Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: The Littlest Christmas Kitten

christmaskittenA sweet little Christmas story for kids of about age two through six. The story itself is simple and straightforward, and I like that it incorporates the true Christmas story of Jesus’ birth. We most definitely need more kids’ Christmas books that speak of what Christmas is truly all about, or that are centered around Jesus and His love for us, as opposed to the worldly Christmas view that centers around Santa Claus. The only thing I wasn’t overly crazy about were the illustrations. I am a bit picky about illustration style, especially after having read so many children’s books in the past few years (I have a 7-year-old), and the type of artwork in this book simply isn’t a style that I gravitate toward. It is very 2-dimensional and unrealistic, with the use of a very small amount of colors. My son is a fan of all different types of illustration styles, however, and he liked the illustrations in this book, although the story itself was a bit simplistic for him now that he’s at a higher reading level. All in all, The Littlest Christmas Kitten is a great story that I would recommend for any Christian family at Christmas time, or any time during the year!

(I received a free copy of this book from BookCrash in exchange for an honest review).

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (by Catherynne Valente)

the girl3

Catherynne Valente is a truly shining author, as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland proves with each turn of the page. I can’t say that I’ve ever read anything like this book before. Valente’s creativity blows my mind – the places she goes with her characters, the images she conjures, the words she uses to work her spell.

This book is no quick and easy read – but that has nothing to do with its length, which is normal for a young adult book. It’s a book whose premise is undoubtedly attractive to children, but the story itself has such depth, such meat and heart, that’s it’s impossibly alluring for adults as well.the girl2

September is a “somewhat heartless” twelve-year-old girl who, when the Green Wind comes to her kitchen window in the form of a leopard and offers to accompany her to Fairyland, does not even bother waving goodbye to her mother. Her journey begins on the coast of Fairyland, where she must choose which direction to take. The path to lose her way, to lose her life, to lose her mind, or to lose her heart.

Which do you think she chooses?the girl4

September meets with many adventures in Fairyland, some of them delightfully imaginative, some of them darkly troubling – all of them of a nature to keep your eyes pasted to the page, and all of them having the potential to make September’s heart grow just a little bit more. She becomes fast friends with a Wyvern who believes he is the son of a library. She makes the difficult and painful choice to part from her shadow in order to save someone’s life. She rides amidst a herd of wild bicycles and is sent by the child-like but formidable Marquess, ruler of Fairyland, to fetch a talisman.

‘There must be blood,’ the girl thought. ‘There must always be blood. The Green Wind said that, so it must be true. It will be all hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it’s the wonders I’m after, even if I have to bleed for them.’

Every page, every paragraph, every word of this book is placed with seamless intent, woven to spectacular advantage into a story that is so much bigger than it seems. It is truly a masterpiece.

Sometimes you know as you begin a book that you can sit back and relax because you are in expert hands. This was such a book; Valente is such an author.

For a free preview of this amazing book, go here.

What 10 Books Mean to Me in 10 Words or Less

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come. – Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley

This week I thought I would simply share with you 10 books (ok, or series…!) from the long list of books that have meant the most to me throughout the past 20+ years of my life. I set myself the challenge of stating how each book affected me in 10 words or less – no simple task!

My words may be a description of the book, or simply the way in which the book changed me – sometimes both.

10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingwayold man and the sea

An old man’s stubborn heart touched my young one.

 

9. Queenmaker by India Edghill

An age-old tale from an intimate perspective.

 

8. The Bible

God’s heart – the light to my path.jane eyre

 

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A passionate, restless, plain girl, much like myself.

 

6. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce

A spell of words woven into a deep-earth, epic journey.

wildwood dancing

 

5. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

My childish dreams merged strangely and naturally here.

 

4. The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken

Quirky, edgy. Wild imagination that opened new worlds.

 

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

My heart’s fairytale with a true secret at center.

 

2. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Proof that the beauty of words could break a heart.

