‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis

This fantastic book really packs a punch. It has a great storyline set in an amazing fantasy world. I love the idea of it all. There’s a whole world of ideas here. Everything in the book just comes together so well. It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. At times it’s sad; at times its happy and so on. It has really great characters which, even though it’s a fantasy book, would not seem out of place in the non-fantasy world (with the exception of the supernatural creatures – who’d probably find our world weird!). The characters just seem to jump off the page and come to life in your head.

It’s set in England during World War Two where four siblings: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have moved to a professor’s house in the countryside to get away from German air raids (my Grandad was sent to Ireland, so I get this). They are a bit bored in the house (no TV!). To pass the time, they run around the house playing hide and seek. When I got to this bit, I started thinking: ‘where’s the wardrobe?’ You can’t help it – this is such a famous book. It was read to me when I was younger.

Anyway, Lucy decides to hide in a wardrobe (!) and it turns out this is a gateway to a mythical world called Narnia. In Narnia it’s winter. Lucy finds herself in this snowy place. She looks around and sees a strange man thing called Mr Tumnus. He’s a Faun (half man, half goat). Lucy is utterly shocked, but Mr Tumnus is extremely nice and kind to her. He tells her that Narnia is in winter all the time at the moment because of the evil snow queen. Lucy spends quite a while talking, but she gets cold and wants to go home. She walks back into the magic woods.

When Lucy gets back through the wardrobe into the professor’s house, it turns out she has only been gone for a minute; when she thinks it was hours! She thinks she has time to go in again and does, but this time Edmund follows her. His timing is terrible – the evil Snow Queen arrives and talks to him. She gives him magical Turkish delight and hot chocolate. The are so lovely they just make him want more no matter what. He’s addicted! He wants more so badly, he’ll do anything the snow queen wants. She keeps asking questions. He tells her about his family.

She promises him more of the magical treats if he brings his siblings to her. He agrees. It isn’t him who brings them to Narnia, its actually, if you can believe it, some sort of weird paranormal activity (Narnia is not a normal place and you get there in weird ways). They all find themselves in Narnia.

Almost as soon as they arrive, they meet a talking beaver who tells them to come to his house. When they get to the talking beaver’s, they talk about going to find Aslan the Lion at a place where there’s a stone table. I think Aslan is mean to be kind of like a god.

Edmund, being addicted to those treats, slips off to tell the Snow Queen where the others are and that they are going to the stone table. This time he doesn’t get more Turkish Delight; instead he gets bread and finds himself a prisoner. The Snow Queen sends some wolves to the beaver’s house. Luckily, they have already left and are on their way to the stone table. On the way, they meet Father Christmas who gives them all presents! Peter gets a sword, Susan gets a bow and quiver and Lucy is given a dagger and healing potion. This bit of the book makes you smile.

While that is happening, the Snow Queen is fast making her way after them. When the kids make it to the stone table, the Snow Queen’s wolves attack, but they are beaten by the forces of Aslan’s warriors. The free Edmund. They meet Aslan at the stone table. He talks to Edmund who realises what he has done.

Aslan also talks to the Snow Queen. Nobody realises it then, but Aslan has agreed to be sacrificed on the stone table. They move away from the stone table to the side of a river where they make camp. That night, the girls, Susan and Lucy, can’t sleep. They go with Aslan as he walks toward the stone table. They reach a point  where he says they cannot go any further; they follow him anyway and see him being sacrificed.

Aslan comes back to life through some magic (it’s not clear). They go to the Snow Queen’s palace to free prisoners who have been frozen in ice. There are a lot of prisoners- enough for a small army. This is good news, because Aslan needs them. There is a battle going on  between the Snow Queen’s army and Aslan’s forces. Peter and Edmund are fighting with Aslan. Peter is using his new sword. They win the battle.

For some reason the four siblings become the kings and queens of Narnia. It turns out that in Narnia time, they’ve been there for years. When they go back home to their world they are kids again and literally no time has passed since they went in.

I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy and adventure. Don’t be put off with it being an old book. It’s a famous book for a reason. It doesn’t seem old when you read it. It’s also a series of books and it has been turned into movies. C.S. Lewis is also an unusual and brave writer because in later books he gets rid of a few characters. Compare this to Harry Potter which keeps the same main characters throughout the entire series. I think this is a good idea as it leaves every kid thinking: ‘it could be me next!’

