Wednesday 29 July 2015

Top 100 Books To Read Before Leaving Primary School

I'm very excited about this recent list from the UK, the results of a survey of teachers by TES magazine and the National Association for the Teaching of English.

It's a rather teacherly list. But these are great books that kids love and adults can appreciate. Note that some are equally placed, e.g. 12=. You've got to admire precision like that in list making.

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (see my review)

2. Goodnight Mister Tom - Michelle Magorian

3. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

4. Matilda - Roald Dahl

5. The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson

6. The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis (well 2 1/2 of the 7, that's a decent crack)

7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle

8. We're Going on a Bear Hunt - Michael Rosen

9. Dogger - Shirley Hughes

10. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

11. Sting of the Dump - Clive King

12= Black Beauty - Anna Sewell

12= The Iron Man - Ted Hughes

14. Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown

15. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

16. Funnybones - Allan and Janet Ahlberg

17= Owl Babies - Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson

17= The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien  (see my review)

19. Green Eggs and Ham - Dr Seuss

20. War Horse - Michael Morpuro (see my review)

21= Grimm's Fairy Tales - Brothers Grimm 

21= The Tiger Who Came to Tea - Judith Kerr

23. Peace at Last - Jill Murphy

24. Artemis Fowl series - Eoin Colfer (see my review)

25. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy - Lynley Dodd

26. Not Now Bernard - David McKee

27.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

28. The Twits - Roald Dahl

29. I Am David - Ann Holm

30. The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes

31. The Paddington Series - Michael Bond (see my review)

32. Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch

33. Esio Trot - Roald Dahl

34. Five Children and It - E. Nesbit

35. Clockwork - Philip Pullman

36. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (see my review)

37. The Magic Far Away Tree - Enid Blyton

38. Farmer Duck - Martin Waddell and Helen Oxenbury

39. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome (see my review)

40. The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier 

41. The Worst Witch Series - Jill Murphy

42. The Alfie and Annie Rose Series - Shirley Hughes

43. Shakespeare Stories - Leon Garfield

44. Journey to the River Sea - Eva Ibbotson

45. Six Dinner Sid - Inga Moore

46. Sad Book - Michael Rosen

47. The Borrowers - Mary Norton (see my review)

48= A Dark, Dark Tale - Ruth Brown

48= The Jolly Postman - Allan Ahlberg

50. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

51. Coraline - Neil Gaiman

52. Zoo - Anthony Browne

53. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

54. Voices in the Park - Anthony Browne

55. Cinderella - Charles Perrault, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti 

56. Pig Heart Boy - Malorie Blackman

57. The Railway Children - E. Nesbit

58. Cloud Busting - Malorie Blackman

59= Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson (see my review)

59= The Sheep-Pig - Dick King-Smith

61= Beegu - Alexis Deacon

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

63= Eragon - Christopher Paolini

63= The Mr Men and Little Miss Series - Roger Hargreaves

65= Gentle Giant - Michael Morpurgo

65= Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling

67 The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams

68. Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti (see my review)

69. Eagle of the Ninth - Rosemary Sutcliff

70. Theseus and the Minotaur - David Orme and Wendy Body

71= The Just William Series - Richmal Crompton

71= On the Way Home - Jill Murphy

71= Pumpkin Soup - Helen Cooper

71= Street Child - Berlie Doherty

71= The Happy Prince and other stories - Oscar Wilde

76= Angelo - Quentin Blake

76= The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

76= The Snowman - Raymond Briggs

79. My Mum - Anthony Browne

80= The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

80= The Tunnel - Anthony Browne

82= Face - Benjamin Zephaniah

82= The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler - Gene Kemp

84. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

85= Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type - Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

85= The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

85= The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrix Potter

88= I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato - Lauren Child 

88= The Skullduggery Pleasant Series - Derek Landy

88= The Early Years at Malory Towers - Enid Blyton

88= Wolf Brother - Michelle Paver

92= Birds Beasts and Relatives - Gerard Durrell

92= The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner

94. The Mrs Pepperpot Series - Alf Proysen

95= The Asterix Series - Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

95= The Fib and Other Stories - George Layton

97. The Giant's Necklace - Michael Morpurgo

98. The Kipper Series - Mick Inkpen

99= The Milly-Molly-Mandy Series - Joyce Lankester Brisley

99= The Suitcase Kid - Jacqueline Wilson


Not a bad showing, although I've read the vast majority as an adult. Of course most of these titles weren't yet written when I finished primary school.

It's such an interesting list. No surprises in the top 10 for me- although I have a clear hole in my top 10 reading. As ever there are some expected books, some I've been meaning to read and some authors and books I've never heard of.

