The Water Babies – REVIEW TIME

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The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley. First read 15th April to 17th April 2017.   4 // 5 stars.

I may have missed a couple of days in this little challenge I set myself … (whoops) so it’s now day four and I’m here to review the Water Babies!

When I found the Water Babies for 50 cents at a book sale, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t read it already! So of course I simply had to pick it up. I finally got around to reading it the other day and was enchanted.

The Water Babies is the story of a young chimney sweep who runs away from his cruel master, and is subsequently turned into a ‘water baby’. While it is never fully explained what a water baby actually is, I worked out from the title that it’s a baby who lives in the water?? So I suppose it’s fairly self explanatory.

The writing style in this book was honestly the highlight for me! It was so delightfully old fashioned, which made the entire thing an absolute joy to read.

What I likeeed:

  • The writing style!! So much perfection and a pleasure to read.
  • Some really adorable characters in there.
  • Honestly it was just really fun to read. The prose read like music and I loved it.
  • There were some philosophical parts in there too. I did brush over them a little, not quite being in the mood for philosophy, but hey, they were there.
  • It was soo funny! I can’t remember the last time I found a book this humorous 🙂

What I didn’t like so much:

  • Just like Mary Barton, this book focused a little bit on goodness as a means for salvation. *sighs*
  • There was a little too much ‘moralising’ in places for my liking.
  • It dragged a tad in places.
  • Ummm… that’s it??

Actually, this book reminded me a little of the story of Pinocchio. There’s a good fairy, training Tom (the naughty protagonist) up. Tom has many adventures, and struggles to find other people like him. And at the end, of course, there’s a delightfully happy ending!

My little Goodreads review sums up all of my thoughts on the book:

An endearing book filled with excellent prose! How I wish books were written like this nowadays *sighs*

img_0581Just a short review for today, but I absolutely adored this book as a little break from heavier things. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Keep smiling,

Emmeline 🙂

Mary Barton – REVIEW TIME

 

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Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell. Read 19th April to 23rd April 2017.   4 // 5 stars.

This story is about a young woman and her father, two young men, and the poverty and depression that struck Manchester at the time. There’s also a murder, a chilling plot twist, and a lot of deaths. It’s really quite tragic how many characters are dead by the end, most by easily preventable causes.

One of the things I loved about this book was the fact that there weren’t tonnes of characters to keep track of. Often in classics there are many characters and it can be difficult to keep track of them all; this one, however, had just the perfect amount. There really were very few compared to other classics, and the secondary characters were very much kept to a minimum. Except for one instance where there were two Marys in one room, I was never confused!

This book opened my eyes to the extreme poverty that England – and perhaps the world – was facing. While books like Pride and Prejudice are social commentaries on higher classes of the time, this book really gets down to the nitty gritty. An excellent commentary on the lower class of Manchester in the late 1840s.

I couldn’t help comparing this book to Dickens. I mean, both authors portrayed the lower class in England, and both wrote about the struggle between the classes, and the consequences that followed. However, the true difference between the two was that Gaskell’s characters are all very personal. The book felt like Dickens in its representation of the poor, but the characters were much more personal – all the secondary characters had emotions that Dickens never quite captures, at least in my opinion (but that’s a discussion for another day :)). A personal version of Dickens, then.

The main reason that this wasn’t a 5 star book for me was its focus on goodness as a means for salvation. If a character was at the point of death, they would have absolutely no assurance – they would look back on their life and cringe at the sin it had contained. As a Christian, I have assurance in Christ. Unfortunately throughout many of these old novels, characters – rich or poor – simply do not have assurance of their what their existence after death will look like, because they are under the impression that being good gets you to Heaven.

However, this was but a personal thing, and did not stop me enjoying the narrative in the slightest. It was only really afterwards that I stopped to consider the worldview of the novel, and it was then when I picked up this issue.

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A quick list of likes:

  • Stunningly written!
  • Personal, endearing, believable characters!
  • Its focus on the poor with very few wealthy characters – refreshing I felt!
  • Its treatment of death and human suffering, not dehumanising the poor and making grief something that all classes of life feel!
  • Character development that happens slowly so you don’t notice it!
  • The clever combination of social commentary and gripping plot!
  • The absolutely delicious plot twist at the end which I didn’t see coming despite myself!

