Posts tagged ‘children’s literature’

January 9, 2013

2013 Goodreads Challenge.

Instead of doing a ‘here are my plans for 2013’ kind of post, I thought I’d write a handful of posts about individual things I’d like to do with my year. Today’s subject is my reading goal. Last year, I set myself a Goodreads Challenge to read 52 books in 2012.  I have utterly no idea what possessed me to think I could read a novel a week, given my other commitments, but I like to think it was with a sense of optimism, rather than sheer idiocy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – which is probably a good thing, given the subject at hand – I failed in my attempts. I read 46 books, and about ten of those were children’s books as I reached December in a self-induced panic and decided that was the only way I’d get close to my goal. I read excellent children’s books, mind you. ‘Moominvalley in November’ is a thing of beauty that would be wasted on many children. Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’ is so good it’s a ‘read-in-one-sitting’ kind of book. And whilst I didn’t really love the ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ books that I read, I guarantee that they’d be loved by many people. So, it wasn’t time wasted.

What I came to realise about the whole exercise, as I wrote in my review of the year, was that although its important for me to set challenging goals, as far as reading fiction is concerned, I’m more interested in quality over quantity. And with that, I’ve decided that this year’s Goodreads Challenge will be 26 books. A figure I arrived at by the deep and meaningful thought process of cutting last year’s goal in half…

Alongside this has been a giant book cull. I’ve gone beyond clearing out the books that I don’t like and have now plucked up the courage to clear out books that I know, in my heart of hearts, I will never read. Even if I’ve bought them new and they’ve been sitting in my house for years, patiently waiting to be picked up. I’ve got rid of my copy of classics too, kept forever in a misguided belief that I should keep a copy of Hardy, or of Dickens. After all, I do not want to live in a world in which I could not buy a new copy –  or borrow from the library – if I so desired. And, in many cases, I know that I won’t.  I don’t actually like Thomas Hardy and so it’s highly improbable that I will want to read his work again. Even accepting that has been something of a relief.

Clearing out my house of unread and disliked books has brought a sense of freedom to my reading. No longer will I be taunted by dusty piles of unread fiction, or suffer from feelings of guilt over them. I read a wonderful article by Lesley Garner about how clearing your house of unfinished projects, unrealised ambitions and dreams gives you room and freedom to create new ones. This is how I feel about having cleared out all my books. As though I can start afresh with books I really want to read instead of feeling as though I should read them because they’re already in the house.

My new rules are thus: I will read one ‘big’ novel a month and one easier read. I will only buy one book at a time, and read it completely before buying the next. If I choose to keep that book, then I will operate a ‘one in, one out’ policy to prevent the claustrophobic feeling created from by having too many possessions crushed into my tiny house. And, I realise that 26 books is a little more than two a month, but I am optimistic. Or idiotic. I’ll leave that for you to decide…

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January 9, 2012

3 Books

The wonderful Emily at A Mummy Too wrote a post recently about 3 Books – a favourite book from childhood, a favourite adulthood book and finally a favourite parenthood book. I thought it was such a great idea. Finding the time and head space to read anything these days is a challenge, although one that I am doing my best to address. I am presently a member of three book clubs in various guises for a start…which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m reading more books, but I am chatting to people a lot more about the potential to read more books!

Finding only three books is a challenge, and if you asked me again next year I might give you a completely different set of answers but for now, here goes.

Childhood: My childhood book choice is an Enid Blyton one. Considering how popular she is, it’s something of a foregone conclusion. However, my book is the lesser known ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm”, one of a series of books following the lives of four children, Benjy, Rory, Sheila and Penny, who are sent to live on a farm with their aunt and uncle to recover from illness. They meet a hermit called Tammylan who knows all about the natural environment and he teaches them what he knows.

This series of books is far slower than the more adventurous of Blyton’s novels and really seem to exist to extole the virtues of country life, rather than having any major plot. Through ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm’ is a description of the British countryside  through the seasons, with many wonderful things and the occasional nasty truth (usually the conflict between nature and farming) to make sure that the image of the countryside isn’t always idyllic.

However, despite the lack of gripping adventurous plot,  it is because of them that I became obsessed with self-sufficiency legend John Seymour. It’s because of them that I have always wanted to keep chickens, and have a list of breeds I would choose. It is because of them that I have an allotment and my own little fruit orchard. It is because of them that I know so many things; bats don’t get stuck in your hair, a hare will jump sideways to stop its scent being found by a predator, the difference between a stoat and a weasel. It may even be because of these books that I ended up where I am today, working for an environmental organisation.

