The Book of Dragons

For that is the title of the collection of short stories from which the illustration that graced our March box cometh! It was a delight to revisit such a strange and imaginative, if also rather E. Nesbit-y collection. It’s available to read and enjoy in full and for free here, for which we are immensely grateful.

I think of all the great and lasting novels in her impressive list of works, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and The Wouldbegoods are the two books Edith Nesbit wrote that had the strongest impact upon me. As a small and only child, the ‘absent parents, large family of banded-together siblings’ trope appealed hugely to me, and, of course, the Bastables’ entrepreneurial spirit was something I found terribly exciting and engaging. I loved how the children were rounded, flawed, objectionable, and sometimes dangerously and anti-socially awful, but by and large, with their hearts in the right place. They weren’t afraid of hard work, and had their own version of London-past that was veritable catnip to my tiny mind. I still have an affection for Lewisham I can’t imagine having developed otherwise, for starters, and, come to think of it, Nesbit’s works are certainly why I have more respect for carpet than for most household objects.

There always seemed possibility, strategy, something to think about, something to do, some way out of even the most appalling situations that befell the children in Nesbit’s works. The Railway Children is many people’s favourite, certainly, it’s the one we see mentioned most often in your subscribers’ questionnaires here at Prudence and the Crow (which surprised me – if you’d asked me to guess, I would’ve thought Five Children and It which would take that place), but for my part, I’m in the ‘floods of hopeless tears’ bit every time I get to the end of it, and, accordingly, these days I simply don’t even start it. But I turn to the Bastables fairly often. My favourite venture of theirs is definitely the one where they start up a newspaper – I recently came across some old childhood papers of mine where I’d tried to imitate this repeatedly with my own fabled characters.

Nesbit herself had a full, if rather turbulent and tragic life, as did so many of our most beloved and prolific authors. I knew very little of her until doing some googling for this post, perhaps as much by choice, as anything – her worlds are so real to me that the more anonymous she seemed, so much the better. In this day and age, though, I’m so used to following my authors online, to knowing how they look, how they react, how they write, what they love, that I thought I might break through that imaginary wall. It was worth doing, and I shan’t attempt to summarise, but, as so often, Wikipedia will give you a good headstart if you’re curious.

Nesbit’s driven storytelling, firm grasp of magical worlds and great sense of practicality amidst adventure continues to inspire and delight me whenever I return to her works. I enjoy reading them now as much as I ever did, and find I have an appreciation of her directness of language (and of her present-narrator, my best-beloved of literary devices) that only increases, however much more I’ve read in between revisiting her tales.

I wonder sometimes how well-travelled her books are outside the UK. Certainly amongst people I knew who read (to my mind, reading amongst children was not nearly as common as it is now, not, at least, in my school), Nesbit’s stories were a staple, and the BBC TV series of Five Children and It was a marvel to us all, but I don’t know if I hear of them read as widely Stateside, or, indeed, in translation. We’ve had one or two American subscribers respond with extensive joy on receiving, say, The Treasure Seekers, and say they’ve not come across the stories before, but, of course, one or two are just that, and trends take a little more development! We’d love to know, here, or on Twitter, your favourite E. Nesbit tale, or, if you’re a current Prudence and the Crow subscriber and would like to receive one of her books some time, do drop us a line through our Contact Us page on the site, and we’ll see what we can do!

We hope you’re enjoying the first breaths of spring, and that you’ve got something lovely/horrible/mindblowing/amusing/whateverdoesitforyou to read for now. The April envelope design is my favourite to date, and I’m very excited for that blog already, but, until then, Happy Now! ~Prudence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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East of the Sun, West of the Moon

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Yep, our February ‘theme’ was the 19th century Norwegian fairytale collection put together by zoologist Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and folklorist (there’s a title) Jørgen Moe. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is just one of the stories contained within, but it’s also the title of the most common English collection, and it’s the one we have. The artwork used is by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, and they’re some of the most famous, beautiful and evocative fairytale illustrations we can think of, so it was a pleasure to incorporate them.

Should you wish to, you can read all the stories from the collection online here, which is well worth a few of anyone’s hours. The very shortest story in the collection is minuscule indeed, and you can read it here on our Instagram page.

The illustration used on the envelope is from the story The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain, and on the bookplate, the girl riding the polar bear is our main character from East of the Sun, West of the Moon itself.

