Online LIVE reading of Summer North Coming, Tuesday July 21st, 7:00 pm

Join me online for a LIVE reading of my picture book, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside, on Tuesday July 21st, 7:00 pm (Mountain Time), with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

Check back here for a link to the event: dorothybentley.net – click on “News & Events”

Gather children around for this lively romp through the seasonal activities of siblings who live in Alberta!

Q & A to follow.

Two So Small

by Hazel Hutchins

About a decade ago, I participated in a children’s book workshop in Canmore with Canadian author Hazel Hutchins.

I purchased one of her books, Two So Small, which she’d used as one of the examples in the workshop. The book has the flavour of a Folk Tale with surprises sprinkled throughout as well as sweet ending.

Here is the description from an online bookstore:

A gentle story about a brave little boy and his goat who, after many wrong turns, meet a baby giant in need of their help. In order to fully capture the size of the giants, Two So Small features an extra-large fold-out picture at the story’s end.

It became one of those books which I read over and over again to my young child. And it is one of the books which will remain on my bookshelf to read with grandchildren.

A Canadian Author

Happy Reading!

DB

Autumn Kids’ Book Tour

Dorothy would love to visit your school or organization to talk about creating a picture book!

Other options are creative writing guided practice and inspirational talks to youth.

There is funding available through the Writer’s Union of Canada to help your organization fund an author visit!

Contact Dorothy by email (editor.bentley@gmail.com) or through her publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

 

Autumn Kids’ Book Tour*

Come and say hello and have your copy of

 Summer North Coming  read & signed by the author!

Calgary postponed

Banff postponed

Lethbridge Saturday November 9th, Chapters, 1:00 pm

Fort McMurray Saturday November 23rd, Coles-Indigo, 12:00 pm

* cancelled if roads are closed due to a snow storm

 

Jamberry

As a parent who has read stories over and over again, I appreciate children’s stories which are fun, lyrical, and worthy of being read hundreds of times. Jamberry is one of those books.

This book was written and illustrated by Bruce Degen. Most children’s picture books do not have the same person as author and illustrator, but this one has equally strong verse and picture-storytelling.

The best picture books offer additional story through the artwork. As an example, the text begins: “One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry…” Immediately, the illustration shows an anthropomorphized bear, interacting with a young child, sharing berries.  From this first window into the magical world of the story, the reader knows to expect a fabulous world, similar to a fairy-land. Another clue is the marshmallows on tall grass, which adds to the nonsensical world.

Another aspect I like about this rhyming story is that the rhyme shifts from one type, to another, and then another. It has the affect of shifting gears when driving through a varied landscape.

In my own poetic picture book, Summer North Coming – Winter North Coming, I chose to carefully follow a rhyming scheme throughout the story. It is a safe bet to do so, and it seemed natural; but I commend Degen for breaking that tendency and going out on a limb to create something unique.

First published in 1983, it is a new classic which I buy again and again as part of a new baby gift-bundle.

Enjoy!

Jamberry

The Hobbit

by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

I did say that I am not a huge fan of fantasy. That is true. This is another one of the very few fantasies I like. It is a classic. What more could possibly be said about this volume which hasn’t already been said? It is written by a master of the genre, it holds to all the high fantasy conventions, and it’s a fun read.

I was given this book to read by a ruggedly handsome young man. He liked dark ales, the mountains, unusual (alternative) music with haunting flutes and (other instruments) which seemed to pair mighty well with this story. I don’t know how it was possible, but at that time, I was almost entirely unacquainted with elves, fairies, hobbits, dwarfs, and other such people, before reading this book.

When I was very young, I read many folktales and fairy tales, from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and others. I was well acquainted with wicked witches and trolls under bridges, but those were things I had left behind when I latched onto realistic fiction as an older child. I was certainly far more protective of my young children than my parents had been of me. I shielded mine from the horrors and violence of fairy tales until they were older children. Perhaps my parents were not as careful because the stories seemed tame compared to the real-life horrors of living through their harsher times; or, there were kids to spare in my family. At any rate, I had many vivid dreams populated with monsters and bad people who I had to outrun and outwit. Perhaps giving younger children these hurdles sooner rather than later, through literature, serves them well? As parents, are we shielding our children from literature which could give them clues as to how to persevere through thick and thin?

