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New Release Wishlist

Since I’ve stopped reviewing books for other websites and publications, I’ve found myself rather out of the loop when it comes to knowing about new releases.  Yes, I can find not-yet-released books on Netgalley easily enough, but it’s not quite the same as browsing book websites and blogs and building that delicious anticipation.  Thus, I have scoured the Internet to bring you a list of ten new releases which I am coveting.

1. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy 51chitfapol-_sx336_bo1204203200_
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness transports us across a sub-continent on a journey of many years. It takes us deep into the lives of its gloriously rendered characters, each of them in search of a place of safety— in search of meaning, and of love.  ​In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around one another, as though they have just met.  A braided narrative of astonishing force and originality, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is at once a love story and a provocation—a novel as inventive as it is emotionally engaging. It is told with a whisper, in a shout, through joyous tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Its heroes, both present and departed, have been broken by the world we live in—and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.’

 

2. Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss 514dlw-rjgl-_sx323_bo1204203200_
‘Jules Epstein has vanished from the world. He leaves no trace but a rundown flat patrolled by a solitary cockroach, and a monogrammed briefcase abandoned in the desert.  To Epstein’s mystified family, the disappearance of a man whose drive and avidity have been a force to be reckoned with for sixty-eight years marks the conclusion of a gradual fading. This transformation began in the wake of Epstein’s parents’ deaths, and continued with his divorce after more than thirty-five years of marriage, his retirement from a New York legal firm, and the rapid shedding of possessions he’d spent a lifetime accumulating. With the last of his wealth and a nebulous plan, he departs for the Tel Aviv Hilton.  Meanwhile, a novelist leaves her husband and children behind in Brooklyn and checks into the same hotel, hoping that the view of the pool she used to swim in on childhood holidays will unlock her writer’s block. But when a man claiming to be a retired professor of literature recruits her for a project involving Kafka, she is drawn into a mystery that will take her on a metaphysical journey and change her in ways she could never have imagined.  Bursting with life and humour, this is a profound, mesmerising, achingly beautiful novel of metamorphosis and self-realisation – of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.’

 

97817864847343. Five Get Beach Body Ready by Bruno Vincent
‘Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new series of Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, George, Dick, Anne, Julian and Timmy are keen to hone their physiques ready for the summer holidays. All it will take is a bit of effort and willpower …and pulling together as a team. What could possibly stand in their way? True to form, the path to the body beautiful is less straightforward than they hope! ‘

 

4. St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire by Jonathan Miles 9780091959463
‘From Peter the Great to Putin, this is the unforgettable story of St Petersburg – one of the most magical, menacing and influential cities in the world. St Petersburg has always felt like an impossible metropolis, risen from the freezing mists and flooded marshland of the River Neva on the western edge of Russia. It was a new capital in an old country. Established in 1703 by the sheer will of its charismatic founder, the homicidal megalomaniac Peter-the-Great, its dazzling yet unhinged reputation was quickly fashioned by the sadistic dominion of its early rulers. This city, in its successive incarnations – St Petersburg; Petrograd; Leningrad and, once again, St Petersburg – has always been a place of perpetual contradiction. It was a window on to Europe and the Enlightenment, but so much of the glory of Russia was created here: its literature, music, dance and, for a time, its political vision. It gave birth to the artistic genius of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Pavlova and Nureyev. Yet, for all its glittering palaces, fairytale balls and enchanting gardens, the blood of thousands has been spilt on its snow-filled streets. It has been a hotbed of war and revolution, a place of siege and starvation, and the crucible for Lenin and Stalin’s power-hungry brutality. In St Petersburg, Jonathan Miles recreates the drama of three hundred years in this absurd and brilliant city, bringing us up to the present day, when – once more – its fate hangs in the balance. This is an epic tale of murder, massacre and madness played out against squalor and splendour. It is an unforgettable portrait of a city and its people. ‘

 

97807553909535. Tin Man by Sarah Winman
‘The unforgettable and achingly tender new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS. ‘Exquisite’ Joanna Cannon It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things. And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael, who are inseparable. And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything. Tin Man sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of When God Was A Rabbit and A Year Of Marvellous Ways with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.’

