It used to be that you could go your whole life without having to read and it was only the privileged few or the religious who could read but in Western civilisation it’s now imperative that you can read and write as we have forms to fill in, signposts to read, banking and so much more. How hard would it be for someone who couldn’t read to get around town, hold up a job…or more particularly, to get a job in the first place? How would they be able to fill in the forms for the doctor, dentist, Medicare, tax office? Sure, you can get someone else to do it for you but that can only last some of your lifetime, we’ve made it imperative for everyone to have to be able to read and write.
If you wander over to this link you’ll see an assumption that the prisons in England are full of people who can’t read or people who lack good reading and writing skills. I doubt this is true of everyone but certainly a percentage of these inmates are those who can’t read or write at all and programmes such as the Quick Reads initiative must help in part but do they help people to stop re-offending when they get out? Can’t answer that question but I certainly hope so. I love the idea of this programme, if you read to the end you’ll find they gave 300 copies of the new Doctor Who book to the prisons which I hope will help people to want to read. I’m a firm proponent of the ‘find the right book and they’ll start reading’ theory so it’s good to see they’re not just being given classics but are also being given science fiction.
A while ago I found a group of people in Melbourne trying to collect donations and books to lend to prisons, they were focusing on textbooks, dictionaries and encyclopedias, I managed to give them some books but the next time I had a couple of boxes of dictionaries looking for a good home I couldn’t find them again. I think the problem with that project was the cost of postage, it’d be much better if we could just give a set of reference books to each prison in Australia and then they’re there all the time and we don’t have to worry about storage or postage. Postage is fairly expensive here and reference books weigh a lot. I can send a parcel weighing up to 500 grams for $6.95 across Australia but only small dictionaries would weigh less than that, most of them would weigh more so it’s then more economic to use a pre-paid satchel for $13.40 but that only goes up to 3 kg, the good reference works would weigh more than that. If I want to send a 20 kg parcel to Perth it’s outrageous at $67.45! The problem is the vast distance it has to cover, to give overseas people some idea of how far it is, they’re three hours behind us, it’s over 2,000 miles or 3,400 km by road.
You know those days when the memory clears and you finally remember that absolute gem from your childhood that is still on the shelf? I had one of those yesterday and quickly unearthed it this morning. As you can see from the photo it is J. R. R. Tolkein reading from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it’s not the whole of the books but only excerpts as it was made in 1975 and is therefore on vinyl but it’s an absolute gem. I searched YouTube and found one of the excerpts for you:
It’s all of side A and is Tolkein reading Bilbo’s meeting with Gollum. The illustration on the front is an original picture by Tolkein of Smaug talking with Bilbo.
Here is the special announcement I was referring to on Monday. Anthony will be writing a few guest posts, he’s taking on the topic of children’s books; something I don’t like writing about as I don’t know enough. Over to you, Anthony.
Reading together, parent to child, is always going to be among the foremost of all the special experiences of childhood. Many people’s earliest memories are of being read to by their mother or father. The special mix of being snuggled in a cuddle or a cosy bed, combined with entering a wonderful imaginative world of adventure and possibility, is unique. Furthermore, research has shown that simply listening to someone reading to them increases activity in the language centre of a child’s brain, helping them acquire language themselves and to lay down verbal memory. Other benefits have been identified as a strengthening of relationship between parent and child, enhancing communication skills and embedding a sense of being well equipped to deal with new experiences having approached them via an imaginative route first. For a parent, there is also the element of heritage – handing down to your child the love of a book that you were read to when you were their age, that they in their turn will one day be reading to a child of their own. The mark of an inspiring children’s book is one that endures as the top reading pick through the generations. Here are five titles worthy of the accolade “Timeless Classic.”
1. “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.
Over 19 million copies of this story of the night Max put on his wolf suit and made mischief have been sold since it was first published in 1963. Max, in his costume, wreaks chaos in his house and is sent to bed without any supper. His bedroom is magically transformed into a jungle and he sails to an island inhabited by wild beasts, which he first intimidates and then is crowned by them as King Of All Wild Things and asked to stay forever. But Max “was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him most of all.” The fact that someone is his mother, and that she had a hot supper waiting for him after all, encapsulates the poignant message that your parents will still love and forgive you, no matter how naughty you are.
