Category Archives: LBC Young Adult

REVIEW – The Night Before Christmas – West Yorkshire Playhouse

Carol doesn’t feel very Christmassy. What’s all the fuss about? Trees, tinsel, baubles, pudding, presents…? What a lot of nonsense. Definitely not for her.

That is until the night before Christmas when Elf 30046, all stripey tights and pointy ears, falls down her chimney and they both tumble into a bigger adventure than they could ever have imagined. Will Elf ever do as he’s told? Will Carol learn to have fun? Will they ever spot the speeding sleigh and most importantly of all… can they find Father Christmas before it’s too late?

A beautiful, funny and delightful story of friendship and the true meaning of Christmas, The Night Before Christmas is the perfect present for little elves, a magical treat for the family this winter.


In what is becoming a bit of a tradition for us, Helen and I recently attended the West Yorkshire Playhouse for their annual Christmas show. After last years triumph (see our Father Christmas review HERE), we tried to mute our expectations – after all – what were the chances that we would be treated to yet another funny yet touching production that perfectly embodied the spirit of the Christmas season?

Christmas 09

Carol doesn’t like Christmas, presents, or the affable Roger

An hour later we left as giddy as all the (millions of) tiny happy humans dancing on the stage before us! Our Christmas has officially begun.

Christmas 08

Poor Elfie and Carol – NOT a meet cute

Director Amy Leach sets this charming story during the 1950’s, with the set, props and music all from this era. It was rather lovely to watch familiar oldies enchant a new generation. The set design was just wonderful – a feature I’ve come to expect from the WY Playhouse. And the backstage team pulled out all the tricks to delight, enthrall and capture the imagination of their audience – aside from a beautifully compact home recreated on the stage, there was snow (which instantly had Helen all misty eyed! She’s a sucker for Christmas based snow), misdirection and ladders – allowing for the production to literally take to the skies at one point!

christmas 07

Crowd interaction and participation was encouraged at every stage. Indeed Carol is forced to chase Elfie across the auditorium, through the seats and back again at one point. At first, some of the little people were a bit nervous about the rather huge elf and the very grumpy Carol hurtling past them but within moments they were wrapped up in the story line – all worries washed away by the energy and joy expressed on stage.

christmas 03

Possibly my single favourite  moment came towards the end of the play. Carol has been left a present and the audience – predominantly ages between 4 – 7 years – helpfully shouted up to the stage to help her find it. Poor Carol wasn’t really understanding until one grown man – obviously caught up in everything – bellowed out in a deep voice ‘look for your present behind you!’.

Christmas 10

James Barrett – a delightful Elfie

However the greatest accolades must be saved for Rose Warlow (Carol) and James Barrett (Elfie). They bring to life their characters and throw themselves into every piece – whether it is running, jumping, dancing or tracking down Santa – with an energy and conviction that brought every person there with them on their adventure.

Of greater importance perhaps then their impeccable chemistry, timing and vivacity was the timeless warmth that they projected onto all of us. Christmas is meant to be fun, it’s meant to be joyous and it’s meant to bring us together. I think this is a show that inspires that feeling in us all.

Christmas 11

You can read Helen’s review HERE

tl;dr – Go See It!

Written by: Robert Alan Evans
Age: 2-6 years
Director: Amy Leach


The Night Before Christmas at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Buy tickets HERE



Theatre Reviews


LBC Dystopia – The 5th Wave – Write Up


Date:  Tuesday 22nd of July 2015
Time:  6pm – 8pm
Address: Harper Street, LS2 7EA
Tel: 0113 246 9405




* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
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Took out half a million people.

Put that number to shame.

Lasted a little longer. Twelve weeks . . . Four billion dead.

You can’t trust that people are still people.

No one knows.
But it’s coming.

On a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs.
Runs from the beings that only look human, who have scattered Earth’s last survivors.

To stay alone is to stay alive, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope.

Now Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.



We liked the idea.

And we really *wanted* to enjoy it. 

