The Tale of Despereaux by Kate di Camillo

Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate di Camillo
Series : No, this is a stand alone book


In Short:
This is the story of Chiaroscuro the rat who longs for light, Midge the deaf servant girl who desperately wants to be a princess, and Despereaux the tiny mouse who believes in fairy tales, honour and happy endings.  All of them are drawn, by love or hate to royal daughter,  Princess Pea.


What I thought:

The Tale of Despereaux is much darker than I expected.  More

The Little Country by Charles de Lint

Title: The Little Country
Author: Charles de Lint
Series : No, this is a stand alone book

In Short:
A fantasy rooted in folk and fairy tales.  Janey Little, a Cornish folk musician, finds an unknown manuscript by a famous fantasy author.  She starts reading it, and so doing sets in motion an uncanny chain of events that puts herself and everyone she loves in danger.


In Full: The Little Country is my third book by Charles de Lint.  Although its not my favourite (that still has to be Moonheart) I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I found themes of redemption and forgiveness,  about the core of innocent hurt in the heart of even the most evil person. More

Patterns from Stories

I have a secret vice… I like making repeating patterns out of images.  This time around I was inspired by my previous post,  illustrations by John Howe.


I have linked each pattern to the image they were generated from.  Click on a pattern to see the original image. More

John Howe’s World: Strange and Familiar

Sometimes I find an illustrator who captures on paper what I imagine as I read.  This is especially  rare for old favourites like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that have been growing in my imagination since childhood.  But when I look at the drawings and paintings by John Howe, I recognise people and places I have known all my life.


I’ve been enjoying myself digging through his unusually thorough and entertaining site. and am sharing some of my favourites here.  More

Day Dream Homes

When I was a child, one of my favourite day dreams was building my own home.  It was usually underground, inside a tree or under water, and often featured wall-sized fish tanks.  I’ve gathered together a number of fictional homes and rooms that inspired my day-dreams then and now.


First off – the familiar classics, starting with Bilbo Baggins’s own Bag End: More

Birdwing by Rafe Martin

Title: Birdwing
Author: Rafe Martin
Series : No, this is a stand alone book
Rating: stars_02

Do you know the Grimm Brother’s fairy tale  “The Six Swans”?  That’s the one about the  six brothers who were turned into swans, and how their sister undid the enchantment.  At least – she almost succeeded. At the end, the youngest brother’s left arm remained a swan wing.

Birdwing is the story of what happens next, as Ardwin grows up and tries to make sense of his divided loyalties – his memories of the wild life of a swan, and his need for acceptance in the world of humans.


detail from Eleanor Abbot’s illustration

Rafe Martin asks if it is possible to live “happily ever after” when your family has been so spectacularly torn apart. More

Moonheart – Charles de Lint

Title: Moonheart
Author : Charles de Lint
Series : Nope, this one is a stand-alone.

In Short: Sarah Kendell’s comfortable life is derailed when she discovers an ancient Native American medicine bag at the back of her uncle’s second-hand shop.  She and her friends become entangled in a centuries old conflict between a Welsh Bard, a Druid, and the old gods of pre-colonial America.


This was my first Charles de Lint book, and now I have a new author to look out for – I loved it.  Moonheart drew me firstly because of its evocative title and the cover: More

The Hamish Hamilton Book of Princesses

Continuing the  “Once Upon a Time Challenge” with a review of  The Hamish Hamilton Book of Princesses

Title: The Hamish Hamilton Book of Princesses
Edited by : Sally Patrick Johnson
Series :
There are many of these Hamish Hamilton collections – about Dragons, Goblins, Heroes, etc.

Illustrated by: Fritz Wegner
Rating:  stars_04

In Short: A collection of short stories about Princesses, by eclectic list of authors including Somerset Maugham,  Oscar Wilde,  James Thurber and AA Milne.


I expected this book  to be like a chocolate box of stories.  Lots of variety, certainly, but fundamentally …sweet.   But I was wrong.  A  better culinary metaphor would be a medieval banquet table, with sweet confections  next to the bizarre dishes- a boars head, maybe?  More

A Rivalry of Wizards

What is the collective noun for a group of wizards?  A “wrath” of wizards?  An “argument”?  I’ve been gathering together some of my favourite wizards.


First, of course will always be Gandalf.  I grew up on The Lord of The Rings and of all the characters, Gandalf is the most compelling.  He has become my benchmark of what a wizard should be.  Here is my favourite image of him, from that famous poster by Jimmy Cauty : More

The Magicians of Caprona

Title: The Magicians of Caprona
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Series :Part of the “Chronicles of Chrestomanci”, but is really a stand alone book

In Short: A fantasy set in  Italy in an alternate universe.  Two family Spell Houses, the Montanas and the Petrocchis, have been bitter rivals for generations. Tonino and his brother Paolo get caught up in the conflict.

Other books by author: “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “Charmed Life”, “The Ogre Downstairs” among many others.


Diana Wynne Jones is one of those authors who I turn to when in need of some comfort reading.  Whether its a brand new read like “The House of Many Ways”, or re-reading an old favourite like “The Magicians of Caprona” – I’m never disappointed. More

The God Beneath The Sea

Title: The God Beneath The Sea
Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen
Illustrated: Charles Keeping
Series :
First of two books – followed by “The Golden Shadow”
In Short: A re-telling of some of the most famous Greek myths as a single narrative.  Intense, lyrical and satisfying.

Other books by author: Leon Garfield – “Black Jack” , “Devil in the Fog”



“The God Beneath the Sea” is the first in a series of two books in which the Greek myths are re-told as a single, continuous narrative by  Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen.  They explain that they wanted to rewrite the “haphazard sequence of tall tales”  as these myths are usually presented, to recapture the profound impact the stories had on them when they first read them as children. More


Title: Inkdeath
Author: Cornelia Funke
Series : Third book in the “Inkheart” trilogy
In Short: A compelling story set in a glorious fantasy world.  This is a dark, grim book about difficult choices,  lit with moments of beauty.

Other books by author: “The Thief Lord”, “Dragon Rider”.



Background: Inkdeath is the final book in the trilogy which began with “Inkheart”.  It follows the story of the book restorer Mo and his young daughter Meggie.  Early in Inkheart we learn that  Mo has a very special talent: when he reads out loud, his voice beguiles the characters to step right out of the story into our world.  And sometimes,  people are swept from our world and  into the book… More

Insight and the Importance of Sleeping Late

It’s interesting, being a teacher.  I often experience a sort of double vision –  my memories of being a student and my present experience as a teacher.   I particularly remember the frustration, as a student,  of having some one else interfere with my creative process.   And yet these days is that not exactly what I’m doing as a teacher? More

My Once Upon A Time List

Well its too much temptation looking at other people’s lists.  Here is my own list so far.

  • Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
  • Birdwing by Rafe Martin
  • Wonder Tales edited by Marina Warner
  • The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen


Dont they look yummy?

OK, OK so its very short so far, but hang in there – I’m coming back to edit soon…

Once Upon a Time Challenge

OK – I’ve never done this before, but this one looks interesting.  A communal read and review challenge at “stainless steel droppings”:

The challenge revolves around these categories – the “Once Upon a Time Criteria”: More

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