Monday, 24 July 2017

The Outsiders



The Outsiders is a seminal YA novel, indeed its publication in 1967 is credited with creating realistic YA as a genre.

S.E. Hinton was only 15 years old when she wrote a 40 page short story that would evolve into The Outsiders. She rewrote her story when she was 16, it was accepted for publication when she was 17, and published when she was just 18 years old. It has now sold more than 15 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. S.E. Hinton grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and this is where The Outsiders is set.

Somehow I didn't really know that much about The Outsiders before I read it this month. The Outsiders tells a tale of two rival groups of teenage boys, The Greasers and The Socs (Socials). The Greasers are poor and are named for their fondness for hair oil, while The Socs are kids from the richer families in town. The story is a first person tale told by Ponyboy Curtis, and yes that's his real name. Sadly S.E. Hinton can't remember why she gave her characters names like Ponyboy, Sodapop and Two-Bit, but she has said that she's glad that she did as they are much more memorable than the common 1960s boy names. Although the Socs do  have more traditional names like Bob and David.
We're poorer than the Socs and the middle class. I reckon we're wilder, too. Not like the Socs, who jump greasers and wreck houses and throw beer blasts for kicks, and get editorials in the paper for being a public disgrace one day and an asset to society the next. Greasers are almost like hoods: we steal things and drive old souped-up cars and hold up gas stations and have a gang fight once in a while. 
A lot is made of the different temperament of the two groups too. 
'That's why we're separated,' I said. 'It's not money, it's feeling-you don't feel anything and we feel too violently.'
So all the Socs are supposed to be sociopaths? But everyone can recognise and relate to teenage tribes and cliques. We all experienced them at high school.

Ponyboy is fourteen and lives with his two older brothers as their parents have been killed in a car accident eight months earlier. His brothers Darry and Sodapop work, while Ponyboy is still a school. Darry is strict with Ponyboy and keeps a watchful eye on him. Ponyboy doesn't appreciate his strict rules and misinterprets his methods. 

The book gets off to a bit of a slow start but things really pick up 45 pages in when there is a rather sudden, dramatic event. The rest of the book is really the fall out from this one night. While I did enjoy the story arc of the book, I found Ponyboy's voice contradictory and inconsistent. He does well at school, is reading Great Expectations and relating to Pip, and "nobody in our gang digs books and movies the way I do" (it was the sixties after all), and yet he can't spell Socs. "I'm not sure how you spell it, but it's the  abbreviation for the Socials". I wondered at the beginning if it would take me a while to settle into Ponyboy's voice - but I never was able to settle in and enjoy it. 

I'm very glad to have read The Outsiders given its fame and influence. I just wish that I had liked it more.

312/1001

Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Frosty Start

It's winter in Australia, and sometimes getting to your day shift takes a little longer. The frost has been quite heavy of late. Some days it looks more pretty than others. 






Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly memenow hosted by WestMetroMommy

Friday, 21 July 2017

Gilmore Girls



I was particularly excited last year when news broke that there would be a new series of the Gilmore Girls. I'd always loved Lorelei and Rory's super fast talking banter. But I'd never watched all of it. I knew I'd seen most of the first few series but was pretty sure I hadn't seen all seven series. I have a DVD set of Series 1, and had started that a few times but never really got to the end of it.

Enter Netflix and the era of binge watching. Not that I have a lot of time for binge watching. Two maybe three episodes is a binge for me. But late last year Master Wicker and I started on the quest of watching all seven series of the original Gilmore Girls so that we could watch the four new episodes.

I'm so glad we did. Yes, it's taken quite a while. But there are 22 episodes every series. 22. For seven series. 154 episodes. Those Girls did a lot of machine gun talking. It's funny. It shows a mother and daughter can get along (generally). And it's kind at it's core.

I realise now that I was most familiar with series 1-4. Which is not surprising. I'm not a great series fan. I don't generally like endless series of the same show as generally they will run out of ideas rather soon. The Simpsons is a rather obvious exception to this rule. I don't like reading book series either.

I thought it all lost a bit of direction in series five when there were quite a number of story lines that I found annoying. Look away right now if you don't want to know - the whole Emily and Richard situation, Lane and Zach- really?? Really? Although there was a whole episode devoted to Pippi Longstocking and that's just great.

But there were some particularly excellent lines in Series 6.

Episode 1 Emily to Rory:
There's plenty of time for sleeping in when you've gone up a few dress sizes.

