Book Review – Kite Runner

Book Shelf – Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, it tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, whose closest friend is Hassan.

The Kite Runner became a bestseller after being printed in paperback and was popularized in book clubs. It was a number one New York Times bestseller for over two years, with over seven million copies sold in the United States. Reviews were generally positive, though parts of the plot drew significant controversy in Afghanistan. A number of adaptations were created following publication, including a 2007 film of the same name, several stage performances, and a graphic novel. The novel is also available in a multi-CD audiobook read by the author.

Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara boy who is the son of Ali, Amir’s father’s servant, spend their days kite fighting in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul. Flying kites was a way to escape the horrific reality the two boys were living in. Hassan is a successful “kite runner” for Amir; he knows where the kite will land without watching it. Both boys are motherless: Amir’s mother died in childbirth, while Hassan’s mother, Sanaubar, simply abandoned him and Ali. Amir’s father, a wealthy merchant Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both boys. He makes a point of buying Hassan exactly the same things as Amir, to Amir’s annoyance. He even pays to have Hassan’s cleft lip surgically corrected.

On the other hand, Baba is often critical of Amir, considering him weak and lacking in courage, even threatening to physically punish him when he complains about Hassan. Amir finds a kinder fatherly figure in Rahim Khan, Baba’s closest friend, who understands him and supports his interest in writing, whereas Baba considers that interest to be worthy only of females.

From Rahim Khan, Amir learns that Hassan and Ali are both dead. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan and his wife were killed after Hassan refused to allow the Taliban to confiscate Baba and Amir’s house in Kabul. Rahim Khan further reveals that Ali was sterile and was not Hassan’s biological father. Hassan was actually the son of Sanaubar and Baba, making him Amir’s half brother. Finally, Khan tells Amir that the reason he has called Amir to Pakistan is to ask him to rescue Hassan’s son, Sohrab, from an orphanage in Kabul.

Amir searches for Sohrab, accompanied by Farid, an Afghan taxi driver and veteran of the war with the Soviets. The orphanage director tells Amir how to find the official, and Farid secures an appointment at his home by claiming to have “personal business” with him.

Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him. However, American authorities demand evidence of Sohrab’s orphan status. Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to go back to the orphanage for a little while as they have encountered a problem in the adoption process, and Sohrab, terrified about returning to the orphanage, attempts suicide. Amir eventually manages to take him back to the United States. After his adoption, Sohrab refuses to interact with Amir or Soraya until Amir reminisces about Hassan and kites and shows off some of Hassan’s tricks. In the end, Sohrab only gives a lopsided smile, but Amir takes it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, “For you, a thousand times over.”

Book Shelf – Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha is a historical fiction novel by American author Arthur Golden, published in 1997. The novel, told in first person perspective, tells the story of a fictional geisha working in Kyoto, Japan, before, during, and after World War II and ends with her being relocated to New York City.

The novel opens in 1929, nine-year old Chiyo Sakamoto and her 15-year-old sister, where Satsu, are sold by their father to work within the entertainment districts of Kyoto. They are taken from their home, the coastal fishing village of Yoroido along the Sea of Japan, and travel to Kyoto by train; upon arrival, Chiyo is taken to the Nitta Okiya (geisha boarding house) in Gion, whereas Satsu – deemed less attractive and therefore a poor investment – is instead taken to a brothel within Kyoto’s pleasure district.

Chiyo is taken inside, and is introduced to Auntie, Mother (Auntie’s adoptive older sister and the matriarch of the house) and Granny, their elderly and poor-natured adoptive mother and the okiya’s former “mother”. Both Auntie and Mother are strict, though Auntie is kinder to Chiyo, whereas Mother is driven by money and business. Chiyo is also introduced to Hatsumomo – the premier geisha of the okiya, its primary earner, and one of the most famous, beautiful and ill-mannered geisha of Gion. Hatsumomo takes an instant disliking to Chiyo, and goes out of her way to torment her. Auntie warns Chiyo against both angering and trusting Hatsumomo, knowing the ill-mannered geisha’s true nature very well.