And some dislikes:

  • The aforementioned misguided beliefs concerning salvation.
  • The first half of the book was rather sloooooow.
  • Sometimes the social commentary arc overshadowed the actual plot. (although by the latter half the plot was in full swing!)

Overall, then, a thought provoking, well written book that I would recommend to nearly everybody! If you can’t do Dickens, for whatever reason, but still want a view of life as it was in the 1840s, then this one is for you.


img_0581Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865 – goodness, she died so tragically young!) also wrote North and South, which I’ve heard many things about but never tried. Given how much I enjoyed this one, I’m definitely adding her to my list!

Have you read this book, or any others by this author? I’d love to know!

Love, Emmeline 🙂

Half a Lifetime – REVIEW TIME

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Half a Lifetime, by Judith Wright. First read 15th April to 17th April 2017.  No rating.

I’m aiming to (a) review a book every day this week (this being day two) and (b) review every book I read this month! Today’s issue – Half a Lifetime, by Judith Wright.

I had to read this book in preparation for my speech exam, and found it particularly interesting. It opened my eyes to some elements of Judith’s life that I didn’t know/hadn’t thought about before.

It’s always difficult writing reviews on autobiographies, I find. This is because I can’t critique the plot without critiquing a life. This story in particular was exceptionally personal, making my job even more difficult. Perhaps autobiographies aren’t meant to be critiqued, but rather to be pondered on!

Half a Lifetime is the story of one of Australia’s best known poets, Judith Wright. It shows her childhood, her life as a young adult before, after, and during the War, and explores her relationship with the philosopher Jack McKinney.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about this book was its friendly mixture of storytelling and philosophy. Judith showed the way that her philosophy and worldview was created, and even in the beginning stages of her life she showed how that time influenced her beliefs later in life. I suppose it goes to show that even the earliest events in our life affect our mind and consequently our worldview. For Judith Wright, these events were the mistreatment of the Aboriginal people who worked for her family. It was the illness of her mother which meant she was largely left to herself, free to roam the bush and be told off for being ‘unladylike’ by her family. All of these experiences led Judith Wright to be a campaigner for Aboriginal land rights in later years, spurred on by her personal witness of prejudice.

It’s interesting to me that Judith travelled Europe several years before the outbreak of WWII, and saw what was coming. However, when trying to warn those back home in Australia of the clear future, she was ignored or laughed at. Wrapped in our comfortable bubbles of the things we know (or think we know), we don’t like to peek outside and have a look outside at the things we may not know about, at the future which we fervently ignore. Given the current unrest in the world today, it’s interesting to ponder the fact that even today we refuse to see two steps in front of us.

Yet another thing that fascinated me was how Judith knew very early on that she wanted to be a poet. She was sure of this fact. So when it came time for school, she did wonderfully in English, and not-so-good at maths. She wanted to go to Uni, so she studied several different units in literature and history, rather than a whole degree.

This book was very thought provoking and very personal. The writing style is written in Judith Wright’s unique way; there are commas where there shouldn’t be and none where there should, as well as plenty of run-on sentences. It also has large gaps and silences in places, particularly her university years. Sometimes it jumps ahead a few years, or back, but not enough to make it too confusing. However, all this serves to make it feel more like an intimate conversation than a book!

Would I recommend this book? I’m really not sure. I haven’t really touched on Judith’s worldview, which is a whole topic on itself. I suppose I would suggest reading it if you’re interested in her poetry and what influenced it. It’s certainly an interesting look into one remarkable poet’s mind!


img_0581I am a fan of Judith’s poetry, and so reading this book really was an insight into her whole world. I struggle reading her prose because of the sentence structure, but this book was so personal that I barely noticed the grammar.

Have you read any of her poetry? I’d highly recommend it!

Love, Emmeline 🙂

The Summer We Saved the Bees – REVIEW TIME

SummerWeSavedTheBeescovThe Summer We Saved the Bees, by Robin Stevenson. Read April 11th,    3 // 5 stars.

