She comes into the library regularly, wearing a sassy cowboy hat and a million dollar smile. A few weeks shy of her 92nd birthday, she checks out books on understanding the Koran and artificial intelligence because it’s “important to learn about things like that.” And Little House on the Prairie, because “sometimes the news just gets to be a bit much, doesn’t it?” I love that woman. Honestly, just seeing her come up to the front door of the library makes my day a little bit better. It’s who I would like to grow up to be.
I am a big fan of Cornelia Funke, author of the Inkheart series.
So I was excited to find a book of hers at the library that I hadn’t seen before – Ghost Knight.
When we meet Jon Whitcroft, he’s feeling rather sorry for himself. His mom is sending him off to boarding school in Salisbury, choosing her heartily-disdained boyfriend “The Beard” over her own son (or so it seems.) But things are about to take a turn for the worse . Jon finds himself haunted by a set of extremely nasty, ghostly horsemen – and more scared than he has ever been in his life. But who would believe him? No one else can see what he sees…
Enter Ella, a day student at the school, who, thanks to her eccentric grandmother Zelda, know rather a lot about ghosts. With her help, he calls up the the spirit of William Longspee, a knight (entombed in Salisbury Cathedral) trying to atone for past sins by aiding those in need. What follows is a rollicking ghost story that has enough chills,thrills, and twists to keep even adults interested.
This is definitely a ‘younger’ Funke book – more on par with Igraine the Brave than Inkheart (I’d say a 8-12 reading level.) Jon comes across as quite a brat at first, but the story shows him growing and maturing through is experiences. Ella is a delightful, strong female character – and there might even be more to “The Beard” than Jon originally thought.
An added plus for me was that the locations and ghosts are all based on actual places and real historical characters (the centuries-old murder that plays a large role in the book actually happened.) This was a definite thumbs-up book for me – but then I don’t think I’ve met a Funke book I didn’t like!
I decided to re-read (well, actually re-listen to) The Hobbit — it’s been a few years. I love Rob Inglis’ s narration (we listened to the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy on a family trip to Texas and back a few years ago.) He does the different voices so well.
One down side to the audio book is that I didn’t realize exactly how many times people sing in the book – I guess when I originally read it I just tended to skim over all the different lyrics; on the audio book you have to listen to Rob Inglis burst into song at regular intervals (which he does quite creditably, but … well, there are quite a few songs, and singing Orks *really* aren’t my thing! ;0)
I am quite excited about the first installment of the movie coming out later this year – some inspired casting choices (Martin Freeman = Bilbo = genius!) so I just wanted to refresh my memory on what has been one of my favorite books. I was a bit dubious with them casting Richard Armitage (who I’ve so far only seen as ‘pretty love interest in period pieces’, which lets you know I haven’t really seen him in much other than North and South) as Thorin Oakenshield – but from the recent preview it actually seems to work…
Anyways, can’t wait to disappear into Middle-earth again, hook, line, and sinker.
Do you have opinions on Tolkien adaptations in general and this on in particular?
I have recently been reading a couple books about recycling/repurposing books. I got inspired to make this box – it’s made from illustrations and text of a couple of Harry Potter paper backs I picked up at the thrift store. A cardboard box was covered with cutouts from the box using ample amounts of matte Mod Podge. I like it quite a bit! I made it for a friend in the UK (whose Harry Potter versions are not illustrated the way the US versions are.)
I love this gentle, beautifully written fairytaly by Kate DiCamillo. When Peter Duchene is sent to buy bread by his cranky guardian Vilna Lutz, he gives the money to the fortune teller instead. His one question is this: Is my sister still alive and will I ever see her again? The sister lives, the fortuneteller assures him — and an elephant will lead him to her. ‘She must have lied,’ Peter thinks. ‘There are no elephants around!”
But then he overhears the discussion at the fish mongers — “Did you hear about the elephant? The magician performed, and there it came through the ceiling and shattered a lady’s legs.”
“But perhaps you do not understand — I was crippled, crippled by an elephant that came through the roof!” says she, again and again.”
“I only intended lilies!” the now incarcerated magician moaned, “only a bouquet of lilies.”
The story goes from there, chock full of whimsy, warmth, gladness, sadness, grieving, truth, lies, promises and hope, and some very wise insights by the author. The end was very satisfying to me, and I love the odd side characters that pop up along the journey. This book is sheer joy!
‘A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys’ and ‘Tanglewood Tales,’ both books that retell classic Greek mythology stories, were written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, mainly known as the author of The Scarlet Letter. We’ve read those more than once when my children were younger, and still enjoy them a lot (though I did find myself skipping the ‘bridging” background plot that tied the telling of the actual stories together – it was really not important to anything – and just reading the stories.) The retellings of the stories are delightful, with beautiful prose. It is easy to think of these of ‘sanitized’ versions of the myths (Hawthorne’s goal was a kinder, gentler version – in the book the master story teller says the original tales were bent into ‘into shapes of indestructible beauty, indeed, but cold and heartless.’ Yet these retellings have a lot more warmth than you’d find in any book on Greek mythology, and I have been drawn into them since the first time I read them to my kids.
There are free Kindle versions available of both books, but one thing that made the books to extraordinary were the illustrations (which are lacking in the free versions.) These hardcovers are just lovely books to hold and own. The illustrations by Walter Crane for Wonder-Book are great. The illustrations by Virginia Sterrett (from the 1920’s) for Tanglewood Tales are among my favorites every,
Sterrett’s breath-taking art really needs to be seen in color (the illustrated version is available for under $ 1 for Kindle, but my gray scale Kindle display does not do the illustrations justice at all.) Luckily, you can read the whole book on the net, including illustrations, at this link:
To just look at a collection of Virgina Sterrett’s work, go here:
While chasing her dogs through the palace gardens, the Queen happens upon a library bus. She feels it is only polite to take out a book. Thus begins Her Majesty’s love affair with reading — leading to unexpected results.
This novella by Alan Bennett is a quick read. Despite its small size, it is packed with humor and intelligence (not to mention some pretty cutting insights into class structure and life in a monarchy.) I thoroughly enjoyed it!