Chiyo begins her “training” at the okiya, which consists of household drudgery, before she is deemed worthy enough and starts her geisha training.

A few years later, a downtrodden Chiyo is given money and a handkerchief in the street by a kind stranger known to Chiyo as the Chairman. She donates the money to a shrine in Gion, praying to become a geisha of sufficient status to entertain the Chairman, and keeps the handkerchief as a memento. Soon afterwards, Pumpkin prepares to make her debut as a maiko, and the “younger sister” of Hatsumomo, whilst Chiyo remains a maid; this is, however, until Mameha, another famous geisha in Gion, persuades a reluctant Mother to reinvest in Chiyo’s training, with Mameha acting as Chiyo’s mentor and “older sister”.

Under Mameha’s care, Chiyo becomes a maiko with the given name of Sayuri, and is reacquainted with Chairman Iwamura (who appears not to recognise her), his closest friend and business partner Nobu, and a number of other prominent men. As Sayuri gains popularity, Hatsumomo – who has been refused succession of the okiya through adoption by Mother – tries to hurt Sayuri’s reputation and career in the hopes of Mother adopting Pumpkin instead, through whom Hatsumomo can run the okiya by proxy.

Upon Sayuri’s promotion to fully-fledged geishahood, Nobu expresses an interest in becoming Sayuri’s danna (patron), but loses to General Tottori; with Japan on the eve of war, Mother decides that a connection to the military is more important to the okiya. In 1944, geisha districts are ordered to close, and with many geisha conscripted to work in the factories, Sayuri desperately asks Nobu for help to avoid being conscripted into factory work. He sends Sayuri far north to live with his old friend, Arashino, a kimono maker, where she stays for much of the war.

At the end of the war, Nobu visits Sayuri, asking that she return to Gion to entertain the new Deputy Minister, Sato, whose aid Nobu desperately needs to rebuild his and the Chairman’s business, Iwamura Electric. Sayuri returns to Gion to find Pumpkin working in a new okiya; despite hoping to rekindle their friendship, Pumpkin later sabotages Sayuri’s plan to scare Nobu off from proposing to be her danna, as revenge for taking her place in the adoption so many years ago.

A few days after her plan fails, Sayuri is summoned to meet a client at a teahouse. Believing Nobu has called her to discuss the arrangements for becoming her danna, Sayuri is surprised to see the Chairman instead, and confesses that she has worked for years to become close to the Chairman. The Chairman admits that he has always known she was the girl he met on the street, and confesses his feelings for her as well, but felt he owed Nobu – his oldest and closest friend – the chance to be with Sayuri out of kindness. He also admits to having asked Mameha to train Sayuri.

Sayuri peacefully retires from geisha work when the Chairman becomes her danna. It is heavily implied that they have an illegitimate son together. Foreseeing the consequences this could have regarding the inheritance of Iwamura Electric, she relocates to New York City and opens her own small tea house for entertaining Japanese men on business in the United States. Sayuri severs her links to the Nitta okiya and in effect, Japan. The Chairman remains her danna until his death and the story concludes with a reflection on Sayuri and her life.

Book Shelf – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 1964 children’s novel by British author Roald Dahl. The story features the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1964 and in the United Kingdom by George Allen & Unwin 11 months later. The book has been adapted into two major motion pictures: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2005. The book’s sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, was written by Roald Dahl in 1971 and published in 1972. Dahl had also planned to write a third book in the series but never finished it.

The story was originally inspired by Roald Dahl’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays. Cadbury would often send test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on the new products. At that time (around the 1920s), Cadbury and Rowntree’s were England’s two largest chocolate makers and they each often tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies, posing as employees, into the other’s factory. Because of this, both companies became highly protective of their chocolate-making processes. It was a combination of this secrecy and the elaborate, often gigantic, machines in the factory that inspired Dahl to write the story.