Once again, it was so lovely to gather together and have a natter about our recent reads. As is usual for our optimistic band of readers, we had approached this book with an open mind. We’ve read quite a bit of YA fiction previously and have found it to be a mixed bag – particularly in the saturated dystopia/SFF genera. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us, before we ever started the book, we encountered those oft terrifying words ‘the first in an exciting new trilogy…‘ and our collective hearts sank.

So we indulged in a little whinge about how fiction isn’t designed to just ‘tell’ a story any more. It’s all about creating a world and re-visiting it over and over again. Which is fine, as long as it’s a world populated by interesting characters who fall into crazy exciting circumstances that sustain interest. Too often however, we’ve found that the sequels have more to do with successful branding than a need to flesh out more aspect of the plot.

So, before the vast majority of us even started the book, we were weary. And apprehensive. And there was a 50:50 chance that this book would prove to be better than we could ever have expected. As it happens, the coin landed on the other side.

In the main, we found the plot to be very predictable. As each character arrived, we guessed with near unerring accuracy what was going to happen to them. Again and again and again. One of us joked that they were starting to feel quite psychic. Oh how we laughed (actually, we did have a proper guffaw when they killed Kenny. *snigger*).

kenny dancing

We did enjoy the Ben Parrish story line throughout the book. He felt like quite a flesh out character – albeit one in a slightly daft situation. We were torn between bemoaning the army as the fifth wave but secretly enjoying it and tearing our hair out that Ben seemed to be so incapable of recognising what was happening around him. Sure, it was a very stressful environment but we never felt like all the misery and horribleness and awfullishiousness was actually grounded in anything that we could honestly relate to.

Ben was positively a genius in comparison to Cassie though. She started off as this cool, confident kickass survivor that promptly turned into an idiot and a girrrl (not like a person girl, like a tv cardboard cut out of an actual character girl) the second a bloke appeared. I mean, it was so OBVIOUS – all of us who read it were stunned by how predictable the whole plot turned out to be but in this case, we were staring at the page blankly at her blind stupidity.

As for Evan – I am not sure that it’s fair to really describe him as a character. Some of his storyline were actually really interesting but the hammered in love story just ruined it. Ugh, creepy and bland but smells like chocolate? Where have I read something like that before? We did console ourselves that the hunter did in fact serve a useless narrative purpose as Cassie could not have saved her brother without him. But the honey-crumpet angle just over powered everything else. In fact, some of us ended up rooting for the five year old to become pyschotic – just to break from the norm.

We decided not to go into the secondary characters in too much detail as they were clearly only included for fleshing out in later books (which we are unlikely to be reading) and weren’t given a chance to do anything but page fill in this.

We were disappointed however in the whole alien/host aspect. One person noted that it felt like a really obvious way of getting around the War of the Worlds virus trope which lead to such a nice little nerdy chat for a moment that I now declare that person the Winner of book club. Sadly I didn’t write down who actually said it.

We also noted that the more we learned about the aliens, the less scary they became – particularly now that there are ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ battling to lead the cause. We also toyed with speculating as the aliens intentions; why they picked earth; why ships and so on but just didn’t have the interest of inclination to actually read the sequels and see whether we were right…so that petered right out.

We all agreed that this was a book structured and designed to appeal to the silver screen; hoping to occupy the same territory as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Having said that, goodly chunks are explained via internal dialogue which could be trickier to film.

So not a great read, but a very enjoyable meet up and chat!




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Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at

LBC White Swan – The Chaos of Stars – Write Up

LBC White Swan

Date:  Sunday 9th of November 2015
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds




* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

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Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.

Isadora is tired of her immortal relatives and their ancient mythological drama, so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it.

But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family.


the chaos of starsOur last meeting for 2015 and it was SUCH a laugh. So much so that I’ve committed not only to a Christmas Read-a-Long, but also a Christmas party (details will be posted on the blog when I’ve…you know…arranged them).

It was even better because the book just didn’t work for us and we as we were all of a mind; we could indulge our ranty selves. OK, that was just me, but we all of us just let it all out.

