Just a touch Spooky, Just Right for the Season

Halloween is on the way, and some spooky reads are certainly in order. I haven’t really read very many ‘ghost’ or ‘horror’ stories, so the books on the list I’ve put together, don’t quite fall in that category–perhaps they are more mysteries than horror–but most do have something that makes them right for the season. So here goes. (This might have a few minor spoilers).

 

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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the third of four full-length novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. Here Holmes and Watson are called by a Dr. James Mortimer to look into the mysterious death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville who was found dead on his estate with an expression of horror on his face. The footprints of a giant hound are found nearby, and there is the story of a curse on the family. Sir Henry Baskerville the the new heir, and Dr Mortimer fears for his life. Of course, there are mysterious happenings soon after Sir Henry arrives from Canada, including an anonymous note warning him away. I read this book a few years ago after a long gap, and I loved the atmosphere, which is perfect for this season.

Incidentally, I would also recommend the version on the TV show Sherlock  (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) which was one of its episodes (The Hounds of Baskerville) I really enjoyed. The spookiness was done very well, and the solution was pretty interesting as well.

 

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Jane Eyre on a spooky list? No I didn’t just put this in simply because it’s one of my favourite books. This is of course the story of a orphan Jane Eyre who after sometime in the care of some horrendous relations, is sent to an as awful school (luckily with a few redeeming features) and then finds herself at Thronfield Hall, the home of the Rochesters as governess to a young girl, Adele. But things at Thornfield Hall are not quite as they seem, mysterious noises at night and further frightening occurrences indicate a secret. Not only these elements, but some of those symbolic ones like the storm and the splitting of the tree, definitely make this one for the season.

(On this account may be Wuthering Heights will also fit in, but I really don’t like that book one bit).

 

Dial a ghost

 

Though a few of Eva Ibbotson’s young person’s books would fit in here, Dial a Ghost is one I read recently, and this certainly makes for a Halloween read. While this is not scary in any way, ghosts and ghouls are among the main characters including a pair of shriekers, who love to smear blood around, harm children, and of whom Lady Sabrina wears a python around her neck. I found this a really enjoyable read, and if you’re looking for something with spooks but which is still light-hearted and fun, this one is a good choice.

 

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This penny dreadful is the tale of Lieutenant Thornhill who goes into a barber shop run by Sweeney Todd and disappears never to be seen again. Others have vanished the same way. Thornhill’s friend Col. Jeffrey and Joanna Oakley set out to investigate, and how Thornhill and others disappeared and where they ended up (especially the latter) is definitely horrifying if one doesn’t know it already (even if one does, really), and perfect for a Halloween read.

 

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In this short story by Agatha Christie (part of the Regatta Mystery and Other Stories), a man sees a vision of a beautiful young woman being strangled by a man with a scar. Later he meets and falls in love with her, and noticing that her fiance has a scarred neck, warns her off. But fate cannot be defeated all that easily, as the man (and the reader) finds out in this chilling short tale.

In a Glass Darkly is also the name of a collection of supernatural stories by J. Sheridan le Fanu, which also certainly fits the bill, but since I haven’t read these yet, I am not including in this list. But if you’ve read it, or plan to, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

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And finally,

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Another short story, Royal Jelly by Roald Dahl is about a young couple whose new baby is very weak and does not eat. To get it to do so, they try something innovative, but the results… well, that’s why its on this list! Definitely an element of the creepy, as is apparently the rest of the collection, it’s part of but I haven’t read.

I also have to mention two collections that I haven’t read so far, but which are definitely perfect for the season.

 

 

These two story collections bu Daphne Du Maurier are ones I definitely want to read and they promise to be bone chilling and surprising. So this seems to have turned into a list of not only recommendations, but a ‘want to read’ one as well!

So, have you read any of the books on this list? Did you find them spooky or simply mysterious. What are your Halloween reading plans? Any spooky or bone-chilling titles you’d like to recommend? Looking forward to hearing all about them!

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Shelf Control #16

Shelf Control

 

Another Wednesday, and time again for Shelf Control. This is a feature I’ve borrowed  from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies,and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR.  All one has to do is to pick a book from one’s TBR, and write a post about it (usually what it’s all about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such, but I guess it’s up to you really).

This week’s pick:

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Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.

What this is all about: This is of course a children’s book, and its all about this little boy called Ben who is sent to spend the night at his grandma’s house. She is your typical grandma with white hair, false teeth, tissues tucked up her sleeve, and Ben hates to go to her house because “Her TV doesn’t work, all she wants to do is play Scrabble and she stinks of cabbage”. But she isn’t all that ordinary really, because she also happens to be an international jewel thief, and from what I can see on the Ben probably joins her.

