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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: australia, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. ‘Ghost Squad’ by Kieran Sugrue

Watch out…here comes the Ghost Squad.

The post ‘Ghost Squad’ by Kieran Sugrue appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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2. Australia in three words, part 3 — “Public servant”

‘Public Servant’ — in the sense of ‘government employee’ — is a term that originated in the earliest days of the European settlement of Australia. This coinage is surely emblematic of how large bureaucracy looms in Australia. Bureaucracy, it has been well said, is Australia’s great ‘talent,’ and “the gift is exercised on a massive scale” (Australian Democracy, A.F. Davies 1958). This may surprise you. It surprises visitors, and excruciates them.

The post Australia in three words, part 3 — “Public servant” appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. ‘Mrs. Metro’ by Aggelos Papantoniou

Nobody likes a crying baby on board a train, least of all the lady who makes the announcements.

The post ‘Mrs. Metro’ by Aggelos Papantoniou appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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4. Australia in three words, part 2 – “Kangaroo court”

A ‘kangaroo court’ is no more Australian than a Californian kangaroo rat. The term originated in the California of 1849, as a legacy of the summary and dubious efforts at informal justice on lawless gold fields. By contrast, the Australian gold fields of that period felt heavily the overbearing hand of the law. This contrast epitomes a larger paradox. Australians are seen as ‘disrespectful of authority’; the truth is they have, from their beginnings, been highly law-prone.

The post Australia in three words, part 2 – “Kangaroo court” appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. ‘LEGO Movie’ Studio Animal Logic To Offer Animation Degree

The new one-year program, in partnership with University of Technology Sydney, will launch in 2017.

The post ‘LEGO Movie’ Studio Animal Logic To Offer Animation Degree appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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6. About Us by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912
About Us, by May Gibbs, London: Ernest Nister and New York: E. P. Dutton, 1912.

I’ve been looking for a copy of this since I saw it in Collecting Children's Books in 2007. My nine-year search came to an end when I walked into a second-hand bookshop in *Salisbury. I had no intention of looking for books or anything else that day. I had a hair appointment, and was anxious to get it done and get home. For once my train arrived on time thus I had ten minutes to spare before my appointment. What were the chances? I could hardly believe my eyes when I walked through the door of the bookshop and there was the book of my dreams. I had to stop myself hugging it to my chest! The bookseller looked slightly surprised by my reaction, but honestly it felt like winning a gold medal. My heart dropped a bit when I opened the cover and found someone’s ‘little darling’ had been busy with the crayons. In hindsight, it was a good thing because it was priced to take account of the damage. Actually, it was ridiculously inexpensive, which meant I could still afford to give the hairdresser a tip. I do like a happy ending!

Collecting children's books About us May Gibbs
Collecting Children's Books published in 2007 with black-and-white image of About Us.

About Us began life as Mimie and Wog their adventures in Australia. Written by May Gibbs under the pseudonym Silvia Hood the story followed the exploits of a girl, a flying kangaroo and a little black dog. British publishers, however, rejected the Australian setting believing it lacked audience appeal. Unperturbed May Gibbs tried again this time changing the setting to Edwardian London. In this new setting, Mimie renamed Mamie, and her dog encountered the Chimney Pot People and a group of flying bat like creatures called Smuts. This was more to the liking of the publishers, and the book came out in 1912. 

The following quote and accompanying image are from the original unpublished version of Mimie and Wog held by The State Library of New South Wales.

Hoppy called out 'Open your eyes', and there they were in a wonderful strange country – very wild with lovely flowers and such a blue sky.
 This is the new and "improved" version now called About Us.

About Us Mimie and Wog May Gibbs

Image from About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us written by May Gibbs

As they walked along crowds of pigeons flew around them. 
About Us written by May Gibbs

"We won't hurt you," cooed the pigeons. "Come with us to Chimney Pot Land," and without waiting for Mamie to answer they lifted her up and flew away.

About Us written by May Gibbs

All around were the funniest little people Mamie had ever seen. She though of poor Wog all by himself, and began to cry. The Chimney Pot King asked, "What's the matter?" "Oh, never mind that," he said, "I'll send my Smuts to find him."

