Christmas Classics you’ve read to you kids – Christine Bongers

Little Golden Books The Night Before ChristmasFellow Boomerang Blogger, Romi Sharp recently congratulated me on hitting my first century. Gob smacked! I mean I don’t even own a cricket bat, let alone know how to hold one. She meant blogs of course. I hardly noticed. They rack up and slip by like birthdays these days. Nonetheless, even numbers deserve celebration (especially ones with many zeros), so while I wait for Boomerang to deliver the gold-embossed book prize and bubbly, I thought I’d pass the time with another lady who knows how to rack em up with infinite style and humour.Chris Bongers 2

Celebrated Brisbane YA and kids’ author, Christine Bongers is no stranger to bedtime reads, having indulged in this past time with her own four children over the years. Today we discover some of the classics the Bongers family pulled out to share together at this time of year. (I’ll go the extra Christmas Bon Bon please Christine – I think it might be a while before the bubbly arrives!)

Christine’s Christmas Classics

Hubba huMother Goosebby and I read to our four kids from the time they were babies: nursery rhymes, Mother Goose, and truck loads of Little Golden Books that we had left over from our own childhoods. I loved picture books – Edwina the Emu and Wilfrid Gordon Macdonald Partridge stand out in my memory – but have to say that our kids were making their own reading decisions by the time they could talk and we had precious little say in the matter!

Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg* celebrateWacky Wednesday

It all began with that shoe on the wall. A shoe on a wall . . . ? Shouldn’t be there at all!
Then I looked up. And I said, “Oh, MAN!”
And that’s how Wacky Wednesday began.

After twenty-odd years, I can still recite those opening lines from memory. That’s how many times I read this madcap romp to our eldest. Preschoolers love pandemonium and spotting the twenty wacky moments captured in New Yorker cartoonist George Booth’s illustrations never got old for the wacky funster in our family.Wacky Wednesday illo

[*A bonus Christmas bonbon for anyone who recognised author Theo LeSieg as a wacky version of Theodore Geisel – or as he is more commonly known, Dr Seuss!)

 The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

Our youngeCaptain Underpants 2st adored Captain Underpants, so good old Santa could be relied on to pop the latest offering into his Christmas stocking each year. By the time he was in Grade Three he had eight volumes jockeying for position on his shelf and I swear by all I hold holy that we read each and every one of them at least one hundred times before he moved on to Harry Potter.

 The BFG by Roald Dahl

Our youngest daughter revelled in Dahl’s subversive tales (particularly Matilda with the eye-wateringly awful headmistress The Trunchbull), but it was the simple giant with the deep insights, dream collecting and jumbled and inventive turn of phrase that she returned to again and again. And why not, I say. What’s not to love about little girls doing great things in league with a giant?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Lion Witch and Wardrobe

This was our big girl’s favourite childhood read ever (along with The Hobbit). Narnia has provided a magical escape, not only for Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, but for children everywhere for more than half a century and its appeal hasn’t diminished with BFG illothe years. As a matter of fact, I’ve just got my hands on a beautiful boxed set – a happy Christmas present for a certain little Lucy in my own extended family. So what books will be in your Christmas stocking this year? 

Good question Christine. How big is my Christmas stocking allowed to be?

I’ll be asking the same thing to other inspiring authors in the next few weeks. Get ready to flex your reading memory muscles.

Add more of Christine’s entertaining work including the recently released gripping YA read, Intruder to your new classics lists by visiting here.

 

For the Love of the Chunkster

Dear Readers:

I have a confession to make. It is a confession that is so monstrous, so remarkably horrid, that your view of me will forever be marred.

*Takes deep breath*

I have never read The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

[I know what you’re thinking: “and here she is, this imposter, purporting to be a FANTASY blogger, no less!”]

Before you pass too hasty a judgment, let it be known that I have watched the Peter Jackson movies and loved them to bits, over and over again. And I read The Hobbit, so really, I feel like I know Bilbo Baggins PRETTY well. It’s not the same, I know. But it’s a start.

