What I read in April 2020 (Part 1)

Three books are reviewed in this post.

April was during lockdown with no libraries open. I had read the library books I borrowed earlier. I decided to investigate the library’s ebooks, although I really do not enjoy reading books in digital form. A librarian of my acquaintance is very enthusiastic about BorrowBox. I downloaded the app to my phone. The search function is not very specific. The book I was looking for was not available. It had ‘Meeting’ in the title. Other books came up in the search results. I borrowed a children’s picture book by Michael Morpurgo – a master storyteller – Meeting Cézanne.

Meeting Cézanne is published by Walker Books. It is recommended for readers of seven years upward. The story of a ten year-old boy going away from his home and town for the first time involves new experiences in the country, hero-worship, misunderstandings and adventure. The delightful detailed illustrations by François Place add to the story. It displayed remarkably well on my phone and is available as an e-book or paperback. I read it twice!

The Vision of His Glory: Finding Hope through the Revelation of Jesus Christ by Anne Graham Lotz was a hardback book destined for recycling if no-one wanted it. Although it was several years old it was in new condition. Having read The Daniel Prayer, I was happy to give this book a reprieve. I began reading it, discovering that it is a study of The Revelation of St John the Divine. Before Christmas I was not ready to read a serious study, so after reading the introduction, I put it on one side. The Ladies’ Bible study group met and discussed what to study next. Revelation was suggested and I mentioned this book. Copies were obtained for the members and we began the study in January a week after watching a video: a lecture on Revelation by an American professor.

The book proved to be more easily used for individual study than for a group. The chapters were rather long. I missed a few meetings through illness and then we had to adjourn because of lockdown. It was towards the end of April that I reached the end of the book. While I appreciated the author’s intentions in writing this book* and found it hopeful and encouraging, some of the details really niggled with me. Perhaps I have too literal a mind, but describing the sun above Golgotha as tropical was something I’d have liked to see edited out. Realistically, it is only like us saying the weather is Baltic, when it is very cold. I am sure the author didn’t mean that Jerusalem is in the tropics!

*From the inside of the dustcover: The Vision of His Glory gives

  • Faith to the doubting
  • Courage to the timid
  • Victory to the defeated
  • Hope to the hopeless

Lost London: An A to Z of forgotten landmarks and lost traditions by Richard Guard was another book I borrowed as an e-book. It is very interesting and detailed. However the e-book with text and illustrations was not well laid-out. After renewing it for another three weeks I only reached the letter G on page 126 of 318. If I find a printed copy of this book in the library I shall try again.

What I read in October 2019 (Part 4)

I finished reading two more books in October.

The Heavenly Man: the remarkable true story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway

I read another book which was going to be scrapped. I had heard of this book when it was first published, but had not been tempted to buy it. Perhaps I was not ready to read it. Brother Yun (who was born in 1958) has been described as the Billy Graham of China. The story of Brother Yun’s life in China with imprisonments and torture is told in a fast-moving style. It is a book which emphasises the power of God and challenges the attitude of the Church in the West.

(I recently reviewed a new book about the Billy Graham of South America and an old one which was going to be scrapped.)

Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner (translated by Cyrus Brooks and illustrated by Walter Trier)

I had to repair my copy of Lottie and Lisa before I reread it! I had forgotten all but the vaguest outline of this book, which was originally published 70 years ago. (The Puffin book was published in 1962.) The style is old-fashioned, with the author addressing his readers at least once in the book, instead of telling the story without interruption. It was perhaps ahead of its time in bringing the issue of divorce into children’s fiction. I found the language clumsy in places, perhaps due to the a translation. It is still a delightful and amusing story, which encourages people to regard twins as individuals. It has been made into a film. “The Parent Trap” and republished in a new translation with the same title as the film.

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.