 

The Hobbit.jpg

As I came to reread this book, I am a little embarrassed to say that I approached the book with a yawn, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find it offered me something new. Apparently Tolkien was not a fan of allegories in literature as were his pal, C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald (whose literature he admittedly looked to), and he denied tucking any into this tale. However, I could not help but formulate parallels to other stories while reading it (there is an Elfland and Middle Earth mentioned in Childe Rowland), nor could I keep from my mind impressions, allegorical meanings, which translate into universal truths. This is what good fiction does. Whether or not Tolkien intended this, I believe many readers enjoy his finely woven prose because of his extensive world-building (which took years) and his knowledge of language creation (from his profession as a philologist), creating richness.

As I write this, the ruggedly handsome guy who gave me The Hobbit is now a bit older and cutting the lush green grass at our own Bag End (Yes, I married him). Like Bilbo Baggins, I have come to appreciate the simple life. I do not need much to find contentment, beyond all the good gifts my life already holds; and I have gone through my own perilous journey to get here. Something which I notice now while reading the story is that Bilbo is not really the centre of the story. He is one player in the larger story which began long before he came along, and continued long after he disappeared. Aren’t we all like him in that way? We are all part of a larger narrative. Perhaps that is a truth for us all. We hardly have an idea of what our little part might mean in the greater narrative of our history in (Middle?) Earth. If you read The Hobbit again, you may get something completely different from it.

I had the fun of visiting the Hobbiton movie set several years ago during a trip to New Zealand. Here is an extremely condensed film showing some of it: Hobbiton

Here is the Film Air New Zealand plays as passengers get comfortable for the twelve-hour flight: Air New Zealand Safety Video

This book is suitable as a read-aloud for the whole family. Young children should know that it is okay to kill giant spiders, dragons, and goblins, provided they are bad.

When did you first read The Hobbit?

 

The Tombs of Atuan, Book II of the Earthsea Cycle

The Tombs of Atuan, Book II of the Earthsea Cycle

by Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of fantasy. Although, I recently read that those who are not, have not come across the right book for them. This adage proved true for me, as I enjoyed this story.

The Tombs of Atuan is book two of this series, but I know I would not have been interested in the first book without reading this one. I think this instalment is a good entry point for those who are leery of the fantasy genre. There are some inventive place-names, and people-names, yet not so many that it detracts from the plot which is in turns mesmerizing with its clarity of setting and gripping when the main character discovers an intruder in the tombs.

As a young girl, the main character is taken from her parents to become the next, the always, high priestess of the tombs. She is carried along without having any say whatsoever in her life, until age fifteen, when the visitor comes. In reading the afterword written by the author, it is interesting that Ursula K. Le Guin felt she could not trespass beyond the life experience of most women of the time, when she wrote the story in 1969. Yet, together with her new friend, the main character is empowered to change her life. And he, along with her as his new friend, is able to find freedom from the tombs.

The Tombs of Atuan

It is truly an affecting story about friendship between a male and female, as well as a coming-of-age story for girls with themes about identity.

This is suitable as an independent read for ages 12 and up.

Happy reading!

DB

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

 

the princess and the goblin.jpg

This little fantasy gem was first published in 1872. As you may have guessed by now, I really like old stories. It turns out that this tale by George MacDonald was also a favourite of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis; elements of MacDonald’s stories appear in The Lord of the Rings, as well as the Chronicles of Narnia series.

George was Scottish and born to farmers. Sadly, his mother died when he was only eight years old. He shared life with his four brothers. While his family originally owned a linen mill as well as a bank (besides the farm), economic conditions swamped them. Later, George set off for university at age 15. He earned a degree in Science and Moral Philosophy at Aberdeen University. It is a little surprising that he turned to writing poetry and fairy tales.

