Thursday 30 April 2015

NSW Premier's Literary Award 2015

The award shortlists seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment.

Here are the shortlists for the children and YA sections of the NSW Premier's Literary Award.

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature (see judges comments)

The First Voyage - Allan Baillie
Rivertime - Trace Balla (see my review)
Figgy in the World - Tamsin Janu (Joint Winner)
The Duck and the Darklings - Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King
Crossing - Catherine Norton (Joint Winner)
The Adventures of Sir Roderick the Not-Very Brave - James O'Loghlin

Ethel Turner Prize for Young Adult's Literature (see judges comments)

Book of Days - K.A. Barker
The Road to Gundagai - Jackie French
Are You Seeing Me? - Darren Groth
Razorhurst - Justine Larbalestier
The Cracks in the Kingdom - Jaclyn Moriarty (Winner)
Cracked - Clare Strathan

I haven't read any of these yet. There's always so much more great reading ahead. 
The full shortlists are available here
The winners will be announced on Monday May 18 as part of the Sydney Writers Festival.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Acute Misfortune

I really don't know what drew me so strongly to read Acute Misfortune. I think I might have read a review in the weekend papers at some stage. Then I accidentally went along to a session with author Erik Jensen at the Newcastle Writers Festival last month. Accidentally, because it wasn't a session that I had planned to see. I was going to have a break, walk around town between other sessions. But then it was showery that day and a bit miserable, so I found an extra session to go to and bought a ticket. 

It turned out the Blurred Lines: Biography with a Difference session was fantastic (and maybe I'll get to telling you about it one day). Erik Jensen talking about Acute Misfortune and David Leser talking about his book To Begin to Know. I really enjoyed both authors speak- two journalists who had written two very different books. I was compelled to buy Acute Misfortune even though I felt really strongly that I wouldn't like Adam Cullen, and wondered if I'd like the book.

I don't think I knew all that much about Adam Cullen before this. I don't think that I've known much about his art, even though he won the Archibald Prize in 2000 for his portrait of David Denham. Turns out that I don't really like his artistic style all that much. Do a google image search- it's often rather confronting in a naive style. I did recognise having seen one of his paintings before, I think in the Does Humour Belong in Art? exhibition that I saw last year.

In the Blurred Lines session  at NWF Erik Jensen told us a bit about the book and about Adam Cullen. He told us that Adam had shot him in the leg as a test of his bravery, and also pushed him off a motorbike. I kept wondering if Adam Cullen was just an arsehole and why Erik Jensen would move into Adam Cullen's house to write this biography. Erik was 19 at the time and Adam did lie and say that he had a book deal ready to go for his biography. 

Adam Cullen grew up in the suburban heartland of Sydney's Northern Beaches. He had a happy childhood, and had to leave because he couldn't make art there. 

Erik writes some rather contradictory things about Adam. "People love Adam".

Adam's is a funeral of friends who have become acquaintances, spurred back into friendship by death. 
Adam's life had contracted hugely in the decade since he moved to the Blue Moutnains, outside Sydney. His last two relationships had broken down. Friends had drifted away as he became more difficult, as the course of his life became more obvious and its conclusion more inevitable. 

Adam would have been a very difficult person to know. He enjoyed pushing the boundaries, with his art, his body, his family, his friends. He was an alcoholic, and intravenous drug user, and it ended up consuming him. 

In the end, Adam did not need to overdose. Drugs had been working quietly on his body for two decades. At times more loudly. He was weakened by narcotics and made wretched by drink. his organs were ravaged.  He could no longer eat solids. In his bathroom, he kept a collection of hospital bracelets hanging from his mirror, like an adult's baby book, each discharge a strange kind of rebirth. He did not need to overdose; he was already dead. 

There were lies and terrible acts. I think the thing that most upset me, apart from random acts of cruelty was his relationship with his mother. 

I was fourteen when I stopped loving my mother. 

It was a relationship that never recovered. And yet she was to be the only woman that he ever painted. 

There is some interesting thought about art at times. Even though Adam didn't like other artists, he resented them, and thought that they "just don't understand what life is about". Art is "making something completely fucking useless" and "a means of checking whether society was still paying attention".

Now having read Acute Misfortune, I'm still not sure. Was Adam just an arsehole? Probably? Maybe? I feel very sure that Adam Cullen and I wouldn't have seen eye to eye on many things. I was pretty much outraged on every page by something Adam Cullen said or did. But Erik Jensen has written a very readable, and rather compelling book about him. There is much food for thought. 

