Saturday 28 February 2015

Sydney Festival

I had a rather quick trip to Sydney in January. Quick, but still fun. Sydney Festival runs every January, we had time for a little look around Festival Village in Hyde Park.

 There was a great library. Free books to go.  I liberated five....

You could bring books in from home to donate.
Many were surplus from the City of Sydney Library. 

 Higher Ground is said to be part art installation, part photo playground.

It does make for some cool photos

But as an experience in the HOT sun of an Australian Summer
It was HOT.

Baking really. 

Staff retreated under umbrellas. 

We retreated for an ice-cream. 

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Friday 27 February 2015

40 Classic Children's Books Even Adults Love

Recently Time alerted me to this list, but they couldn't be bothered including the whole list, just the first five.

The full list is at My god, I loathe sites that make you click through lists one by one. It's like a punishment.

Here is the list, as a list.

The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

Ferdinand- Munro Leaf

The Saggy Baggy Elephant - Kathryn Jackson and Byron Jackson

Are You My Mother? - P.D. Eastman

Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson

The Poky Little Puppy - Janette Sebring Lowrey

Go, Dog. Go! - P.D. Eastman

Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmans

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett

Raggedy Ann & Andy - Johnny Gruelle

Little Bear - Elsa Holmelund Minarik

The Five Chinese Brothers - Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese

The Snowy Day - Ezra Jack Keats

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst

Amelia Bedelia - Herman Parish

The Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss (see my review)

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (see my review)

Superfudge - Judy Blume

The Giver - Lois Lowry (see my review)

Encyclopaedia Brown - Donald J. Sobol

The Incredible Journey - Sheila Branford (see my review)

Goosebumps -R.L. Stine

Henry Huggins - Beverly Cleary

The Cricket in Times Square - George Selden

Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (see my review)

The Indian in the Cupboard - Lynne Reid Banks

Ramona the Pest - Beverly Cleary

Bambi - Felix Salten

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild (see my review)

Betsy-Tacy - Maud Hart Lovelace

Lassie Come-Home - Eric Knight

The Borrowers - Mary Norton

Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers

Greek Mythology -

Old Yeller - Fred Gipson (see my review)

Pollyanna- Eleanor H. Porter (see my review)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D. Taylor (see my review)

Tiger Eyes - Judy Blume


There are always more books to read, and more books you've never heard of.

June 2016 24/40

March 2017 25/40

June 2018 26/40

Wednesday 25 February 2015

The Sky So Heavy

I do like a bit of post apocalyptic lit from time to time. It's not a genre I want to wallow in, but they're often a great page-turning read, whether meant for adults, such as The Road (see my review), or On the Beach, or any number of YA titles, with possibly the most obvious ties to John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began series. Claire Zorn references Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness a number of times within The Sky So Heavy- I do wish that I had read it.

Claire Zorn's debut novel The Sky So Heavy was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year Older Readers last year, and went on to be a CBCA Honour Book. And for a while it was everywhere, of course I wanted to read it, I just needed the opportunity. Thankfully that arose recently. Perhaps if I'd known that it would only take me a day or two to read I could have squeezed it in sooner.

The Sky So Heavy is firmly set in Australia. Findlay Heath is a 17 year old schoolboy in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, with schoolboy concerns- assignments, his parents and whether Lucy will talk to him again, but all that is about to change, when two unnamed countries to the north start lobbing nuclear weapons at each other and the world falls rather quickly into a nuclear winter.

I never like it when writers are coy about countries involved in a fictional war. Just name someone, or make up a new country if you don't want to pick a current one. It's especially odd when the Australian setting is so very real- the lower Blue Mountains, and Sydney are described in close and accurate detail. There is quite a bit of action though, right from the start.

There are two things I know right now: one is that a guy is holding a gun to my head, the other is that I don't want to die.