I read this book for the first time just the other day. We had to be at the library for an hour, so I picked up a book that looked doable (not too long, not too short) and read it!

In this book, Wolf has to go with his family (two twin girls, a grumpy stepsister and her boyfriend, a mother, and a stepfather) around the country to promote the idea that the bees are dying – and that the end of the world is coming. His sister is sick, and he doesn’t want to go.

This is yet another case of me picking up a book in the YA section of the library, and it turning out to be Middle Grade. I didn’t mind though – it was a nice little story that shows how to live in a frankly quite confusing world.

There was something that I particularly liked about this book, which was the overall theme of ‘it is what it is’. Given the premise of the book, ‘save the world at all costs’, this was a nice little surprise that is a lot closer to what I personally agree with, though still (of course) not all the way there.

Additionally, the ending was bittersweet – my favourite type of ending. Reconciliation combined with realism makes for a good book, I feel.

While I never really got into the book enough to really feel on the edge of my seat (more my setting’s fault than the books’), there were certainly some “WHYYYYY are some people so annoying!” moments.

The story arc with the younger sister’s anxiety was good, I felt – it had mental illness representation in younger children, which I feel doesn’t happen enough. However, I am not knowledgeable enough to be able to judge whether or not the representation was realistic or not. I feel like it was … maybe … not really sure … Glad it was there at least, though!

There were some gripes that I did have with the book, however:

  • The characters were a little flat. I found myself wishing that the description focused more on the characters than the setting.
  • (okay this is slightly embarrassing but) It took me a quarter of the book to discover that (a) the main character was a boy, and (b) he was just twelve. I thought he was a she and also at least 16. Either I wasn’t paying attention oooorrrrr…..
  • The description felt very forced in places.
  • There were some odd things and inconsistencies??? In places it didn’t quite feel like they were actually a vegan all-organic family. As someone who knows many people who are actually vegan and all-organic, the inconsistencies were highly obvious to me.

But apart from these issues it was a fun little read that really picked me up for that hour at the library!


img_0581Have you read this book? What do you think of it????

Love, Emmeline 🙂

As We Sweep Through the Deep – REVIEW TIME

downloadAs We Sweep Through the Deep, by Gordon Stables.
Read February 15th,      3 // 5 stars.

I’ve been swamped under with school/uni work for the past week, but I thought I’d take a moment out from assignments and study to write a little review on this rollicking book!

This book is the height of swashbucklers. It surrounds two families, one of which has a mortgage on their old mansion, and the other of which has control of the mortgage. There is a see travelling young man, a feisty sister, a loving love interest, and kind friends.

There were many things that I enjoyed about this book! Namely:

  • The sweetness and innocence of the romance
  • Sea battles and (hopefully) accurate historical content
  • Sweet sisters with sweet characters
  • Friends that stick up for you
  • The gorgeous writing style!!!

That said, there were some iffy things with this book. The book had a clear plot from the beginning – BUT WHERE DID IT GO?? I was sooo confused in the middle of the book because the plot had packed up and left. It barely returned for a little wrap at the end.

So what did it do instead of follow the plot? Well, it…..

  • Took us through numerous sea battles
  • PIRATES
  • Death (seriously though, so many soldiers died and I was sooo surprised at the death toll)
  • There was a scene where smugglers were captured
  • Basically ships.
  • And sea fighting.
  • So … it’s essentially England vs France on the water.
  • England wins!!

(and now we return for the finale where everyone and everything ends up happy!)

I hope that wasn’t too spoiler-ly for you, but to be perfectly honest, there isn’t much to spoil. As I said, this book seemed far more interested in taking us through sea battles than following through with the plot that it had promised from the beginning. The reason I ended up rating it so high was because I enjoyed the reading experience so much! The writing was delightful and the characters were delightful and even the sea battles were delightful. Just the lack of a consistent plot irritated me.

img_0581My ancient hardcover edition of this book was found for one dollar at a second hand book sale. You can read a free eBook at Project Gutenberg here!

Keep smiling,

Emmeline 🙂

1984 – REVIEW TIME

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1984 by George Orwell
Read 27th February 2017.     4 // 5 stars.

