Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bit of a shock to the system, arriving back to sleet and snow when you've been swanning around in 25C plus for most of the last couple of months! Australia's heat (in the 20sC) was not as intense as South Africa's, where I stewed quietly in 34C and higher.

The surprise 75th birthday party in Sydney for my father-in-law was exactly that - he had been asked as a favour to collect food from a caterer for a business meeting and deliver it to a relative who works from home (therefore entirely plausible, especially as the actual birthday was still a few weeks off). Imagine his amazement at finding all of us gathered from far and wide to celebrate with him. The expression on his face made the 23 hour trip over (and 28 hours back!) absolutely worthwhile.

Most of the two weeks were spent with our delightful nieces and nephews - six of them aged between 3 and 10 - on school runs and extracurriculars: jazz dance, ballet, drama, swimming, T ball (baseball), soccer and AFL (Aussie Rules football). Who knew such little people could pack so much into their lives?! I was exhausted, never mind them (although that may have been the jetlag)!

As usual we were the bearers of good reads:
MY HAIRCUT STICKER BOOK by Lauren Child; Lauren Child has a deservedly quirky and entertaining reputation, although she's not suitable for very little children as they may find the action packed formula a little overwhelming. I recommend her for ages 5 and up. This book has great reusable stickers, and stickers for children are always just fabulous.

JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE by Jackie French; this is new to me, but we stumbled across it in Australia - a delightful story about an enthusiastic kangaroo who wants to dance, persevering despite all attempts to curb her.

A BEAR CALLED PADDINGTON by Michael Bond; I lived near Lancaster Gate ten years ago, and that whole area of London with Paddington Station and the Portobello Road antique shops are the stomping grounds of this very loveable bear. Paddington Station has since been refurbished, but at the time there was a giant Paddington Bear soft toy in the Lost Property Office, which you could see from the platform - I hope it is still there. We had a tape recording of Paddington Bear stories when I was a child, and I've never forgotton the horror of the maitre'd when in a posh restaurant Paddington places his order: "A marmalade sandwich for the young bear gentleman, with custard."

GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM by Michelle Magorian; I have waxed lyrical about this one before so won't say more except that it is one of the finest children's books ever written and I give it to just about everyone I know over the age of ten.

THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE by Enid Blyton; sigh - not exactly great literature, but it is fun, escapist and good for children who don't read much, or easily, to themselves.

WHERE'S JAMELA? by Niki Daly; Niki Daly is one of my favourite authors and illustrators of children's picture books. A very talented artist, he is also a superb storyteller, and the combination is fantastic. He has a great series of books following the adventures of a little girl called Jamela living in Cape Town. This particular title is the third in the series and looks at the anxieties faced by children moving house. I recommend without reservation all of this series. If they are new to you, start with the first, JAMELA'S DRESS, in which all the regular characters are introduced. Ages three upwards. If your local bookstore doesn't carry them, amazon does.



Anonymous Ann said...

There's some lovely stuff here, Equiano. Australia is producing some magnificant children's literature at the moment, especially in the field of teenage fantasy and picture books. Real world leaders.

10:40 am  
Blogger emasl said...

Goodnight Mr Tom is a simply wonderful children's book which can be read by adults too. The copy sitting on my shelf at the moment is the one that belonged to my two daughters and is some 20 years old and falling apart. It is one of the best loved books of their childhood and my adulthood and I have read it countless times. The TV version with John Thaw as Mr Tom managed to capture most of the book's magic which was pretty good going on the whole.

4:41 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Ann, I've yet to explore their teen writers, although if you have any to suggest to start, that would be great! :)

Elaine, I loved the TV version too, although my husband can't bear to watch it because he says John Thaw's accent is so bad! I'm afraid I didn't notice, and don't really care, as I think his acting is great!

8:11 am  
Anonymous Ann said...

Their best writer's are working in the fantasy genre. Try Garth Nix's 'Sabriel' or Alison Croggon's 'The Gift'. They're both the beginning of a series. The Nix is complete, the Croggon still underway.

8:38 am  
Blogger equiano said...

Thanks, Ann. Ashamed to say don't know the Croggon, so will have to rectify that. I keep meaning to read Nix and just haven't got around to it yet - I had no idea he was Australian.

8:39 am  

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