Book review: Alice Adventures in Wonderland

Alice coverI have been told and forewarned to not judge a book by its cover because it is superficial and simply not right to do so. And I am ashamed to say that I have committed this mistake when I walked into a bookstore last week because I was unable help myself when I laid eyes on the book cover of “Alice Adventures in Wonderland.”

It is gorgeously designed in dark gothic style, with book title written in lovely cursive handwriting that reminded me of a friend in middle school who used to doodle such black and white swirls all over her textbook. Alice in her typical blue and white frock stands in the middle of a dark, sinister forest surrounded with red roses and various quirky characters from the book.

I do not know about you but I swear that different books do smell differently and this book smells absolutely rustic, together with the jagged edges of the pages, is befitting of Puffin Books’ re-reprint of the first edition of the text matched with one of the earlier illustrations by John Tenniel.
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Book review: Boy and Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Roald Dahl day partyHappy Roald Dahl Day everyone!

On the birthday of one of my favorite childhood authors, I am here with a review of the first part of Dahl’s autobiography “Boy,” or alternatively titled “More About Boy.” I was surprised that I have never come across this until recently despite having read the latter half of his memoir “Going Solo” years ago.

“Boy” describes the earlier half of Dahl’s life tracing his Norwegian parents arrival to Britain and later into his school years. It is such a fun and light-hearted book where you can read about the ingenious tricks he played on others and also his love for all things sweet and chocolatey. And of course, how could I forget the wonderful illustrations of Quentin Blake?

This book reminded me of his another work “Matilda” because both were set inside an English school where the main protagonists faced horrible teachers. During Roald Dahl’s time at prep school, he remembered a particularly nasty master (old English way of calling teacher) called Captain Hardcastle. Continue reading

My favorite childhood author: Herge

With Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn” hitting the silver screen, it gave me another reason to pick up Herge’s comics once again to re-read for them for the umpteen time.

“You kind of can’t grow up in New Zealand without having Tintin become a really important part of your life,” said Peter Jackson, director for the new Tintin movie in a TIME magazine interview. This was certainly true for my childhood too.

Georges Remi, or more commonly known by his pen name Herge, (left) creator of the Tintin series and also one of Belgian’s most famous comic artists that captured the imagination of readers through ages.

Strictly speaking, Herge is not an author per se but rather a comic writer and illustrator. Yet his absolute brilliance and creativity still warrants his inclusion in my top childhood authors list. I remembered adoring the entire Tintin series for the kick ass adventures where the journalist cum detective would embark on his journey to exotic new places such as Congo, Egypt and even to the moon.

(Side note: Tintin traveled to Southeast Asia, with mention of Singapore and Jakarta in the book “Flight 714 to Sydney.”)

As a child, I had no clue wheresoever he and Snowy, his super cute but fiercely loyal dog, traveled to in most of his books because they are places that do not register on my young mind. But it is precisely this element of novelty that makes these books a total hit with children.

Yet little did my childhood self know that Herge, as most authors of his time, wrote books for children that were inundated with ideas reflecting popular thoughts back then but is deemed unpalatable for today’s taste.
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My favorite childhood author: Caroline Keene

During our childhood years, I believe most people will go through an intense girly or boyish phase where if you watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you will not touch Polly Pocket toys. For me, that girlish phase was also reflected in the choice of books I read which included the Nancy Drew series and admittedly, the Sweet Valley series.

This blog post will be mainly dedicated to Caroline Keene, author of Nancy Drew. I was a huge fan of the teenage sleuth during my senior years in elementary school and went head over heels the entire series, making sure I read all that was available in the library.

So when I did my little research for this post, I realized that Caroline Keene was merely a pseudonym. In another words, this name never existed and she was technically not a real person. Instead, Keene represented a group of ghostwriters employed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate who published this series of books.

I must say I was honestly surprised by my finding because for many years, I have always imagined Keene as an American old lady, a bit like Agatha Christie. So my shock is best summarized by a 1999 interview done with the deceased Mildred Wirt Benson, who was one of the ghostwriters of the Nancy Drew series.

Reporter: I just talked to my mother and told her that there was no Carolyn Keene. She had never known.
Benson: That’s like saying there’s no Santa Claus.

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My favorite childhood author: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s books bring back a great deal of fantastic memories largely because he is such an animated and wicked storyteller whose stories appeal to large masses of audiences, rather than being primarily constrained to children per se.

I am not particularly certain which was my first Roald Dahl book, but if my remarkably limited memory does not fail me, it should be James and the Giant Peach.

Through James Trotter, who brought me on board his big peach with his six insect friends, I entered into the world of Roald Dahl where children and the weaker ones in the society are empowered to effect changes for themselves. Although Trotter suffered for years under his abusive aunts, his hard work, resourcefulness and camaraderie helped him successfully escape his unfortunate fate.

Such a similar theme resonates in his other books such as the highly popular Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Director Tim Burton said in a 2005 interview he responded to make the book into a movie because it respected the fact that children can be adults.

“It was one of the first times you had children’s literature that was a bit more sophisticated and dealt with darker issues and feelings,” he said. “Sinister things are a part of childhood.”

Apart from Charlie Bucket, the poor lad who lives with his parents, paternal and maternal grandparents in a rickety old house, the four other children who won the golden tickets were all warped characters. One is mad about TV, the other a glutton, another a gum addict and the last, a spoilt brat; but the most heartening part is to know that none of them had a good ending.

Watch the trailer for the movie below:


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