Adult Fiction, Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy/Magical Realism, Young Adult Fiction

Odd and the Frost Gaints

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What would 2019 be without some Neil Gaiman? The edition I chose to read is illustrated by Chris Riddell, who sometimes provides illustrations for Gaiman’s works as well as writes and illustrates his own books. He and Gaiman have worked together on editions of Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, The Sleeper and the Spindle, and Fortunately, the Milk… I absolutely love Gaiman’s fun, fantastical stories being accompanied by Riddell’s fairy tale-esque, full-of-personality illustrations.

Odd and the Frost Giants follows a boy named Odd. Odd’s father died in a Viking raid, and his mother married another man she was not in love with. Odd, unhappy with his new living situation, leaves his village to stay in his father’s woodcutting hut. He meets three strange animals in the forest who are much more than they appear to be. It is up to Odd to help the animals reclaim their true forms and their homeland.

In case you don’t already know, Odd and the Frost Giants is a short, lighthearted story about the Norse gods Odin, Thor, and Loki. Picture it as Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology-lite. It is a simple adventure story that would be appropriate for both young and older readers, but the language is not overly simplistic. If you have some knowledge of Norse mythology, you will find a few Easter eggs and nods to other Norse myths in Odd, but having little to no knowledge will not hinder your enjoyment of the tale at all.

I would recommend Odd and the Frost Giants to anyone who enjoys an adventure story, Norse mythology in a more lighthearted structure, and fans of Gaiman’s other writing. Odd and the Frost Giants is a quick and enjoyable read, but it is not necessarily the deepest of Gaiman’s work, if that is what you are looking for.

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Classics, Fantasy/Magical Realism

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

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Here’s another edition review instead of book review. I’ve been busy as the school semester comes to a close, and I haven’t had a lot of time for reading. Also, I am in a bit of reading slump. I read some fantastic books recently, and now everything I pick up feels bland in comparison. Anyone else had this problem? Well, I guess it isn’t the worst problem to have.

So, what’s so great about this edition of Grimm’s Tales? There are only a billion other (prettier) editions, so why this one? Well, the answer is in the title. Apparently, the versions of the tales in this edition are as close to the originals as possible. And, as you probably already know, these tales aren’t even close to the sanitized Disney versions we all know and love. These tales are often brutal and bloody. There is a fair amount of trickery and backstabbing, and there isn’t always a happy ending or helpful moral lesson at the end. It is interesting to see where Disney got their inspiration and to see how these stories have evolved over time. This edition also has some creepy illustrations (in the same style as the cover illustrations) that look 3D.

As with many of these kinds of collections, I would not recommend reading it cover to cover, but it is nice to read a few tales here and there. It also looks pretty good on my fairy tale shelf.

 

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Classics, Fantasy/Magical Realism

The Jungle Book

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Before the new live-action Jungle Book came out I decided I wanted to read the book, but I also decided I wanted a nice edition to read from. I found this edition by Harper Design and fell in love. This is going to be another lazy review that mostly talks about the physical book and not so much about the story. Sorry!

I will start by saying that I was surprised how the Disney movies came up with the plot for their versions of The Jungle Book with so little actually written about it by Kipling. I can certainly see the similarities, but I am curious why they made certain choices with the characters and plot. Kaa (not really a bad guy in the book) and Shere Khan (not as menacing in the book) seem different from their Disney counterparts. Baloo, Mowgli, and Bagheera (always my favorite in every version) are mostly the same though. Disney, as always, takes liberties in their interpretations, but the main events are much the same. For those who don’t know, The Jungle Book does not only include stories about Mowgli and company. There are a few other animal-centered stories taking place in India included as well.

So, about this edition… It is very pretty and just feels good to touch. There are colorful, stylized illustrations throughout the book as well as interactive elements like pull-out maps, spinning wheels, and pop-up artwork. These are neat, but as someone who likes keeping books in mint-as-possible condition they and their protective surrounding papers got in the way when reading. I wouldn’t suggest this as a reading copy or a copy for young children, but as a collection piece it is very nice. I have seen matching editions of Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast out as well so I may be starting a collection…

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Classics, Fantasy/Magical Realism

Celtic Tales: Fairy Tales and Stories of Enchantment from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales

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I fell in love with this book the moment I saw the cover. It is difficult to review a collection of old fairy tales for its content so I will try to focus on the more physicals aspects of the book since this is probably more of a collector’s piece.

This is, as the title suggests, a beautiful collection of Celtic fairy tales. They are slightly updated from the original tales to appeal to modern audiences. Though I am not familiar with the source material for this collection, there is a list in the back of the book that tells you where you can find older versions of these stories.