 

1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

A lesson that “Nothing is yet in its true form.”

 

Ten words … that’s hard!  It leaves much to say on the thoughts and emotions I felt for each of these books. What about you? Which are the books that have made the most impact on you – heart, mind, and soul – through the years? Can you describe one or two of them in 10 words or less? Comment below. I’d love to hear about them!

A Grimm View of Fairytales

grimm6We have all seen the Disney versions. We have all read the middle grade and young adult spin-offs. But what about the original, the darker, versions of the fairytales told by the Brothers Grimm – the ones many of us at least feel are so familiar? Ever wonder how the true, unabridged, original manuscripts read? Ever wonder how these stories were told, before a pen ever wrote them down, around a cozy hearth at night, or in a child’s darkened room before bed? You may find this list of the various little-known twists and turns of these tales quite interesting. And you may just find it a bit disturbing and, well … grim.

  1. The Frog Prince. The princess drops her golden ball into the well. A friendly, albeit “disgusting” (her words, not mine!) frog fetches it for her. How does she discover that this green slimy creature is in fact a prince? What does she do that unlocks his identity at last? A kiss, you say? Think again. In one translation of this classic, our delicate princess throws the poor frog across the room, hoping to kill him, and when his poor little froggy body slams into the wall and falls to the ground … poof! He’s a prince. Romantic stuff, huh?
  2. Rapunzel. Ah, yes, where should I start with this one? First off, her father is horrible and cowardly enough to promise her to a witch before she has even been born. Yikes. Then Rapunzel herself is forced to live in a tower, alone and seeing no one but the enchantress, the only mother she knows. At this point I would be so depressed and cabin-fevered it’s not even worth thinking about. But best yet is the fact that, when she is at last banished to the desert for meeting with the prince, we find out that their … ahem … “meetings” have been quite productive, as she soon gives birth to twins. “Aaaand, that’s the end of your story for the night, children. Sweet dreams!”
  3. Hansel and Grethel (yes, it’s “Grethel” in the original). Headline: Father and step-mother can’t provide enough food for entire family, so they lead kids deep into forest and leave them to die. Enough said, yes? (Unless, of course, you want to discuss the fact that a very young girl gets up the nerve to shove an old lady into a fiery oven to her death … talk about disturbing!).
  4. Cinderella. After her father remarries, he apparently mentally checks out. That’s what got me most about this one. After verbal abuse, an insane amount of chores, lavished gifts on the two step-sisters, and banishment from the ball, you’d have thought her father (who, contrary to Disney’s version, did NOT die) would have been man enough to come to his only legitimate daughter’s rescue. If he was any example to Cinderella, you’d have thought she’d swear off men altogether and just forget the ball. There’s also that fun part about how the step-sisters cut off part of their feet so they can fit them into Cinderella’s slipper and marry the prince. When their treachery is discovered, two birds come and peck out their eyes. Ugh and double-ugh.grimm3
  5. Little Red-Cap. We know her as Little Red Riding Hood, of course. A story of which details my 6-year-old son would be enraptured by, as they concern a huntsmen taking a pair of scissors to a wolf’s gut to release the old lady and girl he had swallowed. Still, though … I’m not sure we’ll be reading that one for another couple years at least. Another not-so-fun fact: in the French version of this tale, neither Red Riding Hood nor her grandmother even make it out alive!
  6. The Pied Piper. This man – very understandably – wishes to get revenge on the village of Hamelin for not paying up after hiring him to rid them of their rat infestation. To get back at them he leads all their children away. Now, some stories say he leads them through the mountain, never to be seen again. From most points of view, that’s scary enough, really. But one dark, early version of the tale says the piper leads the poor children straight into a river, where they all drown. I would say the punishment here most definitely does NOT fit the crime. This is a guy who has issues with letting things go …
  7. Snow White. You’d of course expect Snow White to be a bit bitter after all the witch put her through – I mean, the old broad wanted to have her killed, after all. And none of us reading the story actually wish the witch to live happily ever after – right? Least of all Snow White. Her skin may be as white as snow – but her thoughts most certainly are not. After her eventual marriage to the prince, Snow White forced the witch to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance at her wedding celebration until she dropped down dead. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a girl I’d want as an enemy.
  8. Rumpelstiltskin. I read this one many times growing up, but in each version Rumpelstiltskin basically throws a temper tantrum when his name is discovered, and stomps himself right through the floor. The end. Want to know the grim Grimm version? I knew you did! This little guy throws a fit to rival Henry II, planting one foot deep down into the earth. He then grabs his other foot with both hands and – brace yourself – pulls his leg until he’s ripped himself clean in half. Gross. I did warn you.

