The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

“A clockwork heart can’t replace the real thing.” ― Dru Pagliassotti

I received this book in my August Prudence and the Crow box, the book selection was a fantastic bit of luck, as I’d been really craving classic children’s literature – between you and me I’m becoming more and more convinced that Prudence and the Crow are able to read my mind. From the a quick look at the front cover and the name alone – I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover, right? – I was expecting story about a mouse that fell in love with a windup mouseling. I’m sure you get the idea, something similar to Pinocchio, but English – so, perhaps with afternoons spent playing in dolls’ houses pretending to drink tea. I could not have been more mistaken, but, far from being disappointed, I absolutely loved it.

The Mouse and His Child – Russell Hoban

“Where are we?” the mouse child asked his father. His voice was tiny in the stillness of the night.
“I don’t know” the father replied.
What are we, Papa?”
“I don’t know. We must wait and see.” 

the-mouse-and-his-childOn a cold winter’s evening a tin father and son emerge from a box to stand on display in a toy shop window. Outside the cold wind blows and tramp passes by, momentarily taken by the sight of the toys. Brand new, and confused, the mouse and his child struggle to comprehend what it means to be windup toys and the thought of the life that lays before them makes the poor child cry.

It is not long before they are swept away, bought by a family, destined for a life spent dancing beneath the Christmas tree – the life of a windup. It is a simple life, spent quietly fulfilling their duties; until they break the ancient clock-work rules and must face the consequences.

Discarded in the snow the mouse and his child begin a wholly different journey than the one written for them. They are rescued, repaired by a tramp, and chased by a terrible force that would see all windup toys turned to slaves. Through all that they endure the mouse and the child wish for only one thing, a place to call their own – a magnificent house, a mother, and a sister.

I wish I could say that I had read this book as a child. This is definitely a tale that will take on an entirely different meaning, and gain resonance as a person grows older. I spoke about the book with a colleague when I had just started reading it, and he said that he loved it as a child, but upon revisiting it as an adult realised, quite simply ‘wow, this is really deep stuff’. I could try and say it more eloquently, but that is the bare bones of it. The Mouse and his Child is an incredible tale of quest and determination for children, and when viewed with an adult’s mind it is absolutely brimming with philosophical thoughts, lessons, analogies, and big, gaping questions about life.

“All roads, whether long or short, are hard,” said Frog. “Come, you have begun your journey, and all else necessarily follows from that act. Be of good cheer. The sun is bright. The sky is blue. The world lies before you.” 

The humanity of Hoban’s characters is truly incredible. The authors has taken windup toys and elevated them to the next level. Each toy, however minor their role in the tale, has its own unique drive and personality: the once-proud elephant, now plushless, and with the missing ear and eye patch; the tin seal, long separated from her colourful ball; the sweet child, forever asking questions, always looking, and understanding; and even the donkey – the poor, poor, donkey – who once dared to complain. These creatures may be made of clockwork, but they are no less human than you and I. They are exhausted, frightened, frustrated, despondent, sentimental, joyous, hopeful, and forever working towards their goals. Life throws its hurdles, and each one is tackled, even if it does take a short lifetime. Can you imagine what it would be like to spends years at the bottom on a pond? Through all this, they grow stronger, never losing sight of their aims, growing, learning and interacting with all whom cross their path. Just one more step, they will get there in the end.

The mouse and his child, who had learned so much and had prevailed against such overwhelming odds, never could be persuaded to teach a success course… The whole secret of the thing, they insisted, was simply and at all costs to move steadily ahead, and that, they said, could not be taught. 

The Mouse and his Child is a truly phenomenal children’s book, which has just as much, if not more, to offer to adult readers. I feel really thankful to have discovered this book, and look forward, truthfully, to a time when I can share it with the children in my life.

Monday motivation

There is no better way to start the week than with a special delivery from Prudence and the Crow.

Added bonus – it’s Halloween themed! Amazing!

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Myths of the Norsemen – Roger Lancelyn Green

“The reading eye must do the work to make them live, and so it did, again and again, never the same life twice, as the artist had intended.” ― A.S. Byat

Myths of the Norsemen – Roger Lancelyn Green

I received this book in my second Prudence and the Crow box. I’ve never read much in the way of Norse mythology, so I was eager to see what the book had in store for me. I signed up to Prudence and the Crow hoping to expand my reading list, so really I couldn’t ask for a better book choice.