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912

About Us written by May Gibbs

About Us by May Gibbs Published in 1912

Books from my Bookshelf - About Us written by May Gibbs


I don’t know about you, but I found the story rather odd and wonder if I might have preferred the original version. The illustrations are dramatic and interesting, and I’m thrilled to add it to my collection and to share it with you but it left me wanting more. If you are ever in *Salisbury, Wiltshire (UK), you should pop into The History Bookshop on Fisherton Street, you never know what you might find.  

Although this was May Gibbs’ first published book, it remains largely unknown to Australian readers who are more familiar with her Gumnut babies.

The Gumnut babies. Image credit Australian Children’s Literature

May Gibbs (1877-1969), author, illustrator and cartoonist, captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fanciful landscapes. Her iconic children's literature and folklore is still as popular as ever, holding a special place in the Australian consciousness. Best known for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, she also wrote and illustrated many other children's books, produced long-running cartoon strips and a variety of commercial work. A fiercely determined woman, she was Australia's first full-time, professionally trained children's book illustrator, developing an uniquely Australian fantasy vernacular which is relevant now as it was then. In 1955, May Gibbs was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) in acknowledgement of her important contribution to children’s literature. [Source - State Library, New South Wales]

What do you think of the story / images?

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7. First Impression of Cairns by Margot Justes

I’ve been going through my posts, and came across my trip to Australia, and thought I’d share it today.

It’s a long trek to Australia, the first leg was from Chicago to Los Angeles, than straight to Sydney, and on to Cairns. I either sat at the airport, or on the plane for what seemed like an eternity. The length of the journey was well worth it-Cairns is stunning.

My first impression of Cairns was the arrival at the hotel in the early evening, after a long flight, a couple of layovers, and a delayed flight, I thought I’d be too tired to pay attention to anything except how quickly I could get to bed. Not so.

The hotel, a few steps away from the boardwalk, faced the water. The tropical vegetation was magnificent, and the desk staff accommodating.  Once I made it to my room, the view took my breath away. The harbor on the left, the water and mountains straight ahead, and the lit boardwalk and gardens below.

There was no way I was going to sleep, without first checking out the area. Shower and bed had to wait, I did freshen up-it was a long, long trip-not even counting the 10 hour layover in Los Angeles, and then a 4 hour delay-instead of taking off at ten, we took off at two in the morning. You have to give Virgin Atlantic credit, they were serving dinner in the middle of the night. I opted for sleep, but I digress...

The stroll on the boardwalk was mesmerizing, the boats along the harbor were dimly lit, the water shimmered in the dusk, and there was a gentle breeze, you could hear the rustle of the fronds from the tall palm trees. I was in heaven. Cairns was positively gorgeous, and I had a whole week to discover its treasures.

I stopped at the hotel restaurant for a quick bite to eat, and had the best grilled calamari with eggplant chutney I have ever had. It was perfection, kudos to the Mondo Restaurant.  I went back one more time for that same dish, and would have done so again, but wanted to try other local places.

First evening in Cairns was memorable indeed, and once I made it to bed, yes, after I showered, I slept like the proverbial log.

Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice
Blood Art
A Fire Within

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8. A tale of two cities: Anzac Day and the Easter Rising

On 25 April 1916, 2,000 Australian and New Zealand troops marched through London towards a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the King and Queen. One of the soldiers later recalled the celebratory atmosphere of the day. This was the first Anzac Day. A year earlier, Australian soldiers had been the first to land on the Gallipoli peninsula as part of an attempt by the combined forces of the British and French empires to invade the Ottoman Empire.

The post A tale of two cities: Anzac Day and the Easter Rising appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. Who owns culture?

The quiet corridors of great public museums have witnessed revolutionary breakthroughs in the understanding of the past, such as when scholars at the British Museum cracked the Rosetta Stone and no longer had to rely on classical writers to find out about ancient Egyptian civilisation. But museums’ quest for knowledge is today under strain, amid angry debates over who owns culture.

The post Who owns culture? appeared first on OUPblog.

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10. Johnny Foolish, by Julian Ledlin | Book Review

Complete with bush walks and a vegemite sandwich, Johnny Foolish is an Australian tale worthy of a read—too right!

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11. An interview with the new Australian Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs

In terrific news, earlier this month Leigh Hobbs was announced as the new Australian Children’s Laureate, following in the footsteps of Alison Lester, Boori Monty Pryor and Jackie French.


Now much loved for his funny and often somewhat naughty or anarchic characters including Mr Chicken, Old Tom and Horrible Harriet, as a shy child Leigh did not dream of becoming an author, let alone a champion for children’s reading and books.

