books my mother gave me

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Books My Mother Gave Me: Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle (C.S Lewis) Review

Published December 30, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This is the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Nearly all of the characters from earlier Narnia books make an appearance in this one, including Eustace Scrubbs who is a character in one of the two Narnia books I don’t own.

“One always feels better when one has made up one’s mind.”

All the characters come to Narnia, as for most of the book they seem to be pulled there while they are on a train. This has happened before to the Pevensie children in Prince Caspian, but this time it seems to be more of a bumpy transition between the worlds, the reason for which the characters find out at the end.

Most of the book is taken up with a donkey pretending to be Aslan with the help of a monkey, though this takes up much of the book it is not the main focus, the main focus is instead the end of Narnia and how it ends.

“‘She wasted all her school time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste the rest of her life trying to stay that age.'”

With most of the characters being together for the first time in all the books, this book acts as a very fitting end to the stories, along with the plot which is about things ending and what happens afterwards. The religious symbolism of this story is probably stronger in this book than in the others because of this being the main focus. However, it doesn’t detract from the story as much as it could do. Instead, it makes the story seem more coherent because of it.

If you like the previous Narnia books, then chances are you will like this noe for all the same reasons. It really does make an interesting end to the series.

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Books My Mother Gave Me: The Magician’s Nephew – Chronicles of Narnia (C.S Lewis) Review

Published December 23, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The Magician’s Nephew was definitely my favourite of the Narnia books growing up. I think because it explained so very much of what happened in later books – even if it did mean I would never be able to find a wardrobe that took me to Narnia because there’s only one, at least I knew why there was only one.

The book is set in a very definite time again – as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was – possibly Edwardian times, although it’s never explicitly stated, instead we are given references such as cabbies still having horse drawn carts etc.

“I don’t mean another planet, you know; they’re part of our world and you could get to them if you went far enough – but a really other world – another Nature – another universe – somewhere you would never reach even if you travelled through the space of this universe for ever and ever.”

The children – Digory and Polly – arrive at Narnia via magic rings and seem to arrive at the beginning of its time as there is nothing there. They had previously been to another world called Charn – also via the rings but I won’t say how the rings work – which was at the end of its time; the sun was nearly dead and there was only one living person in the world.

Once they arrive in Narnia they watch Aslan creating the world, as the world is so new anything that is planted in the ground grows such as a part of a lamp-post…

“‘It’s not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.'”

The religious symbolism from the other books is if anything more prevalent here than in the others, with Aslan creating the world and the witch the children bought with them eating from what must be a form of the tree of knowledge, but it is adapted enough for it to be its own plot and an interesting plot at that.

“The more dressed up you were to begin with, the worse you look after you’ve crawled out of a hansom-cab and fallen into a muddy brook.”

While the children do seem quite out of date compared to how you would expect a child to talk today, even if it is set in Edwardian times – they do seem very much like children in a story rather than children that might actually exist, being a little too good at times, but the imagery which is present in all the Chronicles of Narnia books – including the ones I don’t own – more than makes up for this as you can imagine yourself there so clearly that it doesn’t matter if the other people don’t seem as real.

“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”

The book remains one of my favourite Narnia stories as it ties up so many loose ends, the only question which remains is am I supposed to read it first even though it was not written first?

Books My Mother Gave Me: Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and Hos Boy (C.S Lewis) Review

Published December 16, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The Horse and His Boy is the first story which takes place entirely in the world of Narnia (and the surrounding countries) rather than in England, however it is set in the time when Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy were kings and queens in Narnia so its time period is clearly set.

“Shasta thought that beyond the hill there must be some delightful secret which his father wished to hide from him. In reality, however, his father talked like this because he didn’t know what lay to the North.”

The story follows Shasta who runs away from home to avoid being sold as a slave. He finds out his horse can talk as it is a Narnian horse, so the two of them decide to go and live in Narnia. They also meet a princess who is running away from her arranged marriage.

Shasta is taken away by the kings and queens of Narnia who mistake him for a lord’s son who has gone missing, because they look exactly alike – though that is explained later. The mistaken identity only really takes up a few pages, so you don’t have endless pages about him pretending to be the lord’s son.

“‘I mean can you fall and get up again without crying and mount again and fall again and yet not be afraid of falling?'”

