Miss Rumphius

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  • Title: Miss Rumphius
  • Author and Illustrator: Barbara Cooney
  • Published: 1982
  • Main Characters: Miss Rumphius. Miss Rumphius’s grandfather, Miss Rumphius’s great niece Alice.

 Synopsis of the Story: The story is told through the eyes of young Alice, the great niece of Miss Alice Rumphius. Alice relates how her great aunt, Miss Rumphius grew up in a town by the sea. Miss Rumphius used to visit her grandfather’s art studio where he painted. Her grandfather had come to the town where they now lived many years ago on a big ship. In the evenings Miss Rumphius’s grandfather would sit her on his knee and tell of her of the grand adventures he had experienced when he was sailing around the world. Greatly influenced by her grandfather’s spirit of discovery Miss Rumphius declared:

“When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”

What Alice’s grandfather told her next was to stay with her the rest of her life:

“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do.”

“What is that?” asked Alice?

“You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” said her grandfather.

Though Alice paid heed to her grandfather’s advice she did not know what she could do to make the world more beautiful.

Miss Rumphius gradually grew up to be a young woman. She worked in a library in a big city, helping people to find books. The library contained books that spoke of faraway places. But she was impatient to see the world with her own eyes. Miss Rumphius travelled far and wide: she climbed to the top of snow-clad mountains, to tropical isles, though jungles and across deserts. Finally she arrived at the land of the Lotus-Eaters and it was here that Miss Rumphius hurt her back while dismounting from a camel.

Miss Rumphius decided that she had travelled enough and that it was time for her to find a place to live beside the sea.

Miss Rumphius found herself a house by the sea. From her porch she could see the sun rising and setting in all its glory. Beside the rocky ground in her garden, Miss Rumphius planted some flower seeds. But she realized she still had one task to complete in her life: that of making the world more beautiful.

That spring Miss Rumphius, who was growing older was taken quite ill. From her bedroom window, she could look upon the cheery sight of the lupines she had planted in the previous summer.

Miss Rumphius made a note to herself to plant more lupines that summer but her health prevented it.

The next spring Miss Rumphius was recovered but she regretted the fact that she had not been able to plant lupines the previous summer. While Miss Rumphius was walking she discovered with great joy a patch of lupines that were growing in a spot a little distance away from her house. Miss Rumphius realized that the birds and wind must have carried the seeds to a distant place and planted them.

It was then that Miss Rumphius had the wonderful idea of planting lupine seeds far and wide across the neighbouring countryside that summer.

The next spring there were lupines growing everywhere and their cheery sight made all the people so very happy to see them.

At long last Miss Rumphius had complete the third and most difficult task of all.

Little Alice, Miss Rumphius’s niece was also inspired to travel to far away places like her great-aunt and also live by the sea.

Needless to say that Miss Rumphius advised her that she must also do a third and very important thing…but little Alice does not know yet how she will fulfill this task.

Notes: This story with its gorgeous acrylic painted illustrations and sweet story line with an important moral are a joy to behold for children and adults alike. I will let the illustrations speak for themselves!

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The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

 

  • Title: The Story of Babar
  • Author and Illustrator: Jean de Brunhoff
  • Published: 1933
  • Main Characters: Babar (a little elephant),

Short Synopsis of the Story: A little elephant called Babar grew up under the care of his mother in a big forest. One day, some cruel hunters killed Babar’s mother before his very eyes. In a wild panic, Babar fled and ran and ran until he came upon a large town. Once in the town, he met an Old Lady who was kind enough to be Babar’s benefactress. Babar went to a large clothing store and bought himself fine clothes. With the help of a learned professor, Babar received a good education and together, he and the Old Lady spent a happy few years in polite, civilized, social circles in the big city. Despite the comfort and security in his town life, Babar missed his life in the forest. One day, Babar came upon two of his cousins, Celeste and Arthur, who had mischievously escaped from the forest. He spent a few happy days with his cousins, showing them about town and his way of life. When Celeste and Arthur’s mothers come from the forest and find their children it is time to go back. Babar decided that he would go back to the forest with his cousins. Despite feeling sad at leaving the Old Lady, Babar was ready to embrace his old life. When Babar, Celeste and Hector, arrived back in the forest they found that the King of the Elephants had suddenly died from eating a poisonous mushroom. All the elephants proposed that Babar should be their King. Babar accepted their proposal on the grounds that they accept Celeste as their queen. There was a grand marriage ceremony with much celebration and enjoyment and all the animals of the forest attended it. King Babar and Queen Celeste leave on their honeymoon on a big hot-air balloon, eager for new adventures.