As with all fairytales, the collection’s European roots mean that there are many crossovers and influences between these tales and others you may have heard, or grown up with, and the infinite variations on the same themes that come with the telling and retelling of these stories and tropes make fairytales one of our very favourite genres to visit and explore. They’re the backbone of so much of all fiction (some would say, of all fiction), and the way we choose to read and understand them can tell us so much about the social and cultural world not just that we live in, but that we inherit.

The Crow and I grew up entranced, and sometimes terrified by, the wonderful Storyteller presentations of several European fairytales – if you’ve never seen these, they feature the best beloved John Hurt, and the magical puppetry of the Jim Henson workshop (best known, of course, for Labyrinth). If you pop over to this link, you can find the episode concerning the tale of The True Bride, which is clearly a strain of the same story (Wikipedia tells me it’s the German version of it, which seems logical). We also hugely recommend making a vat of tea and perhaps some biscuits or carrots or whatever you nibble whilst consuming entertainment, and then losing yourself in the entire Storyteller series, which is all available up there. Truly, important stuff.

It won’t have escaped regulars’ notice that East of the Sun, West of the Moon is also the title of the a-ha album we’ve listened to the most during the making of recent boxes, and in light of that here’s a bonus, a daft and poor quality little YouTube clip of the title song because grainy, quiet, daft a-ha are our favourites.

We are asked so often to find magic, to find escape, to find imaginative reads for our subscribers, and the hunt often starts with these oldest tales, from wherever in the world we can find them, and the many ways they’ve strained through time into novels, children’s and adults’ alike, good and bad, thrilling and cautionary. This book is the tip of the iceberg of one of our greatest human traditions, and it also celebrates the collection and preservation of these stories, which, in a tiny way, is also, we like to think, what Prudence and the Crow is all about.

Speaking of which, as February’s been a short month and it’s nice to give people a chance to get a recurring subscription that comes out after the first of the month, we’ll be keeping recurring subscriptions starting with a March box open until 4th March, so, should you wish to join us thus, or to buy a one-off, 3, 6 or 12-month gift subscription for someone, do head over to www.prudenceandthecrow.com and sign up!

Finally, we launched the PatCReadingList Project this month – to further knowledge about what’s been read in schools in our ship-to countries over the last thirty years, we’re calling for recommended reading lists, recollections and core course texts in various ways: hop over to the post for a detailed explanation of what, where, why and how-to! We’ve had some wonderful responses, and the more the very much merrier (esp. Americans – we’d love more from you!), so please do join in, definitely do share the post around (shareable Facebook post here) and, hopefully, we’ll come up with some interesting things to share right back in the future.

We wish you a beautiful and delightful March, for that is what’s next. Happy Leap Day!

~Prudence (and the Crow)

 

‘Just the Book’ – the Yuletide gifting solution!

allthestuff2015.jpgYep yep, it’s all live and happening, and will be until 10pm on 5th December, when the page expires. Here be the FAQ, should you be curious, and hopefully your questions are answered!

  1. What do I do? First, go to our shop! You pick a genre (Classic Thriller (think Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming), Historical Romance (think Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt), Youth Fiction (Enid Blyton, Puffin books), Classics (Penguin Classics, Brontës, etc) or Random (…which is random). You purchase this through Big Cartel.
  2. What do you do? First, once the offer has closed, we will contact everyone who has purchased this individually to check the details of delivery addresses, gift messages and so on. We can ship directly to you, or straight to your recipient. Please note we can’t take individual book requests, or tailor book choices through this communication – that’s what we do in our PatC box, which remains available for purchase throughout!
  3. Once everything is good and correct, we randomly select a book from your chosen genre, wrap it up beautifully in printed brown paper (the design pictured is last year’s – the Crow has designed a new one in the same vein for this year!), slip in a library card, a card with your gift message on it, and a tiny candy, and then we send it on its merry way!
  4. Can I buy more than one? Yes, you very much can. However, if you need them shipped to more than one country you’ll need to check out separately for each country, otherwise you won’t pay the correct P&P costs.
  5. When buying more than one bundle, don’t worry about the recipient addresses. We will contact you to check names and addresses for all purchases.
  6. Some genres are more limited than others. Whilst our offer ends on 5th December, some genres will sell out earlier than this, so, if you’re set on something, don’t delay!

For further details about our gift options and subscription boxes available, please read our lengthy Tales of Yuletide Joy post!

 

 

January at PatC HQ!

Some books!

Greetings, all! What a wonderfully wet and windy January we’re having here…just perfect for curling up with a hot drink and a good book!

