Esio Trot ★★★✬☆

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Title: Esio Trot
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Short Story
Pages: 14
Words: 4.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Mr Hoppy is a shy elderly man who lives alone in an apartment, tending to his many plants, which have been the centre of his life since he retired from his job in a bus garage several years before. For many years, he has had a secret love whose name was Mrs Silver. She lives in the flat below his, and he frequently leans over his balcony and exchanges polite conversations with Mrs Silver, but his courage fails him whenever he prepares to hint at his true feelings for her.

Mrs Silver has a small pet tortoise, Alfie, who is the centre of her world. One morning, Mrs Silver mentions to Mr Hoppy that even though she has owned Alfie for many years, he has only grown a tiny bit and has gained only 13 ounces in weight. She confesses that she wishes she knew of some way to make her little Alfie grow into a larger, more dignified tortoise. Mr Hoppy suddenly thinks of a way to give Mrs Silver her wish and win her heart.

Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver that he — in fact — knows a way to make a tortoise grow bigger. He writes the following words on a slip of paper, and lowers it down to Mrs Silver:

ESIO TROT, ESIO TROT,

TEG REGGIB REGGIB,

EMOC NO, ESIO TROT,

WORG PU, FFUP PU, TOOHS PU,

GNIRPS PU, WOLB PU, LLEWS PU!

EGROG! ELZZUG! FFUTS! PLUG!

TUP NO TAF, ESIO TROT, TUP NO TAF,

OG NO, OG NO, ELBBOG DOOF.

Mr Hoppy explains that these magic words, when whispered in Alfie’s ear three times a day, will cause Alfie to grow bigger and bigger. Mrs Silver is doubtful, but agrees to try. (The words are, reversed, Tortoise, tortoise, get bigger bigger! Come on, tortoise, grow up, puff up, shoot up! Spring up, blow up, swell up! Gorge! Guzzle! Stuff! Gulp! Put on fat, tortoise, put on fat! Go on, go on, gobble food!)

Over the next few days, Mr Hoppy carries out the second part of his plan. He visits every pet shop in the city, and buys many tortoises of various sizes, but none that weigh less than 13 ounces. Mr Hoppy brings all the tortoises back to his flat and installs them in a makeshift corral in his living room. Next, Mr Hoppy builds a special tool to help him snatch the tortoise from Mrs Silver’s balcony. He fastens a handle to the end of a long metal tube, and a tiny claw at the bottom. By pulling the handle, the arms of the claw gently open and close.

The following day, when Mrs Silver left for work, Mr Hoppy selects a tortoise from his living room that weighs exactly 15 ounces. He carefully picked Alfie up from the lower balcony, and exchanged him with the new tortoise. When Mrs Silver returned home, she faithfully whispers the magic words in Alfie’s ear, but does not notice that an exchange has been made.

Over the next 8 weeks, Mr Hoppy continues to switch Mrs Silver’s current pet with a slightly larger tortoise, but she still does not perceive that her pet is growing in size. One afternoon, Mrs Silver comments to Mr Hoppy that Alfie seems a bit bigger, but can not tell for sure. Suddenly, Mrs Silver notices that Alfie can no longer fit through the door to his house, and exclaims to Mr Hoppy that his spell is sure to be working. Mrs Silver runs inside and weighs her pet, and is surprised to find that Alfie now weighs 27 ounces, more than double the weight he was before. Mr Hoppy summons his courage and asks Mrs Silver if he can come down and see the effect for himself. Mrs Silver, in raptures over her pet’s transformation, gladly grants his request.

Mr Hoppy runs down the stairs, nervous and excited to be on the brink of winning Mrs Silver’s love. Mrs Silver flings open the door, embraces Mr Hoppy, and expresses her admiration for Mr Hoppy’s magical spell. However, the tortoise cannot fit in the house now, so Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver to say the magic spell properly. On the next night he secretly replaces this tortoise with one slightly smaller one. His part works splendidly, and Mr Hoppy, suddenly emboldened by Mrs Silver’s warm smile, asks Mrs Silver for her hand in marriage. Mrs Silver delightedly accepts Mr Hoppy’s proposal, then adds that she thought he would never get around to asking. “All due to Alfie!” she cries.

Mr Hoppy secretly returns all the tortoises in his living room back to their respective pet shops, telling all the owners that they didn’t need to pay. Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver are happily married a few weeks later. The “original” Alfie is bought by a girl called Roberta Squibb after he is returned to a pet shop; moreover, after many years, he does indeed grow to double his size before.

My Thoughts:

You know, I ended up thinking the EXACT SAME THING as I did when I read this in ’12. An overly complicated solution to something that could have been sorted out in 5minutes. That’s not necessarily bad, but I was hoping for a new revelation (as it were).

