The Prydain Chronicles

Book cover for the Prydain chronicles. Shows a young celtic young man holding a sword aloft.Alexander, Lloyd

  • The Book of Three. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1964.
  • The Black Cauldron. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1965.
  • The Castle of Llyr. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1966.
  • Taran the Wanderer. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1967.
  • The High King. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1968.

In honor of Lloyd Alexander’s birthday (January 30), I present these wonderful adventure tales. These five books tell the tale of Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper of Caer Dallben.  Taran longs to know his parentage. An orphan raised by the wizard, Dallben he has lived quietly. His life seems dull as he tends the oracular pig, Hen Wen and learns homely gardening skills from Dallben’s loyal retainer, Coll. He longs for adventure, to learn the art of sword fighting and to go abroad in the world to right wrongs.

Although each of these books can stand alone, read as a group they show the growth of Taran from boy to man. He grows through experiences of hardship, pride, shame, courage and sorrow.  Taran, like many young people, struggles to find his true path.  He makes mistakes and seeks to correct them. He makes friends and enemies. On his adventures he travels the length and breadth of Prydain and learns about its people.

Like Frodo, he has steadfast companions.

  • Dallben, ancient wizard and Keeper of the Book of Three.  He found and raised Taran.
  • Coll, retired warrior, Head Pig Keeper, and farmer of Caer Dallben. He teaches Taran how to care for Hen Wen.
  • Eilonwy, a sorceress and Princess of Llyr.  She is practical and opinionated and feisty.
  • Gurgi, a creature of the forest, who proves his worth many times despite his moanings and groanings.
  • Flewder Flam, the Bard King of a small country.  He has a special harp from the Bard Taliesin. The harp’s string break  whenever Flewder exaggerates. Despite his frequent tall tales, Flewder is faithful and brave.
  • Prince Gwydion, son of King Math, really Taran is his companion. Gwydion is strong, wise, and faithful. Gwydion and Math are descendants of the Sons of Don, who come to Prydian from the Summer Country to defend Prydian from Arawn, the Lord of Death.
  • Doli, a dwarf.  Although it irritates him, Doli’s magic is that of invisibility.

Here are books worthy of a reader’s attention.  Pick them up and follow Taran on his adventures.

Lloyd Alexander

Five things to know about Lloyd Alexander

  1. The child of well-to-do parents who suffered bankruptcy, he shocked them at age 15 with the news he intended to be a writer.
  2. King Arthur was one of his heroes.
  3. He won the Newberry Award for The High King in 1969.
  4. The Black Cauldron was a Newberry Honor book in 1966.
  5. He met his wife Janine in France. They came back to the United States when Lloyd realized he needed to be home to be able to write.

You can go on and read more about this author at these websites.

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2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016

The Hero and the Crown

hero_crownMcKinley, Robin. The Hero and the Crown. New York: Firebird, 1984.

Here is a tall tale of a young hero.  It is a coming of age story of Aerin Firehair, daughter of King Arlbeth of Damar.  She feels she has many strikes against her.  She is a daughter, not a son.  Her mother, the king’s second wife, was a foreign and was rumored to be a witch.  For these reasons and perhaps others, she is not her father’s heir.  Her people treat her with cautious respect, but also with suspicion.

As the story opens, Damar, a relatively peaceful country, has become embroiled in border skirmishes and threats of secession from one of its nobles.  To add to Damar’s woes, dragons have re-appeared in the countryside to harry and harass the citizenry.  These difficulties are whispered to be caused by the loss of the Hero’s Crown.  The crown was reported to have warded the county against mischief. It has been gone so long, that no one remembers why the crown is an important defense of the country.

But mischief is lurking in and round Damar. King Arlbeth must ride to “treat” with his unruly noble and fight errant dragons, where they are found. Aerin, wishing to be of service, asks permission to ride with him.  After a gentle but, painful refusal from her father, she is humiliated by a snarky courtier. He provides public, scornful commentary on her upbringing.  He suggests she needs some slaps for her scandalous behavior. I think perhaps he goes a step too far.  This courtier is nearly called out by the Tor, the king’s heir and friend to Aerin. King Arlberg steps in and asks the offensive courtier to apologize. The courtier hurls an angry apology at her as he leaves the room. He does manage to get in one last nasty, jibe, “Go slay a dragon, lady!  Lady Aerin, Dragon-Killer!”