He and his wife had eleven children together, and he first wrote his tales for his children to guide them, and himself, through darkness. It holds not only little gems of wisdom, but delicious tension, a good bit of danger, and just a faint dusting of magic. And just one more note: while many fairy tales are stories with helpless princesses needing rescue, this heroine, Princess Irene, receives her own guidance; therefore, despite the fact that Curdie does help her a great deal, she also has agency. Given that out of MacDonald’s eleven children five were female, he would have witnessed capable and clever girls. No doubt, he was also trying to instill virtues, so the story is a teeny bit didactic; however, that aspect does not ruin the larger story.

The goblins are quite bad, and there is the expected bit of violence while good triumphs over evil, but there is nothing horrific for younger children to hear as a read-aloud. Since the protagonist, Princess Irene is eight years old, I think this story is suitable for children aged six and up.

Happy reading!

DB

 

Just So Stories

by Rudyard Kipling

Just So Stories.jpg

I was first introduced to this volume as a parent of young children. I was a little skeptical about these tales, since they are outlandish– but in an oh-so-good way, as it turns out, since they are not meant to be truthful, but rather as a spring-board for lyrical word-making and image-imagining. There are plenty of new words never before used, and never since used, but which wake up the curious mind. As the introduction states, it “explodes like fireworks in your ears. It thrums with a uniquely twirly dancing rhythm that sweep you up like a magic carpet…” (Stroud vi).

Lingering somewhere between folktales and fantasy, these myths were created aloud as told to his daughter, then published in 1902; they continue to be popular today. Kipling is best known for his story, The Jungle Book. When possible, I post versions of books which offer extras. This particular edition, at only around $5 (Canadian), has an Author File, Who’s Who in the Just So Stories, Some Things to Think About, Some Things to Do, Did You Know? and a great Glossary, which you will need, when your young one asks, “what’s a quagga?”

Happy reading!

DB

 

English Fairy Tales

The book which I mentioned in the last post, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Other Fairy Tales, is a compilation of tales from several authors: The Brothers Grimm of Germany, Hans Christian Anderson of Britain, Charles Perrault of France, and a few others who are lesser known. The tales were passed around and adapted by different folks and several variations developed.

For instance, one version of Cinderella has the step-sisters feet chopped off; another has them become statues who can see, hear, and feel in order to suffer while Cinderella receives her rewards for being virtuous. Another example is of The Three Bears: an old English version, thought to be the original, has an old woman sampling the bears’ porridge, chairs, and beds–yet even this version is said to have changed from a beast tale in which the old woman was actually a fox.

This particular book, English Fairy Tales, collected and edited by Joseph Jacobs, (originally published in 1898), contains many true “folk” versions. This means they are not romanticized or made more literary as many of those adapted by Hans Christian Anderson and Charles Perrault. They were, apparently, cleaned-up a bit by Jacobs, as the country folk liked their “bawdy” tales. However, they can still be shocking for children.

English Fairy Tales

 

For parents, I recommend pre-reading the book and choosing age-appropriate fairy tales. However, the book could be handed to a child of age 12 and up. Audio versions and e-books are either incredibly inexpensive or free, however, I am an advocate of unplugging and dragging a paper book around from a sofa, to a beach chair, to a stump in the woods.

Something else which is fun to imagine is that several of these English tales were actually verses (poetry) which were sung. Apparently, the English country folks were a jolly bunch.

Happy reading!

DB

Aesop’s Fables

Aesop’s Fables are among the oldest children’s stories in the world. But they were not actually written to be children’s stories. They were written in ancient Greece for adults as clever lessons in wisdom. Other famous people who were into wisdom mentioned Aesop in their writing: Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch.

Some people think that Aesop could not possibly have written all of the fables attributed to him because he was a slave. Perhaps we cannot imagine that a slave may be literate. They think that using Aesop’s name allowed other writers to remain anonymous. There may have been an advantage to remaining behind the scenes, as some thinkers, also called philosophers, lost their lives for their teachings!

Today, there are many versions of Aesop’s Fables. Here are just three of the many sites available. You could also check your public library for print versions. These are appropriate for children, but older children would better understand the “punch lines” or morals.

A few Aesop’s Fables with Audio

Many Fables

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*This book is in the Public domain.