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All posts for the month September, 2013

Books My Mother Gave Me: Treehorn’s Treasure (Florence Parry Hide) Review

Published September 30, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This is the second and only other book I have from the Treehorn collection – there are about five of them – it’s style is, of course, very similar to The Shrinking of Treehorn and the story is told simply. As if nothing is out of the ordinary about it.

“‘The leaves on the tree in our garden are turning into dollar bills.’ ‘Some people have all the luck,’ said the girl.”

Treehorn is given a dollar by his father who tells him to save it by keeping it somewhere safe. He puts it in an envelope he was going to use to send of for a magic set with and places it in a tree in his garden. Then the tree starts turning into money.

Treehorn tries to tell people such as his father who is having trouble with money that there is some growing on the tree outside, but the adults in Treehorn’s world either don’t listen to him or don’t believe him. In fact, even those that do seem to believe him act so nonchalantly about it, that you are never entirely sure, whether they think he’s pretending and are going along with it or believe him and just don’t care.

“‘I thought it was a maple tree, but now that the leaves are turning into dollar bills, I’m not sure,'”

The book is good at showing you Treehorn’s world, where Treehorn, despite the strange things which happen to him, seems to be the only person who has any idea of what is going on, and children reading it or having it read to them can relate to him.

The book is also genuinely funny in places, or at least funny to small children, such as The phone conversation between Treehorn and his father when his father thinks he is talking to his mother.

Everything goes back to normal at the end of the book when his father convinces him to open a savings account with his money instead.

When I was younger, I always thought this was the more boring of the the Two Treehorn books we had. Maybe it was to do with the title of the other one seeming so much more original than another story about treasure. But the way the story is told and the completeness of Treehorn’s world make this book just as original as The Shrinking of Treehorn and just as entertaining to read, if not more so than the other book.

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Books My Mother Gave Me: The Shrinking of Treehorn (Florence Parry Hide) Review

Published September 23, 2013 by ElisaChristy

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This is a short book, designed mainly for children to read alone. The premise is exactly as the title suggests: Treehorn is shrinking and he doesn’t know why.

“‘If you want to pretend you’re shrinking, that’s all right,’ said Treehorn’s mother, ‘as long as you don’t do it at the table.'”

The adults in Treehorn’s life either remain in denial about him shrinking, or assume it is his fault somehow and tell him to stop it.  Adults not understanding children and blaming them for things they have no control over is common in books of this sort, though I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which does it quite like this one does.

“‘First it was the cake and now it’s this. Everything happens at once.'”

The book is illustrated by Edward Gorey and indeed the writing, although not by him, also carries some of his humour.  As Treehorn keeps shrinking, the adults seems to just hope it goes away, his principal at school gives him advice to stop shrinking and seems to think he has solved the problem, but of course Treehorn knows he hasn’t. The book is good at portraying how odd adults seem to children, how we ignore, what to them are entirely obvious problems that need answers, and we ignore them because we don’t know how to fix them. For a book under a 100 pages long, that’s an impressive feat.

“‘I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose. Just to be different.'”

We learn at the beginning of the book, that Treehorn regularly sends off for prizes you can get from cereal boxes, and it is one of these  – a board game – which is causing him to shrink. When he finishes the board game, he regains his normal height. The book ends with a cliffhanger – Treehorn turns green – but this time he decides not to tell anyone, because he’s sure they won’t notice unless he mentions it.

The book is easy to read for children, it portrays shrinking as both a normal and abnormal thing at the same time. The book is humourous and if you have read some of Edward Gorey’s writing, it’s a safe bet that you will enjoy Florence Parry Hide too.

Books My Mother Gave Me: Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer) Review

Published September 16, 2013 by ElisaChristy

I could never remember the first time I was read this book. I can remember reading it myself frequently, but I am sure I never would have done if it had not been read to me first, as it is not the sort of book I usually think I like – girls in Enid Blytonesque boarding schools were never my favourite.

My favourite song by The Cure is also Charlotte Sometimes which is based on this book, if you read the book and then listen to the song, you can hear the quotes they have taken directly from the book.

The story follows Charlotte as she starts her new school, but on waking up after her first night there, she finds the school looking different, everyone calling her Clare and talking about the  first world war. The next day, it’s back to normal and being called Charlotte again – as this keeps happening on alternate days, she really is Charlotte Sometimes.

“What would happen if people did not recognize you? Would you know who you were yourself? If tomorrow they started to call her Vanessa or Janet or Elizabeth, Would she know how to feel like Charlotte? Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that?”

The style of writing in the book is very detailed, but none of it seems out of place. At first, as you are seeing it from Charlotte’s point of view, you doubt the situation as much as she does, as you know it was her first night at school, so it’s perfectly possible she did not know people’s names or what the buildings looked like as with everything that happens at a new school, it;s possible she didn’t pay much attention to the colour of the walls. You realise what is happening as she does, slowly, in installments, and this makes it believable.