On the plus side; this is a surprisingly quick read – most of us read it in one or two sessions. It’s also a  page turner with only one member deciding not to finish it. It is also NOT the start of a trilogy. And for most of us, that was very good news.  I noted that it might be a good introductory book for YA who don’t enjoy reading, though this was countered*.

The dream sequences were interesting. I for one could have used more dreams and more familial history.

Another book clubber noted that the author had hoped to explore that period when teenagers learn that their parents are fallible; to articulate the conflicting emotions that can arise. Which is laudable. Good intentions and all.

Oh and there was no genuine stalking behaviour across the book. At no point did the primary male character follow the protagonist, or break into her bedroom, or restrain her. This was good. Seriously, as a book club; we’ve read quite a bit of YA fiction and to say we’ve been unimpressed by the prevalence of stalking as a POSITIVE undersells it somewhat. For the most part, characters interacted with one another as peers which would have been refreshing had it been better executed.

On the other hand…the reason that this was such a quick read was because the language was very basic. There was nothing challenging whatsoever in terms of this book.

As a book club, we’ve encountered quite a few books based on ancient myths. Perhaps the best received of these was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, closely followed by The Song of Achilles by Madelaine Miller. Many of us had also read one or the other of the Joanne Harris mythical books (Rune Marks and the Gospel of Loki). We all felt that this is a particularly fertile genera of fiction at the moment and that – at their essence – they can be assessed by how well portrayed the pantheons of Gods are and well developed the characters are.

We felt like this book was on very solid ground as a concept. Egypt – long a fascination for those of us in the Western World – has gone through a period of immense political and social upheaval. That’s before you take into account that Egypt is now predominantly Muslim and the fascinating intersections that could have been included. At every level, we thought that this book demonstrated a considerable lack of sensitivity in failing to even acknowledge the country that the book ostensibly opens in. Without any grounding or cultural exploration; the setting and nationality felt – at best – underdeveloped and tokenistic and – at worst – completely exploitative.

Regarding how the gods are portrayed; the primary character refers to her brother as Whore-Us the entire time. That’s one of the more mature depictions.

The misfires just kept on coming. With Egyptian and Greek Gods interacting, one might have expected a huge cultural clash or exchange or ANYTHING but – aside from increasingly stereotypical and one-dimensional portrayals – no; for some reason we were denied this interesting avenue. Instead, every conclusion reached was one predicted by us within the first few chapters. Not a single unexpected event, line of dialogue or act came as a surprise to any of us.

I don’t know anything about the author. This could have been a culture that she genuinely feels a connection to, but sadly that didn’t translate onto the page. It felt like the plot was all pre-set and the culture determined later and written in afterwards. Everything about this is homogeneous, not based in any sort of specific culture. At one point a reference is made to an ancient Egyptian language. It’s not even named, which just came across as both disrespectful and lazy writing. At another point – after the plot pointlessly pulls Isodora out of Egypt and sends her to San Francisco FOR NO REAL REASON WHATSOEVER – a character named Taylor comments to her that she looks as though pulled out of an exhibition and how Taylor wishes that she had a culture. We settled on the phrase othering and fetishizing that to boot over outright racism.

Isadora is beyond flimsy as a character. It is possible to have characters that – through no fault of their own – are oblivious to what is going on around them. We didn’t think that was the case here. Isodora is a character that it was difficult to made anything of. Her lack of maturity, inability to interact with her family in an honest or open way and selfishness might have felt like a realistic portrayal of a teenager if it weren’t coupled with an arrogant fatalism, utter entitlement and not-very-brightness. She never really sees what’s going on around her which was irritating as most of us figured out the Big Bad on the page that they were introduced. All together though, she is a pill.

One of the book clubbers positioned that Isadora’s parents might not have been well developed characters because Isadora never truly understood their motives. Others felt that the clubber was searching for a nuance that the writing did not suggest likely.

And for the record; museums – especially ones with famous priceless Egyptian artifacts arriving – don’t give keys to 16 year olds. Ever. And they don’t hold exhibitions like that either.