 

6. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong 512bsgqt67tl-_sx331_bo1204203200_
‘Freshly disengaged from her fiance and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.   Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.’

 

510v2bugqkyl-_sx333_bo1204203200_7. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
‘The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.
Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.  At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.   Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…’

 

8. The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne 51-bhijiful-_sx306_bo1204203200_
‘Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.’

 

51e4ckmnrbl-_sx331_bo1204203200_9. The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson
‘From the publisher of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, the first in a new series of distinctive, standalone crime stories, each with a literary bent. In 1950s London, a literary agent finds fame when he secretly steals a young woman’s brilliant novel manuscript and publishes it under his own name, Lewis Carson. Two days after their meeting, the woman is found strangled on Peckham Rye Common: did Lewis purloin the manuscript as an act of callous opportunism, or as the spoils of a calculated murder?’

 

10. Two Stories by Virginia Woolf and Mark Haddon 51skmqr3jdl-_sx351_bo1204203200_
‘Virginia Woolf was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. With her husband, Leonard Woolf, she started the Hogarth Press in 1917: the list ranged widely in fiction, poetry, politics and psychoanalysis, and published all Virginia Woolf’s own work.   Its first publication appeared in 2017: Two Stories, bound in bright Japanese paper, contained a short story from both Virginia and Leonard. Typeset and bound by Virginia, with illustrations by Dora Carrington, 134 copies were printed by Leonard using a small handpress installed in the dining room at Hogarth House, Richmond.  To celebrate the 100th anniversary of ‘Publication No. 1’ this new edition of Two Stories takes the original text of Virginia’s story, ‘The Mark on the Wall’ (with illustrations by Dora Carrington), and pairs it with a new story, ‘St Brides Bay’, by Mark Haddon, a lifelong reader of Virginia Woolf.  TWO STORIES also includes a portrait of Virginia Woolf by Mark Haddon, and a short introduction from the publisher about the founding of the Press.’

 

Which new releases are you most excited about?  Will you be reading any of these?

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Five Go Adulting

Parody books seem to be in vogue at present; walk into any bookshop, and the chances are you will be confronted by a large table spread with such things as We’re All Going on a Bar Hunt in the first minute.  I normally don’t buy into bookish trends, preferring to choose my own, often marginally obscure, reads at my leisure.  When I spotted that the Famous Five had been updated for the twenty-first century, however, I couldn’t bring myself to let the books pass me by.

I was an enormous fan of Enid Blyton as a child, and all of my copies of the Famous Five series have been passed down by my mother, a once avid reader of the series herself.  We both laughed mirthfully at Five Go Gluten Free and Five on Brexit Island when they plopped through the letterbox just before Christmas.  The other two titles which I purchased on a great deal from The Book People were the slightly less amusing Five Go Parenting and Five Go On a Strategy Away Day.

I’m still reeling from the Brexit decision, and thought I would begin with that parody.  The 9781786483843storyline deals with the gang avoiding real life on the night of the referendum, and retiring to George’s territory of Kirrin Island for a brief holiday.  A fierce war soon ensues between George, a staunch remainer, and Julian, a traitor who voted to leave the EU.  George is so horrified that she makes the decision that Kirrin Island itself should leave Britain, and holds her own referendum to that effect.  Here, Vincent provides rather a light take on politics, which is both humorous and well-informed.  The characters are still similar to their childhood counterparts, something exacerbated with the use of the series’ original illustrations.  I felt myself very much disliking Julian in this volume due to his beliefs, whereas as a child I had been relatively indifferent to him.  Five on Brexit Island will not heal the pain of the referendum, but it is clever and well-crafted, and provides a bit of light relief.

9781786482228Five Go Gluten Free was next for me.  Rather than choosing to follow a gluten free diet for medical reasons, Anne – very much a fan of health fads – decides that the whole group should cut out the majority of the foodstuffs that they so love; no pies, chips, or beer going forward.  I found this volume the most funny of the four which I have read, particularly as I so associate the majority of Blyton’s child characters with a very British love of picnics and midnight feasts.  The Famous Five are always eating, so the challenge of macrobiotic and wholefoods proves highly problematic.  There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments here, and a plethora of amusing one-liners.  In this book particularly, the five translate very well to the modern world, and there is a marvellous feel of the utmost nostalgia to it.