It was art that was his passion from the very beginning. Drawing was what he was “best at” in school. Drawing was what he spent all his spare time doing. Indeed, it could almost be called an obsession: at one point his father gave him an alarm clock and the instruction that drawing could only commence after it had gone off in the morning… at 6am!

Seeds of Leigh’s future style were clearly sown in those early days, with illustrations by Ronald Searle and Ludwig Bemelmans being favourites of his to pour over. “I adored Searle’s line and dark ironic sense of humour,” said Leigh when I recently interviewed him to celebrate his appointment as Laureate. I’m sure I’m not the first to see parallels between Leigh’s scratchy, flowing illustrations full of mischief and spontaneity and the freshness of Searle’s work.

Leigh’s love of drawing led him into 25 years of teaching art at secondary school. But “while I was an art teacher I did some freelance newspaper cartoons. There was always a frightful deadline, a space to fill, a topic to absorb and some text to wade through. Often I never understood the story I was supposed to illustrate. Especially if it was about something like, say, finance. So I’d just do a berserk cartoon then pull a line of text from the story and set the two together. From this I gradually developed an ear for a line of text and an eye for the text saying one thing and the drawing saying something completely different. I realised that there was power and in fact another, a third point of view in the combination.”

And this third point of view has since become a key characteristic in Leigh’s books for children; a delicious tension between what you observe in the illustrations and what you read in his words, inviting you to giggle.

Old Tom was my first character. That was the title of my first book, published in 1994. I never mention the word ‘cat’ in any of the Old Tom books as I think of him as being a seven year old boy and Angela is his long suffering mother, forever trying to socialise him. He is naughty, lazy, sneaky but not ‘bad’.  The text is written from an adults point of view, but the pictures tell another quite different story…from the readers point of view.

“Old Tom was my first character. That was the title of my first book, published in 1994. I never mention the word ‘cat’ in any of the Old Tom books as I think of him as being a seven year old boy and Angela is his long suffering mother, forever trying to socialise him. He is naughty, lazy, sneaky but not ‘bad’. The text is written from an adult’s point of view, but the pictures tell another quite different story… from the reader’s point of view.” All illustrations ©Leigh Hobbs

As the Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh wants to champion “creative opportunities for children.

I get the impression that nearly everywhere in the school context kids are assessed, ranked or ‘marked’. One of the things I’d like to do as Laureate is to champion the idea that, while I don’t believe every child is a ‘would be’ writer or artist, I do believe that given the chance, every child is capable of expressing themselves in words or pictures creatively in a way that is meaningful to them.

Creativity in the context I hope to be focussed on is not in the ‘training the child for a job’ sense. Nor is it a case of ‘every child is an artist or writer’. I never tell an audience that ‘You’re all artists’ or ‘Writers’. However I think if freed from the pressure of assessment or comparison kids can express themselves creatively in a way which they may find fulfilling. Draw a picture. Write a story. Paint a picture. Describe in words or pictures how you feel. Write a poem. Or write and illustrate a story. Create a design. Invent a code. Do it all in your own sketchbook or diary which no one can see without your permission. This would be an adjunct to the other school subjects which are assessed.

I love this focus on creativity – for me, life is pretty meaningless without some sort of creativity in it, but I was curious to hear why Leigh thinks it is so important to encourage it.

I think it’s important to encourage creativity in children. Art, music, writing. It’s natural for kids to want to express themselves and the choice of form which suits them best is a personal one. Of course there’s also the life enriching enjoyment from an appreciation of the creative work of others.

And the creativity of others plays an important role in feeding Leigh’s own creativity. He has particular passions for classical music (favourite composers include Bach, Handel, Purcell and Mozart) and architecture (in particular Eighteenth century architecture, with the Pump Room at Bath and Kenwood House in London ranking amongst his most loved buildings), but reading – and reading non-fiction especially – plays a vital role in nurturing his inventiveness. “I feed and have always fed my creativity by reading. Even as a child the books I read were about history, architecture, art and biographies. All this information has gone into a sort of big reference library in my head. I draw from it or refer to it when I want to.

A young Leigh starting to fill the big reference library in his head

A young Leigh starting to fill the big reference library in his head. Leigh is reading the Readers Digest junior omnibus and on his shelf you can not only see his Noddy collection, but also the alarm clock his father gave him… and yes, it’s set for 6am!

