Archive for May 2011
Yes, I know, another update…boring. As I mentioned in the Retro Reading newsletter things are going well with the new website. I’m finally at the stage of being able to upload books and bring in articles from the old blog. It’s going fairly well and reasonably fast and I’d love to estimate a date when it’ll be live but I’ve had so many setbacks and while I’m really unwilling to do that I’m thinking that the end of June-beginning of July would be a good time for the changeover, the beginning of the financial year sounds very good. It sounds like a good aim and possibly fairly promising. There are a couple of very minor glitches which I can’t seem to fix but I’m just going to blame L-Space and leave them as they are.
If any of my readers feel the urge to test things for me, I’d be terribly grateful. Yes, I’m asking for volunteers but I’m sure you know the first rule of volunteering…never step forward. I should be able to put in discounts with this new website so I anticipate being able to offer a discount to anyone who is brave enough to ignore the first rule of volunteering.
Saturday night I took my family to the St Kilda Film Festival. They’ve been showing Australia’s 100 Top Short Films. The Little Bookroom happened to mention they were going to this particular session to see a book turned into a movie. I knew I had to see this particular movie.
Based on the book There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake by Hazel Edwards and directed by my cousin I knew I had to see it. It’s one book that was a favourite in our family. When the kids were looking for me I’d tell them I was on the roof eating cake, it made things interesting.
The movie was wonderful, just not long enough. The story is about the hippo on the roof and Zoe who is nine and is growing up. It is very gently suggested that she might be too old for an imaginary friend, she considers this fairly carefully and then rejects the idea. The hippo is gorgeous.
This is the first book in The Assassini series and I’m waiting rather impatiently for the next one. Set in “Venice in 1407 where the city’s rulers command the seas and dictate the law, yet they fear assassins more deadly than their own, and their canals running red with blood.”
It’s a fabulous story with wonderful characters. Grimwood has written the dirt and grime into the story so I really believed we were back in the days before sewers and regular washing. The book gives a real taste of what I feel Venice must have been like in those days.
Back to the characters though. We’ve got Tycho who is brought to Venice from another time and place. He starts out as very suspicious and able to do whatevever he pleases and is changed by meeting Lady Giulietta. He has trouble with sunlight and much prefers to be on dry land. Then there’s Lady Giulietta di Millioni who is impregnated by her uncle and then kidnapped. I’ll just drop the name of Atilo il Mauros who is the head of Venice’s secret assassins and is constantly searching for his apprentice, he’s aware that some time in the future he will retire. And just casually mention some other major players such as the Duke, the Duke’s mother, the Regent and a whole cast of characters who are all very nicely crafted. There are wheels within wheels as there often are with royal intrigues.
There’s magic, people who have non-human abilities and war. War on the water with mage fire and some realities about fighting with armour. There’s enough fact in this book to make it feel as if it could have happened. I know a little about armour as my nephew has been putting together a suit of armour and I guarantee it’s very heavy. I can pick up his fighting shield and then hide behind it with very little effort, but it’s hard on the muscles.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I thank Orbit for sending me a copy, I think I won it in a competition a while back. I will be keeping an eye out for the next book in this series as I seriously want to know what happens next. I’m not certain if we’re meant to like Tycho, but I think he’s gorgeous.
A few weeks ago we were asked to write an essay about a poem. We were given a book of poems and had to choose one and write an essay. This is the poem and my essay. I missed the class where we briefly discussed what to include so I had to think back to my Year 11 English Literature class. I happened to google chimney sweep to find some more details and came across this essay. It’s very interesting and I suspect written at university level rather than high school, it certainly shows me how much I have to learn.
The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curl’d llke a lamb’s back. was shav’d: so I said
“Hush. Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”
And so he was quiet & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned or Jack.
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black.
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he open’d the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river. and shine in the Sun.
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark.
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.
The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake is a poem of different layers. The top layer is that of a child, a chimney sweep, who has no control over his life. Then there are various layers underneath talking about religion and society.
Chimney Sweeps were children, small children and were sold by their parents for money as they often didn’t have enough for the whole family to survive. These Chimney Sweeps did backbreaking work from as young as five years old, suffered illhealth, black skin from the soot and faced the prospect of suffocation in the chimney.
The first stanza discusses how the narrator’s mother died and his father sold him, it also mentions the age of the child by saying how he couldn’t talk properly and couldn’t even say the words he’d need to shout out in the streets “sweep”, he could barely say “weep”, a contraction of the word “sweep”.