And Episode 21 of Series 6 was a cracker episode- perhaps one of my favourites!
Liz: I'm going to do all the things I didn't do last time I was pregnant, like not binge drink.

Richard - I'm sitting in one of South Dakota's finest hotels. It smells like a foot.

I did find some of the toing and froing of the last few seasons a bit tedious. Will they? Won't they? It all flip flopped a few too many times. 

And the four new episodes? Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Most of it was good, and it was nice to see the characters again. I thought Summer was totally bonkers, and was worried it had all lost it's way. It didn't get tied up in the way I expected, but I'm glad to have watched them, and glad to know what the long anticipated final four words were (but no spoilers here, but I'm not about to spill). 



Thursday, 20 July 2017

101 Books To Read Before You Grow Up



Back in 2009 I became obsessed with 1001 Children's Books You Should Read Before You Grow Up, so much so that I decided to read the 1001 books. That turned out to be quite the undertaking. I'm nearly a third of the way through. I do now realise that my life would have been much simpler if I had managed to find 101 Books To Read Before You Grow Up instead, although it was only released last year.


I was a bit surprised to find five Australian books in this list, including one of Mem Fox's lesser known titles at #4 (although the order is reading age, not numerical), but it makes sense when you learn that author Bianca Schulze is an Australian who grew up in Sydney, before living in Colorado and founding The Children's Book Review.

I came across 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up quite accidentally when I made a spelling mistake on a search in my library catalogue. Naturally, I couldn't help myself and requested it immediately. I'm now ordering my own copy. 



1. Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

2. Oh, the Places You'll Go - Dr. Seuss
3. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
4. Whoever You Are - Mem Fox, Leslie Staub (illustrator)
5. The Seven Silly Eaters - Mary Ann Hoberman, Marla Frazee (illustrator)
6. The Story of Ferdinand - Munro Leaf, Robert Lawson (illustrator)
7. The Little House - Virginia Lee Burton
8. The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
9. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - Judi Barrett, Ronald Barrett (illustrator)
10. Last Stop on Market Street - Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (illustrator)
11. Tikki Tikki Tembo - Arlene Mosel, Blair Lent (illustrator)
12. The Snail and the Whale - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
13. Journey - Aaron Becker
14. Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban, Lillion Hoban (illustrator)
15. Rosie Revere, Engineer - Andrea Beaty, David Roberts (illustrator)
16. Mango, Abuela and Me - Meg Medina, Angela Dominguez




17. The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepherd (illustrator)
18. The Paper Bag Princess - Robert Munsch, Michael Martchenko (illustrator)
19. Lon Po Po - Ed Young
20. The Hundred Dresses - Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin (illustrator)
21. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz (illustrator)
22. Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad - Ellen Levine, Kadir Nelson (illustrator)
23. The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig, Patrice Barton (illustrator)
24. Matilda - Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator)
25. Fantastic Mr Fox - Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator)
26. Anna Hibiscus - Atinuke, Lauren Tobia (illustrator)
27. The 13-Story Treehouse - Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton (illustrator) (see my review)
28. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White, Garth Williams (illustrator)
29. The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
30. Beezus and Ramona - Beverly Cleary, Jacqueline Rogers (illustrator)
31. The Borrowers - Mary Norton, Beth and Joe Krush (illustrator) (see my review)
32. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom - Tim Tingle, Jeanne Rorex Bridges (illustrator)
33. Rickshaw Girl - Mitali Perkins, Jamie Hogan (illustrator)
34. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren, Michael Chesworth (illustrator)
35. The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (illustrator)
36. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick (see my review)
37. The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate, Patricia Castelao (illustrator)
38. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum, W.W. Denslow (illustrator)
39. El Deafo - Cece Bell (see my review)
40. The Year of the Dog - Grace Lin
41. All-of-a-Kind Family - Sydney Taylor
42. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
43. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -  C.S. Lewis 
44. D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths - Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
45. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (see my review)
46. The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis
47. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh (see my review)
48. George - Alex Gino
49. Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
50. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes - Eleanor Coerr, Ronald Himler




51. The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
52. The Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene
53. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi
54. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales - Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (illustrator)
55. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Judy Blume
56. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien
57. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg (see my review)
58. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
59. Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo 
60. Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit (see my review)
61. A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
62. Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls 
63. The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket, Brett Hellquist (illustrator)
64. The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
65. Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney
66. Frindle - Andrew Clements, Brian Selznick
67. The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay (see my review)
68. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (see my review)
69. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
70. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
71. Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild (see my review)
72. Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie, Michael Hague (illustrator) 
73. Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery 
74. The Birchbark House - Louise Erdrich
75. Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
76. Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper




77. Better Nate Than Never - Tim Federle
78. Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine
79. Hating Alison Ashley - Robin Klein (see my review)
80. Esperanza Rising - Pam Muñoz Ryan
81. My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (see my review)
82. Blubber - Judy Blume
83. Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers, Mary Shepherd (illustrator)
84. Holes - Louis Sachar (see my review)
85. Smile - Raina Telgemeier
86. Inside Out and Back Again - Thanhha Lai (see my review)
87. The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman
88. Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
89. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
90. The Evolution of Calpurina Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
91. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne (see my review)
92. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
93. One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia
94. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred D. Taylor (see my review)
95. The Arrival - Shaun Tan (see my review)
96. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (see my review)
97. The Dreamer - Pam Muñoz Ryan, Peter Sis (illustrator)
98. Hatchet - Gary Paulsen (see my review)
99. A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
100. The Secret Garden - Franes Hodgson Burnett (see my review)
101. Wonder - R.J. Palacio (see my review)

A respectable 53/101. Of course there is considerable crossover with my 1001 list. But there are still quite a few books here that I've never heard of. I think I'll make reading this list a quiet little side project.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Harper Collins 200

The Harper Collins 200 was created earlier this year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Harper Collins PublishersThis is such an interesting, and seemingly random, list. Indeed, each time you open the link the books are in a different and seemingly random order.

I don't know that any list needs four bibles really, and there are many, many books in here that I'll never read- books by Margaret Thatcher or Billy Graham for instance, but there are lots of other books that I should read in here, books I'd like to read in here. And there's always something new to learn. For instance, I had no idea that JFK was an author, let alone a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Be sure to check out the Why I Read page as well.

No Logo - Naomi Klein
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields
The Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough
The Beginner's Bible
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
The Boy in the Dress - David Walliams (see my review)
Perestroika - Mikhail Gorbachev
A Bear Called Paddington - Michael Bond (see my review)
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith - Thomas Keneally
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Dodger - Terry Pratchett
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (see my review)
Kitten's First Full Moon - Kevin Henkes
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert M. Pirsig
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath



Essays of E.B. White - E.B. White
The Hunt for Red October - Tom Clancy
Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand
Virgin River - Robyn Carr
What Do People Do All Day? - Richard Scarry
Room - Emma Donoghue
If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond (illustrator)
Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
New International Version Bible
The Man From Snowy River - A.B. Paterson, Annette Macarthur-Onslow (illustrator)
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
I'm OK, You're OK - Thomas A. Harris
Amelia Bedevil - Peggy Parish, Fritz Siebel (illustrator)
Bleak House - Charles Dickens (well I've half read it twice, that's got to count right?)
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
Flashman - George MacDonald Fraser
Fermat's Last Theorem - Simon Singh
The Boys of Summer - Roger Kahn
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
Riders of the Purple Sage - Zane Grey
The Years of Extermination - Saul Friedländer
The Once and Future King - T.H. White
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
The Odyssey of Homer
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
Sounder - William H. Armstrong (see my review)
Beezus and Ramona - Beverly Cleary
Stride Toward Freedom - Martin Luther King Jr
Little Bear - Else Holmelund Minarik
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - Alan Garner
The Other Side of Midnight - Sidney Sheldon
A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
The Tiger Who Came to Tea - Judith Kerr
Grace - Max Lucado
Freaky Friday - Mary Rodgers
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
A Soldier's Tale - M.K. Joseph
Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak
Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Muddleheaded Wombat - Ruth Park
Summer of '49 - David Halberstam
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
The Hospital in Buwambo - Anne Vinton



Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
The Shipping News - Annie Proulx
The Monkey Wrench Gang - Edward Abbey
V. - Thomas Pynchon
Barbarians at the Gate - Bryan Burroughs & John Helyar
The Hours - Michael Cunningham
The Guns of Navarone - Alistair Maclean
Diary of a Wombat - Jackie French, Bruce Whatley (illustrator)
Stuart Little - E.B. White
Ben-Hur - Lew Wallace
Gorky Park - Martin Cruz Smith
Alive - Piers Paul Read
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
Bringing Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Middlemarch - George Eliot
Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M. Miller Jr
A Woman of Substance - Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
16 Lighthouse Road - Debbie Macomber
Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Domingue Bauby
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - Judith Kerr
The Ipcress File - Len Deighton
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
Girl With a Pearl Earring - Tracey Chevalier
The Complete Works of Mark Twain - Mark Twain
Ariel - Sylvia Plath
The Kon-Tiki Expedition - Thor Heyerdahl
Blonde - Joyce Carol Oates
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith - Thomas Keneally
A People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
Our Town - Thornton Wilder
Longitude - Dava Sobel
Papillon - Henri Charrière
Red Scarf Girl - Ji Li Jiang
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Monster - Walter Dean Myers
Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
The Wapshot Chronicle - John Cheever