Young Charlie Bucket is very poor and lives in a small house with his parents and four grandparents. One day, Charlie’s Grandpa Joe tells him about the legendary and eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka and all the wonderful sweets and chocolates he made. However, the other chocolatiers sent in spies to steal his secret recipes, leading Wonka to close the factory to outsiders. The next day, the newspaper announces that Wonka is re-opening the factory and has invited five lucky children to come on a tour, if they find a Golden Ticket inside a Wonka Bar. The first four golden tickets are found by four unpleasant children: the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, the spoiled and petulant Veruca Salt, the chewing gum-addicted Violet Beauregarde, and the television-obsessed Mike Teavee.

One day, Charlie sees a 50 pence piece buried in the snow. He buys a Wonka Bar and miraculously finds the last golden ticket. The ticket says he can bring one or two family members with him and Charlie’s parents decide to allow Grandpa Joe to go with him.

On the day of the tour, Wonka takes the five children and their parents inside the factory, which is a wonderland of confectionery creations that defy logic. They also meet the Oompa-Loompas, a race of small people who help him operate the factory.

During the tour, the four “bad” children give in to their individual vices and are ejected from the tour in darkly comical ways. Augustus gets sucked up the pipe to the Fudge Room after drinking from the Chocolate River,

With only Charlie remaining in the end, Wonka congratulates him for “winning” the factory. Wonka explains that the whole tour was designed to help him secure a good person to serve as an heir to his business, and Charlie was the only child whose inherent goodness allowed him to pass the test. Wonka then invites Charlie’s family to come and live with him in the factory.

Book Shelf – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an 1876 novel by Mark Twain about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. It is set in the 1840s in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain lived as a boy. In the novel Tom Sawyer has several adventures, often with his friend Huckleberry Finn.

An imaginative and mischievous boy named Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother, Sid, in the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. After playing hooky from school on Friday and dirtying his clothes in a fight, Tom is made to whitewash the fence as punishment on Saturday. At first, Tom is disappointed by having to forfeit his day off. However, he soon cleverly persuades his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work. He trades these treasures for tickets given out in Sunday school for memorizing Bible verses and uses the tickets to claim a Bible as a prize. He loses much of his glory, however, when, in response to a question to show off his knowledge, he incorrectly answers that the first two disciples were David and Goliath.

Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher, a new girl in town, and persuades her to get “engaged” to him. Their romance collapses when she learns that Tom has been “engaged” before—to a girl named Amy Lawrence. Shortly after being shunned by Becky, Tom accompanies Huckleberry Finn, the son of the town drunk, to the graveyard at night to try out a “cure” for warts. At the graveyard, they witness the murder of young Dr. Robinson by the Native-American “half-breed” Injun Joe. Scared, Tom and Huck run away and swear a blood oath not to tell anyone what they have seen. Injun Joe blames his companion, Muff Potter, a hapless drunk, for the crime. Potter is wrongfully arrested, and Tom’s anxiety and guilt begin to grow.

Tom, Huck, and Tom’s friend Joe Harper run away to an island to become pirates. While frolicking around and enjoying their newfound freedom, the boys become aware that the community is sounding the river for their bodies. Tom sneaks back home one night to observe the commotion. After a brief moment of remorse at the suffering of his loved ones, Tom is struck by the idea of appearing at his funeral and surprising everyone. He persuades Joe and Huck to do the same. Their return is met with great rejoicing, and they become the envy and admiration of all their friends.

Summer arrives, and Tom and Huck go hunting for buried treasure in a haunted house. After venturing upstairs they hear a noise below. Peering through holes in the floor, they see Injun Joe enter the house disguised as a deaf and mute Spaniard. He and his companion, an unkempt man, plan to bury some stolen treasure of their own. From their hiding spot, Tom and Huck wriggle with delight at the prospect of digging it up. By an amazing coincidence, Injun Joe and his partner find a buried box of gold themselves. When they see Tom and Huck’s tools, they become suspicious that someone is sharing their hiding place and carry the gold off instead of reburying it.

Huck begins to shadow Injun Joe every night, watching for an opportunity to nab the gold. Meanwhile, Tom goes on a picnic to McDougal’s Cave with Becky and their classmates. That same night, Huck sees Injun Joe and his partner making off with a box. He follows and overhears their plans to attack the Widow Douglas, a kind resident of St. Petersburg. By running to fetch help, Huck forestalls the violence and becomes an anonymous hero.

