Friday, October 9, 2015

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Other Tales (Race Point Publishing)

It's been 150 years since Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first published. Let that sink in for a moment...150 years... In the time since it was first published, there have been numerous adaptations of it both in book and on the screen. The most famous of these is probably Disney's animated version, which itself is 61 years old. The movie, like all adaptations, fell short, and reminded us that if you want to experience the true glory of a work, you have to read the original. Due to the books age, there are a lot of editions from which you can choose. I have positive experiences with Race Point Publishing in the past, so I went for their deluxe, but very affordable Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Other Tales. In this 1000+ page tome you can find the following writings:

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
2. Through the Looking Glass
3. Sylvie and Bruno
4. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded
5. The Hunting of the Snark and other poems
6. Phantasmagoria and other plays

I have never read Through the Looking Glass before, but I have read excerpts, primarily Jabberwocky. Therefore, I was most excited to read this tale and see how it compared to its predecessor. The book begins with Alice playing with two kittens - one white and the other black. While playing with her kittens, she wonders what life would be like on the other side of a mirror. She soon learns as she enters into a mirror where everything is different. In this world, Alice meets a Red Queen who is NOT to be confused with the Queen of Hearts from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Red Queen reveals to Alice that the entire land is laid out like a chessboard, and she offers to make Alice a queen as well if she can make it to the other end of the board. The entire story revolves around Alice advancing through the land (on the board), the people she encounters (like Humpty Dumpty, the Red King, the White Knight, etc.), and the adventures and troubles she encounters. She does finally become a queen. For a fan of chess, I found this tale to be an equal blend of riveting and comical!

In addition to the Alice tales, I also enjoyed reading the poetry, riddles, plays, and other miscellaneous works of Carroll. They really showed his twisted genius, and I mean that as an utmost compliment. In addition to the brilliant works, there are illustrations that add to the story and introductions and prefaces that help explain the works and provide context as well. The only flaw in this book is the thinness of the pages. Due to their thinness, text and images show through on the page you are reading, which can be a bit distracting sometimes. This is still a gorgeous and affordable book and perfect for any fan of Lewis Carroll and children's literature. Highly recommended!

This book was provided to me for free by Race Point Publishing in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Adventures in Assisi and Jonah's Whale (Franciscan Media and Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers)

Welcome back to this special week on my blog where I am only reviewing children's books. Monday I featured two Orthodox books, and today I am featuring one Catholic book and one Christian book. They are titled Adventures in Assisi and Jonah's Whale and can be found at Franciscan Media and Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers, respectively. Let's not waste time and get to the heart of the matter!

Adventures in Assisi is a story about a brother, Lorenzo, and sister, Gianna, who are spending the day in Assisi with their uncle, Brother Antonio. Like most siblings, they tend to bicker and fight a lot. To make matters worse, they find Assisi to be completely boring with nothing for them to do. And while Assisi is a lot slower-paced than Rome or Florence, it has beauty all around it if you know where to look. Luckily for the two children, their uncle does know these places. To stop the petty bickering, he invites them to play a game with him with the winner getting a special treasure. The game involves showing the children various places throughout Assisi and having them guess what St. Francis did at each particular location. In this game, they are cleverly taught history, geography, and the life of a great saint. They also learn the meaning of love and sacrifice. Books by Amy Welborn have yet to disappoint me, and this one is no different. In addition to a great story and beautiful illustrations, there are also sayings of St. Francis on every other page. Truly a masterful story!

Jonah's Whale is a richly illustrated retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah. It's a pretty well-known Biblical section, but it involves a reluctant/disobedient prophet named Jonah who is trying to escape God's plan for his life and the city of Nineveh. This children's book takes a twist on the Biblical passage by telling it from the whale's point of view. In it we learn that the whale has a family, likes to play, and loves to sing. One day he was swimming by a boat during a great story and heard Jonah say to throw him overboard. God spoke to the whale and told the whale to swallow Jonah and save him, so the whale was obedient and did so. He swam around with Jonah for three days and kept listening and hoping to hear God tell him what to do with Jonah, because he did not like having him riding around inside of him. Finally, God told the whale to spit him on dry land, and the whale and Jonah were both relieved. This was a cute take on a classic story, but it was the illustrations that made this book. I am a huge fan of Giuliano Ferri, and it is the illustrations that bring this book from a 3 out of 5 to a 4 out of 5.

These books were provided to me for free by Franciscan Media and Eerdmans Books for Younger Readers, respectively. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!

Monday, October 5, 2015

H is for Holy and A Gift for Matthew (Ancient Faith Publishing)

One of the greatest joys about being a book reviewer is the children's books that I receive to review. For one, it is nice to have a short book to read amidst all the long ones, but more importantly it is nice to share something I love with my son. If you want your children to love reading, you have to start with them early and place an emphasis on it is important. You not only have to read to them, but they should see you reading as well. So this week, I am going to be reviewing only children's books. Today. I am going to share two selections from my favorite Orthodox publisher, Ancient Faith Publishing.

H is for Holy is a hardcover book that teaches children their alphabet by relating letters to facets of Orthodox Christianity. It isn't a new concept, as I have reviewed a Catholic/Christian one before, but I was intrigued to read through it and see how it compared. The book starts out familiar enough with A for Altar, B for Bread, and C for Cross, but the true test of books like this is what they do with the tough letters. Rightfully so, I is Icon and O is Oil. Catholics don't really think about those two things much, as they receive greater attention in the East, so I liked that! Q is Quiet; X is ICXC; and Z is good ole Zacchaeus (as if there was any doubt). On each page is a further description of each letter's representation, and at the end is the numbers one through ten with Orthodox ways to learn your numbers. The illustrations were done in a watercolor format and helped drive home the alphabet concept. Solid book.

A Gift for Matthew tells the story of a boy who goes to visit Brother Justin in a monastery. Brother Justin had a special gift. He was an iconographer. Brother Justin is going to teach Matthew how icons are made. They begin with a prayer before starting. Then, he showed him how a sketch on paper gets transferred to an icon board. The board was slowly engraved with Brother Justin praying the Jesus Prayer continuously. In addition to learning this, Matthew learned where the colors (pigment) came from and what egg tempera is used for. At the end of the book is a the complete text of the Iconographer's Prayer, which I found very beautiful to read. I found this book a joy to read and I feel like adults can learn as much as children when reading this book. The book did a nice job emphasizing that iconography is more than just art. It is prayer. If you are looking for an approachable way to teach your children about icons and how they are made, I highly recommend this book!

These books were provided to me for free by Ancient Faith Publishing in exchange for honest reviews. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!