Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino. Vintage. (160p) ISBN 9780099429838

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities

Another book in my classics reading exercise, amazingly enough a lot of the books I’ve read whilst doing this are from Vintage Books. Not only are the editions well-translated or adapted they are beautiful having wonderful covers.

Invisible Cities is a fictional set of conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, where Marco Polo is describing non-sensical and fantastical cities, one after the other broken every ten or so by a conversation between the Khan and Marco.

The cities can be seen as aspects of one city, Venice, but also as aspects of the human condition and experience. Marco explains various rules regarding the cities whilst talking to the Khan, going down often labyrinthine explanations of the conditions of never finding the same city twice and of no two cities being the same ever.

I was initially put off thinking that this may be too dense for me but the translation by William Weaver is fresh and readable making the whole book so accessible.

Each city is so wondrous that I didn’t put the book down until I had finished and had to read it a second time straight after finishing the first reading.


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Ghost Boys

Jewell Parker Rhodes. Hachette. (224p) ISBN 9781510104396

Ghost Boys

Ghost Boys

Ghost Boys is another book I read a while back and am just getting around to reviewing.

Jerome is 12, Jerome is black, Jerome is shot dead by police whilst playing with a toy gun.

The story then continues of what happened up to and including where Jerome is murdered, but it also goes past as Jerome is now a ghost and the only person alive who can see him is the daughter of the police officer who shot him.

Themes of race, friendship, love, loss and more thread their way through this book and make it a great class read, each section is short and easy to pick apart for discussion.

This doesn’t in any way detract from the fact that this book is a really strong indictment of the problems in the USA at the moment and historically.


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Pax

Sara Pennypacker. HarperCollins. (288p) ISBN 9780008158286

Pax

Pax

I will make this clear right from the start. Pax had me in tears at several points, the whole of the first chapter was so sad I had to put the book away for a week before I went back to it, but once I went back to it I couldn’t put it down.

A story of a boy and his rescued, but then abandoned fox (beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen). We follow the trials of Peter and Pax through alternating chapters.

We watch them develop and grow and become independent. This story touches on a lot of difficult subjects, such as; truth, love, anger, and guilt, all against the backdrop of an escalating war.

Though we are unsure of which war and which country, there is a feeling that this could be in small, town America but also European. This ambiguity serves to highlight the universality of the emotions that are being explored.

I had an unsettling feeling throughout that the end was going to be extremely sad, but though there was a sadness it was triumphed by the independence that both Peter and Pax had achieved and was the correct ending.

Loved the book throughout even though I had to put it down, made all the more special by Klassen’s wonderful illustrations.


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What is Poetry?

Michael Rosen. Walker Books. (208p) ISBN 9781844287635

What is Poetry?

What is Poetry?

Let’s just get it out of the way at the start – I love Michael Rosen. There I said it.

‘What is Poetry?’ is one of the funnest books on poetry I’ve ever read, it seems to be aimed at a young audience, probably middle-grade readers. This doesn’t stop me from saying that this book is one of the best books on writing poetry for all ages, especially for those that are frightened by the idea of poetry.

Broken down into digestible chunks, the encouraging advice is so clear and not patronising that I wanted to start writing poetry.

The images peppered through the book are also a nice touch.

Examples of poetry throughout the book don’t pull any punches either; from modern poetry by Rosen himself to work by Thomas Hardy, the excerpts and complete poems are used well to explain different facets of the craft of a poet.

I would say that this is probably one of the essential books for any budding writers, not just of poetry, as it explains things clearly and will help writers gain confidence in their art and skill.


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