Not surprising that Roald Dahl is a major player, although I'd forgo Esio Trot and include my favourite Dahl -The BFG - instead, actually I'd put that number one I think, I like the movies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory more than the book! Shhhh. I was surprised that Jacqueline Wilson only just snuck in at the tail end. The Telegraph points out that David Walliams and J.K. Rowling failed to make the grade.

Nov 2016 53/100

June 2018 54/100

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Carrie's War

Carrie's War wasn't the book I was expecting. I expected a rather straightforward war evacuee story, and whilst it's a war evacuee story it isn't straightforward. 

Sheep and mountains. 'Oh, it'll be such fun,' their mother had said when she kissed them good-bye at the station. 'Living in the country instead of the stuffy old city. You'll love it, you see if you don't!' As if Hitler had arranged this old war for their benefit, just so that Carrie and Nick could be sent away in a train with gas masks slung over their shoulders and their names on cards round their necks. Labelled like parcels- Caroline Wendy Willow and Nicholas Peter Willow - only with no address to be sent to. 

How extraordinary that war time evacuation was. I can't imagine what it must have been like for those parents to send their children away, to trust their survival to the kindness of strangers, to never know if they would see each other again.

Carrie and her brother Nick are evacuated from London to Wales, but that is merely the premise, not the story and we meet an increasingly odd cast of characters in the small Welsh mining village where the children stay. Many have great, Dickensian names. Albert Sandwich. Mister Johnny. Hepzibah Green. Carrie and Nick after a "kind of cattle auction" are taken home by kindly Miss Evans. But it is her brother, shopkeeper Mr Evans who rules the roost.

Just a tall, thin, cross man with a loud voice, pale, staring, pop-eyes, and tufts of spiky hair sticking out from each nostril. 

Councillor Samuel Isaac Evans was a bully. He bullied his sister. He even bullied the women who came into his shop, selling them things they didn't really want to buy and refusing to stock things that they did. 

Mr Evans is parsimonious and mean. His sister Auntie Lou appears weak and to be living a rather servile life, although there are signs that she wants to break free. There is of course a great contrast with the spooky house in the valley where their friend Albert Sandwich is living, which is actually a warm and welcoming house but situated in a dark valley with creepy trees and echoes of Welsh myths. Carrie and Nick and welcomed there, celebrated- and fed. Still there is the unusual Mrs Gotobed- an odd, vivid character, fallen glory, living out the end of her life in a sad state and wandering about the Welsh valleys in her fine collection of ball gowns. She reminded me of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations (even though I haven't read that yet).

A mystery is set up in the first chapter, when a now adult Carrie, revisits the village with her own children.

"I did a dreadful thing, the worst thing of my life, when I was twelve and a half years old, or I feel that I did, and nothing can change it..."

That mystery sustains us throughout the book. In the end I think even though I liked Carrie's War quite a bit, I didn't love it as much as I expected to. 


Monday 27 July 2015

Paris Plages

Paris and Parisians love seasonality.

Paris in July is often Hot, Hot, Hot. Much of the year is bleak (apparently) and so they make the most of it. Part of the appreciation of summer is the annual extravaganza on the banks of the Seine, Paris Plages ( Paris Beach).

We caught the first few days of this tremendous transformation at the very end of our trip in 2013.

They've tried hard to make it fun. 

Free Petanque

The crowd brings fun with them too. 

I'm not sure if this guy lost a bet or not. 
Paris in July
Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

Sunday 26 July 2015


It's July so I spend my late evenings sitting up watching the Tour de France on TV. It's quite a commitment in Australia. Because of the time difference our broadcast normally doesn't start until 10pm, and the race will typically end sometime after 1am. It's a tough pace to maintain over three weeks,  but it's worth it of course. I've been doing it for a few years now.

The final stage is on tonight, always compulsory viewing, so much Parisian beauty on show it makes your heart ache. I was right there two years ago, on the Rue de Rivoli. The atmosphere is electric.

Every year I mean to read some TDF related books, and every year I have too much else on. But I keep buying TDF books just the same. I will read them at some stage.

I just bought this one today (it's on sale on kindle at the moment).

I know I have these books waiting in the TBR. 

I guess the books I'm keen to read are more about the race, rather than the cycling as such. I did listen to Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike a few years ago (see my review), before the now famous Oprah interview. That of course colours any thoughts about him, but there were still interesting insights into the practicalities of racing in a peloton.

There are many more options.

TDF books on display
at Galeries Lafayette 2013

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

Paris in July

Saturday 25 July 2015

Air Swing

The air swing at the Fêtes des Tuileries is one of my very favourite things to do in Paris. Master Wicker loves Fêtes des Tuileries and we would go most days. I've posted about the Fêtes before, a great fair in Tuileries for two months every summer.

I would ride the Air Swing pretty much every time we went. It's only a few euros for such an amazing experience. There's the exhilaration of the ride itself. 

And the views! Over the Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, Tuileries and all the way to the Eiffel Tower.

