Posts Tagged ‘Classic’

TTT: Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the wonderful, list making gurus, The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they publish a new Top Ten list and invite their fellow book bloggers, bloggers and bookworms to join in.

I’ve done one Top Ten Tuesdays and like to think I didn’t completely botch it so here’s my second attempt!
I tried to put on my mentor/teaching hat. When teaching my students (and I do genuinely have students) I aim to be honest, fun and enthusiastic. So with this post I’ve made a mixture of things that would be just for fun, thought provoking, educational and all 3 put together. Here’s hoping a disaster did not come of it!!

1 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yup I’m going old school!!! This amazing woman and her literary achievements need no introduction. The style of writing is one that is sadly being lost, especially now with increasing texting and shorthand with stuff such as OTT, TBH and (my personal favourite – not) OMG!!! Aside from the fact that the story itself is wonderful, full of characters that reflect a truthful representation of the time, and there are several themes aside from the most obvious romantic one; the choice of words and language is simply beautiful and something I would like more to appreciate. The woman uses no swear words and yet her tongue is sharper than any string of profanities, her wits are fast and cunning, ruled by a cool and pensive mind that thinks before acting something that too many of us have long forgotten by speaking before ensuring the brain and mouth are properly connected! I think a lot could be learned and it is a masterpiece that should not be forgotten.

2 – Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling

I believe this series equally needs no introductions. Who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter, and who wouldn’t happily write an essay on it dissecting any number of characters, themes or just let the imagination run wild!!!
I remember a school friend of mine, with whom I was not in class with sadly, who actually had Harry Potter on her syllabus and I was sooooo jealous!!!!
I would also like to point out that I could rather easily use each Harry Potter book to fill this Top Ten Tuesday post but I won’t. Just saying though :p

3 – Splintered series by A.G.Howard

Ok well it’s no secret that I love this series very much, all you need do is read my previous Top Ten (Tuesdays) Fairytale Retellings. And not just from an amazing plot line point of view. I think this series has a lot of potential from both a literary point of view as well as storyline. I cannot praise A.G.Howard’s genius, style of writing, narration technique enough and the effort that went into planning the words as well as the characters and their thoughts. This series would make a fantastic adventure for any class to dissect any which way they like from any point of view!

4 – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Yes my English teacher would be very proud of this choice of mine. This is a book that when I first bought it for my own syllabus at school I thought I was going to get bored stiff. And to be fair initially I did. This is a book that I never would have picked up of my own accord off of any shelf, in any bookstore. But my very own amazing English literature teacher made me appreciate it and the narrative depths and themes it reached in the creepy dystopian world not fair away from our own, created by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale holds a special place on my syllabus and bookshelf, not only for the endless theme possibilities and narrative stances any reader can take, but because of what it represents to me. Being able to turn a book that I would have never picked for myself, into one that I thoroughly enjoyed analyzing and appreciating on a literary level, is a rare gift for most literature teachers, and I would hope that someday I can achieve this.

P.S. I now hold this book in high esteem and care for it a great deal. I highly recommend it for those who want more than just another dystopian novel with a good story, it’s for those of view who wish to read into every colour, every expression, every gesture all the possibilities of what Margaret Atwood was actually meaning and hinting at.

5 – Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I’m taking another leaf out of my teacher’s classes (in case you hadn’t noticed, I loved reading and dissecting themes, narration styles and passage analysis from the word go lol). I picked this book for the simple reason that I thought the difference between it and it’s screen counterpart would be a good example of the variations between the two, and how little changes can drastically alter the bigger picture and significance to the story. Zombies who can fall in love raises a variety of themes ranging from religious, to social etc but throw in a few varying twists and well you have a whole new set of delivered meanings! I felt Isaac Marion was trying to give us more than just another zombie story. I think perhaps an underlying gentle reminder to enjoy life, and that love is what fills us and separates us from the insensitive cold empty corpses. But that’s just my opinion. Watch and read, and you may come up with a whole new theory of your own. Discuss…

pride and prejudiceharry potter 1splinteredthe handmaids talewarm bodies

6 – Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery by Henry Marsh

Ok I’ll be honest I haven’t read this book yet but it’s almost at the top of my TBR pile and fast climbing. I figured that aside from adventure, drama, period drama and paranormal I should have some in depth emotional reading going on. And I thought this would do the trick. Written by a brain surgeon and with each chapter a particular case that hit him strongly, made him stop and think, I thought this would be perfect. I’m a total sucker for Grey’s Anatomy so I was totally sold! I thought this would be the perfect read for some emotional searching and philosophical inner turmoil.