Also in the first stanza it is stated that he sweeps other people’s chimneys indicating he owns nothing of his own and cannot wash so the soot stays on his skin. He has no control over his life as he has no belongings and he is not able to get the soot off his skin. This is made more clear in the second stanza when Tom Dacre has his head shaved, he has not asked to have this happen, it is something that happens to all sweeps. The narrator tries to comfort him by telling him that at least the soot cannot spoil Tom’s white hair, being able to comfort others is almost the only control these boys have over their lives.
In the third, fourth and fifth stanzas we see another way the boys have control. They can dream at night while asleep. This dream is full of whiteness, brightness and happy things. The key is bright and Angels are generally thought of as bright and white. There is a green plain, a river and they are so bright after washing in the river they shine in the sun. The clouds and wind are also considering bright symbols.
The final stanza shows the boys waking up before dawn, “in the dark” and getting their work accoutrements together to go to work. In the final line there is an instance of them having control over their lives as they’ll be fine if they do what they’re told to do.
This poem could also be construed as an indictment on society of the time. We have these very little children who can’t even speak properly being sold by their parents, abandoned by them and put to work at far too young an age. We are told they are young by their inability to speak the word “sweep” or even the word “weep”. Their heads are shaved and they have very little control over their lives. They are put into dangerous situations, hence the allusions to coffins of black in the third stanza and coffins in the fourth stanza. The coffins of black are an analogy to chimneys, as mentioned above children often died in the chimney if the soot overcame and suffocated them. Except in their dreams, these children only knew hard work and colourless things as referenced by the word soot in the first and second stanzas, black in the third stanza and dark in the final stanza. They could only dream or wish for bright things such as green plains, running, laughter, a river and sunshine all mentioned in the fourth stanza and white clouds and wind in the fifth stanza. In the final stanza we see how these children have to get up while it’s still dark, so before dawn, pick up their heavy bags and brushes and work. The morning is cold and they are enjoined to work hard or they’ll receive punishment. Society still lets children be hit by adults and this shows how society has to make a lot of changes.
One final layer is religious. There are so many instances of religion in this poem. There’s the lamb as mentioned in the second stanza. Jesus has often been seen as a sacrificial lamb and I do wonder if Blake is trying to point out that these boys are being sacrificed. In the third and fourth stanzas we have the image of thousands of black coffins being opened by an Angel which could be the resurrection of the dead at the end of days. In the third stanza we’re told the coffins are black and they could be the chimneys the children have died in, so we could be being told that all the children who died in the chimneys will still be resurrected. The final two lines of the fifth stanza and the last line of the final stanza indicate what the church has been trying to tell us for a long time that we have to do what we’re told and we will be accepted by God and everything will be fine.
Basically there are three main layers to this poem. One about the children, for the children telling us how they have no control over their lives. The second one is a major indictment on society and how they treated young boys at that time. The third is a religious allegory.
Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. ~ Virginia Woolf
I was sent this quote by Jen, it comes from Little Grey Bungalow and the photo is cute, but I don’t know how you’d go about getting a book out to read. It could be for decoration only, made out of books that are no longer wanted and needed, such as in this article. I can’t decide whether to hate this idea or to love it. On the one hand you’ve got books which should have been thrown out being used again and on the other I hate destroying books. And, of course, this wall gives us the variegated feather feeling.
The quote encapsulates how I feel about books. I really don’t like opening a brand new book, I think I’ve mentioned it before. Being the first person to open those pages and ‘crack the spine’ totally worries me, I can do it but it takes a bit of working towards before I’m able to do that. Pre-loved books are totally different, they’ve been opened before and had that new smell and feeling taken away from them. They may have only been read once ever so carefully and still look new but that one read makes all the difference to me. I don’t have that problem with library books as it’s next to impossible to know if I’m opening the book for the first time. I do suspect that if the librarian told me I was the first to borrow it I’d then be left with that dilemma of being unable to open it.
Whenever someone buys a book from me I talk about it going to a new home. I don’t actually talk to it and tell it so, I’m not that crazy, but I do spend a second or two being excited at having found a new home for another book. I know how that makes me look but it’s how I feel, it’s that same feeling of excitement when I found out about BookCrossing and found a new way for people to find books to fit into their homes. Admittedly with BookCrossing you’re not really meant to keep them but are meant to release them into the wild either when you’ve read them or when you’ve had enough of giving it houseroom.
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this quote?
