Quite good twists in the tales of the stories - Pretty bold considering when they were written, but far too much descriptive build up. Could have done...moreQuite good twists in the tales of the stories - Pretty bold considering when they were written, but far too much descriptive build up. Could have done with less of the author's opinions and scene setting and lengthier story lines.(less)
I decided to read 'Absolute Beginners' by Colin MacInnes after going to the 'David Bowie is' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum and finding...moreI decided to read 'Absolute Beginners' by Colin MacInnes after going to the 'David Bowie is' exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum and finding out that it was one of his influences (it was later made into a film Bowie starred in, he was also a contributing artist on the soundtrack). Set in the 1950's it gives the reader an insight into the life of the first generation of teenagers that expressed themselves in their own way rather than being mini adults expected to follow in their parents footsteps.
The story is told through the eyes of the narrator and protagonist, who is an unnamed teenage photographer. The reader is introduced to a number of other teenagers associated with the photographer with nicknames such as 'Mr Cool', 'The Ex-Deb' and 'Wizard'; this was a nice touch and added to the characterisation of the teenagers. The plot is fairly uneventful, following the photographer's obsession with 'Crepe Suzette', his rather bitter sweet relationship with his family and his attempts at making something of himself. It is set in a back drop of racism, riots, themes of homosexuality, pornography and class issues.
The most successful part of the book is the teenager's perspective on life, which is refreshingly novel in a monochrome world. The young photographer explains interests such as jazz and the reason it excites him, his rejection of his family in particular his mother and his opinions on the injustices he witnesses such as racist beatings, which influence his future thinking and reactions. The characters he associates with also inject a little vibrancy into the novel. Another part of the book that I really like is the description of where the book is set. The photographer describes the part of London where he lives as 'Napoli' which conjures up the dour, built up war zone beautifully.
I can definitely see the merits of reading 'Absolute Beginners' in terms of understanding the rise of the teenager and really enjoyed references to 'Teds' and Vespas, however I wouldn't recommend it for it's storylines more as a piece of social history examining the uprise of the first true teenagers that pathed the way for future generations.(less)
As a fan of Jane Austen, I was eager to read this sequel to 'Pride and Prejudice' by P.D. James to see how it measured up. Knowing that the author wri...moreAs a fan of Jane Austen, I was eager to read this sequel to 'Pride and Prejudice' by P.D. James to see how it measured up. Knowing that the author writes crime fiction, I was prepared for a rather different take on the novel and knew that there would be some surprises in store.
Not wanting to give too much away, the sequel set six years after 'Pride and Prejudice' was set revolves around a murder connected with the characters from the original novel. I was intrigued to see how the author could make this believable. In truth I'm not sure that it is a believable sequel, it is obvious that James is a true fan of Austen proved by the attention to detail in terms of her references to the characters and plots from the original novel seen in her sequel. However she seems a little too keen to please Austen fans, referring to characters from different Austen novels within the sequel. For me, rather than seeming like an 'in joke' this cheapened the novel and made it seem unrealistic.
'Death Comes to Pemberley' is easy to read and follow which does give it some appeal, it's an enjoyable read but it doesn't capture the essence of Austen. The characters are not so richly drawn, they lack the wit and characterisation of the original novel and for me the storyline is quite far fetched particularly towards the end of the novel making it all rather contrived.
As a novel 'Death Comes to Pemberley' is not to be taken too seriously, fans will enjoy reminiscing with the characters again but should not expect an earnest sequel to the novel, it's just not authentic enough.(less)
'Germinal' by Émile Zola tells the story of French coal miners in the 1860s, although not based on fact it does give a truthful account of the conditi...more'Germinal' by Émile Zola tells the story of French coal miners in the 1860s, although not based on fact it does give a truthful account of the conditions the miners had to suffer and about the unsettlement felt by the workers at that time. I found this novel difficult to get into at first, mainly because of the theme. It wasn't something that I could relate to or of particular interest to me, however as I got to know the characters better I found their relationships interesting.