7 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Eeeeeeer I have a confession to make about this one. I kept thinking about what I would want to be on my syllabus and this book kept popping back into my head no matter how many times I pushed it aside. I studied it myself right at the beginning of secondary school and I’m not entirely sure why but it struck a chord with me. Something about the particular dysfunctionality and polar opposite characters who somehow though manage to survive together and make it work got me hooked. I’ve done several passage analysis on this novel and there’s always something to be found hidden among the language styles, scenes, actions and choice of words. It’s hard to explain but I felt this book deserved a spot on my list. For those of you who have read it hopefully this will make more sense to you :p

8 – Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I thought we were overdue for a not-so-serious choice lol!
I discovered stardust initially as a film and absolutely loved it!!! And when I then found out it was based on a book…. well the love just deepened.
Stardust is an amazing and thrilling story that has something in it for everyone. Some magic, some scary parts, adventure, pirates, fighting and romance. And if that none of that appeals to you, well then the chance to imagine and see Robert DeNiro in a pink tutu should be reason enough!!!
I loved this story in both forms and picked it because I thought every student reader could find something in it to fall in love with and relate to.

9 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Well I figured we were due a little more darkness and horror. I’m trying to be sensible and keep romance, adventure and horror equally balanced here :p
The Picture of Dorian Grey is a very interesting tale and each reader will find his own interpretation of the curse, it’s purpose or lack of and indeed the mystery behind it all. This is a novel that has left authors and readers alike puzzled for a longtime and to be honest there is no right or wrong answer. One of the few lessons I truly learnt in literature is that no opinion or interpretation is incorrect or wrong so long as you can back it up.
So bring it on. What’s your interpretation of Dorian Grey and his creepy (I think we can all agree it is creepy) picture? Thoughts anyone? You there at the back speak up!

10 – Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

I thought I should finish on a high note and on something that I personally identify with, something that represents me. I have fallen for a lot of books and their tales (all of the above included in varying different ways) but this is one of my all time favourites that I simply cannot get away from. This story is basically me in a book essentially. It’s simple, sarcastic, short and sweet and with some magic.
I picked it as my final choice because I think it’s important that whilst you’re learning that you don’t forget who you are and what opinions are your own, ensuring that others do not rub off on you simply because you’ve heard it enough times. I would encourage all readers, students and learners to stick to their guns, thoughts and opinions.
Learning is serious, but it’s also about having fun and staying true to yourself.

do no harmof mice and menstardustpicture of dorian greyfinding sky

And on that note I wanted to add a little bonus. Being the amazingly cool teacher that everyone wants *cough cough modestly cough cough* I would let every pupil pick a book of their own choosing that they feel resonates the most with them, that they relate to or that they just simply enjoy time and time again. They can make this choice provided they can justify their reasoning and attempt to put into words what it is that keeps drawing them back for another read.
And with that….. Classed dismissed!!! :p

Posted by Prudence

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The Runaway Bunny

Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd (illustrator)

the runaway bunny“If you run away, I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny”
With warmth, love and understanding, a mother bunny tells her baby bunny how she will find him should he run away.

When this book arrived I was excited to read it! Purely from the recommendation from Emma Thompson on the front cover. I thought if the modern day ‘Ghost’ writer for Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit loves this book on bunnies, well who will I be to argue?

It’s a beautiful picture book, and the mix of Clement Hurd’s illustrations between colour and black and white is actually quite refreshing (for an old book!). I love how some are so stunning they have been left to be enjoyed in their own right with the text on the previous page. The colour pictures are vivid and clear and you can see how they have stood the test of time so are deserving of a reprint 70 years on! There is also an essence of ‘spot the bunny’ in each scene which reminded me of the 70s rabbit/hare treasure hunt book by Kit Williams Masquerade. Finding these clever mummy and baby bunny hidden and merged into each detailed drawing or picture.