The book does spend a lot of time with them travelling. They travel for a certain period if time and then something happens, then they travel more and something else happens. I seem to remember being bored by this story the first time i was read it, whether because of the travelling or because of the story itself I can’t remember, but on re-reading I think I prefer this story to Prince Caspian, which I always thought one of my favourites of the Narnia books. It’s a lot clearer than Prince Caspian, less time seems to be taken up with meetings and choosing sides, which means the battle can be explained in more detail – although explained in detail from a character who isn’t there because he’s watching it in a magic pool.

“Like most days when you are alone and waiting for something this day seemed about a hundred hours long.”

The book certainly works whether you read it in chronological order with the other books (I think that would make it the second book though it was the third written) or even if you read this book before all the others, it is still a coherent enough story to be read on its own and it does not have to be preceded by the other two books to be enjoyed.

 

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) Review

Published December 2, 2013 by ElisaChristy

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is the ultimate modern fairy tale. The title alone is recognisable to almost everyone whether they have read the book or not and it is the sort of story you already know even before you read it.

“‘There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling the lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

The story starts quick. The Pevensie children are evacuated from London and sent to the Professor’s house within the first three sentences. Lucy first encounters Narnia by the end of the first chapter. This puts the focus firmly on Narnia rather than on Earth.

At first, no-one believes Lucy, but when her brother Edmund finds Narnia and immediately is spotted by the white witch instead of a kind faun like Lucy was that the plot really starts to get going.

I’ve been told that the first time I was read this, I was terrified of Edmund being given turkish delight by the white witch, and my mother had to stop reading. I can only assume I thought it was poisoned, which it is of course, but not in a particularly scary way.

“That is how beavers talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia – in our world they usually don’t talk at all.”

The religious symbolism throughout the book is clear. Aslan is always portrayed as their god, albeit a god with a physical form and presence, however the religious aspects are not the main focus of the book, as C.S Lewis has said himself, that that all came later after his initial idea of a magic world covered in snow.

Instead the main focus is more on Edmund and journey from accidental traitor to purposeful traitor to him redeeming himself by killing the white witch and becoming badly injured in the process.

The writing style of the book is the third person, but the narrator is given a definite personality saying things such as:

“This lasted longer than I could describe even if I wrote pages and pages about it.”

This fits with the story being a children’s story, as you can almost imagine someone reading it to you even if you are reading alone.

The visual descriptions of Narnia also help bring the world to life,as it is easy to imagine the world covered with snow, the lamp-post in the middle of the forest, and the many magical creatures that live in Narnia.

The way the children speak may be deemed slightly old fashioned these days, but as the book is clearly set during the second world war, then that does not matter. There is a reason the book is a modern classic – everything in it is so memorable, so easily pictured right down to the title.

Books My Mother Gave Me: Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) Review

Published November 25, 2013 by ElisaChristy

My overriding memory of this story is not in fact the book or the film with Dakota Fanning, but the 1973 cartoon musical which we used to own on video. The book itself – although without songs – is a very well written story.

Charlotte's web

The story follows Wilbur the pig as he is first saved from being killed, for being the runt of the litter, by Fern and later saved by Charlotte the spider. 

The title character of Charlotte doesn’t come into the book until about three chapters in, but it is an introduction worth waiting for.

“Fern had named her pet, selecting the most beautiful name she could think of. ‘It’s name is Wilbur,’ she whispered to herself.”

Once Wilbur is grown, he is taken to a farmyard with lots of other animals such as geese, sheep and cows. Each animal has a distinct way of talking. The geese, for instance, repeat words and parts of words when they talk and you can clearly imagine that that is how geese talk. Charlotte, however, uses lots of long words such as “Salutations.”

Charlotte takes it into her own hands to stop the farmers from killing Wilbur come Christmas time. She does this by weaving words into her web such as:

Image

“They just keep trotting back and forth across the bridge thinking there is something better on the other side.”

After a while Charlotte changes the words to “Radiant” which is from a soap advert in a magazine that the rat bought her back from the dump. All the humans on the farm view the web as some sort of miracle leading a dramatic irony situation as the reader knows it’s just random words from adverts and that she nearly ended up writing “Pre-shrunk” instead.

“‘It seems to me you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.”

