I hope everyone recognises this book. I had forgotten all about this series until I saw it in Dymocks back in July and was immediately transported bacI hope everyone recognises this book. I had forgotten all about this series until I saw it in Dymocks back in July and was immediately transported back in time to my childhood. I LOVED these books, they were big when I was in, what, prep? Grade 1?
Originally published in 1972, this is the first book and I decided it was a good place to start - I've since added Mog's Missing, Meg's Eggs and a three-in-one volume that includes Mog at the Zoo, Meg's Veg and Meg Up the Creek. They are bold and distinctive and I'm so, so happy they're still in print! Here is the first page, or half of it as they're all double-page spreads that don't fit in my scanner:
Meg, a witch whose spells often backfire in interesting ways, lives with her cat, Mog, and Owl. They creatures of habit and routine who enjoy their breakfasts. Meg has four witch friends: Jess, Bess, Tess and Cress. She has a broomstick and a cauldron and her spells are very ... inventive.
The pages are solid blocks of colour, primary colours mostly, and the text has a distinctive lack of punctuation that you just have to go along with. Dialogue is in the form of speech bubbles, so when you're reading out loud you have to ad lib a bit. There's always a lot to point at in the illustrations and plenty of comments, conjectures and opinions to share as you read it, because the stories imply much but leave a lot of it unsaid. My son loves these books and with their big, bold and unstructured text, it makes for a good book for kids learning to read. Helen Nicoll died a number of years ago but I believe Jan Pieńkowski, who illustrated the books, is still alive. There are 16 books in the series (that I know of, anyway) and each one is similar - and familiar - in terms of style and storyline, yet also distinctively different.
Having the chance to relive the fun of these books through reading them to my three-year-old is an absolute joy. There's something wonderful about sharing a story you loved as a child, with your own child, and watching them enjoy it just as much....more
The Australian Women's Weekly, as every Australian knows, isn't just the publisher of a long-running women's magazine. They also produce a range of in The Australian Women's Weekly, as every Australian knows, isn't just the publisher of a long-running women's magazine. They also produce a range of inexpensive but reliable cookbooks, and the new ones out this year are a great sight better-looking than the ones of three or even two decades ago (more in line with the ABC's delicious. magazine, for instance).
When I was growing up, my mum had this book, The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits. As a young teenager, I often made things from this book on the weekends, and have pored over it so many times I not only know every page, but it also brings my childhood and adolescence vividly to life. Funny the things that can be triggers. This is the book that has the Gingerbread recipe I still use, not to mention the one for Monte Carlos and Melting Moments, among others. It's such an utterly 80s book, though, that I never expected to have the chance to get my own copy (unaware as I was to the fact that AWW had reprinting it multiple times since 1982, including in 2003, though it looks quite different).
[caption id="attachment_18938" align="alignleft" width="300"] The original edition, left, and the new collector's edition, right.[/caption]This year, though, after thirty-one years, AWW reproduced it in its ORIGINAL copy, complete with daggy brown photographs with uncorrected white balance exposure and some very interesting crockery. It is the original reproduced with a nice "Vintage Edition" label on the cover, a "Collector's Cookbook" in all its glory.
Going through it again, it all came rushing back. All the recipes I'd tried, all the ones I'd wanted to make but never did. The measurements are in grams and cups, and the oven temperatures are in the old style: slow, moderate-slow, moderate, moderate-hot, hot. Luckily, I grew up with this and I know what these words correspond to: moderate is your standard 180ºC - though if you didn't, there is a Quick Conversion Guide in the back which also now includes the British "gas mark" settings. The ingredients lists are straight-forward, the methods as well. There's none of the Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson-style "talk", no additional information, calory counting or "ideal for freezing" notes. They have edited the methods, though, I noticed when comparing my mum's old edition (which doesn't have a date, so I don't know what year it is) with the new one. There's also a glossary in the new edition, and the index is more thorough and cross-references.