At least one of us felt that if she had read it at 13 years, she’d have enjoyed it. The thing is; I know that this reads harsh. We were harsh, but we were also genuinely frustrated. There were so many potentially great ideas briefly brought up and then discarded – many of them would have made really good tales. And as I mentioned above, we do actually read a lot of books written for younger readers (because we clearly do HUGE amounts of research for book club, many of us don’t realise that it’s YA until we’ve started it) and we take that into account when it comes to scoring. Also, we have an inherent respect for anyone who puts pen to page and actually creates something – we always have. That might not have been so clear in the write up but in person we did acknowledge that a few times (and we were in high spirits and good moods – all coming from a good place).

This isn’t an ‘evil’ book; it’s not even a terrible one. It’s merely bland. A beach read that you pick up, finish and forget all in a day.

*It was countered by saying that foisting this book on a YA might convince them never to read another book again. Which is harsh. But probably fair.


3.25 out of 10

For further details, please email me at or tweet me @LeedsBookClub

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And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCWSwan!

LBCPuffins review book 06 -Black Beauty

Black Beauty

by Anna Sewell

 About the book

A horse is a horse of course unless of course the horse is Black Beauty. Animal-loving children have been devoted to Black Beauty throughout this century, and no doubt will continue through the next. Although Anna Sewell’s classic paints a clear picture of turn-of-the-century London, its message is universal and timeless: animals will serve humans well if they are treated with consideration and kindness.   Black Beauty tells the story of the horse’s own long and varied life, from a well-born colt in a pleasant meadow to an elegant carriage horse for a gentleman to a painfully overworked cab horse.  Throughout, Sewell rails – in a gentle, 19th-century way – against animal maltreatment. Young readers will follow Black Beauty’s fortunes, good and bad, with gentle masters as well as cruel. Children can easily make the leap from horse-human relationships to human-human relationships, and begin to understand how their own consideration of others may be a benefit to all. Written in 1877

About the AuthorAnna_Sewell_Jugendbild

Anna Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. At the age of fourteen she injured both of her ankles in an accident, which meant that she could never walk properly again. Because of this she relied heavily on travelling in horse-drawn carriages, and it was from here that her love of horses grew. In 1871 Anna began writing a book aimed at encouraging more humane treatment of horses. Owing to her failing health the story took nearly seven years to complete but was eventually published in 1877. Sadly, Anna never got to know of the huge success of Black Beauty, her only book, as she died in 1878, five months after the book’s publication.





‘Do you think that personality and temperament are established by childhood experiences and fixed forever?.’

‘The story is narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir told by the titular horse named Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country.’

Black Beauty is a well know story for children about a horse who survives cruelty and hardship. Where  horses and animals can think to, they just can’t communicate like it stories of Narnia or because us humans can’t read the signs until it’s too late and nothing can be done.  As in another discussion of LBCPuffins, the book isn’t the story most of us remember. For a few members  it was first time of reading the book and some knowing the story from the film with Mark lester in. The film was made, not through talking animals but in the usual ways of humans communicating.

“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”

For one member of the group this was a childhood favourite, and it was one of those reads that created mixed feelings. Through this book club we have found how as adults we read differently to what we did when we were children. How as adults we bring so much to a book when we sit down to read it when really in some cases we should read like we did as children, and just absorb the story and read it for what it is. Re-reading Black Beauty for some of us, we donut it quite depressing and not what we remembered as a child. One member was a ‘horsey child’ and loved this book for it’s nature and realised that they must have read an abridged version, not remembering all this hurt and suffering. Another felt it red like a horse manual, teaching you how to present a horse and cart or put a blanket over a horses back. Another lesson was that a horse would only drink as much water as it needed and oats and barley were high spirited food so it’s best to stick to bran mash as that gives them a glossy coat and keeps them in check. However it is a story for children and it is about animals and we are very fond of them. The group found that we were all big softies at heart and almost shed a tear when the captain (horse) and Ginger (another horse) died.