Good To Great - Jim Collins
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
The Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
The Kitchen Diaries - Nigel Salter
Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World
The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
Native Son - Richard Wright
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
What on Earth Am I Here For? - Rick Warren
Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
Bread and Jam for Frances - Russell Hoban, Lillian Hoban (illustrator)
Nostromo - Joseph Conrad
Life on Earth - David Attenborough
Old Yeller - Fred Gipson (see my review)
Black Boy - Richard Wright
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
Under The Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubier
Journey to Jo'Burg - Beverley Naidoo
Coming of Age in Samoa - Margaret Mead
Etiquette - Emily Post
Seven Years in Tibet - Heinrich Harrer
The Perfect Neighbor - Nora Roberts
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (see my review)
Heaven is for Real - Todd Burpo
The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
Sabriel - Garth Nix
The Butterfly Lion - Michael Morpurgo
The 42nd Parallel - John Dos Passos
The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty
Henry Huggins - Beverly Cleary
Love and War in the Apennines - Eric Newby
Love Story - Erich Segal
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
The Carrot Seed - Ruth Krauss, Crockett Johnson (illustrator)
Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin
The Gulag Archipelago - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee
Holy Bible King James Version
Flow - Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi
The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga
At The Mountains of Madness - H.P. Lovecraft
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Yates Garden Guide
Peace with God - Billy Graham
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
Jesus Calling - Sarah Young
Barometer Rising - Hugh MacLennan
The Dangerous Book for Boys - Gonn Iggulden
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury



Born Free - Joy Adamson
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
Sharpe's Eagle - Bernard Cornwell
The New Kid on the Block - Jack Prelutsky
Sarah, Plain and Tall - Patricia MacLachlan
New King James Version Super Giant Print Bible
Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illustrator)
The Intelligent Investor - Benjamin Graham
The Known World - Edward P. Jones
Collected Poems 1947-1997 - Allen Ginsberg
Where The Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard
Pilgrim - Timothy Findley
Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion, Margaret Bloy Graham (illustrator)
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
Just Kids - Patti Smith
Danny and the Dinosaur - Syd Hoff
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Wicked - Gregory Maguire
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Empire of the Sun - J.G. Ballard
Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George
The Downing Street Years - Margaret Thatcher
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Divergent - Veronica Roth
Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Two Years Before the Mast - Richard Henry Dand Jr
Being and Time - Martin Heidegger
Master & Commander - Patrick O'Brian
In Search of Excellence - Thomas J. Peter and Robert H. Waterman, Jr
Profiles in Courage - John F. Kennedy
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gariel García Márquez
Magician - Raymond E. Feist
The Making of the President 1960 - Theodore H. White

47/200

Well I've certainly had much worse results.

So what are the biggest gaps of my reading from this list? I would say Fahrenheit 451 and Middlemarch, and I do want to read The Bell Jar sometime. Also, Monster pops up on many a list and I'm becoming quite intrigued.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wasted



Elspeth Muir's Wasted was long listed for the Stella Award 2017. For some reason it really called to me to read it. I really like the double entendre title, although not the cover particularly, and didn't really know much more about the book than the subtitle: A story of alcohol, grief and a death in Brisbane.  I almost got to see Elspeth talk at Newcastle Writer's Festival this year, but sadly didn't manage it.