My edition and when I bought it?: This is actually one of the newest additions to my shelf and I got it only a couple of weeks ago. I have the 2011 paperback published by Harper Collins Children’s books, and illustrated by Tony Ross.

Why I want to read it: I came across David Walliams books either on goodreads or while book shopping online and they not only looked like fun, they dealt with some interesting themes, homelessness, a rich boy who has all the money in the world but no friends, cross-dressing, etc. So when I found some of the titles on sale recently, I decided up pick one up.

About the author: David Walliams is a writer and actor, also a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. He has written 11 children’s novels, and also a bunch of picture books. His first book The Boy in the Dress was illustrated by Quentin Blake; the rest by Tony Ross.

Have you read Walliams’ books? Which ones and How did you like them? Have you read Gangsta Grandma? Any other recommendations? Looking forward to hearing about them.

 

 

 

 

If Beatrix Potter Really Loved Animals, Then…

Beatrix Potter is an author I’ve enjoyed since I was a child, and I continue to love her stories and illustrations. She has written 23 different tales and some other books as well, but this post is not about her as an author (I do want to do a separate post on her, being an author whose works I really enjoy); instead this one is about something that I keep thinking when I read her stories. It is a rather minor point so I even wondered whether it’s worth a post (of its own) at all, but am writing it all the same. But a warning, this post is not spoiler free, so if this bothers you, don’t read on.

 

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The 1902 cover of Peter Rabbit

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So I’ve read about nine of Potter’s animal stories (or at least remember these) and have about fourteen–one lot in a collected The World of Beatrix Potter–plus a few individual books. I love the stories, and from the illustrations one can clearly see how closely she observed the various animals she drew, and also her love for them. Her characters are animals of course, but anthropomorphic and combine their animal characteristics with some human behaviour and certainly, human dress and mannerisms–some translated to their animal equivalents.

 

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Mrs Tiggy Winkle with her Iron

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Mr Jeremy Fisher

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But anyway, to the point of this post, while I do love Potter’s animals and their stories, I can help but wonder, why is it that all (or nearly all) of her animals end up getting in so much trouble, either spanked or sent to bed by their parents (like Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny; and Tom Kitten and his sisters), having their tails yanked off (like Squirrel Nutkin) or their eggs eaten up (like Jemima Puddleduck). Mr Jeremy Fisher has terrible luck on his fishing expedition, being turned nearly into a trout’s dinner, and himself ending up serving roasted grasshopper with ladybird sauce to his guests instead of minnows freshly caught. Tom Kitten fares no better in his second adventure, and is turned into an almost roly-poly pudding by Mr Samuel Whiskers.

 

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Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny after a whipping from the latter’s father.

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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And Squirrel Nutkin minus much of his Tail (Mr Brown the Owl has it as you can see)

Image source: Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Mr Jeremy Fisher with his dinner guest, Sir Issac Newton

Image source:Beatrix Potter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of the Beatrix Potter stories I’ve read, Mrs Tiggy Winkle is the only one which is pleasant throughout (this is such a sweet story and one of my very favourites). Another is perhaps Pigling Bland who manages to get away, more or less by the skin of his teeth with his friend Pig-Wig, and go dancing over the hills and far away, ending up completely unharmed.

So naturally, I did wonder why–if she is writing stories about animals, then why are they mostly such naughty ones, and why ones that get into a fair deal of trouble. Of course, this makes them all the more interesting no doubt. But also perhaps, the situations they end up in, trouble with other animals or with humans are perhaps a reflection of their situation in real life too–animals do tend to get into trouble every so often, and sometimes they don’t have such escapes as they do in her stories. So perhaps, while she is making them more human-like in her stories taking them away from reality, she is also preserving a bit of reality. Reality that which both animals and humans have to face)–even if you manage to get out of trouble, you have to face the consequences, and life doesn’t always go back to the way it was (not exactly, anyway).

Do you love Beatrix Potter’s books as much as I do? Which are some favourites? If you’ve read some others than the ones I mention, were there other characters who had a better time than some of the animals I’ve talked about here?

And if you like Potter, you might want to try stories by American author and naturalist Thornton Burgess. His stories are somewhat on the same lines with animals getting into some scrapes or facing minor troubles off and on, and then finding a way out. Some ‘by the skin-of-their-teeth’ situations there too! Looking forward o hearing your thoughts!