My penultimate parody was Five Go Parenting, in which the group are given cousin Rupert 9781786482280Kirrin’s baby; he and his Eastern European wife have been put in prison after another one of their illegal schemes, and six-month-old Lily comes to live in the surprisingly incredibly spacious London flat which the five share.  This was an amusing look into the world of parenting by those who were utterly unsure as to what to do, or how much the addition of a tiny human could change their way of life.  Witty and well-executed, Vincent’s writing in this volume particularly echoes Blyton’s.  I would deem Five Go Parenting a splendid tongue-in-cheek gift for the new parent, or a funny slice of nostalgia for those whose children are a little older.

9781786482242Five Go on a Strategy Away Day was my least favourite of the series by far.  I awarded it a three-star rating, but didn’t find it that funny at all, and indeed, there were no laughing aloud moments for me.  In the book, the four human members of the group who, of course, work with one another, head into the countryside for a team bonding session.  It culminates in an orienteering exercise, in which they are effectively up against all of the members of the Secret Seven.  I did enjoy this merging of the groups, but found that here, the storyline was a touch lacking.

At just over 100 pages each, Bruno Vincent’s Blyton parodies are the perfect reads to give as gifts, or to settle down with yourself if you have an hour or two to spare.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Transitional Authors

I begin this post with a question: what is the first adult novel which you remember reading?  As a child, I always had my nose within the pages of Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, and had a slight error at the age of seven, when I decided that Moby-Dick looked as though it would keep me busy for a while, and began it only to put it down soon afterwards. face

At the age of eight, however, I vividly remember reading both Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird – the first my own choice, and the second a gift from my father – and immediately feeling as though I had unlocked a whole new world of wonders.  I swiftly followed these wonderful novels, enduring favourites of mine, with the likes of Wuthering Heights and A Christmas Carol, and haven’t looked back since.

Are the first adult novels which you read classed amongst your current favourites?  If you remember, what made you select the adult books which you did as a child or teenager?

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The ‘(Literary) People I Would Like to Meet’ Tag

It’s time to make a post after such a long time being absent from the blog. I really thank my lovely bookish friend Eleni at Over The Place for creating this tag and tagging me to do it, too 🙂 So, without further ado, here are some of the (literary) people I would like to meet:

1. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

Two of my favourite people in the world. I love Neil Gaiman’s stories and immense talent and Amanda is such a sweet person and a musician that can truly articulate your deepest feelings and thoughts. They are both such fascinating individuals that it’s only natural for them to occupy a high place in my list of people I’d like to meet.

2. Margaret Atwood

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Now, I have technically seen Margaret Atwood up close when I attended a lecture she gave as a guest in the University of Athens in Greece (I had made a post about it which you can find here if you’re interested), but I didn’t have the opportunity to actually talk to her. Having both studied her work at Uni and read it out of personal interest, I can very positively say that she’s one of my favourite contemporary writers. Her writing is witty, as sharp as it should be and definitely engaging. She may look like one’s grandma, but she’s so much more than that.

3. David Crystal

David Crystal is one of my favourite linguists. I had read his book A Little Book of Language when I first entered uni and had started picking an interest on linguistics and issues surrounding language. The way he writes about language oozes with his passion for it, and therefore, he successfully manages to transfer some of this passion to his readers. He had actually come to Greece for a lecture, but I found out about it too late and couldn’t attend. He’s a person I really admire and I’d love to have the opportunity to meet him some time.

4. Enid Blyton

She’s my most cherished childhood author. I devoured her books as soon as I got my hands on them and I always craved for more. She kicked off my childish imagination like no other author had done before and her books were the beginning of my fascination with mystery novels. I know that meeting her now is impossible, but she will always have a special place in my heart.

5. Ogawa Yoko

Everyone who knows me even a little bit is well aware of my adoration for Japanese literature. Ogawa Yoko is one of the most interesting Japanese writers I have encountered so far. I haven’t read all of her books yet, but I admire how versatile she can be.