It's always over much too quickly.

And I can never wait until the next time. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 

Friday 24 July 2015

Anzac Ted

I picked up Anzac Ted from a display at my local library a while ago. I'd not heard of it before but was interested in the many books that have been written about the Centenary of Gallipoli, and it has an appealing cover. It has an appealing inside too.

Anzac Ted is told in a somewhat unexpected rhyme for a war story.

Anzac Ted's a scary bear
and I can tell you why.
He's missing bits, his tummy splits,
he only has one eye. 

Anzac Ted is the beloved toy of a young boy, but he's more than that- he's a bear with a history. He belonged to the boys grandfather, and Ted was indeed an Anzac who went to war with Grandpa Jack. The other children in the boy's class can't understand Anzac Ted's importance, they can't see beyond the exterior to see his significance, importance and truth.

Belinda Landsberry is a first time author/illustrator with Anzac Ted. She won the Kids Book Review Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2103 for another title, Where Do Odd Socks Go? which sadly doesn't seem to have been published yet.

She's done a great job with the illustrations for Anzac Ted- particularly the sepia toned war time ones.

Anzac Ted is the second book that I've read recently from the newish published of children's picture books, EK Books. The first being Don't Think About Purple Elephants (review coming soonish). I think they're off to a flying start, and fulfilling their mission to publish outstanding stories with meaningful ideas as their essence. I will look forward to reading more of their books.

Check out my ever expanding war book list.

Thursday 23 July 2015

My Secret Guide to Paris

By now you would realise I was powerless to resist this cover when I saw it in my local bookshop. Definitely a Book You've Never Heard of But Just Have to Read. Despite the slightly cheesy looking cover there was an Eiffel Tower. An Eiffel Tower. Guaranteed buy and guaranteed read for me.

I'm having a bit of a busy reading month but I did want to slip in a quick Paris read so I can keep up with Paris in July. And I figured My Secret Guide to Paris would be a quick confection of a book. Something like a macaron, snaffled up in just a few bites. And indeed it was.

Twelve year old Nora lives in Brooklyn with her family. She has a very cool grandmother, an assistant fashion designer who travels to Paris twice a year. Grandma Sylvia rather predictably loves Paris, and has passed her love on to Nora, who has grown up hearing her wondrous tales of Paris, and reading Madeline. There is only one problem- Nora hasn't been to Paris, yet. Nora is obviously very keen to go, and she and her grandmother start to plan a trip to Paris. However, Grandma Sylvia dies unexpectedly before their trip. Nora despairs of ever getting to Paris.

It may not be too much of a spoiler to say that Nora does indeed still get to Paris. There are many delights to await Nora of course. Somewhat surprising for me but My Secret Guide to Paris gives us essential advice on Paris from the very first sentence.

"When you go to Paris," Grandma Syliva told me, "you must ask for a baguette de tradition."

I always do ask of une baguette de tradition, but it did take me several visits to realise this. At times I found Nora's voice a little annoying. Worldly wise beyond her years.

I was beginning to see that grief was like a rainy day. Sometimes the sadness was like a light mist round me, while other times it poured, mean and fierce. 

And yet her mother is behaving like a child. Collecting dolls and having a ridiculous feud with her mother. But these are minor concerns really, because Paris is the star here.

It seemed to me, though, that in Paris, everything was simply better. The colors, brighter. The people, happier. The food, tastier.

Yep. Although I'm not sure that the people are always happier.

Naturally it's always exciting when a book is set somewhere you've been. There are many specific Parisian locations in My Secret Guide to Paris, and I had been to most of them. Of course they went to the Louvre. I was surprised by Nora's favourite painting. Le Jeune Mendiant. Not one that I remember seeing. Nora didn't mention that he was delousing himself...

Young beggar

My Secret Guide to Paris was exactly the perfect Paris book for me to read this weekend. Lisa Schroeder was a new author for me.

French Bingo 2015

Paris in July

Tuesday 21 July 2015

My Two Blankets

My Two Blankets is a lovely picture book from newcomer Irena Kobald and the wonderful Freya Blackwood. It has been shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year in the 2015 Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. 

My Two Blankets is the story of two girls. Cartwheel was born in a war torn African country, but moves to a new country, which is never specified, and could be anywhere really, but for our purposes it's Australia of course.

We came to this country to be safe.
Everything was strange.
The people were strange. 

I've never been to Africa, but can't imagine what a culture shock it would be to move to suburban Australia. Especially if you don't have the blanket of English to wrap yourself in. Cartwheel feels these new, foreign words and sounds as a waterfall of strange sounds. If you've ever travelled anywhere where you don't understand the language at all you understand some of that feeling. Cartwheel is lonely, isolated and sad without any access to her new English speaking world. Then she meets a little girl at the park who helps her gradually cross the English speaking divide. 