These taunting words, send Aerin down her path, one she was destined to follow in some way.  How to slay a dragon becomes consuming work for her.  Dragons are pesky, dangerous and hard to kill.  Many a dragon slayer does not return or returns badly charred. Before venturing forth to slay dragons, she seeks an advantage.  Does she find one?

Aerin is hopeful, persistent, stubborn and courageous, all the qualities we love in our heroes. Read this book to find out how she uses all these strengths in her quest to slay dragons, find the Crown and save her people. It is a terrific story for readers of all ages.

Robin McKinley

Reading her biography on her website, she reminds me of my daughters, it appears she likes to name objects.  She has a Steinway named Rhodanthe¹.  I wonder if she names her cars.  Actually, it appears she does.  I just read one of her blog postings².  It possibly may be named “Wolfgang.”  With that name, I imagine a grand, old German car.  You never can tell about people and names.  Our Ford 500 wound up with the name “Teapot.”  The girl who came up with name, never had an explanation other than “I don’t know, I just call it Teapot.”

Robin’s father was in the Navy and they were stationed in different places.  Robin charted her life by where she read a book for the first time.  For example, she read The Chronicles of Narnia in New York and The Once and Future King in Maine³.  I like the fact that it was for the first time, which implies that perhaps she went back and re-read her favorites a time or two. I love to re-read books.  It to me is like visiting an old friend.

She is talented and fortunate.  Her book Beauty was accepted on its first submission to a publisher.  She like to write about strong, heroines.

She has been a teacher, an editor, and book store employee. She has lived on a horse farm.  Currently she is living in England in a cottage with a garden full of roses.  To learn more about this author, visit her webpage, Facebook page, and blog.

Other Robin McKinley interviews that may interest you.

¹http://www.robinmckinley.com/bio.php

²http://robinmckinleysblog.com/

³http://mindstalk.net/mckinley/McKinley.html

 

 

 

El Deafo

El Deafo book coverBell, Cece. El Deafo.  New York: Abrams, 2014.

I thought this book would be interesting to read for a number of reasons.  First of all, it reminded me of my colleagues Elaine and Eden and their work with students with deafness or auditory impairments.  Second, it was a Newberry Honor Book in 2015.  Third, I thought it was on this year’s Bluebonnet Master list. It was a trifecta of good reasons to read it. When I sat down to write this blog posting, I was highly disappointed to learn that I had confused lists and it is not on this year’s Bluebonnet list.  It is a great book so maybe someone will recommend it for another year.

I didn’t have a copy of this book in my collection, so I ordered it online.  I was surprised to find that it was a graphic novel.  It is Cece Bell’s attempt to capture her memories and feelings about the loss of her hearing and its impact on her life.

An emerging fashionista at age four, Cece was a normal, happy girl.    Her life changed drastically one day.  She developed meningitis.  Once recovered, her hearing loss was discovered and she was fitted with hearing aids. Even with hearing aids, she had trouble understanding all the speech around her.   At a school for students with hearing loss, she learned how visual, context and gestural cues could help her better understand what the people in her life were saying.

At the end of that school year she moved and was enrolled in a typical school.  Would she have friends?  Would she be able to understand?  The change was not an easy one. It is hard being different.  A chance remark from the television caused her to coin her own nickname, “El Deafo”.  Her difference was her superpower.  In her new school what would happen?  Would she have any new friends?  Would El Deafo find her superhero sidekick and best friend?  Read this book and find out!

With her sense of adventure and courage, Cece learned to live in our hearing world.  She grew up to be an author and an illustrator!  Here’s a link to her website, you can read more about Cece and the other books she has written: https://cecebell.wordpress.com.

One more fact, I did get more than a trifecta and more for this book.  It was really fun to read!  And for all you comic book/graphic novel lovers, it won an 2015 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12).  The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are considered the “Oscars” of the comics world. Named for the pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, the awards are given out in more than two dozen categories during a ceremony each year at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

 

Elijah’s Little Library Recap

I started this blog back in April, because I was so excited about all the books I purchased for my new nephew.  It has been my whigmaleerie, my notion, my fancy that I might have something to share with the wider world about these books and others. My family is amused by this new hobby of mine.  They have been gently encouraging me to carry on with this writing.