Tom and Becky get lost in the cave, and their absence is not discovered until the following morning. The men of the town begin to search for them, but to no avail. Tom and Becky run out of food and candles and begin to weaken. The horror of the situation increases when Tom, looking for a way out of the cave, happens upon Injun Joe, who is using the cave as a hideout. Eventually, just as the searchers are giving up, Tom finds a way out. The town celebrates, and Becky’s father, Judge Thatcher, locks up the cave. Injun Joe, trapped inside, starves to death.

A week later, Tom takes Huck to the cave and they find the box of gold, the proceeds of which are invested for them. The Widow Douglas adopts Huck, and, when Huck attempts to escape civilized life, Tom promises him that if he returns to the widow, he can join Tom’s robber band. Reluctantly, Huck agrees.

Book Shelf – The Hobbit

Book Shelf – The Hobbit

The Hobbit, is a children’s fantasy novel by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim, being nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. The book remains popular and is recognized as a classic in children’s literature.

The Hobbit is set within Tolkien’s fictional universe and follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins, the titular hobbit, to win a share of the treasure guarded by Smaug the dragon. Bilbo’s journey takes him from light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister territory.

The story is told in the form of an episodic quest, and most chapters introduce a specific creature or type of creature of Tolkien’s geography.

Gandalf tricks Bilbo Baggins into hosting a party for Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves, who sing of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain and its vast treasure from the dragon Smaug. When the music ends, Gandalf unveils Thrór’s map showing a secret door into the Mountain and proposes that the dumbfounded Bilbo serve as the expedition’s “burglar”. The dwarves ridicule the idea, but Bilbo, indignant, joins despite himself.

The group travels into the wild, where Gandalf saves the company from trolls and leads them to Rivendell, where Elrond reveals more secrets from the map. When they attempt to cross the Misty Mountains they are caught by goblins and driven deep underground. Although Gandalf rescues them, Bilbo gets separated from the others as they flee the goblins. Lost in the goblin tunnels, he stumbles across a mysterious ring and then encounters Gollum, who engages him in a game of riddles. As a reward for solving all riddles Gollum will show him the path out of the tunnels, but if Bilbo fails, his life will be forfeit. With the help of the ring, which confers invisibility, Bilbo escapes and rejoins the dwarves, improving his reputation with them. The goblins and Wargs give chase, but the company are saved by eagles before resting in the house of Beorn.

The company enters the black forest of Mirkwood without Gandalf. In Mirkwood, Bilbo first saves the dwarves from giant spiders and then from the dungeons of the Wood-elves. Nearing the Lonely Mountain, the travellers are welcomed by the human inhabitants of Lake-town, who hope the dwarves will fulfil prophecies of Smaug’s demise. The expedition travels to the Lonely Mountain and finds the secret door.

When the dwarves take possession of the mountain, Bilbo finds the Arkenstone, an heirloom of Thorin’s family, and hides it away. The Wood-elves and Lake-men besiege the mountain and request compensation for their aid, reparations for Lake-town’s destruction, and settlement of old claims on the treasure. Thorin refuses and, having summoned his kin from the Iron Hills, reinforces his position. Bilbo tries to ransom the Arkenstone to head off a war, but Thorin is only enraged at the betrayal. He banishes Bilbo, and battle seems inevitable.

Gandalf reappears to warn all of an approaching army of goblins and Wargs. The dwarves, men and elves band together, but only with the timely arrival of the eagles and Beorn do they win the climactic Battle of Five Armies. Thorin is fatally wounded and reconciles with Bilbo before he dies.

Bilbo accepts only a small portion of his share of the treasure, having no want or need for more, but still returns home a very wealthy hobbit roughly a year and a month after he first left.

Book Shelf – Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows is a 1961 children’s novel by Wilson Rawls about a boy who buys and trains two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs.

A man named Billy Colman rescues a redbone hound under attack by neighbourhood dogs. He takes it home with him so that its wounds can heal. In light of this event, he has a flashback to when he was a ten-year-old boy living in the Ozark Mountains.

