Please Look After This Bear

Alice has been reading Paddington Bear. She's now read the first three books in the series, a chapter a night, on our recently purchased Kindle, relishing and occasionally dreading the misadventures of the well-meaning, marmalade-loving, accident-prone bear from Peru.

Everyone said that the Kindle can make a huge difference for dyslexic readers, and they're right. The non-backlit screen of the basic version is not too contrast-y (I know that's not a word); the machine itself is light and easy to handle. Best of all, Alice can alter the size of the font, the spacing of the lines and even the font itself to her own preferences. In the past, she's given up on many books because the print is so small, the lines so close together, that deciphering the words is a real headache for her (literally).

The only problem is now: what to read next? Even the last Paddington volume was starting to get a little bit hard for her. The words had become slightly longer, the plots more convoluted, and she wasn't enjoying it quite so much. But I desperately want her to keep up the habit of reading every night; it's all too easy to derail her.

I had been hoping she could tackle 101 Dalmatians next, which is one of her all time favourite books, and very familiar, but it's not available on the Kindle. I've loaded up one of Lois Lowry's Anastasia books to try next, so we'll see how that goes. Lots of people have made helpful suggestions, which I will follow up. I was going to try Edward Eager's Half Magic, a favourite from my own childhood, but alas! Not available on e-book. Not yet, anyway.

Wish us luck -- any further suggestions will be gratefully received!


2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge Part 2

Better late than never... Here is the second part of my list of  Books By Aussie Chicks Wot I Read last year.

Samurai Kids: White Crane, Sandy Fussell
I read this for one of my book groups. This is book one of a series for younger readers, in which kids with various disabilities (White Crane has one leg, another child is blind etc) attend a school for samurai and use their various strengths to help each other and save the day. Nice to see some differently-abled kids take centre stage for once.

All That I Am, Anna Funder
This is just as brilliant as everyone says it is. Absolutely gripping story, deft and beautiful writing, totally morally engaging and challenging. Just read it.

Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Life of PL Travers, Valerie Lawson
I never knew PL Travers was an Australian too! Though she did fly the coop pretty early on to pursue a writing life in London. Gee, she was a funny old thing, not always terribly sympathetic either, and would probably have been disappointed to know that she was only remembered for Mary Poppins -- and that most people only know the film version, which she cordially loathed, even though it set her up for life. A strange and ultimately rather sad life.

Her Father's Daughter, Alice Pung
This was a lovely and moving memoir, not as funny and immediately engaging as Unpolished Gem, but in some ways more raw and vulnerable. Well worth reading.

The Convent, Maureen McCarthy
The best thing she's ever done, which is saying something. I was hooked from page one! It probably helped that I'm so familiar with the setting -- the streets of inner Melbourne, the Abbotsford convent -- and I could picture every scene vividly. An emotional historical saga inspired by McCarthy's own family history. Total enjoyment, a book to sink into.

The Return of the Word Spy, Ursula Dubosarsky
Terrific fun! I read this in one sitting one hot afternoon at the pool. I would have adored these books as a kid -- the confidential, clever tone is hugely appealing to a kid who loved words, like me.

Puberty Blues, Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey
Iconic, of course! I first read this as a horrified teenager who couldn't believe that other people lived like this... The experience of re-reading it now is inevitably tinged with the bitter knowledge that these two didn't stay friends forever. Still confronting, but also has unexpectedly sweet and funny moments.

The Worry Tree, Marianne Musgrove
I read this gorgeous book to my daughters one afternoon and they both loved it. Evie (an anxious 8 year old) immediately started to draw her own version of the Worry Tree, with its various animals to keep worries and secrets safe. I can see that this would be tremendously comforting for certain kinds of kids, my own included!

Nanberry: Black Brother White, Jackie French
As usual, French's meticulous and thorough research shines through -- actually I found the historical notes at the back of the book almost more fascinating than the story at the front. A worthy CBCA short-listing.

A World of Girls, Rosemary Auchmuty
I talked about this here.

The Mountain, Drusilla Modjeska
Oh wow, this was great. It had particular resonance for me as it is partly set in PNG in the 1970s, where I grew up, though in Port Moresby rather than the Highlands (the other half is set in present-day PNG). Lots of the same sorts of issues as came up in my own book, which was kind of reassuring, though obviously this is grown-up, literary fiction, not a YA book. I hope it gets all the attention it deserves -- complicated, heartfelt, personal and political, this was wonderful.

The Women In Black, Madeleine St John
I had never heard of this author, or this book, but it was such a treat. Sly and funny, dry and moving in spite of itself, set in the women's dress department of a large Sydney store in the 1950s, it skimmed confidently along and carried me effortlessly with it. Bruce Beresford was going to turn it into a film; I hope he still does. Published in the Text Classics series with the yellow covers.

Well, what a variety! Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, serious and comic, high literature and kids books - and sometimes both in the same package... It just goes to show, there are no excuses for not reading Australian women writers; there is something to fulfil every reading desire.

Here's to more the same in 2013 -- as soon as I can read books again without feeling seasick!



Hello, faithful reader! This is barely even a post - just a notification really, and an apology for being off-line for a little while. After New Year, I was struck by an annoying malady which basically involves intermittent attacks of dizziness and vertigo - nothing painful, nothing life-threatening, but really, REALLY irritating, and prone to being set off by watching TV, playing on the computer, and worst of all, reading. Essentially, all my favourite holiday activities - well, let's be honest, all my favourite activities at any time...

However, I now have some magic medication to deal with the worst effects, exercises to perform if gets too severe, and it seems to be getting better, so I'm hoping to be back on board, and back to my books, soon.