Sunday, 14 December 2014

Pig the Pug

Little kids aren't very good at sharing. And neither are fat little pugs called Pig.

Pig won't share his toys with sweet little Trevor the sausage dog.

Of course Pig learns his lesson in a very fun way.

Pig the Pug is the most recent wonderful picture book from the considerable talents of Aaron Blabey. He has written many quirky and original picture books. One of Aaron's other recent books The Brothers Quibble has been selected for next years National Simultaneous Storytime to be held on May 27 2015.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Popping Down to the Shops - Coop Zurich

Wandering Zurich on our first afternoon we found The Coop- which was an incredible international supermarket experience.

We saw these guys everywhere.
I'm not really sure what they are.

I was not expecting a self service fried food bar
in the supermarket

There was chocolate everywhere in Switzerland.

Walls of it
Much of it was Lindt. 

Pretty boxes of it. 

You can pick your own
Sadly it seems I don't like Marc de Champagne

 They have tie dyed eggs!

The coloured eggs are cooked, ready to eat for picnics!

Hmm, um. No thanks. 

Tempting, but no room in the suitcase. 

Even Swiss pegs are cool. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius is a famous book. Released in 1982 it won the 1983 American Book Award for Children's Books (sharing the award with William Stieg's Doctor De Soto). It has enjoyed an ongoing popularity, and love. It is still in print. Miss Rumphius placed 13th in the SLJ Top 100 Picture Books 2012. And yet I still didn't manage to hear of it until much more recently in Buzzfeed's list of 37 Children's Books that Changed Your Life. I'd read or heard of pretty much all of the other books and authors. I'd never heard of Miss Rumphius or Barbara Cooney. Online I went, and pretty soon Miss Rumphius was landing at my door, which is quite apt as it turns out.

Miss Rumphius is a gorgeous book and tells the story of Miss Alice Rumphius, an old, old lady when we first meet her. Of course she hasn't always been old, and she has lived a wonderful life. Growing up with her grandfather she painted the sky in his paintings and sits on his knee each night to hear his stories of faraway places. Soon Alice is making her own plans.

"When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea."
But Alice's grandfather is wise and tells her that

"You must do something to make the world more beautiful,"

An admirable aim. You don't need to wait to make your life more beautiful- grab a copy of Miss Rumphius and make it more beautiful now. And maybe we all should plant some lupins too. 

I think Miss Rumphius has been to the
South Island of New Zealand...

Monday, 1 December 2014

My Old Lady

I hadn't heard of My Old Lady before I saw a print ad in the newspaper. I saw it merely as a new Maggie Smith movie. She's made several lovely films in the past few years including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet. So, I thought it might be nice to go along. Then Mr Wicker told me it was set in Paris. Naturally, I went along ASAP.

And naturally, Paris doesn't disappoint. Filmed completely on site in Paris, I thought My Old Lady was better as Paris porn than as a movie really. If I wasn't quite so obsessed with reading every street sign and working out if I'd been in that particular park/cafe/street then I might not have enjoyed it quite so much.

Kevin Kline plays Jim Gold, a somewhat hapless thrice married, thrice divorced New Yorker who is left an apartment in Paris in his father's will. And don't we all want that to happen? There is a catch however, the French have a particularly arcane form of sale, called a viager, where you can buy a property for a reduced price, and the former owner will continue to reside in the property for the rest of their life, while the new owner makes ongoing payments to the former owner. No, I hadn't heard of it before this either. Naturally, Jim Gold arrives wanting to sell the apartment immediately, and obviously the occupants aren't that keen. Of course, Maggie Smith, plays the elderly tennant, and the delightful Kristin Scott Thomas is her daughter, Chloe.

Rather unusually they gave quite a specific address as the location of the apartment in question, 13, Rue de Payenne 75003. Which was rather exciting as it was very near where we stayed in Paris last month, and I spent many pleasurable hours wandering about the general area. Paris has famously beautiful doors, and if you leave them open even briefly someone with a camera and a blog will stickybeak. The location has a fascinating history. I do wonder if the work being done was filming?

Actually if you watch the trailer
you really don't need to see the film

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Black and White Photo Challenge

Recently Brona's Books challenged me to do a Black and White Photo Challenge on Facebook. I had to post one black and white photo a day for seven days. It was great fun. I enjoyed selecting the photos and thinking about which of my (thousands of) photos from my recent trip to Europe I would use.

White swans bedding down for the night
on the Limmat River, Zurich
Tour St Jacques
we climbed it last year
Seeing it brings happy memories

The ballroom of the Opera Garner
one of my very favourite places in Paris
It's a must do.
Better than Versailles. Cheaper. Less crowded.
Place St Michel
We stayed a few metres from here for a week

I finally got to climb Notre Dame this trip
Being up there amongst the gargoyles
(and chimera)
was amazing

The doors of Paris are incredible
Rue de Vieille Temple 75004
The Eiffel Tower of course
on a foggy October night.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog 

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Lost & Found

Like many Australians I first heard of Brooke Davis when she appeared on Australian Story earlier this year. It was such a poignant and moving episode about a young woman trying to come to terms with the sudden death of her mother in a rather senseless accident. Her first book Lost & Found seems to have come out of this grieving process, it is a trip through love and loss, through family, disillusionment, grief and hope. 