Notes: This is a wonderful story with a subtle moral. Babar returns to his old life in the forest, thus relinquishing his life of comfort in the big town. His experiences in the city, placate him in the elephant society and he is deemed worthy of being their King. Babar and his Queen, seek further adventures. Adventure and experience, bring worldliness and hence wisdom.

Apart from having a lovely storyline that will capture the imagination of little children, the illustrations by de Brunhoff are exceptional. Particularly those of Babar dressed in his fine clothes, partaking of amusements that are popular in genteel society. This is deemed to be one of the first graphic novels of it’s kind and de Brunhoff is often referred to as being the father of the contemporary picture book.

I did find the references to Babar’s mother being killed a little shocking though and my three year old daughter was clearly affected by the incident and kept asking about it. Perhaps, death is a fact that needs to be dealt with, however, young we may be. It is a point that I am still pondering.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

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Excerpt: This is the heartwarming tale of a young motherless girl called Emily who has recently lost her beloved father. Emily’s mother’s side of the family draw lots to decide who will have the responsibility of taking care of the young child. Emily goes to stay with her strict Aunt Elizabeth, loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy at the idyllic location of New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island. Despite her immense sense of loss, Emily draws comfort from her beautiful surroundings, the friendships she makes at every turn and ultimately her new family.

  • Title: Emily of New Moon
  • Author: L.M. Montgomery
  • Published: 1923 by McClelland and Stewart, later published by Virago Press, 2013.
  • Location of the story: Prince Edward Island, Canada.
  • Main Characters: Emily Starr, Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, Cousin Jimmy, Teddy, Ilse, Perry.

Thirty years after I had read the Anne of Green Gables series I picked up Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery.  When I shared that I would be reading this book on social media, many people told me how much I would love the book. I must admit my thoughts were laced with a great deal of doubt. Would an author who had beguiled me in childhood be able to exert the same power over me in my maturity? I can only answer in the affirmative. Undoubtably so.  

The story opens with the revelation that Emily Starr’s father is dying and has but a few days to live. We witness the heart wrenching sequence, where motherless Emily is cruelly introduced to this fact via a woman who is a domestic help to the small family. Emily, a highly imaginative child, finds the luminous, magical world she has created for herself, crumbling before her eyes. Her consumptive father, her one and only mainstay in life, is being taken away from her and she has no-one else, in the whole wide world to call her own, except for her cats.

To add to the heartbreak, Emily’s maternal relatives, the Murrays, people who have shunned her father during his lifetime are charged with looking after the orphan. They do this willingly, as part of their duty towards their long-gone sister, Emily’s mother. The relatives assemble at the Starr house after Douglas Starr’s death, to draw lots and decide who the responsibility of bringing up the child will fall to. Strict Aunt Elizabeth, sweet Aunt Laura and funny Cousin Jimmy bring Emily home to New Moon Farm, on the other side of Prince Edward Island.

Emily’s great grief at losing her father is relieved by a number of factors. One of these are the lengthy letters that she secretly writes to her father. These letters help her to connect with him, allay her loneliness and also allow her to heal via the act of creative writing.

Emily’s grief is also alleviated by the joy she finds in the natural beauty surrounding New Moon Farm. She finds joy in the trees, the flowers and the beauty of New Moon’s surroundings. When Emily sees an object of great beauty or is moved by a vision or a scene, she experiences a moment of great ecstasy, that moves her to write.

…And always when the flash came to her, Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.

Emily is also enraptured with Cousin Jimmy’s beautiful garden. Cousin Jimmy provides Emily with companionship and a shared love for poetry. Due to an unfortunate accident that occurred during Cousin Jimmy’s childhood, that caused irreparable damage to his head, the folk around New Moon Farm are of the opinion that Cousin Jimmy is ‘not all there’.

Emily, who grows to like Cousin Jimmy’s gentle ways, states memorably:

As for Cousin Jimmy, he was nice. Whatever part of him was missing, it wasn’t his heart.

