Saturday, 15 September 2012

Little Gems 1 - The Book of Three - Lloyd Alexander

Sometimes kids books surprise you with little gems of wisdom. See above.
Just reading Book of Three at the moment.
It is excellent.
Fast moving, clearly defined and lovable characters.
It is about a quest for a lost pig that can read the future. The chapters are short and although it is quite comparable to Tolkien it is less verbose and is packed with incident.

Fun for the listener: 9/10
Fun for the reader: 10/10
Fear factor: 5/10 (some quite scary bits, not too graphic but the baddies are silent reanimated corpses and on one occasion they burn humans in baskets)
Readability: 10/10
Voices: Taran - Light tone
Dallben - Old man
Gwydion - Heroic strong voice
Eilonwy - Light and spiky
Gurgi - Gollum and Dobby's lovechild
Flewddur Fflam - Very posh, thin voice occasional lapses into Leslie Phillips

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Sword in the Stone - T.H. White

Sorry to start with this one.
Had to get this off my chest.
Deeply, deeply disappointed by this book.
Disney did a great job of making this story exciting.
I read this aloud through to the end and my son said he enjoyed it (he was 8 at the time of reading) but is still happy for it to go to the charity shop.

But here are the problems.
Firstly who is this for? Children - the dialogue is often light and silly. Then the story is often very juvenile one moment and then deeply horrific the next. Then there are detailed descriptive passages (that I did start to skip through towards the end....)
The book constantly trips up anyone reading aloud due to the fact that:
1. It veers between witty dialogue (which is fun) between characters WHO ALL SPEAK IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY.
2. This is broken up by detailed and dragging descriptions of places/events that do not move the story on. (If you compare White to Tolkien who also loves to describe, he describes WHILST the hobbits are travelling. He doesn't describe a place for 6 pages and then move the story on.) I'll come to Tolkien later.
3. It is very repeptitive. Wart gets changed into many different animals to teach him about beings a king. But this started to become a dull motif. The fish was fine, but the badger and the kestrel were dull. White uses the animals to draw some weak comaparisons with Human society, to be honest Wart being chased by an amourous squirrel in the cartoon was much more revealing.
4. Finally, and this is the thing we have to be careful with when reading old books. Always scan ahead! You may need to edit. The book is racist! How can a book about King Arthur be racist? Well it is, and here you go... this is from a scene in which Wart is transformed into a hawk, one of the other birds quotes Shakespeare and uses the "n" word. For heaven's sake! Needless to say I skipped a few sentences when reading this aloud...
Now we did keep reading to the end. There were elements that kept us going, Wart, Merlyn and Archimedes are fabulously drawn characters. The last chapter which includes the tournament and the finding of the sword is great, but there was a great deal of "When is the sword going to be pulled out of the stone?" This is fine but there was really no building up to this moment through the novel unitl the last chapter. This is rectified in the film as they all know about the sword right up to the end.

I never say this but for the first time ever, the film is better than the book!

Suitability for age/gender: 8? Nope but I'd avoid reading it aloud at all. If you give it as a present for the child to read alone, they may be disappointed.

Fun for the listener: 2/10
Fun for the reader: 1/10
Fear factor: 5/10 (some quite scary bits, there are cannibals in the forest, oh and Robin Hood too, mix legends much? Madam Mim is going to eat Wart and Kay. A child has his nose bitten off by a madman who lives in the woods. Lovely.)
Readability: 2/10
Voices: Wart - Young light tone
Merlyn - I went for a sort of Alec Guiness
Ector and all the knights: All sort of sounded the same, different versions of bluff old Lords.
Mim: Wicked witch of the west


An occasional blog reviewing books that I have been reading aloud to my children...

They will cover the following:
Suitability for age/gender
Fun for the listener
Fun for the reader
Fear factor

New post soon...