Earlier this year I picked up The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl to read with my daughter (who is now 8), having been under the mistaken impression that it is a children’s book. Eek – it is NOT. It’s a good book, and I’m glad I read it, but I’m equally glad that she lost interest after a couple of stories.
The book is an interesting mix of stories, including several fictional stories as well as an autobiographical story and one true narrative. Overall, though, my feeling about the book is that it’s pretty dark. One story in particular follows young boys as they strap another child to a train track and watch as the train passes over him (!) – this story prompted my daughter to ask, “Mom, why would someone write that story?” My response was something along the lines of how there are bad people in the world, like those mean characters, and sometimes writers will write those stories to help them understand the bad things in the world. I told her that all stories present some truth from the world and have something to teach us, but that we don’t have to read those stories if we don’t like them. That was the last story we read together in the book, but I went on to finish it myself.
I give the book three stars, because it was well-written, engaging, and interesting…but not amazing and slightly disturbing. The autobiographical story is illuminating as to the author’s life though repetitive if you’ve read part of his autobiography (as I have). I do think it should be clearly advertised as NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK, though!
When I requested John Powell’s Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer from NetGalley sometime last year, I confess I totally thought it was going to be a story of the legend of St. George, who is often portrayed as a slayer of dragons. That, of course, wasn’t the case at all (ha, oops!), but it was a really enjoyable read. Part of the novelty for my daughter was reading together on my Kindle (ooohhh! exciting!), but she really did enjoy the book and so did I.
The Goodreads synopsis is super short:
Humorous tales about an impoverished knight in old England who discovers a way to tame the great variety of monsters that roam the land in the days of Good King Freddie the Umteenth and his prime minister Merlin the Whirlin.
“Humorous” is the perfect word to describe the story. If I remember correctly, Powell says in the beginning of the book that he originally came up with these stories as bedtime stories for his kids – and you can tell! They’re just funny and perfectly geared toward little kids. They follow a predictable structure (all of them start with “Now it was in the days of Good King Freddie…”) and in each story Saint George has to take on some ridiculous monster problem or another – which usually can be solved by providing the monsters with the magical, monster-taming marmorguglehupf cake (my daughter thought that word was hilarious).
The stories are full of all sorts of absurdities with names just as outlandish as marmorguglehupf cake, ideas like George’s “armor-on week” and “armor-off week” (during which he sleeps – for the whole week!), and other silly, non-sensical things (like a king who can’t read!). The crazy names and nonsense action reminded me a good deal of Roald Dahl, and prompted the same kind of laughter from my daughter as did The BFG. There were only two drawbacks for me with the books: 1) each story was a little too long to be a bedtime read-aloud but it didn’t work to break them up so we just pushed through a whole story in each sitting; and 2) there was one entire story that REALLY is not suited for American kids – or their parents! We just couldn’t follow the thread on playing cricket (our loss, though – I’m sure to a British kid the story would’ve been as hilarious as the rest).
All in all, I’d give it 4 stars and definitely recommend it! I think it’ll be another year or two before my next daughter is ready for it, but I’ll look forward to rereading the silliness with her when she’s ready!
Today for the first time I am participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m going for a loose association here, as I don’t really have a “top ten yummy foods mentioned in books,” and I’m only choosing five today. Here is basically my dump of the first five books I thought of when I read the prompt. Without further ado…
- Frog and Toad Together – I already had Frog and Toad on the brain, and I just love the story in this book about Frog and Toad uncontrollably eating cookies and their subsequent discussion of willpower. They remind me a little of me…
2. The Mossback Café Cookbook – This is a lovely cookbook put together by Thomas Fenske to highlight the fictional Texas café from his books The Fever and A Curse That Bites Deep. Check out the cookbook, but then read the books! They’re great! See my reviews here, here, and here.
3. A Life More Complicated by Lizzie Steel – The effort and dedication Josh shows in his quest to make the perfect pizza for Corina is a heartwarming example of someone stepping outside his own comfort zone to complete an act of love for another. Have I mentioned before how amazing this book is? Somehow I’m still the only person who has reviewed it on Amazon – I’m telling you, you are all missing out if you don’t read it!
4. The BFG by Roald Dahl – So, this is NOT yummy, but I couldn’t help thinking of snozzcumbers!
5. 100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous by Lisa Leake of 100daysofrealfood.com – I posted about this book a while back when I had yet to cook anything from it, and I have to say, after actually using it, I really love it. There are still tons of recipes in it that I haven’t tried, but I’m making my way through them slowly. Lisa’s slow cooker chicken and chicken stock recipes have become staples in my house, and my kids are big fans of her oatmeal applesauce pancakes (as am I, yum!).
I’m sure I could think of more if I really tried, but instead how about I throw it out to you — anyone game for filling in the next five for me? I’d love to hear what you think up!