Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Inside Out & Back Again


I thought that Inside Out & Back Again was a book I'd never heard of when I plucked it off the shelf at my library. I was browsing the shelves and lured by something about the green spine and the font. I picked it up, noticed the Newbery Honor Book sticker, and wondered that I hadn't heard of it. I flipped through and realised that it was a verse novel. An then faint bells started ringing, and I thought of a different cover. 




And I knew that I had heard of it, a bit, but a while ago- it was a Newbery Honour Book back in 2012. Before this year the verse novel form would have put me off, but now that Steven Herrick is teaching me to read and enjoy verse novels I was less put off, and was even  intrigued enough to bring it home and read it.

Inside Out &Back Again is a rather autobiographical novel about a young girls journey from Saigon to Alabama after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It tells the story of ten year old Hà, who has grown up in Saigon with her family- her mother and three brothers living a simple life. Hà's mother works two jobs to support the family since her husband disappeared nearly a decade earlier.

Father left home
on a navy mission
on this day
nine years ago
when I was almost one. 

He was captured
on Route 1
an hours south of the city
by moped.

They live a simple, traditional life in Saigon, until they are forced to flee Vietnam by political circumstance. The family then spend a harrowing three weeks at sea before arriving at Guam, and transferred to America. There are interesting perspectives on migrant experience- learning a new language, fitting in, the shock of a new culture.

 Thanhha Lai dedicates her book

To the millions of refugees in the world, may you each find a home. 
She writes an interesting Author Note at the end of the book.

Aside from remembering facts, I worked hard to capture Hà's emotional life. What was it like to live where bombs exploded every night yet where sweet snacks popped up at every corner? What was it  like to sit on a ship heading toward hope? What was it like to go from knowing you're smart to feeling dumb all the time?

Thanhha Lai achieves this emotional perspective quite well. I was moved, both saddened, and made to smile by her story. I'm not sure why this book needed a verse novel perspective, but then I am only a novice for this story form.

Monday, 21 July 2014

A Family in Paris



I was very relieved to finally finish this book recently. Not that I didn't enjoy it, quite the opposite in fact, but it just spent too long on the bedside table. I was reading snippets of it between other more pressing reads, and that was ok, but it didn't quite give A Family in Paris it's due. And then I let the review slip away for months- it was like rereading to pick it up again.

A Family in Paris is partly a diary of an Australian family moving to Paris, a memoir of their six and a half years there, but it is much more, it is also a travel guide with wonderful suggestions of thing to do, see and eat in Paris. 


The Paech family moved to Paris in the late 90s. An Australian family, they had been living in New York when the opportunity rose to move to Paris- who could resist? There are many difficulties along the way- the famous French bureaucracy of course


 Bureaucracy is the art of making the possible impossible- Javier Pascal Salcedo

marathon trips to IKEA, French washing machines that take more than 2 hours for a cycle (I've never understood this, our clothes are perfectly clean with a 30 minute cycle, how do the French ever manage to leave the house at all?), the problems of trying to make pavlova overseas without access to cornflour.

Jane and her husband moved their with three young daughters, so they navigate the French school system as well, which makes for particularly captivating reading. The French system, their approach, is so different to what we are used to in the English speaking world. "The typical French primary school, where providing a holistic education that meets individual learning and developmental needs in a nurturing environment is not the priority. Rather the exceptionally disciplined and rigorous education system is singularly focused on churning out intellectuals."


In return for long and arduous school days (including Saturday morning) French children are given Wednesday off.

Six and a half years in Paris gives you a wealth of insider knowledge and Jane is happy to share this with us.
What's unique and remarkable about Paris is that so many elements of life are raised to an art form. If the French do something, they do it properly and perfectly, with enormous attention to aesthetics. Style is infused into every intricate detail, even down to the eye-pleasing, patterned air vents on the outside of buildings. 
Whenever a recipe calls for water, replace it with wine and always add cream before serving. 
Small amounts of wine or Champagne are offered on special occasions from around the age of ten so that, slowly, children are able to from an appreciation and respect of alcohol, and develop healthy habits. 

Jane attends a scarf tying workshop, but feels like a fumbling four year old rather than a stylish Parisienne. I'd love to go to a scarf tying workshop, it would be such fun, and I would learn the art of Intricate Scarf Tying too. I haven't found one yet. 