The list goes on and on, really. All you have to do is grab the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales and go to town if you want to hear the original tellings. For myself – I love fairy tales, make no mistake, but a little goes a long way when it comes to horrible parenting, cruel and unusual revenge, and just plain mean princesses.

How ‘bout you? What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) details from the Grimm archives?

Frog Kisses: Two Middle-Grade Book Reviews

the frog princessThe Frog Princess by E. D. Baker

Emma is an awkward princess who does not agree with her mother’s wishes to get her married off. When she visits her favorite haunt, the swamp, she meets a talking frog who claims to be a prince under a spell. Emma kindly consents to kiss him so he will return to his human form, but instead becomes a frog herself! She and her new “prince” frog friend must journey together to find a reversal to their spell.

A charming take on the original “frog prince” story, in my opinion. Baker takes us on Emma’s exciting journey and we get to watch as the princess goes from annoyed with her royal froggy companion to – well, quite fond! Emma’s voice is distinct, and her personality comes through in the story.

Baker does an excellent job of spinning an adorable fairytale that I would recommend to any child (girls most especially!) over the age of 8 or 9. If I had read this story as a middle grader, I know I’d have loved it. Oh, heck, what am I saying? I love it now! And if you read it and love it, too, don’t forget to check out all the exciting sequels!

Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde  frogged

This book was published after – and I read it after – Baker’s “The Frog Princess.” So when I discovered the basic premise to the book (girl-kisses-frog-and-turns-into-frog-herself) I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical.

All I can say is – what was wrong with me?! I should have had more faith in Vande Velde! She came through (as usual) with an original story, very far removed from Baker’s book. Another unhappy princess, yes (this one named Imogene). Another kiss that turns the princess green, yes. But that’s where the similarities ended.  From searching for the witch who cast the spell to begin with, to joining a group of traveling players, this book is completely entertaining from start to finish. I barely put it down! Vande Velde’s main character has a wry and sarcastic sense of humor, wit, charm and personality, and I was drawn to her from the start.

So … yet another great book for middle-graders, middle-agers, and … well, you get the point.

Happy reading, friends!

The Food of Fantasies (Part 3)

peter rabbit“Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” Juliet Blackwell

Are you ready for the third and final fairytale food post? I’ve split the group of recommendations into two – the first group is for the kiddos, the second is for us older ones. These were so fun, just let me say. You don’t even have to be a cook (and I’m not!) to get some prime enjoyment out of these books. The illustrations, the accompanying stories and rhymes, and even the names of the recipes themselves are enough to keep you turning the pages, though you may have no intention at all of stepping a toe into your kitchen!

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the “food” posts if you haven’t already.

A list for the little kiddos:

