Saturday 31 May 2014

Road Trip Cowra

I took a quick day trip to Cowra this week with visitors. First stop as always is the Cowra Visitor Information Centre. Most visitor centres are fairly basic- brochures and local jams for sale. The one in Cowra is pretty special.

There is a little shed at the back
of the visitors centre

Which plays an astonishing holographic film
about the Cowra Breakout
its 9 minutes, on continuous loop

about when Japanese Prisoners of War
attempted to escape their detention camp
during WWII
I had to read Bill Bryson's book Down Under/In a Sunburned Country to find out about this local treasure. I've seen it quite a few times now with different visitors. Because of the history with the Breakout there are a number of other unique attractions in Cowra.

World Peace Bell
a copy of the bell at the UN in New York
This copy is no lightweight- 477kg!
and made from melted coins

There are also the beautiful Cowra Japanese Gardens. 

I found another stray rhino! Upping my tally to 4.
Taronga Design: For the Wild Rhinos

Even though it's (all but) winter
the gardens are still a beautiful place

I like the mix of clearly Australian elements,
within the obviously Japanese design
What's a day out without a bit of bird spotting? No new species this day, but still fun.

Pacific Black Ducks (Anas superciliosa) are very keen on fish food-
they run over the top of the fish to get  it
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena)

Male Magpie Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

The parrots were loving the persimmon trees
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus icterotis)

Chrysanthemum Stone in the Cultural Centre
Natural crystals in a volcanic rock, 70 million years old. 
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Thursday 29 May 2014

Rolling Stone's 40 Best YA Novels

It seems everyone wants to get in on the YA list action lately- even Rolling Stone.

I think this is a really interesting list. There's some obvious ones- The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games for instance- the mega sellers of the past year or so. Probably some interesting omissions too. There are really quite a number that I've never heard of.

As always the books I've read are in red.

1. I Am The Messenger - Markus Zusak (see my review)

2. Miracle's Boys - Jacqueline Woodson

3. Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

4. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein

5. (You) Set Me On Fire - Mariko Tamaki

6. The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

7. Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith

8. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz

10. How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff (see my review)

11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling

12. Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

13. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

14. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen - Susin Nielsen

15. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

16. Legend - Marie Lu

17. Adaptation - Malinda Lo

18. Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan

19. Alice, I think - Susan Juby

20. The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson

21. Firecracker - David Iserson

22. The Outsiders - S. E. Hinton (see my review)

23. Born Confused - Tanuja Desai Hidier

24. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green (see my review)

25. The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

26. Monster - Walter Dean Myers

27. If You Could Be Mine - Sara Farizan

28. Romiette and Julio - Sharon M. Draper

29. Vivian Versus the Apocalypse - Katie Coyle

30. The Hunger Games (trilogy) - Suzanne Collins (read 2/3) (see my reviews #1, #2)

31. Gingerbread - Rachel Cohn

32. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (see my review)

33. The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot

34. Beauty Queens - Libba Bray

35. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - Ann Brashares

36. Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

37. Forever - Judy Blume

38. Noughts & Crosses - Malorie Blackman

39. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

40. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie (see my review)


October 2015 9/42

June 2016 10/42

July 2017 11/42

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Wondrous Words 28/5/14

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a fabulous weekly meme hosted by Bermuda Onion, where we share new (to us) words that we've encountered in our weekly reading.

It's been a while since I've participated in Wondrous Words Wednesday. Not that I haven't been finding new words, just been a bit lazy with getting posts together. I should have kept it up because when I came across demesne I knew I'd seen it before, and suspected that I'd even put it in a WWW post, and I hadMy recent reading of The Call of the Wild offered up many great new, first time, words.

1. Brumal (adjective)

Old longings nomadic leap
Chafing at custom's chain;
Again from its brumal sleep
Wakens the ferine strain.

Of, relating to, or occurring in winter.

2. Ferine (adjective)

Untamed, feral.

3. Tidewater (noun)

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

i) Water that inundates land at flood tide.
ii) Water affected by the tides, especially tidal streams.
iii) Low coastal land drained by tidal streams.

4. Chaffering (verb)

Buck heard them chaffering, saw the money pass between the man and the Government agent, and knew that the Scotch half-breed and the mail-train drivers were passing out of his life on the heels of Perrault and François and the others who had gone before.

i) To bargain or haggle.
ii) Chiefly British. To bandy words; to engage in small talk.

5. Forwent (verb)

He had learned well the law of club and fang, and he never forwent an advantage or drew back from a foe he had started on the way to Death.

Past tense of forgo.

