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Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!
Publisher’s description:Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)
Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…
As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play. We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!
And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!
Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…
The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.
I know one thing: my english desk (i think it's a partner's pedestal) would fit right in and feel right at home in any one of these room--even standing in the middle of one. Especially standing in the middle of one.
SPAM was invented in 1937 by Hormel Foods (found at www.spam.com). It is pre-cooked port and ham in a can and was called "Hormel Spiced Ham" originally but the name didn't stick so they held a contest to rename the affordable meat product. The winning name was SPAM.
What does it stand for?
In Britain it was a popular wartime food and they called it "Specially Processed American Meat" or "Supply Pressed American Meat" (yum). But there are other theories for what the acronym stands for...
"Something Posing As Meat" or
"Spare Parts Animal Meat"
(why not come up with your own??)
Then of course there's the famous Monty Python sketch...
Even after the poor woman tells the cafe she doesn't want spam, can't stand spam, hates spam--it is relentless, it just keeps coming... and that's how we got the name for that other thing that's relentless, that just keeps coming even when we don't want it, can't stand it, hate it--spam in our inboxes.
The BBC did an article all about why Americanisms are so irritating (here) and then did a column (here) where people in Britain were invited to write in with their least favorite Americanisms--their pet peeves.
The Economist then followed up with another one that showed that at least 20% of them were British in origin (here)
In the end it seems that what all of this really shows up is this: the anti Americanism in the UK that believes if something is ugly it must have come from the States...
Nothing. What's wrong with transportation? Brist prefer "to orientate oneself", Americans prefer "to orient oneself". Not worse, just different.
What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder.
It is the original past participle, from old Norse getenn, now obsolete in English English, but surviving in America. Participial "got" is the newcomer.
"I'm good" for "I'm well". That'll do for a start.
That'll do what? Linking verbs including "am" take adjectives, not adverbs. "I'm healthy," not "I'm healthily." There's nothing wrong with "I'm well", since "well" is also an adjective, but nothing wrong with "I'm good" either.
"Oftentimes" just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately
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The Philological Society of London came up with the idea of a new dictionary 30 years before. And made an agreement with Oxford University Press to publish it. They said it would take 10 years to complete and they'd do 4 volumes and it would be 6,400 pages. (Oh dear. What were they thinking?) In fact it took them 5 years just to finish the first volume--A to Ant. And in the end the dictionary took 70 years, was 10 volumes and 15,490 pages.
When I worked at OUP in Oxford, they said you could always tell who were the Dictionary People. They had a pasty underground look and scurried between buildings and wore big macintoshes (they of all people would not, I imagine, call them macks) all buttoned up and belted tight (as if this was the only thing holding everything together) with big cloudy glasses and greasy hair (who has time to wash your hair when you're compiling such a work and it's taking you your whole life to get from a to ant?).
But this was not in the 1880s of course (I'm good for my age but not that good). It was the 1980s. And well OK this is a description of only a few Dictionary Persons because those are the only ones anyone ever saw (the rest were in The Dictionary Building working of course--probably on the OED2 published in 1989 in 20 volumes). So this description is obviously a terrible generalization. Unfair. Exaggerated. Probably not true. And you shouldn't believe a word of it. After all, you don't judge a book by it's cover. Or a Dictionary even.
I like Dictionaries. And Dictionary People. Where would we be without them?
This Christmas I was lucky enough to see the award-winning smash hit War Horse at the New London Theater. Based on the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, it's a play about a plough horse commandeered by the cavalry and sent to the front in the First World War. It's a story of loyalty, bravery, and the extraordinary bond between a young recruit and his horse. What is most incredible about this production though is the astonishing way they conjure a horse on stage: so life-like, so convincing, so minutely observed, that you totally forget it's a puppet and believe instead that what you're seeing on stage in front of you is an actual living breathing horse. And it's not because you can't see the puppeteers. That's the odd thing. You can see them clearly at all times. And there is no effort to hide them. Each seven foot tall horse puppet is manipulated by a team of three actors: one for the back legs and tail; another for the front and neck; and another to guide the model. (In the photo above, for instance, the three on the left are the puppeteers for the young foal Joey.) But because of the realism of the movements (even down to the movement of the horses' ears) and the mastery of the puppeteers your brain simply blanks them out leaving only the horse. It's astonishing. And magical. And powerfully moving. And of course impossible to describe--you need to see it for yourself. So take a look at this to get an idea and go if you possibly can. (If you can't make it to London, the production apparently will be in NYC sometime in 2011.) Add a Comment
Section of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, captured in minute detail with laser scanners
This new cutting edge laser technology (from the Glasgow School of Art) is helping preserve and conjure up what buildings actually looked like ages ago, in effect turning the clock back on ancient sites.
As well as being a kind of time travel, it turns out to be an art form. I love that it also happens to be utterly beautiful.
The Daily Mail Online in the UK did an interesting article about David (whom we were lucky enough to get to read the complete audio of The Jesus Storybook Bible). Some of it is pretty Dickensian. The maths teacher: I think I had the same one...
School days: David Suchet, bottom left, with members of the Wellington School tennis team
IN OTHER NEWS: to anyone in the UK, the deluxe edition is available on amazon! (It was originally wrongly listed as the "deluze" edition which made it sound like the lounge singer version) You can find it here.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just 6 weeks to raise much-needed cash in September 1843.
Printing the manuscript was a Christmas rush job, so there wasn't enough time for Dickens to make a clean manuscript copy. As a result, the copy that went to print is heavily marked up and extremely difficult to read. It has all of Dickens’s additions and subtractions in his own hand.
The manuscript is housed in the Morgan Library. And every year they turn the page so you can look at the next spread. This year, for the first time, all 66 pages are available online. (So you won't have to wait 64 years to see the entire book.)
The watercolor of the Ghost of Christmas Present, above left, had to be redone because the spirit was supposed to be wearing green, not red.
Here's just two of the changes he made to the text (so brilliant!):
On page 3, he inserts “his eyes sparkled” to amplify the portrait of Scrooge’s nephew, whose beneficence is crucial to the plot.
On page 12, where Scrooge takes Marley’s ghost to be evidence not of the supernatural, but of his own indigestion, (“more of gravy than of grave,”) he converts the offending bit of food from being a “spot of mustard” to a less digestible “blot of mustard.” (Genius!)