The week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura suThe week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura sufferer. Migraines muddle thinking and reduce concentration. And for him, a migraine meant distorted vision. Disproportional Alice. Tall and small Alice. Strange tastes. Odd sights and sounds. Mixing up words. All inspired by migraines. Without knowing this, my experience of his most famous work would have been very different.
Carroll's preface is illuminating. The Mad Hatter's riddle has no answer. And he was quite generous, practically paying the public to read his story.
'Four shillings was a perfectly reasonable price to charge, considering the heavy initial outlay I had incurred: still, as the Public have practically said "We will will not give more than a shilling for a picture-book, however artistically got-up", I am content to reckon my outlay on the book as so much dead loss, and, rather than let the little ones, for whom it was written, go without it, I am selling it at a price which is, to me, much the same thing as giving it away.
I found this line from the introductory poem to be a highly accurate assessment of the story: "There will be nonsense in it!" Yes, lots and lots of nonsense. Most of it utterly boring. Skimming is the last resort of the desperate, and I was desperate. But I was thoroughly entertained by the rhyming poetry scattered throughout.
'I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye, How the Owl and the Panther were sharing a pie: The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat, While the Owl had the dish as its share of the treat. When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon, Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon: While the Panther received the knife and fork with a growl, And concluded the banquet by--"
You can guess what the next three words are. LOL.
I also enjoyed the occasional play-on-words.
"We called him Tortoise because he taught us."
And of course, the most famous quote of all:
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be, said the Cat, "or you wouldn't gave come here."
On why cats are the opposite of dogs:
"Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
The Queen of Hearts is a figure of fun. Who hasn't wished to wield the power of the throne to eliminate those who've slighted us?
"Collar that Dormouse!" the Queen shrieked out. "Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!"
On the prospect of decapitating a body-less Cheshire Cat:
'The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life.'
The Queen of Hearts indulging in her favourite sport isn't as lethal as one would think, which is a good thing because if every man, woman and animal she condemns to the guillotine were to really go to their deaths, there'd be no one left in Wonderland but the Queen herself.
Gryphon: "It's all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know."
Alice has never intrigued me. I did hope reading the original would endear me more than the countless TV and movie adaptions. Poetry aside, it didn't. However, I do take pleasure from viewing the tons of gorgeous artwork inspired by Carroll's story.
* I read the 1920 edition illustrated by John Tenniel available for free on Google Play....more
A farting pony, a racially and culturally diverse cast, a mixed race main character as a young princess with a desire to be a champion warrior only foA farting pony, a racially and culturally diverse cast, a mixed race main character as a young princess with a desire to be a champion warrior only for her birthday, instead of a warhorse, she receives an adorable little pony. Sounds good so far.
Despite the positive female 'girl power' role model whose parents represent mine exactly with a black mother and white father, the cute illustrations (including a veiled warrior woman), the story didn't sit right with me. Yes, the fierce warriors being able to show their soft, cuddly sides at the appearance of the micro pony was nice and all, it just wasn't heartwarming or logical. Pinecone realising her puny pony had value when the warriors paid more attention to the supposedly adorable four-legged creature than her was a little sad.
Generally speaking, picture books don't usually confuse me. The time and place The Princess and the Pony is set is vague. Pinecone is holding a Viking helmet aloft on the first pages, followed by warriors of different times and places including a strongwoman (as opposed to a strongman), a falconer-ess from the Mongolian Eurasian Steppe and a one-eyed Robin Hood. Pinecone's home looks to be some kind of castle with wood beams and animal heads mounted on the walls. Then, at the champion competition, the warriors are in ancient garb while the spectators watching this mass brawl are all in modern clothing clutching foam fingers and popcorn. So this was a Rennaissance fayre and Pinecone isn't really a princess and her parents are in permanent fancy dress? Confused.
As for the brawl the spectators are watching, it was obviously too dangerous and rambunctious for Pinecone to join in with her … spitballs. Yes, you read that right, spitballs. In a fight with adults.
I appreciated the diversity, the feminist edge and the illustrations....more
'They didn't notice that all he wanted was a hug.'
A textured tactile cover and adorable pencil illustrations, but an anticlimactic ending ruined w
'They didn't notice that all he wanted was a hug.'
