The Fox Hunt – Sven Nordqvist

More in the Series – Findus
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 2 points

The best part of this book (according to both C and me) is that every picture has a bunch of secret, hidden, awesome little interesting details. Chickens stepping out of picture frames, and trees shaped like musical instruments… it’s great fun. I really love it when picture books embrace the “picture” part of that description and have more going on than just a standard rendition of the text.

The relationship between Pettson and Findus is also totally frikkin’ wonderful. It has all that wonderful nuance of a friendship that has existed for years where you’ve learned all the other person’s little quirks and kind of indulge them in that gentle smiling “I see what you did there” way. It’s charming as hell.

I love how Findus keeps pushing Pettson to new heights of the ridiculous in his plan to scare the fox off, and you get the distinct impression that it is far more about amusing himself than it is about achieving the objective.

The book has no female characters, and no diversity at all to speak of, but it’s still 100% worth a read. I loved the fact that it gently implies that perhaps killing a fox who is just trying to feed himself is not entirely ethical. 😉 And the fact that when the trap is sprung it is the hunter Gustavsson who is caught in it and discouraged from his (fox-hunting) behaviour.

Charming, brilliant stuff. Well worth a read.

 

The Gruffalo’s Child – Julia Donaldson

More in the Series – Gruffalo
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

Man, I love these books. Donaldson has that rare knack of writing light rhyming text that totally belies how hard it is to do right. Plus, I always love me a trickster tale, and the mouse in these books is absolutely a trickster.

In this one, the Gruffalo warns his daughter about the Big Bad Mouse, but she decides to go exploring to see for herself. She meets a variety of animals all of whom warn her that the Mouse is down by the lake eating Gruffalo cake (or similar). She finally finds the Mouse and is unimpressed by how little he is. However with the help of some clever shadow work, he manages to trick her into thinking that the Big Bad variety is right there and she runs home back and snuggles in with the Gruffalo again.

There’s no Bechdel pass, and no diversity to speak of. The characters (with the exception of the Gruffalos) are all woodland animals, and the only clear female is the child herself (who has no name of her own).

But it’s an awesome little tale about the trickster mouse, and the triumph of brains over brawn. Plus the text trips along so lightly, making it an utter pleasure to read out loud.

Highly recommended.

 

Babar’s ABC – Laurent de Brunhoff

More in the Series – Babar
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

Alphabet books don’t really fit our metrics very well. It can’t pass the Bechdel, because there is no dialogue, and since all the characters (except the nice old lady who took Babar in) are animals, it’s hard to talk about diversity.

I will say that there is nothing in this book to suggest any awareness of any kind of cultures or ways of being other than a very white European one. The animals are all clothed in that style, the activities they engage in in the book are of European origin (despite most of them being African animals). While it’s not as overtly colonial as some of the story based books, that undertone is still there.

As far as alphabet books go, this one is kinda neat, I guess. C certainly thought it was fun, and spent some time poring over the pictures, examining them carefully. This is one of the advantages of these kinds of picture based books – that it is not so much the text as the imagery that does the work. There’s a lot of fun alliteration and so on.

Not as much fun to read, but since C is a relatively new reader, it certainly has its place. Probably the height of the series for me to be honest, which isn’t saying very much. 😉

More about Paddington – Michael Bond

More in the Series – Paddington
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – May Gibbs

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

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This book is about as cutesy and twee as the title will lead you to expect. To my great surprise, however, C really loved it. He was quite taken with these two “nuts” and their adventures.

The book does pass the Bechdel – just. And only right at the very end where Lilly Pilly (the actress) offers to adopt Little Blossom and make her her sister. It’s one line of dialogue, but they both have names and it’s not about a male character, so it’s a technical pass.

I mean, I guess it’s cute of you like that sort of thing. There are a lot of close calls, and near catastrophes, and the two title characters do have fairly clear personalities, which is more than I expected. There is a certain charm to the way the Australian flora and fauna is personified. It’s still a bit twee for my taste, but I can see how if cutesy is your flavour, you may dig it.

Ideologically there is a bit of stuff about not judging by covers and all that good stuff – Little Blossom proves herself to be very brave and willing to do whatever she has to to save the Nuts from the evil Mrs Snake and her army of Banksia men. She is of course rewarded with  financial security and a new home. 😉

It is definitely a product of its time, though. There’s a lot of that “ideal of childhood” stuff going on, which has never sat that well with me.

May be worth a read if you’re into antipodean classics. Like I said, C loved it, so there’s obviously something there. Me? I could take it or leave, to be honest.

 

Olivia Saves the Circus – Ian Falconer

More in the Series – Olivia
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 4 out of 10.

Bechdel: 1 point
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

This was our second foray into the Olivia books, and she’s just as charming the second time through. Once again, the book is a tribute to the power of imagination. Olivia tells a story in class about going to the circus and saving the day, playing all the parts in the circus because everyone is sick “with ear infections”.

On being asked by her teacher if it’s true, Olivia says yes, “to the best of my recollection”. The teacher looks mildly exasperated, as if this is the sort of conversation they have a lot.

I’m the parent to a child with an extremely active imagination, who frequently tells me stories that are “really true, Mommy”, and only when I push him on it, does he respond, “not really, but we’re just pretending”. So I am familiar with this sort of thing. 😉

My little storyteller was quite taken with this book. When I asked him if he thought her story was true he responded, “No, I think it’s just pretend.” But I definitely felt like he related.

The book kind of passes the Bechdel, if Mummy qualifies as a name, but since it’s a kids’ book, I’m counting it. (If you’re not a parent you may not yet have discovered that to kids you’re always only ever “Christopher’s Mum!”. It’s a thing. Kids seem to tend to see adults only in relation to other kids a lot of the time.) There’s no diversity to speak of.

I love the gentle, smiling portrayal of imagination. It’s great. The imagery is very simple, much like the first book, but it works.

Very  cute.

 

Pest in Show: The Buzz of Broadway – Victoria Jamieson

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS:  3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

C found this book utterly hilarious – possibly, I suspect, because of the rewritten songs in it, which I sang with great gusto. Because they were fun.

This is the story of a diva ladybug and her annoying kid brother (who is a spider – I assume there was an adoption in the family; this is never explained). The ladybug is doing some most excellent musical theatre, but her brother wants some of the limelight. This culminates in a bug dance off, after which they discover that if they pool their talents, they can both be superstars!

It’s a pretty cute little tale of sibling rivalry and the benefits of working together. There are plenty of inside jokes if you know musical theatre – posters for ” Pest Side Story”, “Antie” and “Bugspray” that deliberately echo the iconic imagery of the originals. The songs are new lyrics to the tunes of such hits as “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, lyrics composed by “Wolfspider Amadeus Mozart”. The book has plenty to make the adult reader smile to themself.

It’s clever and cute, and, while it doesn’t do extremely well by our metrics – despite being anthropomorphised bugs, the characters in the book don’t feel diverse, exactly, and the gender roles are pretty explicit, with the diva older sister and the prankster little brother who showers her with garbage and so forth – it’s still a fun read.