1. Teddy Bears’ Picnic Cookbook (Abigail Darling)
2. The Boxcar Children Cookbook (Diane Blain)wind in the willows3
3. Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook (Georgeanne Brennan)    winnie the pooh picnic
4. Winnie-the-Pooh Teatime Cookbook
5. Winnie-the-Pooh Picnic Cookbook
6. The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook (Kate Macdonald)
7. Cooking with Anne of Green Gables (Sullivan Entertainment)
8. Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook (Arnold Dobrin)
9. The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook (Arabella Boxer)
10. The Secret Garden Cookbook (Amy Cotler)
11. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl)
12. The Beatrix Potter Country Cookery Book (Margaret Lane)
13. Book Cooks: 26 Recipes from A-Z Inspired by Favorite Children’s Books (Cheryl Apgar)

gameofthrones1narnia1

And now a list for the big kids!
1. Wookiee Cookies: A Star Wars Cookbook (Robin Davis)
2. A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (Chelsea Monroe-Cassel)
3. The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook (Alan Kistler)
4. The Official Narnia Cookbook (Douglas Gresham)
5. The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (Dinah Bucholz)
6. Regional Cooking from Middle Earth: Recipes of the Third Age (Emerald Took)
7. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (Dinah Bucholz)
8. The Book Club Cook Book (Judy Gelman)
9. The Book Lover’s Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature (Shaunda Kennedy Wenger)

Now it’s your turn to cook up some whimsical, fantastical recipes on your own! Here is a list of links to some fun and interesting things to make.  Comment below with your own ideas or links to more recipes!

Marilla’s Plum Pudding (Anne of Green Gables)
Star Wars recipes (including Wookiee Pies, Ice Cream Clones, and Death Star Popcorn Balls)
Buzz-Worthy Bee Cupcakes and Hive (Winnie the Pooh)
The Boxcar Children Beef Stew RecipeThree-Finger Hobb’s Breakfast (A Game of Thrones)
Licorice Wands (Harry Potter)
Tea with Mr. Tumnus (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Beatrix Potter’s Recipe for Gingerbread (Peter Rabbit)
Bag End Apple Bread (The Lord of the Rings)

harry potter

Book Review: The Thirteenth Princess (by Diane Zahler)

The Twelve Dancing Princess
The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler is a book I recommend to any lover of fairytales. It is a retelling of the classic story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. This has been one of my favorite fairytales for some years, although I’m also aware it’s not necessarily one of the best known ones. But if you’re like me, you love discovering those little gems that are not so mainstream – not so faddish – and all the more charming for it.

Zahler tells the story in first person, from the viewpoint of the heretofore unknown thirteenth princess – the youngest sister of the famous twelve princesses. Her father the king, bitter after the successive birth of twelve girls, banishes Zita, his thirteenth child, who is not the son he was hoping for. She is sent to live among the servants of the castle, not aware she is even the daughter of the king, sister to the beautiful princesses, until she is 12, which is when the story begins.6295173

Zita has personality, she has depth, she has fears and longings – everything a heroine should have, in fact. Eventually, she finds she possesses bravery as well, which comes in handy as she follows her sisters into a deep and strong enchantment cast over them by a mysterious magic. She, her friend Breckin, his handsome older brother Milek (who just happens to have an eye for the oldest princess), and the friendly witch Babette, all embark together on a quest to disenchant the princesses, whose nightly forays into the world of magic are wearing them thin and even threatening their lives.

Zahler keeps all the old enchantment of the classic tale in her retelling while adding her own voice to the story, with a couple of thrilling twists – one heartbreaking, the other joyous. She reaches deeper into her main characters’ personalities than many middle grade and young adult books I have read of late, and on that basis alone I would recommend this book.

Head to the library and check it out – then let me know what you think! I dare you to dislike this one!

The Food of Fantasies (Part 2)

So, here I am again, cooking up a storm of fairytale recipe reviews! I decided, as I said in my last post, to do the fantasy cookbooks first. There were some that, sadly, I could not review, because unfortunately even the local library doesn’t have every book in creation! But I’ve reviewed the ones I could find and am also listing some of the fun ones I researched. If you have read or cooked from any of these (or any that you don’t see listed!), please let me know what you thought.FTcookbook3

