The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Published: June 29th 2000 (print)/1st April, 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
 Harcourt, Inc. /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 93/1 hours 59 minutes
Narrator: Humphrey Bower
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

It’s time for another installment of ‘This Classic Was Underwhelming, Why Do People Rave About It?’ I’ve given it a four but that is because it started out as a sweet story and I was open and willing to explore the universe with this little prince. I enjoyed the strange planets and the different people, and it was cute to follow the prince around the universe. Then it becomes heavy handed and weird. I was intrigued having never really heard about the plot, just that it was filled with inspirational quotes and filled with the allegory about life. I didn’t hate it, I was just underwhelmed.

I understood what de Saint-Exupéry was trying to do, but it didn’t grab me. I was interested in his approach and I managed to enjoy the story, but I got to the end and went ‘ok?’. So obviously I missed the grand impact that he was after. It’s not that I didn’t get it, I understand the big meaning of life that was being expressed but I didn’t care. The last part of the story ruined the magic of the first part, even though I know they were trying to tell the same story.

I’m glad I went with the audiobook because I think I might have disliked it more if I read it. Bower does a great job telling the story and even though I missed out on the pictures, it didn’t really impact on the story too much. Perhaps I wasn’t connected enough to the prince given his journey. Without that emotional attachment perhaps the impact of it was lost on me. At least I can say I’ve read it now.

You can purchase The Little Prince via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository Audible

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Wordery

Angus & Robertson | Dymocks

 Fishpond QBD


The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

Published: 3rd July 2017Goodreads badge
University of Queensland Press
Pages: 180
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Olive’s father has a sadness so big that she imagines it as an enormous elephant following him around. Every day Olive sees the elephant, and every day she wishes it would go.

With the help of Grandad and her best friend, Arthur, Olive sets out to chase the elephant away.

Just reading the blurb of this book made me instantly want to start reading it. It’s the story of a girl called Olive who lives with her dad and the elephant that follows him around. Olive is tired of seeing the looming elephant near her father, she is tired of seeing how it affects him and how it makes him forget about her.

I loved seeing how Carnavas explores Olive’s different relationships. I loved seeing her interact with her grandad, how he treats her and takes her on special adventures. I also actually really loved when Olive tries to be with her father. She’s always hopeful, always trying to get him to see her through the elephant.

There was one part that I thought really summed up the experience of depression and grief very well: “[Olive] longed to share it all…In the end, she said nothing because her father would never listen – really listen – with the elephant beside him.” I felt that this part portrayed the relationship Olive and her dad have. He doesn’t ignore her; he just can’t be there in his entirety for her because his sadness is too great, it overwhelms him.

This book is ideal for kids who need help understanding depression or how grief can affect the people around them. This isn’t a book that explains what depression or grief is or how it is treated, it doesn’t explicitly try to be either, but it is a story about a girl who lives with a dad who is sad all the time and can’t always be there for her.

There are some beautiful moments in this story and there’s a lot of wonderful surprises as well. I love Olive’s imagination and her creative mind, and I love Carnavas’ illustrations that fill this special book.

You can purchase The Elephant via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia | Publisher

Amazon | Fishpond

Book Depository | QBD | BookWorld

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter


Today is the birthday of the delightfully wonderful author Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, and my absolute favourite story The Tailor of Gloucester.

Beatrix Potter was born Helen Beatrix Potter in 1866 to a wealthy Unitarian family. Potter didn’t have a lot of friends outside her family and she spent a lot of time with her parents and brother. Her education was done by a private governess until she was eighteen but she was taught multiple broad subjects such as languages, science, history, and literature.

Potter wrote twenty three books, each celebrating mature and country life and brought to life lasting characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Tom Kitten, and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and other wonderful characters each with a wonderful story of their own.

Not only is Potter a wonderfully storyteller, but all of her stories are told with beautiful illustrations she did herself. Her mother and father were artistic and she and her brother Walter Bertrum would often draw the various small animals they kept as pets. As a child she was given private art lessons and loved painting the natural world. I remember learning too that Potter was also very interested in biology and anatomy, and liked to see how things worked, which aided in her realistic drawings of animals.

Potter did not start as an author, but rather as an artist. Her paintings and drawings were not only of animals and nature but also insects, fossils, archaeological artefacts, and fungi. These make her recognisable by the scientific community, especially her mycological illustrations and research into the reproduction of fungus spores. It was from this success that Peter Rabbit was written and illustrated, first published privately in 1901 and a year later as a small, three-colour illustrated book through Frederick Warner and Co.

Potter wanted her books to be printed small, as she took into account the small child’s hands that would be reading her work. This is why those great mini Potter books exist, but are a little but rarer these days which is a shame. There is so much more to learn about Beatrix Potter, she was a fascinating woman who came from an interesting family, and her life is one that showed off not just her talents but her love of the natural world. She was a sheep herder and farmer, buying up numerous farms to preserve the land, and leaving most of her property to the National Trust upon her death.

Potter continued to write and design merchandise for her publishers until poor eyesight contributed to her stopping. She died in 1943 aged 77 from pneumonia and heart disease but her stories have lived on. There have been multiple adaptations and merchandise that keep her characters alive and will continue to do so for many years to come.


