If you don't know that Foul Ole Ron says "Mellennium Hand and Shrimp" or that you shouldn't eat the sausages-inna-bun from Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler then I wouldn't bother with this book. A quick test for this is to look at the award on the front cover - if you understand it then read the book, if you don't, don't. (The award is fake, a reference to The Librarian (of the Unseen University) who was turned into a orangutan in The Light Fantastic and has since refused to be turned back. He says Ook! and eats bananas.)
If however you are a fan of the Discworld series and you have a young person in your life, then I would highly recommend this book.
An action-packed rollercoaster ride. You'll certainly need to turn off your sense of disbelief to enjoy this one.
I felt that Matthew Reilly as an AusAn action-packed rollercoaster ride. You'll certainly need to turn off your sense of disbelief to enjoy this one.
I felt that Matthew Reilly as an Australian author is continuing the grand Australian tradition of cultural cringe. I'm happy for him to make the US the hero and the French and Brits the enemy. But constant little reminders of Australia through the book made me feel the author would dearly have loved to be able to make the Australians the stars of the show. I suppose the main practical irritation was that it meant US Customary units of measurement were used throughout the book - the constant conversion from feet to meters grated. (Only the US, Nigeria and Burma don't officially use the metric system!)
Beyond this little niggle sit back and let the action wash over you - you'll fly through 500+ pages in no time.
**spoiler alert** The one redeeming feature of this book is that it is a quick read (2 naps worth).
The description of this book states that it is "sid**spoiler alert** The one redeeming feature of this book is that it is a quick read (2 naps worth).
The description of this book states that it is "sidesplittingly funny" - maybe I have extra tough sides but the best it got out of me was a slight smile.
I was hoping for amusing anecdotes of Other People's Kids (OPK) - but all I got was hackneyed stereotypes. The only mildly amusing portion was Section 4 (How to Deal) in particular the suggestion to film you passing kidney stones and force friends who showed you their birth video to watch, and the idea of the dog birthday (in true extreme toddler birthday fashion).
I only got to pg 174 (1/2 way through the 1970s) before I had to return this book.
Interesting 'celebration' (carefully not a history) of the AustraliaI only got to pg 174 (1/2 way through the 1970s) before I had to return this book.
Interesting 'celebration' (carefully not a history) of the Australian Broadcasting Commission/Corportation (ABC) television. Interesting anecdotes from the early days of the ABC - interesting to see how early on familiar names appear....more
This is the first Junko Morimoto book I've read which she has written as well as illustrated. Her previous work has focussed on illustrating adaptionsThis is the first Junko Morimoto book I've read which she has written as well as illustrated. Her previous work has focussed on illustrating adaptions of traditional Japanese folk tales.
As usual Junko's illustrations are first class.
I don't think Junko nailed the story. Part of this could be because she wrote the original story in Japanese, and it was then translated into English by Isao Morimoto. This process makes it difficult to obtain many of the elements of a successful, amusing, children's book - rhyme, rhythm and word-play. But given Junko's previous, more serious, work it was fantastic to see a fart feature prominently. I felt that the ending chosen for Big Nuisance lacked a certain something.
Overall a valliant effort - but I prefer her earlier work. ...more
This folk tale had my adult mind searching for the motivation of Dionysius, the king. Maybe this was because of the simplification of plot that occursThis folk tale had my adult mind searching for the motivation of Dionysius, the king. Maybe this was because of the simplification of plot that occurs with folk tales, or maybe the further simplification that occurs to fit it into a picture book...
Junko's illustrations, as always are impressive....more
I prefer my blue anthropomorphic shunting (US: switching) engine to be named Thomas!
A few things irritated me about this book: 1. Watty Piper never exiI prefer my blue anthropomorphic shunting (US: switching) engine to be named Thomas!
A few things irritated me about this book: 1. Watty Piper never existed - it is simply a pseudonym for the publishing company Platt & Munk (now part of Penguin). 2. The trademark symbol for "The Little Engine that Could" prominently displayed on the front cover - and that they bothered to attempt to trademark "I Think I Can". This is an issue especially because of the strong evidence to suggest that the story is significantly older than the Watty Piper, Platt & Munk edition. See In Search of Watty Piper 3. Just about every page finishes half-way through a sentence, which is a critical failure in editing for a book that is designed to be read aloud. 4. The repetition. Sometimes repetition is good - but in this case I simply found it irritating. Maybe X-man when he grows up a bit will love it...
So what did I like? The moral of having confidence in your abilities and perseverance is of course admirable.
