Archive for the ‘Children’s Literature’ Category

I read Penelope Lively’sA Stitch in Time‘ a few years back and loved it. I read up a little bit about her and that is how I discovered ‘The Ghost of Thomas Kempe‘.

I want to say something about the author Penelope Lively here. Penelope Lively wrote stories both for children and for grown-ups throughout most of her writing career. Other writers stay on one side of the divide and occasionally experiment on the other side, but Penelope Lively’s backlist on both sides is huge and very impressive. She was a true all-rounder. She won the Carnegie Medal for this book and the Booker Prize for ‘Moon Tiger‘. I think she is the only writer ever to win these two prizes. It gives me goosebumps when I think about that.

Now on to the story.

James moves with his parents and his sister to a new house. Then one day strange things start happening in his room and in the house. Notes start appearing in his room in a strange cursive handwriting in archaic spelling asking James to do one thing or another. When he doesn’t do the requested things, strange things happen inside his room and even a gale blows. His family suspects that James is responsible for all this. The strange secrets which stumble out after that and how James handles the situation is told in the rest of the story.

The Ghost of Thomas Kempe‘ is a ghost story. But it is also a story about memory and imagination and time with some surreal elements. Penelope explores some of these themes related to memory and time and the surreal elements in more detail and in more sophistication in her later acclaimed novel ‘A Stitch in Time‘. The ghost in the novel is a cool, unusual character. I loved the main character James. He is cool and inquisitive and adventurous and made me remember one of my favourite characters Nicholas from the story ‘The Lumber Room‘ by Saki. James becomes friends with an older person called Bert, who is a decorator and a builder, and Bert is a cool person too and was one of my favourite characters from the book. The ending of the story was very beautiful.

I loved ‘The Ghost of Thomas Kempe’. I think ‘A Stitch in Time’ is a more sophisticated book, but ‘The Ghost of Thomas Kempe’ was very enjoyable. I want to read more of Penelope Lively’s books now.

I’m sharing a couple of my favourite passages from the book below. They both made me smile 😊

“James introduced Simon to a game he sometimes played. You walked along quite ordinarily except that you pulled your face into the most extravagant expression you could manage – horror, or fear or joy or anything you fancied. The game was to see how many people noticed. Very few did. You could walk the length of the High Street looking like a zombie and the odds were that no one would bat an eyelid. This, James had worked out to himself, was because as far as most grown-ups were concerned, children were invisible, unless the grown-ups happened to be school-teachers or to have a particular reason for being interested in the child concerned, such as being its parent. For most people, children were something they were so used to seeing around, like lamp-posts or pillar-boxes, that they never really looked at them. Just like dogs pay no attention to people, only to other dogs. Simon was impressed with this theory : he put it to the test, and found it to be true.”

“If you have something important to say there is no point, he’d learned from experience, in saying it during the most active part of the day when people are coming home and getting meals and eating them and whatever you are trying to say gets lost in a commotion of doors opening and shutting and crockery banging and people asking where the newspaper is. He’d tested that out before now : he’d stood in the middle of the kitchen and said, ‘I broke my leg at school today,’ and his mother had turned the hot tap on and put another pile of plates in the sink and said, ‘Yes, dear I’ll see about it tomorrow, dear.’ No, it would be better to wait till later, when the household had subsided a little, come off the boil, so to speak, when his parents would be relaxed and more receptive.”

Have you read ‘The Ghost of Thomas Kempe‘? What do you think about it? Which is your favourite Penelope Lively book? Do you prefer her fiction for children or for grown-ups?


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I read two stories by Bosnian women writers yesterday and today for ‘Women in Translation Month‘, which is celebrated throughout August. I think these are the first Bosnian writers I’ve ever read. Both the stories were written for children.

Story 1 : The Poet from Unknowntown by Aleksandra Čvorović

The first story I read was ‘The Poet from Unknowntown‘ by Aleksandra Čvorović. Aleksandra Čvorović is a Bosnian writer who writes mostly poetry and stories for children. This one is a story for children. There is a poet in a small town who composes poems spontaneously and sets them to music and sings them. The people of the town love him. One day the poet sees a doll that the town toymaker has made and falls in love with it. He wants the doll to come to life. But to do this you need magic. And if you invoke magic, there is a price to pay. What happens after that forms the rest of the story. The last passage from the story is very beautiful and it goes like this –

“This is a story about the curse of beauty, and about transient, magic moments of love. I dedicate it to the people who give themselves up in order to grasp elusive fantasises. Happiness is an enchantress who slips from the hands of those wishing to hold her tightly. She roams about and favours only the free souls, the uninhibited pulses of real artists.”

I enjoyed reading this story, and I’d love to read more stories by Aleksandra Čvorović.

Story 2 : When Ivona Wants and Wants by Ljubica Ostojić

The second story I read was ‘When Ivona Wants and Wants‘ by Ljubica Ostojić. Ljubica Ostojić was a Bosnian writer who mostly wrote poems, plays, scripts for dramas and stories for children. This is a children’s story. In this story, the main character Ivona is a charming stubborn girl. The first passage of the story describes her perfectly.

“Ivona knows what she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want to eat spinach, put on the blue dress, wear pigtails, or sleep when she’s not in the mood. She doesn’t want to say “sorry” or “forgive me” when she has done something wrong. No! She’d rather be punished. Ivona’s like that. Which bothers mum, dad, the teacher of the older group in the kindergarten, everyone actually. But, when Ivona wants something? Then, she wants it, wants it, wants it. And the problems begin.”

One day, Ivona wants a dog as a pet. Her parents say ‘No’. From Ivona’s perspective, of course, this is not the end of the story, but the beginning. For her, ‘No’, is the beginning of a negotiation 😊 What Ivona does next forms the rest of the story.

I enjoyed reading Ivona’s story. Ivana is such a charming character and Ljubica Ostojić’s writing is very beautiful to read. From the first passage, the story is charming and grabs the reader’s attention and never lets go. I loved it. I want to read more of Ljubica Ostojić’s stories.

So, these are the first two stories I read in August. What are you reading?

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