Posts Tagged ‘fairy tale’

When looking through the public domain, I came across The Enchanted Castle, published in 1907. Having never heard of the book (nor the author for that matter), I figured it was worth a try.

As a side note: it appears that this story was adapted into a BBC TV-miniseries in 1979. Unfortunately, it has not been released to either DVD or VHS. I think it is a shame when things like this get lost in the archives.

Story overview:
Three children—Gerald, James, and Kathleen—away on holiday, discover a country estate that resembles a castle. Having believed it really was a caste, the children were fooled by an enchanted princess. The princess, Mabel, turns out to be nothing more than the housekeeper’s niece. However, while in the mist of her performance, Mabel happens across a ring. A magical ring.

At first, the children believe the ring’s only power is to turn the wearer invisible. However, as their escapades increase (including detective work, a carnival show, and scaring the maid) the ring is found out to be a wishing ring.

After wishing more trouble upon themselves than good (such as turning clothes into real people), the four children learn of the ring’s true origins and the mysteries behind the place known as The Enchanted Castle.

My thoughts:
I’m surprised that I haven’t come across this book before now. Not that it is any great masterpiece mind you, but there are markings of a classic here. At first, I was fooled into thinking this was a typical fairy tale, but was happily surprised by the modern day twist (that is, modern day for 1907). There were places where I found the plot to move slower than I like, but overall the originality and freshness of the tale had me reading to the end.

Things to consider:
As mentioned, this was published in 1907. That means it is a few years shy of being a Victorian novel. With Victorian novels comes a style of writing not seen much in modern books. However, this one happens to be written fairly clear in comparison to many of its kind. The most difficult thing for some American readers might be the use of British slang, but overall it was easy enough for me to follow. Not much in the way of questionable content. No use of foul language, sexual situations, or violence. Good for both girls and boys in their teens. Perhaps younger if a parent were to read it to them.

Opportunities for discussion:
One theme throughout the book that kept popping up was that of telling the truth. The author went out of her way to show that even when the children were trying to cover their tracks, they made sure to speak nothing that could be seen as a lie. This may be related to the Victorian era, but even so, I appreciated it. Children of today (and adults included) find it excessively easy to tell a lie in order to get their way. Share with your children this verse: Proverbs 12:19 (NAS) “Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Ask them what they think this means, and then ask them how they feel when someone tells a lie. From there you can help them to understand what others feel when they are the ones who lie.

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I am not entirely sure how many books there are in this series, or which is the first one (I believe this is), but after some research, what I found is that these stories were turned into a CGI animated show.

This explains the computer-ish looking illustrations in the book, at least, in the edition that I read. At the beginning, we have a nicely laid out cast of characters with each person’s name and portrait. This was helpful for me as I often turned back to see the person who was being addressed.

The author, Baynton, grew up getting in trouble at school for drawing cartoons in class. His best grades always came from his stories. At the age of thirty, he took these skills to the next level and became a published author. I believe he was 35 when Jane and the Dragon was released.

Story overview:

Twelve-year-old Jane is determined to be the first female knight. Her best friend is a dragon named “Dragon” and her rival is a fourteen-year-old boy named Gunder. He trains with Jane and often disagrees with her.

One day Dragon gets sick (with Curly Tail, a pig’s infection) so Jane goes on a quest to locate Skyleaf, which is a rare plant found in the mountaintops near the sea. Forced to take Gunter along, Jane eventually ends up trapped on a ledge with a long drop below.

Gunter goes for help, but not before Dragon learns of Jane’s trek. In his sickened condition he tries to find her before it is too late.

My thoughts:

I liked this one. Did not love it, but I liked it. At first, I thought it was a little too young for even my taste, but keeping with it eventually got my interest tweaked. I liked the short chapters–great for kids who want to read it on their own, and the illustrations were interesting.

Things to consider:

This was written for children aged six to nine. I think it would be good for an even younger age if the parent read it aloud. Nothing questionable that I would worry about; zero sexual references, no violence, and no real bad language (by “real,” I mean real-world). One might say, “Sounds boring.” I would agree had it not been for the humor, action scenes, and character tensions. This is good for girls and boys, perhaps a little more towards girls as she is the main character.