These pictures are lovingly created and inspired by the beautiful short and sweet tale of Mummy Bunny showing her Baby Bunny how no matter how far he runs away and how he tries to cleverly hide she will find him (in a maternal loving way, not an evil General Woundwort of Watership Down hunt you down to get you way!). We are taken through a whimsical journey into gardens, up mountains, across seas, to the circus and into a Little Boy’s house. All until Baby Bunny realises he’s never going to shake off Mummy Bunny so is best off staying at home with her.

When we read this book, it’s really hard as a Mummy to not kiss and snuggle after each scenario! And also reminds me of the Big and Little Nutbrown Hare’s in Guess How Much I Love You! With parents winning of course in the cleverness competition of out doing your offspring!

Verdict: I cannot dispute the golden badge on the cover, it is a an ‘Essential Picture Book Classic’, perfect for Guess How Much I Love you fans and I’d say that the black and white pictures would also be great for babies to enjoy as well as toddlers! 7/10

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens’
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperbackk
Pages: 32
Genre: Classic, Animals
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

Lynley Dodd

Hairy Mc ClaryHairy Maclary goes off for a walk in town, followed by a few friends. All is uneventful until they meet Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town, and run for home.

I can remember this Hairy Maclary book from when I was very small, so as I am determined my little monkey WILL relive my literary childhood this was on the must have list!

Hairy Maclary is a cheeky little black Scottie dog who Lynley Dodd introduces us to using the most rhythmic rhymes! In 256 deliciously selected words we are sung the tale of how Hairy Maclary goes for a stroll and collects his friends; Hercules Morse (the Great Dane) as big as horse, Bottomley Potts (the Dalmatian) covered in spots, Muffin McLay (the old English Sheepdog) like a bundle of hay, Bitzer Maloney (the grey Whippet or Greyhound – I really need to pay attention to Crufts this year!) all skinny and bony, Schnitzel von Krumm (the brown dashund/sausage dog) with a very low tum. After walking through town this proud pack of poochy pals are startled by Scarface Claw, the toughest tom(cat) in town whose scary yowl sends them all back home sharpish with their hairy tails between their legs!

My two year old loves rhyming books and this was no exception. His favourite part is the excitement of the confrontational yowl “EEEEEOWWWFFTZ!” of Scarface Claw! Also the way the names of the doggy friends are repeated throughout like a endearing canine version of ‘In my bag I packed’, gives the familiarity he likes from a story/board book and also sets a fun challenge for us parents to try and learn off by heart too!

In addition to this delightful story there are 17 beautiful pictures also created by the author which accompany a few short lines. Seeing my son’s eyes light up when we flip the page to see which character is coming up is so heartwarming, especially that glint of delight and excitement when Scarface Claw appears and he is fully anticipating the menacing cat yowl on the next page!

I can see this being a favourite the older he gets and is even more engaged with the books as he’ll quite happily leaf through the pages now without the story being read, which is behaviour I just love and fully encourage! And the detail in the pictures could easily lead a discussion about the characters in the story, pointing out the numbers of the houses, colours of doors, letter boxes and gates etc. Also as the number of dogs increase I can see the fun of spotting the tails sneaking onto the edge of each picture also being a great source of fun!

Verdict: An excellent board picture book and a must have for your nursery collection. It has retained the ability to encourage toddlers into reading and is a pleasure for all adults to read to them. Quite often this story is read in stereo by Mummy and Daddy at bedtime as they are die hard Hairy Maclary fans! (we’re also pretty sure our family dog Freddie enjoys it too!)

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: July 2002 (originally 1983)
Format: Board book
Pages: 36
Genre: Picture book, Animals
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Ballet Shoes

Noel Streatfeild

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are found as orphaned babies in different parts of the world by eccentric fossil collector and explorer Gum. He adopts them, takes them to his London home and leaves them in the care of his niece Sylvia and the family Nurse. Then off he goes to continue his exploring, saying that he’ll be back in five years’ time. When the three little girls are old enough, they choose the surname Fossil for themselves and vow to make the name famous. At first they lead privileged and sheltered lives. But when Gum fails to return after five years, Sylvia’s money begins to run out. First she is forced to take in some boarders – an engaging and eclectic mix of characters – but then she decides that the girls should go to acting school. This way they will be able to earn some money before they grow up. Pauline adores the school, as she dreams of becoming an actress. Petrova hates it, all she wants to do is learn about cars and planes and engines. Posy loves it too – she is born to be a dancer and the school is the perfect place for her.