Of course, being a short story of just 14 pages (with pictures mind you), it’s hard to get to the bones of the story, as it doesn’t have any 😀

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator ★★★★☆

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Title: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Series: Charlie Bucket #2
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 117
Words: 32K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

The story picks up where the previous book left off, with Charlie and family aboard the flying Great Glass Elevator after Willy Wonka has rewarded him with the ownership of his chocolate factory. The Elevator accidentally goes into orbit, and Mr. Wonka docks them at the Space Hotel USA. Their interception of the hotel is mistaken by approaching astronauts and hotel staff in a Commuter Capsule and listeners on Earth (including the President of the United States) as an act of space piracy and they are variously accused of being enemy agents, spies and aliens. Shortly after their arrival, they discover that the hotel has been overrun by dangerous, shape-changing alien monsters known as The Vermicious Knids. The Knids cannot resist showing off and reveal themselves by using the five hotel elevators (with one Knid in each of them) and spell out the word “SCRAM”, giving the group time to evacuate. As the group leaves, a Knid follows the Great Glass Elevator and tries to break it open, but to no avail, which results in the Knid receiving a bruise on its backside and hungering for payback.

Meanwhile, with the Great Glass Elevator’s passengers gone, the President allows the Commuter Capsule to dock with the Space Hotel. Upon entry by the astronauts and the Space Hotel staff, the Knids attack by eating fourteen of the staff, prompting an immediate evacuation by the rest of the group. The Great Glass Elevator comes back just in time to see the entire Knid infestation coming in on the attack, bashing the Commuter Capsule to the point where the retrorockets cannot be fired to initiate immediate reentry and the communication antenna cannot keep the astronauts in communication with the President. Charlie suggests towing the Commuter Capsule back to Earth, and, despite a last attempt by the Knids to tow the two craft away to their home planet Vermes, in the process the Knids are incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere. Mr. Wonka releases the Commuter Capsule, while the Elevator crashes down through the roof of the chocolate factory.

Back in the chocolate factory, three of Charlie’s grandparents refuse to leave their bed. Mr. Wonka gives them a rejuvenation formula called “Wonka-Vite”. They take much more than they need (4 pills instead of 1 or 2), subtracting 80 years (which reduces their age by 20 years per pill). Two become babies, but 78-year-old Grandma Georgina vanishes, having become “−2”. Charlie and Mr. Wonka journey to “Minusland”, where they track down Grandma Georgina’s spirit. As she has no physical presence, Mr. Wonka sprays her with the opposite of “Wonka-Vite” – “Vita-Wonk” – in order to age her again. Mr. Wonka admits that it is not an accurate way to age a person, but the spray is the only way to dose “minuses”. Upon leaving Minusland, they discover that Grandma Georgina is now 358 years old. Using cautious doses of Wonka-Vite and Vita-Wonk, the three grandparents are restored to their original ages.

Finally, the President of the United States invites the family and Mr. Wonka to the White House to thank them for their space rescue. The family and Wonka accept the invitation (including the grandparents who finally agree to get out of their beds) and prepare to leave.

My Thoughts:

When I read the Charlie Bucket books back in elementary, middle and high school, I always enjoyed The Great Glass Elevator more than Chocolate Factory. Back then I think it was because of the SF elements (space, spaceships, aliens, negative land, etc) in Elevator that simply weren’t in Factory. So when I read the duology this year (Chocolate Factory was read in January) I was expecting to like Elevator more once again. Imagine my surprise when I got done this book and realized that Chocolate Factory is not only the better book but also more enjoyable.

Part of that is that the premise to this book is beyond even ridiculous. It’s hilarious and I still love it, but it just hit me that it WAS ridiculous this time around and so my enjoyment was lessened. I wasn’t able to enter into the silliness like Dahl intended. The other thing that lessened my enjoyment was that the other 3 grandparents played a part in the story this time and they were stinkers. Made me shake my head and wonder how Charlie turned out so well.

Other than that, I enjoyed the ever living daylights out of this. Willy Wonka is a genius who is always in control no matter the circumstances and Charlie is a smart boy who THINKS before he reacts. More kids need examples like that in their entertainment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Daring Detectives ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Daring Detectives
Series: ———-
Editor: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 150
Words: 62.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover

A collection of stories, designed for young readers, about brave detectives and tracking down unscrupulous criminals.

Includes the following 8 stories:

Through a Dead Man’s Eye – CORNELL WOOLRICH

The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim – AGATHA CHRISTIE

The Adventure of the Seven Black Cats – ELLERY QUEEN

The Day the Children Vanished – HUGH PENTECOST

The Footprint in the Sky – JOHN DICKSON CARR

The Case of the Irate Witness – ERLE STANLEY GARDNER

Adventure of the Grice-Paterson Curse – AUGUST DERLETH

Green Ice – STUART PALMER

My Thoughts:

I was glad that the little blurb baldly stated “for young readers”, otherwise my expectations would have been very different and as such so would my reactions to this. In many ways this reminded me of the Haunted Houseful that I read 2 years ago. That was also “for young readers” but I hadn’t realized it at the time.