Libraries have played an important role in providing the raw material to feed the fire of Leigh’s creativity and this is just one of the reason’s he also wants to use his tenure as Laureate to highlight their amazing work. Like here in the UK, “school libraries in Australia seem to be under threat and librarians an endangered species. I visit on average about 30 schools every year doing presentations and running workshops for students and I’ve noted that when a librarian retires they often are not replaced. I’ve visited schools where a library carefully, often lovingly built up over decades sits completely unused because there is no longer a librarian employed by the school. Even worse is when all the books are dispersed throughout the school. Or thrown out.

Losing libraries is no joke at all. But wanting to remain upbeat, I ask Leigh about humour. I’ve yet to read a book by Leigh which hasn’t got me guffawing, or snorting through my nose. And yet, funny books often fly under the radar somewhat. Leigh agrees: “I think the value of humour is often overlooked. ‘It’s funny so it can’t be serious’. Humour is complex and personal. And mysterious. to analyse the whys and wherefores of humour can ruin the joke.”” As if to immediately prove his point, when asked what Leigh himself finds funny he admits, “I’ve never found jokes funny. I may appreciate that they’re clever but I seldom laugh when told a joke. I always found the Three Stooges hilarious and I think Fawlty Towers is a masterpiece of television comedy. However I was never a great Monty Python fan.

Basil Fawlty, Moe, Larry and Curly – they’re all tremendously strong characters who stay with you long after you’ve first met them. And this strong sense of character seems to me a key feature of Leigh’s work, and so I was curious to learn something about how he goes about developing his characters.

Yes, I think of my books as primarily character studies. The characters have developed book by book. I enjoy putting the characters in different situations and seeing how they react. Not to mention how those around them react… I started off illustrating other peoples books in 1990 but moved to creating my own characters as a response to the cutesy pie goody two-shoe type characters I’d seen in children’s books. I wanted more character in my characters and so Old Tom was born.

This is the opening page of ‘Old Tom’s Holiday’ Old Tom is like the archetypal lazy son. Taking things easy while Angela Throgmorton, the long suffering mother figure does the housework and looks at us, the reader as if to say ‘does anyone out there understand what I have to put up with.

“This is the opening page of ‘Old Tom’s Holiday’ Old Tom is like the archetypal lazy son. Taking things easy while Angela Throgmorton, the long suffering mother figure does the housework and looks at us, the reader as if to say ‘does anyone out there understand what I have to put up with. It says everything about the mother-son relationship of Angela and Old Tom. I’ve drawn this as if we, the audience, have just watched Angela walk onto a stage… which in fact she has… the world of ‘Leigh Hobbs’. Of course the underlying theme of all the Old Tom books is ‘love’. For both of these characters, though polar opposites…are in fact oddballs.” Illustration ©Leigh Hobbs

I wanted to create an edgy humorous creature with a distinct and independent personality. Someone that both adults and children could identify with. Someone or something who could connect with the reader in a good-natured but subversive way. And most importantly he had to be likeable if not ‘lovable’. A dog was out of the question. Too loyal and eager to please. I could see an independent, sly, lazy, feral, scruffy, seven year old boy in the guise of a tom cat / Tasmanian Devil type creature though. Pairing him with a prim, matronly, house proud, good-natured but bossy mother figure felt just right.

Illustration ©Leigh Hobbs

I can’t resist asking Leigh which of his characters he most identifies with. “Undoubtedly there are aspects of me in every one of my characters. I was a secondary school art teacher for twenty five years and there were many Old Tom’s and Horrible Harriets. My stories are written from the heart as much as the head. This means that the ‘issues’ that inevitably work their way up through the story via the characters, such as difficulties in family relationships, or the need for friendship are explored through humour, by fully – fleshed out characters.

 Here, Mr Chicken is enjoying morning tea with HM The Queen. He is being very careful to not break the furniture. Of course he ran first so Her Majesty had time to do some extra baking. Their’s is a long standing friendship.

“Here, Mr Chicken is enjoying morning tea with HM The Queen. He is being very careful to not break the furniture. Their’s is a long standing friendship.” Illustration ©Leigh Hobbs

Leigh’s books are filled with authentic characters, warts and all, drawn with energy (though Leigh takes “much care to make it look easy. This often means endless drafts of text and many versions of drawings to try and make text and illustrations seem effortless, with varying degrees of success. For me if it looks laboured I have to start again.“). Mr Badger is the latest to be found on bookshelves up and down the country, but his next book will see a new adventure with Mr Chicken running amok in Rome.