Throughout the story the animals are portrayed almost like humans except they cannot speak and the human are seen as ignorant and at one point we can see if they just looked more closely into the animals eyes it might have been able to speak to them, that’s what it shows in most of the film versions of Black Beauty. Although most film versions are not suitable for a younger audience with all the images of cruelty and war and tall handsome men cue Colin Firth in Bridget Jones. The film shows more of the cruelty to the horses of the way they were treated as cab horses, because it was the fashion to be driven around by a horse,  cue Gee Gee cars for a taxi or lead to battle in the wars, and pulling things much to heavy for them.

In the end it was still a much loved book, Black Beauty went on many adventures, met quite a few cruel people, found some amazing friends and showed us it’s quality and not quantity we need.

“My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my friends under the apple trees.”

The book  was enjoyed by the group but did bring up mixed feelings from reading it as a child, but it does have  a happy ending which for children it is a good introduction to death, however like most books of it’s time some of the  group felt the writing is brilliant but a bit preachy for some readers, one of which did not turn up for the discussion.

and I end with:

“If you in the morning
Throw minutes away,
You can’t pick them up
In the course of a day.
You may hurry and scurry,
And flurry and worry,
You’ve lost them forever,
Forever and aye.”
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

Helen’s Roald Dahl challenge book 11 – The Witches

About the book
 “This is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Ronald Dahl has done it again! Winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, the judges’ decision was unanimous: “funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master” -Goodreads
About the Authorroald-dahl-640x360

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940’s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. read more at
See his legacy here
My review
*spoilers* *spoilers**spoilers*
In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.
‘A REAL witch is easily the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth!.’
This was and is my favourite Roald Dahl book from being a child. I only had three books of his growing up and I still adore it today. I have seen the film many times. As for the book and not reading it for so long I had to try distance myself from the film.  I loved re-reading this book.
Roald Dahl begins the story with a description on how to spot a witch, what signs to look out for:
Spotting a witch : She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness.  I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big “but”–not impossible.”
We then meet the hero of the story. A small boy who lives with his Norwegian Grandmother.  His name is never given in the book, but in the film he becomes Luke. He is often known as ‘my darling’ by his Grandmother who he goes to live with after his parents are killed.
To begin with their home is in England and plan to go to Norway until the boy’s Grandmother is taken ill. They are told if they wish to travel they can only go to the English coast for a holiday. This is where all the excitement begins. After his grandmother comes to stay in England after his parents are killed the boy is told stories about witches to take their mind off their troubles. Of course at first he doesn’t believe her, until one day he is in his treehouse in the garden and encounters one. Later in the story his Grandmother becomes ill and they’re advised to go on a trip to the coast. Off they go taking the boys pet mice and arrive at a hotel. One day he goes off to explore and finds an empty room, which he thinks he can use to train his mice, it is soon to hold a meeting for the Prevention of Cruelty to children and he thinks nothing off it. He finds somewhere to hide and gets practicing. Unfortunately the group enter a little while later and he is trapped. He soon discovers that the meeting is a cover for a meeting of witches and then the adventures begin.
What I loved about this book, apart from the story, of the boy, the heroics of good against evil, and again mentioned in other reviews of Roald Dahl books was his use of language and fast pace. It’s an exciting journey, where you get swept along and then spend days after wondering if witches are real and whether they do walk about in disguise. I liked his little life lessons,  how Dahl tries to get across that people aren’t always perfect, that we come in all shapes and forms, and how he points out that as long as we do good, good things will happen.
Again Quentin Blake creates some amazing illustrations for the book. My favourite is this of the grand High Witch, when they are in the first meeting, they’ve all took their wigs and shoes off and the Grand High Witch has taken off her ‘face’ to reveal a hideous creature underneath, and a witch chooses to question her about the grand plan and after much quarrel…. ZAAPPP!!! “A vitch who dares to say i ‘m wrong vill not be with us very long!” and the witch is reduced to ashes
Finally, I must mention something about the film, I’ve grown up with it and it’s still one of my favourites. I believe it to be very close to the book with its storytelling, although they have changed the ending slightly as they do with all films but that doesn’t spoil it. In fact it has so much from the book it always makes you want to re-read it, the adventure, the love and friendship between the boy (Luke) and his grandmother and of course the witches, perfectly portrayed.
The film
Location of hotel was the headland hotel in Newquay which I recognised on holiday one year. Here’s a piece off their website about film:91qkOSSJ4gL._SL1500_

The Witches The most famous film made on location in 1987 at the hotel is “The Witches” by Roald Dahl.