 

Review: Death of a Snob by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Snob

 

This is book 6 in the Hamish Macbeth series by Beaton, though the first in the series that I have read. This is a book I’d featured in Shelf Control #9, and since I finally read it, I decided to share my review here. This one finds Hamish ill in bed with a cold, looking forward to going home for Christmas, only to be told that he can’t go home because an aunt who hates him, but has supported his family, is arriving from the States. Grumpy and upset, Hamish then accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at the Happy Wanderer health farm, the owner of which is Jane Wetherby, a friend of Priscilla, Macbeth’s former love and still friend. Jane is convinced by some happenings in the village of Eileencraig where the farm is located, including the reading of her tea leaves, that someone is out to kill her, and while Hamish is not as convinced, he agrees to go anyway, having nowhere else to spend the holiday. But while Jane seems to be ok, there is a suspicious death after Christmas nonetheless, and only Hamish seems to suspect that it is murder. He sets out to investigate, assisted by Harriet Shaw, a writer of cookbooks and also a friend of Jane Wetherby.

This was a light-hearted, pretty much cosy murder mystery which I found to be great fun, and which I enjoyed far more than the author’s Agatha Raisin books (of which also I have read only one so far). I loved the Christmassy atmosphere—the book isn’t heavy on it, but there are the preparations going on, the tree being decorated, the Christmas dinner at the health farm, and the presents which felt nice and ‘warm’ in the otherwise snowy and bitter cold place. And I also enjoyed the Scottish setting, all of the mystery taking place on a small island village in a community that hasn’t been very welcoming of Jane Wetherby and her farm. While we don’t go into very much depth into each of the characters (like some mystery books do), each of them is distinct and the features do stand out. The mystery element was also fairly interesting and fun, and I enjoyed the solution to it, even though it wasn’t terribly complex or any such. Still this was entertaining and fun, and I would like to read more in this series. Be warned, this book discusses the entire plot of one Agatha Christie Poirot mystery (I won’t say which) with spoilers as to whodunit (though not the why) and while it doesn’t give the name, if you haven’t read that one yet, it will spoil it for you. I had read the book, so it was much of an issue for me.

Review: The Invisible Hand by James Hartley

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My thanks to NetGalley and Lodestone Books for a review copy of this book.

 

While not a re-telling, this book is a story that takes us between the modern world and the Scotland of Macbeth. This is the first of a trilogy titled ‘Shakespeare’s Moon’. Sam is a young boy studying in St Francis de Sale, a boarding school in England, as his father is away for work (archaeologist) and mother is ill. But St Francis is not an ordinary school and Sam finds when he falls asleep on certain occasions, he finds himself in very vivid dreams, dreams that are unfolding in old Scotland, where there has just been a war and Sam is in Macbeth’s castle, where the devious plot to kill the King is being hatched. But in this world, Sam is not himself but an entirely different character, a soldier. Here he meets the pretty Leana who has a mysterious past herself, and before long they find that Leana too, can at times come into Sam’s world and have a real existence there. Caught amidst war and treachery in Macbeth’s world and something unseemly in Sam’s school, they must avert the dangers there and defeat those who might even threaten their very lives.

 

This was a book was such an interesting premise, time travel and Shakespeare, both of which are the reason why I wanted to read this one in the first place, and I was so sure I would really enjoy it. In many ways, it does deliver on both these elements, these is time travel, we find ourselves in Macbeth’s world, where war and danger are ever present, and the witches’ presence is also often felt. In Sam’s world, the modern world too, things are not as innocuous as they initially seem, and magic and the supernatural pervade this world, though more mundane activities like lessons and detention take place alongside. But while these elements are there and the author has woven them together in an interesting way as well, I really didn’t find myself absorbed by this book. The pacing isn’t particularly fast, though there are some exciting moments including on how it would end, but this (the pacing) didn’t bother me. I quite liked the last two chapters—the way they were done and the promise of further adventure that comes through. And I think I also understood the title of the series as I read the book. But I felt it lacked explanation on a lot of points, like what the connect was really between the two worlds, how Leana was part of the modern world when she didn’t seem to have gone back as Sam did, her mysterious past, why she remains the same in both places while Sam changes, why were there these supernatural events taking place in this world (with what object), and such (though some might just emerge as the series continues). And while the book certainly did take us back to Macbeth’s world, I felt there just wasn’t enough of it—from the description, I expected to be more deeply into that story, rather than just going in and out of it at different points, and to be more involved with the main characters. Again, while I didn’t have any specific grouse with any of the characters, at the end of the day, I didn’t find myself getting really interested in them. So this was just an ok read for me, just about two and a half stars.