Part of our resolution for PatC this year was to try and do at least a monthly update because, well, it’s good to talk, isn’t it? And we’ve so much to share, and we love how much we get to connect with you all in the book-selecting process, and figure it’s only fair you get to connect back a bit, should you so desire! So, here’s what we’re reading, loving, listening to and doing this month:

Prudence is reading The Boy in Darkness, by Mervyn Peake again, because it’s the best thing she read last year and it made her heart sing with glee. It’s one of the Crow’s long-held favourites, too.

The Crow is reading A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan because Prudence bought it for her for Christmas.

We are both very positive on the Taylor Swift front and have had 1989 on repeat. Last year we pretty much only listened to the Lorde album whilst boxing; this year it seems that has competition. Prudence got a new digital radio that doesn’t break every ten seconds for Christmas and, when not listening to music, is obsessive about listening to Radio 4 Extra (or, BBC7 as she still calls it) which is, for all its broadcast of the best archive comedy, sci-fi, literature and plays, is worth the licence fee in itself. Or not, as the case may be, because you can listen worldwide online, and we could not recommend it more if you’re a fan of basically anything BBC have ever done.

We’ve not managed to go to the cinema since Mockingjay came out (despite a burning desire to see Paddington!), but we have been catching up with Elementary (oh, Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu <3), and Prudence was most excited to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the first time in years on iPlayer the other day. If you’ve not seen it, or not seen it in a while, do, go, view. Hilarious, and the music hasn’t aged a day.

We are also card-carrying (seriously, there should be cards) Wittertainees – are there any others of the persuasion in our midst?

In actual business news, we continue to try to streamline and perfect things – do know that we are always trying to make your box experience ace, yes you, yes your box!, and we still put frankly disproportionately large amounts of thought and care into each one! This month we are super on it, prep-wise, for Prudence’s Christmas break involved a lot of folding, and have some excellent things going on. Of course, we also have some wonderful vintage books to share…

The new boxes have done extremely well, and we’ve had some excellent feedback about them, so this is good to know! We’re hoping to stick with this design for now, and will evaluate again in a couple of months to check that, as ever, we’re doing the best we can!

Don’t forget to follow and share things with us in the places one might follow and share things – find our online homes on our social media page, here.

But I nearly forgot! To celebrate your reaching this part of this post, one very exciting thing. On Tuesday 13th January, if you haven’t already got one, you have a chance to sign up for a recurring subscription with us! We’ll be opening subscriptions up again for not more than 24 hours, at prudenceandthecrow.com. Tell your friends and check often – we don’t know when next we’ll be offering them again! We will continue to offer our fixed-term up-front subscriptions both before and after, but if you like the idea of a monthly payment subscription, then’s your chance!

So! What are you reading this month? This year? Any resolution-reads? Anyone determined to tackle a classic, a series, an always-meant-to book? Any recommendations for things we must get around to?

We trust you’re all as bright and well as can possibly be, and that 2015 brings us all some joy, somewhere, somehow, at the very least in the pages of an old, loved book.

On Reading and Having Read: the Downsides of ASOIAF

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Greetings all, Prudence here! I hope you’re enjoying this soggy (in the UK, anyway – I hear the Swedes are having magnificent weather?!) end to May, and have your booknoses in something interesting. I’ve just finished reading A Song of Ice and Fire for the second time, because I was getting annoyed with having not-quite-finished it before, and having read it so quickly the first time that I’d forgotten most things about who was who and where and why. So, at the beginning of the year, I started again.

The thing is, those are some hefty books. Great books (mostly – I have some real issues with the structure of A Feast for Crows, but that is not for this post! And also I do have the fifth book in the set pictured above, but I was halfway through reading it at the time of photographing) but still, they’re enormous (no seriously, those editions specifically are gorgeous but VAST. We had to take them back on the train and it was much more muscular work than being a booklover generally consists of!). I am a fond and avid reader of many things, and I always have a string of books on the go, and it’s true that in the time I’ve reread ASOIAF I have also read books on robots, food, tidying and boarding schools, but still, I’ve felt very nagged by not just being in the middle of that series, but really wanting to finish it. I do like reading, but sometimes, I wonder if I like Having Read more.

Perhaps it depends on the book. There are some books, like “Buzz Aldrin, Whatever Happened to You in All the Confusion”; that I love so very much, I never want the experience of reading them to end, because the trickle of wonderfully well-placed words is the greatest delight imaginable. The very experience of consuming the words is as pleasurable and fascinating as the story within them. There are some writers – Margaret Atwood is sometimes a good example of this for me – where the experience of reading the words is one I actually find preferable to consuming the story. It’s certainly true that there are gloriously-crafted phrases, paragraphs, scenes and, occasionally, whole chapters of ASOIAF, but as a whole, the experience of reading it has been largely one of putting together a mosaic and not being able to see the whole picture.

