The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots

Oh Joy!  A new Beatrix Potter book has been discovered.  Beatrix Potter would be 150 on July 28, 2016, and her writing lives on.  Her latest book – The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots will be published in September.

“The tale really is the best of Beatrix Potter. It has double identities, colourful villains and a number of favourite characters from other tales (including Mr Tod, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Ribby and Tabitha Twitchit)”. An “older, slower and portlier” Peter Rabbit also makes an appearance.”  from Jo Hanks who discovered a letter Beatrix Potter had sent her publisher about the manuscript in 1914, leading to the search for the book.

clip-art-beatrix-potter-336805Although she died in 1943, Beatrix Potter is still one of the world’s best-selling authors. She wrote and illustrated 28 books.  How many have you read?

The Hollow Land

Although a recent review of Jane Gardam’s  The Hollow Land promised a new Unknownpaperback version of her children’s book, I found the 1981 hardback in my library. I was rewarded with a picture of a young Gardam on the back cover – quite different from the recent pictures I’ve seen of the 86-year-old, but still familiar.

The pages are yellowed and spotted, but the stories are as wonderful as Meg Wolitzer promised in her New York Times review.

In 1981, Gardam had already been nominated for the Booker Prize, had written three novels, and four children’s books. The Hollow Land won the Whitbread prize and her Old Filth, the book that led to her rediscovery in America, was decades in the future.

The nine stories center around the friendship of two boys, Harry Bateman, a city dweller from London and Bell Teasdale, from the Cumbria hillside where the book gets it name. Harry’s family rents a summer house on the Teasdale farm.  From the beginning, the differences between the city and country cultures almost stop the action with a misunderstanding between the families.  But the mothers resolve the issue, and the beat goes on. Secret hideaways, scary tall-tales around the fire, and daily adventures connect the stories, yet the down-home flavor of the dialogue and the British colloquialisms can be daunting and sometimes interrupt the action.  But this is Jane Gardam, and for readers who stick with the stories, Gardam beautifully reveals the world through the eyes of a child,

Related Review: New York Times Review of The Hollow Land

 

An Old Classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books – the The Secret Garden Inga Mooreone I remember rereading over and over. Best known for her children’s books including Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Little Princess, Hodgson was also a prolific writer of adult books. When I recently read a review of Hodgson’s 1896 book, The Shuttle, and found I could download it for free, I finally found a way out of my reading slump.

shuttle_1205Because The Shuttle focused on the lives of two sisters who would have lived in Hodgson’s time, I was anxious to know more about the author herself, a woman who like some of her contemporaries (Louisa May Alcott) actually supported herself by writing. Just as Little Lord Fauntleroy had shades of her two young sons whom she kept in long curls, Hodgson’s shuttling between America and England, and her second husband’s reliance on her income may have influenced this book.

Although the text is long and the plot complicated, like other Hodgson books, the story combines history with romance and adventure. Rosy marries an Englishman (the villain), who needs her fortune to shore up his aristocratic life and Betty is the sharp younger sister who is determined to outsmart all those Victorian men who would keep her from her potential.  Twelve years after newly wed Rosy left for England, a grown-up and self-possessed Betty sails to find her sister at the run-down mansion, struggling to survive with her hunched back son, while her erstwhile husband is off spending her fortune on himself.

Despite long descriptive passages of the countryside, the drama held my attention, with the strong female heroine fighting against the surly despicable villain, while restoring the village, the English garden, and her frail sister.   The tall beefy red-headed lord of the neighboring manor helped too. Like watching an old black and white movie, reading The Shuttle was a treat and a comfort.

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Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

9780385753548In an afternoon, Karen Foxlee’s Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy carried me off to a magical world of good and evil, involved me in an adventure to save the world, made me laugh and cry, and restored my faith – in a way only a good children’s book can.  Coping with the recent death of her mother, Ophelia inadvertently becomes a major character in an updated version of the Snow Queen fairy tale three days before Christmas.

The story opens with a prelude describing the evil Queen who has captured and imprisoned the Marvelous Boy; centuries pass and Ophelia discovers the Boy locked in a room in the museum where her father, the world’s greatest expert on swords, is staging an exhibition that will open on Christmas Eve.  Through wonderful scenes of mannequins coming to life, giant birds eating sardines, and a wolf chase, Ophelia searches for the missing sword that will destroy the evil Queen who would plunge the world into misery and grief forever.  Of course, Ophelia is successful as she finally listens to her heart (and the advice of her mother’s memory) and finds the courage to help her father and sister begin their recovery from grief.

When reading this, although those analogies of inner demons freezing out hearts and the discovery of the heroine inside,  floated between the lines to my adult brain, I ignored them and thoroughly enjoyed the story as a real fairy tale.  Throughout the tale, Ophelia’s dead mother whispers advice, and I couldn’t help think how much my own dead mother’s advice is still very much there – she is still in my head too.

 

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2014 Newbery Award Winner

Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Award again – this time with Flora and Ulysses.

Read my review below:

9780763660406_p0_v2_s260x420Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo’s newest contribution to wonderful children’s stories – Flora and Ulysses – involves the adventures of a young girl with a superhero squirrel.  When the squirrel survives getting sucked into a vacuum cleaner, he attains superpowers: he can fly, think (mostly about how hungry he is), type, and write poetry.  After a series of hilarious missteps, Ulysses saves the day and reunites Flora’s family.

DiCamillo combines humor with pathos as she targets the anxieties of Flora and her friend William, who are both suffering through changes in their families.  K.G. Campbell’s artwork adds to the story with cartoon frames interspersed into the narrative.  In this story, the adults learn the lessons of love, patience, and perseverance from the children, and, of course, from Ulysses, the poetic squirrel.

A book a child could share with a favorite adult – maybe even read aloud.

Other Books (reviews) by Kate DiCamillo:

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