Sunday, 23 October 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon the First

I've never participated in a Dewey's Readathon before. I've wanted to ever since I heard about it, but life has always conspired against me. Time zones make it rather difficult for we Aussies. The orderly 8am New York kick off translates to 11pm Sydney time. Not a great time to start anything, except perhaps a night cap...

This weekend it's me time though. 

Anyway I'm late starting, dipping in in Hour 2. I've had a super busy week, and didn't get time to prepare anything even though I had vague notions of doing that. Tonight I had to work until hour 2 as well. So a little bit of catching up is in order. 

Opening Meme

What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm reading from country NSW, Australia. 

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I didn't have vast amounts (i.e. any) time to organise my stack this week, although I did think about it a little so I'm not quite sure. Maybe Tea Time in Paris. 

What snack are you most looking forward to?

I have grossly overlooked the snack department. Will have to organise something tomorrow.

Tell us a little about yourself!

This is my first time participating, and while I'm excited to join in I don't quite understand the process. I'm about to go and organise my stack, which I will photograph in the morning when I have some light.

I'm excited that Brona has organised #TeamOz, I'm looking forward to meeting the other team members. 



Hour One 11pm
At work :-(

Hour Two Midnight
Just home from work, getting organised, and making a stack.

Hour Three 1am
Meeting my #TeamOZ teammates and maybe even starting to read!

Hours Four to Ten 2am to 8am
Pretty much sleeping. I read one book before falling asleep
The Red Balloon -A. Lamorisse

Hours Ten -Twelve 8am - 11am
Getting into it. But then reading and dozing. Four more books. Yes I've read five picture books in twelve hours! Let's hope for better progress this afternoon. 
Meet ..... Mary MacKillop - Sally Murphy, Sonia Martinez (illustrator)
Surf's Wall - Lucy Estela, Matt Ottley (illustrator)
The Big Question - Leen Van Den Berg, Kaatje Vermeire (illustrator), David Colmer (translator)
Dirt on My Shirt - Jeff Foxworthy

Hours Twelve - Fifteen 11am- 2pm
Still dragging the chain somewhat, but some small progress. 
My Mother's Eyes - Mark Wilson
25 pages of The Borrowers - Mary Norton

And I finally photographed my hastily put together stack of possibilities. Of course there are many more possibilities and there is no chance that I will finish this stack.

Hours Fifteen -Twenty 2pm- 7pm
A bit of real life activity and more reading.
75 pages of The Borrowers - Mary Norton which I've now finished.

And a nice leisurely reading of the Sunday supplements- something I enjoy but don't always manage, and rarely on the day. 

Hours Twenty - Twenty Four 7pm - 11pm
Real life intervened again. But I did read
50 pages of Charlie and the War against the Grannies - Alan Brough

I've really enjoyed my first Readathon, even if I was woefully underprepared, and didn't get all that much read. At least I got to participate this time- and represent Australia in #TeamOZ! I hope to participate next time too, and will work on being much more prepared. Thanks to the Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon folks

7 Books finished. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

The President's Hat

A break away is a lovely chance to read a book you've been meaning to read for ages and just haven't got to. On my recent trip to the South Coast I took a rather large bag chock full of enticing reads so I could have some choice of reading material when I got there. Of course there is always the hope that you will read lots of books and so need lots of reading material. I only managed to finish one book while I was away, but somehow this most Parisian of stories was perfect for my beachy retreat. I'd seen lots about Laurain's third and most recent book around of late (French Rhapsody), and this shamed me enough to seek out his first.

Hat wearing Parisian Antoine Laurain lost his hat in a cafe one time, and that loss formed the kernel of The President's Hat. French President Francois Mitterrand famously wore a Fedora. He was President of France in the early 80s, and our story is firmly set in this time with multiple music and popular culture references like the seemingly inexplicable Caroline Loeb's C'est la Ouate.