Wasted is part-memoir, part-nonfiction and grew from Elspeth's grief, despair and anger at the death of her youngest brother, Alexander. 
My brother died because he was drunk, and because the drink made him stupid. 
Alexander had quite the proclivity for drinking, he started sneaking out of home to drink from the age of 13. A year before he was to drown in the Brisbane River at 21, Alexander woke up one morning passed out under the mangroves of the river bank. 
I thought this was hilarious. 
Elspeth documents her own hazardous drinking in much the same way. 
I drank more than ever. On rare nights I could remember getting home but usually I had no idea what had happened past midnight. I shed personal objects- cards, wallets and phones. I spent Saturdays and Sundays vomiting bile into a saucepan. I started to feel darkness when I drank: a grasping, anxious slide from euphoria into deep nervous anger. It started with small tendrils of anxiety, then my breath became shallow and I started kicking as hard as I could to stay afloat. I drank more to stave off the fall but it was inevitable, and drinking more just made me black out. 
Alexander drank heavily, he had frequent blackouts and would often disappear for days at a time. He was arrested for the first time at just fifteen, and had some minor skirmishes with the police. Of course many young Australians drink this way, most will survive it, some don't, and her brother was one of the unlucky ones.  Each week one young Australian between 16 and 25 will die, and more than 60 will be hospitalised from alcohol related incidents. 
Drugs were expensive, and tricky to get because their procurement needed to be planned in advance, but alcohol was cheap- five dollars for a cleanskin, ten for a cask- and there were bottle shops all around us, including a twenty-four-hour one a fifteen minute walk away.
The second half of the book is more nonfiction than memoir, where Elspeth looks at the role of alcohol in our culture. There are interesting discussions about white versus Aboriginal drinking, and Elspeth spends an eyeopening night with Red Frogs volunteers at Schoolies on the Gold Coast. 
Yet there is something unsettling and unsettled about the place of alcohol in Australian society. At its best the drinking culture is characterised by egalitarianism, a laid-back attitude and a spirit of creativity. Australians invented the goon bag and the stubby, while the first tubs of Vegemite were by-products of discarded Carlton and United Brewery yeast. At its worst the nation's drinking can be characterised by violent and recklessness, exclusion and a pattern of boozing to extremes. 
Overall I enjoyed Wasted, especially the memoir sections, at times it was like Elspeth and I lived in the same share households... Wasted casts an interesting light on Australian drinking culture, a culture that I both participate in from time to time (although no longer as enthusiastically as in the past), and see as an observer.


http://australianwomenwriters.com

Friday, 7 July 2017

Welcome to Country



Welcome to Country has been popping up on a few award lists this year so I was keen to read it. Shortlisted for both the Indie Book Awards 2017 and the Crichton Award for New Illustrators 2017 and a CBCA Notable Picture Book of the Year 2017, it obviously needed to be read. 


I really love this illustration, a river at first glance,
but it is a face in the landscape too

A welcome to country ceremony is familiar to all Australians. A ceremony performed at the opening of events and meetings to recognise the traditional custodians of our land. I've been to many welcome to country ceremonies, the last being at the opening of a conference in Sydney in May- it was fantastic! Sometimes a simple speech, at other times they incorporate music or dance. In Sydney in May the man playing the didgeridoo made hand actions to indicate the animals that he was representing in sound. He indicated a kangaroo hopping as he made short sharp sounds and you could almost see the kangaroo jumping across a paddock. It was amazing and I heard the didgeridoo in a way that I'd never heard it before.

Welcome to Country is a picture book interpretation of this tradition. I was excited to think as I looked at the back cover 




and first page of Welcome to Country that this was a bilingual picture book. 



Sadly it's not fully bilingual, I do think that would have been amazing, especially as the theme for Naidoc Week this year is Our Languages Matter. But it is wonderful to see Aboriginal language incorporated in this way. 

Beautifully illustrated by Lisa Kennedy, Welcome to Country is a joy to read. I'm really hope that it is widely adopted and read in schools particularly. 

Great Teachers Notes available here.

I'm very pleased that ANZ Litlovers are once again celebrating Naidoc Week this week with Indigenous Literature Week. There's been quite a few really interesting programs about Aboriginal languages in the media this week including an SBS Feed segment on a program teaching Wiradjuri to all Year 7 kids at Young High School, sadly the video will only be online for a week. RN's Awaye program had a segment Why Indigenous Languages Matter


ANZ Litlovers ILW

http://australianwomenwriters.com

Thursday, 6 July 2017

50 Books Every Modern Teenager Should Read

Who doesn't love a List Challenge list? I always do. Except here there are so many books I haven't heard of. It does seem a rather unusual list, and not especially a teenage list. It certainly isn't full of YA. 