I’ve been gone for a little, studying and assignment-ing away. However, I took a little break to record my thoughts on this stunning book, one that I’d been wanting to read for a very long time.

This book is a stunning commentary on humanity. I read it in one sitting, and I’m still slightly in awe of its power??? I was quite honestly glued to the page.

My favourite thing about this book was undoubtedly the fact that it makes one think – about the human condition. It presents a very negative view on humanity. Thankfully, as a Christian I know that should I be put in the same situations as Winston was, I would stand my ground. However it was still good to read this book and see life from another’s point of view.

This book is powerful. It made me question my own reality. For a moment there I caught myself wondering if, after all, we would be a stronger society without love. It is a question that Lauren Oliver tried to answer in her Delerium series, and one that many others have also tried to answer. 1984 says that we would be. We would be stronger. We would be completely united as one. Our only loyalty would be to the Government. While (of course) I disagree with this view of humanity, I do agree that we would be stronger.

I suppose as humans we have to decide between retaining our individuality, and being strong as a society. I choose retaining our individuality. But, if a group of people (such as there are, in the world today) were to choose the latter, it would require uniting together to oppose with them. In the end, then, life goes on. And we go on with it.

If it weren’t for the fact that I believe in a God who is greater than the human condition, I would be quite discouraged by this book. But in some sense it was just reaffirming what I already believed; that humanity is messed up.

So those are just a few of the scattered thoughts that I had whilst reading this great book. There were a couple of things that brought the rating down from five to four stars; namely the emphasis on sexual pleasure. Maybe I just can’t relate to this, but it did seem to me a little unnecessary that there was such a large emphasis placed on it.

img_0581Additionally, I think that this book is not really meant to be read as a story. I think that the author intended us to think when we read it, to discuss it, to ponder it and the themes it presents.

Have you read this book?

Keep smiling,

Emmeline 🙂

Fangirl – REVIEW TIME

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. 
Read February 4 – 6 2017.     3.5 // 5 stars.

I fangirled over this book. Yet, I didn’t obsess to the level that I was expecting myself to. I surprised myself by reading it and thinking – I feel a little let down? I had ridiculously high expectations for this book and I feel like not all of them were answered.

What I liked.

  • It contained Fanfiction!! I mean, when you think about the high amounts of fanfiction on the web, it’s a bit ridiculous that most books ignore its existence!! As someone who’s read and written (sssshhhh) a lot of fic, I resonated strongly with Cath’s joys and frustrations.
  • The relationship that the book was centred around was quite adorable. I squealed a lot. Also, thanks to Cath’s nature, there wasn’t much more than kissing, for which I was very thankful for.
  • The characters were all well-developed and not wooden. They were all different, which = good book.
  • It was a very realistic book. (more on this later!)
  • It literally had so much nerd culture that my heart was rendered incredibly happy! The fanfiction, the fangirling, the midnight book releases – perfection.

what i didn’t like.

  • The book had some things missing. This is perhaps a little hard to explain, but the ending wasn’t resolved to a place that I’d like it to be. There were some scenes that could have been taken places, but weren’t, and therefore seemed rather unnecessary. The ending bugged me.

(and that was about it!)

There is one more thing I’d like to mention. Rainbow Rowell’s writing style is centred around realism. She writes in the real world – there isn’t always a happy ever after. The ending isn’t always fully resolved. It’s a very different writing style, and it does take a lot of getting used to.

I’ve heard someone say that you either like her books, or you don’t.

I personally enjoy her work. I think it’s different, and refreshing. I think that people go into her work not realising that it will be different, and that’s where the crux occurs. This was -slightly- me in Fangirl.

I kinda forgot it was written by the same author as Eleanor and Park???

Anyway, I went into it thinking that maybe there’d be a fully satisfying happy ending, and while it may have been happy it didn’t fully satisfy me. There were parts that I would have appreciated the inclusion of. There were some scenes that I don’t think were necessary, despite it being realistic. I thought that the book was too long.


img_0581And, in the end, I am not a romance reader – I’m a sword buckler, classics, fantasy world reader. And so I think that this book did quite well to entice me as much as it did! It’s certainly well written, and the writing was stunning.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Keep smiling,

Emmeline 🙂

A Waltz for Matilda: Jackie French REVIEW TIME

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A Waltz For Matilda by Jackie French. Number 1 in the Matilda saga.
Read December 26th 2016.      5 // 5 stars.

