Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Miss Read Tales from a Village School

I just finished the first book in my self-imposed Miss Read challenge. For my first book I chose HER first book, Tales from a Village School. This books is not actually short stories nor is it written in chapter form but rather, it is episodic. Each episode depicts an event or maybe an entire day in the life of Miss Read, a village school teacher.

Even though this book is set in the English village of Fairacre in the mid-1950's, it is strongly reminiscent of my kindergarten year at our neighborhood Methodist church, also in the mid-1950's. As I read along, I visualized not this village school in a faraway land but rather the large, pink, asbestos shingled barn-like kindergarten building that I attended. The activities were quite similiar -- like going outside for recess and pretending to be horses, or balls, or pins. Or, perhaps, getting ready for the Christmas program. Or maybe the orange juice and dreadful gingersnaps. At any rate, this book had a very familiar tone to it and a very comfortable feeling.

Also, parents reading this books will recognize the antics of ALL children, EVERYWHERE -- boys will be boys and girls will cry. Yet, it was all handled with the deft nurturing of Miss Read and all was well in the end.

Very good book, makes me look forward to the next.
Young Readers Challenge

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1, The Field Guide
Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1, The Field Guide is about Jared and Simon Grace, identical twins nine years of age, their older sister Mallory, aged thirteen and their mother Helen Grace.

In this first book of the series, the Grace family, sans the father who has left the family, moves into a crumbling Victorian house belonging to Mrs. Grace's aged Aunt Lucinda. The children aren't happy about much of their life since their father departed and having to move to Aunt Lucinda's creepy house isn't helping things at all. Mallory is into fencing which helps her cope with the life changes she is going through and Simon has an affinity for all things crawly like tadpoles and mice and such. Jared, however, doesn't seem to have an outlet for his anger and frustration so he has had a few angry episodes of acting out which has landed him in trouble and has really diminished his mother's trust in him. When strange things began happening in the house, Helen was quick to blame Jared.

Odd things began from the first day they moved in. They thought the noises they heard was a squirrel in the wall so they went on a hunt to find the squirrel but they found a very curious nest instead -- not of the squirrel variety. This discovery led them to explore the house and discovered a note, a riddle, a chest with a false bottom and, most important of all, they discovered that the noise was not a squirrel but rather ... well, I won't spoil it for you.

This was a VERY quick read -- I had it done in an hour. The age group I would suggest it for is about 8 to 12. While it is a mystery is isn't frightening at all and the illustrations are fantastic.

I have to admit that I was drawn to these books because of the covers and the illustrations. They are gorgeous little books and I am definitely going to add more to my collection. I would definitely recommend this book.