I had a larger number of books read this month, ten, not too bad. Some of them are right at the top of my favorites list. Over half are keepers. Decided to start with monsters and picked up Barnaby Grimes - Curse Of The Nightwolf by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. I have been reading Paul and Chris's Edge Chronicles for a while, and enjoying them, so it isn't too surprizing that I would I picked up some of their other books, in hope of a good read. This is the first one I turned to. Barnaby lives in a sort of alternate old-timey England where he's a Tic-Tock Lad. He delivers messages for people, sometimes using the roofs of London for his pathways. On one of his deliveries he's attacked by a wolf creature. He barely escapes after taking flight over the roofs. As the story progresses Barnaby uncovers clues to the mystery of the monster. It was an entertaining story though a bit dark. The villian is a doctor who has a serum that turns people into werewolves. He sets up his patients, traps them, kills them and skins them for the nice werewolf fur. It's popular as trim on clothes for fancy people. Barnaby is in some danger, people do die horribly in the book, but he pulls through in the end. Like the Edge Chronicles there are a lot of great illustrations to go along with the fast paced and interesting story. I like an illustrated book and good illustrations add a lot. I'm adding it to the keeper pile. I'll read it again. Same with the next book I picked up.
Freddy Goes To Florida by Walter R. Brooks is the first of the Freddy the Pig series. It was first published in 1927 under the title To And Again. I read it back in the 1960's and several times since. I had a cheap paperback until a few years ago when Overlook Press started reprinting the Freddy series. I was pretty excited to find out they were coming out. They weren't always in print and demand was high so they were hard to find in the used bookstores. When the Overlook editions started I was working part time at DreamHaven, a science fiction and fantasy bookstore, so I even got them at a nice discount. It's one of my favorite series of books. It's nice to finally have the whole series, especially in such nice hardcovers that replicate the books I read as a kid. Sadly it looks like some of them aren't in their online catalog anymore. Like the first 3 or 4.
Freddy lives on the Bean family farm. He's rather a smart pig who likes poetry. In the first book he only plays a small part in the story. Charles the rooster, Jinx the cat and Mrs. Wiggins the cow are the main players. Some of the animals on the farm are sad about the up coming winter, so they decide to take a vacation trip to Florida. They have have some adventures along the way. Some dirty guy and his even dirtier son want to eat them. They almost get eaten by alligators but Charles manages to save the day by flying farther than he has ever flown before. The animals meet some Senators while on the road through Washington. They weren't impressed but don't say anything. In the first 3 books of the series the animals talk to each other and with the 4th book they start talking outloud to the humans. Some sparrows tell the Bean animals about a huge bag full of old gold coins. They collect the gold and carry it back home in a nice little phaeton they find along the way. They give the gold to the Bean's, who use it to put fix up the farm. The animals get heating and curtains in their buildings. I still really enjoy these stories. They are fun to read and there's lots of great illustrations by Kurt Wiese. He wrote and illustrated many books of his own and illustrated over 300 for other writers like Walter R. Brooks. I have a softspot for the illustrations, especially the endpapers (see above).
I usually have a book on the nightstand so I can read before bedtime, or after bedtime when I can't sleep. I keep a book in my work bag and read that during the week. For some reason I rarely read when I am home after work or on the weekends. Usually I am glued to the PC and/or the TV. Unusually, as I write this, I am not watching the tv while pounding the keys. I am listening to an album of Kyu Sakamoto songs. His big USA hit was Sukiyaki. It was the number 1 song in the country in June 1963. It's a pleasant pop song that I fell in love with when I was 9 years old. It's one of my favorite songs. It's sung in Japanese and has whistling in it. Have I ever told you how much I like whistling in songs. Anyway I have been keeping Freddy on the nightstand for my bedtime enjoyment and The Time Garden by Edward Eager was travelling back and forth to work with me. It seemed to like goin' in the car. The kids from Eager's Knight's Castle are back. Family illness has thrown the two pairs of cousins together for the summer. The house they are living in has a Thyme garden and a magic frog. Who wouldn't want a magic frog? It sends the kid's on some time traveling adventures and they have a great old time. I have been enjoying the Eager books since I discovered Half Magic a few years ago. Every now and again one will turn up at the used bookstore and I'll pick it up. They're usually quick reads and I have decided to keep them for another go around once I have the whole lot. I think I am close but haven't gotten them together to check in a while. I should have a data base but that's a lot of work and there are several other data bases that I should make first. Too bad I can't get an intern to do all that typing.