“As she grew older, she seemed to be afraid of more things not less.”

When I was younger, and reading it again now, I was always slightly disappointed that you never saw things from Clare’s point of view especially with the descriptive writing style as describing the future in that style would have been interesting to read.

“How could you dare to become a soldier, knowing that you might end like this?”

You never know the precise reason, Charlotte and Clare are swapping places. It seems to be an amalgamation of things really, and all of them need to be occurring for the chance to occur.

The book is one you carry on thinking about long after you’ve finished reading. It leaves you in a slight daze for a while, that you come out of slowly, noticing details, as in the book, as you go – it’s a good feeling though and the writing style really makes the book stand up to repeated readings.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark (Jill Tomlinson) Review

Published September 9, 2013 by ElisaChristy

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This is the first book I have re-read which is probably meant for younger readers, although all the books I’m reading are for children; this one is probably aimed at five year old’s and under. Which is about the age I was when I was first read it.

I do not know whether this book was bought because I was afraid of the dark or whether we already owned it. Anyway the book follows an owl named Plop – which is a very entertaining name at five, but seems to describe his landing skills rather than anything else – as he asks people around him about the dark, so he can learn about the dark and stop being scared of it – which would make his parent’s lives much easier.

The Chapter names reflect what Plop leanrs about the dark with names such as “Dark is Exciting”, “Dark is kind” or “Dark is necessary” etc. depending on what Plop learns about the dark in each chapter.

“‘What do you know about the dark?’ ‘It’s black,’ said Plop. ‘Well that’s wrong for a start. It can be silver or blue or grey or lots of other colours, but almost never black.’

As Plop finds out more about the dark, he starts to like all the things you can only do when it is dark such as set off fireworks, but he still doesn’t like the dark itself, but slowly he stops minding being left on his own while his parents go out hunting.

“‘Dark is kind in all sorts of ways. Dark hides things like shabby furniture and the hole in the carpet. It hides my wrinkles and my gnarled old hands. I can forget that I’m old in the dark.'”

As the book is aimed at younger children it is very short, it took me less than 24 hours to finish.

This book was definitely a book I remembered being read. I’m sure I must have had it read to me more than once, while it may not have actually stopped me from being afraid of the dark myself, (I still am a little bit) it was a book I occasionally re-read myself long after my mother stopped reading to me, because it is a good book to read if you are scared for any other reason – such as from watching a horror film. And if an owl can be scared of the dark, then it’s alright for me to be scared of horror films and read this to recuperate after watching them.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Land of Green Ginger (Noel Langley) Book Review

Published September 2, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The only things I particularly remembered from this book were the chapter titles. They are named “Chapter the First, Second…etc.” and come with a brief description of what happened in each chapter.

The story seems to be a sort of sequel to Aladdin, as it follows his son Abu Ali who has to find the Land of Green Ginger – a magical kitchen garden which floats around the world – and help the magician who created it, as a spell went wrong and he got turned into a button nosed tortoise. That’s a quest if ever I heard one.

“You must be very proud of having a son who can only say boomalakka wee.”

The story knows it is nonsense and doesn’t try to explain itself away. In fact various characters sometimes point out the plot holes, before being told not to worry about such trivial things when there’s bigger things going on.

The two villains are princes who want to marry the same girl as Abu Ali. They are hapless and spend most of their time arguing with each other, but are definitely entertaining.

“‘Never put all your eggs in one basket,’ advised Ping Foo profoundly. ‘Meaning what?’ asked Rubdub sharply. ‘One thing at a time,’ counselled Ping Foo…’Then why drag in eggs?’ ‘I never knew a man so touchy about eggs!'”

Abu Ali has been given the magic lamp, but can only use one wish. When he does so the genie does not appear, instead his son does and he gets stuck on earth because he is not yet very good at spells.

To win the heart of his princess – the princess Silver Bud – Abu Ali must find three phoenix feathers which are supposedly extinct, everywhere but the Land of Green Ginger, which finds them rather than them finding it.

“A sentence without syntax is like an egg without salt.”

The book ends happily with Abu Ali marrying the princess Silver Bud and everyone getting back to where or what they are supposed to be.

As all I remembered was the chapter titles, I was surprised by how much there is in the book. It may be nonsense, but it’s nonsense with a plot. The book is more entertaining than I thought it would be, which is probably the reason I was read it in the first place.

As it is a sort of sequel to Aladdin, a working knowledge of that book may come in useful as characters from it are mentioned and as I only know the disney version of Aladdin then I wasn’t entirely sure who the people being mentioned were, but knowing the story isn’t vital as none of the original story’s characters have much to do with the main plot.

The book is sort of like a literary pantomime and would probably do quite well if it were made into a real one.