Monday, 29 May 2017

The Family Under The Bridge

The Family Under the Bridge has been in my Paris TBR for some time. I came across author Natalie Savage Carlson a few years ago when I found an old copy of Pigeon of Paris at a used book sale (see my review). So I ordered a copy of The Family Under the Bridge, which appears to be her most famous book, and was a Newbery Honor Book in 1959. I think it was when I was moving books around selecting my stack for the recent Dewey's Readathon that I saw it on my shelves again and knew the time had come to read it.

I suspect that if I knew it was quite a Christmas story then I might have left it to later in the year, but I'm sure I would have forgotten about it again by then anyway. It's a quick little read too, only 123 pages. Armand is homeless, or "an old hobo" in 1950s parlance. It is a cold December day when he gathers his possessions and moves back to his usual winter home under a particular Paris bridge. 

Down the quay he pushed the buggy toward the bridge tunnel that ran along the shore. On the cobbled quay a man was washing his car with the free Seine water. A woman in a fur coat was airing her French poodle. A long barge, sleek as a black seal, slid through the river. It was like coming home after a long absence, thought Armand. And anything exciting could happen under a Paris bridge. 

But Armand finds three redheaded children living under his bridge. They too have become homeless after their father died, and their mother couldn't afford their rent on her wages from her job at a laundry. 

It is a rather simple and wholesome story, with some gypsy characters who are friends of Armand.
"To think we have fallen so low," wept the woman. "My children at home with gypsies."
"What is wrong with gypsies?" asked Armand. "Why do you think you are better? Are you kinder? Are you more generous?"
"I'm honest," murmured the woman through her scarf.
I can't imagine that this book would come anywhere near Newbery Honor status these days. It feels somewhat saccharine sweet. I suspect that I wouldn't have found it appealing at all if it hadn't been set in Paris. 

Naturally, I did enjoy glimpses and insights into 1950s Paris. I was confused at mention of "the Louvre store", but did some searching and realised that it was referring to Les Grands Magasins du Louvre a department store that operated until 1974, and is now Le Louvre des Antiquaires. Les Grands Magazines had impressive doors. 

 "In the good old days of Paris," he told the children, "they used to ring bells in the market places at the close of the day so the tramps would know they were welcome to gather up the leftovers. But no more."

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog  

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Trundle ABBA Festival 2017

Three weeks ago a friend and I went to the Trundle ABBA Festival. It was FABULOUS. Perhaps the most fun day ever. Turns out that drinking a bottle of Veuve on the bus on the way out is a great way to start the day though...

I'd never been to Trundle before. Every shop was decorated in ABBA style. 

Even the hardware store.
Everyone was dressed up
and out for fun

There was dancing in the street

I now hold a World Record for dancing. 

The day is capped off by a concert in the evening. The Kranksy Sisters were support act. And then Bjorn Again. Both were sensational. It was such a fun night. 

Trundle is a small town in Western NSW. The ABBA Festival started in 2012 as a way to boost the Trundle community after years of drought and declining population. 

There is a fabulous 2015 Landline story on the Festival that is well worth watching.

2017 was the sixth year of the ABBA Festival, it won't be my last. 

Saturday Snapshot is a wonderful weekly meme
 now hosted by 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Top 100 Children's Books on Goodreads

A really interesting list from the folks at Goodreads of their top ranking 100 childrens books, as at April 27 2016, all with average ratings above 4. Of course Goodreads ratings are a fluid thing. It is interesting to see that a year later all are still above 4, although a few are barely holding on, and Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three just still scrapes in with a 4.00.