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
There can be very few people on this earth unfamiliar with the tale of the colourful caterpillar that eats his way through all manner of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly. This book is a winner on all counts – from its marvellous illustrations to its potential for interacting in counting games as the litany of foods eaten unfolds, to its satisfying denouement with the transformation from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. There are very large board book versions of this story, which are great for propping up in front of a high chair or play pen, so that your pre-schooler can enjoy looking at the colourful illustrations between readings.
3. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
This wonderful picture book is the perfect bedtime story for a heavy- lidded child still clinging to the last vestiges of daytime. The gentle lulling tone, the softness of the story of a child saying goodnight to all the sweet objects and beings in her room and – finally – “Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere” – is like sleep-hypnosis for the very young. The gentle rhythm of the language and softness of the images makes it impossible to feel other than safe and sound at the end of the day. Indeed, many a reader has ended up accidentally falling asleep alongside their child after the whisper of the last word on the page has barely left their mouth.
4. Diary Of A Wombat by Jackie French
Published in 2002, it is easy to predict that this award winning picture book illustrated by Bruce Whatley is destined to join the ranks of stories that are read aloud to generations to come. Mothball the wombat’s diary covers eight days in his life, during which he plays havoc with a local family – not out of any malice but because he is seeing life through his wombat eyes and doing just what comes naturally. The result is full of humour, charm and warmth that will raise a giggle from even the most serious of kids.
5. The Cat In The Hat by Dr Seuss
The exotic and charismatic cat of the title holds all the power in this, the first of Dr Seuss’s Cat In the Hat series which has taught generations of children to read. Written in upbeat rhyme, it is the perfect read-aloud book which narrates a rainy day in which two bored children are left alone by their mother. Enter the eponymous cat and life becomes a little wild and more than chaotic. Reactions to the exploits of the exuberant figure who performs all sorts of whacky tricks are typically divided among children who take gleeful delight at the cat’s outrageous anti-authoritarian antics and those who literally squirm in anticipation of the return of the children’s mother to a totally upturned domestic scene – wherein comes one of the best last lines of any book ever – “Well, what would YOU do if your mother asked you?”
Anthony Smith is the Chief Operating Officer of an Australian childcare management company, Guardian Child Care Alliance. As a parent himself, Anthony recognises the importance of reading to children allowing them the freedom to thrive and in an educational and nurturing environment.
Today is a very special edition of Mondayitis. Today, I present to you Uncle Alfred! Sometimes he’s a Queensland Blue Heeler and when he’s not he’s a perfectly rational man.
What do you read?
I’m not a big reader. I read the newspaper, there are a lot of pictures in the newspaper, it makes it easier to read.
Why do you read?
I read to pass the time, when I’m not mowing the lawn or drying dishes. Sometimes the family leave the telly on and I watch that. Good programme on now, it’s Playschool they’re about to go through the window. It’s a dog! Woof! I’m a dog! Want to play with the dog on telly! Woof! Woof!
My apologies for that, I didn’t know how long he’d last. When Uncle Alfred sees a dog he behaves like a dog. I think I should take him to the park for a game of fetch. He comes from the book I’ll Plead Insanity by Melbourne lawyer David Cross.
It’d be nice if I had something to say today.
Instead of finding something to write about I’ve been tidying, I’d like to see my desk so I’ve been dealing with things. All cords have been tidied and been placed into a box, the pile of books has been put away and I’m currently in the middle of entering business cards into my gmail account so I can access the information easily. I saw someone else photoraph a business card, put it into her virtual filing system and then give the card back so I thought I’d do a similar thing and spent the weekend using lots of swear words downloading business card apps on my phone, finding they don’t work too well, deleting and then trying another. Having tried three apps I decided I could use my finely honed data entry skills and do it manually, 16 cards and a couple of hours later (I won’t talk about the interruptions) I feel I’m well on my way to having the 50 odd cards sorted and thrown out before I move onto the ones in my filing system.