The President's Hat starts with President Mitterrand out to dinner in a stylish Parisian bistro. Sitting at the next table is a rather humble accountant, Daniel Mercier who is treating himself while his wife and son are out of town visiting family. At the end of the evening President Mitterrand accidentally leaves his hat behind at the restaurant. Daniel notices, and decides against trying to return it and instead walks out of the restaurant with Mitterrand's fedora on his own head.

Mitterrand's fedora becomes a talisman for change, Daniel's life is transformed by his contact with the hat, and when he himself misplaces the hat he is beside himself. But while the hat doesn't have nine lives like a cat it does go on to change the lives of other people who also find the hat.

Perhaps, when all was said and done, it was just as easy to leave someone's life as enter it. A stroke of fate and a few words could be enough to start a relationship. A stroke of fate and a few words could end it too. 

There are many delightful French touches. A fair amount of Champagne is drunk. There are lots of familiar Paris locations. Daniel Mercier is greatly disappointed that his six year old son doesn't want to try oysters.

When they got up to their sixteenth-floor apartment in the fifteenth arrondissement, Daniel announced that he'd made supper. Cold meat, chicken, tomato and basil salad, and cheese. Véronique was impressed- her husband rarely made dinner. First they had an aperitif.

I love how the book design incorporates its own bookmark into the back cover! I've never seen that before. Although I couldn't bring myself to use it... 

While it will never win the (recently announced) Nobel Prize for Literature or anything (and who would have predicted that Bob Dylan would?), I did very much enjoy my time with The President's Hat. Perhaps one day I'll be able to reread it as Le Chapeau de Mitterrand? Meanwhile, Mitterrand is in the news again (despite being long dead).

There were many interesting tidbits along the way. The Paris lover in me was fascinated to learn how much of modern day Paris owes to Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand's Grands Travaux is responsible for many of the highlights of modern Paris. Louvre Pyramid, Musee d'Orsay, the Grand Arche de la Defense amongst them. Similarly I'd never heard of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, sadly now a lifelong member of the 27 Club.  Although the notion of French kiddies of the 80s watching Knight Rider makes me so sad, and the reggae version of La Marseillaise even sadder. Not surprisingly it was rather controversial when it was released in  1979.

If you're lucky enough to be in Paris you can check out Antoine Laurain's Best Eats in Paris.

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  
French Bingo 2016

Saturday, 8 October 2016

South Coast Panoramas

This past week I enjoyed a fabulous short break on the NSW South Coast which is not an area I'd really been to before. I'd driven through some of it, but decades ago, and never really stayed. It's such a beautiful area and now I know I'll go back. 

Click on the images to take advantage of full size viewing. 

The view over Kiama from Saddleback Mountain Lookout

Seven Mile Beach

The whitest sand in the world!
Hyam's Beach

I spent a gorgeous few hours reading with this view
while Master Wicker spent a long time in the many rock pools 
Up early for dawn at Hyam's Beach
Dolphin Point
Pebbly Beach
famous for it's beach loving kangaroos
The weather turned as we drove through Braidwood
and we would arrive in Canberra in a maelstrom
Canola in full bloom near Boorowa
All the recent flooding rains
 have left a green dividend
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Thursday, 6 October 2016

List Challenge's Banned Children's Book List

Oh I just love this list! It's perfect for Banned Books Week which has just finished. And competitive reader me loved that with my score of 25/60 I came 171st of 956 readers when I took the quiz last week. I wish it was more, I have come perilously close to reading more of these books. Quite a few are sitting waiting, unread, in my house. 

Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White

Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz

In the Night Kitchen - Maurice Sendak

The Great Gilly Hopkins - Katherine Paterson

Olive's Ocean - Kevin Henkes

Julie of the Wolves - Jean Craighead George

Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh (see my review)

The Diary of a Young Girl  - Anne Frank (see my review)

A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein

Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume (see my review)

My Brother Sam is Dead - James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier (see my review)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 - Christopher Paul Curtis

James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl (see my review)

The Witches - Roald Dahl (see my review)

If I Ran the Zoo - Dr Seuss

Where's Waldo/Wally - Martin Handford

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (see my review)

The Giver - Lois Lowry (see my review)

The Adventures of Captain Underpants - Dav Pilkey

Heather Has Two Mommies - Leslea Newman, Diana Souza (illustrator)

And Tango Makes Three - Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson (see my review)

Junie B. Jones - Barbara Park

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerers Stone - J.K. Rowling

Bone - Jeff Smith

Goosebumps - R.L. Stine

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Mildred Taylor (see my review)

Drama - Raina Telgemeier (see my review)

Dragonwings - Laurence Yep

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging - Louise Rennison

The Rabbit's Wedding - Garth Williams

Shooter - Walter Dean Myers

The Fighting Ground - Avi

Shade's Children - Garth Nix

The Upstairs Room - Johnna Reiss

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie (see my review)

Go Ask Alice - Anonymous

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (see my review)

Looking for Alaska - John Green

Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (see my review)

Gossip Girl - Cecily von Ziegesar

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld

Ttyl - Lauren Myracle

The Earth, My Butt and Other BIG Round Things - Carolyn Mackler

Fallen Angels - Walter Dean Myers

The Face on the Milk Carton - Caroline B. Cooney

Forever ..... - Judy Blume

Draw Me a Star - Eric Carle


This list has the requisite books I've already read, books I want to read, and books I've never heard of (quite a few actually). I should go read one just to annoy some book banner types.

Monday, 3 October 2016


I was really surprised how much I enjoyed this recent 4 part ABC series based on Christos Tsiolkas's book of the same name. Stories about competitive swimming, or any sport actually, aren't usually my thing, and so I'd avoided the book when I probably should have trusted Christos more, he's an excellent story teller and an astute observer of society and character. I've only read one of Christos' books previously- probably his most famous book, The Slap, (read my review). I didn't manage to get through watching the miniseries of that one though, my interest petered out, and I just stopped.

Not so with Barracuda- it is fabulous viewing. I was literally on the edge of my seat at times.  It has it all really. Class, family, teenage emotions, sport, competition.  Barracuda is the story of Danny Kelly, a young boy from a working class family in Northern Melbourne. Danny is plucked from obscurity and the Coburg Pool by the swimming coach at an exclusive private school, and his life is changed forever.

Set in the 1990s in the hey day of Kieren Perkins and Daniel Kowalski (even I know who they are), it was fun watching people use CDs and non cordless phones. But it's the story that is the real star here. It's gripping and full of emotion. 

My library has an e-audiobook of Barracuda available, and if I can ever work out how to use that service I think I'd like to listen to it now. Wow, it's 30 hours! Well 29h 59m, perhaps I'm slightly exaggerating. And somehow an e-audiobook can be "on loan" and not available until a certain date. Curiouser and curiouser.

I enjoyed this fascinating RN interview with Christos Tsiolkas about Barracuda. Christos tells us that after the huge success of The Slap that he thought a lot about success and failure, and how success in sports is quantifiable, whereas success in the arts may not be readily quantifiable. He thought that Barracuda was about "how to be a good man", and forgiveness. Which is interesting, I didn't quite get that from the TV series, but then a 4 hour miniseries is never going to cover as much as a book where the audio version extends to 30 hours. I think I'm going to have to listen. 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Making the Australian Quilt: 1800-1950

I wasn't expecting to see this exhibition on my recent trip to Melbourne, indeed I had never even heard of it. But I was meeting up with my friend Resident Judge and she was keen to see it, and I was glad to join her. 

I learnt so much about the history of quilts, clearly something I'd never even considered before. I learnt that there are quilt collectors! Which makes amassing books seem rather tame. The exhibition was in some way about much more than quilts and quilting it was social history of sorts, and also a fashion history clearly showing the evolution over the fabrics over time.

The story of the Australian quilt from 1800 to 1950 can be divided into two broad phases. The first, from the early to mid 1800s, saw Australian quilters reference and adapt well-established British quilting traditions. The second phase, from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s, saw Australian symbols used to affirm and commemorate a sense of home, demonstrating a growing pride and patriotism in the young nation. 