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘The Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a bit weird, but I enjoyed reading it. It’s got magic in it, but not like Harry Potter. I’ve seen an old Wizard of Oz film as well, so I kind of knew what the book would be like. It’s easy to see why it would make a film. It is an adventure into another place which has witches and wizards!

The book is about a girl called Dorothy who lives in Kansas in America with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. She lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere. One day it got really windy – really, really, really, windy – a thing called a tornado picks up Dorothy and Toto, her dog, and their whole house and blows them away. I think their farmhouse was made of wood. I’m glad my house is made of concrete and stuck to the ground, so it can’t blow away. They have a place called a “Cyclone Cellar” in the basement where they are meant to be safe, but it doesn’t help when the whole house is blown away!

The house, with them in it, lands in the Land of Oz It lands on top of the Wicked Witch of the East killing her. Another witch, a good witch (the “Good witch of the North”), comes over to Dorothy and says welcome most noble sorceress. She says the Munchkins – the people who live in Oz – it is “Munchkin Land” (I’ve been called a Munchkin by my Mum and Dad and that’s where the word comes from!) will be most grateful for her having killed the Wicked Witch.

Dorothy wants to go home and doesn’t know what to do. The good witch tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz who can help her get home. She gives Dorothy silver shoes (they are red in the film I saw). Dorothy and Toto start walking. Along the way they meet a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion.

It’s funny how Dorothy meets the scarecrow. He’s in a field on the side of the road and when she looks at him, be blinks. As they scarecrow’s face is painted on, she thought she was mistaken, but she wasn’t. None of the scarecrows in Kansas blinked! Then the scarecrow nodded. Dorothy climbs over a fence and walks over to the scarecrow with Toto running around barking. The scare crow then said good day. If I was Dorothy I would have been scared. Dorothy then speaks to the scarecrow and it’s ok.

They all want Dorothy to help them get to the Wizard of Oz who they say will help them get what they want. The scarecrow wants brains, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage (he is a cowardly lion). Dorothy helps them and they decide to follow her along the yellow brick road. When Dorothy meets the Munchkins they also think she is a sorceress and treat her well. Things happen along the way.

They arrive in the Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz says he will only help Dorothy if she kills the Wicked Witch of the West. They try but find it’s impossible as the witch has magic. The good witch helps Dorothy and stops her getting hurt by the wicked witch. I don’t really understand how she kills the wicked witch. I think it was by an accident.

Dorothy goes back to the Wizard of Oz who acts all weird. Dorothy finds out the Wizard of Oz is not a wizard – he’s just a normal man. He has just been pretending to be a wizard. He can’t keep his promise to help Dorothy get home because he doesn’t know how. He’s lost in the Land of Oz as well.

The scarecrow, tinman and lion are disappointed but the wizard tells them they already have the things they need inside them (wisdom, love and courage). The three insist they don’t, so he gives them tokens of each thing they want and they are happy.

To try to help Dorothy, the wizard offers to take her in a hot air balloon to Glinda the Good Witch of the South, who he says can help her. It turns out that the silver shoes Dorothy was given when she arrived in Oz are magic. They can take her home. They all say goodbye and Dorothy and Toto go home.

I like everyone in the book (even the Wicked Witch of the West), but my favourite character is Toto. Toto is a little dog – Dorothy’s best friend because she doesn’t have anyone else to play with. I liked him because he is cute, but also because he helps her not to be scared. She loses him once and gets him back. I liked Dorothy, but she is the main character and is in nearly every part of the book, so it is hard to remember everything she does. She is very brave and has to lots of scary things in this book. I wouldn’t like being taken to another world.

This is an old story but a very good one. I enjoyed it. I would read more books about the Land of Oz (there are lots more in the library). I am 8 and I was able to read it ok. It’s not a long book. It’s not really funny; it makes you smile though.

Review by Lara Buck aged 8. Edited by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Danny the Champion of the World’ by Roald Dahl

This is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books and he asked me to read it to see what I think. I like most of Roald Dahl’s other books, so I didn’t mind. They are easy to read and never too long. His books are deliberately written to keep kids turning the pages. It is really easy to imagine what is going on in the book. I found the book a bit old fashioned and I am not sure I’d have chosen to read it if I were picking books in the library.

It is about a nine year old boy called Danny. Danny doesn’t have a Mum. He lives with his Dad in an old wooden caravan beside a little garage they own. They fix cars and have fuel pumps.

Danny loves his Dad who is called William. They spend so much time together working in the garage (they are both always in dirty clothes!). Danny can already take a car’s engine apart and put it back together again. Danny has skills! Danny really looks up to his Dad. You can tell they love each other and that Danny’s Dad is as good as having both parents (he tells brilliant stories).