The Hobbit blog marked the last entry for books from Elijah’s Little Library.  His Crazy My PhotoAunt Robin (that’s me!) had so much fun buying the books and writing him a book about his little library. Here’s a picture of me, taken when I was working on his book.  Don’t I look like someone’s Crazy Aunt?  I wanted the fun of thinking about the books we gave him to continue, ergo I started this blog.  To finish the section about Elijah’s Little Library, I’d like to share the introduction to his book.

Welcome to the World!

It is a wide, exciting and sometimes frenetic place.  All our family, Uncle Jim, Cousin Alexis, Cousin Sarah and I, are looking forward to meeting you.

I think your Mama and Daddy are rolling their eyes at this point, wondering why we decided on a small library for your very first gift as it doesn’t seem very practical.  Well I could say that we are your crazy Aunt Robin and Uncle Jim and that’s just what we do.  Ask your Mama when you can, how often a gift from us included a book.

I am your crazy Aunt Robin, but here’s the truth, we love to read and we want to share that love with you. We think if you can read you can go anywhere and do anything even if it is only in your own imagination.  With a good book, you are never alone and you always have something to do.

We want you to remember the way it feels to snuggle with your Mama or your Daddy, while you listen to one of their sweet voices reading you to sleep.  The way it feels to laugh, when you read a silly story for yourself.  The secret joy it is to read covertly under the covers with a flashlight when you are supposed to be asleep.  The guilty pleasure you feel when you look up from finishing a thrilling novel and realize that it is 2 am and you have to get up and go to work the next day.

Elijah, enjoy a good book!  We have chosen the books in this mini library with you in mind.  We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.  When we started to think about this gift, I asked everyone here to give me the names of two books.  One they remembered from when they very little and one that was their favorite when they were in upper elementary or middle school.  I think you will be surprised at what was included in this little library.

God Bless You Little One!
Love Aunt Robin, Uncle Jim, Alexis & Sarah
April 2, 2016

For those of you who are interested in starting a little library for a young person you love, I have compiled a list of the books in Elijah’s library: LibraryRecap_Aug17_2016.  We tried to get something that would please a young boy, however, I think they would be fun for many different readers.

 

 

The Graveyard Book

Graveyard bookGaiman, Neil
The Graveyard Book
New York: HarperCollins, 2008

They give lots of different kinds of awards for books.  I wanted to get Elijah a Newbery Award winner. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  It’s purpose is “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”¹ In other words, the author wrote a smashingly good book!

In 2009, Neil Gaiman won this award for The Graveyard Book.  Nobody Owens, a normal boy, lives in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts.  Why is he living in a graveyard?  Is it scary? Bod Owens is not frightened.  His parents, tutors and friends are ghosts from the graveyard.  His guardian, Silas, may or may not be a vampire.  He can’t leave the graveyard, his life will be in danger.  Read this book and find out how Bod grows up and what happens to him.

Neil Gaiman

“Sometimes, when he was smaller, people used to tell Neil Gaiman not to make things up. He never listened”.² Thank God! I hope he goes on making things up for a really long time.  Neil writes for children and for adults. He’s written movies, books and graphic novels.  “As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton”³. What good taste!  These are some of my favorites as well. And he loved libraries!  I think I am in love!

His books refuse to follow genre’s and fit nicely into categories.  He believes in the future of libraries, reading, books and day-dreaming.  Here’s a great piece he wrote for the Guardian in 2013: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming.

In the back of my copy of The Graveyard Book is the text of his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech.  One of the first things he notes is winning the Newbery Medal made him cool to his kids.  He remarks that this is as good as it gets as you are almost never cool to your kids.

It came to him as he finished writing the book that he wasn’t writing a book about childhood, but about being a parent.  As he says, “if you do your job properly, they go away. And they have lives and they have families and they have futures.”  I thought this book’s last lines were particularly poignant. “But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with eyes wide open.” I hold that same hope for my children.

From this same speech he said these insightful things!

Reading is important.
Books are important.
Librarians are important.
It is a glorious and unlikely thing to be cool to your children.
Children’s fiction is the most important fiction of all.

You can follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter @neilhimself.  You can read more about him on his website http://www.neilgaiman.com/.

I forgot to add that NPR featured Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book on their Backseat Book Club http://www.npr.org/2011/10/28/141766112/kids-book-club-a-graveyard-tour-with-neil-gaiman.

¹http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/aboutnewbery/aboutnewbery

²http://www.mousecircus.com/MeetNeilGaiman.aspx

³http://www.mousecircus.com/MeetNeilGaiman.aspx