Gmail is great for this as I can put people in groups and add extensive notes so I know when and where I met them, what we discussed and what further action I need to do, the groups are awesome as I can just select a group and work some magic with them. The extensive notes are seriously needed as I have a head like a sieve and really need some organising to ensure I don’t forget to do something I’ve promised. Once that’s done I’ll have to work on the papers and then consider actually cleaning the desk before moving onto some other part of the house.
I was hoping to make an announcement today but I think I’ll just leave everyone on tenterhooks, I’m waiting either for confirmation or a photo or both before I publish an article which I hope will be the first of many and a slightly new direction for this blog.
I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day.
We’re gonna be The Producers!
I don’t write about every time I go out but it does look like it as I don’t go out very often. Last night was a special night as I’d managed to acquire tickets for the preview night of The Producers by JYM theatre co. We were in The Phoenix Theatre in Elwood, it’s a small theatre which they managed to make it work so well for them.
The Producers was released as a movie in 1968, written by Mel Brooks and with his voice over in the movie, the play and subsequent movie during the dance routine of Springtime for Hitler using the words ”Don’t be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi Party”. It’s all rather irreverent and brings Hitler down to size.
I was never crazy about Hitler…If you stand on a soapbox and trade rhetoric with a dictator you never win…That’s what they do so well: they seduce people. But if you ridicule them, bring them down with laughter, they can’t win. You show how crazy they are. ”
Mel Brooks, in an August 2001 interview
The story is that of a washed up Broadway producer whose accountant suddenly realises it’s easier to make money with a flop than a success, thus begins the romp of a lifetime.
The play last night was a small scale version of the original. With a small cast, except for the leads, they all played multiple characters and the men often dressed as women. The walker scene where all the little old ladies are dancing with their walkers was made even more hilarious with the addition of the men in drag, some of the men hammed it up and enjoyed themselves way too much, total fun.
It was very polished and I have trouble believing it was the preview, there were very few gaffs and they were so minor such as dropping a champagne glass or having the adding machine fall off its perch. The scene changes were built into the play with the cast coming on in character and moving furniture etc around, I thought this very clever and managed to miss many parts as my attention was drawn elsewhere such as watching the tall, blonde, gorgeous man who was having way too much fun and hamming it up, I missed his name.
The performances as a whole were really great. The man playing Max Bialystock did a really good job as did the man playing Leo Bloom. For me, the stand out performance apart from the tall, blonde and did I say gorgeous? man was the man playing Roger De Bris, he had the most lovely deep voice and hammed it up to the max.
It’s well worth the money at between $35 and $42, rivalling the large and more monied productions which you can pay a mint for, if you can I really suggest you go, it has a short run starting tomorrow and finishing on the 25th May. Bookings can be made online here.
I picked up this book mostly because it has Andre Norton’s name on it, yes the cover is lovely but Norton is a good author and I’ve been reading her books since I was a child so I knew it’d be good. I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s the sequel to Quag Keep but it is possible to read them separately as I’ve just done as enough is explained within this book to help the reader understand enough of what has gone before. I’m not into Dungeons & Dragons despite liking the idea of the game so I think there were some subtleties I missed. Essentially this is Dungeons & Dragons in ‘reality’. You’ve got a group of people who are about to play the game and have been given extra special miniatures to play with, as soon as they grasp them they are transported to another world and look like full sized versions of the miniatures with all the memories and skills they would have in the game. There are some differences to the game and this is where I find myself missing the subtleties, if I’d played the game I’d know how trolls die in the game and not how Tolkein kills them and I wouldn’t need the authors to tell me, thank goodness they do nicely so it doesn’t feel extraneous.
The back of the book gives this information:
In 1976 Andre Norton was invited to play a new sort of adventure game by its creator. It was called Dungeons & Dragons, the very game that launched the role-playing game industry. The creator was E. Gary Gygax, a former shoemaker turned successful businessman as the head of TSR Industries, the company he formed to sell his game.
