Wednesday, February 3, 2010

4th February Russell Hoban (1925)

I have had some of the best Aidan Chambers' Book Talk sessions with books written by Russell Hoban. I love looking at the language in How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen. I have had groups of children try to play and or write rules for the games depicted in it. I have had groups of children laugh out loud at Aunt Fidget Wonkham-Strong and argue at great length about her bustle and iron hat and what she keeps in them. The two books about Tom and Captain Najork are 'not to be missed' books.

Another one that works equally well with classes is Ace Dragon Ltd, also illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is fun to discuss what Ltd stands for and then once the readers know to ask whether they think Ace was indeed limited. The concept of the moon being made of gold and being able to turn it into straw leads to comparisons with the fairytale Rumplestiltskin.

And lastly how could anyone ignore the books about Frances the badger. We don't have badgers in Australia, but that is irrelevant to enjoying these books. Frances could be any animal because she is just such a great example of anthropomorphism. Children relate to her rivalry with her sister, with her stalling of bedtime and her reluctance to try new foods and laugh at her. They wouldn't laugh at a child who does that because it would be too close to home. These stories were first published in the sixties but they have certainly stood the test of time. They are illustrated by his then wife, Lilian Hoban and in 1992 more colour was added to her original illustrations. Look for Bread and Jam for Frances, A Baby sister for Frances and my favourite Bedtime for Frances.

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