While there is a great first person story for Fin, his family and his friends, there are also many broader themes- nuclear war naturally enough, conservation and global warming. There are more political slants, and we can definitely see some parallels with our current asylum seeker debates with segregation of the population.

It's funny how without something as simple as electricity it was completely useless- just a gaping, blank stare of black. Without electricity our house was a box of useless bits of moulded plastic and wiring. 

You can hear an audio review on RN Books and Arts Daily from 2014 (with some major spoilers it must be said). I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of Claire Zorn, her second book, The Protected is already out, and has already won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award 2015.  I'm sure it'll be on some more award lists this year.

Monday 23 February 2015

Shakespeare and Company

Rather incredibly it took me four trips to Paris to make it inside Shakespeare and Company, one of the most famous bookstores in the world. I can't believe it either, but I guess I usually manage to buy enough books accidentally when I'm away, I don't need to go deliberately searching out more books that I would naturally want to buy to stuff into my suitcase that will at some stage burst at the seams.

I knew exactly where it was of course. I've walked past many times, once this past trip there were people filming a movie maybe, or an ad, although there were only a few people, it wouldn't have been a big movie, but they did have one of those clapper things.

I always scan their events page before any trip to Paris. They have scads of great writerly events but these always seem to be just before I arrive in Paris, or just after I leave. I guess the Wicker boys were never keen to go either, although they wouldn't have discouraged me. Whatever the reasons for the delay, last year I finally made it inside. And it was fun.

Tempting books outside

and in

Of course I popped upstairs to the children's section. Just to check out what was on the shelves.

Noticeboards and Shaun Tan

I need to read this one. 

They don't like you taking photos of inside the shop apparently because of customer privacy, so I was careful not to include any customers. I did manage to escape without buying anything this day. Sadly I didn't come across their famous cat, Kitty, but there's always next time.

Some lucky folks get to stay in the shop (check out this link, it's amazing).

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Saturday 21 February 2015

The Book Yard - Valentine Day Edition

Orange is very lucky to have The Book Yard. Set up only last year it is a fundraising venture for Orange Public School. Which is great, but at it's heart it's a massive book sale. Run by a friend and colleague The Book Yard is such a creative, fun venture.

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to get lost in the moment at a book sale? There were lots of special moments for this Valentine's Day edition.

Delicious local cloudy apple juice
with waxed paper straws-
it was like being a kid again!

A blind date with a book!
Such a great idea.
And they looked fabulous.

Used book sales are always fun. There is the thrill of the chase. The thrill of the unknown. The sense of fun.

And Learning.

Authors you've never really heard of
who get their own box.
Lots of people must be reading them. 

The agony

I just bought this new and full price online. 

and the Ecstasy of a book you've been hoping for, but not expecting to find.

I only learned of the magnificently titled
Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack last year
and now the universe has provided me with it

The indecision. Should I buy these?

I probably won't read it for at least 10 years
but I do love the cover


I didn't. Possibly a mistake.

It's almost a relief to get to entire sections that you can walk quickly by.

And great to see the next generation of readers fully engaged.

Afterwards I found another special Valentine celebration at The Sugar Mill. Not surprisingly the Wicker boys loved it. 

I needed the energy to carry home the rather large bag of books I bought. 

But there were so many treasures this day ...

A whole set of Jackie French's Fair Dinkum Histories!

I thought about buying just one,
but the whole set was there.
Stupid to leave it to chance. 

Three books for my 1001 quest. 

And a random assortment of things I couldn't leave behind
I can't wait for my next trip to The Book Yard.  

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Friday 20 February 2015

Piano Lessons

Most of the time I listen to work related podcasts when I'm driving to and from work. But sometimes I need a break from that, and the occasional audio book suits me very well at those times. Recently I was browsing at my library and found Piano Lessons. I'd meant to read the book when it came out, so the audiobook was a perfect solution, and a perfect interlude.

