The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

Series: The Hundred and One Dalmatians (#1)
Shelved: Classic (children’s)
Published: 1956
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #12
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my last post for the 2015 Classics Challenge – you can now join the 2016 challenge!

“Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.”

Cruella de Vil is enough to frighten the spots off a Dalmatian pup. But when she steals a whole family of them, the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Missus, lose no time in mounting a daring rescue mission. Will they be in time to thwart Cruella’s evil scheme, or have they bitten off more than they can chew?

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Likely when I first watched the Disney adaptation in the 90s. I’m much more of a cat person, but I’ve always loved the film and adored Dalmatians!

WHY I Chose to Read It
You picked my December classic and The Hundred and One Dalmatians won (27.32% of the vote). It was included in the poll because I wanted to read this newly-published edition, illustrated by Alex T. Smith.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It is written by I Capture the Castle author Dodie Smith, a much-loved children’s classic and author.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was hooked on The Hundred and One Dalmatians from the beginning. I loved discovering all the little differences from the story I grew up with and was surprised to discover that our courageous couple is not Pongo and Perdita, but Pongo and Missus. I was pleased to see that all of the animals in the story still had distinct, lovable personalities.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians is written in a wonderful style. It’s told almost conversationally, and in a way that is incredibly enjoyable to follow. I read it as if I were floating down a calm river or on a quiet jaunt through the countryside. But combined with the tense – and at times quite frightening – scenes that make Cruella de Vil one of the most notable villains in children’s literature, it becomes a brilliant canine adventure. It’s also beautifully accompanied by Alex T. Smith’s gorgeous illustrations, particularly of the puppies!

Even though I adored the story, I was a little disappointed by the attitude towards some of the female characters and the perpetuation of traditional gender roles, even if it was originally published 60 years ago. I was also intrigued by the description of Cruella de Vil (“She had a dark skin, black eyes with a tinge of red in them, and a very pointed nose”) compared to how she’s usually imagined – as a lady with pale skin. If you Google ‘Cruella de Vil’ and ‘dark skin’, you get zero results. Why is this?

Even if a little old-fashioned at times, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is still an incredibly charming classic that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a delightful end to the 2015 Classics Challenge.

“Nanny Cook slept dreaming of Dalmatian puppies dressed as babies, and Nanny Butler slept dreaming of babies dresses as Dalmatian puppies.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
It’s difficult to think of the book without thinking of the film. Would it still be a classic without Disney?

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love illustrated fiction, puppies and children’s books.

“Dogs can never speak the language of humans, and humans can never speak the language of dogs. But many dogs can understand almost every word humans say, while humans seldom learn to recognize more than half a dozen barks, if that.”

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Classic #11)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Classic #12)

Shelved: Classic
Published: 1861
Rating: ★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #11
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my 11th post for the 2015 Classics Challenge, but you can now join the 2016 challenge!

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”

Great Expectations is Dickens’ funny, frightening and tender portrayal of the orphan Pip’s journey of self-discovery. Showing how a young man’s life is transformed by a mysterious series of events – an encounter with an escaped prisoner; a visit to a black-hearted old woman and a beautiful girl; a fortune from a secret donor – Dickens’ late novel is a masterpiece of psychological and moral truth, and Pip among his greatest creations.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Great Expectations is another one of those classic novels that I feel I’ve always know about. But I didn’t really feel the need to read the book until I watched the 2011 BBC miniseries and really enjoyed it. I adored the story and vowed to pick up the novel soon(ish)!

WHY I Chose to Read It
I haven’t read Dickens since I studied A Christmas Carol in school and Great Expectations had been on my list since the 2012 Classics Challenge – it was about time!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Classic #12)WHAT Makes It A Classic
It’s one of the most beloved and most famous novels of all time. It’s also Dickens’ most well-known. I didn’t know much about the character Pip, but even before watching the adaptation I was aware of one of its most iconic characters: Miss Havisham – the mysterious older lady in the ruined wedding dress who invites Pip into her mansion.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I’ve always been a bit apprehensive about starting Great Expectations, which is why it’s taken me so long to pick it up. I had never see anyone describe Dickens as a ‘quick read’ – and now I know why!

As you may know, I started the classics challenges because I used to be (and still am) quite intimated by classics. I either found them dry and boring or was too nervous to even pick them up in the first place! Even though I didn’t find Great Expectations difficult to read, as I might have thought, I struggled with the writing style. Dickens is known for his descriptive prose whereas I much preferred the dialogue between the characters, especially Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham.

I had great expectations for this classic novel… and unfortunately they were not met. But this won’t stop me from picking up another Dickens and I’ll certainly be returning to the TV adaptations, which work best for me – I enjoy the characters and the story!

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure it will stay a classic as Dickens’ work is still as popular as ever today!

WHO I’d Recommend It To
I’d struggle to recommend it, sadly, especially to those new to classics, but it might be one for those who have very recently watched the adaptation.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Classic #10)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Classic #10)

Shelved: Classic (coming-of-age, historical fiction)
Published: 1940
Rating: ★★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #10
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my 10th post for the 2015 Classics Challenge!

“The world was hers for the reading.”

The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and suffering that were the lot of New York’s poor. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child, and of her family.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I was watching a video by Priscilla at The Readables when I came across it. Priscilla gave it an amazing review and so I asked for it for Christmas – over 3 years ago!