Anjelica Huston starred as the Grand High Witch and at that time her boyfriend was Jack Nicolson.  Enormous bouquets of roses would be delivered for her, and the girls on the switchboard would become very excited when he telephoned to speak to her, as there were no mobiles then.

Rowan Atkinson played the hotel manager, and he is very like Mr Bean in real life – rather eccentric. On one occasion he ran a bath and went to bed without turning the taps off. The flood reached the ground floor from his second floor bedroom and all the equipment (photocopier, electric typewriters etc) in the film’s production office in the first floor bedroom was written off. When the porter first knocked on Mr Atkinson’s door he was told to “go away, I am asleep”. The ballroom scene was filmed in the studios, the special effects of the witch combusting were deemed a bit dangerous. The mice were about the size of Spaniel dogs; they had to be large to fit in all the electronic equipment to make them work, this was before the days of computer animation. Rooms 223, 227 and 205 were used for some of the bedroom scenes. The pram pushed towards the cliff edge was the Armstrongs’ family pram which had been used for Veryan, Morwenna and George. Thousands of guests from all around the world have visited the hotel having seen the film and many wide eyed children look around for the mice.

For more information click here – The Headland Hotel

Thank you for reading


Helen’s Roald Dahl challenge book 10 – Fantastic Mr Fox

About the book

244280068_1381411209“In the tradition of The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, this is a “garden tale” of farmer versus vermin, or vice versa. The farmers in this case are a vaguely criminal team of three stooges: “Boggis and Bunce and Bean / One fat, one short, one lean. / These horrible crooks / So different in looks / Were nonetheless equally mean.” Whatever their prowess as poultry farmers, within these pages their sole objective is the extermination of our hero–the noble, the clever, the Fantastic Mr. Fox. Our loyalties are defined from the start; after all, how could you cheer for a man named Bunce who eats his doughnuts stuffed with mashed goose livers? As one might expect, the farmers in this story come out smelling like … well, what farmers occasionally do smell like.

This early Roald Dahl adventure is great for reading aloud to three- to seven-year-olds, who will be delighted to hear that Mr. Fox keeps his family one step ahead of the obsessed farmers. When they try to dig him out, he digs faster; when they lay siege to his den, he tunnels to where the farmers least expect him–their own larders! In the end, Mr. Fox not only survives, but also helps the whole community of burrowing creatures live happily ever after. With his usual flourish, Dahl evokes a magical animal world that, as children, we always knew existed, had we only known where or how to look for it.” –