Opportunities for discussion:

Teamwork is one of the main themes here. Jane and Gunther had a hard time getting along as they always seemed to be competitive, but when push came to shove, they worked together for a greater and common goal. If you have more than one child, this would be a good time to help them to understand that: despite their difference, it is important for them to work together. If you only have one child, then extend this to incorporate friends.

Igraine the BraveI checked out this book because I enjoyed the Inkworld/Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke.

Here are my past reviews of the trilogy:
1) Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy, Book 1)
2) Inkspell (Inkheart Trilogy, Book 2)
3) Inkdeath (Inkheart Trilogy, Book 3)

Story overview:

Soon to be twelve years old, Igraine eagerly awaits her birthday present. Even though she insists on being a knight, she doesn’t hesitate to accept gifts made from magic. Her mother, father, and brother worked on her gift with the help of some special magical books.

During the process, Igraine’s parents were accidentally turned into pigs. This wouldn’t be so bad except that (1) they could not use magic in pig form, (2) they needed giant’s hair in order to be turned back, and (3) their old castle suddenly fell under siege by a man named Osmond who took over the castle next-door. Osmond’s desire was to capture the magical books and become the most powerful wizard in the world.

Igraine goes on a quest to find giant hairs while her brother stays back at the castle to fend off the intruders (with the aid of the magic books and the castle’s defenses.) On her journey, Igraine comes in contact with the Sorrowful Knight of the Mount of Tears, and the two travel back to hopefully save the day.

My thoughts:

To be honest, after I started to read Igraine The Brave, I ended up putting it down and letting it sit on the pile for awhile. Why? Because the beginning forced a lot of explanatory narrative onto the reader, which in my opinion, is completely unnecessary. But once I got past that part, it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the story (I recommend starting with Chapter 1 and then going back to the preface once you have finished the book.) Wonderfully designed characters (especially the cat, Sisyphus,) a neatly designed fantasy world, fun personalities, great situations of tension, and the story is creatively magical. It is also easy to read and the writing style is of good quality. A great book for lovers of fairy tales.

Things to consider:

Great for girls and boys; ages nine to twelve (and younger if you read it to them.) No questionable content in the form of sexual situations, foul language, or dark themes. Even the violent scenes are quite tame. The one thing that may be considered disturbing to some children is when the knights get turned into fish and the cat has them for a light snack. Honestly, this is funny, but some children might take it seriously. Overall a great family book that is bound to become a favorite during story time.

Opportunities for discussion:

Part of the fun of this book is that it is not overly serious. However, in all stories, there is at least one good opportunity for discussion. One thing that stood out to me is the honor code of a knight. Ask your children to tell you the difference between the Sorrowful Knight and the Heartless Knight, and which they would rather be.

The Cat That Made Nothing Something AgainGenerally, I think it is of poor taste for an author to do a review of his/her own story.  But a recent article was written about my book in the “Minnesota Christian Chronicle,” and as great as that is, they removed the mention of where my book is available for purchase. That and they misspelled my name (James Mason not Maxon) in one instance.

Thankfully they mentioned this blog, booksforyouth.com, therefore, motivations of self grandeur aside, I’m adding this post to make it easier for anyone who is genuinely interested in finding out where to purchase a copy.

It can be purchased on Amazon.com at this link for $6.99 .

Below are some excerpts from the article:

“Since the 1990s, American children have been growing up in a wired world. By the time they enter Kindergarten many kids already know how to use a mouse to navigate through menus on a computer. Not to mention they are proficient at playing videogames, downloading music and even sending text messages.

While these are skills children will eventually need to learn, Dr. David Walsh, president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, says parents need to make sure exposure to technology doesn’t replace brain building activities like reading, imaginative play and storytelling during a child’s preschool days.

James Maxon, 31, of Maple Grove, Minn., has witnessed the effects overexposure to technology has on children first hand. While watching his wife’s Godson grow from a child to a teenager he noticed how little imaginative play the boy engaged in.

Realizing that children have so many activities that are easier to do than reading vying for their attention these days, Maxon says he purposely made the book [The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again] easy-to-read with short chapters that are designed to help children stay interested. ‘They need to be able to pick up a book, knowing that if they only read for a few minutes they will be able to easily put it down without feeling like they never got anywhere.'”

Click here for the full article.