Quilt (Broderie Perse) - detail
Glazed cotton and linen
Jane Judd, early 19th century

Like their counterparts elsewhere, the overwhelming majority of Australian quilt makers have been women. With firm origins in the domestic spare, the story of the Australian quilt is one of women's technical accomplishment and resourcefulness and reflects the significance of their creativity within broader historical and social contexts.

Miniature Hexagons Quilt
Prudence Jeffrey, 1857
Made en route to Australia June-November 1857

I found this quilt rather fascinating- displayed to show the unfinished back. 

Many early quilts made in Australia or brought to Australia from Britain were constructed using the English paper piecing method. This involved the hand-sewing of fabric pieces around paper shapes that have been carefully cut to the exact size required, with the fabric pieces then handsewn together. Hexagons and diamonds are the most usual shapes used, although squares, triangles and octagons are also found. In the nineteenth century paper was a valued resource and shapes were often made from recycled sources, such as newspapers, letters and school children's copperplate handwriting drills. Sometimes the paper shapes were removed and the quilts lined, but other examples survive with the templates intact. 

It was astonishing to me how 19th century manchester could generally survive in such excellent condition, and look so modern. 

Rhomboid Quilt c 1860
Unknown, Australia

I loved this amazing dress, it's so incredible that objects like this have survived 150 years. Made from 31 pieces of custom printed silk satin using printing plates from 14 different Melbourne newspapers.

The Press Dress 1866
Made by Mrs William W. Hobbs
for Mrs Butters to wear to the
Mayor's Fancy Dress Ball in September 1866

I learnt that you can make quilts, or table cloths, out of anything, including cigar ribbons. (Annie Percival collected cigar ribbons from her father's four pubs in Broken Hill).

Patchwork Table Cover c 1903
Annie Percival
Or possum skins. (A method adapted from Aboriginal tradition)

Possum Skin Rug
Unknown, late 19th/early 20th century

And that you can turn quilts into anything. 

Bag c 1890
Unknown, Australia

Dressing Gown 1935
Annie Ellis

This quilt was one of the few made by men. Made by an Australian POW in a German camp during WWII, this extraordinary piece was made with "pieces of wool and cotton taken from discarded garments in the camp, and used needles fashioned from the frames of eyeglasses, ground-down toothbrushes and other items." It took him 2 1/2 years to complete. 

Embroidered blanket 1941-45
Corporal Clifford Gatenby

I also learnt that Wagga isn't just a town but a quilting style. 

This term was used from the 1890s onwards to refer to quilts, blankets and bed coverings constructed from found materials, such as grain bags and flour sacks. 

Wagga 1930s
Agnes Isabella Fraser
This uniquely Australian interpretation of the quilt is associated with rural workmen and households experiencing poverty and hardship, and reflects the adaptive nature of quilt making across socioeconomic boundaries. 

This WWII era quilt is one of my favourites I think. It is backed in blackout fabric. It looks modern I think. 

Hexagon Quilt c 1942-44
Elizabeth Mary Evans

NGV Australia, Level 3
22 July 2016 - 6 Nov 2016

Christopher Allen's review Stitches in Time at the Australian

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

4 Children's Books That You Need to Re-Read As Adults

I'm rather surprised that this list is only four books long. Although it certainly gives me a fair chance of actually finishing it I suppose.

Many, many kids books hold up to rereading as an adult, and I generally agree with the inclusion of Dahl on any list. But this list is somewhat flawed. As far as I can tell The Heart and the Bottle, which I imagine is perfection, like all of Oliver Jeffers' work did only come out in 2010, so there aren't that many adults who would need to re-read it after they read it when they were a kid back in 2010.

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Heart and the Bottle - Oliver Jeffers

Matilda - Roald Dahl

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood - Marjane Satrapi


I've read The Little Prince a few times now, and well, I'm sorry to say, French icon and all that it is- I just don't get it.