Well I think the gender roles are more equitably distributed than the original Railway Series books by W. Awdry, staring of course Thomas the Tank Engine. ...more
**spoiler alert** While the backdrop to this story is war-ravaged Japan, just about anyone will empathise with Mieko. Starting at a new school, feelin**spoiler alert** While the backdrop to this story is war-ravaged Japan, just about anyone will empathise with Mieko. Starting at a new school, feeling lonely, being teased for being different are all common enough childhood experiences. The sense of loss Mieko feels because she is unable to participate in her first love – calligraphy – can also be easily understood. But the story ends well – with Mieko finding a both a friend and the “fifth treasure” (beauty in the heart that is critical for excellent calligraphy).
Mieko is at the new school because her home town near Nagasaki was damaged by the atomic bomb, and Mieko has been sent by her parents to stay with her grandparents in a rural area. War, violence and the pain it causes are likely to be sensitive topics for parents – please read this before sharing it with your kids, and be prepared for the questions they ask.
This was written by Eleanor Coerr who has previously written a non-fiction childrens book about Sadako Sasaki Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a touching story of a young Hiroshima bomb victim. The illustrations are by Junko Morimoto – who survived Hiroshima. If you liked this book I would suggest My Hiroshima by Junko – an autobiographical picture book of her survival of Hiroshima. ...more
One niggling irritation throughout the book is the use of geographic terms when Klein was referring to levels of devA decade on this book feels dated.
One niggling irritation throughout the book is the use of geographic terms when Klein was referring to levels of development. She consistently uses the word North to describe developed countries, and the term South to describe developing countries. You'll note that almost all of the areas she was referring to: South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, some of Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Nigeria, Myanmar/Burma, Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua are in the Northern Hemisphere. I agree there is no fantastic term for this idea - each has its own connotations, but the geographic one grates particularly for me.
In general it felt like it needed a good edit - dropping 100 pages from the final book wouldn't have hurt. I felt the overwhelming focus on a very small number of high-profile brands (Nike, Shell, McDonalds) hurt the broader aims of this book.
The rise of this book really is reflective of the branding and corporate globalisation this book is rallying against. HarperCollins/Random House (the publisher of the book) is owned by News Corporation - the second-largest media company in the world (behind the Disney Corporation, which gets a caning in this book). The NoLogo and Naomi Klein herself have become brands - with products, websites, and influence on popular culture - all of it aimed at making money for an 'evil transnational corporation'!...more
**spoiler alert** One of my favourite books of all time.
There are two major sections to the book:
Section 1: Discovering how the vast majority of peopl**spoiler alert** One of my favourite books of all time.
There are two major sections to the book:
Section 1: Discovering how the vast majority of people become suddenly blind, and learning about the history of the triffids.
I love the Cold War intrigue of the history of the triffids (and probably the ‘comets’ as well) – the story of their release adds a little James Bond to the story.
The relative subtly of the blindness that is caused – most ‘end of the world’ books use more direct methods (War of the World’s heat-ray and gas, Where the Wind Blows’ nuclear destruction and winter). It adds that extra element of triage to the story.
Section 2: Beginning a new life.
Many people may see this as a depressing story – the deaths of the majority of the population, the destruction of society as we know it, the slow crumbling of the human infrastructure… However I saw it more hopeful light – with elements of:
1. The desert island story (Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, Castaway etc). Yes the shipwreck/plane crash was bad, but it is important not to dwell on it too much if you want to survive. How does someone who comes from a modern civilised society with much specialisation of jobs deal with having to fend completely for themselves – how do they learn to get food, shelter, transportation, etc. A major difference with Triffids is that the narrator (Bill) is fairly certain from the start that there will be no rescue.
2. The pioneer story (Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars series, the Pilgrims on the Mayfair, Brigham Young’s settlement of Utah, and the New Australia. How do you create a society from an isolated group of people that will be successful in the long term?
I like Bill as a narrator. I like that it is written almost as a memoir . It much reduced the potentially depressing nature of the book to know that the protagonist was going to survive.
I’m a fan of the James Bond movies – but have never ventured into the novels. It was with some trepidation that I decided to read Casino Royale – woulI’m a fan of the James Bond movies – but have never ventured into the novels. It was with some trepidation that I decided to read Casino Royale – would reading the novels ruin my enjoyment of the movies?
My view of this book was coloured by seeing the 2006 movie, directed by Martin Campbell starring Daniel Craig, which I quite enjoyed. Generally I have found that most movies-of-the-novel are not nearly as good as the original novel. An 1 ½ hour movie just seems to stuggle to include all of the plot of a full-sized novel, and the movies end up being slightly longer versions of the back flap – which always makes storylines seem ridiculous (e.g. Power of One and I’m told Lord of the Rings). Casino Royale deviates from this generalisation – the movie crams in more plot than the relatively short (213 page) book includes.