The differences between the lives of the rich and poor were stark and the almost savage-like behaviour of the community was at times shocking. I felt the relationship between Etienne and Catherine was one of the redeeming features of the book, despite their hardship and suffering the 'will they, won't they' element kept me reading. Catherine is a character who I felt particular sympathy towards, although I didn't realise that I would feel this way at the beginning of the novel. She is robbed of her childhood and changes from the strong, feminist character she appears to be at the beginning into a pathetic, used, shadow of her former self. Etienne is different, he seems to be the hero of the piece, fighting for the rights of the miners but by the very end I found him to be quite selfish. At times he seemed gentle, he had suffered and tried to change things for the community but ultimately he thought of his own future and was able to move on leaving the wreckage he had created behind. The characterisation is strong, you quickly get a feel for the characters (although this can change through the course of the novel) and it is often imparted through the gossipy manner of the community.
The imagery used in the novel is powerful, it does not protect the reader from the misery, heartbreak and turmoil, it goes to great lengths to express these elements in detail, to the point where you are immersed in and often disgusted by the atrocities. The novel is surprisingly quite matter-of-fact about sex, villagers are often to be found humping on hillsides and the reader is often party to intimate encounters through the eyes of the voyeuristic villagers. I think this is where the reader becomes aware that this a book translated from French, which is sometimes demonstrated through the coarse lexis used to express events and opinions. At the time the novel was written, English contemporary novels would probably, on the whole have been a little more refined.
The virtues of 'Germinal' are that it is hugely descriptive giving the reader an insight into similar conditions that would have been experienced and the political climate at the time. The characters are well drawn and believable and the plot is not always easy to guess, giving the reader a few surprises along the way. Some of the drawbacks of 'Germinal' are the bleakness of the novel, the themes may not be conducive to everyone and some readers might find it distasteful at times and a chore to read. (less)
'Five Minutes' Peace' by Jill Murphy, tells the story of a mother elephant who just wants some time alone in the bath, however her three children have...more'Five Minutes' Peace' by Jill Murphy, tells the story of a mother elephant who just wants some time alone in the bath, however her three children have other ideas! This is a family orientated story that children and parents will be able to relate to, it could be used as part of a families topic or to generate discussion for Mother's Day. This is a story I would use with children in the EYFS because of the simple lexis and big, bold pictures.
The anthropomorphism present in the story attracts children's interest and captures their imaginations, this will help them in the future when they are asked to write their own stories. 'Five Minutes' Peace' is one of a series of books based on the 'Large family', another popular story in the series is 'A Piece of Cake'. It would be really nice to read the whole series of books to the children, so they can gain a greater understanding of the characters.
'Five Minutes' Peace' is a story that would be suitably stored in a classroom book area, as its very much a story that children would choose to read for pleasure. It is easy to follow because of the familiar situation, so children with English as an Additional Language will have some understanding of the storyline. Children generally, will also be able to answer questions on the story supporting early comprehension skills.
'Not Now, Bernard' by David McKee, is a bright, colourful story which in direct contrast with the vibrant look of the book is actually quite a sad sto...more'Not Now, Bernard' by David McKee, is a bright, colourful story which in direct contrast with the vibrant look of the book is actually quite a sad story. It's about a boy who is ignored by his parents to the level where they don't realise that he has been eaten by a monster and that the monster actually replaces him, eating his dinner, sleeping in his bed etc. Although young children may find the idea of a monster doing everything that a child usually does quite funny, it is an extreme version of how a child may feel or what they may experience. In a way its actually a story that lots of parents and other adults could learn from.
I used this book during my nursery placement in connection with a monster topic. I read the story to the children and discussed the events with them, they then made their own monsters using collage materials and using a computer game which formed part of a wall display that included 'Not Now, Bernard'. It would also be a good book to use during circle time to talk about feeling left out and being kind to others. This book is definitely best suited to children in the Early Years Foundation Stage because of the simple lexis and bold illustrations, which do look rather dated although also give it a retro feel which is reminiscent of 'King Rollo' and 'Pigeon Street' which I believe were drawn by the same illustrator.
