Too busy writing to write

I’ve been trying, for the first time in a long, long while to write something that is a little less on the technical side.  That’s right, I’m working on a story.

So I’ll apologise in advance for not sharing very much for a couple of days, while I shift my focus to just a little left of centre and see if I can’t get a story that’s half-decent out and about in the world.

But before I launch head-long into this crazy little experiment, I want to share just one little discovery I’ve made today.

Have you ever wondered why you keep all those old books from school or university?  Now that we have that interweb-thingy do we really need flesh-and-blood, hard-copy tomes on art history, lost animal species or Medieval Europe?  Well, today I helped my son do his homework, and guess what?  He used them.  He picked up my Handbook of Art, and he flicked to the index. He searched (not Googled) for facts on the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, on Michelangelo. He found the page, he worked through the information and he sited the book. He was, simply put, a little bit astonished and a little bit thrilled.

This has made me happy.  Very.


Hoot hoot

For the last month, every time the boys and I have walked past the video shop Oscar has hooted…

He’s been very keen to see Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’Hoole. He seems to be quite fascinated by owls at the moment so this week,  needing an afternoon to get some work done (sorry, can I admit that?) I picked up a copy for him.  I hired it (old-school) as I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted this one permanently in the collection, not being quite sure if it could bear repeated viewing or not.

First thing to be said, it’s a beautiful looking film.  The animation is skillful and the owls make wonderful subjects.  It was really nice to see a film featuring Australian wildlife, without it being too cheesy.  In fact, the Tasmanian Devil at the beginning of the film is quite frightening, it made Oscar jump in his seat, which in turn made me laugh a little bit.

The characters were voiced by a plethora of Australian talent (must have been a slow month in the Australian film industry).  The old favourites – Sam Neil, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, and Barry Otto made listening to this film entertaining in its own right.  The casting of Abbie Cornish, Joel Edgerton, Ryan Kwanten, David Wenham and Angus Sampson added some new blood to the blue blood, and lightened the mood a little.

So, the kid-verdict… Oscar, who is three, lost interest a bit during the first watch, although he did come back to it on subsequent viewings. He asked to watch it again (and again, and again) and I’m taking that as a sign that he enjoyed it. Evan, my ten year old really seemed to enjoy the film too, which I wasn’t so much expecting.  In saying that, he wasn’t all that interested in watching it over again so the appeal was a little limited for him.

As for myself, I’m a little unsure about it. Maybe I should have sat down and paid more attention, but I’ve got to admit that I struggled to keep track of which owl was which. Maybe I’m getting a little dopey in my old age, but the characters did seem to get a bit mixed up at times.

So, I’d say that this film is visually impressive and a pretty great story for the kids. It’s maybe just a little bit earnest for it’s own good, but overall it’s well worth a weekend watch.  It might give you a couple of hours off kid-wrangling to read a book or have a nanna-nap?

I’m kind of sorry I didn’t get to see this in 3D, I’d think it would have been quite a visual treat.  Did anyone see this at the movies in 3D?  What did you think?

A different kind of twilight

Sometimes I get struck by just how nice life can be.  Friday night was one of those times, an evening when I was able to thoroughly enjoy watching the kids have a ball, pick up a few treats for myself, and have a couple of drinks with friends.

Hampton Primary School held their Twilight Carnival on Friday. Being the first time in many years that the school has run a fete, we were all waiting with bated breath to see how it would come together. In short, the result was spectacular. It was a fab event that’ll be talked about for a long time to come – plenty of fun for the kids, yummy food and shopping treats, and great entertainment. The dedicated group who organised all and sundry should be loudly congratulated and many thanks sent to the school for supporting it.

I got my hands on a few really lovely things worth bragging about.

Needless to say, I couldn’t stay away from the second-hand books. I found a few really lovely kids books which Oscar has already officially approved. I picked up  a couple of pulpy novels for myself too, but by far the highlight was this little find, a really great copy of The Misfits, by Arthur Miller, in Penguin orange no less. I’m quite smitten.

I was also quite taken with another little find, of all things, swap cards…

Swapstar have a really lovely new take on the classic swap card collections.  Locally and lovingly designed, I was particularly taken by this owl set and I couldn’t resist the silhouettes set as well. Now I just have to decide what I want to do with them. Swapstar sell albums, but I’m thinking the cards might be able to be up and out somewhere.  I’ll put my mind to it and let you know what I end up doing.

The constant crowd was well entertained throughout the evening.  The Ulumbra Stage was put to good use –  the school choir was a nice way to start the program, and the duo performances, jazz and otherwise set a lovely tone.  A school favourite, Clinton Bowditch and friends concluded the evening’s entertainment with a handful of tunes.  We were really lucky to have special guest, Clare Bowditch join Clinton and co. for a couple of songs…a really fine way to top off the event.

After a few tunes, I joined my friends in the beer garden…a very popular spot on a balmy Friday. In the end, I’m pretty sure the only reason that we went home was that the mosquitos started to bite.  That, and the fact that it got a bit harder to keep track of the kids in the dark…

So we packed up our books and our chutney, our swap cards and our cupcakes and we went home to look forward to the next carnival.  Well done to all, what a job well done.


Oodlies of fun.

Despite it being a little on the wet side, and the plumbing in my house sounding like Linda Blair, I managed to run a few errands yesterday. The most exciting of these errands was a quick stop at the picture-framing place to pick up my newly framed print.

The print, Josie and the Electric Cats, was a gift from my friend Fiona. It’s part of the Electric Orange Series by Joi Murugavell and it’s going to look great above my desk.