Here is a quick synopsis:

The Cat that Made Nothing Something Again, published in Dec. 2008, is a whimsical tale about a nameless cat that is bored in a land of dry everything – people, trees and land. He remembers a time when the landscape was green, flowers bloomed and people cared about him and each other. He wants to experience the joy he remembers so well again, so he sets out on a journey to figure out who sucked the moisture from his world and get it back.

Along the way he meets some colorful characters, including a wise old turtle, a seemingly sinister troll, a smart little bird, an overwhelmed mayor and a simple seed who remind him how important it is for people to do what’s right and take care of each other. Other Christian-themed messages delivered in the book: if you know something is wrong you must do what you can to make it right; don’t worry about that which you cannot change; it is better to serve than to be served; and faith is an important tool for getting through difficult times.

Beedle the BardWithout getting into the huge Rowling discussion, which is popular among many Christians, just remember that this blog provides an “unbiased” Christian perspective on books. If you have not done so already, please read my about section. For now, let’s just stick to the review.

As someone who liked the Harry Potter stories, in 2007, when Rowling had decided to write a book that was mentioned in the Potter books, I was annoyed to discover that only seven copies would be available. If that wasn’t bad enough, they were going to be auctioned off at super high prices. Although the money was to be donated to “The Children’s Voice,” I still wanted to read the tales.

About a year later, this book was finally released to the general public, and the profits were given to “Children’s High Level Group”. This goes to show Rowling’s dedication to helping kids, as well as her willingness to listen to the voice of her fans.

Story overview:

There are five short–fairy tale–stories, which, legend has it, have been read to Wizarding children for many generations. Hermione Granger, a character from the Potter books, has translated these from “ancient runes” with the help of Albus Dumbledore, who wrote a commentary after each story to give a Wizarding perspective to us “Muggles” (non-Wizarding people).

The first story “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” tells of an old wizard who leaves his magical brewing pot to his son. Unlike his father, the son doesn’t use it to help others, but as he rejects each person’s cry for help, the pot recreates the symptoms of each person’s aliment until the wizard finally breaks down and decides to help.

The second story “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” tells of a magical fountain that, once a year, will solve a person’s main problem if they bath in it. Three witches, and a straggling knight, find the pool after facing three challenges. They all learn their answers in a way they didn’t expect.

The third story “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” tells of a warlock who removes his heart in order to avoid the foolishness of love. After quite a long time, he decides to marry a woman to silence the people’s talk. Before she concedes, she makes him show her his heart and convinces him to put it back inside himself, at which time the warlock becomes obsessed and ends up killing them both.

The forth story “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” tells the tale of a king, who is so obsessed with magic that he orders the capture of anyone performing it. In his ignorance, he is fooled into being trained by a non-magical user. When worried about being discovered as a fake, the supposed trainer forces an old woman named Babbitty, a true magical user, to perform her talent while hiding. Because of this the king believes that he can use magic himself. However, things go wrong when asked to raise the dead, something magic cannot do.

The fifth story “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” tells the tale of three brothers who try and cheat Death. Death grants them each a wish, but little did they know their wishes contained a curse that would only lead to their demise. However, one of the brothers fools death, with his wish for a cloak of invisibility, until one day when he chooses to pass the cloak down to his son.

My thoughts:

These are great fairy tales and reading them helps to give a little more insight into the world of Harry Potter.  Rowling had drawn the illustrations herself, and they are quite impressive. Each story is fairly short, and as mentioned, each has a commentary by Dumbledore. I found some of these commentaries to be a bit tedious at times, but overall I liked the book.

Things to consider:

Some of the stories, particularly “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” may be a bit disturbing for younger children, but overall I think they are fine. In general fairy tales tend to have at least some disturbing element to them, which is what makes them interesting and intriguing to many kids in the first place. I can see the commentaries as being a bit dull for kids who don’t know the original Potter books, and even then, perhaps still, but the tales themselves are good.

Opportunities for discussion:

Each story has a great moral lesson, if not more than one, but some that stick out in my mind are: do for others as you would have them do for you; the things you seek after may not be what you really need; do not let your heart become so decrepit that it ends up being worthless; and, make wise decisions, as foolish ones can have huge consequences. Beyond the moral lessons, this is a good chance to talk to your children about the difference between make-believe and real-world magic. If you would like to know my opinion, read this topical post here.