Book News from the New York Times

There were two very interesting articles in the Books section of the New York Times in the past couple of days.

The first told about how the first chapter of a few different Booker prize winning novels (one by the recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature) were submitted to several different publishers as though they were the work of aspiring novelists. Of 21 replies all but one were rejections. The authors of the books said they weren’t surprised. I think it’s very sad.

The other article was a little more light-hearted. The Oxford Hospital emergency room compared the child (between 7 and 15 years) admissions to the emergency room during an average summer weekend and the admissions of the same group during the premiere weekends of the last two Harry Potter novels. Admissions went down by about half when Harry came out. I guess Harry is good for safety! I do like that this shows that reading books can keep kids out of trouble!

Book: Ella’s Games


Ella’s Games
David Bedford
Illustrator: Peter Kavanagh
2002

This is an absolutely adorable picture book about a little girl mouse with a great imagination. Her three older brothers won’t let her play with them, so she goes off on her own and invents stories and games to play. Each night her brothers ask what she has been doing and she tells them, eventually making them realize that they are missing out on a lot of fun by not letting her play with them. Ella is enchanting and it is nearly impossible not to love her.

The book is laid out adorably with each game laid out in the same way as the others, forming a pattern in the design of the book. Each day begins with Ella being told that she can’t play with her brothers for one reason or another. Then she goes off and we see the realistic images of what her game looks like (Ella dancing alone with a large flower in some mud). She returns home with the object she played with and is asked about it by one of her brothers. A double page spread follows with a fantastical illustration of the game Ella envisioned happening (Ella stealing the whisker from a giant rainbow striped cat). Then the brothers express admiration and the cycle starts over. The result of this pattern is a gently moving story that builds perfectly to it’s climax at the end of the book.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. They are simple, showing the little mice at their games among the very tall grass and in simple hole in the wall houses. The giant accessories in their house (like the margarine tub bathtub) are perfectly darling and often funny little details that are easy to miss. The colours aren’t bright, but they do draw the eye. They are comfortable realistic colours that create an easy familiarity with the world the little mice live in. I just love the pictures.

This is a charming book about imagination and overcoming imposed limitations. The characters are charming and the illustrations are wonderful. I highly recommend this book, especially to youngest children!

Peter Kavanagh’s Website
Ella’s Games

Book: Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration

Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration
Editor: Peter Glassman
2000

This is a very cool book that celebrates the memories Baum’s world of Oz has created in the first hundred years of its existence. To do this 30 authors and illustrators have written about and drawn their images and memories of Oz. The book is a spectacular celebration of all things Oz! Most of the illustrators and authors who participated in this book are familiar ones, from Lloyd Alexander and Tomie de Paola to K. Y. Craft and Peter Sis. There is a ton of variety in this book and I love it!

The memories presented are completely random and the illustrations range from fabulous oil paintings to black-line cartoons. Many of the pictures are based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum’s first Oz book, but there are a few based on later books and even one or two based on the 1939 MGM movie version. Some of my favourite contributions are from Paul O. Zelinsky, Trina Schart Hyman, Lloyd Alexander and Eric Carle. Probably the most fantastic images in the book are the portrait of Ozma by K. Y. Craft and the wonderful picture of the flying house by Chris Van Allsburg. William Joyce wrote a nice piece about one of the most amazing facts about the 1939 movie while Richard Egielski and Bruce Degen both describe flying-monkey related nightmares. There is so much variety in this book that it’s wonderfully entertaining to read.

This is a perfect celebration of 100 years of memories. Not to mention, seeing some of my favourite characters and scenes drawn by some of my favourite illustrators is quite a treat! This is a great book and I definitely recommend checking it out!

Publisher’s Description
Buy it from Amazon

Book: Dagger of Doom


Dagger of Doom
Kerry Daniel Roberts
Illustrator: Emily Fiegenschuh
2005

This is the sixth book the “Knights of the Silver Dragon” series. It continues with the adventures of Driskoll, Kellach and Moyra. The story is set up with Driskoll hearing a tale about two brothers who lived long ago. The story says that one brother gave the other a dagger. Then the brother with the dagger killed the other. The knife is supposed to be cursed and the name of each victim appears on the blade prior to his death by it. The knife now has Kellach’s name on it. The entire story is focused on Driskoll and his point of view throughout the story. As readers we are never given even a glimpse into what the other two kids are thinking, which is unusual for the series, but necessary for this book.

This book confused me a lot. For most of it I couldn’t decide if it was intriguing or ridiculous. I honestly couldn’t have said if I liked it or not! Because of the unique point of view, it was hard to say if the kids were actually acting out of character or if Driskoll just thought they were. Along the same lines, it was difficult to know what information to trust and what to doubt because everything was filtered through Driskoll’s perception of it. Part way through the book I was almost convinced that everything was in Driskoll’s imagination!

The story was very interesting. I remained interested throughout the book while simultaneously being very annoyed at the oddities in the children’s behaviour. I’m convinced at this point that this was deliberate. I was as suspicious as everyone as Driskoll was. I was very worried that the ending would be stupid and it would prove the book to be mostly just annoying with what could have been an interesting plot, but that didn’t end up being the case. The ending was completely not what I expected (although in hindsight there were clues throughout the book) and that turned out to be a good thing. The end was interesting and the explanation for the kids acting out of character was sound. This was excellently well written. This couldn’t be the first book in a series or a stand-alone book, but as a book several volumes into a series it was absolutely brilliant. I was impressed that the ending even works D&D mechanics wise. It was incredibly well done.

Like the last few books, there were few internal illustrations in this book. That said, the quality of the illustrations that were there was as good as I have come to expect from this illustrator. The cover in particular was brilliant. It is simple, but after completing the book it becomes obvious just how clever the design of the cover illustration is! I think this may be my most favourite cover yet. It is so perfect for the book it’s incredible.

This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it, but read at least two books in the series first (my suggestions would be the first and fourth books since the others were not as good).

Publisher’s Description
Book Blog Post (Initial Impressions)
Book Blog Post (Reflex Saves!)
Book Blog Post (Slooooow)
Book Blog Post (Cluelessness)
Book Blog Post (Driskoll’s Imagination?)
Book Blog Post (Final Response)
Buy it from Amazon

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