A textured tactile cover and adorable pencil illustrations, but an anticlimactic ending ruined what I thought would be a resolution full of love and affection from the power of a simple hug.
Black sheep Felipe, the unloved and unwanted prickly cactus, is apt to harm anything he comes into contact with which limits the possibilities of who or what he can hug. Finally hugging a random crying rock just wasn't as heartfelt or as meaningful as I was expecting.
A better, more emotional ending would've earned Hug Me a higher rating....more
Robot Girl is an Afrofuturistic version of Bernard Beckett's Genesis for children, populated with a black cast of characters. Genesis is one of my aRobot Girl is an Afrofuturistic version of Bernard Beckett's Genesis for children, populated with a black cast of characters. Genesis is one of my all-time favourite books. It inverts expectations and examines what it means to be human and the value of emotions.
The cover is what drew me in. It's rare to see black characters in sci-fi novels. Knowing it was written by Malorie Blackman was the cherry on top.
*Robot Girl is a dyslexia friendly book first published in Sensational Cyber Stories (1997)....more
Oliver's illustrations are lovely, except for the ginger-haired child with what I can only describe as a pink phallic object on his forehead which app
Oliver's illustrations are lovely, except for the ginger-haired child with what I can only describe as a pink phallic object on his forehead which appears in every depiction of him. What the hell is it? Perhaps I should just say what we're all thinking - dickhead. It's a perfect representation, no? Did the editor not notice this . . . appendage before printing? I mean, it's kind of obvious. Is it some sort of unique Australian thing of which I'm unaware?
As for the story, The Great Paper Caper introduces the idea of crime to children using animals. We investigate the theft of trees, arrest the culprit and give him a fair trial. We empathize with the bear 'criminal' and his situation; a desire to follow the family tradition to win the paper plane competition as the generations before him did. Restitution is then demanded which was happily given by planting new trees to replace the ones stolen, and all is forgiven.
I feel like I should like this picture book more. Sadly, upon finishing I was just left cold. I'm not sure why....more
Flotsam, my first wordless picture book, feels age inappropriate. From what I gather picture books are generally aimed at 3 to 8-year-olds. I have douFlotsam, my first wordless picture book, feels age inappropriate. From what I gather picture books are generally aimed at 3 to 8-year-olds. I have doubts a child in that range would be able to fully comprehend the story without help from an elder. Does a 6-year-old know what a microscope is and what it's used for? Will they understand the images shown at different magnifications? A few Goodreads reviews say that it doesn't matter if a child understands or not, they might make up their own story.
A boy at the beach is studying the flotsam to wash up on shore where he stumbles on a camera. He develops the film to find photos of children dating back decades. It seems they each found the camera the same way and took photos of themselves holding the photo of the child who possessed the camera before them and then threw the camera back into the sea.
I struggled to comprehend the significance of the random sci-fi/fantasy artwork had to do with the story, which were actually what I liked most. They appeared more modern in style and vibrancy. A steampunk clockwork fish. Villages made of seashells on the backs of turtles. Little green men landing their spaceships underwater. Islands which are actually starfish who hop up on their legs and walk elsewhere. Mermaids.
After reading a few Goodreads reviews, I'm still not entirely sure of their relevance. I'm guessing these scenes were depicting what the boy imagined marine life was like, what he thought he might see in the developed film from the underwater camera. This is also another thing which dates the book. No one develops camera film now, not in the first world. I can't think of a single retailer which does, so continuing on that tradition would be difficult.
The camera concept feels very familiar to me. I'm sure I've seen this but with a camera phone. The discoverer took pictures of themselves and then left the phone to be discovered by someone else. The phone travelled all over the world. I just can't remember where I saw this, whether it was a news item or part of a TV show.
While there are multiethnic characters, the majority of the illustrations starring people seemed rather dated, ones I wouldn't be surprised to see in a book from the 1970s, so much so that I had to check the publication date - 2006. Huh.
Overall, I didn't enjoy this one despite its uniqueness in incorporating science and the thrill of discovery. It's not something I'd recommend....more
For the first time ever I like a Neil Gaiman novel. I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
It wasn't until I came across a Guardian article with the aboveFor the first time ever I like a Neil Gaiman novel. I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
It wasn't until I came across a Guardian article with the above image that I decided to give Gaiman a another chance. I mean, how bad could a feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty be? Besides, the library had a copy so only an investment of time would be required.