In the very beginning of time, so the Norsemen believed, there was no Earth as we know it now: there was only Ginnungagap, the Yawning Void. In this moved strange mists which at length drew apart leaving an even deeper Gap, with Muspelheim, the Land of Fire, to the south of it, and Nifelheim, the Land of Mist, to the north of it.

norseIn Myths of the Norsemen, Roger Lancelyn Green has taken the surviving Norse myths, collected from Old Norse poems and tales, and retold them as a single, continuous narrative. The entire Norse timeline is covered, offering a complete and concise history of the Aesir and their dealings with the Giants of Utgard, from the planting of The World Tree, Yggdrasill, right up to the last great battle Ragnarok.

This book is serves as more than just a story; it is a journey through the Norse lands, from beginning to end. Along the way the reader is introduced to famed Norse figures: the great God Odin, who wandered Norse lands seducing and impregnating women; the all-powerful Thor, just one of Odin’s many children; the mischievous, shape-shifting Loki; as well as brutal giants, scheming trolls, and bizarre creatures lurking in far corners of the Earth. With each passing saga the pressure in the book increases, signifying the approach of Ragnarok, and mirroring the battles fought by gods of Asgard. With each passing story the spirit of Ragnarok grows stronger, and the great serpent Jormungand begins to tremble, signalling the beginning of the end.

The tale stood out for me amongst all others was ‘Thor’s Visit to Utgard’, when the great god was challenged by the giants to prove his strength. Before the watchful eyes of the giants Thor failed to drink even a small amount from the king’s horn of ale, could lift only a single paw of the king’s pet cat, and fell to his knees at the hands of the king’s old nursemaid. While Thor lay ridden with shame at his failings, the giants sat in deadly peril, having witnessed the mighty Aesir drink so deeply from the sea as to cause the first ebb tide, come close to raising the Mitgard serpent, and refuse to fall before Old Age herself. This tale is so full of passion and emotion – the giants’ diabolical treachery, the ingrained fear, not just of the giants, but Thor himself, and the sheer power exhibited by the Aesir simply radiated from the pages. I couldn’t help but tremble at the thought of Thor unknowingly lifting the Mitgard serpent and bringing about Ragnarok.

The 15 tales in Myths of the Norseman will each speak to different readers. While I was moved most of all by one in particular, each separate saga has its own intrinsic appeal. I was fascinated by the -tale of beautiful Iduna and her basket of strength-giving apples, devastated by the death of Balfur at the hands of his blind brother, and increasingly infuriated by the impish yet malicious traitor Loki. There is so much to love about this book, and each of the tales nestled within its pages.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Myths of the Norseman. The book is entertaining, enlightening, and exceptional readable, as a whole, and on a story by story basis. The tales collected and retold by Lancelyn Green present an excellent introduction to the ancient Norse myths, and a deeper understanding of how such tales helped to shape modern literature.

Prudence and the Crow – August subscription

It’s that time of the month again!

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I’m over the moon with the latest book, The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoburn. I’ve been really craving classic children’s literature of late so I can’t wait to get started on it. What’s more, included in the box was a sachet of my new favourite tea, Buttermint (I had a sample in my first PATC box and let Prudence know how much I enjoyed it). This box goes to show that PATC are tailoring the boxes to suit me, which is exactly what you want from a subscription like this!

I could not be happier 🙂

The Crystal Gryphon – Andre Norton

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.” ― Baltasar Gracián

My first vintage paperback courtesy of the Prudence and the Crow subscription introduced me to the wonderful world of Andre Norton and the fantastical realm of the Witch World series. It was so much fun receiving, and reading, a book I probably would have never experienced without the help of Prudence and the Crow. I’m so glad I found the service, and so happy to have found a new author to explore.

I was as keen-eared as any child who knows that others talk about him behind their hands. And I had heard the garbled stories of my birth, of that curse which lay upon the blood of Ulm, together with the hint that neither was my mother’s House free of the taint of strange mixture. The proof of both was perhaps in my flesh and bone. I had only to look at the mirror of Jago’s polished shield to see it for myself.

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The Crystal Gryphon is the story of Kerovan, heir to the throne of Ulmsdale, who, thanks to the circumstances and result of his birth, is set apart from the regular folk in the Dales. When Kerovan’s mother gave birth to him she did so sheltered in a ruin of the ‘Old Ones’, mysterious folk who once inhabited the Dales, and Kerovan was born with the cloven feet of cattle and eyes the colour of deepest amber. Kerovan’s mother, the Lady Tephana, swore she could never love such a creature, and Kerovan was forced to grow up living apart from his birth family, with Jago – a keepless man of good birth.