The book is Wilson Rawls own story with Billy Colman as the fictional character who wants nothing more than a pair of Redbone Coonhounds for hunting. After seeing a magazine ad for coonhounds, Billy spends the next two years working odd jobs to earn the $50 he needs to buy two puppies. Billy’s dogs are delivered to Tahlequah, over 20 miles away. Billy decides to walk the distance. As he returns with the dogs, he sees a heart carved on a tree with the names “Dan + Ann” and decides to name the puppies Old Dan and Little Ann. With his grandfather’s help, Billy teaches his dogs to hunt. Both dogs are very loyal to each other and to Billy.

The first night of hunting season, Billy promises the dogs that if they tree a raccoon, he will do the rest. They tree one in a huge sycamore, which Billy believes is far too large to chop down. Remembering his promise to his dogs, Billy spends the next two days attempting to chop down the sycamore. Exhausted, Billy prays for the strength to continue, whereupon a strong wind blows the tree over.

Billy and his hounds become well-known as the best hunters in the Ozarks. Billy’s grandfather makes a bet with Rubin and Raine Pritchard that Old Dan and Little Ann can tree the legendary “ghost coon” that has eluded hunters for years. After a long, complicated hunt, Old Dan and Little Ann manage to tree the raccoon, but having seen how old and smart the ghost coon is, Billy cannot bring himself to kill it. Billy tries to stop the Pritchards from killing the raccoon, leading to a fight with Rubin. The Pritchards’ dog Old Blue joins the fight, provoking Old Dan and Little Ann to attack Old Blue to drag him away from Billy. Rubin tries to drive Billy’s dogs away with an axe, but trips, falls on the blade, and dies. Billy is deeply troubled by the tragic turn of events, but does not regret his choice to spare the ghost coon.

Billy’s grandfather enters him into a championship coon hunt against experienced hunters. The hunt is scheduled during a particularly cold week and many of the other hunters are forced to give up, but Billy, who is used to mountain winters, is able to reach the final round. On the last night, Old Dan and Little Ann trap three raccoons in a single tree, but a sudden blizzard forces Billy to take shelter. The following morning, the dogs are found covered in ice but still circling the tree. All three raccoons are captured and Billy and his dogs win the championship and a $300 prize.

One night while the trio is hunting, a mountain lion attacks the dogs. Billy fights to save his dogs, but the mountain lion turns on him. The dogs manage to save Billy by killing the mountain lion, but Old Dan later dies of his injuries. Over the next few days, Little Ann loses the will to live and finally dies of grief atop Old Dan’s grave, leaving Billy heartbroken.

Billy’s father tries to comfort his son by explaining that he and Billy’s mother have long wished to move to town where their children can get an education, but could not afford to do so without the extra money brought in by Billy’s hunting. Knowing that Billy’s dogs would suffer in town and that Billy would be devastated to leave them behind, they intended to allow Billy to live with his grandfather. Billy’s father believes that God took the dogs as a sign that the family was meant to stay together.

On his last day in the Ozarks, Billy visits Old Dan and Little Ann’s graves and finds a giant red fern growing between them. Remembering a legend that only an angel can plant a red fern, Billy also comes to believe that perhaps there truly was a higher power at work.

The adult Billy closes by saying that although he hasn’t returned to the Ozarks, he still dreams of visiting his dogs’ graves and seeing the red fern again one day.

Book Shelf – The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Book Shelf – The Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a children’s book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter that follows mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit as he gets into, and is chased around, the garden of Mr. McGregor. He escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed after offering him chamomile-tea. The tale was written for five-year-old Noel Moore, son of Potter’s former governess Annie Carter Moore, in 1893. It was revised and privately printed by Potter in 1901 after several publishers’ rejections, but was printed in a trade edition by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1902. The book was a success, and multiple reprints were issued in the years immediately following its debut. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold it is one of the best-selling books in history.