The Very Long Book can really frustrate me when I want to look back on it (and, of course, ASOIAF is so much worse in that sense being as it is also the Unfinished Series of Very Long Books) but I have yet to finish it. I’m not always the most disciplined reader, either. I’m fickle and changeable. If I’m really loving the words in a novel, I’ll treat it like an excellent meal, or a delicious drink, consuming it incredibly slowly, or, worst of all, even failing to pick the book up at all because I want to know there’s more of it there to enjoy. You can tell how much I’m enjoying a book by whether or not I’m actually glued to it, or if I start putting it down and trying to get on with things like housework, or checking my phone. It’s awful – the more I love something, the more I’ll try to avoid it. Yet if it’s the plot I want out of a book, and the writing isn’t doing much for me, I’ll belt through it, desperate to tie up loose ends, to get the full picture, to find out whodunnit and why.

In a sense, ASOIAF is the worst kind of series for me – I love the plot, and dearly wanted to know where it was going, but I was also actively enjoying the reading of it, and trying to pay proper proper attention to everything and everyone so I can talk authoritatively about it with anyone and everyone who wants to discuss it (which does appear to include absolutely everyone I know). I didn’t want it to be over, but I also really wanted to have read it. I didn’t want to read it to the exclusion of everything else, because that’s not really how I read anything, but it was also going on for a Very Long Time. It’s been difficult! Hear my cries!

But it has also been great. And surely, surely, I don’t have to wait that much longer for The Winds of Winter? (sidenote: The Crow and I met GRRM nearly two years ago at a Thing in Bath and he read us a Tyrion chapter that isn’t either of the released ones so far, so that was exciting).

I should be celebrating having finished these extensive reads by reading something short and punchy and exciting, but since I’ve been talking a lot about ‘Buzz Aldrin, Whatever Happened…?’ I’ve been thinking I’d really like to revisit that. Perhaps, as it is now finally available on Kindle, we’ll make it our June Book Club read. This June we are dearly intending to get our GoodReads and our Book Club shifting up a gear! You can find us here on the site – do add us, and look out for more! And why not treat yourself to a copy of this most beautifully unusual book? It’s one of the very few I feel I could comfortably recommend to just about anyone.

We’ve been very good and getting ahead of ourselves this month – we’ve allocated some most exciting books for our current subscribers! And if you ever feel like updating your preferences with us, do remember that you can revisit your questionnaire and add info to it any time you like, or simply drop us a line through our contact page on our site.

Finally! Here’s a lovely little review of one of our May boxes, for which we’re most grateful 🙂 at Left Right Lost.

Happy May to you all!

 

Cats and Wizards oh my!

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The joint #1 loves of our subscribers, that is, and that makes us ever so happy. Also, thrillingly, during one our busiest signup day ever last week (who knows why? We’re just so glad you’re all here!) we had TWO instances of my favourite thing – two apparently unconnected people signing up one after the other, one stating Book X as their favourite book, and the next subscriber choosing that very same book, out of all the books in the world, as their least favourite! The joy of the perfect coincidence? I can’t imagine it’s anything else, but it’s such a satisfactory amusement to me!

A well-filled-out questionnaire does help us considerably with the selection process, and, whilst the whole thing is very much the Secret Ingredient situation one might find with a famous, delicious fast-food company, most of it is simply Prudence and the Crow sitting there wielding one book or another, shouting things like “THIS HAS THE BEST CAT IN IT THOUGH” and the other countering with “THE PLOT OF THIS ONE IS SO MUCH MORE EXCITING THOUGH”, and mostly we have a really awesome time fighting that situation out, over and over again. Obviously, there are a great number of subscriptions where, either we’re super fortunate and able to fulfil a request directly, or there’s such a clear choice that we both chorus a title, as we read the subscription email. Sometimes we’re not super certain, or the recipient seems genuinely to want something random, and that’s a diferent kettle of fish – occasionally Prudence does a bit of detective work and decides whether random might really mean ~random, and that’s when, say, with the sci-fi category, the super-weird stuff might come out, or we might go the other way and opt for a real classic that’s just so beautiful, no-one could be sad to have it!