'Not Now Bernard' is a simple story with a surprisingly deep meaning, of its time and still relevant today.
'The Demon Headmaster' by Gillian Cross is an exciting story that both boys and girls would enjoy. It is the first of a series of books based on Dinah...more'The Demon Headmaster' by Gillian Cross is an exciting story that both boys and girls would enjoy. It is the first of a series of books based on Dinah's war with the headmaster of her school, who uses his powers of hypnotism to try to take over the whole country through television. Dinah and her gang named 'SPLAT', who are immune to the headmaster's powers of hypnotism, plot to stop him. This book is suitable for children of 9 years and above, because of the theme of hypnotism which may be slightly frightening for younger children and because of its reading level.
As a teacher, this is not the sort of book I would use as the basis of a topic because obviously it would be inappropriate to emphasise the idea of a demon headmaster. However it has a place in the reading area or library of a school, as children can all relate to the school theme and its a story that would excite their imaginations. The third person narrative is subjective, it allows the reader to hear Dinah's (the main protagonist)thoughts and feelings on events and allows them to get closer to the emotions of the main character, whilst still being distant enough to relate to the other characters. This could be why the book appeals to both boys and girls despite the main character being female. This and obviously the fact that the title character is male and quite scary.
'The Demon Headmaster' also includes themes such as fitting in, making friends, foster care and different families which relates to PSHE. This is a story that I read as a child and thoroughly enjoyed, the fact that it stuck in my mind is why I decided to review it. It bridges the gap between children's books and adult novels with its descriptive passages and characterisation, yet is fairly short so the reader will not be too daunted by it. I think this is a story that all children would enjoy and would support children to continue to read for pleasure at a stage where particularly boys sometimes begin to lose interest in reading, looking on it as perhaps a mainly female preoccupation. (less)
'Dear Zoo' by Rod Campbell is a very simple story for young children that tells the story of a zoo delivering all sorts of unusual and inappropriate a...more'Dear Zoo' by Rod Campbell is a very simple story for young children that tells the story of a zoo delivering all sorts of unusual and inappropriate animals to a customer as a pet. The story is written in the first person, so any child reading the story would at once feel part of the action, the reader is never actually told who is receiving the pets. 'Dear Zoo' is also a lift the flap book, which makes it more interactive and kinaesthetic for children, it also encourages them to use their imaginations to guess what might be inside the boxes. The story features repetitive phrases such as 'I sent him back' which children will pick up on and join in with encouraging their early reading skills.
This book is most suitable for children in the EYFS with its simplistic language and bold colourful pictures. It would also be a good resource to use with children who have English as an Additional Language because it has very basic language which is easy to understand and would support children learning animal vocabulary. The story could be used in a pet or zoo animal topic, it could introduce mathematical concepts such as size- which animal fits in which box, children could draw an unusual animal they would like as a pet and speaking and listening skills could be honed with conversations about why some of the animals in the story wouldn't make very good pets.
Contrary to the idea that'Dear Zoo', on the surface, appears to be a story which children could not learn a great deal from; it in fact does have learning potential for young children and is a great starting point to encourage them to learn to love books.(less)
'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss is a delectable tongue twister of a story. The simple lexis is constantly repeated and turned on its' head to make f...more'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss is a delectable tongue twister of a story. The simple lexis is constantly repeated and turned on its' head to make for a fast paced, action packed rhythmic tale. The simple premise for the story is 'Sam I Am' trying to persuade or force his very unwilling friend to try green eggs and ham. Through this process the pair travel to different places and meet interesting characters. By the end of the story 'Sam I Am' manages to make his friend try the green eggs and ham and much to Sam's surprise he actually likes them!
This story with its odd characters and acid coloured illustrations was written in 1960 and since being published has become a firm favourite. Teachers may dislike reading this book because it has to be read carefully and quickly in order to maintain the rhyming element and with expression to help the children understand the storyline. However it is a story I really enjoy reading to children because it is a challenge and when read correctly the euphonious words are a pleasure to articulate. One word of caution I would add though is the need to check children's understanding of the events, it is very easy to get carried away with the story particularly as it suits a fast reading pace, so I would advise asking questions about the story at the end.
