A Hat Full of Sky

Thanks to Calmgrove and this post, I am currently re-reading and thoroughly enjoying Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching YA novels. Presently, I am on the second of the series (A Hat Full of Sky) and I’m re-experiencing everything that I enjoyed during my first read. That first time, I read the books out of sequence, beginning with the last (The Shepherd’s Crown) which was also (I think) Pratchett’s last published novel. This, in no way, spoiled the reading experience – TP is careful to re-introduce characters, themes and important prior events at the outset of each book.

Similar to the comment during my post about Hokusai’s paintings, I will not attempt an examination of the novel (I’ll leave such writing to those who do it best) but will say that the whole series is one of the most enjoyable I have read and very, very uplifting.

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Image of the cover to the Doubleday edition of Terry Pratchett’s novel “A Hat Full of Sky”. Copyright Paul Kidby 2004.

 

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Christmas Stories 1

Having just completed my reading of “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in five parts” (more about that another time, perhaps) I ventured into the garage to find something to read. Searching through my ever diminishing collection of books, I came across a book by an author I haven’t read for a good while… an author that I haven’t read since my ‘Teacher of Year 5’ days – the wonderful (late) Robert Westall.

For the most part, RW’s novels are gently humorous but he did like to decorate his prose with profanities which would make the average primary school pupil’s parent complain. I used his stories where I could and with some judicious editing. I made use of  “The Night Mare”, “Blitz”, “The Machine Gunners” and the book I am currently reading – “Christmas Spirit“. It consists of two stories – “The Christmas Ghost” and the marvellous “The Christmas Cat” which evokes such fantastic childhood Christmas memories (of the late 60s and early 70s in my case though the actual story is set in 1934) and memories of summer visitors to our street in the very early 70s. The conflict between Mrs Brindley and Caroline (the narrator of the story) is resolved in a beautifully staged and written manner – I won’t reveal what it is exactly but is it is in the form of a nativity, of sorts. My copy of the book has some wonderfully scratchy pen and ink illustrations (by John Lawrence) which, for me, enhance the story telling far more than high tech, full colour illustrations ever could.

A review at Kirkus 

I’d recommend the book as an unusual choice for Christmas-themed narrative(s).

spirit

“Outside, the cobbles of the taxi-rank were stuck all over with tiny silver scales, and the air was thick with the smell of fresh fish, frying fish, rotting fish, boiling fish and guano. Seagulls sat on every rooftop, nearly as big and arrogant as geese, and splattered the slates with their white droppings and filled the air with their raucous cries.”

Hiatus and Witch Week

I really do need to take a break from my small kernel of internet activities. I need to find a paying job for financial and health reasons. I shall return in the near future, hopefully when I’ve been successful in finding employment.

Whatever my web presence (or absence), I will be taking part in the Diana Wynne Jones inspired  ‘Witch Week‘ reading of Ursula K Le Guin‘s Earthsea novel “The Other Wind‘.

Take care everybody!

 

Puffin "Earthsea Quartet" cover. Copyright David Borgen / Puffin books.
Puffin “Earthsea Quartet” cover. Copyright David Borgen / Puffin books.

 

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).

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.

tyke

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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Emlyn’s Moon

I’m currently reading the second book of the “Snow Spider” trilogy – “Emlyn’s Moon”. It’s a great read. It’s more about the character Nia than the titular Emlyn at the moment. There are some truly effective passages that I know I’ll use in the future with my class(es) as exemplar of descriptive writing. There’s a kind of spiritual awakening for the main character Nia through the book and I’m looking forward to reading the resolution of her personal problems. The book is much more about the characters than the first in the trilogy. The narrative is less linear than “The Snow Spider” too.

Apologies for my ‘lumpy’ expressions in this post but it’s difficult to express my enthusiasm for this book in the trilogy.

Edit: just to explain and to clear up any misunderstanding, I love this book!

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