Giving Thanks

So I think everyone can agree that 2016 has pretty much sucked. Starting right off with the deaths of major artistic talents, through to Brexit and Trump. For our family, we’ve also had the death of a beloved cat, who’s been there right from Iris’ birth and the passing of my 103-year-old grandmother. While we were sad at the passing of my grandmother, she was 103/4/5. She lived such a full life, I still feel bad every time I sit down for a cuppa or complain about how much housework/childcare/family administration I have to do. Here’s a VERY brief snippet of what she did: she had ten children to look after pretty much on her own, ran three sewing classes a day to supplement the family income and fed, not just her family, but the several workers in my grandfather’s tailor shop. All this while being very active in at least two churches.

With that in mind, for me, all this tragedy has reinforced the wonderful blessings we still have. In particular, the fact that we’ve FINALLY moved into our new house and while it’s not perfect, it’s felt like home right from the start. Here is THE LIBRARY. At least that’s what I’m calling it. Unfortunately, we ran out of space so Iris’ books are in the “craft room”. However, I’m hoping that there will be enough culling of things-kept-since-1980-by-the-husband, who says “I might need to refer to it” in response to why he’s kept his SECONDARY SCHOOL physics text books and notes, that we’ll be able to move her books over as well.

I decided to let her take the lead and clearly she hasn’t inherited my OCD-ness to quite the same degree as she said “just put them anyhow”. Let it go, let it go.

This is the first time in over 13 years that all my books have been housed together. Some of been culled because they were falling apart or not very good or not pretty enough. Some have been with me for nigh on three decades. Along the way, I decided I would only buy books I was going to keep. Unfortunately, that did not have the effect I intended. When Iris came, I had another reason to acquire more books, to amass a worthy library for her to intellectually sup on as she grew. As it stands, I’m pretty happy with how my collection has come along.

So it is with extreme pride that I unveil another treasure to add, which I absolutely could not resist when I saw it in Dymocks even though I am still on a self-induced book buying ban. Ha!

I’ve raved about Robert Sabuda previously so when I saw his version of The Christmas Story, I hesitated for about 5 seconds before trotting it to the cashier.

So this is the real Christmas story, no faffing with rotund elderly men with a penchant for satisfying children’s desires with merchandise.

Once again, I’m going to let the pictures do the amazing and wish everyone a better, more hopeful 2017!

Facing Fear with Fear

We are two weeks away from moving into our brand new house. Those in the know will be aware of the arduous nature of this particular journey. From the moment we chose a builder, it has been THREE years in the making. Rather than go into vent-mode, I have chosen to look forward and am allowing excitement to overtake my bitterness at the wait. So while we are in the throes of packing and readying ourselves for the move, I have had to pack away most of Iris’ books. The library has therefore become even more invaluable than before.

In fact, we’ve joined another council’s library, giving us access to four other libraries. Since Iris started full-time school, we’ve been going to the library a lot less so it’s been really lovely rediscovering the joys of borrowing books. We’ve also, thanks to a friend’s tip, started borrowing jigsaw puzzles and Iris is now able to listen to audio books. She is currently enjoying The Enchanted Tree, which is brilliant for us when she wakes up at 6am. More on that in another post.

In our last library haul was this absolute gem. I was, of course, drawn to the amazing painting-style illustrations but reading it has been equally enjoyable. In The Almost Fearless Hamilton Squidlegger, Timothy Basil Ering, uses imagination to combat the greatest enemy of childhood sleep – the imagination. Squidlegger_cover

Hamilton is a frog who loves pretend play, especially of the swashbuckling bent. However, this causes problems at bedtime when his overactive imagination makes him run to his parents’.

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We all know co-sleeping is really no-sleeping for parents.

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So his father employs two methods of dispensing of these nighttime terrors – reward and psychology.

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The casual way he planted that nugget of inception was utterly brilliant and inspirational. So young Hamilton’s fears are turned on their head and he learns that the monsters he fights in the day and that terrify him at night can also be playmates. Well done Dad.

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I also love Ering’s classic adventure-style prose.

 

Lost in Wonderland

This is quite possibly the most exciting gift I have ever received, by proxy that is. Thanks to Iris’ most wonderful and almost psychic godmother, we now have one of the most beautiful books ever in our library. I was at least ten times more excited than Iris when she was presented the book.

Robert Sabuda is THE leading children’s pop-up book artist and paper engineer. Seriously, is there a more awesome job than doing cut and paste for a living?! Among his repertoire of absolutely, jaw-dropping gorgeous creations, Alice in Wonderland is one of his best. This is one post where words are basically useless and I have gone crazy with my phone camera. I still have the most ridiculous grin whenever I see it.

Disclaimer: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, LET ANYONE WHO WOULD CAUSE THIS BOOK ANY HARM TOUCH IT BECAUSE IF ANY OF THIS BREAKS YOU WILL CRY. Or at least I will.

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Big, Bold and Beautiful

I used to be an elephant. Nooooo, not in size but in remembering a ridiculous number of things. From facts and figures to trivial events in the lives of friends and family, I was a veritable fount of useful and not so useful knowledge. Now, I find my mind is developing holes and I can no longer recall what my friend was wearing on 15 September 2001 or who had the shepherd’s pie at dinner on 20 May 1995. I know, terrible isn’t it? Bah.

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One of these holes is who gave us this gorgeous book! I love Lucy Cousins. BIG fan. In my youth, I favoured black as my go to “cool” colour. As I got older, I embraced my childhood and now my wardrobe pays homage to all the members of the rainbow. So I feel drawn to Cousins’ wonderful use of primary colours and simple but so effective illustrations.