Mr Badger lives in a teapot shaped thatched cottage in Mayfair London.  He is the special events manager at The Boubles Grand Hotel (Pronounced Boublay) There are four Mr Badger adventures. Recently all released in one book: ‘The Big Book of Mr Badger’

“Mr Badger lives in a teapot shaped thatched cottage in Mayfair London. He is the special events manager at The Boubles Grand Hotel (pronounced Boublay). There are four Mr Badger adventures, recently all released in one book: ‘The Big Book of Mr Badger’” Illustration ©Leigh Hobbs

Creating books loved by families isn’t all Leigh spends his time doing. Painting in oil and creating sculptures (most recently a series of teapots, inspired by some of his favourite local architecture) also mean a great deal to him. Whether he’ll have much time for these during his Laureateship remains to be seen. It’s going to be a very busy period – indeed this weekend sees Leigh arrive in Europe for a packed fortnight of school visits. Once he has completed ‘Mr Chicken arriva a Roma’ he’ll be concentrating on travelling across Australia running workshops and speaking at Festivals making the most of what, for him, is the best thing about being made Laureate: “I’ll have an opportunity to speak up for the causes and things that I feel strongly about in connection to the world of Children’s Literature. Libraries and Librarians in schools. ‘Taking children’s books – and humour more seriously’ and going in to bat, speaking up when I can for the creators – both writers and illustrators of kids books.”

Leigh then and now. (L) Look out for the plastic bag full of pencils behind Leigh age 4 or 5 on a visit to my grandparent, watching television (probably Sooty) for the first time. (R) Leigh at a recent award ceremony

Leigh then and now. (L) Look out for the plastic bag full of pencils behind Leigh age 4 or 5 on a visit to his grandparents, watching television (probably Sooty) for the first time. (R) Leigh at the Australian Book industry awards in 2015 when ‘Mr Chicken Lands on London’ was shortlisted for children’s book of the year.

  • Find out more about Leigh on his website: http://www.leighhobbs.com/
  • Find out more about the Australian Children’s Laureate on their website: http://www.childrenslaureate.org.au/ Do look out in particular for the ‘It’s Your Story’ Calendar which Leigh has created, full of prompts for your own story adventures.
  • Leigh is published in the UK by Allen and Unwin and Bloomsbury. He is in the UK twice a year, and can be booked for school visits through Speaking of Books.
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    12. Marriage equality in Australia: will 2016 bring a change in the law?

    Hopes for change on the issue in Australia were raised and quickly dashed following September’s leadership spill in the centre-right Liberal Party, in which Malcom Turnbull defeated Prime Minister Tony Abbott, 54 votes to 44. Once seen by advocates of law reform as a champion of marriage equality, the new Prime Minister stated his intention to maintain the coalition’s position on the issue.

    The post Marriage equality in Australia: will 2016 bring a change in the law? appeared first on OUPblog.

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    13. Around the World in Nine Photos

    It’s in the grip of North American winter that I often dream of escape to warmer climates. Thanks to the WordPress.com Reader and the street photography tag, I can satisfy my travel yen whenever it strikes. Here are just some of the amazing photos and photographers I stumbled upon during a recent armchair trip.

    My first stop was Alexis Pazoumian’s fantastic SERIES: India at The Sundial Review. I loved the bold colors in this portrait and the man’s thoughtful expression.

    Photo by Alexis Pazoumian

    Photo by Alexis Pazoumian

    Speaking of expressions, the lead dog in Holly’s photo from Maslin Nude Beach, in Adelaide, Australia, almost looks as though it’s smiling. See more of Holly’s work at REDTERRAIN.

    Photo by Holly

    Photo by Holly

    In a slightly different form of care-free, we have the muddy hands of Elina Eriksson‘s son in Zambia. I love how his small hands frame his face. The gentle focus on his face and the light in the background evoke warm summer afternoons at play.

    Photo by Elina Eriksson

    Photo by Elina Eriksson

    Heading to Istanbul, check out Jeremy Witteveen‘s fun shot of this clarinetist. Whenever I see musicians, I can’t help but wonder about the song they’re playing.

    Photo by Jeremy Witteveen

    Photo by Jeremy Witteveen

    Pitoyo Susanto‘s lovely portrait of the flower seller, in Pasar Beringharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, captivated me. Aren’t her eyes and her gentle smile things of beauty?