Emily forges a great many friendships. There is the tomboy Ilse who lives next door. Emily and Ilse are constantly sparring but despite this fact, their bond of friendship is very strong. Emily, motivates motherless, undisciplined Ilse to attend school.

Emily also befriends artistic Teddy and helps him to emerge from his possessive mother’s shadow. But most of all, Emily influences, farmhand Perry. Perry tries to learn etiquette and manners and strives to do well at his lessons at school.

Outside of Emily’s close knit circle of friends is kind Aunt Laura. In Aunt Laura’s affection, Emily tries to find the mother that she never knew.

Emily of New Moon, the first book in the Emily Starr trilogy, introduces us to Emily, shows us how she adjusts to the new environment of New Moon Farm, how she makes innumerable, meaningful relationships with the people around her and how she constantly seeks solace for the loss of her father though writing.

Emily’s character, like that of Anne Shirley’s, is laced with faults. We witness her getting into various scrapes but we also see that she is conscientious enough to try to redeem herself in the situation, which makes her character eminently likable.

One cannot help but draw comparisons between Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. Both books are set in Montgomery’s native Prince Edward Island. Both Anne and Emily are orphans who feel unwanted in their future homes, at least initially. Both Anne and Emily find people in the household who are kind and sympathetic to their emotional needs. Anne finds Matthew, Emily finds Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy. Both girls forge close friendships; Anne with Diana Barry, Emily with Ilse. Both girls have potential future suitors. Anne and Emily both have a hard time with their teachers in school. Both girls are highly imaginative, with a love for reading and writing. I must say that I feel Emily gets into fewer scrapes than Anne!

Even though there are undeniable parallels, the story for Emily of New Moon was interesting enough to claim my attention. The writing was especially poignant at times. The death of Emily’s father and her letters to her father are instilled with such pathos that one cannot but weep along with Emily, for her loss and how alone she is in the world. One can take heart though from Emily’s indomitable spirit and her ability to forge friendships and find beauty in her surroundings.

Montgomery has yet again presented to us a passionate, willful young woman with a tragic past, eventful present and promising future.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

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  • Title: Green Eggs and Ham
  • Author and Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
  • Published: 1960
  • Main Characters: ‘Sam I am’, unnamed character (also the first person narrator).

Short Synopsis of the Story: This is a story told completely in repetitive rhyming verse in the nonsensical style typical of Dr Seuss’s storytelling. In the story, the narrator is encouraged by ‘Sam I Am’ in multitudinous ways to partake of a meal of green eggs and ham.

The narrator declines the offer quite resolutely stating:

“I do not like them,

Sam-I-am.

I do not like

green eggs and ham.”

To further tempt the narrator, Sam-I-am offers the narrator a choice of locations for eating the green eggs and ham. The locations range from in a house with a mouse, to in a box with a fox, to in a car or a tree or even a train. In all the instances the narrator declines the offer of green eggs and ham to be eaten in those locations.

But Sam-I-am persists. Perhaps the narrator would eat green eggs and ham in the dark, or in the rain, or perhaps in the company of a goat or on a boat?

Alas, in all the offered situations, the meal of green eggs and ham is again declined.

To this Sam-I-am replies:

“You do not like them.

So you say.

Try them! Try them!

And you may.

Try them and you may, I say”

To this entreaty what can the narrator do, but comply?

And to his great satisfaction finds … that he does indeed like green eggs and ham!

Notes: The tale is told in repetitive rhyming verse and is remarkably composed of a mere fifty word vocabulary. That Dr. Seuss can construct an enjoyable story with such an economy of words is worthy of high praise. The limited vocabulary and the repetition of words makes this an ideal book to encourage children to read by themselves. It is quite enjoyable to read and follow the pictures and verse and the rhyme is quite addictive.

What is the moral of the story you ask?

Perhaps, it is written to encourage people to try something out before they completely say no to it.

But green eggs and ham? Now what is that?

I really haven’t got a clue 🙂

The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life

For the Mystery Lover


For the Relaxation Seeker


For the Picture Book Lover


For the Movie Lover


For the Older Child


For the Childlike Adventure Seeker


For the Poirot Lover


For the Poetry Lover


For the Literarature Lover


For the Romantic Escapist


For the Charming Vintage Romance Novel Lover


For the Classics Lover


For the Person Who Has Little Time to Read


For the Music Lover


For the Anne of Green Gables Fan


For Yourself


Or If You Prefer Something More Contemporary

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

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  • Title: Madeline
  • Author and Illustrator: Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Published: 1939
  • Main Characters: Madeline (a young girl), her eleven friends, Miss Clavel, their teacher at the convent.