Shelf Control #15

Shelf Control

It’s Wednesday, and time again for Shelf Control (I ended up skipping this last week). This is a feature I’ve borrowed  from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies,and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR.  All one has to do is to pick a book from one’s TBR every Wednesday, and write a post about it (usually what it’s all about, what makes you want to read it, where you got it, and such, but I guess up to you really).

This week, the book I’m featuring is:

 

death instinct

The Death Instinct by Jeb Rubenfeld is the second of two books in the author’s ‘Freud’ series (yes, Sigmund Freud).

What it’s all about: This story opens with a blast on Wall Street in September 1920, which killed and injured many. Among the witnesses of the blast are war veteran Stratam Younger, James Littlemore of the NYPD, an a French radiochemist Colette Rousseau. Mysterious attacks on the Rousseau, lead the three to travel from Paris to Prague, the Vienna home of Dr Freud and Washington, revealing the shocking truths behind the bomb attack.

When and where I got it: This is again a book that I didn’t actually buy myself. In fact, I hadn’t heard of the book or the author. When I shopped for some books online in a second-hand shop some months ago, this was sent to me as a gift (part of the sale they had on).

A little about the author: The author Jeb Rubenfeld is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, with experience with Shakespeare plays and a thesis on Freud. The two books in this series appear to be his only novels (other works being academic texts). (I speak only from the information on goodreads).

Why I want to read it: For starters, because it falls within two genres that I really enjoy reading–mysteries, and historical fiction–being set around an actual historical event, and featuring historical characters, both Freud and Madame Curie. The plot sounds fairly interesting, though I’m not entirely ‘sold’ as it were on the ‘truth that threatens to shake their world to its foundations’ part. Reviews on goodreads as pretty mixed again, some have loved it, others not so much. Still I think I will eventually give it a go.

So have you heard of or read this book or anything by this author (his other book, that is)? Do you like historical mysteries? What are some favourites? Looking forward to hearing about them!

 

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books(22)

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‘I put it to you that you were obviously drunk when you took my client’s instructions,’ said counsel.

Mr Tewkesbery affected to look pained. ‘That I was obviously drunk?’, he asked.

‘Don’t repeat the question, sir, kindly answer it.’

‘If I was obviously drunk, why did he give me his instructions?”

‘Don’t ask me questions, sir, answer mine.’

Mr Tewkesbery thought for a moment.

‘The best answer that I can give you is that I was obviously not obviously drunk.’

‘Were you drunk?’

‘That’s quite a different question.’

‘Kindly answer it.’

‘What exactly do you mean by drunk?’

‘I mean drunk, sir. Unfit by reason of alcohol to conduct your affairs.’

‘Then I was certainly not drunk, sir. I may have been fit by reason of alcohol to conduct my affairs. I won’t deny that – but unfit, never.’

–Henry Cecil, Daughters in Law (1961)

Image source: See [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Miss Marple Favourites

Last year with the Reading the Detectives group on goodreads (find that here), I read Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books chronologically for the first time. The series has fourteen books, twelve full length novels, and two short story collections. Miss Marple is an elderly (though by today’s standards she wouldn’t be considered all that old) spinster, who lives in the little English village of St Mary Mead, and solves mysteries, mostly some fairly complicated murders, using her observation and knowledge of human nature, which is essentially the same everywhere, irrespective of setting. She first appeared in 1927 in a short story, ‘the Tuesday Night Club’, published in the Royal Magazine. I really enjoyed reading these books for the mysteries of course, but also the characters, Christie’s incorporation of changing society and mores, and also the fact that the books make a statement against stereotyping on account of age. Miss Marple herself also changes over the course of the series and only becomes the more familiar version of her, down the line (becoming less lacy and fluffy, and even a little more active in the middle of the series).

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Murder at the Vicarage, the first full length Marple book.

I had thought of doing a series review when I finished these last November but didn’t end up doing that, so instead am doing this post which is some of the books in the series which I especially enjoyed. These are not in any order of preference but chronologically as I read them. So here goes.

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The Body in the Library is the third book in the series and features Col. and Mrs Bantry who have earlier appeared in the short story collection, The Thirteen Problems. In this one, the Bantrys wake up one morning to find a body of a glamorous young blonde  in their library, a woman neither of them recognise. The police take on the investigation of course, but when this incident leads to aspersions being cast on the poor Colonel, his wife calls in the one expert she knows–Miss Marple. Miss Marple, of course, uses her knowledge of human nature to solve this puzzle which is far from simple, with an interesting cast of characters including a rich invalid and people from the film industry. this one made for great reading, with plenty of twists and a surprise denouement.

