Lives of the Monster Dogs is a book that truly explores the nature of what it is to be human, which may sound strange when I tell you that it is a sto...moreLives of the Monster Dogs is a book that truly explores the nature of what it is to be human, which may sound strange when I tell you that it is a story about dogs. When told a short version of the plot, people sometimes laugh, but I have to tell you that it is one of the most beautiful, melancholy books that I have ever read.
The book follows the life of character Cleo Pira, a young reporter who one night meets one of the 'monster dogs' and becomes involved in their strange lives. The Monster dogs are all large breeds of dogs, Great Danes, German Shepherds, etc. They have been genetically engineered to have the intelligence of humans, and have prosthetic hands. They were living until recently in a village in a remote region of Canada. After a revolt against their human masters, they come to modern New York City. Rich and strange, they quickly become celebrities and create their own rarefied world. Cleo comes to know and love two of these dogs especially, her friends Ludwig and Lydia.
Reading this story, I, too, found myself deeply loving these eccentric, melancholy creatures, not human, but not quite animal either, doomed by their intelligence to a sad, lonely existence. The sad, twisted history of their tortured creator is also deeply engrossing. This book still remains one of the most beautiful books I have ever read, and I would recommend it to everyone!
There is also a rumoured film in the works. I can only hope that it will still have the beauty and dignity of the book.
This was a wonderful collection of stories, but talented fantasy artist Alan Lee's haunting illustrations were really what made this book stick in my...moreThis was a wonderful collection of stories, but talented fantasy artist Alan Lee's haunting illustrations were really what made this book stick in my head for all those years since I first read it. The illustrations are amazing!
The stories and illustrations are both perfect!(less)
I have decided to do a series of posts on books I enjoyed as a child, timeless classics I enjoyed time and time again. I want to share these with othe...moreI have decided to do a series of posts on books I enjoyed as a child, timeless classics I enjoyed time and time again. I want to share these with others so that hopefully they can find the magic that I did in these stories.
When I was young, a book I kept coming back to was The Dolls' House, by Rumer Godden. I think my dad originally read it to me, but I remember reading it to myself time and time again. It is a wonderful book, because there are many books where children's toys come alive, but not many where you come to feel so much for the characters, to feel like they are real people, and to remember them like you remember old friends, always glad to come back to them. This is the way I feel about this book. I only wish I still had it so I could read it again, but I think it's been passed on to some other children. I hope all it's future owners enjoy it as much as I did.
The Doll's House is the story of a family of dolls who lack a house. Tottie, Mr Plantaganet, Birdie, Apple, and the dog, Darner, live in a shoebox, and are the beloved toys of two little girls called Emily and Charlotte. Tottie is a hundred years old or so (I can't remember exactly) and belonged to the girl's great-great aunt, and she remembers the doll house she once lived in. One day, the doll house is discovered in an attic and is sent to the girls. They and the dolls love it and clean it and make it habitable, they move in, and everything seems perfect. Then comes Marchpane. She used to live in the house along with Tottie and she is beautiful, very expensive and very evil. She begins to turn their joy into misery.
The story really draws you in, and you feel the doll's joy and pain. I liked how it was written so that the younger girl, Charlotte, still senses what the dolls want and like with that kind of intuition to the thoughts of toys and animals that children often have in books, while Emily, who is growing older, is losing touch with what the dolls feel, and is won over by the beautiful and scheming Marchpane, who uses Emily to help her take over the dollhouse.
The ending is a little sad, but I think that this is a wonderfully imaginative book and a true classic for kids to read!
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN A SMALL AMOUNT OF SPOILERS, BUT IF YOU"VE SEEN THE MOVIE, YOU WILL PROBABLY KNOW THE BASIC PLOT ALREADY.
For the last few nights m...moreWARNING: MAY CONTAIN A SMALL AMOUNT OF SPOILERS, BUT IF YOU"VE SEEN THE MOVIE, YOU WILL PROBABLY KNOW THE BASIC PLOT ALREADY.
For the last few nights my bedtime reading book was Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians (Disney changed the name a little.) If you grew up the with Disney version, you may not know the original novel on which it is based, which is a little darker, more imaginative and more elegant than the movie. (Please don't kill me, Disney fans!) First published in 1956 by Dodie Smith, this is the original story of Pongo, Missus and their pups. Yes, Perdita was originally called Missus. The original Perdita was a dog they got to help nurse their puppies.
Anyway, I won't go into little facts like that, because they're not really important. What is important is that it is a very imaginative and clever story. Dodie Smith invented (or perhaps discovered from her pets) a whole secret dog society of barking to communicate news (The Twilight Barking), helping each other out, and rules and thoughts on the people they live with. The story makes you laugh, and sometimes shiver with fear, and the animals are ridiculously adorable as well as highly intelligent and kind. You will never look at your pets the same way again!