The story was inspired by a pet rabbit Potter had as a child, which she named Peter Piper. Through the 1890s, Potter sent illustrated story letters to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore. In 1900, Moore, realizing the commercial potential of Potter’s stories, suggested they be made into books. Potter embraced the suggestion, and, borrowing her complete correspondence (which had been carefully preserved by the Moore children), selected a letter written on 4 September 1893 to five-year-old Noel that featured a tale about a rabbit named Peter. Potter biographer Linda Lear explains: “The original letter was too short to make a proper book so [Potter] added some text and made new black-and-white illustrations…and made it more suspenseful. These changes slowed the narrative down, added intrigue, and gave a greater sense of the passage of time. Then she copied it out into a stiff-covered exercise book, and painted a coloured frontispiece showing Mrs Rabbit dosing Peter with chamomile-tea”.

The story focuses on a family of anthropomorphic rabbits. The widowed mother rabbit warns her four rabbit children, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter not to enter the vegetable garden of a man named Mr. McGregor, whose wife, she tells them, put their father in a pie after he entered. Her triplets (Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail) obediently refrain from entering the garden, but Peter enters the garden to snack on some vegetables.

Peter ends up eating more than what is good for him and goes looking for parsley to cure his stomach ache. Peter is spotted by Mr. McGregor and loses his jacket and shoes while trying to escape. He hides in a watering can in a shed, but then has to run away again when Mr. McGregor finds him, and ends up completely lost. After sneaking past a cat, Peter sees the gate where he entered the garden from a distance and heads for it, despite being spotted and chased by Mr. McGregor again. With difficulty, he wriggles under the gate, and escapes from the garden, but he spots his abandoned clothing being used to dress Mr. McGregor’s scarecrow.

After returning home, a sick Peter is sent to bed by his mother, after she tells him that his jacket and shoes are the second jacket and pair of shoes that he has lost in a fortnight. His mother also takes note that he was not feeling too well, and deduces that he had definitely been to Mr McGregor’s garden. To cure his stomach ache, Mrs. Rabbit gives him chamomile-tea which is revealed to be one teaspoon and gives a dose of it to Peter. Peter’s sisters, meanwhile, receive a scrumptious dinner of milk, bread and blackberries.

Book Shelf – Christmas Carol

Book Shelf – Christmas Carol

The novel, Christmas Carol captured the zeitgeist of the mid-Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday. Dickens had acknowledged the influence of the modern Western observance of Christmas and later inspired several aspects of Christmas, including family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

A Christmas Carol opens on a bleak, cold Christmas Eve in London, seven years after the death of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge, an ageing miser, dislikes Christmas and refuses a dinner invitation from his nephew Fred—the son of Fan, Scrooge’s dead sister. He turns away two men who seek a donation from him to provide food and heating for the poor and only grudgingly allows his overworked, underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas Day off with pay to conform to the social custom.

That night Scrooge is visited at home by Marley’s ghost, who wanders the Earth entwined by heavy chains and money boxes forged during a lifetime of greed and selfishness. Marley tells Scrooge that he has a single chance to avoid the same fate: he will be visited by three spirits and must listen or be cursed to carry much heavier chains of his own.

The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas scenes of Scrooge’s boyhood, reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The scenes reveal Scrooge’s lonely childhood at boarding school, his relationship with his beloved sister Fan, and a Christmas party hosted by his first employer, Mr Fezziwig, who treated him like a son. Scrooge’s neglected fiancée Belle is shown ending their relationship, as she realises that he will never love her as much as he loves money. Finally, they visit a now-married Belle with her large, happy family on the Christmas Eve that Marley died. Scrooge, upset by hearing Belle’s description of the man that he has become, demands that the ghost remove him from the house.

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to a joyous market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to celebrations of Christmas in a miner’s cottage and in a lighthouse. Scrooge and the ghost also visit Fred’s Christmas party. A major part of this stave is taken up with Bob Cratchit’s family feast and introduces his youngest son, Tiny Tim, a happy boy who is seriously ill. The spirit informs Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die unless the course of events changes. Before disappearing, the spirit shows Scrooge two hideous, emaciated children named Ignorance and Want. He tells Scrooge to beware the former above all and mocks Scrooge’s concern for their welfare.