Published: September 16th 1992
Goodreads badgePublisher: Frederick Warne & Co.
Pages: 58
Format: Book
Genre: Children
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Beatrix Potter has a wonderful place in my heart. I not only adored the tiny little books I read as a kid, but I had The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends videos and I loved them to bits. I know everyone knows of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but I am going to review one of my all time favourite Beatrix Potter stories, The Tailor of Gloucester.

The Tailor of Gloucester is the third book Potter wrote, and was published in 1903. It tells the story of a tailor who must make a coat for the mayor’s wedding on Christmas Day. With barely a penny to his name he works with marvellous silks to create the finest coat for the occasion, all the while being watched by mice that live between the walls. The tailor frets over his work as he realises that he has no more twist of cherry-coloured silk. After sending his cat Simpkin out to retrieve some, who seems to return without it, the tailor goes home struck with a fever, unable to keep working.

As usual in Potter’s wonderful style, there are clever animals that are highly personified while still looking realistic. With the tailor being the key character there is still a lot of character given to Simpkin and the mice. Though interestingly the mice speak, but the cat does not. A curiosity I never really noticed before now. This does not mean that Simpkin does not get proper characterisation; he is a little selfish, a little bit sweet, and even a little bit filled with revenge, something that manages to add a lot of drama to this tiny tale.

In a way there are many similarities between this story and the Grimm Brothers’ The Elves and the Shoemaker, but I prefer this story. What makes this better is the tailor, he is such a great character, you care for him, and fear for him, and worry relentlessly about him and want him to be ok. You also chide Simpkin and love Simpkin and adore the scurrying mice that run from house to house. Also, I discovered something else wonderful whilst writing this review, this story is based on real events, though the mice were humans, but the sentiment remains!

I’m not saying that as I thought about this gorgeous book I started to tear up but I totally did and I think it is one of the most wonderful stories of Potter’s, it was certainly her favourite, and it is one that should be remembered by people more often; away from Peter Rabbit and yes, as much as I adore Jemima Puddleduck even away from her sometimes.

The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends did a wonderful adaptation of this book, like all the episodes it is quite faithful, and creative, and allows Potter’s characters to come to life. If you would like to watch The Tailor of Gloucester episode and have your heart moved and broken and warmed, you can watch it here. You can also read the story here.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle


A very happy birthday to Eric Carle today, author and illustrator of so many delightful books, who is 84!

Carle was born in 1929 in New York to German parents but went back to Germany when he was six years old. After harrowing experiences through the war, Carle returned to America in 1952 where he got a job as a graphic designer for the New York Times and later at an advertising agency.

The work of Eric Carle is easily recognisable, his artwork and illustrations are unique and his books tell of nature and the world. Carle himself said that with his books  “I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child…I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born…The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”

The way Carle makes his art is fascinating. I had never really thought about it before, I assume it was just paintings but apparently his work is created like a collage using hand painted papers that are cut and layered to form the images. There are also other techniques such as die-cut pages, and actual twinkling lights and noises in some books as well. All very high class compared to the felt puppets and faux fur I remember from my books.

My favourite book of Carle’s is of course The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I read this so many times as a kid it’s great. Yet another example of interaction and creative book creation, there are holes in the book, the pages are different sizes, it is amazing. It seems growing up Carle was familiar with different shaped books in Germany. I understand the reasons why but we need more books here that are weirdly shaped.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969 and the story behind it is rather cool. According to Carle, “One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm and so I created a story called A Week with Willi the Worm.” But how did we get to the caterpillar? Willi was a bookworm, but apparently poor Willi would not be a great protagonist as a green worm (poor Willi), then Carle’s editor suggested a caterpillar, which made Carle think of a butterfly and there you go. So in a sense we can all now say the very hungry caterpillar’s name is Willi. This must be made known to the world.

I must say, this was a fun review to write, short books, especially children’s books can bring out a silliness you really can’t get away with for big, long, serious books. If you don’t know the story of the very hungry caterpillar you may not want to read ahead, but even if it spoils it, which is will because there is nothing much else to talk about in there, then I half apologise and half demand you go read the book.

Published: September 29th 1994
Goodreads badgePublisher: Puffin
Pages: 26
Format: Picture Book
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

This is a story of suspense and tension. The main character of this story is born into a world in constant hunger and we follow him as he devours food at an alarming rate, never able to quench his hunger. Day after day he does nothing but eat, eating more and more as the days go by. He tries to be healthy in the beginning but as the days progress his hunger drives him to junk food and after all that cake and sugar and cheese…well, that’s right, he becomes ill. The suspense was amazing. Was this finally the way to stop this hunger machine before he ate through his world of food? Could this tummy ache be enough to stop his rampage on the food? Would there still be enough to support the remaining population? I had to read on to find out.

After having eaten so much this character had become so large he hides himself from the world. So large in fact he must built a house around himself to shield the judging eyes of the neighbours and those who come across him. Housebound, and living off the vast amount of food he’d consumed in his lifetime, this character is sheltered from the world. Until one day, after probably taking a good long hard look at what he’d become, had an instinctual desire to change himself, become a new and brighter person. After emerging slowly from his custom built house to this new world he was no longer a very hungry caterpillar, he was a beautiful butterfly (or he’d eaten himself into a food coma and was delusional about his true butterfly abilities. Either way).