    Photo by Pitoyo Susanto

    Photo by Pitoyo Susanto

    Arresting in a slightly different fashion is Rob MosesSki Hill Selfie, taken in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The juxtaposition of the bold colors and patterns in the foreground against the white snow in the background caught my eye.

    Photo by Rob Moses

    Photo by Rob Moses

    Further under the category of fun juxtaposition, is Liu Tao’s photo of the elderly man in Hafei, China, whose fan reminds me of a punk rock mohawk.

    Photo by Liu Tao

    Photo by Liu Tao

    From Hafei, we go to Havana, Cuba, and Edith Levy‘s beautifully ethereal Edificio Elena. I found the soft pastels and gentle shadows particularly pleasing. They lend a distinctly feminine quality to the building.

    Photo by Edith Levy

    Photo by Edith Levy

    And finally, under the category of beautiful, is Aneek Mustafa Anwar‘s portrait, taken in Shakhari Bazar, Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. The boy’s shy smile is a wonderful representation of the word on his shirt.

    Photo by Aneek Mustafa Anwar

    Photo by Aneek Mustafa Anwar

    Where do you find photographic inspiration? Take a moment to share your favorite photography blogs in the comments.

    Filed under: Community

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    14. The Narrow Road to the Deep North - The Book Review Club

    The Narrow Road to the Deep North
    Richard Flanagan

    Until recently, I'd never cursed an author, definitely not for making me care. It's what I want as a reader.

    And then I read Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The deeper I got into the story, the more often I found myself making silent bargains with Flanagan to just lighten up, please. I'd still like his book.

    But he didn't lighten up. He made me care and feel in ways I only ever have for my own characters.

    And that's when the cursing began. I even shook my fist at one point. And yes, I cried. I'm not a book cryer. Movies, weddings, a particularly good episode of "Modern Family" and I'm shamelessly weeping, but not books. Not even The Fault in Our Stars. I think it's an occupational callous I've built up over the years. Or, I thought it was. Until Flanagan. 

    Basic plot: Dorrigo Evans is an Australian doctor who is taken prisoner during WW II by the Japanese and sent as a POW to help build the Death Railway through Siam and Burma. It's a story he recalls in his old age, unable to find love and remembering the one, forbidden love he gave up before leaving for war, his uncle's wife, Amy. In his own words, Evans says, "A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else”.

    Remorse is a powerful emotion. But if a whole story were solely about remorse and wallowing, I'd just as soon get up, make a cheese sandwich and abandon the story. Life is too short. While Flanagan's tale is full of remorse and regret, opportunities missed or not taken, it's also about those moments in life when a human being gets the chance to be more than they are, and - scared, unsure, but unwavering - takes it. It's the inseprarable interweaving of these and the connections they build that makes The Narrow Road into Deep North such an unforgettable read.

    That and the amazing writing. Would that I could romance, cajole, sometimes even bully or beat words the way Flanagan does into sentences and thoughts with such pervasive effect.

    For other great reads, saunter over to Barrie Summy's website. Mudslides or blizzards, she delivers!

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    15. Books of Love – For Kids

    How will you be celebrating this Saturday February 14th?  Some see it as a chance to demonstrate the most romantic of gestures, showering their special ones with gifts of affection. Others only need to show an act of kindness to prove they care. Either way, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, International Book Giving Day or Library […]

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    16. The Naming of Tishkin Silk: a book to reshape your heart

    “Griffin came into the Silk family after Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber and Saffron. He came early in the morning on that uncommon day, the twenty-ninth of February. His father’s prediction, considering the date of Griffin’s birth, was that he would be an uncommon sort of boy.

    Perhaps he was, thought Griffin ruefully. For the first time in his life, he wished he’d been born on the twenty-eighth day of February or even the first of March. Maybe then he would have been an ordinary boy instead. If he were an ordinary boy, maybe Mama wouldn’t have gone away. Maybe his secret thoughts wouldn’t have changed everything.

    tishkinsilkWith these words The Naming of Tishkin Silk by Glenda Millard starts weaving gentle magic around your unsuspecting heart.