Aesop's Fables - Aesop
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass- Lewis Carroll
The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1)- Kazu Kibuishi
Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
The Arabian Nights- Anonymous
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, Part 1 - Gene Luen Yang
Awkward - Svetlana Chmakova
A Bear Called Paddington - Michael Bond (see my review)
The Black Stallion - Walter Farley (see my review)
Bone, Vol 1: Out from Boneville - Jeff Smith
The Book of Three - Lloyd Alexander
The Borrowers - Mary Norton (see my review)
The Boxcar Children - Gertrude Chandler Warner
Calvin and Hobbes - Bill Watterson
Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander (review coming soonish)

Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede
The Devil's Arithmetic - Jane Yolen
The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank (see my review)
Drama - Raina Telgemeier (see my review)
Echo - Pam Muñoz Ryan
El Deafo - Cece Bell (see my review)
Fablehaven - Brandon Mull
The False Prince - Jennifer A. Nielsen
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg (see my review)
The Giver - Lois Lowry (see my review)
Gracefully Grayson - Ami Polonsky
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman (see my review)
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales - Jacob Grimm
A Handful of Stars - Cynthia Lord
The Complete Hans Christrian Andersen Fairy Tales - Hans Christian Andersen
Haroun and the Sea of Stories - Salman Rushdie
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)
Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
The Incredible Journey - Sheila Branford (see my review)
Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai (see my review)
Into the Wild (Warriors #1) - Erin Hunter
The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick (see my review)
Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling
The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
The Lions of Little Rock - Kristin Levine
The Little House on the Praire - Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers
Matilda - Roald Dahl
The Mighty Miss Malone - Christopher Paul Curtis

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo
Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle - Betty MacDonald
My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George (see my review)
My Sweet Orange Tree - José Mauro de Vasconcelos
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
The Name of This Book is Secret - Pseudonymous Bosch
The Neverending Story - Michael Ende 
Number the Stars - Lois Lowry
Old Yeller - Fred Gipson (see my review)
The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate
Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper
Peter and the Starcatchers - Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie 
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster 
Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (see my review)
Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan
The Red Umbrella - Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Redwall - Brian Jacques (see my review)
The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice #1) - John Flanagan
Sadako and the Thousand paper Cranes - Eleanor Coerr
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (see my review)
See You at Harry's - Jo Knowles

Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar
The Skin I'm In - Sharon G. Flake
Smile - Raina Telgemeier 
So B. It - Sarah Weeks
Stella by Starlight - Sharon M. Draper
The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly - Luis Sepúlveda
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Judy Blume
The Two Princesses of Bamarre - Gail Carson Levine
Watership Down - Richard Adams (see my review)
The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Grace Lin
Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein
Winnie-the-Pooh - A. A. Milne
The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories #1) - Chris Colfer
Wolf Brother - Michelle Paver
Wonder - R.K. Palacio (see my review)
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (see my review)


Rather incredibly nine of these books have more than one million ratings. 

Where the Sidewalk Ends 1,012,247
Charlotte's Web 1,056,995
Little Women 1,291,229
The Giver 1,330,959
The Lightning Thief 1,367,917
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 1,539,198
Diary of a Young Girl 1,997,761
The Hobbit 2,156,492
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 4,638,091

Check out Goodreads Top 100 YA Books

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Don't Call Me Bear

I do love the opportunity to read a new Aaron Blabey book. He has a particular, and sometimes peculiar point of view. Aaron Blabey's books are funny, and lots of fun too. 

Don't Call Me Bear is a simple book, told in lovely rhyme pointing out a fact that we all know- that koalas are not intact bears, even though they often get called koala bears. 

Warren is a rather angsty koala who doesn't like being called a bear. 

Picture Source
Don't Call Me Bear has a wonderful laconic, Australian tone. Highly recommended. 

Aaron Blabey is so prolific that it's really hard keeping up even though most of his books are picture books! I haven't read all of his books, but I do think that Thelma the Unicorn will likely remain my favourite.  (see my review)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

New Life, No Instructions

I do so love finding a book I've never heard of and absolutely need to pluck off the shelves, whether it be in a bookshop or in a library, and read. And so it was with New Life, No Instructions. I was wandering in the Large Print section of my library to find a particular book that was available only in Large Print (Maxine Beneba Clarke's Foreign Soil, borrowed for the second time, hopefully to be read this time), when I came across New Life, No Instructions.

