas hates school, hates books and hates stories. Forced to visit the library by his mother, he stops to listen to the magical tales that the Unicorn Lady spins - tales that draw him in, making themselves part of him. But things are changing in the world, as the distant rumble of war is suddenly brought close to home both events change the course of his life forever.

Tomas lives in an unidentified rural location and would far rather be spending time out in the fresh air, learning about country life, with his dad rather than in school or sharing hobbies with his mum. However a visit to the library and the story lady and her unicorn changes this and when war comes to the area the power of words to bring a community together really shine through. 

Tomas is forced to go to the public library (during the rain) while his mother goes shopping and he doesn't want to. The war is also exploding around him, changing his life completely.

Tomas is taken to the library unwillingly but slowly falls in love with the power of words, when war and violence come to the village will the community stay together and cope with events?

Moral: Believe in the impossible.
Themes: Books have the power to transform lives, as Tomas becomes more confident at each library visit.

This is all about the importance of words and in a way is a book form of the rhyme 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me' and indeed it is words that can heal.

I would recommend the book because it is lovely to read and it teaches people that you can find happiness in a book. 4 stars

I really enjoyed this short read, by not mentioning any countries or time frames then the book is simultaneously modern and a fable that could be from any point in the past 100 years - in fact only the illustrations give it anything like a fixed historical point.
The story could very easily have been twee and saccharine but for me it was just right and I am sad that it has taken me so long to read this one!

The telling of hard to cope with ideas through fiction is a fine line to tread - books have to be realistic but not overwhelming but also not so opaque that any serious points are trivialised and I think that this books manages it perfectly. I love the way that Kentishbookboy picks out the similar themes to me although as yet he doesn't have the world experiences to pick on quite the same allegories as me. I found it interesting that both my sister and I were trying to pin the book down to a specific time / geographical setting but that we couldn't didn't ruin the book.

The next book review may be a little longer in appearing as our next read is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and it is approaching half term.  Potter will be an interesting book to review as Kentishbookboy's mum has steadfastly refused to read these books or see these films!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Review Four - book group at a distance

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Longer chapters made keeping apace on reading this book a little more challenging than our recent books but we did all manage to finish the book this weekend.

Mixing up our book genres is a great way to keep reading a fun activity and although I know I've read Alice more than once in the past it was like coming to a completely new story.

Kentishbookboy's thoughts are purple and mine (with interjections from Mr Norfolkbookworm this time) are in brown.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice is spending time with her sister, and gets very bored listening to her read, so she begins to daydream. Alice's adventures lead her down a rabbit hole into Wonderland, where she meets an array of curious and strange characters - including the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle and the grinning Cheshire Cat.

Alice is sitting with her sister, who is reading quietly, and is bored - the book doesn't seem to have pictures or illustrations and so Alice isn't interested. All of a sudden Alice notices a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat and looking at a pocket watch, run by. Alice follows the rabbit down a rabbit hole and falls into a weird and wonderful world.

Alice lands in a world where everything is utter nonsense. From always being tea time, to talking animals, and playing card soldiers, Wonderland is completely unique and confusing!

Alice is in a world where nothing makes sense, however familiar it looks. Cats grin, babies turn into pigs and Alice can't stay the same size. How is she going to survive her adventures, keep her head and return to her own world?

Morals: Believe in yourself what you can achieve
Themes: Try to make sense of the world around you.

It is a quite hard to pick out a moral or theme from this book. You could say that don't eat or drink anything you are unsure of (and checking it doesn't say poison isn't quite enough!) is a good lesson to take. That it is ok to be curious is potentially another one, as is being open minded to anything out of the ordinary.

I'm not sure whether to recommend this book because even though it's complete nonsense, it can also be quite difficult to understand in places. 3 1/2 stars

Hard to put into words how I feel about this book, the story is great and magical but it did feel a little bit of a slog at times. I can't say that children's literature has 'dumbed down' since Alice was published - you only have to look at The Umbrella Mouse to see that hard topics are covered - but something has definitely changed, and to be honest I think for the better.
I can't really say that my opinions are formed because I am more familiar with the Disney adaptation of the story - the Cheshire cat in that terrified me as a child and I will still switch over if I see the cartoon on!
I think I give the book 4 stars overall as so much of the book does remain in our consciousness today, even if the prose was hard work!

What I find most interesting is that Kentishbookboy highlights that the story is a dream/daydream from the very start, but when chatting to Mr Norfolkbookworm he was talking about the abrupt ending to the book - not even thinking that this was simply because Alice wakes up!

We're back to something more contemporary with our next book as it is the Michael Morpurgo novella I Believe in Unicorns.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Excuses, excuses

Time for me to post a confession - please don't think that the slow down in book related posts has anything to do with the Kentishbookboy - he's as busy reading as much as a busy nine year old can. The slow down has all been me.

I've just started a new round of my secret reviewing work which comes with deadlines that I find harder to meet now. I've also been out and about making the most of the nice autumn weather when possible - I'm not sure if you can store up sunshine and vitamin D against the winter but I'm certainly trying!

Finally I've also been doing more recently - there was the excellent trip to the O2 for the 2nd Space Rocks day (oh and book browsing after with Kentishbookboy as we look for our next contemporary read), I've been to a great author talk with Armistead Maupin and then this weekend Mr Norfolkbookworm and I are back off to Pontefract to meet astronaut Jack Lousma.

I will try to catch up with some of our reviews in the next week or so - there's a couple of books we've both read a while ago, and then there will be out thoughts on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

For now here's a couple of my pictures from the past few weeks - I love the wildlife and landscapes of East Anglia!