An interesting interview of Erik Jensen with 
Caroline Baume who asks the burning question, 
"Why should we care about Adam Cullen?"

A fabulous interview of Erik Jensen by 
Geraldine Doogue

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Time Magazine's The 100 Best Children's Books of All Time

This list of Time Magazines 100 Best Children's Books of All Time was not nearly as controversial as Time's list of 100 YA books. Here we have mainly picture books, with a few chapter books thrown into the mix. Still a new list is always fun.

1. Maurice Sendak - Where the Wild Things Are

2. Ezra Jack Keats - The Snowy Day

3. Maragaret Wise Brown - Goodnight Moon

4. Robert McCloskey - Blueberries for Sal

5. Else Holmelund Minarik - Little Bear

6. Jane Yolen - Owl Moon

7. Shel Silverstein - The Giving Tree

8. Jon Scieszka - The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

9. David Wiesner - Tuesday

10. Shel Silverstein - Where the Sidewalk Ends

11. Crockett Johnson - Harold and the Purple Crayon

12. Robert McCloskey - Make Way for Ducklings

13. Ian Falconer - Olivia

14. Ludwig Bemelmans - Madeline

15. Mitsumasa Anno - Anno's Journey

16. Arnold Lobel - Frog and Toad

17. Doreen Cronin - Click, Clack, Moo

18. Munro Leaf - The Story of Ferdinand

19. Mo Willems - Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

20. Dr Seuss - The Lorax

21. Don Freeman - Corduroy

22. Jon Klassen - I Want My Hat Back

23. Barbara Cooney - Miss Rumphius (see my review)

24. William Steig - Brave Irene

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

26. Dr. Seuss - The Cat in the Hat

27. Herve Tullet - Press Here

28. Drew Daywalt - The Day the Crayons Quit

29. Ezra Jack Keats - Whistle for Willie

30. Chris Van Allsburg - The Garden of Abdul Gasazi

31. Dr. Seuss - Yertle the Turtle

32. Wanda Gag - Millions of Cats

33. Bill Martin Jr - Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

34. Michael Bond - A Bear Called Paddington (see my review)

35. A.A Milne - Winnie the Pooh

36. Beatrix Potter - The Tale of Peter Rabbit

37. Virginia Lee Burton - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

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

39. Mama Don't Allow - Thacher Hurd

40. Kay Thompson - Eloise

41. Russell Hoban - Bread and Jam for Frances

42. Peggy Parish - Amelia Bedelia

43. Robert Munsch - Love You Forever

44. Graeme Base - Animalia

45. Maurice Sendak - In the Night Kitchen

46. Jackie French - Diary of a Wombat

47. Arlene Mosel - Tikki Tikki Tembo

48. Mac Barnett - Extra Yarn

49. Alexandra Day - Good Dog Carl

50. Ruth Stiles Gannett - My Father's Dragon

51. Roger Bradfield - Hello, Rock

52. Julia Donaldson - The Gruffalo

53. William Steig - Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

54. Margaret Wise Brown - The Important Book

55. Walter Dean Myers - Jazz

56. Chris Van Allsburg - The Stranger

57. Eric Carle - The Very Hungry Caterpillar

58. Mo Willems - Elephant and Piggie

59. Esther Averill - Jenny and the Cat Club

60. Margaret Wise Brown - The Runaway Bunny

61. Astrid Lindgren - Pippi Longstocking (see my review)

62. Aaron Becker - Journey

63. Dr. Seuss - Green Eggs and Ham

64. Albert Lamorisse - The Red Balloon

65. Divya Srinivasan - Little Owl's Night

66. Holling Clancy Holling - Paddle-to-the-Sea

67. Virginia Lee Burton - Katy and the Big Snow

68. Phillip C. Stead - A Sick Day for Amos McGee

69.  Alexis Deacon - Slow Loris

70. Margaret Wise Brown - The Color Kittens

71. William Joyce - The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (see my review)

72. Dr. Seuss - Oh, The Places You'll Go!

73. Watty Piper - The Little Engine That Could

74. Richard Scarry - Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

75. Jack Prelutsky - The New Kid on the Block

76. Tad Hills - How Rocket Learned to Read

77. Jon Scieszka - The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

78. Jean de Brunhoff - The Story of Barbar

79. Jon J. Muth - The Three Questions

80. Allen Say - Grandfather's Journey

81. Kadir Nelson - We Are the Ship

82. Helen Oxenbury - We're Going on a Bear Hunt

83. Marc Brown - Arthur's Nose

84. Laura Joffe Numeroff - If You Give a Mouse A Cookie

85. Maira Kalman - Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman

86. Harry Allard - Miss Nelson is Missing

87. Kevin Henkes - Lily's Purple Plastic Purse

88. Dennis Lee - Alligator Pie

89. Taro Gomi - Everyone Poops

90. Julian Scheer - Rain Makes Applesauce

91. Ed Young - Lon Po Po

92. Stan & Jan Berenstain - The Berenstain Bears