Something I felt the movie was missing was an adequate explanation of the rules of the card game (Poker in the movie, Baccarat in the book). This card game forms the heart of the story – and knowing the rules puts you in a much better position to understand the odds, bluffing and psychology that apparently makes gambling interesting. And this from someone who doesn’t enjoy gambling or understand any cardgame except 500.
In all I much prefer the movie, although the book still gets 4 stars. The movie has more plot twists and turns, a gadget or two (although not nearly as many as in the Pierce Brosnan days), a more international feel (including Ugandan rebels was genius), and the blatant and offensive misogyny of the book is toned down to an acceptable level. ...more
My wife bought this book while studying labour markets and unions at university years before our son was born. She tells me that it is a serious allegMy wife bought this book while studying labour markets and unions at university years before our son was born. She tells me that it is a serious allegory (along the same lines as Animal Farm) commenting on the effectiveness of unions, with a side commentry on the power of literacy in empowering a population.
That all may be true - but it is also an interesting children's book with plenty of onamonapea, interesting watercolour illustrations and clear text.
Mem Fox has produced an amusing read (or shout) aloud book.
This was David Miller's first children's picture book. The paper sculpture is pretty fantasMem Fox has produced an amusing read (or shout) aloud book.
This was David Miller's first children's picture book. The paper sculpture is pretty fantastic - but his newer works (e.g. Refugees) show that he is improving all the time.
A Warning: A number of the rhymes require an Australian accent to work correctly (e.g. walk and York need to rhyme). One might say a bit of retribution for Sesame Street's ABC...Zee (rather than Zed) and all those Dr. Seuss rhymes that only work with an American accent!...more
I remember camping in Rundu, Namibia looking across the Okavango River at Angola dreaming of a time when everything north from here to the Sahara wasnI remember camping in Rundu, Namibia looking across the Okavango River at Angola dreaming of a time when everything north from here to the Sahara wasn't stamped with "Reconsider your need to travel" and "Do not travel" by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
This story follows Tim Butcher's journey through the Democratic Republic of Congo. The story of the journey is regularly interupted with comparisons to two other journeys: Henry Stanley's 1867 expedition (the first European to successfully map the route of the Congo River), and this mum's rail and ferry trip through the Congo in the 1950s. Interspersed with this are many stories about the history of the Congo.
Tim is really well read on the topic, and provides a very readable history of the Congo (as well as documenting many of the pop-culture references to the region). While he has good 'book-knowledge' I felt that Tim did not add significantly to this knowledge through actually undertaking the trip. The vast majority of people he mentions in the book were westerners providing aid, employees of aid agencies, or religious leaders. His contact with real Congolese was hampered by suspicion about danger and exploitation on both sides and a significant language barrier (he so needed a Swahili translator!). The very few occasions Tim manages to access a genuine local the language barrier, and simplistic interviewing technique, lead to pretty generic answers (material things aren't as good as they used to be, jeez those rebel groups can be scary, etc) - all the while hinting that if Tim slowed his trip down and actually had a real conversation with these people he could learn some really interesting stories and perspectives.
After I while Tim's banging on about the danger and 'uniqueness' of the trip does become irritating. While I don't doubt the level of risk (the travel advisories are there for a reason) - after several hundred pages it becomes boring. There were only about three times I though 'he's in real danger of being a victim of violence' - you'd have more than that spending 44 days walking any major city in the world!
This book opens you eyes to a country that has been forgotten by the world - and this forgives its niggling irritations....more
I did a subject called "the literature of war and peace" when I was in year 11. I cried my way through All Quiet on the Western Front for this subjectI did a subject called "the literature of war and peace" when I was in year 11. I cried my way through All Quiet on the Western Front for this subject. Through my tears I watched others with wry smiles - reading Catch-22. Well... Can any book stand 11 years of anticipation?
I only got 70 pages in before I gave up.
The book has an abundance of characters. Given the large cast there is very little page-space to develop their personality - so they are all one-dimensional. Thus you are forever searching for names in the text, then struggling to remember the single identifying characteristic of that person. It really doesn't help that the text jumps around all over the place.
Life commitments mean that I can't sit down and spend all day or night reading a book like I used to. The poorly developed characters and disjointed chronology are really unforgiving to reading for 10 minutes here and there. Maybe if I could get an undisturbed chunk of time to read this book (possibly pool-side on a tropical island, with an appropriately ridiculous cocktail in hand - sure in the knowledge the children are enjoying their 'holiday' at their Grandparents...).
For my humourous look at the folly of war I'll continue to tune into the re-runs of MASH...
So in the end the enjoyable, forgiving (not to mention actually funny) Terry Pratchett with his Making Money fought and won the battle to the top of the pile of books on my bedside table. ...more
I fondly recall the Blinky Bill character from my childhood – but never remember reading the original stories. Having now read the originals I suspect that my fond memories come from the various adaptions that have been made over the years.