Jackie French held the place of my favourite author for a very long time, perhaps the longest out of anyone. An Australian writer, she mainly writes Historical fiction and emphasises the imagery and glory of Australia throughout all her books. I think that if you weren’t Australian you would think this country an absolute paradise from her books, but they did a lot for me by crafting an appreciation for this great land, that I still have and will  (hopefully) never lose.

A Waltz For Matilda, the first in the Matilda saga, is a slow book packed with imagery and drought and the realness of humanity in the face of despair. Matilda, a girl from the slums, leaves to find her father in the ‘middle of nowhere’. The book itself spans from when she was twelve to thirty three, and is gloriously full of everything needed for a good hearty Australian story – a farm and sheep and sun and rain and historical accuracy and forbidden love and kangaroos.

I’ve read this book … five (? something like that) times now, and though I do have a few nitpicks, on the whole it has never failed to make me smile, and appreciate this lovely brown-and-green land that I live in.

what i liked.

  • Forgiveness. It plays a huge part in this book and it’s not something that pops up often in this age of paybacks. As such, I appreciated its presence and was awed at its power. It made the book for me, I think.
  • Matilda. She is stubborn and awesome, just like this land. And can I just say that I love her obsession with sheep? Because I do.
  • Its historical value. I remember reading this for the first time when I was twelve, and I was so intrigued by it that I went and researched the late nineteenth century! That’s the best type of book; books that subtly encourage you to learn.
  • It’s pretty much an all-ages book. There are themes in there that will only be picked up by an older audience, but I am quite sure that a ten year old could read this book and enjoy it!
  • The parts where annoying characters got told off by gruff old men. It’s hilarious, I’m telling you now.

what i didn’t like.

  • The realism of a thirteen year old running a farm. I know she had loving people to help her, but it was just a leetle hard to believe. I only noticed it on this read through, however.
  • Matilda’s character was hard to discern. This is something that runs through all of Jackie French’s writing, I think – it can sometimes be hard to find the traits of a specific character, to make him/her different from the rest. By the end of the book I understood her more, but there were parts where she felt a little like cardboard – a standard character, but nothing more. HOWEVER this may just be me – knowing my reading style, I could have brushed over the most important paragraph of the book and missed a huge plot development!

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All in all, then, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book and one that I highly recommend to anyone, of any age!

Have you read this book?

Keep smiling,

–Emmeline 🙂

Anna and the French Kiss: Stephanie Perkins REVIEW TIME

review-timeFirst read November 24 – 25, 2016.
3 // 5   stars.

Today I’m reviewing Anna and the French Kiss, a pointless book that is somehow enjoyable!

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In this book, a reasonably pretty and clever girl named Anna is sent off to a boarding school in Paris by her ridiculously rich father, who writes cliche books. She is at first extremely upset – I mean, it’s Paris after all – to be sent away, but soon warms up to the idea, and the extremely good-looking Etienne.

What I liked

My first reaction upon picking up this book was “It’s going to be predictable”. Of course it is, I mean, read the title. However, it actually works. The whole predictable-ness added to the overarching theme of ‘this is just a harmless story, give it a break’.

I loved the theme. As aforesaid, it just felt very harmless. There was no point where I felt like it was real, like the story could actually happen in real life – but sometimes I feel like we need those harmless books where everything works out in the end and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s encouraging. Particularly when you’re having a down day, a harmless book can often pick you up immensely.

There wasn’t a lot of swearing, which was refreshing. What there was didn’t feel overdone – not that I liked it! I was just a lot less than in most YA which I greatly enjoyed.

I loved Etienne. He was extremely considerate to everyone and was just a really nice guy! To be honest, he made the book for me. He was the reason I kept on reading.

What I didn’t like

Firstly, the main character, Anna. Maybe it was because she acted completely differently to how I acted when I moved cities at eleven. Maybe I was jealous of the fact that she made friends immediately and I didn’t. I don’t know. I just didn’t connect with her in any way apart from her circumstances. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion and others may greatly connect to her 🙂

Who makes friends that quickly? Literally, at the end of the first week she has four good friends. Even for an extrovert, people don’t generally open up their friendship group that quickly.

