Category Archives: reading aloud

Review of The Dark Dream – Book 4 of the Beaver Towers series by Nigel Hinton

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Oscar and I finally completed our time with Philip and his talking animal companions with the fourth and last book in this series. Would it sustain the standard set by the other books? See my reviews of Beaver Towers and The Witches Revenge.

thedarkdreamIn this fourth Beaver Towers adventure, Philip and old Mr Edgar set off on their travels so that Philip can learn how to use his powers to fight evil. But while they are away, the island itself is under threat from a strange creature named Retson. This time it is up to Baby B, the little beaver and Nick, the hedgehog, to save the day.

Those who have been following the series will immediately realise there is a major difference with this book – the major protagonist throughout the other books, Philip, is missing from the main adventure. This story is told through the viewpoint of Baby B and Nick, the little hedgehog. This wasn’t a concern for us, as Baby B had already stolen much of the limelight by this part of the tale. Philip is now growing into his magical powers and I think Hinton’s decision to remove him and Mr Edgar from the scene, leaving the two small animals at the centre of the adventure was a shrewd move. It also prevented this story falling into any kind of formulaic pattern, especially as Baby B and Nick become rather conceited and full of themselves regarding their magic – with consequences that impact on the rest of the story.

Hinton also produced yet another scary and all-too-plausible villain who poses a real threat to the inhabitants of Beaver Towers – to the extent that Baby B and Nick are forced to go on the run. The tension as the frightened animals flee through the hidden tunnel pings off the page and I was quite relieved when Oscar asked me to complete the story the following day during the afternoon. It wasn’t necessarily one to settle him down to sleep. That apart, we both were drawn into the adventure and I genuinely wanted to know what would happen next.

Retsnom’s power is in danger of overwhelming everyone left in Beaver Towers, so Baby B and Nick decide to return to try and save them. Oscar and I discussed whether this was a good idea – before returning to the action. The conclusion was suitably dramatic and the ending, once more, emphasised the importance of courage and kindness and looking out for each other, without sounding overly preachy.

All in all, it was once again, a thoroughly enjoyable and gripping read that ended on a positive note and while there were scary moments, six-year-old Oscar didn’t find it too daunting. We agreed it was another really good book and a suitable end to the series.
8/10

To the people who made books live for me…

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This is a tribute to those people who helped spark my love of books by reading aloud to me.

Pile of Books @ Windham library

Pile of Books @ Windham library

First and foremost – my granny. She read aloud really well, having a beautiful, deep voice slightly roughened by smoking. I vividly recall her reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green and Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, sitting on the end of my bed as part of the bedtime routine, when she came to stay while we were living in Zambia. I can close my eyes, feel the slight pressure of the bedsheets tugging and hear her husky voice as I listened spellbound with the cool night air and the crickets sawing in the background. I could have listened to her all night…

I was also lucky enough to have a number of teachers who read aloud to our class. Mrs Parry read us stories about the Greek myths from a huge, foxed book that had me combing the library looking for more stories like those ones – and stumbling across an edition with some fairly graphic illustrations, when aged eight.

Miss Allson read The Pearl by John Steinbeck and I recall struggling not to cry when we reached the passage involving poor little Coyotito near the end. It was the first time I recall a story that so starkly examined racism and the sheer unfairness of poverty.

On a much lighter note, Miss Jorden read us the wonderful stories featuring Don Camillo, the hot-headed village priest and his regular run-ins with the equally hot-headed mayor Peppone, written by Giovannino Guareschi. I managed to get hold of these books years later and although I enjoyed the TV series, I still far prefer the ironic tone of the books. I, again, can close my eyes and hear Miss Jordon’s gentle voice pattering around the room on a sleepy afternoon and smell the classroom scents of chalkdust, ink and learning.

Mr Crawford read Animal Farm by George Orwell to us and a selection of poetry, which he recited beautifully, managing to imbue the likes of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ and ‘Roman Wall Blues’ by W.H. Auden with passion and understanding.

I recall being entranced by Mrs Jefford’s rendition of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth, furiously drawing black and white doodles as I drank in every word… I don’t know if teachers regularly read aloud to children older than eleven, these days. I hope they do.

So I want to voice my gratitude to all the adults who read aloud to me all those years ago. Although I was one of those children who effortlessly learnt to read at a very early age, it mattered to hear other people read aloud to me, opening me up to literature I probably would never have otherwise encountered. Thank you…

I have always made an effort to pass on the baton, having read to both my children until they got to a point they’d rather I didn’t. And now I read aloud, sometimes until my voice goes, to both grandchildren who love listening to all sorts of adventure stories.

Who read to you when you were a child? What did they read? Do you read aloud to anyone in your life? I’d love to hear from you…