Gygax played the game with Andre, introducing her to his world of Greyhawk, where she took part in an imaginative session of world-building, role-playing, and fantasy adventuring. When she returned home, she wrote the novel Quag Keep, a tale of six adventurers who journey from our world to the city of Greyhawk.
Now, thirty years later with the help of Jean Rabe, author of numerous TSR books and former head of the RPGA (Role-Playing Gamers Association), Andre returns with these bold adventurers for another quest, and perhaps a chance to return home to the world whence they came, ours.
I loved the book, the fact that I don’t game makes very little difference as it’s very well written so we get all the information we need to understand. Yes, if you’re into D&D you’ll understand more but it’s not entirely necessary. It is fantasy, with all the magic users, trolls, elves and other creatures we either love to love or love to hate.
As with any book by Norton it is well written with well-rounded characters and situations. The authors have left it open for at least one more adventure. My only problem is that I now have to find the Quag Keep so I can read that and find out how everything happened.
Just a couple of my favourite blogs.
Let’s start off with a little word play on Not Always Learning.
To err is human, to typo is anything but divine but it does depend on your point of view.
Over on Beattie they’re talking about The Railway Children. I recall seeing Jenny Agutter in this when I was young, some of the images have stayed with me for ever. I’ve mentioned The Railway Children by E Nesbit before as she has been accused of plagiarism.
Authors generally don’t make a lot of money, James Oswald agrees so he’s keeping his cattle and sheep farm going, partly because it gives him time to think and plot and partly for the money.
Leaving Beattie and going back to Not Always Learning we get some thoughts on discrimination.
Today Mondayitis is brought to you by a very special Frog, I’ve translated as best I can.
Why do you read?
Read. Read! READ! I don’t read I just get eaten. People should just do their work and. stop. eating. me. I don’t know what Brian Tracy was thinking in getting people to eat me, he’s not in France where they eat frog’s legs (yech). Maybe his book should be called Eat That Cane Toad! and help eliminate a pest from the Australian environment. And he wants people to eat me every day, but every day! And so many times each day! Why couldn’t he just tell people to do the work, take your biggest task and just do it rather than eating me. I’m not asking much, just want to live my life, eat flies, procreate and LIVE!
Do. your. work. and. stop. eating. me!
Thank you to the Frog from Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. I fully agree about the Cane Toads, they have much more flesh and would make a better meal.
There are many quotes that have been proven wrong over the years. There’s the one about the number of computers needed “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” attributed to Thomas J. Watson of IBM which has been proven incorrect and there’s the one about not needing personal computers in the home, also proven to be incorrect as so many homes can’t manage without personal computers. This one:
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.” Steve Jobs January 2008
should also be under fire. Steve Jobs was talking about the Kindle and I don’t know how much of this quote is was fueled by his rivalry with the company and how much was due to his business acumen but I’d say he’s wrong.
People are still reading and while we’ve got new authors coming up challenging us with their writing it will continue. Three authors I will name are:
J. K. Rowling
E. L. James
All three of them have written books which have got people reading, I can’t speak for Stephanie Meyer as I’ve never read her books but the others are not terribly good authors although Rowling stands out head and shoulders above James. I’ve written about both of them before, Rowling has great ideas and gets kids reading but her characters are not very complex while James just has poor writing, she’s been to the school of ‘tell all and don’t make the reader work’ using this to the full extent. I managed to make it through all of Rowling’s Harry Potter books but only made it through 80 pages of James first book, I didn’t even make it to the ‘objectionable material’ as the poor writing made me give up fairly early and never want to go back.
What I wanted to say about these authors is that all three have made people read. I’ve seen many conversations on the internet surrounding them, discussing the books leading to the question ‘what else will I like?’ I’ve heard of bookshops being asked if there are any books of similar ilk and I’m sure if you were able to check the stats for online bookshops you’d see people buying more ebooks than before.
What quotes do you like that have proven wrong?