If you’ve read much detective/crime fiction, you’ll already have heard of some of these authors or realize how some of them stole their ideas from the greats. For example, Christie’s story’s idea is lifted almost wholesale from a Sherlock Holmes story. I won’t go into details, but as soon as I read “X happened”, I knew the rest of the story immediately.

What this book really made apparent to me is that Hitchcock threw his name everywhere, like a possessed child projectile vomiting. Trying to sort out what is his adult fiction vs his young readers stuff is much like trying to pick out the carrots from said projectile vomit. It’s doable, but man, it is messy!

I still enjoyed this, despite comparing it to vomit, hahahahaa. Hitchcock had a talent for picking out stories that he thought would sell and as such they are “good” stories. They are stories that you want to read. None of these books edited by Hitchcock have left me thinking that I should stop. I want to keep on reading them. I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Little Princess ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: A Little Princess
Series: ———-
Authors: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Lit
Pages: 167
Words: 67K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Captain Ralph Crewe, a wealthy English widower, has been raising his only child, Sara, in India where he is stationed with the British Army. Because the Indian climate is considered too harsh for children, British families living there traditionally send their children to boarding school back home in England. The Captain enrolls his seven-year-old daughter at Miss Minchin’s boarding school for girls in London and dotes on his daughter so much that he orders and pays the headmistress for special treatment and exceptional luxuries for Sara, such as a private room for her with a personal maid and a separate sitting room (see Parlour boarder), along with Sara’s own private carriage and a pony. Miss Minchin openly fawns over Sara for her money, but is secretly bitter toward her for her wealth.

In spite of said wealth, Sara is not self-centered, rude, or snobbish, but rather kind, generous, and compassionate. She extends her friendship to Ermengarde St. John, the school dunce; to Lottie, a four-year-old pupil given to tantrums; and to Becky, the lowly, stunted scullery maid. When Sara acquires the epithet “princess”, she embraces its favorable elements in her natural kindheartedness.

After some time, Sara’s eleventh birthday is celebrated at Miss Minchin’s with a lavish party, attended by all her friends and classmates. Just as it ends, Miss Minchin learns of Captain Crewe’s unfortunate demise due to jungle fever. Furthermore, prior to his death, the previously wealthy captain had lost his entire fortune; a close friend from his schoolboy days had persuaded him to cash in his investments and deposit the proceeds to develop a network of diamond mines. The scheme fails, and the preteen Sara is left an orphan and a pauper, with no other family and nowhere to go. Miss Minchin is left with a sizable unpaid bill for Sara’s school fees and luxuries, including her birthday party. Infuriated and pitiless, she takes away all of Sara’s possessions (except for some old frocks and her doll, Emily), makes her live in a cold and poorly furnished attic, and forces her to earn her keep by working as a servant. She also forces Sara to wear frocks much too short for her, with her thin legs peeking out of the brief skirts.

For the next two years, Sara is abused by Miss Minchin and the other servants, except for Becky. Miss Minchin’s kind younger sister, Amelia, deplores the way that Sara is treated, but is too weak-willed to speak up about it. Sara is starved, worked for long hours, sent out in all kinds of weather, poorly dressed in outgrown and worn-out clothes, and deprived of warmth or a comfortable bed in the attic. Despite her hardships, Sara is consoled by her friends and uses her imagination to cope, pretending she is a prisoner in the Bastille or a princess disguised as a servant. Sara also continues to be kind to everyone, including those who find her annoying or mistreat her. One day, she finds a coin in the street and uses it to buy buns at a bakery; despite being very hungry, she gives most of the buns away to a beggar girl who is hungrier than herself. The bakery shop owner sees this and wants to reward Sara, but she has disappeared, so the shop owner instead gives the beggar girl bread and warm shelter for Sara’s sake.

Meanwhile, Mr. Carrisford and his Indian assistant, Ram Dass, have moved into the house next door to Miss Minchin’s school. Carrisford had been Captain Crewe’s friend and partner in the diamond mines. After the diamond mine venture failed, both Crewe and Carrisford became very ill, and Carrisford in his delirium abandoned his good childhood friend Crewe, who died of his “brain fever.” As it turned out, the diamond mines did not fail, but instead were a great success, making Carrisford extremely rich. Although Carrisford survived, he suffers from several ailments and is guilt-ridden over abandoning his friend. He is determined to find Crewe’s young daughter and heiress, although he does not know where she is and thinks she is attending school in France, as her late mother was a Frenchwoman.

Ram Dass befriends Sara when his pet monkey escapes into Sara’s adjoining attic. After climbing over the roof to Sara’s room to get the monkey, Ram Dass tells Carrisford about Sara’s poor living conditions. As a pleasant distraction, Carrisford and Ram Dass buy warm blankets, comfortable furniture, food, and other gifts, and secretly leave them in Sara’s room when she is asleep or out. Sara’s spirits and health improve due to the gifts she receives from her mysterious benefactor, whose identity she does not know; nor are Ram Dass and Carrisford aware that Sara is Crewe’s lost daughter. When Carrisford anonymously sends Sara a package of new, well-made, and expensive clothing in her proper size, Miss Minchin becomes quite alarmed, thinking Sara might have a wealthy relative secretly looking out for her, and begins to treat Sara better and allows her to attend classes rather than doing menial work.