img_mr_foxAbout the Authorroald-dahl-640x360

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940’s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. read more at
My review
*spoilers* *spoilers**spoilers*
Opening line:
“Down in the valley there were three farms. The owners of these farms had done well. They were rich men. They were also nasty men. All three of them were about as nasty and mean as any men you could meet. Their names were
Farmer Boggis, Farmer Bunce and Farmer Bean.”
Roald-Dahl---Fantastic-Mr-Fox44 Since I started these challenges and running LBCPuffins, I do wonder why a book is a certain length and why as adults certain fiction books have to have so much information in it to tell a story. Obviously a kids book couldn’t necessarily be 300 pages long, the child would get bored, but why can’t we have short to the point fiction books for adults like fantastic mr fox is?
These days I wonder if books are just written for the purpose that  it might be turned into a film one day, rather than it just being a book and the words never leaping to screen. Books provide us with small or large worlds which we can absorb ourselves in and escape from our daily chores.
Boggis, Bunce, and Bean one fat, one short, one lean. Those horrible crooks so different in looks are nonetheless equally mean.
I read this book in one sitting and loved every minute. I may have read this when I was younger as it seemed so  familiar but it could also be Dahl’s style of writing that makes me believe that.  We begin this story with three farmers who all very rich and have very different personalities, however they are all outwitted by the marvelous Fantastci Mr Fox and plot to get rid of him.
One day the farmers decide that they will sit outside the hole of the 1010575-_28fantastic Mr Fox and finish him once and for all. Of course Mr Fox is quite cunning and after finding the farmers digging down into their home the foxes start off on an adventure to save their skins and tiumph over the famers once and for all.
When I researched this book, there was a lot of questions asked about the moral of stealing. I was slightly shocked and the depth in which some of the articles had about this book. Surely it’s a children’s book to be loved and enjoyed.
“We can do it! You see if we can’t! So can you!” – The Small Foxes
I thought it showed teamwork and friendship and how different animals pulled together to beat their mutual enemy the farmers. The feast at the end was such a lovely picture, again illustrated by Quentin Blake, the black and white ink drawings hold as much suspense and Rolad Dahl’s writing. Another lovely marriage.
This book should be loved and enjoyed as a children’s book, a one to read to the little ones before bed. Not as something that is seen to teach them bad ways like some suggest. I recommend whther you have children or not to grab a copy and cheer on Fantastic Mr Fox as it one of the most fun reads I have had in ages.

Severus Snape – his chronology

9th January 1960 – 2nd May 1998


And then read this as a reality check – Nerds Doing Stuff – Snape is not a good guy

Helen’s Roald Dahl challenge book 04 – The Twits

About the book
How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything — except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don’t just want out, they want revenge.

Mr Twit hates his wife. Mrs Twit detests her husband. They like nothing more than playing wicked tricks on one another. Sooner or later, things are going to go too far…

Even in real life Roald Dahl was very suspicious of men with beards. He thought they must be hiding something sinister. Michael Rosen, who wrote a book called Fantastic Mr Dahl all about Roald and his stories, remembers that the first time he and Roald met, Roald told Michael’s son Joe that his beard was “disgusting.”

Mr Twit has a beard. His is dirty and has bits of food clinging to it. Quentin Blake’s illustrations in the original story show cornflakes, tinned sardines and even stilton cheese stuck in the bristles on Mr Twit’s face. In fact, he and his equally unlovely wife, Mrs Twit, are just about as horrible as can be – but there are a few characters who might just have found a way to outsmart this nasty pair…

The Twits, first published in 1980, may be about a pair of horrible twits, but it also features one of the most-quoted phrases in all of Roald’s books…

and a  piece from the Guardian here
About the Authorroald-dahl-640x360

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Norwegian descent, who rose to prominence in the 1940’s with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world’s bestselling authors. read more at
My review
What a great opening line – “What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays.”.  What a funny little story. I wasn’t sure what to make of this. two people who are married making war with each other. How peculiar. I think this was one of my Sister’s favourites, but I’m not sure.  Like Roald Dahl I don’t like beards. I don’t know why but it’s always stuck with me. In this case it’s of a man who apparently was born a twit who likes to play tricks on his wife and vice versa. There’s also, I hate to say it a touch of bullying and animal cruelty in it, but in the end the animals are smarter than the Twits and get their revenge and head back home to Africa.
I’ve not got much to say on this one but after a little research I found it was for 5-8 years olds so thats probably why it’s such quick paced and you could say to the point. Brilliant descriptions on the characters, so strong that you come to hate them and shout hooray! when the animals seek their revenge.
“So what I want to know is this. How often do all these hairy-faced men wash their faces? It is only once a week, like us, on Sunday nights? And do they shampoo it? Do they use a hair-dryer? Do they rub hair-tonic in to stop their faces from going bald? Do they go to a barber to have their hairy faces cut and trimmed or do they do it themselves in front of the bathroom mirror with nail-scissors?”
It’s a lovely book with fantastic illustrations from Quentin Blake and a beautiful tale by Roald Dahl. I can see why every one is so fond of him. He creates fantastic characters, There appears to be hidden morals in the stories perhaps only picked up later in life when we re-read them, and most of all they are a light-hearted read.
I think you should go pick up a book now and see what I mean.
And I leave you with this:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
Thank you for reading

Fancy Dress Ball – Compare Books to Film versions!