6. Snub (verb)

At a particularly bad spot where a ledge of barely submerged rocks jutted out into the river, Hans cast off the rope, and, while Thornton poled the boat out into the stream, ran down the bank with the end in his hand to snub the boat when it had cleared the ledge.

i) To ignore of behave coldly toward; slight
ii) To dismiss, turn down, or frustrate the expectations of
iii) Nautical
    a) To check the movement of (a rope or cable running out) by turning it quickly about a post or cleat.
    b) To secure (a vessel, for example) in this manner
iv) To stub out (a cigarette, for example)

7. Palmated (adjective)

Back and forth the bull tossed his great palmated antlers, branching to fourteen points and embracing seven feet within the tips.

i) Having a shape similar to that of a hand with the fingers extended: palmate antlers; palmate coral.
ii) Botany. Having three or more veins, leaflets, or lobes radiating from one point; digitate: a palmate leaf.
iii) Zoology. Having webbed toes, as the feet of many water birds.

Picture source

8. Ambuscade (noun)

There is a patience of the wild- dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself- that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade; this patience belongs peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd, retarding its march, irritating the young bulls, worrying the cows with their half-grown calves, and driving the wounded bull mad with helpless rage.

An ambush.

All definitions from

Monday 26 May 2014

Monty Don's French Gardens

I'd never heard of Monty Don before this delightful series started playing on our ABC recently. Monty is a BBC gardening presenter who lived in France for 6 months as a young man, and has loved France ever since. Monty has a respectable handle on the French language, and seems to have mastered French scarf tying. He tootles about France in a 2CV in this lovely 3 part series.

Ignore the surprisingly annoying Canadian

Episode one, Gardens of Power and Passion, reminds us that those powerful human emotions of passion, power, ambition and disgrace can achieve many things, even making gardens.

Monty visits several of the spectacularly grand classic French gardens to show us how gardens can be displays of wealth,power and position. One of the classic chateaux of the Loire Valley, Chenonceau was built by Henri II and given to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. When people saw the garden they didn't just admire the garden, they admired her.

The Monty takes us to the stunning Chateau Vaux le Vicomte. A 17th century masterpiece by the famed landscape architect, Andre Le Notre who used 18,000 men to work on the garden, creating engineering feats- diverting rivers and building gravity fed fountains. Louis XIV was so annoyed that Nicolas Fouquet had a better garden than him that he arrested him. Louis XIV was of course to use Le Notre's considerable talents to create the ultimate in grand French gardens- Versailles, where no amount of excess was too much- new plants would be put in overnight so the king could wake to a new garden.

Monty visits other classic French gardens including Napoleon's residence Malmaison. Josephine was apparently obsessed with roses, she was Europe's first collector of roses, and Napoleon instructed his generals to bring back plants from their theatres of war. Apparently a rose is often the first flower that the French will put in their gardens. Monty also visits some more modern gardens including a rooftop garden at the flagship Hermes store in Paris. Paris has twice the population density of London, yet she never ceases to surprise and delight us!

Episode 2, The Gourmet Garden, explores the history and the art of the potager, the French kitchen garden. Potagers show us man's control of nature and food production, and highlights the French love of order and control. Monty believes this tradition started with medieval monasteries.

A third of French people still buy their produce from their wonderful open air markets, and a half of French people buy local produce. Importantly, the French spend more time eating and drinking than anyone else in the western world.Monty's choice of a 2CV takes on more significance as he tells us it was designed before the war to transport a farmer and their produce to market, without damaging the produce.

Monty explores the notion of terroir- that mystical combination of soil, climate and place developed and beloved by the French, which is at the heart of the French relationship to their food. Monty visits several potagers, from simple to unbelievably grand.

The extraordinary Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley has the most famous potager in the world. Each year they raise 70,000 plants, and also buy about the same number. Sadly it's now all decorative, the food is grown to be viewed, not to be eaten. They do harvest the peppers and eggplants and give them to visitors. Incredibly the vast majority ends up on the compost heap. Which is such a dreadful waste. Monty bemoans that function and form have grown too far apart.

At Versailles the Potager du Roi is just as extravagant. And why not? Certainly the king should have had the best potager. It currently employs 10 permanent gardeners. It shows us a great demonstration of elaborate pruning favoured by the French, their espaliered trees. Understandably secateurs were a French invention.

 "Each tree has to be understood." 

Some of the fruit trees at Versailles date from the late18th century. Unlike Villandry, Versailles is a working garden, and harvested produce is sold at the garden gate.

Monty visits a Jardin Ouvrier (workers garden) in a poor area of Paris, an allotment style garden where the unemployed or retired can grow food for their own tables and appreciates the benign easy generosity of those who work allotments. Vegetables are grown separately from flowers.