'Green Eggs and Ham' is a useful story to use in the early years to encourage children to try different foods and could be extended with tasting unusual foods, making different coloured foods ie. blue biscuits using food colouring and mixing colours. The story is also a rich source of rhyming words which are simple to understand, children in key stage one could make lists of rhyming words taken from the story, they could then go on to make up their own poems using some of the words. They could also write about or draw their own favourite foods and explain where and how they would persuade a friend to try them. I have used a CD ROM version of the story that children can access for themselves, in this way children can read the story at their own pace and pause at particular parts that interest them.
'Green Eggs and Ham' is part of a range of rhyming stories including 'Fox in Socks' and The Cat in the Hat' that all encourage children's enjoyment of words. They are humourous stories that appeal to adults and children alike.
'Amazing Grace' by Mary Hoffman, tells the story of a girl called Grace who has a vivid imagination and loves to recreate famous roles and include her...more'Amazing Grace' by Mary Hoffman, tells the story of a girl called Grace who has a vivid imagination and loves to recreate famous roles and include her family in the fun. When the school auditions for the role of Peter Pan, Grace decides she wants to try out; despite the prejudices of her classmates, Grace's talents shine through. 'Amazing Grace' explores issues of sexism and racism in a child friendly way in situations that children can relate to.
This story would be useful when teaching children about respect and embracing each others differences, particularly if there were any bullying issues in the class. The various parts Grace plays in the story could also be acted out and the stories they are related to could be read to the children and explored further. In connection with the story it would also be nice to have visitors in to talk to the children with occupations that people may stereotypically not expect ie. a male nurse or a female fire fighter.
The story is beautifully illustrated and dual language versions of the story are also available. 'Amazing Grace' is an optimistic story that instils in children the fact that they can achieve anything they put their minds to whoever they are and however they look. (less)
'The Tiger who came to Tea' by Judith Kerr is one of my favourite children's stories. It tells the story of a tiger who knocks on Sophie's door one da...more'The Tiger who came to Tea' by Judith Kerr is one of my favourite children's stories. It tells the story of a tiger who knocks on Sophie's door one day and invites himself to tea. One of the aspects of the story that I like is how this astonishing event is told in a very ordinary, matter-of-fact way. Whilst at Sophie's house the tiger eats and drinks everything in sight, the family seem mildly surprised by this but once the tiger has politely taken his leave decide to go out for tea.
Despite the surprising event 'The Tiger who came to Tea', feels like a very traditional story. One of the draw backs could be the very stereotypical family, which is perhaps not as relevant to modern life as it was at the time it was written in 1968. For me this adds to the charm of the story, along with the bright and bold illustrations. I particularly like the scene where the family go out at night to have tea in a cafe, it parodies the story with a tabby cat hidden in the dark.
I have also heard an audio version of the story narrated by Geraldine McEwan, whose voice appears to suit the story very well. 'The Tiger who came to Tea' has the ability to fire children's imaginations in a quiet way. Perhaps if a tiger could come to an ordinary child like Sophie's house, he could turn up at their houses. This story is particularly suited to children within the early years, it could be extended by being acted out, having a cafe/home in the role play area, food tasting, looking at healthy foods, looking at pattern ie. stripes, making tiger masks and talking about how the characters feel ie. scared, angry, excited etc.
'The Tiger who came to Tea' is a delightful book which has stood the test of time and been loved by children since the 1960s for a reason- What child wouldn't be excited at the prospect of a friendly tiger turning up unannounced for tea!(less)
Didn't think I'd enjoy this book as its an easy read and modern popular fiction is not something I'm usually inclined to read. However the evocative,...moreDidn't think I'd enjoy this book as its an easy read and modern popular fiction is not something I'm usually inclined to read. However the evocative, steamy atmosphere draws you in and although the storyline is rather predictable at times it was an enjoyable read and left me hankering for a strawberry daiquari!(less)