1. The Fairy Tale Cookbook
By Carol MacGregor
This book is perfect for any classic fairytale lover who also happens to like to cook. That includes children, as there are many recipes that are fairly simple within it. Each recipe starts with a short version of the fairytale. A couple of the stories I had never heard of before, and the teasers have now caused me to add them to my library list for my next visit. One of these was the Chinese tale “The Shady Tree,” and another was “A Story, A Story,” about an African Spider Man named Ananse. Don’t get me wrong –all the classics are there as well. You can make Cinderella’s wedding cake (with orange and lemon frosting – yum!), the Wicked Queen’s poisoned baked apples, the awakening celebration feast from Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb’s bread and butter pudding, and even, if you’re in a healthy mood, the Goats Gruff meadow salad. Altogether a creative and varied list of 25 recipes, from meals and sides, to snacks and sweets, complete with illustrations on almost every page (albeit black and white).

2. The Storybook Cookbook
By Carol MacGregor
An additional 22 recipes for the enjoyer of children’s classic stories, written by the same author, and in the same style as The Fairy Tale Cookbook (above). This cookbook features such recipes as The Swiss Family Robinson’s Lobster Bisque, Tom Sawyer’s Fried Fish, Captain Hook’s Poison Cake, Pinocchio’s Pannikin Poached Egg, and Heidi’s Toasted Cheese Sandwiches.

3. Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters
Stories by Jane Yolen, recipes by Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Jane Yolen has retold these stories in her own words – a story told to get you in the mood for each recipe that follows. Also, as an FTcookbookextra bonus, the pages are delightfully (and in full color!) illustrated. Since I’m kind of a trivia geek, one of my favorite things about this one was the columns of facts along the side of each recipe. For instance, did you know that, in France, French Toast is called “pain perdu,” or “lost bread” because the bread is smothered or lost under many other ingredients? I’m betting you didn’t. Well, there’s dozens of them throughout the book, and I love ‘em. You will too. The recipes themselves are fairly simple, and the fairy tales are greatly varied. There are some of the ones we all know, but there are some that are a little less common as well, and even one or two I didn’t recognize, fairytale fan that I am. Some examples of the recipes found in this book are as follows: Brer Rabbit’s Carrot Soup, The Little Mermaid’s Seaweed Stuffed Shells (I made this one for supper tonight – yum!!), Little Red Riding Hood’s Picnic Basket of Goodies, Diamonds and Toads French Toast, and many others; 20 stories to be exact, with correlating recipes.

4. Mermaid Cookbook
By Barbara Beery
This delightful little cookbook is not based on any work of literature in particular, but as it was inspired by and named for a fairytale This yummy treat didn't last long!creature, I thought it merited mention! It’s a cookbook you will find in the juvenile section of your library, if that’s where you’re looking, so the recipes are not complicated, and I’ll tell you right now, they are all sweet or snack-ish! Extra yum. I promptly made a Sea Foam Float for my 6-year-old, and he liked it so much he then made one, all by himself, for his Dad (he’s so sweet!). Mermaid Bay Baked Bananas, Lemonade Lagoon Coolers, Water Fairy ice Pops, Rainbow Fish Fudge, Sea Turtle Cookies, and Hidden Treasure Cupcakes are among the few mouthwatering recipes you’ll find in this book. I just happened across this one while I was researching some other books, and I’m so glad I did. If you don’t hear from me for a while, though, it will be because I am recuperating from sugar shock …

5. Cooking with Herb the Vegetarian Dragon
By Jules Bass
As with the Mermaid Cookbook, this one is not based on any individual fantasy book or fairytale. It is, however, hosted by a charming FTcookbook5dragon named Herb, and a slew of his dragon-friends, of whom there are very many bright and active illustrations throughout the entire cookbook. I like the variety this cookbook gives for children (like my own) who are vegetarians, whether by choice, or (like my own!) just happen to hate meat! Herb the Dragon “narrates” the cookbook as it goes along, giving fun excerpts about why each recipe came about and who he is cooking it for. Gives it such a great personal touch for children (ok, for me as well …). The 22 recipes include, to name a few, Rosie Rose’s Rosemary Pan Bread, Party Pasta for a Herd of Dragons, The King’s Favorite Veggie-Burger, Herb’s Original Rainbow Pizza (in which Herb claims for himself the honor of inventing pizza in the first place!), and the Cookie-Dragon’s Chocolate Chippers.

