Friday, June 18, 2021

The Art of Kate Greenaway by Ina Taylor

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This book gives us a brief introduction to Kate Greenaway’s life. We get to know a little about the young woman who never really grew up. She is portrayed as naïve, a very talented artist and seamstress, and as a rather shy person. She makes a lot of money from her work but then overspends somewhat though she never really gets into extreme difficulties.

The account whets the appetite for more information about Greenaway. Adults might now like to read a more in-depth biography. There is probably enough material here for a secondary school student who wished to complete a school project though more may be needed for GCSE Art or A-Level art.

There are many very well annotated examples of Greenaway’s work.     

The book is 127 pages long, hardback, and it contains a useful bibliography at the end.     

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis

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 2007, first published 1954  

We have a familiar fairy tale trope here:  a prince is abducted and brought up by a poor family. Shasta meets talking horse Bree.  They set out for Narnia, meeting another talking horse Hwin and her rider, the runaway princess Aravis.

Eventually, Shasta is mistaken for the Prince Corin. Later we establish that Shasta is really Corin’s twin brother,  Cor.  Cor is the rightful heir to the throne and he is the one that was born first. Corin is full of fun and often takes unnecessary risks that land him in trouble. Cor is more cautious but less experienced in battle.

Edmund, Lucy, Peter and Susan are still kings and queens in Narnia.  Susan escapes marriage to Rabadash.  Lucy, Peter and Edmund are active in the battle with the Calormens. Susan waits behind at the castle. Is this a hint that she is already growing too grand for Narnia?

Aslan appears again.  He guides Shasta along a ledge and protects him from falling and he scratches Aravis’s back to show her how a slave girl who was punished because of her would feel.

The four children use a strange language. Are they as Susan will claim in a later novel just playing some sort of fantasy game about Narnia? Also a little odd, they  freely drink wine and sometimes stronger alcohol. There is much talk of marriage. Can we interpret this as an archetypal fairy tale?

The book is 240 pages long, in an adult font that is slightly larger than normal. The text is blocked.  There are some line drawings which illustrate.  There is a map at the beginning of the book.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Last Battle by C S Lewis


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2009, first published 1956

In this novel we met all of the people from our world who have travelled to Narnia – except for Susan who dismisses  the earlier adventure a s child’s play and who is now more interested in stockings and lipstick. Narnia‘s world ends and they enter a new world. We should feel sorry for Susan. It seems that her brothers and sister have been killed in a train accident and gone to - heaven?

Before that happens, though, first Jill and Eustace, later joined by Peter, Edmund and Lucy, have to have a real adventure in the original Narnia. They have to a battle with the perhaps unfortunately named Darkies –a brown-skinned race who attack Narnia and try to deforest it.

The story starts off in a comic way.  A talking ape and his friend, a donkey, find a lion skin. The ape dresses the donkey in this and pretends it is Aslan and that Aslan approves of what he is doing with Narnia’s enemy.

There are echoes of Plato; the dwarves are enclosed in a stable and can’t see the wider world beyond the stable. Even when they are let out they still seem to be in the dark. They are offered splendid food but only understand it as basic roots and tasteless mush.  Fine wine becomes to them polluted water.

Adult readers, even Christian ones, may find some of the religious symbolism troubling.  Younger readers may find it puzzling.

Nevertheless this is an engaging adventure with an upbeat ending.

The book is 268 pages long, printed in blocked text in an adult font. There are several monochrome illustrations and maps at the beginning of the book.           

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S lewis



2009, first published 1951

Edmund, Lucy, Peter and Susan are evacuated during World War II and have to stay with a strange professor and his dour housekeeper Mrs Macready.  Lucy hides in the wardrobe one day when they are playing hide and seek and stumbles into Narnia. No one believes her - and even Edmund, who follow her there on the second visit, denies Narnia’s existence.  Mrs Macready takes visitors on tours of the house and the children have to keep out of tier way. They all hide in the wardrobe and end up in Narnia, where it is always winter but never Christmas.  However, once thy have been there a short while, the snow and ice begin to melt and Father Christmas arrives.

Edmund becomes involved with the witch who resembles Hans Christian Andresen’s snow queen. On his first visit he has eaten Turkish delight and is addicted.   The other three have to get him free from the witch’s power.

There is some Christian symbolism that is uncomfortable for some readers:  the lion Aslan gives his life that Edmund might be saved. He rises from the dead.

Also, much seems predetermined.  A prophecy says that Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve will rule Narnia. Have the four come to Narnia merely to fulfil that prophecy?  Clearly this is why the witch wants to be rid of them all.  She wishes to rule over Narnia.

This is the first book that C S Lewis wrote in the series though chronologically it is the second story. The language is somewhat fresher in this novel than in the others and though there is still an omniscient author he is slightly less intrusive than in subsequent texts.

The book is 208 pages long, in blocked text with an adult but slightly larger than normal font. It is accompanied by line drawings.    

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Magician’s Nephew by C S Lewis

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2008, first published 1955  

fluent reader,  ages 9-11,  upper primary, classic, Lewis C S, classic, Narnia, fantasy, Christian,  

Digory’s strange uncle works away in his attic study. As Digory plays with Polly, a neighbour, they find their way into his uncle’s study.  Uncle Andrew has been dabbling with magic. Digory and Polly get involved and find themselves being transported to other worlds.  Because of Digroy’s curiosity, they manage to wake a witch whom they accidentally take with them first to their own world and then to the birth of Narnia.

Digory wonders whether the magical properties of Narnia can help save his dying mother.  But Aslan points out to him that he has already brought evil to the land of Narnia.  Aslan sends him on a mission to recover a fruit that will grow into a tree that will protect Narnia to some extent. The witch tempts him to return to his own world and use the fruit on his mother.

He resists this temptation as he knows he has already caused some problems in Narnia. His reward is that he does get to take some fruit home which cures his mother but does not make her immortal as it has the witch.  She only eats a small slice of it.  

He plants the rest of the fruit in the garden.  The tree grows rapidly and seems to have a connection with Narnia.  One day, by the time he is quite an old man, it falls down in a storm.  He makes a wardrobe from it.  We all know which one!

Christian symbolism is here as in all of the Narnia stories.  We have a creation story.  There is the fight between good and evil.  Digory is tempted by the witch to use the fruit for his own purposes.   

Polly’s role is understated. She does support Digory throughout even though at times there is tension between them.     

The book is in blocked text and uses an adult font.  A few illustrations are peppered throughout it. Though this is the first Narnia story chronologically it was the fifth and penultimate to be written.  The language in this one is very engaging and C S Lewis really communicates with his reader.             

The Art of Kate Greenaway by Ina Taylor

 click on image to view on Amazon 1991   This book gives us a brief introduction to Kate Greenaway’s life. We get to know a little ...