The cookbook loosely divides the recipes by ingredients, in alphabetical order: Almond, Apricot, Bran, Cheese, Cherry, Chocolate, Coconut, Coffee and so on. Hence, savoury and sweet are mixed together, though some types of biscuits are isolated: shortbread, meringues. There are only a few recipes per category, and 126 in total (unless I miscounted, which is always a possibility!). There are several different kinds of truffles and about 26 slices. It has classic oldies like Coconut Ice and Chocolate Crackles, the staples of many a school fair, and of course choc-chip. There're brandy snaps, cheese sticks, fancy biscuits and easy-peasy biscuits. It's one of those go-to cookbooks that every kitchen needs, and I'm so glad it's still in print.
When my brother (who is five years younger than me) was little, he had this book - a much earlier edition, of course, with slightly different illustraWhen my brother (who is five years younger than me) was little, he had this book - a much earlier edition, of course, with slightly different illustrations (different compositions, some of the details are different). I loved it, as I loved so many of his picture books, so I was full of excited nostalgia to read it again - and introduce it to my boy.
It's Christmas morning. Morris is a young rabbit with three older siblings: Victor, Rose and Betty. Victor gets a hockey outfit for Christmas. Rose gets a beauty kit, and Betty gets a chemistry set. Morris gets a bear. Victor, Rose and Betty have lots of fun with their presents, and when they've had a turn they switch:
All Christmas day Victor played hockey and Rose made herself beautiful and Betty mixed acids.
And then Betty made herself beautiful and Victor sorted test tubes and Rose played left wing.
And then Victor made himself beautiful and Betty played goalie and Rose invented a new gas.
Morris wants to play, too, but they say he's too young and too little and too silly to play with their things - and no one wants Morris's bear. His parents try to console him but he sulks and won't join them at dinner. While they're eating, Morris notices an overlooked present under the tree. In it is a disappearing bag. Morris climbs in side and disappears. His siblings can't find him anywhere, but when he comes out they all want a turn.
Victor, Rose and Betty all disappear inside the bag, and Morris plays with the hockey gear, the chemistry set and the beauty kit until bedtime.
This is one of my favourite picture books, and I'm so glad it's still in print. It's one that really makes me laugh, with jokes that I got as a kid and still delight me as an adult (I just love the line, "and Rose invented a new gas"; there are others just as funny). As one of the younger kids in my family, I could certainly identify with Morris who has older, more sophisticated siblings who won't let him play with their sophisticated toys. And I could certainly relate to Morris when he sits in the corner, sulking, and then crawls into a bag to disappear.
At its heart, it is of course partly about sharing, and being nice to people. But like all good picture books, it's so much more than basic messaging. The illustrations are really engaging too, not precise or too realistic, but bold and colourful and with a hint of childlike two-dimensional simplicity. I don't want that to sound in the slightest way negative. It's interesting, actually, comparing this contemporary edition with my brother's older version, and seeing how much Wells' illustrations have been fine-tuned and improved. The style is the same, but the lines are more confident and the composition better. Paired with the engaging story, this is truly a delightful book.
Incidentally, I remember back in Toronto on the kids' cartoon channel (what was it called, Treefrog? something like that) there was a cartoon that I didn't like very much, about two rabbit siblings called Ruby and Max. It was only while I was looking up this book that I learned the cartoon is based on other books about those two characters by Rosemary Wells. I should have recognised the style of drawing, but I had forgotten all about this book until I had it in my hands again just recently....more
This story has the feel of an old fable - the kind of story brought over by your grandparents when they immigrated - but it is in fact made up by theThis story has the feel of an old fable - the kind of story brought over by your grandparents when they immigrated - but it is in fact made up by the author, Tomie dePaola, and first published in 1975. It reads like a fairy-tale, of the classical kind, and has strong moral messages - ones about how you reap what you sow, and going behind someone's back, and meddling in what you don't understand, and being greedy, and so on.
Part of what gives it that old-world (read: old-Europe) feel are the wonderful illustrations, also by dePaola, which somehow remind me of stained-glass windows.
Strega Nona is an old lady who lives in the town of Calabria, a long time ago. The name, "strega nona", means "Grandma Witch", and Strega Nona helps the local townspeople with their troubles - even the priests and nuns of the nearby convent, because she has such a magical touch.