 

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A Murder is Announced is not only among my favourite Miss Marple books but also among my favourite Agatha Christie books and mysteries overall, and will certainly feature when I make those lists. The sixth in the series (though it is number five in publication order), this one is set in the village of Chipping Cleghorn. Here an advertisement appears in the personals column of the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette announcing a murder at a house, Little Paddocks that evening. Most residents of the little village arrive there of course, expecting a murder game, but when the owner of Little Paddocks, Letitia Blacklock is shot at, and an unknown young man turns up dead, things begin to take a more serious turn. The puzzle/mystery in this one is one of my favourites, and I also enjoyed the various characters with all their idiosyncrasies. In addition, this one is set in the post-war period, with Christie weaving in the various changes and challenges it brought.

 

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4:50 from Paddington, or What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw, is book seven in the series, and another of my favourites. In this one, Elspeth McGillicuddy, a friend of Miss Marple is travelling down by train to visit Jane Marple after a Christmas shopping trip to London. Through the window, she witnesses a murder in a train passing by, but when she reports it, the police find no body and no evidence that a murder took place. Miss Marple however, believes her friend and begins her own investigation which takes her to Rutherford Hall. Helping her is Inspector Craddock, who we’ve met in A Murder is Announced, and Lucy Eyelesbarrow. Again, one of Miss Marple’s more complicated puzzles with a fair few twists along the way, this was one I really enjoyed. I’d also recommend the adaptation with Dame Margaret Rutherford, which takes many many liberties with the book (so not good if you want something true to the plot) but is still great fun.

 

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The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side takes us back to St Mary Mead, where the house that  the Bantrys lived in, Gossington Hall, has now sold been to glamorous actress Marina Gregg, who lives there with her husband. When the silly, talkative Heather Badcock falls down dead there at a tea party, and the case finds its way to Chief Inspector Craddock, he heads straight to Aunt Jane for help. This once again has a complicated plot, though part of it is somewhat similar to another Marple that I’ve mentioned in this list. What I also liked in this one was Miss Marple along with her part-time help Cherry Baker getting the better of Miss Knight, a nurse/companion sent to her by her nephew Raymond, who insists on treating her as an ‘old dear’ in need of no excitement. Also this book deals with the changes in St Mary Mead, with a new development, department store, and even a film studio which Miss Marple (and the others) tries to adapt to.

 

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A Pocket Full of Rye is the twelfth book I read for the challenge, though it falls earlier in publication order. In this one, the wealthy Rex Fortescue falls dead (poisoned) just after having his tea in his office. This is followed by other deaths in the family, but when the maid Gladys, former maid to Miss Marple (one of her trainees) is also killed quite ruthlessly, Miss Marple comes down to Yewtree Hall to look into the matter herself. There is plenty amiss at Yewtree Hall, and Miss Marple uses the stereotypes associated with her age to her advantage, gossiping and obtaining insights into the characters of those involved. While this did not have as many plot twists as some of the other Marple books, the mystery (which I didn’t guess the first time around), the nursery rhyme pattern (‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’), how the murders were committed, and the country-house setting, I really enjoyed.

So these were some my Marple favourites, though in general, I quite liked the whole series–there were books I liked less than these but none that I disliked. (From those i Liked, I’d also like to mention The Moving Finger, which again had some interesting studies of character, but I didn’t feel I should include it on this list, since Miss Marple comes onto the scene fairly late in that one.)

Do you like Miss Marple? What are some of your favourite Marple mysteries? Looking forward to hearing about them!

Children’s Book of the Month: The Adventures of Dunno by Nikolai Nosov

So far, my Children’s Book of the Month posts have featured books that I’ve been reading and reviewing each month, but this time, the book/s I want to write about is an old childhood favourite which I haven’t read in a while–The Adventures of Dunno and His Friends by Nikolai Nosov.

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Dunno (Neznaika) was actually one of my mother’s childhood books, and when she found them in a book fair when I was a child, she bought them for me. What I had (and still have–most) were separate chapters of the book published as individual books, each about 20 pages with beautiful illustrations and artwork. While I don’t quite remember how many I had originally, as of now, I have seven of these, some quite shabby but still, at least I have them. The only full edition I’ve seen didn’t have all the illustrations in colour so I prefer the individual chapters. The only think I’m not sure of is whether all the chapters are available as individual books-Goodreads lists only 17 and the last I have is 15.