So, although I will read many different Enid Blyton books with my children as they grow older, I do hope that these become a favourite with them too. They made such a big impression on me that I’ve never forgotten as I’ve got older.

Adulthood: I struggled a bit with my second book. Those of you who read this blog regularly, will know that I have two favourite novels – ‘I Capture The Castle’ and ‘War and Peace’. For the sheer reason that I re-read it when I am glum and it comforts me like a cashmere blanket, I am choosing Dodi Smith’s ‘I Capture The Castle’ here. It is a beautifully written and bittersweet coming-of-age story that I adore. The subjects of unrequited love, growing up with eccentric and difficult family members, struggling for money, the desire for beautiful things and the bloody difficulty of being in that moment, no longer a girl but not quite a woman either, bind together with poignancy and the odd moment of sheer comedy. I know every time I turn to it and read the opening line: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink‘ that I will fall in love all over again.

The difficulty with choosing an adulthood book is that these are my favourites so far. Although they have both been long-standing choices, the beauty of literature is that you never know what you might read next!

Parenthood: This one is even more difficult! My kids love books and I mean LOVE books. It’s like Junior Waterstones at our house and we could probably set up a library. Even though they have so many, we often find ourselves reading the same ones over and over again, something that will be  familiar to those of you with kids. There are many that I can recite without being anywhere near the book itself. Mostly Julia Donaldson ones…

Anyway, the book that I am choosing for this is “My Naughty Little Sister’ by Dorothy Edwards. Although written in 1952 and therefore relatively dated (which means I take the liberty of changing a word or two) I have chosen this book is because it was the first book that we read to Eve that wasn’t a picture book. Originally we were lent an old copy, which we took thinking that she wouldn’t be interested, and she proved us completely wrong by wanting to read the whole thing and we now have the full series. I love that she completely surprised me by being so much more grown up than I’d thought and that she (along with her little brother) shares my love of books.  We still do read lots of picture books, alongside more grown up stories like these, but my husband is already counting down the days until he can introduce them to The Hobbit…

Now it’s your turn. Choose your #3Books and add them to the linky at A Mummy Too !

September 13, 2011

Autumn: A new start

I love the changing of the seasons. One of the best things of living in Britain is that we still have distinct seasons, bringing different foods, activities, and changes to our natural environment. Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. Partly because it’s the time for apple harvesting,watching the leaves turn colour and sitting on the sofa under a cosy blanket, but also because it means a new start. Although Spring is the usual time for us to think about new beginnings, I think Autumn, with it’s memories of new school terms (and new books, blank white pages of paper and fresh pens) is a great time to think about what is coming next.

For me, it’s looking forward to the lovely run up to Christmas, with Apple Day, Halloween, Bonfire Night and Eve’s birthday all to come before then. Now that I’ve completed one of the biggest physical challenges of my 35:35 Challenge, it’s time to take stock. I have got a long way to go to make all 35 and not all of them can be as brutal as Yorkshire 3  Peaks or I might not make it. So my thoughts are turning to challenges based around the gentle arts – baking, making, and craft-type activities that seem to suit the early days of Autumn.

‘Katy’ apples on my allotment

As the recent winds have given me rather too many windfall apples, I won’t be able to keep them for eating, so apple recipes are needed for a start.

I also have a desire to learn some new crafts – I am very good at thinking up ideas, but pretty awful at completing things. I can spend hours dreaming over Jane Brocket’s book, ‘The Gentle Art of Domesticity’, (or actually all her books and blog, I think she’s wonderful) but I rarely make anything – apart from endless baking with Eve, sometimes from Jane’s book ‘Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer’, which, in a work of genius, combines food and children’s literature – two of my favourite things!

Anyway, I digress. In order to complete a few ‘gentle’ challenges, I am looking for a teacher. I hope to attempt a bit of crochet, perhaps knitting, who knows? So I’m on the hunt for people to teach me some of these things. To start with though, I’m going to try to find a simple dressmaking pattern and use some of my old Liberty fabric to make something!

If you’ve got any fantastic apple recipes, simple dressmaking patterns or other Autumnal loveliness let me know!