Girls will have been dabbed behind the ears with good French perfume as a baby and learn from an early age when to extend a handshake or offer a cheek. Generally, French children have impeccable manners in public, are respectful, keep conversations low, and can sit perfectly still for hours in restaurants without any sign of petulant behaviour. 

Jane has a passion for small Paris Museums, just like I do. She lists some and extolls the virtues of them. 


Hidden in historic mansions and secluded in greenery, the countless small museums of Paris offer a refreshing alternative to the long lines at the Louvre. Their manageable size means they can be enjoyed in the space of an hour or two, creating a delightful diversion in a busy day. Intirguing and intimate, they range in style from classic to quirky to downright eccentric. As well as museums devoted to fashion, art and history, there are museums dedicated to Edith Piaf and Baccarat china, a fan museum, a museum of money, and even a post office museum. 

I heartily agree. I've been to some of these museums- Musee Maillol, Musee de l'Assistance Publique- Hopitaux de Paris, Musee Rodin, Musee Victor Hugo and Le Petit Palais- and thoroughly enjoyed all of them and plan to go to many more. Actually I've been to others and need to share them- they're all extraordinary Paris experiences. 

There are many other random, fun 
details, such as a French nursery rhyme learnt at piano lessons, J'ai due Bon Tabac (I have some good tobacco, which does appear to start I have some good tobacco, but you can't have any),  and that cats have seven lives in France!



Incredible to think that February in Paris may be an abyss. But I have experienced that in the long, long Canadian winter. I would love to experience the rhythms of the French year sometime. 


And yet the longer I live here, the more I find that the frustrating side of French life and the city's sharp angles are adequately compensated for by the allure of the capital and its mysterious power of seduction. Exasperating and exhilarating in equal measures, it is never dull. 

Jane Paech has just recently released another Paris book, Delicious Days in Paris. She blogs at knifeandforkintheroad, and has written about how A Family in Paris came to be here



Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog


Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Marché biologique Raspail

Any trip to a Paris market is special, sometimes you find one by accident walking about, sometime you need to plan to find one. Either way they're worth seeking out. There are books to help you or online guides.

Last year we stayed on Rue de Sevres, and so the famous, and gorgeous Marche Raspail was just up the road. Held three days a week, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. We made it for the Sunday market which is an organic market.


It can look a bit haphazard from the outside
But step inside into a world of wonder








These were lovely on a slightly cool morning

Gently warming my delicious pumpkin tart
while cooking our onion and potato galettes
Parisian dogs like going to the marche too
Biodynamic wines/vins en biodynamie
which remain unsampled sadly





The cheeses of course were sensational,
sadly my cheese photos weren't 

Salt







Important to teach the youngsters how to be stylish
and properly turned out.
Delicious figs to go

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 
WestMetroMommy


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Kissed by the Moon



Alison Lester is a very big name in Australian kids books. She was one of our joint inaugural Children's Laureates. She helps children tell their own stories and create their own books. Alison has published over twenty pictures books including many iconic titles- Noni the Pony, Are We There Yet?, Imagine and Magic Beach. So any new book is highly anticipated. Kissed by the Moon is no exception. Indeed, it's exceptional. A beautiful book to read to babies and young children Kissed by the Moon is a perfect gift for new parents.

Beautifully illustrated with a subtle, evocative palette Kissed by the Moon is a lullaby of sorts, wishing an active, imaginative and thoughtful life for the new baby. It encourages us to be out in nature and to treat our fellow creatures well.








Kissed by the Moon is bound to become an Australian classic. It is shortlisted for CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Award, with the winners to be announced on August 15. I hope it wins- although I haven't read all the other books shortlisted yet, so may still develop a new favourite, but I don't think so.

http://australianwomenwriters.com

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Top 10 Books on Paris

Another great Paris booklist from the Guardian with still more inspiration. See the kids list here.













This list was compiled by Malcolm Burgess, publisher of Oxygen Books City-Lit series. It's almost like he's browsed my Paris TBR shelf! I've even dragged a couple of these titles to Paris to read there, and still haven't read them, but I never get any reading done in Paris- I holiday too hard to have any energy left at the end of the day.

 Of course I have bought the City-Lit Paris book, but not read it either…



Books on France, a great 2014 challenge
 from Emma at 
Words and Peace