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What I also love about it is that soon Iris will be able to copy the illustrations and so it becomes an art teaching aid as well! Most of us will know the story of Noah’s Ark and those who don’t may not want to but it retells the biblical story simply and concisely.

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It was fun guessing what some of the food was and is a great counting tool as well.

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So even if you don’t subscribe to any belief system, you could see this as like a fairy tale and just enjoy the colour, pictures and happy ending.

Guess How Much I Love Winning?

I have never, ever, ever, ever won anything. I’m not talking about for sports, because I had to work, a little, for those. I’m talking about those supermarket lucky draws, travel draws, the hundreds of Frankie magazine giveaways, etc. Zip, nada, zero. This changed in the most appropriate and wonderful way possible last Tuesday.

It was not a great day for me and I was as cheerful as a baby breaking molars. Then I received an email saying I’d won a 20th anniversary edition of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s Guess How Much I Love You from Walker Books Australia.

This was one of those competitions where you have to write something related to the prize. This one was to write 25 words about “Who you love to the moon and back”. Now I’d seen the tweet for this on February 11. I dithered about it until the weekend. Then finally I took about 10 minutes to write: A monkey. A drama queen. A wet kiss. An adorable cackle and guffaw. A marshmallow and chocolate nut. A performer. My four-year-old daughter, Iris.

This is how excited I was. I took a photograph of an envelope.

This is how excited I was. I took a photograph of an envelope.

I absolutely did not expect to win. Particularly not on a day like the 17th of February, which is what made it all the better. I see it now as a special message from the Guy in charge to me.

First published in 1994 and coming it at about 400 words, this timeless story pretty much encapsulates the most important and really the only thing we need to do as parents – let our kids know how much we love them. Jeram’s illustrations are so perfectly matched, they make you feel like you’re reading honey and warm milk. No review necessary. The title says everything, but to fully appreciate this book, you have to read it yourself.

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Much too often these days I notice how much Iris has grown up. I catch my breath and try and take a mental polaroid of each moment. Just like with her clothes, I’ve been passing on some of her baby books and have been trying to expand her listening skills by reading more wordy books. I forget that sometimes, she still needs those books that seem simpler with less words but with such a powerful message. Just as reading it will remind me how much God loves me, enough to send me a message when I’m feeling especially low, I hope that years from now, Iris will read this book and know that I love her right up to the moon and back.

 

Politely Murderous

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I definitely have a thing for black humour. When presented in the innocent oeuvre of children’s books, the delivery is so deadpan, it often reduces me to tears. Following in the vein of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back (see my review here), Daniel Miyares’ Pardon Me! is kiddy macabre at its best.

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It’s about a bird, a little yellow bird with a large beak, sitting on what appears to be a rock in the middle of a body of water. He’s happy in his solitude, this bird is. Then along comes a great big stork asking pardon for intruding on the little yellow bird’s reverie to share his rock. After this, a blasé frog leaps into the tableau, settling himself next to the stork. A turtle swims over next. All of these creatures uttering the terribly polite, “Pardon me” as they crowded onto the rock. All the while the yellow bird is growing increasingly irate. Finally, when I fox calls from the shore the same two words followed by a half uttered warning, the yellow bird explodes into a rage. He chases them all off and is left, once more, gloriously alone. However, the fox’s warning is soon dreadfully clear when the head of a crocodile appears in front of his body, which is actually what the bird is sitting on.

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I can NOT get enough of these exchanged looks of glee and fright portrayed so succinctly on the page.

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Yet, it is the final two pages that get me totally rolling on Iris’s bedroom floor.

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Quite apart from the beautiful illustrations, the words are FEW. Not only does this mean less work for the reading adult, but with the story being portrayed in part by pictures, like Michael Stephen King’s Leaf (my first ever review), it allows the child to form the story for themselves, filling in the emotions, action, etc. Pardon Me! is definitely going on my Book Depository wish list.

Tickled Pink as a Puffalunk

Becoming a parent has made going to bookshops even more exciting than they used to be, and believe me, I was a bookshop junkie. I could not leave one without desperately needing this or that book (usually at least three). Nowadays, I have an even better excuse for buying books in the form of an increasingly precocious three-and-a-half-year-old.

I think children’s sections in bookshops cater to precisely the kind of browsing you engage in for the genre. They’re often laid out on shelves, front facing, without any proper organisation so that you’re forced to lift out every book behind the first row. However, unlike with adult books, you don’t need to read the synopsis. Most of the time, you just need the cover and the title to tell you whether or not it’s something you like. Of course the shelves are usually cluttered with the prevalent popular titles, but once in a while, with a bit of digging, you find a gem you’ve not come across before.

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So it was with The Tickle Tree by Chae Strathie and Poly Bernatene. We were at the airport on the way to my granny’s 100th birthday celebration in Kuala Lumpur and had only ten minutes to spare. Bernatene’s fantastical cover called to me from behind a copy of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back. I must say, I have a predilection for this sort of imagery (yes, I am a Tim Burton and Gaudi fan).

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Yet I also love Strathie’s imaginative words and don’t even mind that it’s a bit difficult to read in some places because of the way the words dance around the page.

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The book revels in the gloriousness of fantasy and questions one’s ability to see beyond the everyday. It asks if the reader has seen such things as “giant galumphs”, “marvellous musical meeps”, “luminous frinks” and “boomjangles”. Then tantalises by saying if you haven’t, it’ll tell you how. Interspersing the “boring” images of an ordinary village when it does this is quite clever, I think.

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I’m quite a stickler for good endings and, unlike with adult books, it’s not difficult to accomplish in children’s books. The Tickle Tree ends by revealing that all these wonderful things are waiting for you……”in your dreams” is such a fabulous ending. Perfect for bedtime!

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