I honestly think this is not just a story for kids. I read it as a child and picked it up again recently in an op shop for $1 for nostalgia, and was surprised how much I still enjoyed it. It was every bit as engrossing as I remembered. If you can get a copy with the original illustrations by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone it really adds to it. Both copies have had these illustrations. They're those old fashioned black and white ink illustrations older books have that I have always loved, and the expressions on the dogs faces are so eloquently drawn, you can actually read their emotions. I find myself constantly looking at the pictures and imagining that moment of the story while I am reading it, and what the dogs (and a couple of cats) are saying to each other.
The way the dogs work together with beyond human capability (lets face it, they manage what the humans could not) is truly impressive. You are left with a lasting respect for all of dogdom. (A Dodie Smith term.)
I would recommend this book to all animal lovers or lovers of a good adventure story that ends happily. It is also unusual in that the animals are the main characters, not the humans, which is still not that common nowadays, so is very refreshing. Some scenes or references may be scary for young children (talk about Cruella de Vil's ancestor being a devil, the evil characters discussion of how to kill and skin the puppies, etc.)
NOTE: Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone are amazing imaginative illustrators. When I looked them up, I realised they had illustrated at least a few of the books that I had read as a child, and these illustrations had really sparked my imagination. If you can find any books with illustrations by them, or even just google them, you will see how wonderful their art is!
Some of their works can be seen on this webpage dedicated to them.
Wikipedia article on Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone
Catwings was a book I loved as a child. It is the story of kittens who are born with wings and their adventures. There are also apparently a sequels which I have not read. This book really captures the imagination with wonderful endearing illustrations, and a simple tale that children who love animals will enjoy. It is a short book with pictures on just about every double page, very suitable for young children, perhaps it could be used to teach children who are a little older to read. Of course, adults can enjoy it too, especially cat lovers.
This is a wonderful adventure for children and I highly recommend it. (less)
When I was a little girl, my father used to read me these books. It has been a really long time since then and I can hardly remember most of the stories from the book, but I still remember the sense of excitement and adventure in these books. Laura and her family were pioneers, and as a young girl she met each move with a sense of adventure and openness to the world. I also loved that the girl was called Laura like me.
These stories are a true testament to the amazing spirit of the pioneers. They kept moving on, dealing with the problems of their life, never losing hope. The parents always did their best to make this world pleasant for their children, and to make times like Christmas magic. Trips to town were a treat when the girls would get a lolly each. They had very little, but completely appreciated what they did have, something which a lot of us have forgotten in our modern consumer driven society. I don't long for those times, because the life was hard and not everyone made it as Laura's family did, but I love the simplicity and teamwork of their little lives. It reminds us to appreciate what we do have. And anyway, they were just such amazing adventures!
I think this series is must read material! It's also great for parents to read with their children, creating wonderful memories like the ones I have. (less)
The first writer to really humanise vampires, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles remain modern literary masterworks. She took the character of the vampire from dark menacing presence, and fleshed them out. She gave them life histories, motivations, secrets. She made them dark and tortured and beautifully wicked. It was Anne Rice who truly taught us to love vampires.
Her books are eloquently penned, Gothic epics spanning centuries, filled with opulence and terror. Paris, Louisiana, New Orleans, Italy, Egypt... she takes us across the world. I discovered her novels when I was only thirteen or fourteen and was swept away by them. Her stories of the Savage Garden of life, and the predators that haunt it. Tortured, regretful, so very human Louis. Misunderstood and misanthropic Lestat, sometimes the villain, sometimes the hero.
It is clear that most modern vampire stories draw on Anne Rice's mythos. Louis, especially, the tortured vampire sometimes forced by his guilt to feed upon rats instead of humans clearly played a part in the creation of Angel (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel), and, of course, the flavour of the moment- Edward Cullen. In The Vampire Diaries, the painful and unhealthy co-dependant relationship between the brothers could be said to mirror the early relationship of Lestat and Louis. Even the migration of modern vampire novels to America, especially the South can be traced to Anne Rice's novels.
So why aren't their praises sung so much anymore? Why are modern YA novels preferred to these classic Gothic tales? Do love triangles and high school romance appeal more to the modern audiences? I will admit to watching a the Twilight DVDs (I could never get into the books) and enjoying them as far as rather uninvolved enjoyment goes. After all there is some good cinematography, and the landscape is beautiful, however I always felt there was something missing. The focus was too small for me, the story of two lovers, not a complex plot involving the lives of many over a long time and it does not share Anne Rice's dark, violent lyricism.
Rewatching films like Interview With The Vampire and Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, they clutch at my heart. I lament ever seeing modern vampire films to equal them. Of course, Coppola's Dracula was heavily adapted from the novel, the whole dark love story element likely having been influenced by The Vampire Chronicles.
On Goodreads, most of the Vampire Chronicles books are rated at a little over 3 ½ stars, far too low a rating for books that spawned an entire genre of their own. Twilight rates approximately 0.20% higher.
I think we need to rediscover the modern classics of our era such as these novels. I will never forgot the sense of awe I felt when first reading these books, the respect I felt for the brilliant writer who, by letting us into the hearts of vampires, let them into our hearts. (less)