Double Dipping – Blue Cats and Purple Elephants

Don't Think about Purple ElephantsRecently I looked at picture books where bedtime procrastination prevails. However what about the times when your child is desperate for sleep but harbours worries too numerous to overcome? Their efforts meet with repeated defeat. New concerns infest their sleep-deprived psyches until they convince themselves they are unable to sleep no matter what.

This perpetuating cycle of anxiety is not only detrimental for children but distressing for parents as well. Here are two new picture books that deal with this dilemma with bright originality.

In Susan Whelan’s and Gwynneth Jones’ debut picture book, Don’t Think About Purple Elephants, Sophie is a bit of a worrier. Her worries don’t intrude much on her life during the day. She draws, plays, and day dreams like most seven-something year-olds. But at night, ‘when everything is quiet and still…Sophie starts to Susan Whelan and Gynneth Jonesworry’. Oh, I hear you, Sophie!

Of course, most of these worries are merely over exaggerated unreasonable ‘what if’ thoughts but if faced with just brussels sprouts for dinner, you’d be rather toey too, I expect.

Caught in an awful tangle of tortuous thoughts, Sophie is losing sleep and hope faster than she can count to ten sheep. Then, one night before lights out, Mum calmly advises Sophie to NOT think about purple elephants.

Purple Elephants illo spreadPerplexed, Sophie tries to follow her mum’s suggestion and fails, spectacularly. The result is the best night’s sleep Sophie has had in ages. Could this be the start of a coloured animal invasion?

Not thinking about Purple Elephants is an approach to insomnia that I am definitely trying and a picture book I highly recommend for its touching narrative and sumptuous, whimsy-kissed illustrations.

EK Books April 2015

Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat by Jason Hook and Ilaria Demonti, is another equally captivating bedtime tale for pre and primary schoolers that just might tip the scales on bedtime tension.

Wendy is a young girl who has explored nearly every avenue to reach slumber including chucking cartwheels on her bed! Frustratingly, nothing works so mum and dad pack her off to Grandpa Walter’s, a place she has never been before. It’s a house of many rooms decorated with the most wondrous wallpapers Wendy’s ever seen. She and teddy are enchanted by their new surroundings. As if by magic, the rose patterned wallpaper smells of…you guessed it, roses and she can handpick oranges from the orchard-decorated room. But it’s when Wendy steps into the room papered with her favourite nursery rhyme charterers that the real fun begins.

She chooses this room as her temporary nocturnal chamber, wondering just how she’ll fit sleep in with so many marvellous distractions on the walls. It’s the fiddle-welding blue cat that leads her on a merry cavort through each landscape and garden and ultimately, into blissful slumber. Jason Hooks’ delightful circular narrative includes enough repeating phrases and quirky character idiosyncrasies to hook young readers and those reading with them.

Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat illoLavishly illustrated by Milan based illustrator, Ilaria Demonti, the wallpapers in Grandpa’s house are from real wallpapers, all designed by English artist, Walter Crane (1845 – 1915). Crane’s designs often included pictures from fairy tales and nursery rhymes and featured on many a child’s nursery walls in the 1870’s including those of Mark Twain’s children’s. You can still see these at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, who published this book.

If a trip to the UK is not on your imminent horizon, pick up Wendy and the Wallpaper Cat, here. It’ll cure your insomnia whilst exacerbating your appreciation of fine art.

V & A Publishing May 2015

 

 

Australian Classic Read-Along

There are just too many Australian classics I haven’t read and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. I always have the intention of getting to them, but there are so many other great books and new releases clambering for attention on my TBR (to-be-read) pile, that it’s difficult to achieve.

Does anyone else in the Boomerang Books community feel the same way? If you do, would you like to participate in an Australian Classic Read-Along?

How would it work?
First we’d need some suggestions in order to come up with a range of Australian classics to choose from. Depending on your feedback and requests, we can then determine the most popular/requested novel. I’ll create a reading schedule for us and each week we can discuss our thoughts online here on the Boomerang Books Blog by leaving comments on the weekly posts.

Advantages of a read-alongBoomerang-Books Australian Classic Read along
A read-along can inspire you to read a book (in this case an Australian classic) you’ve always been meaning to read.  You’ll enjoy the bookish conversation and feel like you’re part of a reading club. You might even meet likeminded booklovers like yourself.

What should we read?
That’s up to you, what would you like to read? You can click here and browse books from some of these lists, but some suggestions to get us started could include: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay or The Harp In The South by Ruth Park.

We could also choose a contemporary Australian classic, such as: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The possibilities and choices are endless.

Suggestions welcome
Now it’s over to you. Are you keen to read an Australian classic with likeminded readers or know someone who is?

Leave your novel suggestions below and we’ll see if we can drum up some interest. You can also make your request on Twitter, just use the hashtag #bbooksreadalong and don’t forget to tag us @boomerangbooks

According to Mark Twain, a classic is: a book which people praise and don’t read. Let’s see if we can change that!