It is whimsical and it’s enticing in its repetitions and controlled use of colour.

As a gift, it’s intended to inspire, and I’ll remember that when I look at it. It’ll be a bit of a touchstone, and perhaps at times a little pictorial kick in the bum to just get on with it.

If you like the look of this work, I’d suggest checking out the rest of the collection. I particularly like Duchamp’s Hole Boy.

An update on my homework…

The other errand that I ticked off yesterday was a quick trip to the library and I got my hands on a couple more books that I want to have a look at before next week. I must say, before I go on, that I am usually very much a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl.  I take my time getting through a book, and I usually try and finish one before moving on to another. In saying this, I am at the moment trying to mix it up a bit (in a bookish kind of way) plus I’m keen to have had a look at some titles by Hartnett, Birmingham and Mem Fox.

So, I spent the evening reading He Died with a Falafel in His Hand, by John Birmingham.  Laughing out loud, and feeling just a little bit old as Birmingham so roughly and poignantly describes student life in the 1990s.  I’ve got a copy of After America, also by Birmingham to take a look at today.

Got a way into Hartnett’s Of a Boy on Friday.  Interesting story, not quite so sold on the writing itself…but I’ll come back to that when I’ve finished the book. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Lastly, selected three Mem Fox books for Oscar and I and the one I chose to read tonight was quite a hit, Hello Baby went down a treat.

So, busy busy, better not forget to use my reading glasses or my head’ll be sore…

You just don’t get it Mum!

Last day of school holidays, and Evan (my ten year old) is a little on the sad side. And who can blame him…late nights, Playstation, sleep-overs and plenty of time lounging around reading.  So, to ease the pain, we made a little stop at Kidna Books to buy a couple of new books for the last week of the break.

Now, these titles have most certainly not been written for my demographic – these are definitely pre-teen reading, and I think I can be forgiven for not quite getting what Captain Underpants is really all about.  So, I’ll let Evan describe them himself…

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilet, by Dav Pilkey

“This is the second book in a series of stories about two boys who create a comic book about a hero called ‘Captain Underpants’ and accidentally hypnotise their Principal into thinking he is Captain Underpants.

In this book, George and Harold get detention for mucking up the entries in the the all important Inventions Contest. During detention they make a new Captain Underpants comic, put it in one of the new inventions (a new type of scanner-copier type thing) and from there the story takes off.

I think this book is very funny and creative.  It is a story like no other, as Captain Underpants is one of a kind!”

And from undies to zombies…

Zombieson’s Time Machine, by Knife and Packer

“This story is about a very freaky street, with four crazy families…the Humansons, the Wizardsons, the Aliensons, and of course the Zombiesons.

The Zombiesons are looking after King Tut’s treasured cat.  Trouble starts when the Zombiesons’ pet Zobbla (their three-headed dog) bites the sacred cats’ tale and gets zapped a thousand years into the past, to ancient Egypt.  The Zombiesons need to try and get their pet dog back from the evil Pharaoh Gruesomekamun.

I think this book is a great read and it’s very colourful and the pictures are really funny.”

It would seem that they’re a pretty quick read, but suitable for re-reading.  I tend to judge how good a book is based on how hard it is to get Evan’s attention while he’s got his head in it – these are both a ‘three repeat’ title (i.e. Evan, hey Evan, EVAN!)

Seems like a pretty good way to finish off the break.  Thanks for the reviews Ev.

Grown-up reading…

As well as continuing to read Murakami, I’ve set myself a little homework before next week’s Gala.  I’m hoping tonight to take a look at Sonya Hartnett’s Of A Boy before I hear her speak next week. I heard her talk about this book at the Popular Penguins Launch a couple of years ago and have been meaning to get to it ever since – I think now’s the time to at least have a quick look-see.

Has anyone read any of Sonya’s stuff?  Which titles would you recommend?


Reading about bears

I spent some time today reading with Oscar, my 3 year old son.  Being a child who knows his own mind, he chose the books from his very eclectic collection of books. We started off by reading one of those movie picture books, horribly abridged and terribly written.  It struck me how hard it was to read out loud, it had no rhythm. It also had horrible big gaps in storyline, particularly obvious if you’ve seen the film a few times (which as it happens, I have…more than a few, try hundreds).  The illustrations grabbed Oscar’s attention, because they’re so familiar, but that was pretty much the extent of its appeal.

What it did do though, was illustrate really well how delightful a well written kids book can be.  The second book chosen for story-time was The Bear’s Lunch, by Pamela Allen.  I love Allen’s work, and both the kids have always been pretty keen on them, and now I understand better why.

It was easy to read, a lot like a poem.  I’d even go so far as to say it was a pleasure to read out loud, almost soothing.  Oscar stopped wiggling (which is rare), and he stopped trying to turn the pages more quickly than I could read – because he was interested, but also because there was just enough going on on each page to hold his attention.

The story itself is really short, very few words and at times quite reliant on illustrations.  I particularly liked the fact that a couple of pages in when the kids get settled for their lunch, you can just see a small black bear in the background – nice tension builder, great for playing ‘spot the bear’ and a lovely little detail.  I’ve often heard children’s book authors talk about how hard it is to tell a whole story in such a small amount of words, and I can see the art in it in this case.

In short, I might be digging around the book bin tonight to find the other Pamela Allen books, and they might get put on high rotation for a few weeks.  Might even have to get a few more…

Do you guys have a favourite Pamela Allen book?  Any other kids books that are particularly lovely or well received by the kiddlies?


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