She advertises for someone to help her around the house and garden, and soon employs Big Anthony, a strong young man who doesn't pay attention. He's very helpful, but when he hears Strega Nona saying a magic spell over her pasta pot, he gets greedy. Strega Nona has a magic pasta pot, and when she says the right words, it produces a potful of pasta ready to eat. She must say certain words to make it stop, too, and bow three kisses, but Big Anthony doesn't pay attention and doesn't hear that part.
When Strega Nona goes away to see her friend, Strega Amelia, she leaves Big Anthony in charge, with the stringent warning not to touch the pasta pot. But of course, as soon as she's gone, Big Anthony goes and tells everyone in the town about the pasta pot. They don't believe him, so he decides to show them. Only, once the pasta pot has started producing pasta and everyone has had a bowlful, he can't get it to stop. Soon, pasta is overflowing and rushing out the door and flooding the town. It's a disaster, and only the arrival of Strega Nona can fix it - and she has the perfect punishment for Big Anthony.
I have vague memories of reading this as a kid, and it really holds its own well. I love the illustrations, and the story too, which is both fun and meaningful. It's one for older children, around five or six, but certainly any child would enjoy this tale....more
This was given to Hugh when he was born, a gift from friends of my husband's parents (I only know/remember this because they inscribed the book, sometThis was given to Hugh when he was born, a gift from friends of my husband's parents (I only know/remember this because they inscribed the book, something I wish more people would do when they give books as gifts!), and up until that moment I had completely forgotten all about this story. It came back to me quickly when I saw the distinctive illustrations and read the story again after all these years. I read it quite a lot as a kid, I loved it so. It's a sad story, yet positive too.
First published in 1939, it speaks to the change of eras, the death of the old and the celebration of shiny new things. Mike Mulligan is a construction worker who, along with his steam shovel (a steam-powered excavator) called Mary Anne, has dug canals, and cut through mountains for railways, and levelled hills for highways. He's always been sure that Mary Anne "could dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week, but he had never been quite sure that this was true."
But then it gets harder to get new jobs because of "the new gasoline shovels and the new electric shovels and the new Diesel motor shovels" that were taking over. Mike didn't want to sell Mary Anne for junk like all the other steam shovel drivers were dong. "Mike loved Mary Anne. He couldn't do that to her." He had taken good care of her but no one wanted them anymore. Then they hear that the nearby town of Popperville was going to build a new town hall, so they head over and offer their services. Mike makes a deal with one of the selectmen, that if they can dig the cellar in a day they get paid, but if they don't they won't.
Mike and Mary Anne start the next day as the sun is coming up, and they work super fast. As more and more people gather to watch, Mary Anne digs faster and faster. They manage to dig the cellar in a day - a job that would have taken a hundred men a week to do - but then realise that there's no way to get Mary Anne out of the hole she's finished digging. A little boy has a bright idea: why not leave her in the cellar and build the town hall above her? "Let her be the furnace for the new town hall," he says. So that's what they do, and Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne live in the cellar and everyone goes to visit them and tell stories.
Even as a kid I found this story sad, even a bit depressing, though I also loved it and kept coming back to it (I may have been a girl, but I was more interested in cars and tractors and things like that, than dolls - in fact, I had no interest in dolls at all, especially those horrid baby ones that wee when you feed them, I thought that was a useless, boring idea for a doll and I didn't like the way toy companies were trying to make my into a mummy at the age of four! Yes, I really did think that when I was little). Even the illustrations ratchet-up the nostalgia factor, not just because they're 30s style (and the details clearly show that in-between-eras problem, with cars alongside horse-drawn wagons), but because the picture of the town hall being built above Mary Anne and Mike Mulligan looks an awful lot like a prison. Or a cage. Or a museum exhibit. Perhaps the latter, and intentionally so.
There's a lot of text to this story, but two-year-olds can sit through it (prepare to be interrupted by a lot of questions that are hard to answer, though!). Older kids, kindergarten age and older, would get more out of the story but there's lots here for younger ones to enjoy too. Bit too long and involved for the attention span of a kid younger than two though. ...more