The way they live in a gypsy caravan is a bit funny. They don’t have electricity and I am not sure where they go to the toilet. I don’t know why they need to live like they are camping if they own a garage. I guess they are meant to come across as a bit poor. This is probably because their garage is in the middle of nowhere, with just a few customers.

Danny has a tough life. This is shown when his teacher hits him across his hand with a cane (teachers used to be allowed to do this) because he thinks he was cheating. Danny’s Dad goes mad when he sees the mark. He shouts: ‘Who did it?’ ‘Was it Captain Lancaster?’ Danny says: ‘Yes, Dad, but it’s nothing.’ I understand this. I’ve been in trouble in school and I wouldn’t want my parents to know about it or get involved. I felt sorry for Danny.

One night, Danny’s Dad isn’t home when wakes up when it is still dark. Danny is scared but waits and eventually his Dad arrives home. His Dad hadn’t expected him to be awake and has to tell Danny where he has been. It turns out he has been breaking the law. He went to poach (steal) pheasants (birds you can eat – rich people like to shoot them) from the big farm of a horrible rich man called Mr Victor Hazell. I am not interested in pheasants and wouldn’t eat one, so I don’t really get the point of stealing them.

Danny’s Dad hates Hazell because he is always so rude when he stops to buy petrol. Danny knows Mr Hazell doesn’t like him and his Dad. The book makes you feel the same way. I really wanted Danny and his Dad to steal the pheasants from Mr Hazell (though this makes me sound bad!).

Danny’s Dad used to go poaching when his Mum was alive. It was his favourite thing. After Danny’s Mum died, he had to look after Danny until he was old enough to leave him safely at home. He explained this to Danny and Danny said it was ok to go so long as he told him before he went!

One night when William goes poaching, he is gone so long that Danny starts to worry (he knows it is dangerous as William tells him he has been shot in the bum running away before!). Eventually, he thinks there must be something wrong and drives one of the cars they are fixing to where he thinks his Dad will be. This bit is funny and a bit scary, as you keep thinking one of them will get caught by the gamekeepers (the pheasant guards) or the police. Danny’s Dad has broken his ankle and Danny saves him.

After this episode, William and Danny hatch a dastardly plot to steal all of Mr Hazel’s pheasants and I mean all of them. I won’t tell you how or if they succeed. I’ll just tell you that this bit makes the entire book worth reading. Who do you think wins? The rich man or Danny and his Dad?

I think I might be a bit lonely if I were Danny and living just with my Dad (with no Mum, siblings and Danny doesn’t bring friends home from school – maybe he’s embarrassed). This book shows you how life can be fun and happy even when things are not great. Apart from the poaching, this book reads like a true story. It is a funny book – not laugh out loud (LOL funny), it just made me smile. I thought it might be funnier. I’d say it is a bit of an adventure story.

It’s quite an old book now (the inside cover says 1975) and I think this shows a bit. This would be a good book for a Dad to read a son when he is about 7 or 8.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Pippi Longstocking’ by Astrid Lindgren

I like this book. It is about Pippi’s life as a 9 year old girl in a house called ‘Villa Villekulla’ in Sweden. Pippi doesn’t have a Mum, Dad or any other relatives – I don’t know why. She lives  in her house by  herself, but she also has a pet monkey (Mr Nilsson). Her next door neighbours have two children and Pippi makes friends with them (their names are Tommy and Annika). They go to the circus, the park and other places like a hollow tree. Pippi is very strong and can lift up her horse – this is a bit silly. Pippi always wears two odd socks for some reason and has big black shoes (she wiggles her toes in them!). Her hair is always in two plaits. She is a bit like the girl ‘Annie’ from the movie. Pippi doesn’t go to school, so she doesn’t know how adults think kids should behave. She knows how to do lots of things though and she has a really good imagination and tells stories. She has been to lots of countries and cool places. Pippi loves being a kid. I think this is a book for girls, not for boys. It’s an easy book to read except for some words. I’d have liked this book to be read to me at bedtime. It’s a funny book and made me smile. It’s a bit big (202 pages!). I think this is an old book because there is a page at the back about Astrid Lindgren – with a photo of her – and it says the first book was published in 1945! The version I have is new though with pictures by Lauren Child (I’ve read lots of the ‘Charlie and Lola’ books!) – the pictures are great.

Review by Lara Buck aged 8.

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