Flash Reviews (11th February 2014)

‘Amrita’ by Banana Yoshimoto (Faber & Faber)

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto ***
I have read two of Yoshimoto’s books to date – N.P. and Asleep – and have very much enjoyed them both.  Amrita is a far longer work of fiction, and is consequently rather chunky in comparison.  The premise was so intriguing, however, that I did not think it would take me too long to get through.   The Independent on Sunday have called Yoshimoto ‘the voice of young Japan’, and it certainly follows that all of the books of hers which I have read so far are both culturally and socially important within both the context of Japan and the world.

Amrita was first published in Japan in 1994 and translated into English in 1997.  Throughout, what most interested me was the way in which other cultures have impacted upon modern Japan.  The main family in this novel, for example, eat things like borscht, and talk often about the impact of the West upon themselves.  Sadly, whilst I did enjoy the novel overall, I found some of the dialogue a little overworked.  It did not quite read true of a real conversation.  At times, the story feels a little flat, and the entirety seems to be entirely devoid of emotion at its most pivotal points.  The philosophical elements of the plot have clearly been well thought out, but they too seemed a little overworked at times, particularly towards the end of the novel.  Whilst Amrita is enjoyable, it is my least favourite Yoshimoto to date.

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‘The Dogwood Fairy’ by Cicely Mary Barker

Flower Fairies: The Four Seasons by Cicely Mary Barker *****
This is another book which April so very kindly sent me for Christmas.  I have always absolutely adored the Flower Fairies, and it is lovely to have such a beautiful gift book, which includes the entire collection of Barker’s illustrations and poems, in my possession.  Barker’s drawings are absolutely beautiful, and the poems which run alongside them are so enchanting.  Reading them again as an adult made me realise just how informative they are with regard to different plants, and the ways in which a child can recognise them.  Little facts are woven in too – for example, that black bryony ‘used to be thought a cure for freckles’.  Flower Fairies: The Four Seasons is absolutely adorable, and is a book which I will be reading many more times in the future.

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Favourite Books from my Childhood: One

I thought that it would be a good idea to create a blog post about all of the books which I adored as a child, and naturally, there are many of them.  I have used my Library spreadsheet (a big list of all of the books which I’ve read during my lifetime) as inspiration.

Topsy and Tim

The Big Surprise (Topsy and Tim #2) by Jean Adamson – I used to read the Topsy and Tim books religiously when I was in infant school, and they were the first books I got to when I moved myself up a reading group, much to my parents’ amusement.  In my infant school library, we had a series of wooden boxes on legs, and each of them was painted in a different colour.  The books within each had a corresponding coloured sticker upon their spine.  When I had made my way through the colour which I had been assigned, I would move myself up so that I had more books at my disposal.  I think, in this way, that I reached the books for the most advanced readers when I was still in the middle of Year One.  I also learnt recently that Jean Adamson is a relatively local author to me, and I would have found such a fact terribly exciting when I was younger.  Topsy and Tim is a lovely series of books, and this was my particular favourite.


Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg – This book had an accompanying cartoon, which I am sure that many people of my age still remember the opening rhyme to.  The concept was quite simple: in a dark, dark town, in a dark, dark street, in a dark, dark house, in a dark, dark cellar, lived three skeletons – Big Skeleton, Little Skeleton, and their dog.  Each story featuring the trio was so fun, and I loved the illustrations.  Even though the very idea of living skeletons who enjoy playing tricks on people seems a little odd to me as an adult, something about it really worked, and for this reason, Funnybones and the rest of the books in the series will definitely be read (and the cartoon shown) to my future children, who will hopefully find it as amusing and memorable as I still do.

The Bear Nobody Wanted by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – Janet and Allan Ahlberg were my literary heroes when I was small, and I loved reading all of their books.  The Bear Nobody Wanted is one which remains vivid in my mind.  The story begins as a sad one, but it has a delightful ending, and it certainly made me treasure my soft toys all the more. 

‘The Jolly Postman’

The Jolly Postman, or Other People’s Letters, The Jolly Pocket Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – I still remember these books with such fondness.  Each had a plethora of small envelopes inside, in which there were tiny letters which the Jolly Postman was delivering all around town.  I am certain that the stories would still absolutely delight me as an adult, and I am very excited about the possible prospect of re-reading them far into the future.

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – Definitely one of the most adorable simple picture books that there is.  I vividly remember reading it over and over again before I could even read its words.

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen – I still absolutely adore these tales, and was lucky enough to drag my boyfriend around the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Copenhagen last year.  I cannot pick a favourite story as I did love so many of them, but as it is still essentially wintertime, I shall say that ‘The Snow Queen’, and its beautiful television adaptations, is at the very pinnacle of my treasures list.

‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch’ by Ronda Armitage

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage – Such an absolutely charming book, which I remember adoring.  I found out last year that there is an entire series of these books, and am hoping that my library has them all in stock so that I can joyfully discover the Lighthouse Keeper all over again.

The Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker – It goes without saying that I absolutely adored these books.  Which little girl didn’t?  I would happily gaze at the illustrations for hours, and read the lovely accompanying rhymes.

Brambly Hedge

The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem – Surely the most adorable series of books, Brambly Hedge centered around a group of woodland creatures who wore the most adorable clothing, and were real characters in themselves.  I am longing to rediscover these lovely tales once more.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – Quite honestly, I could gush about this charming book for hours.  If you haven’t read it before, please, go and do so.  It is beautiful, magical and filled with adventure – for me, the very cornerstones of marvellous children’s literature.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – Everyone who knows me tends to know how much I absolutely adore the Madeline books, and Madeline herself as a character.  These tales are all told in rhyme, and centre upon a children’s orphanage in Paris, in which Madeline lives with eleven other little girls and their guardian, Miss Clavel.  Bemelmans’ illustrations are utterly charming, and he effortlessly captures the excitement and adventure which his little heroine encounters along the way.

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