On three separate attempts I have made it, at best, about halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring. My excuse for not finishing it? It was TOO DARNED LONG. Too much valuable reading time had to be spent on the series, whereas I could read 15 or so smaller books in the same time bracket! But in my heart of hearts, I know this is a lie.
In truth, if you look at which books I love and have enjoyed the most, refusing to read a book because it is “too long” is laughable. For my very reading existence is almost completely dependent on my love for a particular type of book: for the love of the CHUNKSTER!

I define a chunkster as a book that has at least 500-600 pages, average size font.

Why do I love them? Well, there is something deliciously satisfying about reading a book that gives me the proper amount of time to immerse myself in the story, wallow about in its glorious filth. To know the characters through an intense description of a frock worn, to know a world as it is built, brick by brick around me. And, of course, I feel pretty awesome when I finish something that requires so much time and effort to get through.

Some of my fave chunksters:

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett is a magnificent choice in the chunkster realm. To understand the passion and architectural skill of building a Gothic cathedral, while all these people’s lives are carrying on around it, is just mesmerising to me. After reading that book, I felt like I had built the church myself – ’tis a great feeling of accomplishment;
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, is 1000 pages or so of mind-numbing faerie Victoriana brilliance;
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, sends me into a spin just thinking about it;
And I have just read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, and been absolutely blown away by its intricate content, its romantic Sci Fi, its literary awesomeness. No wonder it won the Booker Prize.

I am also super pleased to report that the fashion of the chunkster doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere fast. The obsession with mass fantasy reads like Harry Potter and Twilight meant that each book in the series had to be larger than the last, to satisfy the starving fans. And you only have to look at 2009’s Booker shortlist to see that chunksters are still considered worthy literary reads (I’m currently digging my way through Wolf Hall with mounting enthusiasm). So, to come full circle – I don’t know why I can’t get through Lord of the Rings. I’m going to try again, mid-year, and let you know the results. As long as another chunkster doesn’t steal my attention… (here’s hoping!)

How do you feel about chunksters? To me, you’re in one of two camps: you adore the chunkster and all that it stands for, or you fear them to the depths of your soul and avoid them like the plague.

Which is it for you? Team Love? Or Team Fear?

Sam Downing Reviews: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I was chatting with a friend not long ago about Neil Gaiman’s writing style, and we agreed that his is an authorial voice you either like or you don’t: my friend doesn’t like it, but I do. A lot. Gaiman has a knack of adapting to whatever genre he’s writing in, but his work always has a sense of the very old, the very deep, and the very strange.

I started The Graveyard Book with high expectations, and wasn’t disappointed: Like all the best children’s literature, it’s wildly imaginative, seductively scary, and a sophisticated read for both kids and adults.

Loosely inspired by The Jungle BookThe Graveyard Book  is the story of a baby who escapes from the ruthless killer who’s murdered his parents, and escapes to a very old graveyard. Rechristened Nobody “Bod” Owens, he’s raised by the graveyard’s ghostly  inhabitants and encounters vampires, werewolves, witches and other beasties as he grows up. (The Guardian has a more detailed, though mildly spoilery, synopsis; I recommend going into it without knowing about the plot’s direction.)

It kind of reminded me of Harry Potter, if Harry Potter’s sprawling story was condensed into a single book: The Graveyard Book  has the same magical, captivating and adventurous tone. I felt really sad when I turned the last page, both because of the way the plot wrapped up, and because I’d finished a really great book.

Each chapter advances Bod’s age by around two years and stands alone as a story (more or less), making this a breezy read. If you never read anything of Gaiman’s before, this is a fine entry point.1

Gaiman has proposed writing more books exploring the backstory of the Graveyard universe, but with a darker, more adult tone – a sort of “The Lord Of The Rings, to which The Graveyard Book would have been The Hobbit, in his words. I want to read that book so bad. Right now.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.