Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriquez

Finished January 17
Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez by Christiane Duchesne and François Thisdale

This charming picture book shows the children of the village watching an older man as he faithfully takes a walk every day. They become more fascinated when his actions on his daily walk suddenly become varied. He floats above the ground, flys a dove on a string, balances a fishbowl on his head, ties wings to a cat, and other intriguing things. The children are fascinated and amused, and this shows in the illustrations. I liked the innovative activity, the mystery of his actions, and the diversity of the children pictured here. I really loved the illustrations, with the mix of realism and fantasy and the detail of the different scenes.
This is a book that explores the imagination and leaves a lot for the reader to decide on their own. A beautiful book.

The Last Train to London

Finished January 15
The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

This novel is set mostly in the Netherlands and Austria. In the Netherlands, the main character is Truus (Geertruida) Wijsmuller-Meijer, a woman who smuggled children out of Nazi Germany, and then out of other countries controlled by the Nazis, prior to and during the Second World War. She told the children that she was saving to call her Tante Truus, and although she longed for children of her own, she and her husband Joop never were blessed with them. Truus was a real life woman who did this work, and although she was taken prisoner a couple of times by the Nazis, she lived through the war and was held in high esteem and with great affection by the children she saved. While most of Truus' story is based in fact, some small liberties were taken for the purpose of the novel.
In Austria, we follow young Stephan Neuman, born into a wealthy Jewish family who made chocolates, as he turns sixteen, seventeen, and nears eighteen as his world falls apart when the Nazis take over Austria, his parents' business, and his home in Vienna. Here we also see his little brother Walter, who has a much-loved Peter Rabbit doll he takes almost everywhere with him. Stephen wants to be a writer, specifically a playwright, and his model is Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. One of Stephen's classmates is Zofie-Helene Perger, who is a mathematical prodigy and the daughter of journalists. Her father died mysteriously on a trip to Germany before the story begins, and her mother has continued the newspaper they owned even as her own life and liberty become threatened by the Nazis.
As we see Truus' mission to save children become more difficult and dangerous, we also see her determination and the special relationship she and her husband had that made her work possible. In Austria, we see how Stephen's world collapsed so quickly from one of privilege and opportunity to one where he had to struggle just to stay alive. We see his mother's determination to save her children, despite her own illness, and the trust of young Walter that things would be better. For Zofie, we see her determination to stay true to her friendship with Stephen even when their differences in religion divided them under the Nazi regime, and how she defied her grandfather, who was trying to protect her, in helping Stephen in the ways that she could.
Clayton brings these times to life, with all the emotion that the characters felt. A great read.

Backlist Reader Challenge 2020 Sign-up Page

Backlist Reading Challenge
Hosted here
I have far more books than I really should, but I just can't help myself. I usually do a TBR challenge every year, but my usual host stopped doing it, and I saw this one, so decided to try this.
It's a bit different in that you read books published before 2019 that have been on your TBR list for a long time, but you don't have to own them. I will probably choose books that I already own but haven't read (list here), but like the ability to choose from the ones I've want to read for a while, but don't own (list here). Both of these lists are from my Goodreads page and that shows the date I added them to my list, so I won't choose anything I added to the list after 2018. 
I also like that I don't HAVE to pick them in advance, but can kind of go with the flow of what I feel like reading. 

Aussie Author Challenge 2020 Sign-up Page

I'm committing to a challenge to read some Australian Authors. It is called the Aussie Author Challenge, and is hosted here.

I'm going for the Wallaroo level of the challenge which is to read 6 books by Australian writers. At least two of the authors have to be female and at least two of them male. Also two of them have to be authors that I haven't read anything by before.

Should be fun to find.

What Cats Think

Finished January 12
What Cats Think by Mies van Hout, text by John Spray

This lovely picture book showcases the beautiful artwork of Mies van Hout. Her pictures are engaging and show the emotions and movement of the cats perfectly. You can see the emotions on the cats' faces as described in the text, and the wide variety of cat types helps kids find the one that they can relate to, either due to cats they know personally, or the way the cats have similar emotions to the kids. Whether its worry about going to the vet, jumpiness at sudden noises, or anger at the loss of an object they liked, the cats show feelings similar to the children's own experiences with doctor visits, surprises, or loss. There are lots of different kinds of feelings shown too from curiosity and joy, to panic and confusion. What a great way to have kids both explore their own emotions and relate to animals in their lives. I only wish it could tell me what my cat is thinking when it yells at me from the kitchen in the middle of the night despite full food and water bowls.
I also loved the colours here, where drawings are each saturated with one colour showing the different shades and intensities in a fun way.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

An Island Christmas

Finished January 11
An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer

This short novel is set on Nantucket as Jilly prepares for the wedding of her second daughter Felicia, which is to take place on Christmas day. Jilly is closer to her eldest daughter Lauren, who lives in New York with her husband and two children, who shares similar interests, and who visits often. Felicia is more outdoorsy, and she now lives in Colorado and her fiance is a rugged man who also spends most of his time outdoors running adventure tours.
Jilly has always dreamed that Felicia would marry a boy she grew up with and live closer, and even in the face of Felicia's impending marriage, still tries to manipulate things to that end.
George, Jilly's husband, can see the stress in Jilly and encourages adding a cat to their household to calm Jilly. The cat is not the one they expected to get, but is definitely the one Jilly needed, and he adds a lot to this story.
The family dynamics are interesting and I liked how the characters were a bit unpredictable. A cosy book for a light, enjoyable read.


Finished January 9
Abhorsen by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry

This book, third in the series, continues the story of Lirael as she follows the trail foreseen for her as she searches for Sam's friend Nick, and the great power he is in the process of releasing, that of the Destroyer. Lirael must go into Death to use the dark mirror and see how the Destroyer was bound and held in the beginning to see what she and her allies must do now, if they are able to. She is accompanied on her journey not only by Sam, but also by her friend the mysterious Disreputable Dog and by Mogget, who is bound to the Abhorsen. As they travel, they go by ways previously unknown to them, and to the world outside the Old Kingdom, where they must deal with those who don't believe in the power of magic, even when it is in front of them, and hordes of refugees looking for a better future. This is a time of great change and great danger.
While most of this tale involves Lirael, we also get glimpses of others including Sam's parents Sabriel and Touchstone, and the dangers they face as they too try to change the course of the terrible things unfolding, without knowing everything that is happening.
I read this so soon after Lirael as that book really left me in the middle of the tale and I needed to find out how the journey progressed. This is a tale of darkness and of power-hungry manipulators. A tale that reminded me with the journeys of the refugees, of our own world and the things unfolding here.
I'm looking forward to the next in the series.