Rayner Unwin, who became J.R.R. Tolkien’s publisher, wrote this review of The Hobbit in 1936. He was 10 and served as a test reader for his father, publisher Stanley Unwin, who published the book. The older Unwin believed that children were the best judges of children’s books, and he paid young Rayner 1 shilling for each review. “Good money in those days,” Rayner Unwin later remarked.
REPORT ON “THE HOBBIT” BY RAYNER UNWIN
30 Oct 1936
Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who lived in his hobbit-hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exiting time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich!
This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.
This month, there has been a fresh push from Kuwaiti citizens who are fed up with official censorship, both outside the Ministry of Information and online, with Kuwaitis posting photos of the banned books in their personal libraries at #صور_كتاب_ممنوع_في_مكتبتك. Kuwaiti MA student Abrar Alshammari has been researching about censorship in Kuwait:
By Abrar Alshammari
Kuwait is currently experiencing a serious crisis of censorship. To the sorrow of many, it depicts almost literally the nightmare that Ray Bradbury portrayed in Fahrenheit 451.
In 2016, at the annual cultural conference of Nuqat in Kuwait City, award-winning Kuwaiti novelist Saud Al-Sanousi announced the horrific discovery that the Ministry of Information was burning banned books en masse, thousands of copies of his own novel Mama Hessa’s Mice included. The audience gasped in horror at the unimaginable atrocity of the state-sanctioned burning of literature, a blatant disrespect to books and their value…
Libraries are truly amazing places. Here are five inspirational library moments (read the whole post at z4short.com):
1. Trapped in the library door
“Please let me out and please let me in.” Irish poet Pat Ingoldsby sweetly recalls a 1950’s childhood memory. He got stuck in the library door with The Famous Five in one hand and a penny in the other to pay the overdue fine.
2. A story about a boy and a teacher, an atlas and reading
In this post, children’s writer Dawn Finch, a strong advocate of libraries, books and reading, tells how a former student of hers approached her and told her that she had taught him to read by using an atlas. It didn’t all have to be about stories, she had told him. Guess what became of the atlas boy?
3. Library on wheels
With no library nearby, a bookmobile saves the day in some remote villages in the south of Italy. A bright blue three-wheeled vehicle carrying a book house with red roof and a chimney. Behind the wheels of Il Bibliomotocarro, retired Italian schoolteacher Antonio La Cava who, after 42 years of teaching, took it upon himself to bring books to children. His mission is to instill in the children not only a love of reading but also of writing. Alongside the books, he brings with him new empty notebooks for the children to write their own stories. A true everyday hero. Read the whole story: Library on wheels
4. Stuffed animal sleepover in the library
This is just as cute as it sounds and brought a broad smile to the Internet. Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts, US hosted the stuffed animal sleepover. Kids left their animal buddies there for what would become an eventful night, with the librarians sharing images online. The animals enjoyed snacks, Lego building, reading and much more before they were safely tucked into bed, some of them among the books in the bookshelves.
5. Knit and listen
No matter how old or young you are, it feels good to be read to. The Deichman Library in Oslo invited people to bring their knitting with them and pop in for a “knit and listen” afternoon. A librarian, in front of a fake fireplace, read short stories to us while we all sat attentively with our knitting needles. I started on a new sock, knitted 24 rows during the one and a half hour session. This year they changed the name of these events to “Sit and listen.” You can still bring the knitting with you.
I kicked off this year’s summer reading with Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), just because I stumbled upon the story about his rivalry with Rufus Griswold (1815–1857), and I wanted to know more. All I knew about Poe was that he wrote horror tales and was the man behind “The Raven.” The dive into his writing and the history of his life turned out to be a highly entertaining one, with the great Christopher Lee’s recitation of “The Raven” as the highlight — see video at the end of this post.
Among Poe’s horror stories, The Tell-Tale Heart became one of my favorites. The narrator/killer hides his victim under the floorboards, while at the same time he tries to convince the readers of his sanity: “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismemb…” Then he starts hearing the dead man’s beating heart from under the floor, louder and Louder and LOUDER. Thump! Thump! Thump!
Another favorite is The Murders in the Rue Morgue, introducing us to C. Auguste Dupin who thanks to his deductive skills cleverly solves the murders. His friend narrates the story. Holmes and Watson, right? Poirot and Hastings. Before Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot there was C. Auguste Dupin.
Poe and Griswold
The infamous Rufus Griswold, literary critic and editor, and Poe’s arch-nemesis. The feud between the two is almost like a Poe story, and one is hardly mentioned without the other.
While Griswold was putting together the anthology that would become The Poems and Poetry of America, Poe submitted several of his poems, of which three were included in the collection. Griswold paid Poe to write a review of the book but didn’t get the praise he had expected. Poe questioned Griswold’s choice of poets, and the rivalry was on. The already strained relationship didn’t improve when Griswold not only succeeded Poe as the editor of Grahams Magazine but was paid more. AND WHAT DID POE DO? He openly attacked Griswold in a series of lectures.
Fast-forward a few years. Poe dies, and Griswold writes a less than flattering obituary, signed Ludwig. It starts like this: “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.”
The story doesn’t end there. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor. AND WHAT DID HE DO? He attempted a character assassination of his bitter rival by writing a biographical article in which he depicted Poe in a very negative light, based on lies and half-truths. Luckily, this distorted view has since been rectified.
This is a clip from The Poe Museum: “Griswold’s distorted image of Poe created the Poe legend that lives to this day while Griswold is only remembered (if at all) as Poe’s first biographer.”
As I said, a highly entertaining experience. Who says research is boring?
Comedy Central’s Drunk History team dramatized the feud between Poe and Griswold in their own way, with a narrator telling the story in an inebriated state and actors re-enacting it:
And finally, “The Raven,” read by Christopher Lee.Enjoy!
Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince”
Grown-ups always need explanations, the narrator in The Little Prince says. Once, when he was six, he saw a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing a wild animal. With this picture in mind, he made his first drawing:
The grown-ups thought it was a hat, when in fact it was a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. He then made another drawing to simplify things for them:
They advised him to put away his drawings and become something useful instead. He became a pilot but remained unimpressed by grown-ups. He still showed them his first boa restrictor drawing, and they always said it was a hat.
Later, when the little prince asks him to draw a sheep, he draws a box and explains that the sheep is inside it. Obvious, isn’t it? They both think so.