While I am still essentially living my old life, I am living a New Life too, and I also have No Instructions. I liked the cover, loved the title, and picked it up without bothering to read the blurb on the back. Then I read it a few days later.
What do you do when the story changes in midlife? When a tale you have told yourself turns out to be a little untrue, just enough to throw the world off-kilter? It's like leaving the train at the wrong stop. You are still you, but in a new place, there by accident or grace, and you will need your wits about you to proceed. 
Gail Caldwell contracted polio as an infant in 1951, and was left with a permanent disability in her right leg. Her right leg was shorter and weaker than her left. As she grew older she developed chronic pain in her right leg. She was always an active woman, with a fondness for walking large dogs and rowing, but she was slowing down, unable to walk her dog, and dealing with a lot of pain, "limping around for a decade". 
Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway. About second chances, and how they're sometimes buried amid the dross, even when you're poised for the downhill grade. The narrative can always turn out to be a different story from what you expected. 
This is a memoir of resilience, fortitude, will and hope. Gail also talks about the death of losing both her parents relatively quickly, and the death of a close friend around the same time (which I believe is the subject of one of her other books, Let's Take the Long Way Home).
The other thing I know now is that we survive grief merely and surely by outlasting it- the ongoing fact of the narrative eclipses the heartbreak within, a deal that seems to be the price we pay for getting to hold on to our beloved dead. 
It is also a story of addiction, alcoholism, family and community. And dogs, there's quite a bit about dogs.  Gail is somewhat verging on a crazy dog lady. 
Dogs are the mirrors of our humanity. 
New Life, No Instructions was a different story to what I was expecting after the briefest of glimpses at the cover, but I love a Large Print read from time to time, even slow readers like me fly through them because of the big font. I'd never heard of Gail Caldwell before despite her being a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, winning the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism for her work as chief book critic at the Boston Globe. She writes beautifully, I'd be interesting in reading more of her work.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

29 YA Books about Mental Health That Actually Nail It

A great 2016 Buzzfeed list featuring books dealing with mental health. Some are obvious well known choices, quite a few are new to me. 

The Impossible Knife of Memory - Laurie Halse Anderson (see my review)

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
Mosquitoland - David Arnold

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom - Leigh Bardugo
Essential Maps for the Lost - Deb Caletti
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (see my review)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Levithan
Paperweight - Meg Haston
Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl - Barry Lyga
Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J. Maas
The Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
The Sky is Every Where - Jandy Nelson
The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
The Downside of Being Charlie - Jenny Torres Sanchez
Fans of the Impossible Life - Kate Scelsa
The Raven Cycle Series - Maggie Stiefvater
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone
The Memory of Light - Francisco X. Stork
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B - Teresa Toten

It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini

Highly Illogical Behaviour - John Corey Whaley
Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon
Made You Up - Francesca Zappia


This week I also came across this great recommendation video from Jen Campbell with an amazing selection of reads to mark Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. 

Yes my TBR is growing again. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Paris in Bloom

Who would think that I'd scoop this book off the shelf as soon as I saw it for the first time? Well pretty much anyone who knows me. 

Such a glorious cover and such a glorious concept. Paris in Bloom is gorgeous to behold. Largely pictorial it is the work of specialist flower photographer (who knew that was a job? but it sounds fabulous) Georgianna Lane

There are four chapters, Parks and Gardens, Floral Boutiques, Market Flowers and Floral Displays. All gorgeous.

Georgianna often pairs floral depictions on walls, architecture or ribbons with real blooms. It works beautifully. 

Picture Source

There is a handy Field Guide to common spring blossoms at the back, and listings of Georgianna's favourite places to see blossoms and blooms in Paris-parks, gardens, floral boutiques and markets. 

We all love Paris in the Springtime and Paris in Bloom is a terrific source of inspiration and solace for those times when you can't be there yourself. 

Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog