Books at Bedtime: Reading Challenge (Update 2!)

It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since my first update on our rising to the PaperTigers Reading Challenge but it has and we are just about managing to keep up! Our three books this month are all very different and once again Big Brother and Little Brother have prepared their own reviews. It is quite coincidental that both their ‘solo’ books are illustrated by Ed Young – and that they both feature piercing eyes on their front covers!

The Select Nonsense of Sukumar RayMeanwhile our joint choice has been The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray. We still have quite a long way to go and I suspect we’ll be dipping into it right to the end of the Challenge: you can’t rush Nonsense Poetry! Each poem has to be savored and the sounds enjoyed. Sukanta Chaudhuri’s translations from the original Bengali are truly amazing – lots of delightful rhymes and rhythms; and nonsense that is both nonsensical and convincingly English. Sukumar Ray’s own sketches and silhouettes sometimes give a visual lead into the poems and it hasn’t worried my two that some of the language is archaic: they expect to be baffled because it is, after all, nonsense! I think the word porcochard from “Hotch Potch” is set to become a new family word. But of course this is a translation – and here is another version, equally virtuoso, of the same poem, this time translated by Sukumar Ray’s son, Satyajit Ray. Here the extraordinary combination of a pochard/duck and a porcupine has become a “Porcuduck”…. Which of course leads into all sort of questions about translations… but that’s for a later date!

SadakoBig Brother’s book was Sadako in the picture book version by Eleanor Coerr, illustrated, as I said, by Ed Young. I said how much I was looking forward to seeing this book in a post for World Peace Day; here’s what Big Brother (aged 9 ½ exactly!) has to say:

It’s about a young girl who was picked for a racing team but she got ill and it turned out she had leukaemia from the atom bomb that exploded in the centre of the city Hiroshima. Her name was Sadako Sasaki . The story is special because there is a legend about paper cranes that if the ill person made 1,000 paper cranes, the gods would grant their wish and make them well again. Sadako dies just before she made 1,000 but her class mates made all the others that she missed out, so that she could be buried with 1,000 cranes. Now some people in Hiroshima believe that her wish half came true because she lived in the hearts of the people who loved her and now there is a huge statue in Peace Park of Sadako and she’s holding a huge silver crane. Every year on Peace Day people make thousands of paper cranes and put them at the base of the statue. I actually quite liked the pictures, the way they were drawn because the colors sort of melted into each other. I’m very glad I’ve read it but it was a sad story and a true story. My next-door-neighbor has been very kind and has given me some special Japanese paper and I’m going to try and make some paper cranes.

Lon Po PoAnd Little Brother (now 7) enjoyed reading Ed Young’s Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China:

It’s like the story of LRRH because the children keep on making remarks about bits of the wolf. It is different because they don’t go and see Po Po (the grandmother), their mother does, and the wolf comes over to their house and pretends to the children that he’s their Po Po coming to visit. The story was quite funny because the wolf pretended to be Po Po and he kept on using funny phrases like “The chicks are in the coop” to try and sound sweet – but he was actually being mean. In the end the wolf wants some gingko nuts. While they pretend to try and pull him up, they drop him once, twice, thrice! The third time not only does he bump his head but he smashes his heart and their mother comes back. I liked it because it was a fairy tale and the pictures looked quite spooky. You can see that the wolf is evil because of his eyes.

We are so enjoying our arm-chair travels around the world – I’m not sure where we’ll be next month but we’ll keep you posted! Meanwhile, do let us know what books you’re enjoying at the moment. What corners of the world have your bedtime stories been delving into?

3 Responses to “Books at Bedtime: Reading Challenge (Update 2!)”

  1. Janet Brown Says:

    Once again wonderful reviews from The Two Brothers! Of course I’m biased in favor of anything that comes from Ed Young, but these two writers do him more than justice–Lon Po Po is one of my all-time favorites and Sadako is amazing and each brother conveys the essence of these books in a way that makes me envious of their skill.