6. Kirsty Logan

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I usually have no opinion on authors I haven’t read myself, but after watching an interview of Kirsty Logan’s by the wonderful Choncey and after reading tons of loving comments and reviews about her latest book, The Gracekeepers, I’m definitely intrigued by her personality and creative spirit. She seems such a lovely lady and I would definitely love to sit with her for a cup of tea and talk about books and magic worlds.

There were many other people I considered adding to this list, and many others I haven’t really thought of yet. I tried to limit myself to currently living people for quite obvious reasons, but I couldn’t prevent myself from adding Enid Blyton – I hope you understand.

I now tag dublinbookworm, Cathy @ 746books, Aman and whoever else wants to do it of course! You can also leave a comment and tell me about the people you would like to meet there 🙂 I’d love to see your responses!

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Flash Reviews: Non-Fiction (20th June 2014)

‘Findings’

Findings by Kathleen Jamie ****
1. I have wanted to read Kathleen Jamie’s work for such a long time.  She is both a poet and a nature writer, and I seized upon Findings when I found it in the library.  Throughout, Jamie describes her travels in Scotland, demonstrating the power of the country’s landscapes upon her, and upon the wildlife which inhabits it.
2. Throughout, Jamie touches upon so many elements of nature – the use of darkness in respect to harbouring evils, Neolithic remains, the way in which technology has infiltrated even the oldest sites, whale watching, and the specimens inside Edinburgh’s Surgeon’s Hall are just a few examples of the essays she has written here.
3. Findings, as I expected it to be, is absolutely fascinating, and the photographs throughout add so much to each essay.

Purchase from The Book Depository
The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch and Richard van Emden ***
1. My boyfriend’s grandparents gave me this book an age ago, and it only came out of my book choice jar last month.  Patch has passed away since The Last Fighting Tommy, but at the time of publication, he was 108 years old, and the only surviving veteran of the First World War.
2. The camaraderie which he describes throughout is touching, particularly in this, the centenary year of the beginning of the conflict.
3. I found some elements of it a little repetitive, but overall, a fascinating portrait of a very humble man has been presented with the utmost care and consideration.

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Looking for Enid: The Mysterious and Inventive Life of Enid Blyton by Duncan McLaren **

‘Looking for Enid’

1. I love Blyton’s fiction, but I did not receive a favourable impression of the woman herself when I watched the BBC drama ‘Enid’ a few years ago.  I hoped that reading what I thought was a biography of her life would be enlightening, and would show me what Blyton was really like behind her kindly author facade.  This book, however, is not a straightforward author biography; instead, it charts McLaren’s journey in travelling to the houses in which Blyton lived and the places in which she holidayed.
2. I like the way in which McLaren states that Blyton’s work should still be read in adulthood, alongside such other authors as Proust and Waugh.
3. Much of the novel is told through dialogue exchanges between McLaren and his friend Kate, and he also (rather annoyingly) imagines that he is writing Blyton-esque books at intervals.  The use of both techniques made the whole feel a little woven and patchy.  I shall be picking up Barbara Stoney’s biography of Blyton at some point in the future, and hope that I enjoy it far more than I did the sadly disappointing Looking for Enid.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Favourite Books from my Childhood: Two

Following on from my first childhood favourites post, here are some more of the treasured books which I adored when I was small.

Noddy

Noddy by Enid Blyton – Even my younger sister, who categorically does not read, enjoyed these books when she was little, so that says a lot about how adorable they are.  The cartoon was a favourite of ours.  There are many books in the series, and I am sure that they are likely to charm adults just as much as children.

The Magic Faraway Tree, Up the Faraway Tree and The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – It goes without saying that these books are absolutely delightful.  The pleasure and peril within the tales has been wonderfully balanced, and I still absolutely love them now.  The same goes for Blyton’s marvellous Wishing Chair stories.  All of the books are filled with the most wonderful characters which a child could hope to meet.  Favourites of mine are the lovely Silky and the marvellously grumpy Moon Face.

The Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton – Filled with adventure.  A lot of my copies of the Famous Five date from the 1930s and 1940s, and I have had the greatest fun of late re-reading the lovely Secret Seven boxset of books which I received for Christmas.

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond – Paddington, that marmalade-loving, macintosh-wearing ball of fluff, is one of the most charming bears in literature.  He is always off having adventures, and each story in the series is written to be treasured.  I don’t think I will ever grow up when there is children’s literature like this in the world.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs – So delightful, and a story which I happily revisit every Christmas Eve.

Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley – I was always enchanted by little Millicent-Margaret-Amanda (you can see why she has a nickname, can’t you?) when I was little, and I loved reading about the lovely things she did in her little village.

Babar

Babar by Jean de Brunhoff – My Mum loves these stories just as much as I do.  Babar is the loveliest of elephants, and his family is absolutely adorable.  The illustrations and tales which de Brunhoff has created are an utter delight.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is one of the first films which I ever remember watching, and it has remained my favourite ever since.  I think I have read this book about a dozen times already, and I still find it absolutely enchanting.  You can find my full Secret Garden review here.

Hushabye by John Burningham – I was a little too old for this book when I read it, but I did so to a baby cousin of mine, and was absolutely charmed by the simple, lullaby-esque story and the beautiful watercolour illustrations.  I did love Burningham’s work when I was little myself, and he was lovely to revisit when I was a little older.

Percy the Park Keeper by Nick Butterworth – I absolutely loved these tales and the accompanying cartoon.  A particular favourite of mine was One Snowy Night.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – To say that I was obsessed with this book when I was small is not an understatement.  I absolutely loved it, and now, quite a few years on, I own a lovely Hungry Caterpillar mug and set of badges.

Purchase these books from the Book Depository

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Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#10-#6)

10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Quirky, fun and beautifully illustrated, especially the Tove Jansson edition.  I love the book so much that I have three separate copies of it.

9. Old Bear by Jane Hissey
I used to adore these tales, and would read them with my Mum on a regular basis.  The ITV adaptation of the stories was absolutely charming.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl
What’s not to like about a story of a wonderfully bookish and intelligent little girl who finds happiness?  Absolutely lovely.

7. The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the Faraway Tree stories, and this is a particularly great collection.  I adore the way in which the new lands come to the top of the tree, and the adventures which ensue along the way.

6. The Jolly Postman, Or Other People’s Letters by Janet Ahlberg
This book and its sequels kept me amused for hours.  It is presented in such an exciting, lovely format.

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Sunday Snapshot: Childhood Favourites (#30-#26)

I have been a voracious reader all my life, so what could be better than to share some of my favourite childhood books? They are in no particular order, and all are treasures to me for various reasons. I will be counting down from 30 for the next six Sundays, and will hopefully be creating a marvellous list whilst I’m at it.

30. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
This is an absolutely lovely little book of poetry, and one which I remember vividly from my childhood. I loved the charming, quaint verse and the myriad of different scenes which Milne so skilfully evoked. The illustrations throughout were a delight, and this is a collection which I shall continue to read throughout my life.

29. First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
I spent many days of my childhood reading Enid Blyton, and the Malory Towers series was one of my favourites. I found this book a perfect one to read in front of a roaring fire on a chilly Saturday. I liked the interlinked stories throughout, and it was a real delight to rediscover all of the characters whom I’d somehow forgotten about in the intervening years.

28. The Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden
The Dolls’ House is utterly adorable and is filled with some absolutely wonderful characters.  Tottie and Charlotte were particularly endearing, and I loved the limitless imagination which Godden demonstrated throughout the book.  It is so quaint and lovely, and is definitely well worth reading in terms of both nostalgia and loveliness.

27. George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
<i>George’s Marvellous Medicine</i> is so fun and inventive.  Part of me is a tiny bit tempted to see if a similar trick would work on my very own grouchy Grandma.  Or perhaps I should just send her a copy of the book instead…

26. Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans
This particular <i>Madeline</i> story is incredibly inventive and funny.  Bemelman’s illustrations are sublime, and I love the way in which he captures the excitement of circus life for his wonderful heroine.