One night, the monkey again runs away to Sara’s room, and Sara visits Carrisford’s house the next morning to return him. When Sara casually mentions that she was born in India, Carrisford and his solicitor question her and discover that she is Captain Crewe’s daughter, for whom they have been searching for two years. Sara also learns that Carrisford was her father’s childhood friend and her own anonymous benefactor and that the diamond mines have produced great riches, of which she will now own her late father’s share. When Miss Minchin angrily appears to collect Sara, she is informed that Sara will be living with Carrisford from now on and her entire fortune has been restored and increased tenfold. Upon finding this out, Miss Minchin unsuccessfully tries to persuade Sara into returning to her school as a star pupil. She then threatens to keep Sara from ever seeing her school friends again, but Carrisford and his solicitor tell Miss Minchin that Sara will see anyone she wishes to see and that her friends’ parents are not likely to refuse invitations from an heiress of diamond mines. Miss Minchin goes home, where she is surprised when Amelia finally stands up to her. Amelia has a nervous breakdown afterward, but she is on the road to gaining more respect.

Sara invites Becky to live with her and be her personal maid, in much better living conditions than at Miss Minchin’s. Carrisford becomes a friend and father figure to Sara and quickly regains his health. Finally, Sara—accompanied by Becky—pays a visit to the bakery where she bought the buns, making a deal with the owner to cover the bills for bread for any hungry child. They find that the beggar girl (now named Ann), who was saved from starvation by Sara’s selfless act, is now the bakery owner’s assistant, with good food, clothing, shelter, and steady employment.

My Thoughts:

When I read The Secret Garden back in ’12, I kept telling myself that I also needed to read Burnett’s A Little Princess. Well, it only took me 10 years, but tada!

Honestly, this didn’t hold a candle to The Secret Garden. Part of it was that this was a little rich girl, who while not spoiled, was given everything her father could. It didn’t ruin her, but the sympathy factor started much lower than in SG (that’s Secret Garden, NOT Star Gate SG1). Her riches to rags to riches story, while heartwarming, didn’t have the same depth as the kids in SG had, as they had to work at stuff while Sara just has to get through each day of being a servant. The idea of a benevolent, all encompassing “magic” was much more present here and almost made Sara’s riches to rags story feel like it had no impact, because “the magic” would take care of it all.

What I most remember about this story is the 1987 tv mini-series. We watched it in school (it was 6 episodes so we would have watched one part each time) and reading it now brought it all back. There is a scene where there is a pie gone missing that was reserved for the head mistress and the cook blames the scullery maid. The scullery maid knows full well the cook gave it to her boyfriend but nobody believes her. In the movie the headmistress is going on about the missing pie and demanding to know what happened and the cook just lifts her eyebrow and nods over her shoulder at the scullery maid. I didn’t even realize that scene from the movie had stuck in my head until I read it again in the book and bam, I could see it all again crystal clear. It so weird how images like that get stuck in your brain without even realizing it.

To end, if I had to choose between A Little Princess and The Magic Garden, TMG wins hands down. Doesn’t make Princess a bad book, but at most it gets a Participation Trophy, not a Winner’s Trophy.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Series: Charlie Bucket #1
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 133
Words: 32K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Eleven-year-old Charlie Bucket, his parents, and four grandparents all live in poverty in a small house outside a town which is home to a large chocolate factory. One day, Charlie’s Grandpa Joe tells him about the legendary and eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, who owns the town’s chocolate factory, and all the wonderful candies he made until the other chocolatiers sent in spies to steal his secret recipes, forcing Wonka to close the factory. He reopened the factory three years later, but the gates remained locked and nobody is sure who is providing the factory with its workforce.

The next day, the newspaper announces that Wonka is reopening the factory to the public and has invited five lucky children to come on a tour after they find five Golden Tickets in five Wonka Bars. The first four golden tickets are found by gluttonous Augustus Gloop, spoiled Veruca Salt, chewing gum-addicted Violet Beauregarde, and television addict Mike Teavee. After the fourth ticket is found, the family begins to starve after Charlie’s father loses his job at the toothpaste factory and the only job he can find is shoveling snow from the streets during a severe winter. One day, walking home from school, Charlie sees a fifty-pence piece (A dollar bill in the US version) buried in the snow. He buys two Wonka Bars and miraculously finds the last Golden Ticket in the second. The ticket says he can bring one or two family members with him, and Grandpa Joe agrees to go, suddenly regaining his mobility despite being bedridden for almost 20 years.