Recently, I was sent an email about a really interesting project and asked to include it on the blog. I eagerly agreed…then was completely distracted by World Book Night (Thursday, 23rd April, from 6pm at the White Swan Pub in Leeds City Centre, if you are interested!).

Apologies to Fancy Dress Ball for the delayed postage!

International Children’s Book Day

Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday, 2 April, International Children’s Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books.

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is a non-profit organization which represents an international network of people from all over the world who are committed to bringing books and children together.

Often ICBD is linked to celebrations around children’s books and other special events that may include encounters with authors and illustrators, writing competitions or announcements of book awards.

Fancy Dress Ball decided to embrace International Children’s Book Day and World Book Day (March 5th) by tackling one of the great debate topics of our age – BOOKS versus FILMS!

To aid in their deliberations, they created an infographic comparing books to their film adaptations.

Using IMDB and expert opinions, the graphic provides an interesting view on adaptations of well known classics. It also evaluates the preferred version… Have a peek and see if you agree! As you might imagine, I’m very pro-book…but it’s hard to argue that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz didn’t come into it’s own on the silver screen!

Here’s a look at some adaptations of Roald Dahl works (oooh, @LBCPuffins – thoughts?)

roald dahl

To view the full infographic on the Fancy Dress Ball blog  reviewing Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Jungle Book and Bambi – click HERE 

To have a read of their entry – click HERE

Thanks again for letting us know about this!


Fictional foods – yummy!

This morning I came across this article on Packed Lunch ideas from Fictional Foods which instantly made me hungry and prompted me to try and remember my favourite fictional foods.

Plants v Zombies

Plants v Zombies

I always wanted to go to one of the midnight feasts at Malory Towers (@isfromupnorth – you with me?) – though I’d avoid the hard boiled eggs that Enid Blyton seemed to find an essential ingredient of all young peoples meals. And if Aunt Marilla (Anne of Green Gables) had ever offered to bake for me – I’d have jumped at the chance!

I’m pretty sure that it was a similarly aged book that had me try nettle tea for the first time (result – my nana apparently used to greatly enjoy it, me…not so much!) though I can’t for the life of me think what it was! And of course the bitter disappointment that I felt upon first tasting Turkish Delight – after reading about it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – still pangs to this day.

Plum puffs - Aunt Marilla

Plum puffs – Aunt Marilla

A quick search on the internet lead me to Fiction Food – a website that is devoted to food stuffs found in books, comics, manga, tv and films – as well as Ficitonal Food – which appears to specialist in creating foods appropriate for particular fictional worlds – such as Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games (oooh, peeta’s cheese buns sounded good!) and Harry Potter (though I’m a bit like Hermione in that I’m not sure that I actually count the feasts – after all that was the (unpaid) work of Elves and not really something that I can actually replicate).

It’s probably important for me to point out now that I do NOT cook. Or bake. Nor have I ever demonstrated anything like a basic proficiency in the kitchen. However, I was so caught up in the world created by Fannie Flagg in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe that I’ve tried at least half of Sipsey’s recipes in the back of the book!

ff 01

What are your favourite fictional foods? Have you actually tried to make them? Did it work?

Also – any fictional foods that you just LOATHE? Lembas bread (Lord of the Rings) doesn’t count – bland ain’t always bad you know! The brain and noodle soup from iZombie does qualify – it sounds pretty awful to me!! I was always equally torn with regards to Roald Dahl – some of it sounded wonderful – other bits sounded just HORRIFIC!

*Just asked himself – he got the tip to add sherry into omlettes from Happy Like Barnacles.

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