93. Richard and Florence Atwater - Mr Popper's Penguins (see my review)

94. Michelle Knudsen - Library Lion (my review coming soon)

95. Blanche Fisher Wright - The Real Mother Goose

96. Gene Zion - Harry the Dirty Dog

97. Sharon M. Draper - Out of My Mind

98. Janette Sebring Lowrey - The Poky Little Puppy

99. Eric Litwin - Pete the Cat

100. Jannell Cannon - Stellaluna

52/100 Although there's a few that I think I've read, but can't quite remember.

October 2016 53/100

Monday 27 April 2015

Pardon My French

I have a very soft spot for this book as I bought it in a book shop on Place Saint-Michel on my most recent trip to Paris in October last year. I started reading it while I was away, but then put it aside while travelling, and picked it up again recently. I've been reading it off and on for some time. It's an easy book to do that with. 

Charles Timoney is a patent lawyer. In the 1990s both he and his French wife were laid off in the same month. They took it as a sign, and applied for jobs in Paris. Charles got his job and they moved to Paris, he was then on a steep French language learning curve. While he spoke English at work, he needed to learn French to shop, to dine, to live. 

Learning a foreign language is a long and exhausting business. 

It is indeed.

If you are not born into a bilingual family, it is going to take a good seven years' hard study to become more or less bilingual- if you are lucky. 

So there'll be many more years memorising of verb conjugations, passé composé and struggling with articles for me. I'm sure it'll take much longer on a part-time basis, puddling along in Australia. 

Pardon My French uses French words and phrases as a window into French culture as well as the mere words. It is organised in subject groupings such as- Food and Wine, How to Sound French, The Business World. Much of it is extremely practical advice for the visitor to France. Handy advice on every day tasks like buying bread- yes you can ask for 'une demi-baguette' at the boulangerie, and in a restaurant you can ask for 'une carafe d'eau' ( a carafe of tap water) when you are only offered mineral water (Eau plate ou gazeuse?/Flat or sparkling water). Australians drink a lot of water, and has been a real moneysaver for us over time, but it wasn't something I knew on my first trip. 

I've long been curious about going to the movies in France, but always been anxious about whether I'd understand enough of it to be worthwhile. Now thanks to Charles Timoney I know to look for VO/VF. Version Originale/Version Francaise.

'Version Originale' means that the film will be shown in its original language with French subtitles, while 'Version Francaise' means that it will be dubbed into French. 

So simple once you know! I want to go back to Paris so I can go to the movies. Well that's one reason... I walked past UGC Danton many times last year, and their website does indeed list VO/VF- another French mystery explained.

While Charles advises us to "never even think about attempting to explain the rules of cricket to a French person" he helps us understand the French obsessions with documentation, wedding cakes, suppositories and the places where things happen- where you were born, where a cheque was written. 

But it was Page 58 that literally stopped me in my reading tracks. 

There are two quick ways of telling whether a book is English or French. (We shall suppose, for the sake of argument, that you have become so perfectly bilingual that you no longer noticed whether words are French or English.) First, when books are standing upright in a bookcase: if you have to tilt your head to the right to read the wording down the spine, the book is English; if you tilt your head to the left, it is French.

Could this really be true? How hadn't I noticed?

French Gone series
Australian Gone series. 

C'est vrai! It's true! It's extraordinary to realise that the language you speak controls so many things even down to the way which you will need to turn your head to read a book spine. 

There are so many useful and fascinating nuggets of information in Pardon My French that I'm sure I'll reread it at some stage along my 7 plus year journey towards bilingualism. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 
All About France a monthly
love fest for France

French Bingo 2015

Saturday 25 April 2015

ANZAC Illustrated

When I was in Newcastle recently I made sure I had time to get along to see a special exhibition, Anzac Illustrated, showcasing the work of Australian illustrators and their work on books about war and conflict for children.