I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie

Some blogs back I wrote of how bewildered I was that there were people who didn’t read for pleasure. I’d made the awful discovery courtesy of a now ex-boyfriend who didn’t/doesn’t—gasp, swoon—read. The relationship didn’t go or end well although, in retrospect, a writer and rapacious reader trying to find common ground with a non-writer and non-reader was always doomed to spectacularly fail.

The blessing in disguise (and I’d have to say a heavily cloaked, visible-only-if-you-squint-and-happen-to-be-a-glass-half-full-kind-of-person disguise) was that this guy inadvertently ‘helped’ me realise I have not one iota of interest in dating someone who isn’t a reader so voracious that you have to hide your books from them lest they snarfoo and devour them before you’ve even cracked the spines.

So what I love is the following video, which is cheesy to the hilt but so, so clever on so many levels.

It ingeniously encourages kids (especially boys) to read by:

–        involving the kids in the video

–        connecting with them using a hit pop culture song with a fun and memorable rhythm and lyrics

–        using a non-reading tool of delivery (You Tube), but one with which kids are familiar

–        utilising social networks and viral marketing to convey its message (I found out about it via a friend in London posting it on Facebook, and I’ve subsequently posted it myself)

–        making nerds and reading sexy (hooray!)

–        breaking down the high vs low literature debate by encouraging kids to read, whether it be graphic novels or John Steinbeck

–        targeting all kids, but particularly boys, as the protagonist who’s surrounded by lots of reading ladies throughout is male

–        not taking itself too seriously.

It even contains an incisive, insightful literary quote from Mark Twain (which I didn’t personally know): ‘A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read’. Mmmm, deep.

I’m sure reading habits have increased in this school and plenty of kids are now rapping the lyrics to this brilliant video. Me? I can’t get the song out of my head and am heading back to rewatch it and learn behind ‘I like big books and I cannot lie. Informative or sci-fi…’

Old Books

There seems to be a bit of a reading and publishing shift happening at the moment. Everyone is talking about iPads, Kindles and e-books. Never one to follow a trend, I am instead going to write about old books.

I love old books! I love new ones too — goodness knows I certainly buy enough of them — but there’s just something extra special about old books… in fact, the older the better. The smell! The feel! The history! There’s nothing better than browsing the bookshelves of a second-hand store and coming across some discarded gem.

The favourite of my collection is an illustrated, hardcover 1908 edition of A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur by Mark Twain. I bought this book back in 1999 when on honeymoon in the UK. I found it in White Spider Books, a little second hand bookshop in Surrey. It cost £12.50. It had seemed like a good investment, given that I had never read the book but had always wanted to. And it was… I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about my teenage obsession with John Christopher’s Tripods Trilogy. Thanks to numerous second hand bookstore visits over the years, I’ve got several different editions of these books, the earliest being a 1970 paperback edition of the first book, The White Mountains.

I’ve even been known to occasionally purchase an old book simply because its old and I like the look of it. One such book is J Cuthbert Hadden’s The Bohemian Girl, which appears to be part of a series called The Great Operas. It’s a short book about Balfe’s opera, The Bohemian Girl, and includes a summary of the plot, a critique of the music, a history of the opera’s creation and production, and a biography of Michael William Balfe. It’s a small hardcover edition (measuring 120 X 150cm) with lovely colour illustrations throughout. The dust jacket is torn in half, but the book is otherwise in good condition. There is no publication date, although the text mentions an event in 1906 as being recent. I paid a grand total of $0.50 for this one.

My latest purchase is a 1912 hardcover edition of Lyra Heroica, A book of Verse for Boys. I found it in an op shop while browsing the children’s books. It stood out as the only hardcover in a shelf full of battered paperbacks. So I picked it up, and read the preface.

“To set forth, as only art can, the beauty and the joy of living, the beauty and the blessedness of death, the glory of battle and adventure, the nobility of devotion—to a cause, an ideal, a passion even—the dignity of resistance, the sacred quality of patriotism, that is my ambition here.”

After reading this sentence by William Ernest Henley, who selected and arranged the poems, I just had to buy the book. It cost me the princely sum of $4.00.

There are many other old books in my collection. And no doubt, there will be many more in the future. Oh, and in case you’re wondering — I don’t own an iPad or a Kindle. 🙂

Anyone else out there like old books? Leave a comment and tell us about your oldest book.

And tune in next time for a post about food.

Catch ya later,  George

PS – Follow me on Twitter.

Time tripping with Kate Forsyth

George’s little intro

Last time around, I waffled on a bit about a few time travel books that I’ve read. For today’s post, author Kate Forsyth has stopped by to tell us about her favourite time travel books. Kate is the author of The Puzzle Ring (an excellent time travel fantasy for kids and teens) as well as numerous other novels. To find out more about Kate and her writing, check out her website.

“My top 5 time travel books”
by Kate Forsyth

The past is a mysterious and dangerous place, so very different from our own that it could indeed be another world. The idea of travelling back in time has always fascinated me, and so I have always wanted to write a time travel adventure like the ones I used to love reading as a child.

