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book update at four

Books + Ideas, — March 2017

We're into short novel and chapter book territory now, so I thought I'd give an update on what I've been reading with Helen. The first short novel Helen really got into was Otfried Preussler's The Robber Hotzenplotz, which we started on Boxing Day (it was the Christmas present of one of her cousins) but finished the next day, she was so excited by it.

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We had previously read Ted Hughes' The Iron Man (before she was three, when the most exciting thing was using a bookmark for the first time), meandered slowly through Alice in Wonderland and Moominsummer Madness (both a little too complex), and enjoyed Jenny Linsky Goes to Sea (accessibly episodic, but not as engaging as the Jenny Linsky short stories).

We have followed The Robber Hotzenplotz (my review) up with Otfried Preussler's other young children's novels: The Little Ghost was good fun, but not as big a hit; we're half-way through The Little Water-Sprite, which is charming but more episodic; and the The Little Witch is to come. I have also read her the first two chapters of A Bear Called Paddington, the first unabridged Paddington book, while we looked at the matching R.W.Alley pictures in the abridged Paddington; she enjoyed those but hasn't been eager for more. The one book that has had Helen incessantly demanding more since we started it is The Complete Adventures of Clever Polly and the
Stupid Wolf
(in the lovely NYRB hardcover edition The Complete Polly and the Wolf). This is a collection of stories rather than a novel, with only limited continuity, but it's still three hundred pages of solid text with only a few small illustrations and by far away the longest thing we've tackled.

Some of the new books Helen really likes include The Chocolate Monster (an early reader book, with four chapters), Tari, the Little Balinese Dancer (a lovely picturebook, sympathetically dealing with the death of a grandparent and conveying something of Balinese culture), and How Turtle Got His Shell (an accessible reworking of a dozen Australian Aboriginal stories). Story series we keep returning to include Little Grey Rabbit (in the collections Little Grey Rabbit Treasury and Little Grey Rabbit's Year of Stories), Jenny Linsky, and Titchy Witch (we've now acquired our own set). And old favourites keep going: It Might be an Apple and Can I Build Another Me?, Isabella's Garden, Do You Know Pippi Longstocking?, the Frances books, When Frank Was Four, ...

Reading suggestions are always welcome. Books being enjoyed by Helen's peers include Brambly Hedge (Jill Barklem) and The Enchanted Wood (Enid Blyton), which we have but haven't tried yet, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl).

Another recommendation is Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

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