Of course April 25 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli and the start of the ANZAC legend. There have been many new books to mark the occasion. Which is good but at times it seems that there are too many to keep up with.

ANZAC Illustrated included many of my favourite illustrators work.

This exhibition celebrates quite unique approaches to creating illustrated books for children on these themes. Tales are told from many perspectives by well-known voices. Illustration mediums and styles are varied and inspiring. There are all sorts of books including picture books for young and old, a graphic novel and illustrated fiction. 

Several illustrators were featured. Greg Holfeld's amazing work on An Anzac Tale (see my review) was featured as the artwork for the exhibition posters. It is particularly striking. And there was a large digital print of the cover artwork as you walked in.

I really love his use of kangaroos as soldiers. It's so visually strong. This interesting choice was explained in the exhibition. 

Click on the photo to enlarge for easier reading. 

I always love seeing glimpses of work in progress. It's so fascinating for a non-artist who has no idea of the process.

There was a large display about several of Mark Wilson's books. I've read a few of his books, and really love his work. 

There were fascinating displays of the research he does for his illustrations.

I just had to search out Digger
(see my review)

Mark Wilson illustrated Jackie French's A Day to Remember (see my review). It was great to see how he did the cover artwork. 

There was only one work from Shaun Tan, an image from his extraordinary book Memorial, which I should probably reread. 

Check out my list of war books for children covering WWI, WWII and other conflicts.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 

Thursday 23 April 2015


I've been meaning to read An Anzac Tale since last year. I love the cover, it's such a strong Australian image. It's so clever, using the kangaroo as a soldier. The cover was featured in the ANZAC Illustrated exhibition that I saw in Newcastle recently, and I knew I would read it for this Anzac Day, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the original Gallipoli landing.

An ANZAC Tale tells the story of two friends, Wally and Roy, Aussie lads who enlist in 1914 soon after war has been declared. They leave their farming lives and ship out in November 1914. They train in Egypt before landing at Gallipoli on Sunday 25 April 1915.

We see the horror of the landing, and the ongoing horror of the trench warfare of the following months. The smell, the disease, the death, the terrible food, the dreadful conditions, the heat and then the cold, the unending death of a campaign that was doomed from the start.

There are 6 great pages of notes at the back of the book. Putting everything in historical context for the reader. Incredible stuff.

Each man carried over 90 pounds (40.8 kilograms) of equipment, along with fixed bayonets and empty gun magazines (silence was to be maintained). When they jumped off their boats into the water, many found themselves up to their waists or armpits; others were pulled under by the weight of their equipment; some drowned, and others were struck down by Turkish bullets. 

Greg Holfeld's illustrations are fantastic. Pen and ink wash drawings on paper and coloured in Photoshop- is a process I can't begin to understand. A note at the beginning of the book explains his inspired choice of animals to represent the different nationalities.

Australia and New Zealand have obvious choices for illustrations using animal representation; the fauna emblems for both countries are also uniquely indigenous. Other nations can be represented by animals that aren't native buy have a symbolic association with the country, such as the British Lion, the Bengal Tiger of India, or cats in Egypt. No such choices were immediately apparent for Turkey. The caracal lynx, from the Turkish word karakulak, meaning 'black ear', was chosen to represent the Turkish soldiers. It has been described as fiercely territorial. 

Find more war books for kids from my list here.

Wednesday 22 April 2015


The 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli on April 25 1915 is just a few days away. Australia and New Zealand particularly still mark this event (I know that at least Turkey and France do too) and of course there is much in the media this week in the lead up to this important Anzac Day on Saturday.

I've been reading some books about Anzac Day this week and particularly wanted to find Mark Wilson's latest book Digger. Digger isn't about the Anzac Campaign, but it is a World War One story.

Matthew lives on a farm in Western Victoria, the farm dog has a litter of pups and he is drawn to Digger straight away. Matthew and Digger form such a bond that Matthew smuggles Digger aboard his troop ship when he leaves the safety of Melbourne for the war in Europe.

Matthew will become a stretcher-bearer on the fields of France and Belgium, and Digger is right there with him. Digger helps catch rats in the trenches and becomes a favourite among the men and helped cheer the injured soldiers.

Matthew knew it cheered the men up when they saw Digger. It was as if the little dog reminded them of home, or just gave them a glimmer of hope. 

