Category Archives: Books

“Stories of Dinosaurs” by Russel Punter

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The Usborne Young Reader collection has some good and funny books. My kid picked the “Stories of Dinosaurs” from the School library. The book has three stories. In one, a brave Kriposaurus fights a Megalosaurus. In the second, two carnivore Raptor brothers save their restaurant opening by successfully improvising with a vegetarian dinner. And the third story…..I’ll let you discover it together with your young reader.

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The Giving Tree

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I was looking to upgrade our bedtime stories. With Jessica Joelle Alexander’s recommendation http://www.jessicajoellealexander.com I found “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

The book was first published more that 50 years ago.

The book teaches the value of nurturing relations in a mutually beneficial way. It helps to explain to children that a balanced give-and-take is a good foundation for friendships they begin to develop.

It is a heartfelt story of a relationship between boy and a tree. At first, their relationship is loving and mutually nurturing.

It is a story about faithfulness and borderless generosity: As the boy grows, so do his demands for entertainment and support. The tree is a constant supplier and satisfies all his needs with all it has until it becomes a stump. The tree demands nothing in return. It is just happy to be there for the boy.

A beautiful story for bedtime reading. For both children and adults.

“Jubilee” by Margaret Walker

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The novel is a true story of a girl born to a white plantation owner and his black mistress reflecting the times of the southern Civil War and the years of the promised Reconstruction. The author is the grandchild of the main character -Vyry. She heard the story in the family and researched the history of those ¬† times for thirty years to write what is known as the “first truly historical black American novel”. New York Times called Margaret Walker “one of most memorable women of contemporary fiction”.

The ¬†novel has 3 chapters marking the stages of Vyry’s life interlinked with historical events of the Civil War, slavery abolishment and beginning of reconstruction. Vyry is a survivor who get through pain and devastation again and again to keep her family well and to live to see her dream of having her children go to school to learn to write and read. Through hurdles and horrors she kept her faith and the love in her heart. And this to me is the main message of the book.

Her message to her son in preparation of his separation from her to go to school is worth a Nobel prize for peace, by me: “I wants you to be good and try to git along. Mind your manners and make friends with people. Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go. You is born lucky and it is better to be born lucky than born rich cause if you is lucky you can git rich, but if you is born rich and ain’t lucky you is liables to lose all you got. But you gotta use mother-wit long with education else you won’t be nothing but a fool. Get up in the morning early and say your prayers. Early bird catches the worm. And don’t you be mean and ugly in your heart toward nobody. Remember, sweet ways is just like sugar candy, and they catches more flies than vinegar. I wants you to be good and make a real man out of yourself”.

Wonderful encounters

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Sometimes all you have to do is open a door. 

Last week, I opened the door into the world of a French artist. His name is Rachid Madani. His studio is in Strasbourg. I often passed by his studio and admired the pastel, warm colours of his creations. I wanted to buy some of his wonderful cards. I love to have a stock to give them to friends to say thank you or just mark a moment. 

I pushed the door and was greeted with a warm pastel voice. My daugher joined me so he spoke to us about the book he wrote "Le turban du sultan" and about his culture. 

I did not have cash with me so had to borrow some from my kid's pocket money. "I did the same this morning", he told us in a moment of complicity.  He offered her one of his cards "Le jour se leve". 

If you are in Strasbourg, open the door to l'atelier d'Art MADANI, 16, rue Sleidan. 

More info on the artist, in French https://www.petitfute.com/v458-strasbourg-67000/c1168-shopping-mode-cadeaux/c408-galerie-d-art/242980-l-atelier-d-art-madani.html

Books for children (and not only): “Mercy Watson” by Kate diCamillo and Chris Van Dussen

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I picked the book in a library in Chisinau about five years ago. The cover looked funny and promised a good laugh. It was a promise kept. I read it to my kid on many nights. It was part if her initiation in Russian.

The series has many stories with Mercy, a joyful pig, a "porcine wonder" who lives with Mr and Mrs Watson. The book we have in Russian has two stories "To the rescue" and "Mercy Watson goes for a ride". Mercy is a sweet trouble maker and has such an appetite for life I envy.

Last month i bought "Mercy Watson to the rescue", Kindle edition, in English. It is still a bed time favorite story. We give characters funny voices and it offers a relaxed transition to sleep.

Read your kids, grandchildren, siblings! Even if they can read by themselves.

“Baltazar and Blimunda” by Jose Saramago

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My “To read all authors on the Nobel Prize for Literature list” brought me to 18th century Portugal. Jose Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literarure in 1998. 

“Every man follows his own path in search of grace, whatever that grace might be” is the central idea of his “Baltazar and Blimunda” book. The book narrates in details the times of King Dom Joaa and of Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, a historic figure and a pioneer of aviation. It is the story of “one handed solder who ironically became a manufacturer of wings”. Phrases like this had me spellbound from the first page. 

I was mesmerised by the central feminine character – not the queen, but an extraordinary ordinary women – Blimunda. Her mother was burn for witchcraft and she had a special gift of seeing what others do not see and the ability to collect the wills of dying. When the “wings” – the flying machine they built together with Padre Bartolomeu – took him away from her into the unknown she keeps looking for him, to find him in Lisbon, after nine years of continuous search throughout the entire country, in a procession leading to a fire burned by the inquisition. 

The book demands patience. It took me months of reiterated reading and putting it down. The “search of grace”, as we know it, is a painful process. Or at least humans are skilful at making it painful. Due to this and very long phrases, it is a challenging reading. It was the first time i read a book written in this style, and it was worth it every single page. 

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

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One of the few books i wanted to keep reading. Every page of the book has a gem on it. It is superbly crafted. Its’ words are enchanting and poignant in a sweet and precious way.

It’s a story of a girl whose adolescence coincides with the times of Nazi Germany. She lost her brother, her mother, her home and gained a new foster home with a father who taught her to read and instilled a love of books to last a lifetime. The books saved her from daily ordeal. The books saved her from death.

The story is narrated by Death. It made me shiver at the beginning to read his words. By the end of the book I got to like this very wise character: “I am all bluster- I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result”.

The book is transformational as it makes you see the Other Germany, which had people who would risk their lives by feeding and sheltering the persecuted Jewish.


This anniversary edition comes with insights of the author on the process of writing. Very valuable for writers beginners. There is also a movie by the same name, directed by Brian Percival. Enjoy!