The book felt a bit too long for what it was; an easy read with a predictable ending. I felt like it could have been a lot shorter.

It was set in Paris, and yet it didn’t feel like it was in Paris. There wasn’t enough Paris for my liking. I mean, I’m not asking for a tourist guide, but just a few more romantic dates to obscure cafes would have been nice.

I didn’t like the ending. It just …. sort of stopped. I wanted more, and not in a I-need-a-sequel way, in a it-just-ceased-to-exist sort of way.

Overall Thoughts

The book promoted the idea that making friends overnight is easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, and that going to boarding school means you get the boy of your dreams. And yet, I still liked it, somehow.

I don’t think these happily-ever-after books are good to read all the time. However, I think that when you’re having a hard day, or can’t decide what to eat, these sort of books are good for getting you back on track, and remembering that there really is a rainbow behind the storm clouds.

pagesHave you read this book? What do you think?

Thanks for reading, oh ye bookdragons. I should be back soon with another review. Keep smiling!

–Emmeline 🙂

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood: Howard Pyle REVIEW TIME

review-timeFirst read October 14 – November 22, 2o16.
5 // 5 stars.

This book was a stunning, gorgeously bound (not that that matters … *nervous giggle*) work of perfection.

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The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood tells the tale of Robin Hood and his band of merry men in Sherwood forest. They have adventures and give to the poor, and all in all have a merry time.

The book was published in 1883, and is in olde English – essentially Shakespearian. And yet, if you can get past the ‘thous’ and ‘thees’ and ‘repasts’, you will find this book extremely enjoyable!

Things that made this book great

  1. The fact that it was Robin Hood. I love Robin Hood 🙂
  2. The characters were well-developed, and relatively easy to keep track of! Mainly because they are so well known, I think. But I did enjoy that part of it.
  3. Robin Hood was awesome.
  4. Robin Hood was not someone who won ALL the time. It was really great to see him beaten several times, and he always (mostly) lost with dignity, which was lovely to see.
  5. THERE WAS NO ROMANCE. (very good.)
  6. The Sheriff just didn’t give up, and it was HILARIOUS.
  7. This book was downright funny. I laughed a lot, which surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. It was a good look at life when whenever-this-book-was-set, and highlighted the fact that they were still humans back then. They still laughed.
  8. It felt like it was in the right time. Somehow it annoys me when I read historical fiction where people talk in contractions. (“You’re, like, just so annoying Robin! Urgh!”) Because this one was written in the nineteenth century it still had that dignity about it which was very refreshing to read about. I am glad that Pyle wrote the book in the language of Robin-Hood’s-time, and not in the language of the eighteen hundreds.

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Things that surprised me

  1. There was no Maid Marion. Which, to be honest, I was kinda disappointed about – not that I wanted romance, but that my childhood dreams of living in a forest with Robin Hood were slightly crushed. Anyway.
  2. I didn’t expect that it would be so funny. As aforementioned, I laughed a lot.
  3. I didn’t think I’d understand as much as I did. I mean, it is written in ye olde English and while I enjoy reading Shakespeare, I certainly don’t understand everything. And yet, I had a pretty clear understanding of what was going on the whole time, which was really refreshing to have.

Another thing that I loved about this book that I quickly want to touch on, was the treatment of the King and Queen. Robin Hood treated the King and Queen with reverence and respect, even though he was outlawed in their name. I found it amazing that even though he was being attacked by them 24/7 he still respected them and never fought back. In fact, in the end he actually goes so far as to work for them, all forgiven and forgot. This could easily be taken as an allegory for Christ’s love for us; he loved us even when we hunt him down and attack him.

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So all in all, I greatly enjoyed this book! It was humorous, educational, and held some great allegories.

Have you read this book?

See you later, bookdragons!

–Emmeline 🙂

 

I haven’t seen any live action movies of Robin Hood, but I grew up on Disney’s animation. I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for some animals shooting bows and arrows and singing catchy tunes 🙂