I saw the fabulous ANZAC Illustrated exhibition in Newcastle recently, which featured  Mark Wilson's incredible work, and the fascinating research he puts into his books. Mark uses an amazing mix of drawing and painting to illustrate Digger, a story told by a third person narrator, and also with the letters that Matthew sends to his sister Anna at home.

Mark Wilson is an extraordinary talent. He has illustrated many books, such as Jackie French's A Day to Remember (see my review), but I think I prefer the many books he writes and illustrates himself. Digger's story was inspired by the true story of Driver, a puppy smuggled onto an Australian troop ship in World War One. I'm always amazed at the stories told in children's books, Mark Wilson does not shy away from highlighting the tragedy of war (in words or pictures) in Digger- or any of his other books.

Find more war books for kids from my list here.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Forage 2015

I can't believe that Forage has been and gone for another year already. 2015 is the fifth Forage, a highlight of FOOD Week in Orange. It's a totally great event, and we've had 4 years of fabulous, dry autumnal weather. 2011. 2012. 2013. 2014. Forage is bigger and better every year. 2015 was something special.

Much rain was predicted this year.
90% chance of 10-20 mm.
And it started raining just as the first buses arrived!
But it was only a shower, and didn't last that long. 
The ladies were mostly kitted out in dress wellies anyway

Highland Heritage's
5 Spice Pork with Crispy Salad

Foragers are an intrepid lot and don't let a little shower
dampen their enthusiasm.

The day was atmospheric and glorious. 

It's always wonderful walking between the vines

With so many delicious pit stops along the way. 

Lolli Redini's
Chicken Rillette with Orchard Fruit Compote

Stepping Stone's Minnestrone
with Trunkey Creek Spec

The Forage ahead. 

Crowds of enthusiastic Foragers build with every bus arrival.

I certainly did. 

Agrestic Grocer's
Wild Mushroom Pie
warming and perfect for the day

Sadly I wasn't drinking but did have the
occasional sip. 
Bite Riot Cherry Juice is good!

Beautiful new vistas with every step. 

Edwena Mitchell's
Beef Shin Braised in Coconut Cream
was sensational.
As was
Hand Pressed Shiraz Sorbet

The rain had held off for long enough
and was soon bucketing down.
Most people had had enough wine that they didn't
really care.

But now I long for a Gustav Klimt brolly too...
It was a wet end to a great day. 

But Kate Brack's
Chocolate and Red Wine Cake
with Roasted Pear and Cinnamon Cream
was Exceptional.
 I didn't care that it was raining. 

Second Mouse cheese to finish
And then a wet and soggy dash to the bus home. I can't wait to see what Forage 2016 will bring...

Edwena Mitchell published her marvellous beef shin recipe on Facebook and is happy for me to share it with you here. I think I need to try this at home. It would be easy to make a half recipe, although so delicious you'll probably want the full one. 

The Braised Shin Beef was quite well received so herewith the recipe, adapted from a Gourmet Traveller Fare Exchange recipe:
2 kg shin beef, don't remove the casings, just cut it up into largish chunks
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 tab pepper
1/2 tab dark brown sugar
1 tab Herbies Chinese 5 Spice mix
1 or 2 green chillis
2" piece ginger grated
6 big fat cloves garlic
2 tabs sesame oil
800ml coconut cream
Make a paste with the pepper, sugar, spice mix, ginger, garlic, chilli & sesame oil, mix the paste with meat and soy sauce & marinate for as long as you can (at least 2 days).

Put the meat into good heavy casserole pot with coconut cream & cook at 140 degrees for 4 or 5 hours till very tender.

Serve with rice and:

2 green capsicum
1 Lebanese Cucumber
1/2 bunch radish
1 bunch shallots or 1 Spanish Onion
1/2 bunch coriander
1/2 cup sushi dressing 

Slice capsicum, shallots & radish very finely, pour over sushi dressing 1/2 hr before serving & use Coriander for garnish at serving.

Serves 8 with a bit left over!!
For Forage, the meat was marinating in the soy & spice paste for one month, cryovac'ed, thanks to, Michael Borg from M & J Meats in Orange, my wonderful butcher.

Marinating for a month! No wonder it tasted so amazing. I might need a trip to see Michael this week too. It's been raining ever since Forage ended, and has turned quite wintery.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
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This post is linked to Weekend Cooking
a fabulous weekly meme at BethFishReads