The collection contains sixteen tales under four headings: Tricksters, The Sea, Quests, and Romance. There is a gorgeous, full-page illustration by Kate Forrester at the start of each story, but I was slightly disappointed that there are no illustrations within the text of each tale. The collection is fairly short at around 175 pages, but it feels like a sturdy, well put-together little book. It is not a comprehensive bind-up of tales, but it is a nice teaser for those interested in this culture and want a beautiful looking addition to their fairy tale shelf.

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy/Magical Realism

Letters From Father Christmas

lffcbyjrrtJ.R.R. Tolkien wrote his children letters from Father Christmas every year for about 20 years. Each letter was addressed to the children, written in beautiful inks and calligraphy, and often a painted picture of the North Pole’s year of events came along with it. The letters detailed the adventures of Father Christmas and his friend the North Polar Bear as they fought troublesome goblins, had great parties, and recovered Christmas preparations from the Polar Bear’s antics. This collection of letters only reinforced my desires to be a Tolkien.

I wish I could have reviewed this before Christmas as it would make an amazing gift for Tolkien fans (or anyone who just likes Christmas), but I actually received it as a Christmas gift myself! I guess you’ll have a year to gift it to someone! But yes, it was a great read. It was so much fun and so whimsical. Reading this turned my pretty terrible Christmas into a good one. I really can’t recommend this enough.

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy/Magical Realism, Graphic Novels/Manga/Comics

Chi’s Sweet Home

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It’s finals time and I’m wrapping up my first year of grad school and I am a bit stressed. I picked this up because look at that little cat face! I had heard of Chi’s Sweet Home before, but I put it on the list of things I will get to eventually. However, I saw this little face in the book store in the wrong section and had to give it a home.

Chi is a little lost kitten. She is separated from her mother and all alone. She is about to give up when she meets a family who takes her in. Unfortunately the apartment complex that they live in does not allow pets. Misadventures ensue as Chi grows up and learns about the human world while her humans try to keep her a secret.

This edition has full color illustrations in a cutesy manga/anime style. It’s also pretty large at about 500 pages. It was also a bit on the expensive side at $25. There really isn’t much of a plot to the series. It simply follows the day to day antics of a cute kitten and her family. Chi’s behavior is very true to real life cats and kittens so many of her adventures are easy to relate to if you’ve ever owned a cat. I smiled throughout the book. The illustrations are easy to follow and simply adorable. Chi’s thoughts and actions are funny even if her “baby-talk” voice might be a little annoying to some readers.

If you like cats, cute comics, and just want a few hours of smiles then I think Chi’s Sweet Home is a good choice. It won’t change the world with profound revelations, but it might make it a happier place for a little while.

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Classics, Fantasy/Magical Realism

Peter Pan

PPbyJMBLike many children I saw the Disney version of Peter Pan. I don’t remember having strong feelings toward the movie one way or the other, but lately I’ve been curious about reading children’s classics so I picked up Peter Pan. Most of us probably know the story by now. Peter is a boy who never wants to grow up. He enters the house of Mr. and Mrs. Darling and whisks their three children, Wendy, John, and Michael, away to Neverland. Neverland is a haven for the imagination complete with pirates, mermaids, and natives.

Though it is not the deepest fantasy adventure it is a charming little story. I wish Neverland was fleshed out a little more and the novel could have been a little longer. Many times hints are dropped about Peter’s other adventures, but they are not included in the narrative in favor of staying on the main plot line. The language and writing of the novel shows its age, but I believe it can still be easily understood by young people today. I wish I would have read this book when I was younger. Reading it as an adult made me very nostalgic for childhood and I actually teared up a little near the end. I am curious about how the book would have affected me at an earlier time in my life.

The Disney-fied versions of this novel are easier to digest, but I think that this is a children’s classic that both young and old audiences can still enjoy today.

Book Review, Children's Fiction, Classics, Historical

The Call of the Wild

TCotWbyJLI read a lot as a child, but I somehow missed out on a lot of children’s classics. I found some of these cute Puffin children’s classics on sale at Book Outlet after Christmas. So this year I am going to try to read some of them! The Call of the Wild was the first one I picked. In case you don’t already know the premise, Buck the farm dog gets taken away from his home and sold into the sled dog business. Along his tough journey he discovers his wild roots.

This was a good short novel. I felt that the length worked against it though. I just wanted more from the story. The dogs weren’t given much personality. I was interested in forming a connection with them and the humans, but the narrative was a little too distance for me to become attached to any of them. I would have liked the story to go a little slower and give more details about the environment and characters a little more, but perhaps it would have been too repetitive or dull if it were written that way. This probably won’t be my favorite children’s classic, but it was still a good little read.