My Two Blankets is a wonderful, gentle exploration of the refugee experience. Irena Kobald has said that she "had to" write this book. 

It just poured out of me in about half an hour after experiencing a special meeting with Sudanese refugees, where nobody spoke any English for several hours. 

I think this one is my favourite illustration. It reminds me a little of Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing and references to Edward Hopper and John Brack (see my review for what I mean)

Picture source

When I saw Freya Blackwood speak at the recent Bathurst Writers Festival she spoke of her work illustrating this book. To make Cartwheel and her mother stand out from their Australian surroundings she used red oil against the cooler watercolours of the background. It's certainly a very effective technique, it's really very striking. Freya wrote a great blog post about creating her illustrations for this book. I haven't finished reading all the shortlist for the Picture Book category, but I wish Freya Blackwood very well, this one definitely could win.

Monday 20 July 2015

The Paris Wedding

I'm already married and don't really need a guide to getting married in Paris, but I was powerless to resist buying this book when I saw it on the shelf at the fabulous discount store Basement Books in Sydney last week. I snatched it off the shelf, didn't flip any pages, bought it, and then read it that night. But then I've long been fascinated by a Paris BrideBrides of Paris #2.

Kimberley Petyt is an American, married to a Frenchman, living in Paris and working as a wedding and event coordinator in Paris. Naturally enough she takes us through all the formalities, details and joys of getting married in Paris. And in doing so she shines a light on French customs, bureaucracy and style.

Getting married in a foreign country is rarely easy. A Parisian wedding is just a bit more difficult than that. 

The French love regulations and there seems to be a mountain of them to wade through to be wed in France.

Unfortunately, alongside the fairytale images of a Parisian wedding is the harsh reality of miles and miles of administrative red tape. 

Kimberley includes a most helpful chapter listing the multiple documents you will need to proffer, where to submit them and when. The documents can vary by arrondissement so that you need very specific advice. There is a special section on how to get married in a Catholic Church in Paris, a process in which many more barriers are placed in front of you.

The most incredible part to me was that the French still publish banns! I had only come across banns doing 18th century Scottish family research, but it is a practice alive and well in France. Your names and wedding date have to be put up in the local town hall for ten days before your marriage so that any estranged husbands or wives can track you down before the day.

There are a number of quite major differences between French and Anglophone wedding traditions. The French may invite you just to the ceremony and then for dessert- which is astonishingly practical given the ridiculous cost of wedding catering.

A typical French wedding doesn't end until 3 or 4 a.m., or even later (there's even an old French custom that is still practiced in some families today, where vats of French onion soup are brought out to the remaining guests at around 5 or 6 in the morning!).

Wedding guests tend to dress differently to how we Anglophones might expect them to, and given that the wedding may last all day and overnight, many guests may change outfits between the morning ceremony and the evening reception! It all seems a rather incredible feat of logistics, even for the guests.

Kimberley offers advice on all manner of wedding essentials- where to source the dress, the cake, the flowers, the photographer, the invitations, even a trousseau (I didn't know anyone did trousseaus any more). The book is beautifully illustrated with many gorgeous photos from her clients weddings, most of which are delightfully, visibly Paris.

Even though I don't need a Paris wedding arranged there is more than enough in The Paris Wedding to hold the interest of any Paris Tragic. The Paris Wedding strengthened my resolve to visit Sugarplum Cake Shop, and I wonder if I can order my own Laduree croquembouche or choux pyramid one day without having a wedding?

I think I just might.
Paris in July
Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

French Bingo 2015

Saturday 18 July 2015

L'Hôtel-Dieu de Paris

This week I read an amazing article about the first ever use of rabies vaccine. It's a fascinating and remarkable story from the history of medicine that I was not aware of. I was very excited to read that Louis Pasteur gave the first rabies vaccine at the Hôtel-Dieu and saved the life of a child. Extraordinary stuff for 1885.

I've visited L'Hôtel-Dieu a few times, drawn in by the sense of history of such a wonderful hospital in the shadow of Notre Dame. L'Hôtel-Dieu was founded in 651 by Bishop Saint Landry, initially in a different location on the other side of the Parvis Notre-Dame, and it straddled the two banks of the Seine. Several fires took their toll over the centuries and it was built on the current site in 1877.

The staff of the past are a who's who of French medical history including Dupuytren, Dieulafoy, Trousseau and Ambroise Paré. Famous names still today.

These photos are from my visit in 2013.

It's always intriguing when a sign is in English
Clearly health funding and health service provision
is an issue the world over. 

I'm not sure how to read this sign.
Medico-judiciares victimes? 
There is a beautiful inner courtyard.

I've seen the statue at the end of the courtyard before, and I'm moderately certain that this statue didn't look like this previously, but I can't find the photos to prove it. It is rare to see vandalised statues though in France.

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 
Paris in July