Books. Opinions. Good times.

Posts tagged ‘children’s books’

The Carpet People

carpetpeopleby: Terry Pratchett

The Carpet People is Terry Pratchett’s very first book – kinda.  It was the first book he ever published but after he made it big – long after this was out of print – people started trying to find it.  So he went back and reread it and then he rewrote it as a 40-ish successful writer.  In the introduction, he says it is not the book he wrote at 20 but also not the book he would have written at 40. Which makes it a fascinating book to read, if you’re curious about his development as a writer.

Though the writing is unmistakably Pratchett’s, it doesn’t actually have many elements of a Pratchett book.  Oh, you still find the humor and the occasional Pratchett funny truism, just on a much smaller scale.  The plot is extremely straightforward and easy to follow, with no big surprises or moments where suddenly everything makes sense.  The Pratchett-ism I really missed was the characters – those characters who really should be caricatures or even stereotypes but somehow end up being fully developed characters – Corporal Nobbs and Sergeant Colon, for instance.  Or Lord Vetinari.  There were none of them in this novel, though you can see the inklings of that development in a few of the characters.

That isn’t to say the characters aren’t good; they are.  They’re pretty well-developed, given the simplicity of the story and the plot.  It’s enjoyable and quick-paced and it doesn’t have the moral that most Discworld novels have, hidden deep inside, which makes it a little more escapism reading than Pratchett’s novels usually are.  I mean, there are inklings of a moral here and there, but it didn’t make me think and laugh simultaneously the way most of the Discworld novels do.

It’s the story of the Munrung tribe, a people who live peacefully in the Carpet, and the troubles that suddenly beset them.  Mostly, it follows their leader, Glurk, and his younger brother, Snibril, as they attempt to lead their people to safety after the coming of the Fray.  Glurk is brave and Snibril is clever. There are other characters – wise, some, mysterious others, and a requisite few are evil.  It is, now that I think of it, a little formulaic; not subversively so, either.  That being said, it was easy to get caught up in the novel -it was a great adventure to go on!

The best thing about this novel was the world building.  The implication is that the whole world is set in someone’s living room carpet. It was so much fun to think about! From the details to the overarching narrative, Pratchett did an excellent job of drawing the reader into the world – and maybe making them think twice before carelessly trodding on their living room floor.  If you’ve got a vivid imagination or just love to revel in someone else’s, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat.  It is not only a fairly quick read but engrossing and delightful to think about.

It’s also a children’s book, or at least that’s how I would classify it.  Simple, exciting, imaginative and age-appropriate, with excellent drawings interspersed throughout.  And I realize I’m comparing it somewhat negatively to his other works, but I truly enjoyed reading it and would do so again without hesitation.   It was a book to get lost in, for the sheer fun of reading and ignoring the realities of the world.

If you love imaginative adventures, are looking for a book to read out loud with your kid, or are interested in Pratchett’s earlier work, I would definitely check out The Carpet People.  If you’re into Pratchett’s book because of their witty social commentary, if you like your adventures bloody and tense, or if you’re a big fan of complex, surprising characters, than alas! this may not be the book for you.



The First Book You Read

GreenEggsHam1Do you remember the first book you read all by yourself? I do – it was Dr. Seuss’ immortal classic, Green Eggs and Ham. I was 5, maybe 4, and I remember being so proud for getting through the book on my own.

It was night, and it must’ve been past my bedtime, because I remember coming out of my room and going to my parents in the living room extremely excited to read them Green Eggs and Ham all by myself.

My parents, who were settling down in front of the T.V. for some child-free time and the nightly news, were… less than impressed.  I got a half-baked, “Okay, good, now go to bed, Topper” response to my big moment.

To be fair, I don’t think I adequately expressed that this was the Very First Time I had read a book entirely independently.  In fact, I don’t think I said anything but “Mommy! Daddy! Look! Listen!” and then diving directly in my book.  Add to that I was not the easiest child to get to sleep – I’ve always been a night owl – and I was one of four children that they had finally gotten into bed for the night – well, you can understand their response being less Hooray for Diffendoofer Day and more Marvin K. Mooney, Would You Please Go Now!

But I do remember – and laugh at – my parents’ underwhelmed response to this day, twenty years later. (Luckily, they’ve more than made up for it with other milestone moments in my life.)

To top off the story, I was an extremely picky eater as a child – and am still fairly picky as an adult – and “Try it, you just might like it!” has never been a motto I’ve tried to live by.

Do you remember the first book you read independently? If so, let me know what it was in the comments!

Barnes & Noble’s (or your local bookstore’s) Holiday Book Drive

Even though I firmly believe the holidays don’t start until after Thanksgiving, this is my holiday plug for the year.

I don’t donate much to charity – I volunteer instead – but I always buy books at charity book drives.  Whether it’s at the long-lost Borders, Barnes and Noble, or my local bookstore, when I see those children’s books come out on the counters, I get really excited.