A post-curse Snow White is a warrior queen about to get married to a seemingly inferior and submissive man she does not love. When the dwarfs report that the Sleeping Beauty curse is spreading rapidly into Snow White's lands she jumps at the chance to leave and attempt to break it despite the many princes and knights who've died trying over the years.
It's only when she and the dwarfs arrive at the castle that Gaiman's story really sets itself apart from other fairy tales and their retellings. Zombie-like sleepwalkers bent on killing. An elderly (and tragic) lady guardian and a Sleeping Beauty who aren't what you expect. A chaste kiss between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to break the curse. And an ending which didn't feel quite right.
Instead of returning home, Snow White runs away from her royal responsibilities and her groom to travel with the dwarfs. Why not return home and refuse to marry? And abdicate the throne, if she really doesn't want to be queen? That takes more strength than running.
Everything I've read by Gaiman (his children's books) have received no more than two stars. Though he has intriguing ideas, his execution of them is poor, rarely gripping, and written in too few pages to do them justice. Bland characters I felt little for, one way or the other, is another common complaint. But yes, I had similar issues with The Sleeper and the Spindle. They weren't as pronounced this time. It's the unexpected and feminist twists that really sets this one apart. Black, white and gold illustrations were also positives I enjoyed. ...more
Be warned, Gaiman doesn't really rework Hansel andHaving liked The Sleeper and the Spindle, I assumed I'd enjoy another reworked fairy tale by him.
Be warned, Gaiman doesn't really rework Hansel and Gretel like he did with Sleeping Beauty, he just enlarges on it, adding minor changes along the way. Oddly I enjoyed this story more than any other by Gaiman, which probably tells you more about how much I like, or dislike, his work than anything else.
Lorenzo Mattotti's illustrations feel inappropriate for a children's book, in my opinion. They're 95% black brushstrokes with tiny bits of white. Since the cover of The Sleeper and the Spindlefeatured gold on the cover in addition to black and white, which were all present in the illustrations within, I assumed the green on Hansel & Gretel's cover would feature in the illustrations here as well. I was wrong. These are just black and white. Perhaps the illustrator was aiming for gothic, but when I can't even tell what a couple of them are supposed to be representing, there's a problem.
However, there's a random illustration which doesn't match the narrative. Only after reading the last two pages, which detail the source of the Grimm tale and a few paragraphs describing the original work, did I realise what had happened. Apparently a duck helped the duo cross the river in the original version and this is depicted in one of the illustrations. But Gaiman doesn't include the duck in his retelling. Did Hansel & Gretel even go through an editing stage?
Grimms' Hansel and Gretel was published in 1812. Twelve year old Dorothea Wild, known as Dortchen, was the source of the tale. She later became Mrs Wilhelm Grimm in 1825.
A hundred years before the Brothers Grimm, French author and fairy-tale collector Charles Perrault recorded "Le Petit Poucet," or "Hop-o'-My-Thumb." Hop-o'-My-Thumb, the smallest and cleverest of seven brothers, is also born to woodcutters who put the children out due to famine. Like Hansel, he uses trails of pebbles then breadcrumbs to find his way. The brothers stumble upon the house of an ogre who vows to kill and eat them, but Hop-o'-My-Thumb tricks him into slitting his daughters' throats instead (by swapping their caps). By the end of the story, "Hop-o'-My-Thumb." ends up with the ogre's money.
An Italian tale, "Nennillo and Nennella" is also similar. Then there's Russia's Baba Yaga who promises no to eat the children if they can complete impossible tasks. Kindness to the animals sees them help the children in completing the tasks in order to escape. Baba Yaga may have been inspired by in part by Cupid and Psyche's story in The Golden Ass written almost 2,000 years ago.
I want to award Gaiman's retelling a high rating, but it's not Gaiman's story. He hasn't made it his own like he did by adding a feminist twist to Sleeping Beauty. Sure, it's been reworded, and feels smoother and more eloquent for it, but there isn't any one thing I can definitively point to that sets it apart from the original. For me, the sometimes inarticulate illustrations detracted from the reading experience, as I sat there trying to figure out what exactly I was looking at. I felt they were incongruous and would've been better placed in art book or a gallery wall where I could've appreciated them more.