Tag Archives: #imagination

Our Six Favourite Fantasy Novels

For some readers, fantasy means pure escapism – getting away from the stresses, constraints and issues of the everyday.  For others, the opposite can apply – fantastical settings allow us to examine and explore everyday issues with extra clarity.  Immerse yourself in the intricate and richly diverse genre of fantasy, and let your imagination soar – here are a few recent favourites to get you started.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Get two fantasy greats for the price of one with Good Omens, which is having a revival thanks to a celebrated TV adaptation (quality assured by Neil Gaiman’s role as showrunner).  Good Omens is a story about the Apocalypse – which happens to be coming sooner than what Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon) would like.  Aziraphale and Crowley have been representing their respective sides on Earth for 6000 years, and have come to enjoy each other’s company (and their lives on Earth).  Unhappy with the thought of their cozy lives being upended, Crawley and Aziraphale team up to avert the Apocalypse.  Good Omens is a mix of urban fantasy, absurdist humour and political/workplace satire that is as gleeful and relevant today as ever.

The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

You may have met Geralt of Rivia through the Netflix series or through the popular video games – both have been lovingly created from the writings of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Discover why Witcher fans are so passionate about this world, with this short story collection that introduces the Continent, its witchers (superhuman monster hunters), monsters, epic sword fights, and magic. Once you know the background, head to The Blood of Elves, the first full-length novel of the series, which is about Geralt and Princess Ciri, whose fates are bound together.

The End of the World is Bigger than Love by Davina Bell

The End of the World is Bigger than Love came out last year, where its dreamy, post-apocalypse setting resonated eerily with the silence of lockdown.  Identical twin sisters, Summer and Winter, live alone on an island, trying to survive the aftermath of a monumental environmental disaster. Soon we discover these twin narrators to be unreliable – how, then, do we interpret what’s happening? Reviews (and the string of awards and nominations) have been universally positive. The End of the World is Better than Love is category-defying and unforgettable – it is complex, ambiguous, sometimes confusing, and always rich in language and emotions – a book that invites repeat reading.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So. Much. Fun.  Carry On started as a spin-off of Rainbow Rowell’s previous success, Fangirl, but this funny, exuberant and romantic story has gained a life of its own, growing into an action-packed trilogy. Carry On is about Simon Snow, a teen wizard at a magical boarding school, who is known to be the Chosen One, but still struggling to learn to control and understand his powers. Sounds familiar?  While Rainbow Rowell states that Carry On is informed by a number of “Chosen One” stories, it has invited passionate debates  about its relationship to the Harry Potter universe.  I am really looking forward to the third and final book, Any Way the Wind Blows, due for release next month.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller, author of Circe and Song of Achilles, has actively contributed to our current interest in the Greek classics.  (Also check out recent retellings by Stephen Fry , Pat Barker and Natalie Haynes.) Circe is a witch-goddess from Greek Mythology, best known to readers through Homer’s Odyssey, where she encounters Odysseus during his long voyage.  Here she narrates her life, reinterpreting a number of myths from her perspective.  Madeline Miller has fleshed out Circe satisfyingly – with a heart, an independent mind and a sharp tongue.  This feminist retelling reclaims Circe from her traditional portrayal as a wicked witch, and reimagines her as a woman doing her best to overcome the odds.

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is a hidden gem of an author.  In 30+ years of writing, he has spun tales that are intriguing, immersive and often gutwrenching, creating fantasy worlds based on the histories of ancient China, Arthurian legends, the Byzantine Empire,  the Moors, and Mediaeval Europe.  A Brightness Long Ago is an epic story of war, destiny, ambition and love, set in a world inspired by Renaissance Italy.  Through the reminiscences of Danio, an old and powerful man who rose above his humble origins, we see how chance encounters, and the seemingly unimportant lives and actions of ordinary people, can nonetheless impact upon major historical events.  The intricate weaving and interconnectedness of the large cast is pure Guy Gavriel Kay; it also offers a poetic meditation on fate, choice and the power of memory.

Bringing Books to Life for Kids

Bringing books to life for children is a lot of fun and a wonderful learning opportunity for young minds. Reading aloud, drawing pictures and imaginary play are just a few ways you can do this at home which gives children an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, creative thinking, recognising letters, numbers, colours, shapes and patterns, listening, exploring social and emotional skills and sharing and taking turns.

As we grow older our books can also come to life through audio books where the author is reading us their book with amazing inflection and passion, or through television and movie adaptations.

Here are a few of our favourite children’s books that have come alive.

 

Books we can watch…

 

Charlotte’s Web written by E.B White

An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads “Some Pig,” convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.

The DVD is available here.

 

 

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are a prize-winning team and the creators of many bestselling books for Macmillan. Julia Donaldson was a songwriter before becoming an author, and music continues to play an important part in her life. She is always much in demand for her brilliant events at schools and literary festivals. Axel Scheffler is a star illustrator within the children’s book world, and his books have been translated into over 30 languages. His bright, humorous illustrations are a perfect complement to Julia’s lively songs.

The DVD is available here.

 

Books we listen to…

 

Road Dahl’s Phizz-Whizzing Audio Collection by Roald Dahl

Spread over eight CDs, these three sumptuous recordings are complete and unabridged, allowing listeners to enjoy Dahl’s work word for word. The stories in this collection have all been skilfully brought to life. ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” read by James Bolam (Abridged): Charlie Bucket thinks he is the luckiest boy alive when he wins an amazing tour of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. It’s a tour of a lifetime that changes his life beyond belief! “The BFG” read by Geoffrey Palmer (Abridged): The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant who spirits Sophie out of bed one night. Together, Sophie and the BFG cook up an ingenious plan to rid the world of child-eating giants forever! “James and the Giant Peach” read by Andrew Sachs (Unabridged): James lives a lonely life with his two beastly aunts.Then one day, something very peculiar happens, something magical that will take him on the most amazing journey …

The books are available here.

 

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

This is a fabulous six-CD audio box-set containing the entire collection of stories by Beatrix Potter, complete and unabridged. The twenty-three tales have never lost their popularity, and sell in their millions all over the world. Meet the famous characters that children love and adore: Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, The Flopsy Bunnies, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Tom Kitten, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and many more. These stories are beautifully brought to life by a talented cast of readers, including Patricia Routledge, Timothy West, Michael Hordern, Janet Maw, and Rosemary Leach.

The books are available here.

 

Books we can colour and play with…

 

I Completely Must Do Drawing Now and Painting and Colouring by Lauren Child

Even the rainiest of days is no match for the wonderful imaginations of Charlie and Lola! It may be dull outside, but Charlie and Lola’s world is full of colourful adventure, and with this unique colouring book, kids can join in on the fun. With simple text on the page, activities, and tons of space to draw, the possibilities are endless! It’s the perfect way to bring imagination to life – rainy day or any day!

 

 

Maisy’s Farm by Lucy Cousins

This is a huge favourite in our house. This pop-up-and-play book opens up with a free-standing model of Maisy’s barn, garden and farmyard. It comes with a sixteen-page full-colour booklet that features learning activities based on Maisy’s day on the farm. In each room, there’s a sheet of card pieces to press out, tabs to pull, doors to open and more…so much fun!

 

 

Also…

Keep an eye out for the new initiative from Play School. In celebration of Children’s Book Week this year there will be a delightful new Play School series featuring some of Australia’s much loved celebrities as they snuggle up on the couch and read entertaining picture books written by Australian authors and they will be accompanied by Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, Humpty and Joey.

Enjoy!