On the day of the tour, Wonka welcomes the five children and their parents inside the factory, a wonderland of confectionery creations that defy logic. They also meet the Oompa-Loompas who help him operate the factory. During the tour, the other four children give in to their impulses and are ejected from the tour in darkly comical ways. Augustus gets sucked into the pipe to the Fudge Room after drinking from the Chocolate River, Violet blows up into a giant blueberry after chewing an experimental stick of three-course dinner gum, Veruca and her parents are thrown down the garbage chute after she tries to capture one of the nut-testing squirrels, who deem the Salts “Bad Nuts”, and Mike gets shrunk down to the size of a chocolate bar after misusing the Wonkavision device despite Wonka’s warnings, causing him to be “sent by television”. The Oompa-Loompas sing about the children’s misbehavior each time disaster strikes.

With only Charlie remaining, Wonka congratulates him for “winning” the factory. Wonka explains that the whole tour was designed to help him secure a good person to serve as an heir to his business, and Charlie was the only child whose inherent goodness allowed him to pass the test. They ride the Great Glass Elevator and watch the other four children leave the factory before flying to Charlie’s house, where Wonka then invites Charlie’s entire family to come and live with him in the factory.

My Thoughts:

At times I wonder how inextricably this story is linked to the 2 movies that have been made over the years. Being written in 1964, this story has stood the test of time. It has also stood the test of aging. I enjoyed this just as much now as I did back in gradeschool.

Fun and light with Dahl’s trademark humor in regards to danger.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Twits ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Twits
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 69
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

A hideous, vindictive, spiteful couple known as the Twits live together in a brick house without windows. They continuously play nasty practical jokes on each other out of hatred for one another.

They also keep a family of pet monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps. The Twits, who are retired circus trainers, are trying to create the first upside-down monkey circus, they will always leave the monkeys to stand on their heads for hours on end.

Mr. Twit has this glue call Hugtight in hopes of catching birds for Mrs. Twit to make into a bird pie. The monkeys try to warn the birds before they land on the tree, but the English-speaking birds do not understand the monkeys’ African language.

Once a week the Roly-Poly bird flies to visit the monkeys, to secretly save the birds by acting as an interpreter of languages. On a Tuesday night a group of four boys see the ladder next to this tree and they decided to walk up into it, not thinking or knowing that glue was on it. On the Wednesday morning Mr Twit sees that the boys have scared them away. Out of rage Mr Twit charged at them but they got away. Mr Twit tries several times to catch the birds, and tired of not getting anywhere Mr. Twit decides to go buy guns with his wife to kill them.

The Muggle-Wumps come up with an idea to use Mr. Twit’s glue to attach the Twits’ furniture to their ceiling. The birds came up with an idea to smear glue on the Twits’ heads. Shocked, the Twits rush into their home and see the mess. Mr. Twit suggests that they stand on their heads so that they are ‘the right way up’ The Roly-Poly bird then offers to fly the Muggle-Wumps all the way back to Africa and the Muggle-Wumps escape.

Hours later both Mr and Mrs. Twit are putting all their weight down on the heads and they catch the ‘Dreaded Shrinks’- their bodies compressing ‘downwards.’ Their feet shrink into their legs, their legs shrink into their stomach, their stomach shrink into their heads, and their head shrink into nothing but two pairs of shoes and old clothes. Mr and Mrs Twit are nowhere to be seen.

My Thoughts:

Ahhh, now this was some good stuff! Dahl can write the most horrible characters but unlike modern authors who revel in that disgustingness, he gives those revolting characters just what they deserve! The Twits are B-A-D people and they get everything coming to them.

At only 70’ish pages (and it would be quite a bit shorter without Quentin Blake’s absolutely wonderful illustrations), this is something that an adult can polish off in one sitting. It would also be a good starter book to introduce Dahl to younger readers who aren’t quite ready to sit down for a full hour or two.

Simply put, I like Dahl’s writing. He is funny and quirky and has the ability to write bad characters that are almost caricatures but don’t quite cross that line. He also infuses his childrens books with a child’s sense of justice and fairplay which I love.

Everything I wrote back in 2012 (when I first reviewed this) still stands.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Matilda ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Matilda
Series: ———-
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Childrens Fiction
Pages: 120
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In a small Buckinghamshire village forty minutes by bus away from Reading and 8 miles from the Bingo club in Aylesbury, Matilda Wormwood is born to Mr and Mrs Wormwood. She immediately shows amazing precocity, learning to speak at age one and to read at age three and a half, perusing all the children’s books in the library by the age of four and three months and moving on to longer classics such as Great Expectations and Jane Eyre. However, her parents (particularly her father) ignore and emotionally abuse her and completely refuse to acknowledge her abilities, and Matilda finds herself forced to pull pranks on them (such as gluing her father’s hat to his head, sticking a parrot in the chimney to simulate a burglar or ghost, and bleaching her father’s hair) to avoid getting frustrated.