Part of the joy of writing The Puzzle Ring was reading all those time travel stories again. Many of them had been books from my school library, so I had to hunt for copies on the Internet, buying them from second-hand and antiquarian bookshops all over the world.

Here are my five favourites:

1908 – Edith Nesbit, The House of Arden

The House of Arden has always been my favourite Nesbit novel. It’s about a boy called Edred who inherits a crumbling old castle when he is close to his tenth birthday but to his consternation he will only be able to keep it if he can find the lost Arden fortune before his birthday. Edred, his twin sister Elfrida, and the temperamental Mouldiwarp, a magical talking creature, travel through time searching for the treasure. The twins visit a number of different periods of English history, meeting witches and highwaymen and rebels and having exciting adventures. This book was definitely a very strong influence on me, particularly when I first began to conceive the story of The Puzzle Ring, and certainly the idea of being heir to an ancient castle and a treasure lie at the heart of my book too.

1939 – Alison Uttley, A Traveller In Time

This book tells the story of Penelope, who slips back and forth between her own time (1930s England) and Elizabethan times. Her adventures start when she goes to stay at an old, old farmhouse called Thackers in the countryside. Thackers was once owned by the Babington family, who famously tried and failed to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots while she was imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I, and so this novel was one of the things which first began my fascination with the tragic Scottish queen. It’s an absolute classic and a must read for anyone interested in time travel stories.

1954 – Lucy Boston, The Children of Green Knowe

I loved this book as a child, and loved it just as much when I read it again while writing The Puzzle Ring. It tells the story of young Tolly who goes to stay with his great-grandmother, Mrs Oldknowe. Her house, Greenknowe, is old and mysterious and filled with stories of the past – stories that begin to come alive for Tolly. The house and its beautiful garden were based on Lucy Boston’s own house, The Manor, in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, which was built in the 1130s and lays claim to the oldest continually inhabited house in the UK. Lucy Boston once wrote: “I believe children, even the youngest, love good language, and that they see, feel, understand and communicate more, not less, than grownups. Therefore I never write down to them, but try to evoke that new brilliant awareness that is the world.’

This is what I try and do too.

Tom’s Midnight Garden1958 – Philippa Pearce, Tom’s Midnight Garden

Tom’s Midnight Garden won the Carnegie Medal in 1958, and is considered one of the great classics of English children’s literature. I think it is utterly enchanting, and perfect in every way. It’s one of those books that stay with you forever after.

Tom is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in a boarding house when his brother gets measles. Bored to tears, he has nothing to do and wishes the old house had a garden in which he could play. That night he hears the old grandfather clock in the hallway downstairs strike thirteen, and runs downstairs to investigate. He finds the hallway opening on to the most wonderful garden, and explores it in absolute delight. Soon he meets a girl called Hattie, who he discovers lived there in the 19th century. She thinks Tom is a ghost, while he thinks she is – they argue about it and it makes Tom uneasy. As the days pass, Hattie grows up while Tom stays the same. The time comes for Tom to go home, but he doesn’t want to go – the midnight garden has become more real, more important to him than his real life. The ending is one of the most perfectly executed and moving moments in children’s literature – I feel the catch of breath, the sting of tears, every time I read it.

An amusing anecdote: when Philippa Pierce went to Buckingham Palace to collect her OBE, the Queen asked her, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ To which, Phillipa Pierce replied ‘Harrods.’ I just love that.

1988 – Jane Yolen, The Devil’s Arithmetic

A beautiful and moving novel about the Holocaust, The Devil’s Arithmetic tells the story of Hannah who, embarrassed by her grandparents’ enduring grief over their past, finds herself transported back to a village in Poland in the 1940s. Captured by the Nazis, she is taken to a death camp where she fights to stay alive and retain her dignity. At the end, she chooses to go to the gas chamber to save a friend in a scene that had me sobbing out loud with horror and disbelief. At that moment she returns to herself in contemporary times, but with a much deeper understanding of her grandparents’ inability to shake off the past. This is truly a brilliant book, one that should be read by everyone. It has been made into a movie, which I haven’t yet seen (though I would like to!)

George’s little bit at the end

I have not read a single one of these books, but they all sound fascinating. I obviously need to broaden my horizons. In my defence (such as it is) I can say that I have seen the 1989 BBC series of Tom’s Midnight Garden. I enjoyed it a great deal but I don’t know how faithful an adaptation it is.

After reading Kate’s selection, I was reminded of one other book I should have mentioned in my last post — Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Were I able to travel through time, I’d go back and fix this oversight, but seeing as I can’t, I’ll have to settle for mentioning it now instead. As the title suggests, it’s about an American who travels back in time to the court of King Arthur. It’s been filmed several times, including one version with Bing Crosby. I read the book a few years ago and loved it. Long winded and meandering, often humorous, occasionally political and sometimes lacking internal logic… but always interesting. And my god, Twain wrote some incredibly long sentences.

This brings us to the end of our time travelling adventures, for now. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you about the launch of The Star and have chat with it’s author/illustrator, Felicity Marshal.

Catch ya later, George