I am Malala -  Malala Yousafzai
We the Animals - Justin Torres
Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson
We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Black Hole - Charles Burns
After Claude - Iris Owens



The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (see my review)
Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm - Philip Pullman
Transformations - Anne Sexton
The Golden Compas - Philip Pullman
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Ghost World - Daniel Clowes
Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine
Weetzie Bat - Francesca Lia Block
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
The Lover - Marguerite Duras
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel



Parable of Sower - Octavia E. Butler
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
Every Day - David Levithan
Geek Love - Katherine Dunn
How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
Between The World And Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
Magic For Beginners - Kelly Link
I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self - Danielle Evans
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
Step Aside Pops - Kate Beaton
Ooga-Booga - Frederick Seidel
The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Project X - Jim Shepard
Among Others - Jo Walton
Crush - Richard Siken
If I Was Your Girl - Meredith Russo
Mr. Fox - Helen Oyeyemi



The Rest Of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness
A Study in Charlotte - Brittany Cavallaro
The Round House - Louise Erdrich
Wolf in White Van - John Darnielle
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe -
Ohio Violence - Alison Stine
True Grit - Charles Portis
This Boy's Life: A Memoir - Tobias Wolff
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
When Things Fall Apart - Pema Chödrön

Oh dear. 3/50

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Hidden Life of Trees



From the time Tim Flannery made my jaw drop moments into the Foreward  I was totally in love with this audiobook.


If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical a chemical into the air that signals a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they "smell" it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals. 

Wait. What? Trees can sense that a giraffe is eating them and respond to it? Wow. And trees can talk to each other to warn their neighbours of pesky giraffes?? Perhaps I'm just completely ignorant but my mind was well and truly blown.

Trees are with us every day, but their apparent motionless state blinds their lives from us, they are hidden in plain sight. 

Peter Wohlleben really opened my eyes to these seemingly silent sentinels of our world. Trees live on a different, much slower time scale compared to us, our human lives so much shorter then their lives played out over centuries when living in a forest. And so we don't see them as the social beings they are. Peter explains how trees feel pain, how they communicate, and how they nurture and support each other. It not only takes a village, it also takes a forest. Trees in a forest will support the sick and dying, and even nourish "dead" tree stumps. Peter anthropomorphises trees and talks of families, relatives and friendships. It was all a complete paradigm shift for me, and with every new chapter another new shift came.

Even the things I thought I knew about trees (but hadn't thought about in decades) were wrong. Like most people I was taught in biology at high school and uni that water moves in trees by a combination of capillary action and transpiration. Peter takes just a few moments to explain that neither of these forces are anywhere near adequate to explain the movement of water up a tree. You know what? We don't even know. We don't know how water moves up a tree! Science, technology and medicine have made our lives comfortable and healthy on the whole, we have explored the far reaches of our planet, and our own moon, but we still don't know how water moves up a tree. It's almost unbelievable. 

I had never even really given much thought to the fact that trees are green. I know well enough that trees have chlorophyll to absorb light and that white light splits to give us a rainbow of colour. So Peter asks us why aren't trees black?


Chlorophyll helps leaves process light. If trees processed light super-efficiently, there would be hardly any left over- and the forest would then look as dark during the day as it does at night. Chlorophyll, however has one disadvantage. It has a so-called green gap, and because it cannot use this part of the colour spectrum, it has to reflect it back unused. This weak spot means that we can see this photosynthetic leftover, and that's why almost all plants look deep green to us. Beautiful for us; useless for the trees. 
Even more amazingly some trees have red leaves because of a metabolic disorder. 


Young developing leaves on normal trees are often tinged red thanks to a kind of sun block in their delicate tissue. This is anthocyanin, which blocks ultraviolet rays to protect the little leaves. As the leaves grow, the anthocyanin is broken down by the help of an enzyme. A few beeches or maples deviate from the norm because they lack this enzyme. 

There is just so much in this book, not all of it about trees. Trees have very close codependent relationships with fungi (fungi can take up to a third of a trees food production), and they are in a life and death struggle against the fungi for their entire lives too, so there's quite a bit about fungi in the book Fungi form the largest lifeforms on earth! Of course other creatures are mentioned too- the birds and insects that live in the trees, the many and varied life forms that feed off trees when they are alive and when they are dead.

It's almost too much to take in. So, as I often do, I listened twice through, and then borrowed the book from the library to see if I had missed out on any visual content. The book is illustrated with a few simple, yet beautiful, drawings by Briana Garelli

Peter Wohlleben is German and manages a forest in Germany, so naturally his specific knowledge is about the trees and forests of Europe. I'm not so familiar with European trees, yes I can recognise an oak tree, or a spruce, but I don't know many of the trees he talked about all that well. I would love to hear a similar book about our Australian native trees.

The translation by Jane Billinghurst (a writer and gardner herself) is absolutely beautiful, the book reads like an English language text, not at all like a translation from the German.

Highly recommended.