Books, Reviews, Writing

Found!!! Red Balloons and Answers in Wonderful Secret Gardens

Today is a playing catch-up post once again as I discover the magic of books long lost. Hence the title – Found!!! Red Balloons and Answers in Wonderful Secret Gardens!!  It has been forever since I did any one of these:

  • Short Story related posts – for the Deal Me In Challenge, I last stopped at Week 14 here. And I will be back to share more interesting short reads in a post later this week as I catch up to the current week!
  • An ABC Wednesday post was last done for the letter P featuring ‘The Phantom Tollbooth‘ and the round is ready to move to the letter T already this Wednesday
  • Poetry related posts…(oh well, soon, one poem at least in May)

So, to start off, here is my catch-up post for ABC Wednesday. A short look at Q, R, and S for today.

Q is for ‘The Three Questions’ written and illustrated by Jon Muth – while not really a book starting with Q, it features the letter Q. For another Q book, you can look at ‘The Quiltmaker’s Gift’ featured earlier in my A to Z Challenge where the theme was ‘Within Books’

‘The Three Questions’ was a book I discovered after I read the short story by Tolstoy off of which the book is based. This book is a wonderful adaptation of Tolstoy’s story, rewritten to make the message understood by its intended younger audience; and the beautiful watercolors accompanying the words are just perfect!  The young protagonist, Nikolai, and his animal friends (the heron, the monkey, and the dog), as well as Leo, the wise turtle, and the panda family Nikolai helps – all work together to make this a book a treasure. This book is ideal for launching philosophical discussions with younguns’ without making it too philosophical.

Some possible questions to discuss with kids as you read the book include:

  • If you could get answers to three questions from the wise turtle, what would they be?
  • Have you asked a question to different people, and gotten different answers? What was your question and the answers? What was your reaction to those different answers (surprise you/confuse you/amuse you)? Which answer did you like best and why (to your question)?
  • Who would you ask your questions to (not the wise turtle but among those you know 🙂 )? Why?
  • What is your thinking place (or do you have one)?
  • Have you flown a kite before? — this could be a possible activity too – make and fly a kite (and also a puppet show maybe with face masks of the animals)

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R is for a beautiful, beloved book – ‘The Red Balloon‘ by Albert Lamorrise – this is one of those books that came after the movie and it is impossible not to fall in love with both the book and the movie in this case, equally, and totally in love. I recall seeing the movie years ago when they showed it at school to all of us and vividly recall the feelings I was left with that day. To this day, the movie and the book evoke the same feelings – feelings of hope, of having color restored to a dull, gray world because of that hope, of having a faithful friend true to you, and of general happiness. The movie was made by Albert Lamorrise in 1956. Lamorrise was a former auditor at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC) aka, the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies, and the crew that he used for the making of the film was entirely composed of IDHEC graduates. The book was first published in 1957 as a tie-in for the movie by Doubleday Books (now Penguin Random House), using black and white and color stills from the film, with added prose. The author of the book – Albert Lamorrise. The book and movie are both highly regarded – the book is a winner of A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year, and the movie is an Academy Award winner. You can have a look into the book here. If you have not read the book or seen the movie, go ahead and do them both – it is like you found sweet magic!  

A side note fact: Albert Lamorrise is also the inventor of the board game ‘Risk

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S is for ‘The Secret Garden‘ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, another childhood favorite. This book appears frequently on my blog in various top ten posts.  Here are a few interesting facts about the book:

  • As I research books, old and new, for my posts here, I realized that many of the older books were first written for magazines in serial form, and because of their popularity, were later published as books. ‘The Secret Garden’ is also one such book. It was first serialized in The American Magazine, a magazine meant for adults, which raised a confusion on its intended audience.
  • While it was not her most popular (almost forgotten) book during her lifetime, it has gained popularity over the years, and appears in many top 100 lists of books for children across oceans. Today, like many, I know Burnett as a children’s book author, but I am sure she would be surprised to hear that. Why?
  • A couple of events in her life are said to have inspired this book –
    • The first was the death of her older son in 1890. This turned her to seek strength in Christian Science and those beliefs find their way into the book (one example: positive thoughts lead to healing). Like with other books I read as a child, I did not note any religious/Christian influences at all – I read the book for the pure joy of it. And I hope I can reread it to discover the same joy again 🙂
    • The second was her stay at Maytham Hall. She loved the hall and its walled kitchen garden; like Mary in the book, she was unable to discover her way into the walled gardens due to overgrown ivy, and a robin showed her the way! Oh! Yes to discover a secret walled garden all by myself – that would be totally thrilling, wouldn’t it? Someday, I will make my way on a bookish tour of the world!
  • The original title of the book was ‘Mistress Mary’ – the poem that kids sang to Mary to tease her when she first landed in her uncle’s home. But Burnett later changed the title to ‘The Secret Garden’ and I am sure glad of that.
  • When I first read the book, I fell in love with it (and still do) – I was impressed with Mary and how she turned herself around from someone who was mean-spirited and a snob, to the strong-spirited girl who helps many around her through the course of the book. But I think my favorite character in the book is possibly Dickon.  Have you read the book? Who is your favorite character? 

Buy it on Amazon

Buy it on BookDepository

Buy it on BookOutlet

This post goes towards ABC Wednesday‘s round 22 – letters Q,R, and S (my theme for ABC Wednesday’s Round 22 is children’s books – I will pick one popular (and sometimes the not so popular/the unknown) book – classic/modern/old/new… – and write about it – be it a backstory or facts or something else completely

Note: This post contains affiliate links. 

[Sources: wikipedia, among others]

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