The Flight of the Gay, Innocent and Heartless

This past year, doors have opened while others have closed. For example, I got the perfect job for my current stage of life, while learning to let a few of my housekeeping standards go so that I can keep my sanity. I’ve had to learn to manage my time even better so that I can fit in some of my hobbies and passions. What has been drummed into my stubborn shell through all this is that God has my back and everything always works out in the end because of this. Does this mean I stop worrying? Of course not because I’m a mum, but it helps give me a lot of perspective and I probably have less sleepless nights as a result.

For the first time last year, I set myself a reading challenge. In the past I’ve just tried to devour read as many books as possible. Ever since having Iris, the annual total has plummeted. With the advent of her starting formal school and being much more independent, I thought it was time to get back to my pre-baby reading pace. I have to admit, I cheated a bit by putting in books that were marginally longer than novelettes. However, one thing I didn’t bank on that has been such a boost for both my reading and Iris’s is what I read to her at bedtime. We progressed to longer, more wordy books in the second half of 2016 starting with my favourite Dahls. In 2017 we read, Black Beauty, Finding Black Beauty, Danny the Champion of the World, Peter Pan and Matilda twice! We’ve started 2018 with another of my ab favs, The Secret Garden and intend to continue on to other classics and more modern treasures such as Brian Selznic’s masterpieces. Perhaps when I’ve managed to practise my various British accents more, I’ll do a recording just for posterity. It’s also been fairly interesting to see how my opinion of books I thought I knew so well has changed as I’ve grown up. Where previously I shared in Danny and his father’s opinion that poaching from Victor Hazell was perfectly justified because he was an obnoxious, conceited twit who had too much ill-gotten money for his own good. As I read it anew with my daughter, along with most of Dahl’s work, I realised how flawed his morals actually were. Perhaps that’s why I loved them to begin with. However, what I’ve loved more than anything else, is sharing all my childhood gems with Iris and seeing my joy of the written word reflected in her.

Over the past year, I’ve also witnessed my daughter mature in leaps and bounds and while it’s made me tear while secretly watching her toddler and baby videos over and over, I’ve also had so much to be proud of. So what better book to end the year and teach me about trust, especially trusting my own daughter and her choices than J M Barrie’s everlasting classic?

This is the first time I read Peter Pan. I know, I know, like what?! How is that possible? Well all I can say is, there are a lot of books in the world and I moved on to adult classics pretty early.

I wouldn’t really classify this as an “interactive” book which is how it’s described. Most of the extras are just to look at as seen in the pics. The illustrations are beautiful, however, as is the binding so I’m still very happy with it.

As we started the book I thought the profoundly stilted and old-style language would be too much for Iris. At times she did seem to get a bit lost but overall, I was very pleasantly surprised that she got all the jokes and even shushed me when I wanted to over-explain stuff.

I have to admit I got embarrassingly emotional when the children flew out the window and when they returned. Of course I know it’s all metaphorical but how can any mum not feel when your kids decide to abandon you?

Perhaps it was divine timing for me to read this as a mum than as a child. I’m certainly treasuring every moment she still turns to me for support and cuddles more but at the same time, I know I’ll need to let her fly when the time comes and trust that she’ll come back if and when she needs to. I just have to leave the window open.

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Op Shops Rock!

Ever since my first Oxfam shop browse, I’ve been well aware of the amazing potential for unearthing once-loved gems among the mountains of kitschy gimcracks. All for a pittance and for a good cause as well! I don’t go in for clothes, shoes or bags so much but I love my vintage tea cups and saucers, furniture, housewares and most of all, books. If there is one thing that people have no qualms about getting second-hand, it’s books. So much more so if they are beautiful editions with hardly any wear. My most prized find? A boxed set of Jane Austen works by the Folio Society, which I got for $10 at a church book sale and that I saw in an antique bookshop for $150. ‘Nuff said.

This particular find is not quite as financially magnificent but definitely above average in awesomeness. A wonderful friend found it and thought of Iris (thank you Aunty J!). I have to say, with my amazingly vast and stupendous experience of books, I have never come across a carousel book. *GASP* Yup, it was the first time for both Iris and me to open the book and find it transformed into a house, ballet studio and theatre stage! And with cardboard dolls to play make believe with. Even though it’s been pre-loved, this copy of Angelina Ballerina’s Pop-up Dancing School by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig is in really good condition. There are no tears, most of the paper characters are accounted for, with a couple of guest fairies from some other book, and only a little spinal wear.

Angelina Ballerina's Pop-up Dancing School

The second she opened this up, Iris was enraptured. She played for hours, on her own! So parents of pre-schoolers who are into make believe, this could be a God-send for you. The ribbon you see above works also to keep the book open and you’ll see below why it’s called a carousel book. Is this amazing or what?! Where were you when I was left playing village with my mother’s cosmetics bottles?

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The attention to detail in this book is seriously fantastic. In the pic below you’ll see a mirror, stairs and doors leading onto the other two dioramas. 20150401_141445

There are even working bed covers that Iris never fails to use to put her friends to sleep!

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There is a story preceding the pop-out sets but really, you hardly need one. In fact, I’ve only read the Angelina book to Iris once because she hasn’t asked/needed me to!

They are not that easy to find though. I know because naturally I had to go out and find more! I’ve bought another Angelina Ballerina one, which I am saving for her birthday and found Maisy’s Castle by Lucy Cousins. It’s not quite as detailed but still great!

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And you can combine it with other types of make-believe toys. Here you see the lego Disney princesses cavorting with Maisy and her pals.

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Obviously, these are not books for littlies who are still in the mouthing/destructive phases of development.

So what are you waiting for? Go do some op-shop treasure hunting! (Or buy these on Booktopia.com.au, easier but less satisfying.)

Rediscovering Old Gems

Another brilliant perk of being a parent (as if you needed more), apart from being legitimately allowed to play with toys again, is rediscovering all my old favourite books and sharing them with someone else who’ll appreciate them just as much.

Dean's Enchanting Tales from The Magic Forest

Dean’s Enchanting Stories from The Magic Forest  was one of those books I kept reading over and over again. I remember how I loved looking at famed illustrators Gillian and Ronald Embleton’s beautiful illustrations waaaaaaay back when.

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Published by Dean & Son, which was famous for its “moveable books”, the book follows Hans and Gretchen on their morning walk through the enchanted forest next to their farmhouse. They encounter myriad magical creatures from flower folk to dwarfs and a talking lion. It’s divided into neat chapters should the book prove too much after a long day. Iris is really into bookmarks at the mo.

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Unlike the Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson or Scheherazade tales, which all tend toward the macabre, Dean’s Enchanting Stories from The Magic Forest is pleasantly light and happy with only one mildly scary bit when a very naughty gnome leads the children astray in a gloomy, foggy bit of the forest. Although this also helps to teach Iris about not following strange men, so still a win!

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This is one of a series of such books, all of which were illustrated by the Embletons and are all out of print. However a quick eBay search yielded copies of three of the four books. Now I need to find a vinyl record player for my seriously retro audio books!

 

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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