At the age of five and a half, Matilda enters school and befriends her teacher Jennifer Honey, who is astonished by her intellectual abilities. Miss Honey tries to move Matilda into a higher class, but the tyrannical headmistress, Miss Agatha Trunchbull, refuses. Miss Honey also tries to talk to Mr and Mrs Wormwood about their daughter’s intelligence, but they ignore her, with the mother contending “brainy-ness” is an undesirable trait in a little girl.

Miss Trunchbull later confronts a girl called Amanda Thripp for wearing pigtails (the headmistress repeatedly displays a dislike of long hair throughout the book) and does a hammer throw with the girl over the playground fence. A boy called Bruce Bogtrotter is later caught by the cook stealing a piece of Miss Trunchbull’s cake; the headmistress makes him attempt to eat an 18 in (45.72 cm) wide cake in front of the assembly, then smashes the platter over his head in rage after he unexpectedly succeeds.

Matilda quickly develops a particularly strong bond with Miss Honey, and watches as Trunchbull terrorises her students with deliberately creative, over-the-top punishments to prevent parents from believing them, such as throwing them in a dark closet dubbed “The Chokey”, which is lined with nails and broken glass. When Matilda’s friend Lavender plays a practical joke on Trunchbull by placing a newt in her jug of water, Matilda uses an unexpected power of telekinesis to tip the glass of water containing the newt onto Trunchbull.

Matilda reveals her new powers to Miss Honey, who confides that after her wealthy father, Dr Magnus Honey, suspiciously died, she was raised by an abusive aunt, revealed to be Miss Trunchbull. Trunchbull appears (among other misdeeds) to be withholding her niece’s inheritance, as Miss Honey has to live in poverty in a derelict farm cottage, and her salary is being paid into Miss Trunchbull’s bank account for the first 10 years of her teaching career (while she is restricted to £1 per week in pocket money). Preparing to avenge Miss Honey, Matilda practises her telekinesis at home. Later, during a sadistic lesson that Miss Trunchbull is teaching, Matilda telekinetically raises a piece of chalk to the blackboard and begins to use it to write, posing as the spirit of “Magnus”. Addressing Miss Trunchbull using her first name, “Magnus” demands that Miss Trunchbull hand over Miss Honey’s house and wages and leave the school, causing Miss Trunchbull to faint.

The next day, the school’s deputy headmaster, Mr Trilby, visits Trunchbull’s house and finds it empty, except for signs of Trunchbull’s hasty exit. She is never seen again, and the house and property are finally and rightfully returned to Miss Honey. Trilby becomes the new headmaster, proving himself to be capable and good-natured, overwhelmingly improving the school’s atmosphere and curriculum, and quickly moving Matilda into the top-form class with the 11-year-olds. Rather to Matilda’s relief, she soon is no longer capable of telekinesis. Miss Honey theorises this is because Matilda is using her brainpower on a more challenging curriculum, leaving less of her brain’s energy free, unlike earlier when she was not in a high year, where she had her brainpower free for psychokinesis.

Matilda continues to visit Miss Honey at her house regularly, returning home one day to find her parents and her older brother Michael hastily packing to leave for Spain. Miss Honey explains this is because the police found out Mr Wormwood has been selling stolen cars. Matilda asks permission to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents rather distractedly agree. Matilda and Miss Honey find their happy ending, as the Wormwoods drive away, never to be seen again.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book to start my Roald Dahl re-read because it is the best selling book of his (at least according to wikipedia). Honestly, I just needed something to choose which book to go with.

Really, the exact same thing struck me this time around as it did back in ’12. Dahl was able to tap into what it feels like to be a child and then tell a story about a childs most basic wish fulfillment, ie, to be in control and to have a stable and loving environment.

What I like about Dahl is that even while describing horrible circumstances, he doesn’t make that the focus and so neither the main character nor the reader are stuck there. He uses a combination of humor and fictional empowerment to get the child into a place where things are better. He also tends to make the villains buffoons and idiots even if they are very powerful.

This was a delightful (a word I suspect I will be using for most of his books) little day read that allowed me to become an all powerful child for a short time and to forget the grind of life.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Frightful’s Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #3) ★✬☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Frightful’s Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #3
Author: Jean George
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 146
Words: 55.5K



Synopsis:

From Bookrags.com

In “Frightful’s Mountain”, Frightful, the female peregrine falcon formerly a pet of Sam Gribley, attempts to reintegrate into the wild, while maintaining her ties with Sam and Bitter Mountain. The novel begins where “On the Far Side of the Mountain” ends: Sam, knowing that it is illegal for him to keep a pet peregrine falcon, and wanting Frightful to have a good and full life in the wild, refuses to call Frightful to him when he sees her flying around in the sky. Frightful then befriends and becomes the mate of Chup, a male peregrine falcon, and becomes the adoptive mother to Chup’s motherless children, Drum, Lady, and Duchess. It is a crash course for Frightful, who must not only learn to eat new kinds of food –primarily ducks and other birds, whereas she had been trained to hunt small game by Sam –but to care for wild baby falcons.

