Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Adventures of Mary Contrairy by Ethel Talbot

The Adventures of Mary Contrairy,  was published around 1900 and is forty-eight  pages in length. There is no date of publication anywhere within the pages, but it was published by by "Little Dots" in London.  This little hardback-gem used to belong to my mother, Margaret Stevens, but was handed on to me when I was a little girl. Most people have heard the nursery rhyme:

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Well, the story is all about Miss Mary Contrairy(although her name is spelt differently), who neglects her garden and her cottage, and so her house runs away. Devastated by this turn of events, Miss Mary finds herself being comforted by the cockle-shells and the pretty maids all in a row. Following the suggestion of the silver bells, Mary decides to dig an underground path in order to find her cottage. She then meets Polly Flinders, Boy Blue, an old witch, and Miss Muffet, and thus begins Mary's journey about learning about responsibilities. 

Simple, but exquisite ink drawing adorn all pages of the text.
Mary meets Polly Flinders
Author/illustrator, Ethel Talbot (1880-1944) was a prolific writer who was well-known for her stories for girls. Very little is known about her early life.


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Magic Coin by Ruth Chew

The Magic Coin by Ruth Chew was first published in 1983, and is a magical realism story about  a young girl who is given a magical coin as change when buying the newspaper for her dad from a newsstand one morning. She and her brother, Christopher, soon discover that the coin has magical qualities. The smiling man, who winks from one side of the coin, can assist them in all kinds of ways. The coin can morph into all manner of things, and also makes difficult fraction homework seem easy. One day, after some bullies toss the coin into a lake in Prospect Park, the siblings find themselves transported back into the times of barrels, swords pistols, longboats, and sailing ships. They find themselves in the middle of a sea battle between a  British merchant ship and a Spanish pirate ship. Can the powers of the coin return them to their own times?  Chew also did the soft pencil illustrations which add greatly to the story line.
Christopher and Meredith find themselves in another century

First at Last and Other Stories by Julia McClelland

First at Last and Other Stories by Julia McClelland is an Australian gem published in 1990. The stories are all about Zachariah whom we meet in the first story. He is not happy with his name or the teasing he receives from other students because of his name, but thanks to the ingenuity of his teacher, Miss Trams, the tables are turned. There are four other stories in the book which focus on Zacharia's family life and his close friends, Rebecca and Macca, and his newly acquired dog, Wombat. The stories are entitled: The Pet Party, Sun Sand and Sea, Big Brother, and, Away in a Manger. The stories are amusing and this book would have broad appeal to primary school students in general. The book has both ink sketches and full-colour plates sprinkled throughout with the illustrations by Ann James reflecting the light-hearted nature of the book.  The book was short-listed for the Children's Book Council of Australia.

Babar's Travels by Jean de Brunhoff

This is the second book in the Babar series which was first published in 1932.  It is a relatively uncomplicated tale of two newly wed elephants, Babar and Celeste, who are on their honeymoon, only it is not the straight forward travel they were most likely expecting. When I read these books to my daughter, Nicola, it was purely to enjoy the delightfully intricate and colourful illustrations, and due to the fact that she loved elephants and any stories about them. However, some readers have found these books to be politically and morally offensive citing them as a justification of colonialism. Anyway, the hot air balloon leg of the honeymoon was going well until a violent storm sees them dashed down onto an island. Celeste soon finds herself surrounded by what some critics have labelled stereotypical Sambo cannibals, who just so happen to have big appetites. Then we meet a forgetful whale who leaves them stranded on an island, soon after which they are rescued and put on a steam ship, only to find themselves having to perform in a circus. Meanwhile back in the elephant kingdom, the rhinos have caused chaos. Can Babar and Celeste free themselves from their unsatisfying performances to get back in time to save the kingdom.?