The Worst of Times: Classic Dystopian Fiction

abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter-here-8Dystopian fiction tells the story of a world gone bad. Exactly how and why it’s gone bad can vary: there’s usually a totalitarian government of some form, but whether they caused the bad or rose to power because of the bad isn’t always clear. What is clear is that now, everything sucks. In this post I’ll be looking at a few of the most famous works of classic dystopian fiction.

 

Continue reading “The Worst of Times: Classic Dystopian Fiction”

Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree

Pohutukawa-tree.pngFirst produced in 1957, New Zealand play The Pohutukawa Tree by Bruce Mason, tells a similar story to that of Patricia Grace’s Potiki. It’s the story of a proud matriarch, Aroha Mataira, the widowed heir to the chieftainship of the Ngati Raukura tribe and the mother of the last Maori family living on their traditional lands at the small township of Te Parenga. The rest of the tribe have long since sold their land to the Atkinsons, the Pakeha (White) landholding family who have dominated the area for three generations, and Mrs. Mataira and her two children, Johnny (18) and Queenie (17) work for the Atkinsons. Continue reading “Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree”

Playtime: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

“Keep the secret of whodunit locked in your heart.”

The Mousetrap 1.jpgThe longest-running West End show ever (it opened in 1952 and has just kind of kept going) is actually quite hard to track down online, especially if you’d like to be able to hear what the actors are saying and not get seasick from shaky camera action. The version I eventually settled on was pretty good apart from the person who coughed all the way through. And the rather hit-and-miss efforts of the American actors to affect British accents, but then I am British so I know the difference. Continue reading “Playtime: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie”

New Zealand Literature

mapofnewzealand.jpgThus far in this project I’ve rather neglected New Zealand literature, so I thought I should pay it some attention. Doubly rooted in the rich oral tradition of the indigenous Maori people and the equally rich literary tradition of Britain and Europe, New Zealand offers a great deal that is worth paying attention to. The following is little more than a taster of works by some of our most celebrated writers, arranged in chronological order. Continue reading “New Zealand Literature”

Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow

I first came across this poem as a Christmas carol adaptation by one of my favourite contemporary Christian bands, Casting Crowns (you can listen to their version here). Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote the original in 1863, in response to the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an intensely personal poem: Longfellow’s eldest son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, had joined the War in the Union cause without his father’s blessing, and had later been seriously wounded in Virginia.

sidney-e-king-capture-of-ricketts-battery
Sidney E King, ‘The Capture of Rickett’s Battery’

Although it has subsequently been adapted several times, with the more specific references to the War altered or omitted, the original runs as follows:

 

 

 

Continue reading “Treasure Trove: ‘Christmas Bells’ by Henry Wandsworth Longfellow”

Five Books About Family

My recent visit to my family has brought to the front of my mind just how important family is, but while family life plays a significant role in much of children’s literature it is often less prominent in adult literature, no doubt reflecting the greater variety of influences and situations in adult life. But there is some literature which places family life front and centre, and here’s my list of five of the best. Continue reading “Five Books About Family”

Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)

Enid Blyton signatureOne of the most popular British 20th century children’s authors, Enid Blyton’s relationship with her own children was, to put it mildly, strained. Blyton was a prodigious author: Wikipedia lists a total of 762 published works written by Blyton. Continue reading “Author Profile: Enid Blyton (1897-1968)”

Twelve Classic Books for Older Children

Again inspired by Stuff’s list of Fifty Books Every Kid Should Read By Age Twelve, and by Goodread’s Top 100 Children’s Books list, here is my hopelessly-biased (the majority of the books are British, and most are favourites from my own childhood) but still very good list of twelve of the best classic reads for children aged eight to twelve.

As with my list of Classic Books for Younger Children I’ve arranged them in rough order from the simplest to the most complex. As different children develop in reading at different rates I haven’t given a hard-and-fast indication of exactly what age kids need to be to tackle these books: I’m pretty sure I’d read them all (with the exception of J. K. Rowling, whose books came out when I was… a little older) long before I turned twelve, but I was a comparatively advanced reader and definitely still loved all these books at that age. For particularly reluctant readers, and those who are struggling, reading stories aloud can be a great way to keep them interested in books.

Continue reading “Twelve Classic Books for Older Children”