Sunday afternoon we journeyed to the past. They say the past is another country and I keep being reminded of it. This was no exception. We went to Makor Library to a book launch, they have enough of them as they sponsor a writing programme called Write Your Own Story.
So many people I know have written their story and had it published through this programme, they are all fairly high quality considering the authors are not professional writers. They are overseen and encouraged by Adele Hulse, who is a professional writer. The programme has been going since 1998 and Sunday’s book was the 98th book to be launched since that time.
It was a lovely book launch. We heard from a very old friend of the author who had come all the way from Perth for the occasion, we heard from Adele Hulse, Cymbalist’s daughter and also Cymbalist herself, no mean feat as she’s getting on to being 90 years old. Everyone spoke very eloquently about the programme and about Cymbalist and her tenacity for the project, she started writing 12 years ago, her staying power is just fabulous for a project such as this.
I do want to encourage everyone to write down their stories. Everyone’s story is important, even if you don’t know how to write, or just think you don’t. Many of these people in the Write Your Own Story programme came from other countries and they’ve written in English and as it’s not their native language they’ve been further challenged. Your story is important, not necessarily to you or even to your children, but to your grandchildren or great grandchildren; people you may not know yet, they have the right to know where they came from to know things about you. It’s also very important from a historical perspective to have people’s stories, the more we have the bigger a picture historians will be able to build.
I’m sure you’re all sick of updates, but I’m really struggling to write much nowadays. I have two things taking up a lot of my time. It’s not that my English class takes a lot of time, by the time I add in travelling time it’s only five hours in a week, but it’s the homework that really eats into everything. I’m still reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens, I’m meant to be finished by tomorrow night but that’s really unlikely as I still have 200 pages to go, Wednesday of next week is more likely. I’m finding it really slow to read. Two thirds of the way through and it still hasn’t grabbed my attention so I’m just plodding along with it. I have to take a break this week and read through some of the handouts we’ve been given, they include a glossary which is much needed as I’ve found so many words I just don’t know, and also a list of websites we should look at.
The other thing is my new website. I had this wonderful theme that looked nice and funky without being threatening, then I realised I couldn’t make the changes I needed. I tried for quite some time and eventually gave up last week and put the time into searching for another theme. I focussed on different keywords and found one that had almost everything I needed except it wasn’t Creative Commons. Emailing the person who wrote it was useful as they agreed to let me use it and make the changes I wanted to make. I’m in the middle of making those changes. There’s not a lot to do really. I have three changes on my list: making the header clickable; putting some keywords on the title of the page and; giving the drop down menus the correct colour. There is one more thing which is much harder and I’ve asked someone else to do this, but if she can’t find the time then I’ll just live without it. Then I have to add in all the useful things on either side and I’ll be ready to put all the books and blog posts into it. My aim is to be ready to put all the books in it by the end of the weeks. I’m not terribly good with html and WordPress so each change is taking one or more nights, take out Wednesday night for my class and that takes me to this time next week.
While I’m doing these two big things I may or may not write on my blog. I do have a few more books I haven’t reviewed and I did think I could cheat and put in my homework or my SACs as I’d be interested to see what people thought about them. I’m really not sure what will happen. Hopefully Squid Ink will come back from walkabout and I’ll have something for Thursday.
First came the Tomorrow series, followed by The Ellie Chronicles. This book is the third volume in The Ellie Chronicles. I managed to pick up Incurable and Circle of Flight at the same time and thought I’d picked up the earlier book of the two, unfortunately I managed to get it wrong and so I’ve been reading them out of order.
The Tomorrow Series is a very well written series of books set in Australia about an invasion. It’s not WWIII, but it’s bad enough as an unspecified country invades us and tries to take over the country. A group of teenagers fight back. The Ellie Chronicles take over when peace is negotiated. It’s an interesting peace and not everyone agrees with it. Ellie has adopted a boy and appears to be a target for the invaders.
This book has all the same qualities as Tomorrow When the War Began. Great writing, believable characters and lots of tension. In this book, Gavin, Ellie’s adopted brother, is kidnapped and she has to get him back. She has to go over the border and mix with the invaders in order to rescue him. This is not as easy as James Bond makes it out to be and when they are eventually rescued the bruises are obvious.
This is another recommended read. Actually, I’d recommend any of John Marsden’s books. At this point I’m making assumptions that all of his books are as good as these two series, that may be a poor assumption and I’ll read some of his other books in due course and let you know.