Barnes and Noble partners up with local charities, like children’s hospitals, and encourages customers to purchase and donate a new children’s book.  They keep a selection of books up at the counter and you just have to point to the book you want and pay – the clerk does the rest.  (All book drives that I have seen work like this; I imagine you could also select and donate a book you particularly loved as a child.) Most places pick out cheaper, paperback books, so you, as a kind-hearted customer, are only looking at $6-$10 extra. If it’s a concern, the clerks generally know what charity they’re donating to this year.  But the good thing is, 100% of your book is going straight to that charity.

If you have a bit of extra money and find yourself at a participating bookstore, I encourage you to donate a book.  Like most readers, books were a big part of my life growing up and while I was lucky enough to have parents that kept me supplied, not every child else does.  And owning a book can be a big deal; libraries are excellent places and should be encouraged but there’s something about having your own, worn, dog-eared copy of a favorite book that’s really special.

Quotes Worth Sharing

Saturday furrowed his brow. “Why would I care about your First Kiss?” he said. “You can kiss anyone you like.  But if you sometimes want to kiss me, that would be all right, too.”

This absolutely lovely quote, from The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, takes place after our brave heroine, September, apologetically tells her crush, Saturday, that she had her First Kiss with someone else.

I love it. I almost never pick out quotes from books but this deserves to be shared.

What about you, dear readers? Have you read anything lately that’s stuck in your mind? Please feel free to share it in the comments!

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There





by: Catherynne M. Valente

When I picked up this book (a whole year ago!) I really wanted to have that magic feeling of discovery I had with the first book in this series. Unfortunately, you can really only discover something once and I didn’t get that “Look what I found!” feeling.  Which is why I put it down for so long.

But I finally picked it back up to finish!  I did indeed enjoy Valente’s second book and I do so enjoy her style – it is an old-fashioned style, slightly formal, that really adds to the magical feel of the book.

In the second book, September returns to Fairyland to find that the magic is all disappearing into Fairyland Below and it’s all due to actions she took in her last Fairyland adventure.  Realizing this, the slightly-more-mature September takes off on a quest to right her wrongs.  She heads down into Fairyland Below, which is populated by shadows who have left their people.  She finds shadow-versions of everyone familiar – and yet, these shadow-versions are not familiar.  She must draw on her strength, intelligence, bravery, and newfound adult compassion to ensure the survival of Fairyland.

As compared to the first book, I think I liked the characters less in this story.  The story was, more so than the last time, a story about September helping herself find herself.  She gets help from many characters throughout the story, but most of them are Merlin-type characters rather than her friends.  I think I missed that interaction.

I did, however, really love September herself.  September is growing up, and by doing so she is losing the heartlessness of childhood and learning to work with compassion and empathy.  She’s still rather young – I believe she’s supposed to be a preteen in this book – so it doesn’t lose the feeling of a children’s book.  Also, there’s a bit more attention paid to September’s life in the real world, which is nice. She’s living during WWI (or WWII? Sorry guys!), and her mom works in a factory while her dad is off fighting at the front.  You can see how her life is affecting her, even while she’s in Fairyland.  I liked Valente’s decision to age her rather than keeping her perpetually young.  September remains one of my favorite child protagonists.

The plot was a tad bit confusing at times and could have been tightened up a tad.  One or two things weren’t quite adequately explained to truly suit my need for understanding (but it is a fantasy book and that happens).  However, it was very fun and well-paced.  Excitement abounds and you’ll hold your breath with September as she struggles to complete her quest.  It’s a great length, too; by the time it’s winding up, you’re exactly at the point where you want to see a happy ending.

The world of Fairyland is always great to visit and I like the Alice in Wonderland literal-ness that Valente invokes when creating it.  Things are as a child thinks they should be there. World-building alone is a great reason to read this book, honestly.  It’s such a fun and magical place to visit.

If you’re looking for a new fairy tale, a new children’s book, or if you’re a fan of magic, Lewis Carroll-style, I would definitely give this book a try!  If you’re really into character relationships and more introspection than adventure, than, sadly, this may not be the book for you.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

A short review that I wrote right before I started this blog but never published!
by: Catherynne M. Valente

This book is both amazing and wonderful! It is everything a fairy tale should be – honest, written in a slightly Victorian manner, and full of wondrous creatures.  The book is slightly old-fashioned in the best of ways  – the feeling comes from the slightly formal tone that makes the reader want to sit and listen to a story their favorite teacher (or nanny!) tells.

It’s the story of September, a girl living during WWI, who accepts the chance to go to Fairyland and all the adventures that entails. There’s humor, both for children and adults.  September is a wonderful character – she is decisive and neither saccharine sweet or unbelievably mature. She’s as practical as a 12 yr old can be, cunning enough to be interesting, and, most importantly, in charge of herself.  Best of all, she doesn’t spend the entire time worrying about getting home, but rather endeavors to have adventures and fulfill promises.  I highly recommend this book!