Books and She Moved

I keep meaning to start writing proper reviews of books. I was going to begin with Terry Pratchett’s “The Last Hero” hardback ‘picture book’ which I managed to get for £2.99 in Swansea’s Oxfam.  The many and rather magnificent illustrations seemed to have a profound effect on TP’s prose (or perhaps my way of reading was altered by the format) and I took a while to adjust to the experience. After adjusting, the book really was a riot and the illustrations really did enhance the reading experience. Before I could write a review, I began reading “Thief of Time” and that novel is proving so enjoyable that I haven’t had the inclination to write the review. Still, all in good time eh?

I began writing an Earth Balm arrangement of “She Moved Through the Fair” recently but abandoned it and have instead completed a solo guitar arrangement in the altered Csus2 tuning. It’s not the best tuning for a Mixolydian melody but I was able to use some of the ideas in my arrangement of “Lisa Lân” to accommodate the flattened seventh.

Narrative text illustration

One of the reasons that I was an avid reader of narrative writing in my childhood was the quality of book illustration in the 1960s.  I was reminded of this recently when re-reading one of my favourite children’s anthologies: Philippa Pearce‘s “What the Neighbours Did“. The illustrator for my edition of the book is Faith Jaques and I love this work. I’d like to post a scan of one of the drawings and hope it will not offend / contravene any copyright.

Victor G Ambrus’s work has also been an inspiration and a source of enjoyment.

More recently, I have enjoyed Peter Bailey’s illustrations for Corgi Yearling‘s editions of Philip Pullman‘s children’s books and Dick de Wilde’s illustrations in Bill Naughton‘s anthology “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge“.

It is probably just nostalgia but I’m sure that the scratchiness and quality of line in these black and white illustrations have more character than modern digitally created work (Ooh! Did I really say that?).

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Illustration by Victor Ambrus from “Russian Blue” book by Helen Griffiths (copyright Hutchinson Books).
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Illustration by Dick de Wilde from “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge” by Bill Naughton (copyright Puffin books).
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Illustration by Faith Jaques from “What the Neighbours Did” by Philipa Pearce (copyright Puffin books).

Philippa Pearce

I’ve just begun re-reading “Tom’s Midnight Garden” after a forty-ish year gap. I love the economic  style of writing. Philippa Pearce has been one of my favourite authors for quite a while. I bought the book nearly a year ago and only now have had the chance to begin reading it.

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Tyke Tiler

There was very little on TV last night that I considered worth watching so I went to bed and re-read Gene Kemp’s “The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler“.

It’s so obvious that the author worked as a teacher, the book is full of references to everyday life in a primary school that are as true now as when the book was published in the late 70s.

Kemp’s characterisations are well developed without the need to describe the children in great detail – their actions speak for themselves. The teachers featured in the narrative are such accurate characterisations – we all know a teacher like each one of them. I might even be able to recognise myself in one or two of them. Other people might recognise me in different ones :).

And even though I knew of the revelation on the penultimate page, it was still as enjoyable and still as much a surprise when it came. On re-reading, the clues are there throughout the narrative.

If I still had year six, I’d be using this as a class reader.

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The Scream – Joan Aiken

I read Joan Aiken’s “The Scream” last night. I have to say that it was one of the most spooky / chilling stories that I have ever read. Most of the time I didn’t know where the narrative was heading next. The characters are quite disturbing – Gran, Lu-Lyn, the boys from the tower block and even David himself who seems to take everything that happens to him and others around him without even flinching.

Many years ago, I considered looking at the horror genre with my pupils. I thought about using Poe, Lovecraft or the better De Maupassant stories to pick apart and reconstruct. This would have been a so-much better resource.

Genuinely unsettling. Recommended!

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Snow Spider finished

I finished reading the “Snow Spider” trilogy by Jenny Nimmo a few days ago but have been too busy with school work to post.

It’s a great trilogy and the book comes to a well written and plotted end that ties all plot lines together. There was no over-blown finale just a gentle kind of conflict with characters who regretted having to choose a violent solution. That much reminded me of Ursula K LeGuin’s “Earthsea” series.

I’ve found a copy of Joan Aiken’s “The Scream” in the school library so I’ll be starting on that book next.

I’m also on a 2 week break so expect me to be making a nuisance of myself posting to this blog.

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Jenny Nimmo – Snowspider

I finished reading the second of Jenny Nimmo’s “Snow Spider” trilogy mid week. “Emlyn’s Moon” turned out to be a well told and plotted novel, much darker and creepy than the “Snow Spider” novel itself. It helps that it has a female protagonist – Nia and the story is told very much from her point of view (but in the third person). The final book of the trilogy “The Chestnut Soldier” is even darker and more menacing. Nina is once again the main character and Gwyn (from the first book) takes very much a back seat.For me it’s suitable for children a little older than the other two novels although I’m sure that my ‘adult’ reading of elements of the plot would go over the head of most child readers. Again, I’m looking forward to seeing how the plot resolves itself.

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