The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, shows Scrooge a Christmas Day in the future. The silent ghost reveals scenes involving the death of a disliked man whose funeral is attended by local businessmen only on condition that lunch is provided. His charwoman, laundress and the local undertaker steal his possessions to sell to a fence. When he asks the spirit to show a single person who feels emotion over his death, he is only given the pleasure of a poor couple who rejoice that his death gives them more time to put their finances in order. When Scrooge asks to see tenderness connected with any death, the ghost shows him Bob Cratchit and his family mourning the death of Tiny Tim. The ghost then allows Scrooge to see a neglected grave, with a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. Sobbing, Scrooge pledges to change his ways.

Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning a changed man. He makes a large donation to the charity he rejected the previous day, anonymously sends a large turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner and spends the afternoon with Fred’s family. The following day he gives Cratchit an increase in pay, and begins to become a father figure to Tiny Tim. From then on Scrooge treats everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas.

Book Shelf – A Sick Day for Amos McGee

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a 2011 children’s picture book written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. The book depicts a zookeeper who has bonded with the animals he cares for and who come and visit him one day when he gets sick. Phillip Stead wrote the book hoping his wife Erin would illustrate it after a period where she had become discouraged with her art. The book was well reviewed, and Erin won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations. The book received praise for its woodblock illustrations and for its message about what friends will do to help and support each other.

Amos McGee is a punctual man who goes about his day the same way every day. He swings his legs out of bed, puts on a fresh uniform and hops on the #5 bus at 6:00am to go to the zoo. While at the City Zoo, Amos always makes time to visit his good friends and always gives them exactly what they need. He follows a reliable agenda of activities with each of his favourite animals: the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros and the owl. Amos plays chess with the elephant, who thinks long and hard before each move, races the tortoise and lets him win, sits quietly with the very shy penguin, lends a handkerchief to the runny-nosed rhinoceros, and at dusk reads to the owl, who is scared of the dark. One day, however, Amos wakes up with a terrible cold. He decides that he won’t make it to work. Because Amos is a reliable friend, his dear friends start to wonder where he is. Getting worried, the animals leave the zoo and hop onto the #5 bus to Amos’ house. To comfort Amos, each animal stretches beyond his or her fears to help a friend recover. Afterwards, they all go to sleep, as they have a morning bus to catch that takes them back to the zoo.

Book shelf – Old Yeller – Fred Gipson

Old Yeller – Fred Gipson

Old Yeller is a 1956 children’s novel written by Fred Gipson and illustrated by Carl Burger. It received a Newbery Honor in 1957. The title is taken from the name of the yellow dog who is the center of the book’s story. In 1957, Walt Disney released a film adaptation starring Tommy Kirk, Fess Parker, Dorothy McGuire, Kevin Corcoran, Jeff York, and Beverly Washburn.

The novel opens, in the late 1860s in the fictional town of Salt Licks, Texas, young Travis Coates has been working to take care of his family ranch with his mother and younger brother, Arliss, while his father goes off on a cattle drive. When a “dingy yellow” dog comes for an unasked stay with the family, Travis reluctantly takes in the dog, which they name Old Yeller. The name has a double meaning: The fur colour yellow pronounced as “yeller” and the fact that its bark sounds more like a human yell.

Though Travis initially loathes the “rascal” and at first tries to get rid of it, the dog (a yellow cur), eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions, rescuing Arliss from a bear, Travis from a bunch of wild hogs, and Mama and their friend Lisbeth from a loafer wolf. Travis grows to love Old Yeller, and they become great friends. The rightful owner of Yeller shows up looking for his dog and recognizing that the family has become attached to Yeller, trades the dog to Arliss for a horned toad and a home-cooked meal prepared by Travis’ mother, who is an exceptional cook.

Old Yeller is bitten while saving his family from a rabid wolf. Travis is faced with the harsh decision that he must kill Old Yeller after the fight with the wolf, which he does because he cannot risk Old Yeller becoming sick and turning on the family. Old Yeller had puppies with one of Travis’ friend’s dogs, and one of the puppies helps Travis get over Old Yeller’s death. They take in the new dog and try to begin a fresh start.