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Looking along a light-beam

Looking along a light-beam

I’ve recently started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my eldest child and, even though we are bringing up our children in the Christian faith, I’ve taken a deliberate decision to not explain the Christian symbolism to him. Now, this may simply be a bias on my part. I read the Chronicles myself without any awareness of the hidden meaning(1) and enjoyed them tremendously, an enjoyment that was no way tarnished when I discovered that meaning as a teenager. Also,…

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A History of the World in 100 Pictures

A History of the World in 100 Pictures

I recently read a brilliant children’s non-fiction book by Usborne, A History of the World in 100 Pictures. Last year I suggested that the goal of the compulsory years of the secondary school curriculum should be to give an overview of world history, its drivers and where Britain fits in it (the curriculum was roughly: 1/3 UK, 1/3 Europe, 1/3 the world). A lot of people got very angry at me for suggestion something so ‘elitist’, for thinking that pupils…

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Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Ten Thinkers that Have Influenced Me

Defining influence is tricky. We have all undoubtedly been influenced by many people; in particular parents, teachers, friends and others we spend time with. Yet when talking with others about about those views are insightful, ‘hang around with my friends’ is not particularly useful, and parents or teachers are even less accessible. So we think of public figures. In coming up with this list, I’ve focused on those who’ve helped to bring particular issues into focus, or to shed light…

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Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Minimal spoilers only – no major twists, but does reveal headline content and comments on characterisation, quality of endings and so forth. A brilliant collection of science-fiction short stories. Includes three Nebula Award winners and one Hugo Award winner; the title story, Story of Your Life, was the basis for the major 2016 film, Arrival. The stories are a little longer than most short-stories, typically 40-60 pages and are well plotted, deeply imaginative and have excellent characterisation. Most are set…

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Book Review: The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure by Gerald Durrell

Book Review: The Fantastic Dinosaur Adventure by Gerald Durrell

One of Gerald Durrell’s less well-known books, I first read this myself as a child and have recently read it to my own son, aged five. It was an amazing hit – we read the whole book (95 pages) in under 24 hours – and deservedly so: it’s full of Durrell’s trade-mark charm, description and humour, with added adventure. The plot follows three children who accompany their great-uncle back to the Mezozoic era to track a pair of villains who…

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Personal opinion: I really dislike World Book Day

Personal opinion: I really dislike World Book Day

This may be more controversial than my posts on Brexit, but as an avid book-lover I really dislike World Book Day. In particular, I dislike the way the primary focus of the day is about dressing up. I recognise that some people like dressing up – but we already have other days dedicated to dressing up, notably Halloween. There are also fancy-dress parties and other fancy-dress events. We have one day a year that’s meant to be about celebrating books…

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Two Misunderstood Works

Two Misunderstood Works

This post examines the way Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ and Kipling’s ‘The Ballad of East and West’ are often misinterpreted through a literal reading of their most famous lines – when in fact their message is almost the diametrical opposite. Born in the USA (Bruce Springsteen) A link here. One of Springsteen’s greatest hits, taken at face value from the chorus, the song is a simple, even jingoistic, celebration of America. But listening to the lyrics more closely tells…

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Watership Down is not a Children’s Book

Watership Down is not a Children’s Book

Chorus: Why do you cry out thus, unless at some vision of horrorCassandra: The house reeks of death and dripping blood.Chorus: How so? ‘Tis but the odour of the altar sacrifice.Cassandra: The stench is like a breath from the tomb. These lines, a quote from Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, constitute the opening of Watership Down. If ever an author wished to give a better signal to the audience that this book was not a children’s book, it would be hard to imagine…

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Bible Analytics: What do Children’s Bibles Focus On?

Bible Analytics: What do Children’s Bibles Focus On?

We have quite a lot of children’s bibles and it’s always interesting to see what each one focuses on. This post carries out some fairly surface level analysis of how much time different children’s bibles spend on different books. First, the actual bibleWe can look at the relative size of the different books of the bible by comparing the number of chapters they have. It’s not a perfect analysis – some chapters are longer than others – but it’s good…

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Herman Wouk – the 20th / 21st century’s greatest author

Herman Wouk – the 20th / 21st century’s greatest author

What makes a great author? Some would argue that popularity should be the key measure, with best-selling authors the clear champions of the writing world. The public is the true test of what is great and their judgement carries all before it. Others might argue that simple popularity is a bad measure: Agatha Christie or Dick Francis may have sold millions of copies, but their books are relatively simple in structure and arguably lack depth. For such people, the true…

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