With Jago Kerovan learns the arts of war. But it is the Wiseman Riwal that nurtures Kerovan’s true passion; a thirst for knowledge of the secrets of the past. With Riwal Kerovan travels to places feared by the folk of the Dales, looking for answers. On one such journey Kerovan comes upon a mysterious crystal pendant, adorned with a gryphon, and feels compelled to send the relic to the wife he has never met, the Lady Joisan. Across the land,  Joisan treasures the relic, and dreams of the husband she will one day meet. But in the year of the Moss, when Joisan is due to take up her wifely duties, a bloody war sweeps through the land as the Dales fall victim to an invasion from the sea. The keep at Ulmsdale is betrayed and Kerovan sets off across the Dales to find his betrothed whose own home has been destroyed.

The developing relationship between Joisan and Kerovan forms the base of the main storyline and the chapters of the book alternate, being told by Kerovan and Joisan in turn. Despite having never met, Joisan and Kerovan each harbour a certain fondness for each other, each of them drawn, and warmed by the other. As though they are bonded by something stronger than the laws which connect them as husband and wife, a deeper presence draws them to one another. Even when Joisan mistakes Kerovan for one of the Old Ones, you can tell that she is drawn towards him, the strange ‘Lord Amber’, despite not knowing his true identity.

Norton uses Olde English-style dialogue, and a medieval-type setting to create a spectacular backdrop for a strange, dark and somewhat frightening fantasy world. From the start I was completely absorbed by the mystery surrounding the Old Ones. I can imagine the parts of the world that were inhabited by this mysterious race of beings appearing like a ghost town, deserted, but with an ominous presence alluding to troubled past. I am fascinated by old buildings and the remains of ancient civilisations, so the idea of there being such relics, buildings and ruins dotted across the countryside, which tell only part of the tale of a whole different existence is really quite mesmerising to me. I was so easily drawn into Kerovan’s travels, and got completely caught up in the mystery of his fantasy world. The whole way through The Crystal Gryphon I was desperate to know more about the Old Ones, and the world that they inhabited.

Thank goodness it is only the first of a trilogy! The Crystal Gryphon is a wonderfully mysterious and gripping tale, which combines the fantastical with the uncanny, and at times borders on the downright creepy. I don’t know what more to say other than I loved it and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trilogy has in store.

Reviews to come and things to smile about

Ok guys, I know I’ve been a little quiet the last few weeks. The truth is, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather and decided to take some time off. I’ve been doing lots of reading, but not so much writing.

The good news is I am feeling much better 🙂 and I hope to post a review or two very soon. You can expect some sci-fi, historical fiction and a little bit of mystery in the mix.

Also, my second Prudence and the Crow box came this weekend – and I love it!

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Last month’s book, The Crystal Gryphon, was pretty incredible (review to come). I’ve got high hopes for this one, I do love a bit of mythology, here’s hoping it lives up to my expectations!

Prudence and the Crow – A vintage book subscription box

Is there anything more wonderful than treating yourself to a new book?

I think I may have found something.

Last month a friend introduced me to Prudence and the Crow, a little london-based company which offers monthly subscriptions of vintage paperbacks.

She pretty much had me at the Crow.

…I’m sorry, that was terrible.

Anyway, after visiting their elegantly designed website and learning a little more I wasted no time in signing up. A vintage paperback and extra SURPRISES for only £12 a month, seriously, you’d have to be an idiot, or some kind of book-hating weirdo, not to get in on this.

Today my first package arrived and I am fairly sure I have never been so excited in my entire life. The envelope alone was enough to get me to screaming like an excited school girl. A mystery book, selected especially for me!

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Check out my haul!

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The box was filled to bursting with all kinds of treats including a handmade book bag and bookmark, Prudence and the Crow library card, motivational mini postcard and a collectible tea card featuring an English spindle tree. I also got some interesting tea samples and a few sweets adorably packaged in a striped bag and sealed with a triceratops sticker.

I love every, single thing.

But of course the star of the show is my very own, handpicked vintage paperback – The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton

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I’ve never heard of Andre Norton, but I am super stoked to try this one out.

Kerovan of Ulmsdale is born different from other children: he has small hoofs instead of feet, and his strange eyes are the colour of amber. Fearful tales spread about Kerovan – but is he really a monster, or has he inherited some of the power of the mysterious Old Ones who inhabited his country long ago? And what about the potent magic of the crystal globe he sends to the bride he has never seen?

The blurb-cover combo on this book has me well and truly intrigued. I’m moving this straight to the top of my ‘to read’ list, so I’ll let you know what I think really soon!

In the mean time, get on over to Prudence and the Crow and treat yourself!