E.B White obviously spent a lot of time researching spiders as there is a lot of scientific names used in the book such as “spinnerets” to help Charlotte spin her web and Charlotte making her egg sac at the end.

The book does seem to end on a bittersweet note as Charlotte does die, but a few of her children live on in the farmyard while the others go and make their homes elsewhere. Which means Wilbur always has a few spider friends living in his farmyard. The writing describing Charlotte’s death is like the rest of the book. Simple but effective. It doesn’t go in for sentimentality and it doesn’t seem as if it is trying to make you cry. This works by making you more sad and more likely to cry (though I didn’t cry.) than if it was over emotional. Charlotte’s death is portrayed as a part of life. Sad but necessary as her children must take her place.

Although obviously a book for children the writing can be enjoyed by anyone.

Books My Mother Gave Me: Dragonrise (Kathryn Cave) Review

Published November 18, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This book is definitely either a book for younger children or for children to read themselves as the writing is very simple and the story easy to follow.

“When sunlight fades and starlight flies/Look west to Wales/For Dragonrise.”

The story is about a boy called Tom who finds a dragon underneath his bed, at first he befreinds the dragon, but as anyone who has ver read fantasy knows – dragons like to eat maidens, or damsels or girls and this particular dragon wants to eat Tom’s sister, therefore Tom must stop him by finding the dragon alternative food.

As most people are unaware of the existence of dragons and the dragonwatch wish to keep it that way, then dragony things such as breathing immense amounts of fire at nightfall – known as Dragonrise – are strictly forbidden punishable by Being Sent To Wales, which is apparently the worst thing that can happen to a dragon.

“No matter how Tom tried to make the day pass quickly, the clock went on ticking at its normal speed and not a second faster.”

The writing is simple but enjoyable for any age, so is a good book for reading to a child as well as the child reading it themselves. I don’t know whether it is the fact I lived in Wales for three years, but I find the dragon’s hatred of Wales much funnier than I should, I’m sure.

The plot is simple and resolved in a few pages really at the end and without giving away too much of the plot the book definitely uses the Chekov’s gun principle of writing in terms of what Dragonrise is. So to paraphrase the writing method: You should not mention Dragonrise unless you are going to use Dragonrise before the end of the story. The method usually applies to play writing, but I’m sure it applies to books too.

The book is short, but this works in its favour and is quite a nice story to read in one afternoon as I did.

Books My Mother Gave Me: The Chewing Gum Rescue and Other Stories (Margaret Mahy) Short Story Review

Published November 4, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This book remains to this day, one of my designated insomnia books. If I can’t sleep, a few stories from this book are just the thing to relax me enough that I can sleep. Not that it’s a boring book, in fact I’ve read it so many times I can even read the ripped page where half of the words are missing. 

The book is a collection of stories, so some are more entertaining than others. The Chewing Gum Rescue – the first story in the book – tells of children called Florence, Flora, Fenella, Felicity and Francesca (A lot of the names in the stories use alliteration) and how their passion for a certain extra sticky chewing gum helps them capture goat thieves who are trying to steal their father’s goats.

“A Canoe is just not the same sort of thing as a tree-house.”

The Giant’s Bath tells of a family who buy a house which used to belong to a giant and as a result they end up being swept down the plug hole of the giant’s bath and end up almost slaying but then saving a dragon in the process.

Adventure seems to be a key theme in a lot of the stories –The Boy Who Made Things Up, about a boy who is so good at making things up, others can see his imaginings too, and the Travelling Boy and The Stay at Home Bird about a boy who wants to travel, but whose aunt won’t let him, so he gets replaced by a bird and is finally free to make all the journeys he wants.

” [Sam] saw at once that the pet shop man was full of journeys too, but that his journeys had all been taken. He wore them openly on his face, which was line like a map with the tracery of a thousand explorations.”

Some of the stories are more readable than others, I remember being bored by the story of The World’s Highest Tray Cloth, while the writing is good and even the premise – a girl climbs the tallest tree in town and wants to mark her achievement. It never seemed to have as much drama or adventure as some of the others, but reading it again, it does make you nostalgic for childhood when all you needed to do to be happy was climb a tree.

“One of those small shops that seem to have been there for ever.”

The stories in the book work well whether they are being read to you or by yourself. They are safe stories where nothing particularly bad happens and everything works out well in the end, which is probably why it works so well as an insomnia book for me.