What I read in June (Part 5) The Wood

On a quick visit to the library I found another book by John Lewis-Stempel, The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood. Once again he has observed an area, where he was working, over about a year. As well as his observations, history, science, folklore, recipes and poetry are included. I tend to read too quickly, but this is a book worth reading slowly and really picturing the beech mast, the hazel nuts and all the other naturally occurring objects and creatures described. The industrial-sized pond’s acreage was twice that of the plot my childhood home occupies.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters about May and June, perhaps because these were the months of my recent experience. I could compare notes about the flowers and birds I had observed, although I had only made one visit to a small wood. Each chapter is introduced by a charming picture.

The other books I have read by John Lewis-Stempel (Meadowland and The Running Hare) are mentioned in two earlier posts.


What I read in June 2019 (Part 4)

Four recommended reads this time.

The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers

As a child I collected most of the series of Ladybird books about nature. I used to reread them on Saturday mornings in summer, when I was awake before the rest of the household. In an idle moment I read through the wildflower book again. It was interesting to see what was included. There are plants (including a few rare ones) which flower in different seasons and various habitats. The illustrations are lovely paintings. As I didn’t take it out into the countryside, I’m not sure I learned a lot from it as a child, although I did understand the use of a key to the pictures. Each painting is accompanied by text and a line drawing with numbers indicating which plant is which. My interest in reading it again was due to #wildflowerhour.

The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow by Jackie Morris

I was delighted to receive this beautiful book as a present. I was unaware of Jackie Morris’ books apart from The Lost Words, which I have written about previously. The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow developed from a series of Christmas cards, which the artist/author had designed for a charity – Help Musicians UK. I looked through it and read the whole text in an hour or two. It was so beautiful it made me cry.

The text is a series of stories with a fairy-tale feel about them. It is a picture book for adults. Many details in the pictures make it a book, which can be enjoyed over and over again.

Live, Lose, Learn: A Poetry Collection by Mari Howard

This beautifully presented book from Hodge Publishing was on sale at a writers’ weekend I attended recently. I read all the poems in a single sitting, but will return to this slim volume later to read them more slowly. There are four sections in the book and some illustrations. Unfortunately there is no contents list.

The Dangers of Family Secrets by Debby Holt

As I am currently reading two nonfiction books, which I hope to have finished and be ready to review soon, I popped into the library to find some light reading. The book I chose was on the Quick Choice display. The title caught my eye and the blurb made the book sound interesting. I began reading it the same day and spent a lazy Saturday afternoon reading to the end. There are a lot of strands to the story, which are satisfactorily woven together by the end. As an added bonus some of the characters have literary or artistic interests. Coincidentally Tom’s Midnight Garden is  mentioned in this book. I actually laughed out loud at one point, when a build-up of tension in the story was replaced by relief.


What I read in June 2019 (Part 3) Bookworm

Not long after reading The Librarian, which awoke memories of my childhood reading, I discovered another library book – Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan.

The author claims to have been a bookworm to the exclusion of many other activities.

She certainly read some books at a younger age than I did. I thought I had been young to read The Lord of the Rings aged thirteen, long before the films were envisaged. I lapped it up. Lucy Mangan was younger and didn’t like it. I had already read (and reread) the Roger Lancelyn Green books of Greek myths, The Tale of Troy and Arthurian legends, which she encountered later.

Her book is well-written and intersperses childhood memories with information about books.

The section about teenage or young adult books mostly included books which I have not read as they were written fairly recently. Although I have heard of some of the authors, their books did not feature in my reading or in my children’s reading matter, which I often borrowed. It was interesting to learn of trends I had been unaware of.

At the back of the book there is a list of books for each chapter.

One thing I dscovered from this book was that I have been spelling a favourite author’s name incorrectly; Noel Streatfeild has two vowels in a different order from usual. My favourite of her books is The Painted Garden, which is about some children going to Hollywood and acting in a film. I still remember a description of how sunset in California differed from sunset in England. Perhaps Lucy Mangan had not read this book as she only mentioned White Boots and Ballet Shoes.

I have already returned the book to the library and am unable to check my facts, but I recall that Tom’s Midnight Garden was also a book she read and enjoyed.

Bookworm is an unusual way of writing about children’s books. The mixture of information about books and personal memories made an interesting read. The author grew up in the suburbs of London, as I did, but did not gain experience of the countryside until a later age than I did.

This book should be essential reading for anyone considering writing for children. Parents and teachers may also find it invaluable as an overview of children’s literature.