Short Synopsis of the Story: This is the story of a little French girl called Madeline who is schooled at a Parisian convent along with eleven other girls. Miss Clavel is their primary teacher and caregiver and oversees their meals, their daytime walks around Paris, their visits to the Zoo and other places and of course their bedtimes. Once, in the very middle of the night Miss Clavel is awoken by crying from the girl’s dormitory and finds that Madeline is in considerable pain. She is rushed quite suddenly to the hospital where she has her appendix taken out. Madeline’s friends visit her at the hospital and are delighted to see the toys, gifts and attention that is being lavished on Madeline by her Papa. Moreover, Madeline shows them her operational scar with great pride.

The next day, in the middle of the night Miss Clavel awakens most fearfully and rushes to the girl’s room. All the girls cry that they are in great pain and need to visit the hospital too!

Notes: The tale is told in rhyming verse and it is quite enjoyable to read and follow the pictures and verse.

Particularly attractive are the vivid illustrations of famous monuments and buildings in Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Opera House, the Luxembourg Gardens and more…

There are a series of Madeline books, some of them set in different cities (like Madeline in London) and with different themes (Madeline’s Christmas). I think these books are a nice way to get children acquainted with different places around the globe and global traditions.

October 2015 Book Wrap Up

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Here is a round up of bookish favourites for the month of October, 2015. For a glimpse into September, 2015’s Bookish Favourites look here.

1. Books

The month of October was a fine month for reading. After reading only two books in September I managed to read a grand total of nine books! Most of the books were superlative reads.

A Year in Provence (4/5*) by Peter Mayle describes the author’s year long diary style narrative of spending a year in a small village in Provence. The writing style is simple yet descriptive. A beautiful travelogue. I tried to read a chapter a month this year (corresponding to the month described in the book) but decided to finish the book off in October. For a look at my art journal entry based on the cover illustration look here.

The Eye of Love (4.5/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is an unusual, quirky, humorous fairytale romance story. An unlikely hero (portly, middle-aged Henry Gibson) and an unlikely heroine (angular, past her prime Dolores Diver) meet at a Chelsea Arts Ball dressed as a brown paper parcel and Spanish dancer respectively. Thus springs an unusual decade long love affair that is threatened by economic situations. Enter an unemotional orphaned niece with a large appetite for food and drawing random objects, a few unusual characters and situations, lots of candor, romance and intelligence and you have the makings of a fine novel. ‘The Eye of Love’ by Margery Sharp is a fantastic read. For a full review click here

A Murder is Announced (4/5*) by Agatha Christie. This is Christie at her best. A Murder is Announced is a Miss Marple story. In the small village of Chipping Cleghorn a murder is announced in the local gazette. The murder will take place at 6.30 pm on October 29th at Little Paddocks.Various neighbours and members of the household gather in the living room at the stipulated time. The lights go out at the exact time announced and a masked intruder charges into the room and orders everyone to stick their hands up. A gun shot is fired and when the lights turn on, the hooded guest is found dead on the floor. The motive behind the killing forms the core of the mystery. I enjoyed the structure of the story. Each chapter led us methodically, deeper and deeper into the mystery. Cozy, delicious details of village life in the Cotwolds interspersed the detecting. Miss Marple at her very best! A very enjoyable read.

84 Charing Cross Road (5/5*) by Helene Hanff. This is an account of the correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer in New York and Frank Doel, an employee of a used antiquarian bookstore in London. The correspondence is spread over the years 1949 to 1969, documenting the lively dialogue between two people, with nothing in common but a knowledge and love of good books. Set in the years after World War II, the reader is treated to an insight of the reality of what it was like to live in the aftermath of the war. The book is funny and poignant and shows how people separated by great distance and circumstances can nonetheless, touch each others lives and create the most beautiful of relationships.For a full review click here.

The Priory (5/5*) by Dorothy Whipple.

“She saw for the first time that the history of Saunby was a sad one. It had been diverted from its purpose; it had been narrowed from a great purpose to a little one. It had been built for the service of God and the people; all people, but especially the poor.”