We have some stock favourites that we’ll send any time we get the chance and feel they’re a good match, and those are the ones that are often the most ‘loved’ books we’ll post out…to me, a pristine book is a gorgeous thing, of course it is, but we love the books that have been thoroughly enjoyed too, the ones with the notes and creases and folds and scuffs, the ones that you could drop in the bath but that you’d promptly scoop out and take emergency measures with. Although – rest assured – we wouldn’t send any that had actually been dropped in the bath, not even if they were the best! It’s mostly that there are some reads we’d bet anyone would want to read over, and over, and over, and how lovely to be able to give someone that handbag copy, the one you can slip into a suitcase for a beach holiday ‘just in case’, or the one you’ll take for a long tube journey because you can bend the pages around without fear, and grasp it in a grimy London paw without fearing for the smearing, or the one you’ll have on a bedside table and read, squinting by the light of a streetlamp sneaking through the curtains, when you can’t sleep and are wondering whether or not those little noises are the sound of a tiny mouse…

…you get the picture! So, thanks for all your many questionnaires, and remember that you’re always welcome to update your answers as your subscription continues – if you’ve lost the link, just pop by our ‘Contact Us’ form at http://www.prudenceandthecrow.com and use the email you signed up with, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

And for the record, the current #1 Favourite Book of Prudence and the Crow subscribers is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (about which we’re thrilled, for it’s a favourite for us both, too – especially the magnificent audiobook edition), and the most mentioned requests are, as I say, ‘cats’ and ‘wizards’ – although ‘wizards’ are also one of the most mentioned dislikes, surpassed only by ‘romance’ 🙂

We’re thrilled to have you all on board, whatever you enjoy, and hope April has ticked along pleasantly for you! Roll on May, though, for these boxes are shaping up even more beautifully than ever thus far!

The March Box: Last Orders, Please!

 

ImageYep, it’s your last chance to get yourself a March subscription box! You’ve until midnight in your applicable country to sign up to receive a box containing a vintage paperback book chosen just for you*, and several other excellent surprises! Hop over to www.prudenceandthecrow.com to subscribe – genres include YA, sci-fi and children’s, or select ‘random’ to request something different, and we’ll do our best 🙂

It’s been a fantastically exciting month over here at PatC HQ. We’re thrilled to welcome so many new like-minded and excited subscribers – thank you all so much for your lovely messages and contributions! We’ve a Merit page in the works to collect all your excellent reviews and blog posts, and, and, so exciting, we’re going to be awarding actual physical Merits of gratitude and wonder! More details on that to follow, but know that, for now, we’re super appreciative of all your sharing and reviewing.

We’re a most bespoke and caring two-person business here, and if we’ve learnt anything over our years online, it’s that nothing is so valuable as the feeling your customers have about you. With this being the sort of thing where we hope to have a closer relationship with customers as subscribers, obviously, the better the relationship we can have…and the more we can kindle that feeling we’re going for, the aforementioned post-based 1980s kids’ club! Or, the beautifully-made membership pack, or the ultimate fan bundle…there’s nothing Prudence loves so much as a bundle, and she’s pretty sure she’s not alone in that! So! We’re most excited to see all your unpacking videos and blogs, and look forward to providing a page to share and reward all such efforts.

In other news – the rain has finally ceased! We were fearful of being washed away, every last page, but fortunately the sun’s out, and the books are as grateful as the garden! Not least as they get to accompany us out there for afternoon tea, their little pages happily soaking up the sun as they’re fervently turned in the chase for the story. We’ve had some gorgeous acquisitions this month, many of which were chosen especially for the March boxes, and we’ve loved hosting them in this period between buying and packing. It’s always the best part of what we do, sending them on their merry way, and we hope you get all the pleasure from them that anyone might get from a book!

Finally finally – happy World Book Day! We’ve done our bit dressing up – Prudence was George from the Famous Five, and the Crow was her infamous alter ego, the Mymble’s Daughter! Whilst out and about on errands earlier, it was wonderful to see all the local kids dressed as such a tremendous cross-section of the literary population…although I seriously hope some of the Joffreyalikes I noted were, in fact, say…Peter from the Narnia books, or, indeed, anyone else…very scary! It’s incredible to see how many kids are captured by books at such a young age – as someone who also was, I wholeheartedly think it’s the best way to be.

So, without further ado, that’s all aboard the March box, with love from www.prudenceandthecrow.com and we’ll see you in the next blog for a post with just a touch more content than this 😉 Meanwhile, get out there and get that Vitamin D, kids!

*provided you fill out the handy questionnaire at signup! Feel free not to, of course, but obviously with so much less to go on, you’ll be the happy recipient of something a touch more random – but still in your chosen genre, of course!