Thursday, November 29, 2012


 Today is the birth-date of C. S Lewis...

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."

Images: Time magazine cover, 8 September 1947, by Boris Artzybasheff
Painting of Narnia by Pauline Baynes

Friday, September 28, 2012


For some time now, I have been meaning to blog about Alan Gilliland's delightful book for children (their parents and the young at heart in general) The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and Us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond.

It is a heady mix of the tried and trusted format featuring nursery-toys-come-to-life with riddling, punning, nonsense in the style of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear punctuating a twisting, turning roller-coaster adventure story filled with dangers, outlandish encounters and weird and wonderful beings.

It all begins when the Great Raven steals a precious brooch belonging to the mother of twins Henry and Henrietta who get the blame and (worse) are told that, unless the brooch is returned, their imminent birthday party will be cancelled and their four beloved 'animals' will be unceremoniously en route to the local charity shop. Oh, the callousness of parents in literature – and life!

The motley quartet: Curd the Lion (named, obviously for the heroic Richard I), Pilgrim Crow, O'Flattery the Snake and a hyena named Sweeney the Heenie set out at once for the Back of Beyond to find the Great Raven and the recover the purloined brooch .

Along the way they are helped or hindered by a cavalcade of memorable characters, among them Professor Balloonafuss (who, like the Great and Terrible Oz, has an over-inflated sense of his own importance), His Majesty King Much of a Muchness, the mine-goblins, Nook and Cranny, Queen Mumbie-Bumbee, the Minorbore and Sir Rush and his Kalandar.

Eventually they succeed in reaching the Rocks of Brimstone and the out-jutting Corbie-stone, lair of the Great Raven, where friends and foes come together as the story reaches its dramatic climax.

There are a mass of subtexts and literary and historical allusions within the story (it is not accidental, for example, that the creature encountered named the 'Dodongs' is an anagram of that Carrollian alter ego, 'Dodgson') and readers armed with the map below can trace the route of Curd & Co's adventures in the real location of Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales.

With delightful illustrations by the author, this a perfect read-aloud book for bedtime readers  – and their listeners!

Visit Alan Gilliland's website for more information about this and his other books. And you can read many more glowing reviews of this unique and wonderfully quirky book on Lovereading4kids.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I only need to glimpse this Puffin Books cover art by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnson for Dodie Smith's wonderful The One Hundred and One Dalmatians, to be transported back to my childhood and a Christmas Day spent rapt in a captivating adventure story of heroic, talking dogs.

Having fallen in love with this deliciously fanciful book, I later succumbed to the stylish, witty Disney movie. Both now happily co-exist in my memories of youthful plreassures!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012


To mark the 150th anniversary of the first telling of the story that would become Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, here is one of Lewis Carroll's poetic parodies from that book that is now better known than the original verse that Carroll was lampooning...

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

The original was entitled 'Against Idleness and Mischief' by Isaac Watts and appeared his 1715 book, Divine and Moral Songs for the Use of Children... 
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.
I know which I prefer!

You'll find more ramblings in Wonderland here and, again, here.

Image: Crocodile by Darren Hopes

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Reading is everything. 

Reading makes me feel like I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. 

Reading makes me smarter. 

Reading gives me something to talk about later on. 

Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. 

Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. 

Reading is grist. 

Reading is bliss.

From I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
by Nora Ephron (1941-2012)


Monday, April 23, 2012

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Let me express my gratitude to all my readers who voted for this blog in the recent Most Fascinating Blog awards.

Although it didn't win, my nominated posting about P L Travers and Mary Poppins earned Ex Libris 10th place out of the 93 blogs that were in the running for the award.

Thank you!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


The United Nations has decreed that today in World Poetry Day

This is the sixth section of
Walt Whitman's glorious
'Song of Myself'
from Book III of
Leaves of Grass...

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps,
And here you are the mothers' laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Monday, February 27, 2012


This blog is one of 93 blogs nominated for the Most Fascinating Blog of 2012 Award! It was this posting about P L Travers and Mary Poppins that won me the nomination from a pool of over 2,300 submissions!

And now you, gentle reader, can now take part in voting it the MFB of 2012!

UPDATE: Voting is now closed

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


from one of my all-time favourite versifiers,

To My Valentine

More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That's how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That's how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
That's how you're loved by me.

Image: Autograph and self-portrait by Ogden Nash

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

WHAT THE *******?

(7 February 1812–9 June 1870)

"He is a wonderfully accomplished man — most extraordinarily accomplished — reads — hem — reads every novel that comes out; I mean every novel that — hem — that has any fashion in it, of course. The fact is, that he did find so much in the books he read, applicable to his own misfortunes, and did find himself in every respect so much like the heroes — because of course he is conscious of his own superiority, as we all are, and very naturally — that he took to scorning everything, and became a genius."

- Miss Knag speaking of her brother, Mr. Mortimer Knag,
a stationer and keeper of a small circulating library, in
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Caricature of Charles Dickens by Court Jones.

Friday, January 27, 2012


"The twenty-seventh!"

Which means – if my watch isn't two days wrong – that today must be the 180th birthday of...

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

The Wordle below was created with the text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 7: 'A Mad Tea-Party'...

Caricature of Lewis Carroll by David Levine

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

JRRT @ 120

Today is
the 120th Birthday of
J R R Tolkien

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song
above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world."

And my personal thanks to the Professor for the opportunities I have had to work with his great stories, which, as a result, have made my world a great deal merrier!

Image: David Levine

Sunday, January 01, 2012


A few bookish quotes by bookish men and women to start the New Year...

Books are humanity in print.
~ Barbara W Tuchman

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.

~ Franz Kafka

Books let us into their souls and lay open to us the secrets of our own.

~ William Hazlitt

When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.

~ Clifton Fadiman

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.

~ Oscar Wilde

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.

~ Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

Lord! when you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.

~ Christopher Morley

No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

May you have a year of
Good Books!

Image: 'The Librarian' by Guiseppe Archimboldo (1527-1593)

Signed Books: 2 – JOURNEY'S END

Among my collection of signed books are volumes given to me by writers who were also friends along with others by writers, actors and celebr...