In Praise of Picture Books

The other month, while on the way to rugby training, RNZ said something almost unforgiveable. The Great Eric Carle was now the Late, Great, Eric Carle. From the back seat came a howl.

I am unabashedly a book worm. I’ll read (need!) almost anything printed, and always have. I’ve tried to bring up all four of our kids as readers, and like to think I’ve succeeded with three of them. We have solid collections of favourites, from Winnie the Pooh to last year’s The Inkberg Enigma (buy it from Unity!) and cover a wide range of genres, especially when you add on their dad’s favs, and books are part of day-to-day life.

The howl had come from Mr 11 and his mate, Kobe the First. They reminisced about The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and made their own list of what they could or would eat should they have the sudden urge to hibernate (rather less fruit and veges than the original). We then moved onto some other favourites and here’s some we think you can’t go wrong with.

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Buy this in a board format. Buy it as soon as you know you’re pregnant, or on the way to the baby shower. Stash a few at home for Welcome Baby presents. You can’t go wrong with this one.
  2. The Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy. Perfect for the child whose imagination blurs with reality, this Kiwi classic is on its second generation in our household. The extra beauty of the writing is that the main character (AKA the Boy) is never named, so you can very simply personalise this with your favourite person (hint: your child. That’s supposed to be your child). Another great Mahy is the Man Who’s Mother Was a Pirate.
  3. The Kiss That Missed by David Melling. This picture book is the start of a trilogy, all cleverly illustrated with plenty of subtle detail. It starts off with the King being in an awful hurry, and not stopping by to kiss his Prince good night…very relatable! Melling has plenty of other picture and hard books to choose from too.
  4. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd – another Kiwi classic that is just about on the second generation! Hairy and his mates are now in board book, paperback, video, live action plays etc and littlies love the rhythm and rhyme of these titles.
  5. The Inkberg Enigma by Jonathon King– a Kiwi graphic novel that is aimed at 8+ readers or anyone that still loves Tintin.

WIP Wednesday #289

Hello everyone! It’s late Wednesday and I’m about to head off to bed… My brain is very very tired. But before I do, here’s my WIP of Mirabilia Princess Elliana, definitely a work in progress with an awful lot of frogging.

This is just tonight, playing with the band above the blue (which is brown in the original). I’m still not sure about the darkest band, but I’ll wait a few days and see… The hair, collar, skin and tassel are as charted.

My second drool piece is a copy of Elisabetta Sforza’s latest. OMG.

I brought my copy of Ricamare il Mare from the most local retailer – A Stitch in Time in Tasmania! I’ll be visiting that shop when we head over to explore.

I’ll need to do a lot more practice and drop some cross stitch projects down the want to work on list. I brought a pattern today for a felt apple, each wedge being an example of a set of stitches, then the finished item becomes not only a visual guide but a practical item too – a pincushion, or with a weighted fill, a paperweight perhaps.

Anyway, have a lovely week. Take care of yourselves, physically and mentally. A challenge for you – keep a 7 day diary, just one sentence of something that makes you happy that day. I’ll share mine next week.

WIP Wednesday #280

Hello lovelies. I’m writing today from my lovely home desk; looking out at the pruned lavender and roses – that was a Sunday job, in the hope more bloom will be out for Christmas Day. I’m watching Bridgerton promos, hoping these turn out at least half as good as the books. At the very least they seem to be educating a few on the Georgian court/clothing/colours. And I’m mildly celebrating the Electoral College confirming Joe Biden as the next POTUS.

There hasn’t been anything exotic this last week, unless you consider only having to cook a couple of nights as exotic! Not only did we eat out twice (once for work do, once with a very dear friend) but the boys decided not to clean up the kitchen. If there isn’t workspace, I don’t cook! No travel, no adventure – I’m needing to hunker down for a bit until Christmas is done. Irrespective of it being our Saviour’s birth, it can be a very stressful time.

Stitching wise I am slowly moving along with both the middle Summer hoop of Hands on Design’s Well Rounded, but I’ve completed the stitching portion of the top side of the Faby Reilly biscornu. There is a LOT of back stitch in my future…

Stay well – stay home, wear a mask, support your local retailers where you can. x

Book Review – The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

From the bestselling author of The Land Girls comes a beautifully realised novel that speaks to the true history and real experiences of post-war Australian women.

Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.

The war is over and so are the jobs (and freedoms) of tens of thousands of Australian women. The armaments factories are making washing machines instead of bullets and war correspondent Tilly Galloway has hung up her uniform and been forced to work on the women’s pages of her newspaper – the only job available to her – where she struggles to write advice on fashion and make up.

As Sydney swells with returning servicemen and the city bustles back to post-war life, Tilly finds her world is anything but normal. As she desperately waits for word of her prisoner-of-war husband, she begins to research stories about the lives of the underpaid and overworked women who live in her own city. Those whose war service has been overlooked; the freedom and independence of their war lives lost to them.

Meanwhile Tilly’s waterside worker father is on strike, and her best friend Mary is struggling to cope with the stranger her own husband has become since liberated from Changi, a broken man. As strikes rip the country apart and the news from abroad causes despair, matters build to a heart-rending crescendo. Tilly realises that for her the war may have ended, but the fight is just beginning…

My thoughts: This book is both quite deep and superficial. Sydney’s last few weeks of the War in the Pacific and the months of anticipation and recovery after form the background, and the lives and thoughts of a few central characters form the main focus. The struggle that women had against the resurgence of the pre-war chauvinistic ideals echoes still now in 2020 as does the difficulty the men have with coming back to the idealistic views of Home that has moved on without them.

I really liked the fact that I’ve spent hours walking around the Sydney that Tilly inhabits and could view her world as I read. The passage about Tilly’s thoughts and feelings when in the ANZAC memorial was amazing.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but she’s one I’ll look for in future.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It’s available on most platforms and in stores from September third.

Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

Synopsis: She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.

Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.

Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

My thoughts: It’s easy to see that this is a first novel (it’s not as well polished as it might be) but for all that, it kept me reading well into the night. I really enjoyed how this played out; from the descriptions of the cast to the woods around Coromandel and the typical sleepy town. I can also see why this won the Ngaio Marsh award for the best first novel in 2018 and I think it will make a great movie (it’s been optioned already). Disclaimer: I purchased this book via Amazon. 3 stars, am going to read more from this author.

Life Update: Here in Auckland we are back in Level Three restrictions. No-one is currently working outside of the home (Bran is sick, and both he & I seem to have succumbed to the seasonal flu, but are waiting on the Covid swab results). I’m working remotely, which is great for me (peace, quiet and a garden view) and supervising both the younger boys at school. And hallelujah, I am starting to read more than the most superficial books and finding that I can concentrate on them!

Friday Recommend

This week, I’d like to suggest a return to simpler times. Let’s go back to an old favourite book or song that brings out the “feel good” vibe that the world really needs.

But life is what novels are about. A novel can contain more truth than a thousand newspaper articles or scientific papers. It can make you imagine, just for a little while, that you’re someone else- and then you understand more about people who are different from you. Lisa Kleypass, Chasing Cassandra.

My all-time favourite author is of course, AA Milne. Gran taught us to read on his poetry and Winnie the Pooh and I can still snuggle down in my imagination in the house on Fantail Grove, Wellington, and hear her read to me.

pooh love

Listening wise, I resurrected my old iPod from about 5 years of captivity. I got it in 2003, so it holds YEARS of listening pleasure, as I made a choice not to delete anything once it was loaded, except audio books and podcasts. There’s Nirvana, and classic Nickleback; Back Street Boys and Westlife; Bon Jovi and The Boss, and tucked away, a recommend from Kirsten, a then new-to-me artist called Kate Voegele.

What will you be reading this weekend?

Friday Review: Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us

Hey everyone! Hope lockdown is going okay, that you’re not going too crazy & that you’re getting contact with your nearest & dearest.

Right now one of my dearest is Libby, Mase’s Hospice counselor. She rang this morning then they had a Zoom session this afternoon. There’s one scheduled for next week & I’m so grateful.Today’s review isn’t a book. It’s Brene’s new podcast. No surprise that I lurve her work. Research plus stories? Yes please! Her first episode isn’t the initial planned, but it’s about FFT. That first F stands for a bad word, but it’s minimally used during the episode and I’m sure you’ll find something to resonate with, especially in this “new normal” (I’m beginning to hate that phrase).