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Dunno and his friends are mites, creatures, the tallest of whom is only about as tall as a pine cone, and live in Flower Town in fairyland. Flower Town is a very pretty place. In Nosov’s words (the translator is Margaret Wettlin):

Around every house grew daisies, dandelions, and honeysuckle, and the streets were all named after flowers, Blue-bell Street, Daisy Lane, and Primrose Avenue….It stood on the bank of a little brook. The Mites called it Cucumber River because so many cucumbers grew on its banks.

(From The Mites of Flower Town)

 

Though they live in Fairy Land, they don’t have any magical powers as such. Dunno, of course, is one who doesn’t really know very much about anything, and while he wants to do many things, he doesn’t really want to do any work. He also enjoys telling lots of tales to people, with the result that few who know him believe him. He is described as:

 

Dunno wore a bright blue hat, bright yellow trousers, a bright orange shirt, and a bright green tie. He was very fond of bright colours.

(From The Mites of Flower Town)

The town has both boy mites and girl mites, but neither group wants to be friends with the other. The other boy mites, and Dunno’s friends (or at least acquaintances) include Doono who knows everything as he always reads books; Dr Pillman, the doctor; Glass-eye the astronomer; Bendum and Twistum the mechanics; Trickly Sweeter who drank frizzy drinks with plenty of syrup; Gunky who is Dunno’s friend; Blobs the artist; and Trills the musician, among others.

In the first few chapters, Dunno tries his hands at all sorts of things, playing music, painting, writing poetry, and also takes a ride in a soda-water car. Of course, he doesn’t really want to put in any work to actually learn these things and ends up getting into a lot of trouble, such as being chased out of town for playing his music. His paintings including portraits such as of Dr Pillman with a thermometer for a nose; and one of Doono with donkey ears.

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Doono with his donkey ears (by Boris Kalushin; sorry about the terrible photo (by me))

Then, one day, Doono makes a balloon and the boy mites set off in it on an adventure. There is an accident, and they find themselves in a town of girl mites, Greenville. Here Dunno is separated from the rest of his friends, who have landed in hospital, and begins to tell the girl mites all sorts of stories including claiming that he invented the balloon that brought them there.

 

The full version of the book has 30 chapters in which Dunno and the rest of his friends have various adventures in Greenville and also I think in Kite Town where their boy-mites (the Greenville girl mites also do not speak to their boy mites) live, before they return finally to Flower Town. These are more or less light-hearted, humorous stories, but there is also much adults would enjoy, besides the stories themselves of course. For one, there are quite a few fun and witty observations, like the one I had as this week’s Bookquote (here) or this one

Some people think that the higher you go, the warmer it becomes. That is not true. The higher you go, the colder it is, because the sun heats the earth with its rays. The earth  becomes like a stove, and everybody knows that the closer you are to a stove, the warmer it is.

From, An Accident

I haven’t of course, read these recently, but wikipedia points out that one can find themes of feminism, egalitarianism, and communism explored in the stories, so adults would enjoy them on this count as well. Come to think of it, I do remember the stories focusing on how the girl mites could do as many or more things than the boy mites including dangerous things like harvesting apples–these were much bigger than the mites and could crush them if one fell on them.

‘The boys think they’re terribly brave but we are just as brave as they are’ said Snowdrop. ‘Just see how high those two girls have climbed.’

‘But girls don’t go up in balloons and ride round in motor cars’, said Dunno.

‘Oh, don’t they?’, said Snowdrop. ‘Lots of our girls know how to drive’.

(From A Walk About Town)

Besides the stories themselves (or the story itself, depending on which version one is reading), I love the artwork by Boris Kalushin–both full-page illustrations, and ones amidst the text, these colourful pictures really bring alive the story, and the lands that the mites live in. (One of my favourites is of the giant watermelon in Greenville, which the girl mites use for juice). So I would recommend a version with his illustrations, if you can find one. The Adventures of Dunno and His Friends was published in 1954, and there are two other Dunno books, Dunno in Sun City (1958), and Dunno on the Moon (1966), but these I haven’t read yet.

 

Russia_stamp_1992_No_17.jpg

Russian stamp featuring Dunno.

Source: By Scanned and processed by Mariluna (Personal collection) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Have you come across or read Dunno before? How did you like the stories? Any other childhood picture-book favourites you would like to recommend? Looking forward to hearing about them!