There was quite a bit of hype about the book midyear, I came to see it everywhere,  and became very keen to read it. I bought a copy for a friend and gave it away. Still I wanted to read it. I knew that my trip to Europe was coming up and thought it would make an excellent book to read on the plane. Then an opportunity to meet Brooke at a signing came up, and I knew I'd buy it, and knew I'd read it on the plane. 

I thought I'd read it on the plane going over, but evening/night flights are better for staring at screens, so I ended up reading it travelling from Zurich to Singapore in that perpetual fake night of the daytime flight.

Around about the time I discovered that they serve Cointreau in Economy.

It almost compensates for the lack of bubbly. Almost.
Lost & Found was the perfect companion for that long, long flight. I was entranced from the first paragraph. Lost & Found is the story of three unlikely friends- 7 year old Millie Bird, 87 year old Karl the Touch Typist and 82 year old Agatha Pantha. All have been abandoned. Millie's father has died and her mother leaves her in the womens underwear section of the local department store. Karl is widowed and he escapes from the nursing home his son has left him in. Agatha Pantha is also widowed, she hasn't left the house in seven years, and passes judgement on everyone who walks past her Chair of Discernment. 

Millie has charming, magical thinking.

What if everything could fly? she whispers to her gumboots, watching the fly bounce from leaf to leaf. Your dinner could fly into your mouth and the sky could be covered with trees and the streets might switch places, though some people would get seasick and planes wouldn't be that special anymore. 

And she uses the Quirky Capitals of Emphasis. I do Love Those. It is all rather preoccupied with death, but it never becomes too much. Brooke Davis' light touch makes sure of that. Whether writing about the rituals of death.

When her husband died, neighbours suddenly dropped by unannounced, appearing on her doorstep from behind huge, hulking casseroles full of dead animals, and pity. Their children carried slabs of coconut ice and looked put out. 

Or nursing homes.

It was still light outside when Karl walked down the hallway to the dining hall for dinner. The clock on the wall said 4.30 pm, and as a plate full of unidentifiable foodstuffs was pushed in front of him, Karl though, So this is it. He sat on a long table, like the sort he'd seen in movies about prison. 

It is quirky, beautiful writing. Lyrical and descriptive. Our three main characters are memorable and eccentric. If 7 year olds can be eccentric. The plot got a little towards farce for my liking at one stage, but that didn't put me off overall. Perhaps it was the Cointreau. I don't normally drink and read. Is Lost & Found perhaps this years The Rosie ProjectQuite possibly. It certainly is another quirky, original, must-read debut Aussie novel. 

You can hear Brooke Davis interviewed about Lost & Found on Books and Arts Daily, and of course I love that Roald Dahl inspired Brooke to write in the first place, and that she holds Matilda as a masterpiece.

Lost & Found will be published in 25 countries and translated into 20 languages next year.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Bridge

The Wicker family have just finished watching the original Danish/Swedish drama series The Bridge. I didn't know all that much about it before we started. The boys had watched it while I was away in Europe, and wanted to join in watching it with me on my return. I'm glad they did. It's 10 hours well spent, and nice to watch something as a family. The extraordinary success of The Bridge has been much copied- there has been an English/French The Tunnel, and American/Mexican The Bridge.

I don't get to watch all that much TV these days but do enjoy the occasional whodunnit, but without all the slick and gloss of CSI or NCIS. The Bridge is a perfect gritty crime drama. Be warned it's not for the faint hearted at times.

A body is found on the amazing Oresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Malmo in Sweden. Police from both Denmark and Sweden investigate the case, and so we have the intriguing Saga Noren from Malmo working alongside Martin Rohde from Copenhagen. As a non-Scandinavian viewer I'm sure we miss many of the nuances- it isn't always obvious if they're in Malmo or in Copenhagen, and the two languages sound rather similar to our ears. The subtitles force active engagement from all in the room- no watching tv while using iPad or laptop at the same time.

The Bridge was written as a tv show by Hans Rosenfeldt in 2006 when he was given the mission of creating a thriller set equally in Sweden and Denmark. It's a fascinating glimpse to a part of the world I've never been. The Bridge is possibly not the best tourist advertisement for Copenhagen (there's no Princess Mary, no palaces, no blue sky), or Malmo (not even a hint of a Eurovision final), but you can now do a Bridge tour in Copenhagen. Perhaps one day, if I can ever stop going to Paris, maybe I'll go to Copenhagen and cross the bridge to Malmo.