The Lost Magician

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At the end of the Second World War, four children were sent from their home in London because their home had been damaged by bombs. Arriving at Barfield Hall, the children find a mysterious door which leads them into the magical world of Folio. Here a war is raging between the Reads and Unreads and each child, distressed by their experiences during the Blitz, reacts differently to this new world. Their only hope is to find the Librarian- a magician who has been lost for years.

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This book is Piers Torday’s tribute to ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ , his favourite book when he was young. First published on October 16th 1950, this magical story has captured the imagination of many over the last 68 years and Piers has used the familiar story line to create a fabulous quest of his own.

Just as Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to an English country house so in Torday’s story are Simon, Patricia, Evelyn and Larry. Both groups of children make their way to a magical land, populated by figures from story, through a doorway. The youngest is the first through and meets a partially human creature who is not all they seem. This child returns and is not believed by their siblings, later returning with the second youngest who meets an ‘evil’ figure and denies the presence of the other land. The truth is only uncovered when the children find their way through when escaping from pursuers.

There are many other parallels and yet the story also stands in its own right. The war between harsh, uncompromising fact which tries to reduce everything to data and the imagination of story and creativity with the threat of utter ignorance lurking in the background speaks volumes. The effects of war - particularly on children - are examined and each character is well rounded; the ‘motivations’ of each are considered and the inner struggles and doubts which they have are explored. There is also the dark suggestion that the government is using the children to experiment with magic.

Piers Torday is a master story teller and there are so many details worthy of notice and admiration throughout this story. I loved noticing the parallels with ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, but also thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Lost Magician’ in its own right. A compelling, thought-provoking read, ‘The Lost Magician’ is sure to become a classic, like the story that inspired it.

The Lost Magician Piers Torday

Quercus Children’s ISBN: 978-1786540515

Tracey Corderoy at Cheltenham Festival

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Today, we went to the Cheltenham Festival- it was wet and windy, but it was worth it! Being great fans of the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam books, we were delighted to see that she had written a book for older children- ‘The Pony with No Name’. Having read this and thoroughly enjoyed it, we were keen to hear what Tracey had to say about her new story.

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Using pictures as a backdrop, Tracey read the section of the story where Bryony (her main character) first sees her new bedroom in the house her family are moving to. Beautifully expressive, it was a real pleasure to listen to her read; there was not a sound from the audience!

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Having set the scene, Tracey told us about the similarities between her and Bryony and how these shaped the story. Living in South Wales, Tracey grew up neat the beach and sadly, her father died when she was a little girl. Both of these things appear as part of Bryony’s story. Tracey also told us about how she had longed for a dog or a cat as a child and how her mother said no- a fish, yes; a budgie, yes- but it was only when a kitten ‘followed’ her home that her mother let her keep it! Bryony has a cat called Blueberry Muffin and loves riding. So that she could write convincingly about this, Tracey went to her local riding stables and had a lesson which she showed us a film of. Such dedication to her art!

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Tracey’s sessions are always beautifully prepared and full of fun. Everyone made a colourful rosette to celebrate the story and then there was a horse-y quiz- which by some miracle we scored full marks on!!

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This was a lovely session- listening to Tracey read is reason enough to go and see her. ‘The Pony with No Name’ is a delightful story and I look forward to reading more books in the series.

You can read our review of ‘The Pony With No Name’ here.

Apologies for the photos- the lighting was not the best!

Happy birthday, Paddington Bear!

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First published 60 years ago today, Paddington Bear is a well-known and much loved figure created by Michael Bond.

Originally, Paddington was a bear from Africa; however, his agent pointed out that the African Atlas Bear had been extinct for many years so his birthplace was changed to Peru and he became an Andean- or Spectacled- Bear. South America’s only species of bear, sadly the Andean Bear’s IUCN status is vulunerable with population trends decreasing.

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In October 2015, I was lucky enough to visit Seven Stories in Newcastle for their ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ exhibition which celebrated the way many different artists have portrayed this iconic character over the past six decades. It was fascinating to see how different illustrators had shaped his character over the years.

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When it was first published in hardback on the 13th October 1958, ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ was illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. She went on to illustrate all the novels in the series.

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Fred Banbury then illustrated a series of books about Paddington which Michael Bond started to write in 1972. These offered more detailed pictures of Paddington than the original line drawings by Penny Fortnam.

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Ivor Wood created a cartoon style Paddington for the London Evening News and was also responsible for the animated television series where a three dimensional Paddington appeared with two dimensional coloured cut outs of the other characters.

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In the 1980s, David McKee illustrated a new series of Paddington books for younger readers and from the 90s, R W Alley has been Paddingron’s illustrator.

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More recently, Paddington has starred in two films, cementing his place in he hearts of the next generation.

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Yesterday, Book Group decided to celebrate the occasion by reading some of ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ and then making Paddington biscuits! This got very sticky- almost marmalade level- but the children had great fun. Next time, we need to work out a way of making an edible hat!

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Next week, there will be a Paddington quiz in the library for everyone to enjoy! This wonderful bear and his stories will continue to bring pleasure to everyone. Many teachers owe their ‘teacher look’ to his ‘hard stare’ and once read, his stories are not easily forgotten. Here’s to his next 60 years!

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“Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”