Freddy Goes To The North Pole by Walter R. Brooks was published as More To And Again in 1930. Once the series gets going Brooks would do a book a year on average. Things have been quiet on the Bean farm since the animals got back from Florida. After hearing of their adventures the local animals wish they could take a trip too. Freddy and some of the Bean animals set up a travel agency and offer short trips around the area. After a while Freddy and Jinx are getting tired of the work and want to take a trip of their own. They decide to head up north with a fair size group, including Charles the rooster, the sensible Mrs Wiggins and Hank the Horse. A year later the farm animals are worried because the travellers aren't back. Fredinand the crow shows up with bad news! Oh, no! Freddy and the animals are in trouble. They met some sailor's on the way to the North Pole. Fredinand thinks the sailor's might eat Freddy. Common problem for a pig, I think. The farm animals get a rescue party together and head north. At Santa's house they find Freddy. He's ok. Yeah! However, Santa has some trouble. The sailors are trying to modernize Santa's workshop and creating quite a stir. Santa's dismayed. he's an old school guy, and too nice to kick them out. Freddy tricks the sailor's into leaving with a treasure map. Santa gives the animals a ride back to the Bean farm. It was fun to read. What else could I say.
Magic By The Lake by Edward Eager was about as entertaining as some of his other books. Which is the say a fair bit. This is a sequel to Half-Magic. That was the first of his books that I read. It was entertaining. I got a 50th anniversary replica edition hardcover that sure looked nice. It's buried up in the attic. I need to dig that one out and put it with the more recent arrivals. Didn't I get an intern to take care of this sort of thing. I should look into that. Both books are set in the 1920's and Martha, Jack, Mark and Katherine are on summer vacation. This time they have a magic lake and a grumpy talking box turtle. Typically they have trouble with what they wish for. There's some humor, some bit of danger in the cave of Ali-Baba, and a rescue by the children from The Time Garden. As with the others I am putting this one on the keeper pile. Someday I will sort that pile out and re-read them. I like the nice boat cover on the book above left. I have the above right edition. It's the most current. I kind of like the covers but wish they were something else better. The one below isn't really great either. Weird drawing style.
The Pirate and the Princess - The Timelight Stone by Mio Chizhuru was a pretty poor book. Maybe it was the translation, not sure. There's lady pirates in this universe but they aren't very interesting. I picked it up for 40 cents so I don't feel I was too ripped off. I'll get more than that for trade at the bookstore that gets all the kids books that I cycle back into the system.
Freddy and The Detective by Walter R. Brooks was the first Freddy book that I read. It came out in 1932, two years after the last one. It's Fredddy's turn under the spotlight and he's still not talkin', to the humans at least. Freddy finds a book of Sherlock Holmes stories in the barn and decides to start his own detective agency. He partners up with Mrs. Wiggins because she has some common sense.
This novel is the first appearance of Simon the rat and his large family. They frame Jinx but he manages to get out of that one. Most animals are portrayed as being much more likeable but rats are pretty much hated. They steal and destroy property because they enjoy it. The rats would be outwitted, given second and third chances, and finally driven off several times in the series. Freddy and Mrs. Wiggins solve several crimes around the farm. They even catch some human burglars. They make some new friends in the process. The story is a bit dated but that certainly doesn't bother me any. I enjoy reading books from other times, it certainly gives you a new perspective, and a good story is a good story.
LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender was a book that Alice let me read. She's in the LEGO Users Group that I belong to. Jonathan Bender wrote a book about his growing interest in the brick, his experience with LEGO fandom, and having his first kid. He's an article writer for various magazines etc. He's got a blog too. He goes around the world experiencing the LEGO community. He meets all sorts of fans and documents the fan emerging from his own body. The writing was ok, chatty, easy to read, not to exciting. It's a very personal book, a memoir, that might appeal to more than the LEGO fan. I'm not sure that I will pick one up right away. Maybe if I see it remaindered. I might not need to re-read it. It has a nice cover by Nathan Sawaya. Nathan makes his living making art from LEGO. He builds lots of odd things for people and companies for cash. He was the guy that would make a full size LEGO replica of you for for $60,000. It was the crazy expensive gift in that years Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. I don't know if anyone bought a statue. I never heard. $60,000 is nuts.
Harry: A History by Melissa Anelli is another book that details the fan experience. Melissa talks about her life working on one of the biggest Harry Potter fan websites - The Leaky Cauldron. She got to meet J K Rowling a couple of times for interviews. That's cool. The book covers a fairly good period and ends after the last book comes out. It was a good read but more for the Harry fan.
The Story Of Freginald by Walter R. Brooks is the fourth book in the series. Now the animals start talking to the humans. It's published in 1936, four years after the last book. Freddy takes a bit of a back seat as we learn about the little bear Louise. He seeks his fame and fortune to get away from the other bears who tease him because of his name. He joins up with the Boomschmidt Circus and becomes pals with Leo the lion. It's there they take the names Louise's parents wanted but didn't use, Fred and Reginald, and in a tyographical mash-up form his new name Freginald. There's a long standing rivalry between Boomschmidt and another circus owner. That leads to trouble and that eventually leads to Freddy when a detective is needed. Always glad to help the nice Mr. Boomschmidt Freddy figures out what's going on and saves the day. There's lots of stuff going on and a bunch of fun circus stuff to boot. Freginald would disappear once his book was over. It's barely a Freddy book but it's still entertaining. I liked Freginald. Here's a couple of pics of Walter R. Brooks.