The Gammage Cup – Carol Kendall (A Voyager Book, 1969)
I first read The Gammage Cup at school in grade seven and loved it. While it doesn’t quite stand up to an adult reading, it’s still a fun read. It’s got fantasy, adventure, swords, and mysterious fires. As well, it deals with the importance of being unique and not blending in with everyone around you. Yes, it’s dealt with in a simplistic way, but it’s suitable for the target audience. I had fun reading this one and I think when Pearl’s about ten to twelve years old, she’ll enjoy it too.
For now, she enjoyed the book’s bright red cover.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2007)
This was the first book I’ve read to Pearl that I hadn’t read previously. I’d been interested in it since it come out a few years ago though. It’s a big fat book with a combination of words and pictures (but not in a comic style). While its size may make it intimidating to a reluctant reader, it’s actually a very easy read. The writing is minimal (sometimes not even filling the page) and parts of the story are told through the pictures.
I enjoyed the setting of the train station in Paris (fun to picture, since I’ve been to a few train stations in Paris) and the idea of living in the walls and secret tunnels of the station. The clocks and magic and books and film all add to the old-timey and magical feel of the book.
Unfortunately, it’s not that well-written. It’s overly simplistic, a little bit repetitive, and suffers from too much telling rather than showing. Yes, I know, it’s a kids book but that’s no excuse. There are many very well-written kids books out there. Too bad this isn’t one of them.
Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin, 1973)
This was a Tolkien book that I had never read but had picked up a cool, second-hand copy somewhere along the way. It was fun to read it for the first time with Pearl. It’s an odd, somewhat medieval little story and it’s hard to tell who the hero is. Farmer Giles wins out in the end but he isn’t exactly a heroic figure. The story features a cunning dragon though and a chatty dog and there’s some fun, sly humour to it. I don’t know that it’s exactly a kid’s book but it’s a quick read for any Tolkien lover.
Secrets at Sea – Richard Peck (Dial Books, 2011)
I feel like I’ve read Richard Peck books before but I don’t recognise any of his titles. This story follows Helena, her two sisters, and her brother as they leave America and travel to England at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Helena and her family are mice, following the humans that they live with.
It’s a charming story, with a little bit of history and some parts that reminded me of The Borrowers. Helena is then narrator and has all the hallmarks of the bossy older sibling (something that didn’t exactly endear her to me). Deep, thoughtful fiction it is not. But it’s funny and well-written and Peck uses repetition well to establish voice and imagines a world of mice running exactly parallel to our own in a charming way.