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!

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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

Book Reviews: Christmas with the Savages & Lily and the Christmas Wish

Book Review: Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive


Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: October 2015 (originally September 1977) by Puffin
Pages: 186

Okay, it’s a little late (or early?!) for Christmas stories, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two wonderful children’s books. Mary Clive’s Christmas with the Savages was the perfect children’s classic to read in December. It’s about Evelyn, an 8-year-old who much prefers the company of adults to other children. Evelyn is dismayed when she is sent toTamerlane Hall, a large Edwardian house in the countryside, where she finds more children than she’s ever experienced before – the Glens, the Howliboos, and the Savages.

Christmas with the Savages was a delightful festive read, full of humour. It’s based on Mary Clive’s own experiences growing up – and it was lovely to be transported into this eccentric family’s holiday celebrations. All the children are left to roam the house and gardens, so it’s full of hilarious escapades and antics. I loved Evelyn’s prim and proper opinion on just about everything, from the youngest of children to the Nannies, who can’t quite cope with all 13 children!

Christmas with the Savages is a classic I only discovered this year and I’m so very glad I did. If you’re participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge, be sure to consider this one for December!

Book Review: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton


Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: November 2015 by Piccadilly Press
Pages: 160
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I think festive children’s stories have to be among the best kinds of stories. Keris Stainton’s Lily and the Christmas Wish was a welcome addition to my winter TBR pile. As Christmas approaches, the little town of Pinewood is so excited that they give everyone a wish to hang up on the town’s giant Christmas tree. But a storm strikes and something odd happens. Christmas wishes begin coming true – but for the wrong people! And Lily discovers that her puppy – an adorable pug named Bug – can talk! Can two children and one pug help make everyone’s wishes come true before it’s too late?

Lily and the Christmas Wish is an incredibly sweet story about festive cheer, fun, and family. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see if Lily – accompanied by her younger brother James – could match up everyone’s Christmas wishes in time. And it was heart-warming to see what everyone wished for: some wishes were funny, some were a little sad. Keris wonderfully blends fantasy with reality. Even though there’s a little bit of magic to the story, it’s really a contemporary tale of a sleepy town and the people who live there. A beautifully wintry story for younger children.

Is it also possible for me to get a talking pug?

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

Danny the Champion of the World written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake (Classic #9)

Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake (Classic #9)

Shelved: Classic (children’s, humour)
Published: 1975 by Jonathan Cape
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #9
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my ninth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge! It’s not too late to join me (and 200+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

“A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY”.

Danny thinks his dad is the most marvellous and exciting father a boy could wish for. Life is happy and peaceful in their gipsy caravan, until one day Danny discovers his dad has been breaking the law. What’s more, soon Danny has to join his father as they attempt to pull off a daring and devilish plot against their horrible, greedy neighbour, Mr Victor Hazell.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
It came in my lovely Roald Dahl box set, full of 15 wonderful Dahl novels. I didn’t know anything about it at all, except that it was my friend Caitlin’s favourite Dahl story.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I’ve enjoyed reading Roald Dahl novels over the past couple of years. I haven’t read one this year, so I thought it was about time. I chose Danny the Champion of the World because it’s one that a lot of people seem to adore and yet is completely new to me, compared to some of the previous stories I’ve read, like The Witches and Matilda. I also haven’t read any classics with illustrations this year, so I was looking forward to spending time with Quentin Blake’s brilliant pictures.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Roald Dahl’s stories are like being inside a child’s brain. They’re full of humour and adventure. They’re full of incompetent adults and loving adults. They’re full of wonderful things to remember, like the quote at the top of this review. As I discovered when I first read Matilda, Roald Dahl’s stories can also be enjoyed immensely by adults.

“Most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t”.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
It’s different to Roald Dahl’s other stories in that it feels more contemporary compared to the fun and whimsical stories I’ve come across so far. I adored that Danny’s father would tell him stories, referencing Roald Dahl’s other work, like The BFG and Witches. As I’ve read both of these, I enjoyed it very much. I remember there being a lot of chat about fictional fathers this year on Father’s Day, and Danny’s popped up as being one of the best dads in fiction. I can see why – he’s a brilliant father. He’s protective and yet will send Danny on exciting adventures. He tells wonderful stories and is incredibly intelligent. Danny’s a happy child. His life isn’t full of expensive things or luxury, but it’s full of interesting and fulfilling experiences, and a lot of love, all down to his dad. Although Danny the Champion of the World isn’t one of my Dahl favourites, it was a joy to read. I was ready for awful Mr Hazell to get his comeuppance!

WILL It Stay A Classic
I think it’ll be a terrible year, the year that Roald Dahl’s novels stop being read. I cannot imagine that this will ever happen.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love children’s stories, funny stories and heartwarming stories. People who haven’t yet read a Roald Dahl novel and are a little wary about delving into the more eccentric stories. People who are young at heart.

Books On My TBR / Autumn 2015