Paysan, is an honourable state in France. Peasant culture was simply living off the land, that still remains something that the French practice and respect. All their food culture stems from the fact that you grow your food on the patch of land you have. 

Monty tours regional France and shows us fascinating sights like onions growing in terraces of the Cevennes, looking more like rice paddies.

and how to harvest white asparagus in the Dordogne.

Episode 3, The Artistic Garden, shows us the gardens of great French artists and gardens considered as works of art themselves. Paris has always attracted artists and intellectuals- perhaps this explains my Parisian attraction?

Of course he starts with Cezanne and Monet those most famous of French impressionist painters "attempting to capture the essence of a single moment in their canvases". Monty visits the Orangerie initially to see his large panels hung there, before heading to the most famous of artistic gardens at Giverny. I hadn't heard before that Monet worked on a number of canvases simultaneously, moving around the garden as the light changed.

Monty is moved to grand thoughts in Cezanne's gardens in Aix-en- Provence.

For me a garden is home, it's life, childhood memories, dreams all bound up- you can't separate it. 

He loves seeing the light and hearing the sounds as Cezanne would have heard them. He then takes us to France's first cubist garden. Monty then explores some modern concepts in art gardens- vertical gardens, using plants as living sculpture, or reinventing the elements of a traditional French formal garden for an elegant effect. It's a lovely exploration of gardens and art.

Monty Don's French Gardens is perfect for those of us Dreaming of France-whether you've been to France, and have been lucky enough to visit some of these beautiful places, or are daydreaming of a first trip to France.

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

Saturday 24 May 2014

VIVID Festival 2014

The Vivid Sydney Festival  is sensational. A festival of light, music and ideas. It is the light that captures the most attention as the images are magical and experience of being there is really something else. We were there in 2011 and really quite blown away, by the Opera House, the lights everywhere, but most especially by Customs House.

It all started again last night- the day I left Sydney! But I did get to see some of the preparations during the week though as I was heading into the Sydney Writers Festival. Each year seems to get bigger and better- this year now includes Darling Harbour and Martin Place.

Mirror Ball Heart
Heart of the City
Cellular Tessellation
Some of the lights were being tested when I went back through in the evenings, it was great to get a sneak peak, although it made me even more desperate to get back to see the whole thing (but I can't sadly this year). 

My favourite by far of what I saw

and I only got to see three of the five giant inflatable bunnies

Invade has a serious message
and was crowd funded!

Vivid Sydney runs May 23 to June 9 2014.

Not quite like being there but still pretty

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Thursday 22 May 2014

CBCA Booklaunches

Last weekend I went to the Children's Book Council of Australia National Conference in Canberra. It was sensational. Many, many amazing moments and talks, lots of lovely, interesting people.

There were also lots of book launches! Every meal break there were one or two books being launched. Everything from picture books to YA, and everyone from first time authors to Morris Gleitzman.

I do love a book launch so of course I was in a bit of seventh heaven. Naturally I got merchandised at a few of them….

Diana Sweeney
winner of the Text Prize 2013
launching The Minnow

The irrepressible Belinda Murrell
launching 3 books!
2 from her Lulubell series
and The Sequin Star
The lovely Choechoe Brereton
launching her first picture book
A House for Donfinkle
(see my review)

Sally Murphy launching
Roses are Blue

Legend Morris Gleitzman
launching Loyal Creatures
(see my review)

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Too Many Elephants in this House

I recently read my first Ursula Dubosarsky book, The Red Shoe, so naturally I was interested when I saw that one of her picture books had been picked for National Simultaneous Storytime this year I figured I should read it too.

Too Many Elephants in this House was an Honour Book in the 2013 CBCA Awards. Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrator Andrew Joyner teamed up once before for the very successful The Terrible Plop.

A great story for the toddler set about why having a house full of elephants can be a problem.

Even if Eric doesn't necessarily think so

Mainly because your Mum says so. Mums do spoil many things….

Although the elephants themselves can be helpful, and fun.

How will Eric solve the elephant problem? Kids all over Australia will find out at 11am today.

To increase the fun NIDA are staging a theatre version of Too Many Elephants In This House this week, and SBS are making audiobook versions in 13 community languages.

Monday 19 May 2014

Tintin in Paris

At times Tintin seems to be everywhere in Paris. The French do love him.

Full windows of Tintin paraphernalia
 are quite common

Books of course

Personnages Tintin

But clearly these aren't just figurines for the kids to play with

Some are clearly for adult fans
Obviously a Blue Lotus reference

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