As November comes on, and all the falcons and other birds migrate south, Frightful stays on, determined to find her old mountain, and her old home. She is electrocuted on a utility pole, nearly killed, by nursed back to health by falconers Jon and Susan Wood, and is released in the spring. Frightful seeks out Bitter Mountain, and finds Sam, where she spends some time with him and hunts. She then decides to nest on the bridge in the town of Delhi. She attracts a mate named 426, a bird tagged and tracked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and she lays three eggs. Yet, as this happens, a construction crew moves onto the bridge to begin work. Sam sneaks up to the bridge every day, and spends hours keeping Frightful calm, so she can incubate her eggs. Leon Longbridge, the local conservation officer, and a group of school kids, including Molly and Jose, try to get the construction to cease until Frightful’s babies hatch, but the crew cannot stop work without orders from the state government. The construction crewmembers feel bad they cannot stop work, but they have no choice in the matter. Attempts to move Frightful and her eggs fail, so when it comes time to paint the bridge, the crews decide they will paint the section of the bridge with Frightful on it, last. Finally, Frightful’s babies hatch.

One morning, two agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show up to remove two of the baby falcons. In reality, they are Bate and Skri, two poachers arrested in “On the Far Side of the Mountain”, and back in the business of illegal selling of falcons. Sam helps track them down, and the police arrest Bate and Skri as they hide out in the old summer lodge of nature writer John Burroughs. From there, Frightful’s two babies will be raised and hacked into the wild. Meanwhile, Frightful raises her daughter, Oski, on her own on Bitter Mountain with Sam. Ultimately, they all fly south for the winter. When Frightful returns, she visits Sam as usual, but decides to nest in town, rather than on Bitter Mountain. Oski, however, decides that Sam’s mountain is a perfect place to nest.

My Thoughts:

Ok, here we go. There was a forward. I skipped it until I’d finished the book and then I went back and read it. It was written by Bob Kennedy Jr. While I can’t say anything about JFK, I can say that I’ve seen nothing good from his living relatives throughout the decades so a Kennedy’s name in the forward was not a good thing or an added draw. Especially when he goes off about how George inspired him to become a lawyer. Great, just what our country needs, more lawyers. Thanks a lot Jean George.

Secondly, and more to the point, this wasn’t much of a novel, middle grade or otherwise. It was much more of a National Geographic eco-documentary about birds. Sure, Sam is mentioned and some stupid kids and even dumber adults act emotionally and irrationally in response to “evil” electric companies and state governments but that’s not enough to make a real story out of.

Thirdly, but in conjunction with the above, this was written 40 years later and shows that George was more concerned with her message than actually telling a story. It was a big disappointment to see how George treated her human characters and how she leveraged the popularity of her first book to sell this one.

Overall, the first book should have been left alone as a standalone. It was excellent and fun and told a wonderful story. Each successive book has gone down hill and I suspect the two books after this one to be even worse. I certainly won’t be finding out.

Someone asked me why I was reading these books when I reviewed the second book and it basically comes down to trying to read some middle grade so I don’t take everything so seriously. To replace this series I’ll be adding most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books to the rotation. At least that I know will be light and funny.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

On the Far Side of the Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: On the Far Side of the Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #2
Author: Jean George
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 107
Words: 38.5K



Synopsis:

Sam Gribley continues to live on his mountain. His family moved back to civilization when Sam’s dad realized that farming the mountain was simply untenable. However, his younger sister Alice decides to stay and make her own way.

A conservation officer confiscates Sam’s bird Frightful, as she is on the endangered species list. At the same time Alice takes off to find her own place and takes a pig with her. Sam shadows her to make sure she is ok. Sam legs it all over New York and finds out his bird was taken by poachers to be sold to a Saudi Arabian sheik. Alice rescues Frightful, the law arrests the bad guys and Sam lets Frightful go into the wild.

My Thoughts:

This was not nearly as engaging as the first book. Part of that was that Sam was in a funk about Frightful being confiscated and instead of asking any adult about the laws or getting help, just decides everything on his own. And while he’s in that funk he reads old journal entries which chronicle all the improvements he and Alice have made on the mountain. It felt very, ummm, like George was trying to recapture some of the feeling of the first book and failing.

I did enjoy the journey of Sam and his friend as they tracked Alice down. It was a new aspect of the story and felt fresh.

While My Side of the Mountain felt like it could be read by almost any age, this book definitely felt middle grade. This was a decent sequel that I’d recommend to kids but not to anyone else. There is a third book that I’m going to dive into but my expectations are going to be very low going in.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My Side of the Mountain (My Side of the Mountain #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: My Side of the Mountain
Series: My Side of the Mountain #1
Author: Jean George
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 114
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Sam Gribley is a 12-year-old boy who intensely dislikes living in his parents’ cramped New York City apartment with his eight brothers and sisters. He decides to run away to his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains to live in the wilderness. The novel begins in the middle of Sam’s story, with Sam huddled in his treehouse home in the forest during a severe blizzard. Frightful, Sam’s pet peregrine falcon, and The Baron, a weasel, share the home with him. In a flashback, Sam reminisces about how he came to be there.