I’ve read and re-read this book so much I pretty much know it off by heart. Wouldn’t every girl want to be a ballerina? This story reveals how hard it is to have a life of stardom…They cope with hardly any money and not enough food until Sylvia needs to take in borders, soon that’s not enough. Finally Great Uncle Matthew comes back and they have the chance to follow their dreams of being a pilot, a professional ballet dancer and a film star.

This book is beautifully illustrated and magnificently told. I’ve got it on DVD and the film certainly lived up to the book. I would recommend it to teen/tweenage girls who like classics.

Verdict:Every time I’ve read this book it takes a lot of persuading to put it down.
Reviewed by Daisy (11)

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: September 2004
Format: Hardback
Pages: 192
Genre: Classic, Dance
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Daisy
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell

Set in the watchful society of Hollingford, this is a warm tale of love and longing. Molly Gibson is the spirited, loyal daughter of the local doctor. Their peaceful close-knit home is turned upside down when Molly’s father decides to remarry. Whilst Molly struggles to adjust to her snobbish stepmother, she forms a close relationship with her glamorous new stepsister Cynthia. The strength of this friendship is soon tested as their lives become entwined with Squire Hamley and his two sons.

I have wanted to read this since seeing the brilliant adaptation done by the BBC back in 1999. I have now finally gotten around to it, thanks in no small part to my Kindle, as the book is a real tome and I really appreciated not having to hold all 656 pages that comprise the paperback!

The story follows the life of motherless Molly Gibson as she has to come to terms with her Father’s sudden decision to marry again and the consequences of this. Molly is a kind, caring girl, she loves her father dearly and although he has, for the most part, remarried for Molly’s benefit, his rashness leaves her bewildered and, to begin with at least, very angry. I really liked Molly, she was such an honest person, and so easy to identify with. Who wouldn’t be upset at these changes being thrust upon them, especially as she was without any clue that it was about to happen!

Things are made worse by the fact that the new Mrs Gibson is a vain, inconsiderate and quite selfish woman, far from the ideal step mother Mr Gibson wanted. Molly’s father starts to go out more to escape his new wife, but poor Molly has no such option open to her! Thankfully there is a saving grace in the shape of Cynthia, Molly’s new step sister. She arrives on the scene like a breath of fresh air, standing up to her Mother and providing Molly with a much needed friend and confidante her own age. Cynthia’s sarcasm and bite add a different dimension to the tale, and her relationship with her mother demonstrates that.

However as Cynthia is not just attractive to Molly, but to everyone she meets, including numerous young men, life with her is anything but peaceful. In helping Cynthia deal with the many and various predicaments she finds herself in Molly becomes a focus of gossip herself and jeopardises her own precious reputation. Worst of all however is the dilemma caused by the girls both having romantic attachments to one man. You will have to read the book to find out what happens, or watch it on telly of course! But a note of warning if you go for the book option; Elizabeth Gaskell died before finishing the story! I didn’t know this and wondered why it stopped so abruptly. The ends are pretty much tied up, but you don’t get the satisfaction of actually reading the ‘happy ending’.

Anyone who thinks that classic fiction doesn’t speak of things that we can identify with today should read this! Issues with parents and children, step-families, falling in and out of love, dealing with gossip, the disparity between rich and poor, snobbery, getting mixed up with a scoundrel of a man(!), the list could go on and who doesn’t know someone who has been touched by one of these issues in some way?

There is plenty of gentle humour, a lot of description and a lightly plotted story. You wouldn’t read this expecting a fast paced page turner but it is not a difficult read and there is ample reason to keep reading. It does give a really interesting insight into life in that period.

Verdict: A lovely classic book, great characters to love and hate and an interesting pair of heroine’s!