6. The Mother Goose Cookbook: Rhymes and Recipes for the Very Young
By Marianna Mayer
Illustrations galore, all of them adorable, a rhyme on every other page that corresponds with the recipe that follows. Pretty delightful cookbook, overall. My son enjoyed looking at it before we even had a chance to make anything from it! From Humpty Dumpty’s Dilly Egg Sandwich, to the Queen of Heart’s Fruit Tart, to Peter Piper’s Best-Ever Pickle Recipe, you’ll love all 14 of these recipes, whether you are very young or very … ahem, not young.

7. Pease Porridge Hot: A Mother Goose Cookbook
8. The Little Witch’s Black Magic Cookbook (Linda Glovach)
9. The 4Fairy Delights (Tina Marie Mayr)
10. What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A Fantasy Lover’s Food Guide (Krista D. Ball)
11. Fairytale Food (Lucie Cash)

So, here we come to the books that I could not find. And just let me say …. Urrrgghh! A couple of these looked sooo good, too. I feel that I am fairly safe in recommending all of them on their appeal just from researching them and peeking into a couple of them on Amazon.

My son and I have had a pretty good time testing the couple of recipes we decided on, and I’m certain we will test a couple more before our pile of books gets returned to the library. Next week I’ll post the final cookbook reviews, and yes – I’m planning on posting a regular book review as well! Please comment with any ideas, links, sites or books you have knowledge of that celebrate the food in the books we all love!

The Food of Fantasies (Part 1)

“You’re a wizard,” I snapped. “Can’t you just use magic to make your own food?”
“Ah, yes,” he retorted. “Because mud pies are so very delicious and the wind fills empty stomachs quite nicely.” — Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven)

fairytalefood4

Whether it’s a steaming pot of stone soup on the village square, Anne pouring you some raspberry cordial (or is it currant wine?!) on the front porch of Green Gables, a mug of butterbeer with your friends around a table at the Hog’s Head, or a very delicious-looking red apple handed to you by a old woman peddling on a forest road – let’s just admit it, we want to taste these things. After all, our minds are tasting the stories they come from, we see the places and people in our imaginations – why shouldn’t we take it a step forward and bridge the gap, make part of the story palpable and real and … delicious? What is it about these foods that draw us in and remain in our minds long after the story we have read is put back on the shelf, if not our desire to crawl into the stories themselves?

As I research cookbooks based on famous books and fairy tales, I have come across many different recipes and even series. It’s amazing how inspired readers can become, all because of the food or drinks they read about in a favorite book. And even more amazing is the sheer volume of these types of cookbooks there are to choose from, once you start to look. There are dishes that existed before the books were written, and have been made famous by being featured in a book. And then there are the dishes that the authors have created solely for the purpose of their story (some of which prove most definitely that the authors should stick to writing, and not cooking!). Either way, and however delectable (or occasionally disgusting) these dishes turn out to be, we, the addictive, obsessive readers, are most definitely going to try them.

fairytalefood6I’m no cook myself, and I won’t be attempting to come up with my own special version of green eggs and ham anytime soon (my husband would shudder to imagine such a thing put into my hands) – but I’m not adverse to trying the recipes invented by others. I couldn’t decide whether to focus on fairytale and fantasy cookbooks (since, after all, that’s what I’m blogging about), but I got so excited when I visited the library and saw all the options out there, that I’ve decided to go a bit wider. Over the next week or two I will do brief reviews of the books and sites I come across, and even hope to post reports of how it goes in the kitchen when I (gulp!) try some of these recipes out. My 6-year-old has kindly volunteered to help me, and is, as I write this, on my bed pouring over stacks of cookbooks, looking very much like a miniature, somewhat harassed editor.