WHY I Chose to Read It
I chose to read it because I’ve had it for so long that it was about time. And this year I discovered that it was one of the most popular books on my TBR, much to my surprise.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn probably doesn’t count as a classic in the UK because it’s a very American story. Nonetheless, I’m sure children grew up in similar circumstances in east London in the early 1900s, too. I can see why it’s treasured across the pond. I wish it was as popular here because even though the historical setting may not be the same, the colourful characters go beyond time and place. It’s a classic coming-of-age novel; a story that’s quiet and yet full of life.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
It’s my first 5* classic of the year (excluding To Kill a Mockingbird, which was a re-read). Hooray! I was starting to worry that there wouldn’t be one this year but A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is sensational. I adored reading about young Francie Nolan, growing up as a ferocious reader (quite a Matilda-like character) and, later, an aspiring writer. It was both painful and heartwarming to hear about the troubles that her family go through, from her aunt Sissy’s miscarriages to her father Johnny’s alcoholism, and not forgetting her mother Katie’s determination and strength. Often Katie feels like a woman in her 40s because she’s been through so much, but she’s about my age! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an utterly wonderful and unforgettable tale of family and growing up.

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
It’s a beloved book in the USA and I’m sure it’ll be read for many years to come – Francie’s tale will never stop being poignant.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love young adult and children’s fiction. People who love slow (but not boring!) stories. People who love stories about people – especially bookish characters!

“And always, there was the magic of learning things.”

Books On My TBR / Autumn 2015

Pick my December classic!

2015 Classics Challenge

I can’t believe we’re coming to the end of the 2015 Classics Challenge! (But don’t worry, the challenge will return in 2016!). I’m reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectation this month, but, as promised, you get to pick my December classic! In January, you picked Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for me to read. Now choose from the classics below!

For pre-1945 classics, I picked Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I’ve never read anything by her before, so it seems a good time to start. And I’m curious about Three Men in a Boat – it’s meant to be very funny! I also picked two post-1945 classics. I chose John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos and newly bought We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – both spooky in their own ways! And lastly, I included two children’s classics. I’m very much looking forward to reading both Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians, beautifully illustrated by Alex T. Smith, and Susan Cooper’s fantasy adventure, The Dark is Rising. But which one I pick up in December is up to you!

The Results 
You picked The One Hundred and One Dalmatians for me to read this month!

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul 

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / Reasons to Read Children’s Classics

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / 5 Reasons to Read Children's ClassicsWelcome to my stop on the Return the Secret Garden blog tour!

Scholastic published a pretty new edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden this month alongside a 1930s sequel, Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb.

It’s 1939 and a group of children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall. Emmie is far from happy to have been separated from her cat and sent to a huge old mansion. But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house – a boy crying at night, a diary written by a girl named Mary and a garden. A very secret garden…

As I run the 2015 Classics Challenge and have thoroughly enjoyed delving into children’s classics, I thought it’d be lovely for Holly Webb to share with us why it’s important to read classics.

Why read a classic, when there are so many amazing new books published every year? Looking back, I read a lot of ‘classics’ when I was a child – my favourites were Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (unsurprisingly…) and A Little Princess, but I also worked my way through Arthur Ransome, E. Nesbit, especially The Treasure Seekers and The Would-Be-Goods, all of the Anne books, and as much Louisa M. Alcott as I could find. What Katy Did, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, all the Narnia books, plus any number of classic school stories and horse books – it goes on. I even had an ancient copy of The Wide, Wide World by Elizabeth Wetherall, published in 1850, and I loved it, but then I really was a sucker for anything old, and I skipped a lot of the moralising…

Trying to pin down what I love about all these books (which are only vaguely defined as classics, and were published over a long period, nearly a hundred years) is fascinating and frustrating. I keep coming up with more and more thoughts which don’t tie neatly into any argument. So…

The main thing, for me. All these books are led by strong child characters, often suffering great adversity (and your Victorian adversity could be pretty horrific). Mary Lennox comes to Misselthwaite after her entire household in India has died from cholera, and she’s been left alone in the family bungalow, eating the food from an abandoned dinner party. She’s then sent to a strange, ancient house full of servants, with a guardian who’s hardly ever there. It’s possibly the most dramatic way to leave a child to find for herself ever… I love her strange, cold, stubborn ways at the beginning of the book, and the way the garden changes her is so believable.

I’m fascinated by the details of everyday life from the time these books were written. It’s even better because these are things which the authors weren’t including to be interesting at all. It’s all just as it was. Some of this makes events tricky to understand, but that’s all the more intriguing. It gives you a real appreciation of modern medicine, too. I had pneumonia at about 10, and I remember thinking this was a very dramatic, storybook thing, and being very grateful that I wasn’t going to die!

Sense of place
Fabulous recreations of landscape – Dickon’s stories about the moor and its creatures in The Secret Garden are spellbinding, Frances Hodgson Burnett created the most amazing word pictures. And think of the descriptions of woods and walk in Anne of Green Gables (even if I do want to kick Anne for being a complete drip, some of the time…)

Continuity – sharing something special
Often, these books are bought for children by parents or grandparents, wanting to share their own love of the stories. While I was writing Return to the Secret Garden, so many people told me that The Secret Garden was one of their favourite books. It’s great to be able to talk about the books you love with the people you love!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Holly! The Secret Garden and Return to the Secret Garden are out now. Go here to enter to win copies!

Blog Tour: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb / 5 Reasons to Read Children's Classics Continue Reading