You can listen in your fav app (I use Podcast Addict on android), or online at https://brenebrown.com/unlockingus/

Ep 2 is surprisingly light hearted for the heavy topic. It’s got me hooked. I almost burnt the schnitzel!

Book Review The Fire Blossom (The Fire Blossom Saga Book 1) by Sarah Lark (Author), Kate Northrop (Translator)

fireblossomBLURB: The bestselling author of the Sea of Freedom Trilogy returns with a sweeping family saga of two women in nineteenth-century New Zealand and their epic journey to survive in a world of their own making.

It’s 1837, and immigrating to a small New Zealand fishing village is an opportunity for Ida Lange’s family to build a better future. Yet for Ida, raised in a strict, religious, tight-knit German community, so much is still forbidden to a woman. Yearning for the poor day laborer she shared books with as a child, Ida is now trapped in a dire marriage to a man of her father’s choosing.

For Cat, who came of age in New Zealand under brutal conditions, life in the colonies hasn’t been easy. Through a strange turn of events, she is adopted by a native Maori tribe, and she begins to thrive. But when she challenges the traditions of her tribe, she’s banished, and left once again to rely on the only person she can trust with her future: herself.

When fate brings Ida and Cat together, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit. Out of common ground grows an enduring friendship that will not be broken by the hardships of the plains, threats from the past, or the trials of family and heartache. What they’ll discover is the depth of their own strength and resilience as they get nearer to the freedom they desire and demand. And their journey is just beginning.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the first Sarah Lark I’ve read – it came up on Bookbub one day and I liked the cover (shallow, much?) and the topic, not that I’ve done much reading or research on the founding of my country. However during the course of reading I’d flick over into Google and meander down the rabbit warren that is history and the author was really accurate for the times.

I enjoyed the character growth in the main group; and altho the language was a bit heavy at times it was probably more realistic for that. I am very glad that I don’t have the same day-to-day hassles as Ida, Cat and the other 19th century women!

I can see myself reading more from Lark in the future.

Book Review The Star Giver by Ginger Nielson

BLURB: Deep in the forest where the wind never blows, in a far away cave where the sun never shines, lives a man made of stars and the branches of pines. So begins the legend that answers Little Bear’s question: “Where did the stars come from?”

MASE’S THOUGHTS: I loved this story because it was a story of determination. There was a mother bear and a baby bear and the mother bear went on a quest. Mother went and saw all of the animals and went in some bad conditions like windy rainy and snowy. Eventually when mother finished she tucked baby into sleep.

MUM’S NOTES: we haven’t read a picture book for quite a while but we’ve been looking at myths & legends of different cultures lately. This title popped up in my Kindle Unlimited list (.com.au, so I’m not sure if it’s available in your county); check it out with your little. Or really, just for the gorgeous illustrations. Mase gave it 5 stars.

Book Review The Number of Love (Codebreakers #1) by Roseanna M White

codebreakersBLURB: Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

MY THOUGHTS:  I picked this title up not because it was a romance (altho it is one, and rightly Bookbub classifies it as such) but because of the interest I have in the battle of the brains that went on between Allied and Axis during WWII. From the “lighter” looks at the later code breaking teams such as The Bletchley Circle or The Imitation Game (I’ve watched this twice, despite Kiera Knightley’s acting) to the in-depth studies like The Secrets of Station X by Michael Smith or The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay (this one is super easy to read with lots of background about the people & activities that they did outside of “work”), I devour them all.

While the first title in the Codebreakers series, this title follows on from another. I didn’t know that until the end, and it certainly didn’t jar my reading in any way. The characters are real and have faults; they interact in a way that mirrors other WWI dramas – did you catch that? This title pre-dates the period I’ve been reading. I didn’t know that there was a Room 40 before I read this book – or at least, that little fact didn’t sink in (surprise).

Anyway, I’m off to read more of White’s books. Like, ALL of them. Ciao!