So stay tuned for my next blog post, later this week, of the fairytale cookbook reviews (I’ve decided to begin with the fairytale genre and proceed outward from there for the following reviews). And in the meantime, check out some of the following links and sites for some super-fun recipes to try!

RECIPES:
Elven Lembas Bread (The Lord of the Rings)fairytalefood
Raspberry Cordial (Anne of Green Gables)
Cauldron Cakes and Butterbeer (Harry Potter)
Turkish Delight (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Mr. McGregor’s Winter Garden Vegetable Pies (Peter Rabbit)
Miniature Castle Cakes

SITES:
Book Eats
Paper/Plates
Kat Cooks the Books
Inn at the Crossroads
Fictional Food

Book Review: Which Witch? (by Eva Ibbotson)

which witch
Which Witch? is for a younger audience than I generally read, but I loved it all the same. Nothing by Eva Ibbotson has ever disappointed me. She is entertaining, quirky, creative and witty. Which Witch? is no exception.

Arriman the Awful (the feared wizard of the North) has decided he needs to marry and produce an heir to take over as wizard for him when he is gone. And who else could a wizard possibly marry but a witch? But he doesn’t want just any witch, he wants a local one. And a powerful one. And a dark one.

There proceeds a contest between all the local witches to win his hand in marriage, wherein each witch must perform a piece of her darkest magic to be judged by Arriman himself and two others. There are witches with warts, a witch who can’t seem to stop turning herself into a coffee table, a white witch around whom flowers tend to spring up whenever she attempts black magic, and an evil enchantress. And each is determined she will be Arriman’s wife.

I read a review of this book before I read it myself, which showed some disappointment in Ibbotson’s lack of character depth and development. I myself find that it takes all kinds of books to make the world go ‘round. And with a children’s book that is meant, obviously, for pure entertainment (which it most definitely succeeds at!), I don’t honestly think character development is all that important. And while I agree that Ibbotson doesn’t delve far below the surface of any of her characters, it proves in the end to not be very important. This book is charming and hilarious (I frightened my husband several times by laughing out loud in bed one night) and thoroughly enjoyable to read. If for some reason you happen to have a rat phobia, I would steer clear of the chapter in which the enchantress works her spell – yikes!

The humor of the characters and their reactions to things and the situations they find themselves in is 80% of what charmed me. Ibbotson’s writing in this respect calls to mind some of Joan Aiken’s works for children, perhaps most especially what my sister and I grew up calling the “Dido Twite” books (in actuality I believe they are called The Wolves Chronicles). As an aside, let me say here that if you haven’t read Joan Aiken – you definitely need to! I can’t imagine my childhood without her books for children.

Conclusion: I couldn’t recommend Which Witch? more. I’ve had it on my reading list for so long … I only regret I didn’t read it sooner!  If you like Which Witch?, check out the list of other books you may like as well, below.

  1. The Castle in the Attic (Elizabeth Winthrop)
  2. Fairest (Gail Carson Levine)secret
  3. Pure Dead Magic (Debi Gliori)
  4. Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones)
  5. The Secret of Platform 13 (Eva Ibbotson)
  6. Bewitching Season (Marissa Doyle)
  7. Twice Upon a Time (James Riley)
  8. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)
  9. No Such Thing as Dragons (Philip Reeve)
  10. The Shakespeare Stealer (Gary L. Blackwood)

 

 

Nathan Lumbatis

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"Whatever is worthy . . ." Phil. 4:8

Loyal Books Blog

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The Story Sanctuary

Teen book reviews from a Christian world-view.

Fairy Tale Fanatic

Food, Fairy Tales, and Consumption.

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Blog & website of children's book author Tara Lazar

Rewrite, Reword, Rework

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I am a mermaid

A delicate, ladylike blog for mermaids and the humans who love them

The Matt Walsh Blog

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Writer. Web Designer. Radio Producer.

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Pagan reflections from a Druid author - life, community, inspiration, health, hope, and radical change