Tag Archive for Lloyd Christopher

Quick Gift Guide: Books

Are you still stuck for Christmas gifts? Perhaps it’s not for Christmas, but a seasonal present. I’m always pleased to receive a book – and trust me I already have a few! Here are some eclectic titles that have nothing to do with Christmas, which various family members might like:

the boy and the bear
For the very young:
The Boy and the Bear by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini
There’s a wintry feel with this delightful picture book about unlikely friendship, and patience. With glowing silver snowflakes on the cover, and a boy in a woolly hat holding hands with an adorable bear, the book gives a warm fuzzy feeling from the start. The story has an old-fashioned timeless feel, the boy running in the countryside flying a paper aeroplane with satchel swinging from his hip. There is not a screen in sight. Nor a friend either. But there is a shy bear. Although seemingly incompatible (in the most adorable ways), the pair strike a friendship, which has to take a hiatus for hibernation. The matching of text to illustration strikes perfection here. There is humour, pathos, a conveyance of the passing of time, and so much emotion. I suggested this for the very young, but if you’re young at heart, you’ll love this too. An absolute gem of a picturebook. You can buy it here.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn

For the unicorn-obsessed (and others)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (7+)
This glittery pink full length comic strip novel tells a cute story in simple sharp lines, with jokes a-plenty, and will enthral youngsters with its tale of Phoebe and her vain mythical animal companion. Phoebe skips a rock across a pond and accidentally hits a unicorn in the face. The unicorn, until then completely absorbed in its own reflection, is thankful for the distraction and grants Phoebe a wish. She wishes for the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, to be her obligatory best friend. And thus the adventures begin. As you’ve noticed from the name of the unicorn, there’s more than a hint of mischief here, but the book also bears a special message about overcoming loneliness and finding one’s own strengths and virtues. This is a lot of fun, and because the comic strip maintains focus on the key characters rather than deviating too much into the landscape, and the strips are self-contained, the story is easy to follow for reluctant readers. The newest full length comic strip title is Phoebe and Her Unicorn in Unicorn Theater. Sweet and sugary, and reminiscent of My Little Pony with a bit of attitude, this is a US title now available here.

the ink house
For the appreciative art fan:
The Ink House by Rory Dobner (8+)
This isn’t a usual picture book. More a unique curiosity through the artist’s mind as he seeks to explore the insides of The Ink House, an intricately designed mansion built on a pool of ink, in which a party of animals is due to take place, after the human resident takes off in a hot air balloon to search for further knickknacks to add to his treasured collection.

The illustrations, in ink of course, are amazingly detailed and stunningly imagined. There’s a darkness, a gothic tendency in the drawings, and the feeling is that each stroke is penned as delicately as if he were crafting a poem. The story isn’t really a story – just a menagerie of animals within a setting, and the scenes in which Dobner showcases the house in most detail work best. The mouse on the desk with piles of books, clocks, candle, quill pen; the ape in armchair with guitar, old-fashioned tea set, and gramophone showcases the neat juxtaposition between old and new, distorting one’s expectations and reality; the horses in the tiled hallway complete with pillars and a view onto the gardens. The artwork is disturbing, disjointed and wonderful, justifying the purchase even if the text is a little clunky. My advice – add your own words to the pictures, and tell the story in your head. You can buy it here.

absolutely everything

For everyone:
Absolutely Everything by Christopher Lloyd, illustrated by Andy Forshaw
The author of this conversational tome is nothing if not ambitious. The contents of this nonfiction narrative span from the Big Bang through dinosaurs, homo sapiens, ancient civilisations, the classical empires to the medieval, age of exploration, revolutions, wars and onwards. Everything in fact. The tone is avuncular, as if you’ve asked a favourite relative to let loose – tell me about the ancient Greeks, Chris…In this chapter, Lloyd starts with an anecdote about an olive, which merges into why olive oil was so precious, then onto slaves, democracy and war…you can see how the narrative flows from one idea to another, incorporating facts, events and stories. Each section is colour-coded for easy reference and there are colour visuals throughout, from illustrations adorning the text to photos, maps, timelines etc. There’s a nice linear progression to the book, an understanding of how one thing in history leads to another (although this is definitely Western civilisation’s history), and an over-riding infectious enthusiasm to explore how societies linked up, how the world became global. Engrossing and all-encompassing. Give as a gift, and keep a copy for yourself. The sort of book to stop you getting bored in the holidays. You can buy it here.

Remember Your Rights

whatonearth science magna carta what on earth

When I went to school, subjects were compartmentalised. Kings and queens were history, and mountains and valleys were geography. Finding out where the Vikings landed was history, not geography, whereas Isaac Newton was studied in physics, not as a historical father of the Enlightenment.

magna carta pull out

So when I first encountered Christopher Lloyd’s What on Earth? Timelines I was intrigued by the mix of learning – laid out in a timeline so that you could track that in 1905 Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was published in the same year that Koch received the Nobel Prize for identifying bacteria as disease-carrying agents, just four years after Marconi first broadcast radio across the Atlantic. When you look at things like this, you can start to link events across a spectrum of subjects that make interesting comparisons and links. It inspired me to discover that this was the year that the Russian Tsar Nicholas II granted Russia’s first constitution, but Huckleberry Finn was banned from the Brooklyn Library for setting a ‘bad example’.

Then I heard that Christopher Lloyd was making a Magna Carta themed timeline, drawing a web through history from a single document transcribed 800 years ago this year, extrapolating a litany of freedoms and rights that involve nature and luck as much as heroes and heroines in history. Without the rats bringing the Black Death, would feudalism have ended? Without John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, would Thomas Jefferson have drafted The Rights of Man?

The timeline is starkly visual, with line drawings of famous figures and objects in history, colour coded to denote geography, and dated along the bottom line so that parallels can be drawn across continents. The Magna Carta Chronicle has a guide to the Salisbury Cathedral document itself on the back – as well as, like the other What on Earth Timelines – newspaper articles telling the stories of famous moments in history. This is a great textual way of bringing history to life, and stems from Christopher’s past career as a journalist.

The Magna Carta timeline has been donated to 21,000 primary schools, funded by charitable donations to the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee, which is a worthwhile enterprise. The other What On Earth? Timelines, including Natural History, Science and Engineering, and Shakespeare, to name a few, are also available – I personally like the Science and Engineering best. When showing them to schools, myself and other librarians have been struck by how dynamic and accessible they are for children – but if for school rather than home use, would probably warrant the more expensive laminated copies – otherwise the stretchy timelines could be torn by over enthusiastic readers.

In a time when I’ve decried the lack of decent non-fiction available for children, it’s good to have someone looking at how children absorb facts, and trying to use creativity to invent new ways of presenting pertinent information, drawing links between things that help our understanding and pique our curiosity.

You can purchase from Amazon on the side bar or by clicking here for the Science and Engineering Timeline, or here for the Magna Carta Timeline.