Anna Goldsworthy is daughter of GP and author Peter Goldsworthy. She was to grow up to be a concert pianist, and so she understands music on a level that I never will. Some passages are meaningless and confusing for the non-musician at times, but the story of her progress and growth carries the story along.

Piano Lessons starts with 9 year old Anna beginning lessons with Mrs Sivan, a Russian emigre in suburban Adelaide in the early 1980s. We watch Anna grow up, as a person and a musician, both under the careful tutelage of Mrs Sivan (who looks just like I imagined her). Much of the book is a love letter to Mrs Sivan, a larger than life character who seems to inspire devotion in all her students. She is emphatic, knowledgeable, talented and warm. Of course the lessons Mrs Sivan teaches are not just about the piano and the lives of the great composers. They are lessons in life, in beauty, kindness and philosophy all delivered with typical Russian emphasis.

Of course.

There are also some rather fascinating insights into Peter Goldsworthy, and some of his writings. I've read a few, but certainly not all of his books, most recently His Stupid Boyhood (see my review). Peter attended Anna's childhood piano lessons for many years, taking her each week, and sitting and watching the proceedings, these events were to inspire one of his early works, Maestro. Anna also watches her father's creative process along the way, and we gain little insights into his work too.

At times I really wished that there were musical interludes to help explain the music for the non musician, although I see now that there was a companion CD of Anna playing some of the music from the book, but it doesn't seem to be all that available. Whilst I know most of the classic composers whose names mark the chapter names,  I'm not familiar with all of their individual works, such as Chopin's Etudes. Any of the etudes, let alone particular etudes.

You can hear Anna Goldsworthy interviewed about Piano Lessons on RN's The Music Show.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

The Incredible Here and Now

The Incredible Here and Now is a great read. Shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year 2014, and Winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2014 I was expecting it to be, although I didn't know all that much about it going in. Which was possibly a good thing.

I've tried to read this book a couple of times. I borrowed it from the library at least once. But I didn't like the cover, and returned it unopened. I like the title, but something about the cover put me off. Now that I've read it, I can understand the cover, but that doesn't make me like the cover any more than I did before.

The Incredible Here and Now is more masculine than my usual reading fare. Fifteen year old Michael and his older brother Dom are growing up in Parramatta in Sydney's West. They live with their parents in an apartment block, and they like the usual things- cars, girls, having fun with their friends. Parramatta is present throughout the book, a character almost.

Some people say 'West' like it is something wrong, like ice-cream that fell in a gutter. I think West is like my brother's music, too much bass so you end up dancing like your body parts don't fit together and laughing all at the same time. That's what West is: shiny cars and loud things, people coming, people going- movement. Those who don't know any better, they come into the neighbourhood and lock their windows and drive on through, never stopping before they get somewhere else. But we know better. 

Felicity Castagna has lived and worked (as a high school teacher amongst other things) in Western Sydney.

"The book draws on the voices of the diverse young boys I've met while teaching in high schools, workshops and tertiary institutions in Western Sydney,"she says.
"I also spend hours a day walking the streets of Parramatta with my young son, and I wanted the book to establish the city as a character as much as any of the other characters." Source.

No wonder she has such a sense of the area, such an appreciation of the history, and such a familiarity with school yard tribes.

Mrs Morrsion, she looks up and drops her hands to her sides. I can already see that she's giving up. She knows we aren't going to be reading any Shakespeare and pretending like it means something today. 

Told in very short chapters, each a mere 1-4 pages, The Incredible Here and Now is a very fast read. But it is not without substance, it is packed with it. It is a remarkable evocation of place, urban renewal, a consideration of racial tensions and the rhythms and stresses of the lives of young men.

Because we can't get into One World Bar, because they won't let us go dancing at The Roxy, because the cafés are filled with too-old people, because the parks are filled with dodgy strangers, because we've already seen all the movies at Greater Union and Westfield is shut at night, because of all of this, the McDonald's parking lot is the centre of our night-time universe, at least for now.