I must say I was shocked by the mature themes contained in the first couple of chapters in Blinky Bill. First he is born – a joyous occasion. Then his father is shot and killed by humans, forcing the family to move. The new tree contains Mrs Grunty who’s history included having her whole family shot by humans, then herself being kidnapped and transported a long distance to become someone’s pet. These seem like pretty adult themes for a kids book, particularly when compared with the relatively tame TV series.
I gave this book 3 stars primarily because of the environment the books create – the idea of anthropogenic Australian bush animals and the character of Blinky a young adventurous (and naughty) koala. I didn’t find the stories themselves to be page-turners. ...more
**spoiler alert** This book showed to me how much expectation can influence your view of a book.
My initial impression was suprise at how easy it was t**spoiler alert** This book showed to me how much expectation can influence your view of a book.
My initial impression was suprise at how easy it was to read, I was really expecting that I would struggle with the language given it was first published in 1719.
My next expectation quashed was that Robinson Crusoe would be a likable character. However I never really found him a truely likable character because of his acceptance of slavery (even after being a slave himself), inability to see that maybe the sea wasn't for him (after an early shipwreck, followed by being captured by pirates) - and later his presistent cultural and religious imperialism. I was expecting him to be on a noble quest when shipwrecked (exploring like James Cook, or collecting scientific samples like Charles Darwin) - instead he is starting an illicit slave importation business!
I love castaway stories - particularly the details of how they managed to obtain survive without many of life's essentials. So the early part of his time on the island was enjoyable - how he managed to get items of use of the ship, how he created his shelter, etc. Later I found Daniel Defoe skipped over lots of this interesting detail - basically reducing it to "I wanted a canoe, I spent 2 years carving one out of a tree, then I attached a mast and sail".
Then he found God - while I understand it would be critical for him to have a reason to go on - I hadn't realised just how religious this book would be. The author going on and on about Providence had me counting the pages 'till the end of the book - never a good sign.
The story of how Robinson Crusoe got off the island was very exciting (and stopped me counting pages!) - but I thought that the period after his return to civilisation was anti-climatic and the adventure in the Pyrenees tacked on and unnecessary.
Overall I think that if I read this book in 1719 when it had no cultural influence and hype (and I had the 1719 English cultural mindset) I would have really enjoyed this book. But my high expectations, and modern point of view mean only 2 stars from me....more
I remember loving the challenge of unravelling the mystery when I was younger. Fortunately my memory was not good enough to remember any of the cluesI remember loving the challenge of unravelling the mystery when I was younger. Fortunately my memory was not good enough to remember any of the clues or whodunnit, so I got the joy of working it out all over again.
As an adult working out whodunnit isn't a huge challenge - maybe half an hour to an hour of flicking back and forth and removing possibilities. As a child though I remember it being a significant challenge. But even as an adult working out the layer upon layer of clues, messages and hidden objects is still significantly time consuming (not to mention fun!) - I'm still working on a number.
Most books you read you start at the start, then read to the end and the story is layed out for you. This book makes you work for the knowledge - with the text just providing the corner pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
The alliterative text is genius, even the difficult letters are treated with respect, e.g. "Quivering Quails QueuinEasily the best alphabet book ever!
The alliterative text is genius, even the difficult letters are treated with respect, e.g. "Quivering Quails Queuing Quietly for Quills".
Who found Aaron A Aardvark of 8A Acacia Avenue, Adelaide, Australia's Axe hidden in the background behind the 'Armoured Armadillo's and 'Angry Alligator'... This is what is so much fun about this book, the text itself is a quick read, but finding all the objects starting with the requesite letter is the fun part. This book has an amazing capacity to expand kid's vocabulary - why is that 'Great Green Gorilla' drinking from a cup - ahhh... not a cup a goblet!
The other challenge tying the whole book together is attempting to find Graeme himself in each illustration.
Graeme gave an insightful interview with 'Talking Heads' on the Australian ABC. The transcript of the interview is available here.
This book is a great introduction to the world of science for a young child.
It is inspired by the story of the original "Eureka" moment, when ArchimedThis book is a great introduction to the world of science for a young child.
It is inspired by the story of the original "Eureka" moment, when Archimedes stepped into the bath - the displacement of the water gave him the idea of how to solve a problem for the king.
In this picture book version the problem is that that the bath keeps overflowing. Who is causing the problem - is it the goat, the kangaroo, the wombat or Mr Archimedes himself? The Eureka moment is that Mr Archimedes discovers (through a series of experiments) that the overflowing is simply caused by having too many animals in the bath - not any one animal as was originally hypothesized....more