    Griffin is a member of the somewhat unusual and perhaps slightly bohemian Silk family, who live on the outskirts of a small Australian town. Griffin carries a secret deep inside him, a huge worry that he finds hard to share until he meets Layla, instantly recognisable to him as a princess because she is wearing a daisy-chain crown. Thanks to the thoughtfulness shown by his new friend, Griffin’s courage grows and together they do something that heals the sorrow which all the family has felt after a terrible event no-one has been able to talk about for months.

    Just like Griffin, this is a truly “uncommon” short novel, the first in a seven part series. From unexpected characters to profoundly moving themes threaded together with sometimes astonishingly lyrical writing, this book is something utterly different and incredibly beautiful. I have never before come across such delicate and yet powerful writing in a novel for children. Unique, breathtaking and full of fierce love and deep sorrow, The Naming of Tishkin Silk is the sort of book that changes you forever, the sort of book you are just so glad to have inside you, to enrich even the happiest of days and to sustain you on dark nights.

    The dual aspect of this novel – intense sadness and intense happiness – reminded me of a passage in The Prophet by Khalil Gibran about joy and sorrow; “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.“. Whilst this book deals with some of the most difficult themes you’re likely to come across in books for its target age range (approximately 8-12), Millard does it with such quiet tenderness that it doesn’t overwhelm. Indeed, like the adult characters inside the book, Millard enters the world children inhabit without patronising them, but rather with immense respect, sincerity and creativity.

    The stories we tell ourselves in an attempt to make sense of the world around us, adjusting to different family setups when new babies are born, sibling jealousy, and the value of having space and taking time to think form some of the varied threads woven throughout this precious book. Never once soppy or sentimental, Millard writes with honesty and integrity about deep and loving emotions. This is a tremendous book for exploring kindness and empathy.

    It’s Australian setting is lightly but evocatively worn, grounding the somewhat enchanted story in a very real time and place. Yes, my praise for this book goes on and on! And yet, when this book first arrived in my home, I shelved it in a dusty corner. I judged the book by its cover, and the cover did not work for me at all (Caroline Magerl illustrated this first book in the series, but subsequent volumes have been illustrated by Stephen Michael King). It looked airy-fairy, hippy-dippy, saccharine and syrupy and not like something I would enjoy. Someone whose judgement I trust, however, kept telling me I should read the book. Pig-headedly, I kept ignoring this advice. But what a fool I was! Tishkin could have been part of me for two whole extra years if I had listened and not let my prejudices sway me.

    For once I had read the book, I was utterly smitten. I could not get hold of the rest of the series quickly enough.


    If, however, I still had a niggling doubt, it was about how children would respond to these books. Subtle and yet emotionally complex, featuring an unusual family, and dealing with issues as varied as death, illness, fostering, immigration and dementia over the course of the books now available in the UK (the 6th title in the series, The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk, is published next week on World Book Day, and the final will be available in September this year), I was very curious as to how young people, rather than adults would respond to these books.

    I only have one child’s response to call upon, but M, my ten year old, has taken these stories to her heart as much as I have. She’s read each one in a single sitting, and whilst she agrees they are indeed full of sadness, they are also “really funny and playful”, “just the sort of family I want ours to be like”. She has SO many plans for implementing aspects of these stories into our lives, from making the recipes which feature throughout the series, to adopting the special breakfast rituals the Silk Family has into our own home, from making our own paper to consecrating an apple tree for tea parties, from collecting shiny foil to painting special poems on walls and doors. I think I shall be posting our activities, our Kingdom of silk playing by the book for a long time to come on the blog!

    As it is, we’ve already got our own green rubber gloves with red nail polish…


    …we’ve painted our toes like Layla…


    … and we’ve started having hummingbird nectar and fairy bread when we come in from school.



    Layla and Griffin and all the Kingdom of Silk clan are now part of our lives: We are all the richer for them. These books are alive with wonder and warmth and they’re some of the best I think my family has ever shared.

    In the closing pages of The Naming of Tishkin Silk , this gently heart wrenching, heart-soaring short novel, Millard writes, “There are some days when heaven seems much closer to earth than others, and Friday the twenty-seventh of February was one of them.” By introducing you to this book today, also a Friday the twenty-seventh of February, I’ve tried to offer you a slice of such beauty, kindness and wonder as will indeed make today (or at least the day you start reading your own copy of The Naming of Tishkin Silk ) one of those days where heaven really does seem a little nearer by.

    Photo: Tonya Staab

    Photo: Tonya Staab

    4 Comments on The Naming of Tishkin Silk: a book to reshape your heart, last added: 2/27/2015
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