Publisher: Public Domain Books
Publication Date: July 2003 (new ed.)
Format: eBook
Pages: 866KB
Genre: Classic
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Oldest Book
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Tom’s Midnight Garden

Philippa Pearce

When Tom is sent to his aunt’s house for the summer he resigns himself to weeks of boredom. Lying awake one night he listens to the grandfather clock in the hall strike every hour. Eleven…Twelve…Thirteen. Thirteen! Tom rushes down the stairs and opens the back door. There, awaiting him, is a beautiful garden. A garden that shouldn’t exist. And there are children in the garden too – are they ghosts? Or is it Tom who is really the ghost…

Stories that have a bit of intrigue and mystery always get my attention and the way this tale comes together at the end is brilliant. Lonely Tom has been sent to stay with his aunt and uncle and there are no other children there, and not even a garden to play in. But at night incredible things start happening when the clock strikes thirteen. Tom goes to investigate and discovers a garden that only appears at night. Better still, in the garden there is a girl that he befriends and plays with.

Strangely when Tom re-visits the garden, the very next night, time has moved differently in the garden, but his new friend Hatty is still there. Sometimes she is older, sometimes younger, sometimes it is summer, sometimes winter. Tom is very puzzled about what is happening and why other people in the garden can’t see him, it is an exciting problem! Tom goes on an incredible journey of discovery, about himself and about the garden and about Hatty.

This story examines many issues that affect children; loneliness and friendship, truth lies and stories, growing up and moving on, love and loss, what is time? Being away from home, how to make difficult choices. It is crammed full of issues and things to think about, but this never detracts from the story.

The prose in this book is wonderful; the description of the garden is lovely and draws you in to the world that Tom is experiencing. The enchanted world he enters feels magical and real at the same time. I also love the passages about his experiences with Hatty, some make you smile, some are moving, in particular when they both put their hands in the water and they are touching and yet not touching. It is beautiful and full of a sense of the love and the boundaries of their relationship. It always brings a lump to my throat when I read it. It is so evocative of the myriad emotions that you go through when growing up and yet so often can’t articulate.

As we move between now and the time in garden we gradually uncover the history of the house and Hatty’s story, The movement between the time periods demonstrates how different and yet how similar the lives of children are. The clothes and expectations maybe different, but the feelings and problems to be dealt with are often the same.

I can’t say any more without putting in major spoilers about the story, you need to read it for yourself and feel it all as Tom feels it, see it as he sees it. Suffice to say it is both a happy and sad ending and one which is very satisfying without being typical in any way.

Verdict: Intriguing, clever, beautifully written, great characters, absorbing ideas, a book you can return to many times and still find fresh and exciting. Fabulous!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: OUP
Publication Date: January 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Classic, Adventure, Time Travelling
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Eric Carle

A Much-loved classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has won over millions of readers with its vivid and colourful collage illustrations and its deceptively simple, hopeful story. With its die-cut pages and finger-sized holes to explore, this is a richly satisfying book for children.

This charming little story makes a regular appearance during our family’s bedtime routine. The book is the perfect length, long enough to promote pre sleep wind down and short enough to tolerate the request for an encore!

The story is simple, with lots of the repetition that young children enjoy. In addition to promoting numeracy we have used the book to explore night and day, colours, days of the week and even healthy eating.

Ava(3 ¾) has shown a renewed interest in The Very Hungry Caterpillar story since studying and observing the life cycle of butterflies at preschool. She delights in relating the plot to her experiences.

Although our book shelf houses both the paperback and board book version, it is the sturdy board book which gets the most attention. While all of the additions contain the die cut pages and the irresistible finger holes, the size of the board book version and the thickness of the pages promote independence.

Seth (22m) delights in being able to hold the book himself and turn the pages, sometimes at the determent to the story as he races to his favourite page to point out the “cake, cake, cake”! As a parent I’m happy to allow him to explore without the fear of torn or creased pages. Safe in the knowledge that the book will withstand the attention of the baby wipe the inevitable sticky fingerprints will necessitate.

Verdict: This colourful classic is an essential addition to any young family’s bookshelf.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: Sept 1994 (new ed.)
Format: Board Book
Pages: 26
Genre: Picture Books
Age: Picture Books
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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