‘The Priory’ is the story of how the future of Saunby Priory might be diverted to recover the livelihoods, dignity and self-worth of a large community of people, united in their purpose. It is a beautiful novel, worthy of the highest praise. For a full review click here

Inspector French’s Greatest Case (4/5*) by Freeman Wills Crofts. I reviewed Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts as part of  Simon from Stuck in a Book’s #The1924Club. In the second half of October everyone was asked to review books published in 1924. The link to the complete list of blogger reviews is here.
In ‘Inspector French’s Greatest Case’ we are introduced to a case of murder that occurs at the offices of Duke and Peabody, a diamond merchant located at Hatton Garden in London. On a cold night in the middle of November, the body of an employee, by the name of Mr. Charles Gething is discovered prostrate on the floor in the inner office of Mr. Duke. Mr. Duke’s large Milner safe has been ransacked with the loss of thirty-three thousand pounds worth of diamonds and a thousand pounds in bank notes. Mr. Gething has undoubtedly been murdered as evidenced from the ugly wound made to the back of the skull by a blunt instrument.
The theft of the diamonds and money previously secured in the safe are the motive behind the murder. To investigate the case, Inspector French of the Criminal Investigation Department of New Scotland Yard is called in. For a full review of the book click here.

Dying in the Wool by (3/5*) by Frances Brody. This a ‘cozy’ mystery set in post World War I Yorkshire. It is the first in the detective series starring an amateur sleuth- Kate Shackleton. In this case, Kate investigates the inexplicable disappearance of the father of an old friend of hers. The man in question, was a fabric mill owner. Though the characters in the story were well drawn and the details of the period depicted sounded authentic, the story failed to grip me.

Martha in Paris (4/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is the second book in the ‘Martha Trilogy’ of Margery Sharp , the first of which was ‘The Eye of Love’. In this book we find that the unusual character of Martha has grown up. She is eighteen and about to embark on an adventure. She is to stay in Paris for two whole years to study art. This short book is quirky and funny and made me laugh frequently. It also made me ponder about the trials and tribulations of falling in love with a person with an artistic temperament.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (5/5*) by Julia Strachey. This is the most unusual book I have read this year yet so very wonderful. This is a Persephone Classic. It describes at length the wedding day of a young girl who is reluctant to get married. The bride takes to glugging a bottle of Jamaica Rum in her bedroom to quell her fears whilst downstairs a strange collective of characters have assembled to participate in the wedding celebrations. There are eccentric relatives, friends, a former beau who wishes to propose and yet is not certain of himself and a bevy of peculiar servants who help in the wedding preparations. The book is interspersed with memorable dialogues. I highly recommend this book!

2. Blogposts

Most of the blogposts this month were book reviews. I published eight book reviews excluding this round-up post this month. Four were reviews of children’s books: Blueberries for Sal, Tuesday, Goodnight Moon and Owl Moon. The remaining four were reviews of ‘grown-up’ books- including The Eye of Love, Inspector French’s Greatest Case, 84 Charing Cross Road and The Priory.

3. Movies

Since I devoted most of my evening leisure time to reading I didn’t watch as many movies or TV series as usual. I did watch dramatizations of Miss Marple’s A Murder is Announced (starring Geraldine McEwan), 84 Charing Cross Road (I was not a fan of Anne Bancroft’s acting; I felt it was slightly too affected), a re-watch of Far From the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan (the movie makes me want to re-read the book), Testament of Youth (re-watch) and Hocus Pocus on Halloween.

4. Audiobooks

 I started listening to Alan Bradley’s book ‘The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie’ on audio starring a young detective Flavia de Luce. This was fresh on the heels of completing the brilliant audio series ‘In and Out the Kitchen’ written by Miles Jupp.

5. Miscellaneous

 I bought a few books this month. These included a second hand book purchase of some beautiful books of the Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery. To take a look at the beautiful book covers click here. I also found two e-books from the British Library of Crime Classics series on sale – they are the Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston and Resorting to Murder: Holiday Mysteries by Martin Edwards

6. Next Month

I am devoting the majority of next month’s books to reading Children’s Literature for #ReadKidsLit. I hope to discover/ rediscover the joy of childhood tales. Here is a peek at next month’s ‘TBR’ pile.

Wish you all a happy and bookish November!