Sam heard about his grandfather’s abandoned farm near Delhi, New York, learned wilderness survival skills by reading a book at the New York City Public Library, and how Sam’s father permitted him to go to Delhi so long as Sam let people in the town know that he is staying at the farm. Unable at first to locate the farm, Sam tries to survive on his own but finds his skills are not up to the task. He meets Bill, a man living in a cabin in the woods, who teaches him how to make a fire. Sam goes into town and is told where his grandfather’s land is. Sam finds the farm but discovers the farmhouse is no longer standing.

Sam forages for edible plants and traps animals for food. He uses fire to make the interior of the hollow tree bigger. Seeing a peregrine falcon hunting for prey, Sam decides he wants a falcon as a hunting bird. Sam goes to town and reads up on falconry at the local public library. He steals a chick from a falcon’s nest and names the bird Frightful. Later, Sam hides in the woods for two days after a forest ranger, spotting the smoke from Sam’s cooking fire, came to investigate.

In the fall, Sam makes a box trap to catch animals to eat, and catches a weasel. Sam calls the weasel The Baron for the regal way the animal moves about. When a poacher illegally kills a deer, Sam steals the carcass, smokes the meat, and tans the hides. Frightful proves very good at hunting. Sam prepares for winter by hunting, preserving wild grains and tubers, smoking fish and meat, and preparing storage spaces in hollowed-out trunks of trees. Finding another poached deer, Sam makes himself deerskin clothing to replace his worn-out clothes. Sam notices a raccoon digging for mussels in the creek and learns how to hunt for shellfish.

One day, Sam returns home and finds a man there. Believing the man is a criminal, he nicknames him “Bando” (a shortened version of “bandit”). The man is actually a professor of English literature and is lost. Bando spends 10 days with Sam building a raft, fishing, teaching him how to make jam, and showing him how to make a whistle out of a willow branch. Sam agrees to come to town at Christmas to visit Bando.

Sam makes a clay fireplace to keep his home warm. Sam steals two more dead deer from local hunters to make more clothes, begins rapidly storing as many fruits and nuts as he can, and builds his fireplace. Sam almost dies after he insulates his home too well, trapping carbon dioxide inside. Sick with carbon dioxide poisoning, Sam barely gets out alive. Sam returns to town just before Christmas. He meets Tom Sidler, a teenager who ridicules his appearance. Sam spends the night with Bando, who shows him the many newspaper articles about the “wild boy” living in the forest. Sam returns home and is surprised on Christmas Day by the arrival of his father. They are overjoyed to see one another again. Sam learns how animals behave in winter, even during blizzards. He overcomes a vitamin deficiency by eating the right foods.

In the spring, Matt Spell, a local teenager who wants to be a reporter, arrives at Sam’s treehouse home. Sam doesn’t want to be interviewed, but offers Matt a deal: Matt can come live with him for a week if Matt will not reveal his location. Matt agrees. A few weeks later, Bando visits Sam and they build a guest house. Matt spends a week with Sam, and at the end tells Sam he broke his promise. A short time later, Tom Sidler visits the farm and Sam realizes he is desperate for human companionship.

When Bando returns to check on Sam, Sam says he intends to return to New York City to visit his family. In June, Sam is surprised to find his family at the farm. His father announces that the family is moving to the farm. Sam is happy at first, then also upset because it means the end of his self-sufficiency. As the novel ends, Sam concludes that life is about balancing his desire to live off the land with his desire to be with the people he loves.

My Thoughts:

I read this back in elementary school in the 80’s and probably again in highschool in the 90’s. The basic story has always stuck with me because it typifies what every American “should” be able to do, ie, become self-sufficient.

With this being a middle grade level of story, there is a lot the reader has to let slide. Sam’s enthusiasm for the food he eats and his praise of how good and tasty it is was one of the biggest. Acorn flower is not good. Now if Sam had grown up with this diet, I could see his enthusiasm, but he comes from New York City in the 70’s with the melange of food available to an urbanite. I’m sorry, but acorn flower and frog legs don’t compare to pizza.

It’s little things like that that the adult me noticed. This is a hyper-idealized tween survival book and coming of age story. Kids need stories like this and what’s more, they need to swallow them wholesale. If they can’t dream like this, they’re growing to grow up in a very small world indeed.

When I read this way back when I had no idea that George had gone on to write 2 more books in the series. I’ll be reading them now though to see what else she has to say.

I’m including an alternate cover because the one I’m using is just way to glamorous. Handscraped deerskins and rabbit pelts will not produce such nice looking clothing. Plus, the character on the cover looks like he’s 16 or older, not 12. The alternate cover really conveys the “essence” of the book much more honestly.

Rating: 4 out of 5.