Monday, 15 January 2018

Reading Challenge Week 2 - A Book From Your Childhood

We're still valiantly struggling on with the 52 Book Challenge, and finding some interesting books in our Curriculum collection to help us with the second book on the list:

A Book From Your Childhood.

What have you been reading? Here are some of the books we've been reading:

Brenda Carter read Tales from the Arabian nights by James Riordan.

On my last day of primary school, I surreptitiously left a small pile of “the best books I had ever read” on a bookshelf in the school library, as a silent recommendation to other students. One of these titles was an edition of Tales from the Arabian nights (C398.210953 RIO).  My preference for fable and magic was beautifully catered for by this small selection of tales , and I have since purchased the complete version which includes elements of crime, horror, fantasy and science fiction, as well as plenty of suspenseful adventures.

One thousand and one nights is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic, collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. Some of the more well-known stories include  "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

What is common throughout all the editions of the Nights is the initial story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade. After discovering that his wife has been unfaithful, Shahryār has her killed. Shahryār decides that all women are the same and begins to marry a succession of virgins, only to execute each one the next morning before she has a chance to dishonour him. Finally, a woman named Scheherazade offers herself as the next bride and, on the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale but does not end it. The king, curious about how the story ends, is thus forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. This continues for 1,001 nights.

For those who think the 1001 night challenge might be too much, our copy of Tales from the Arabian nights would be a good place to start.

Full disclosure – I thought this was a book from my childhood, because the title was so darn familiar when I saw it on the shelf (at C810 BLU). However, I didn’t remember any part of the book other than the title, so I think I actually read this book for the first time this year.

And I have to say, if I had read this book in my childhood, I wouldn’t have liked it. Then again, I remember that I didn’t like most of the other Judy Blume books I read when I was young – the characters were too mopey, and seemed to spend most of the time worrying about a) puberty and b) some other thing (in this case, Margaret worries about which religion she should follow) and doing very little else.

Allow me to summarise the plot of this book in haiku form (because I can):

Dear God, I would like
Religious guidance and boobs.
Hooray! Periods!

Alice Luetchford read Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, by Rumer Godden

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (C820 GOD) is one of my favourite stories from my primary school library.

Written in the 1960’s and set in England, this book is about a small girl a long way from her home on an Indian tea plantation. The small girl feels very lonely and unable to settle in to her new life with her English cousins, until a beautiful wooden box arrives revealing two wooden Japanese dolls. The story then unfolds around how the mysterious Japanese dolls entrance the small girl and set her on a quest for their happiness. The girl and her cousins are aided by their local bookstore proprietor as they learn all they can about building a Japanese dolls house featuring rosewood, cherry blossoms, lattice screen sliding doors and walls, scalloped niche alcoves for flowers boughs, Japanese scrolls, tea ceremonies, pencil boxes and beautiful satin kimonos.

During my own childhood this story opened my eyes to the wonders of Japanese culture, art, design, houses, etiquette and nuances. Re-reading this simple story with a happy ending has been very nostalgic and once again captivated me with its visual imagery and artistic delight.

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