Review: What Do You Call Your Grandpa? Ashleigh Barton & Martina Heiduezek

What Do You Call Your Grandpa

Ashleigh Burton

Illustrated by Martina Heiduezek

HarperCollins Publishing

ABC Books

ISBN: 9780733340864

RRP$17.99

Ages 4+

 

Description:

An inclusive picture book for grandparents everywhere.

 

In every country around the world are grandpas short and tall.

 

Though they go by different names, we love them one and all.

 

From brilliant new talents Ashleigh Barton and Martina Heiduczek, comes a charming and heart-warming book that celebrates the many different ways we say grandpa.

 

What Do You Call Your Grandpa? is a love letter to grandfathers and families from every corner of the globe.

 

My View:

A celebration of all names for grandpa – with images of traditional elements of the culture being explored in each page, this book is a delight to read with your pre-schooler.  Caregivers, pre-schoolers and teachers alike will find this a useful resource when discussing inclusivity in the global community of contemporary Australia. And a great gift idea for the upcoming (grand) fathers’ days 😊

 

 

 

Post Script: The Homestead Girls – Fiona McArthur

A most satisfying read.

Cover The Homestead Girls

The Homestead Girls

Fiona McArthur

Penguin Random House

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9780143799825

 

Description:

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

 

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

 

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

 

A Little History:

Before I begin I would like to clarify my position on reading Australian Rural Romance. When I was younger (much much younger) I read anything and everything I could get my hands on – some would say I haven’t changed very much in that respect. I love reading. As many of you who are around the same vintage as will remember, early reading ( primary school age) was mostly centred around Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven and then…well really I think there was not much on offer until I started high school when I was able to read books from the school library. So there was this in-between stage where I can’t really recall what books I read… but thinking hard maybe it was around this age (12/13years) I discovered a well-known brand of romance books. As I recall – they were fast reads – I do recall at one point noting I could read ninety pages an hour. They were formulaic, full of misogynistic stereotypes, back then I didn’t know the meaning of the word – life taught me that one pretty quick 🙂 Misogynists as defined by http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/misogynist “noun – a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women.” Yep that pretty much summed the protagonist in these type of reads – the male protagonist – and yes a male was always the important character – was always good looking, physically strong, rich and had a passive aggressive relationship with the female love interest – who was usually of a lower social economic class than the protagonist – usually cook, maid, tutor, book keeper, shop assistant, waitress etc….usually always in desperate financial situation, lacking in choices and needed rescuing….and initially she hated the arrogant protagonist who treated her terribly….then in the next .x. number of pages (I used to know the formula) he would “force” himself on her (more often than not), then she would realise she was really attracted to him, then they would share a few pages of bliss and then have a big fight and them on the last few pages make up and marry. Did I get that right? That is roughly my recollection of the formula. And at one point this teenager thought she would write these type of books – and easily I thought. I never did. I progressed to Agatha Christie, Stephen King and the likes. Much better reading material

 

But by then I had these false impressions of “life” stamped on my brain and real life caught up with me – I had my own “bookish romance experience” and to answer your question, no, passive/aggressive controlling, violent behaviour isn’t romantic… but it did take me a while to realise this and to escape the situation – what doesn’t kill you…..Anyway it did make me stronger and empathetic.

 

Down the track, now older, wiser (mostly or at least I like to think I am) and better educated, a quiet feminist, happily married…I vowed never to set my eyes on those sort of formulaic “bodice rippers” ever again. I am sure many of you have heard me say that on my blog. And that fact remains true. Those style of books are not for me. But lately you may have noticed I have a read a few books which I think are loosely classified as Australian Rural Romance or maybe even Women’s Fiction. I have not been able to find a description of a genre that sits well with me that these books fit into – even Women’s’ Fiction comes with an implied second class reading (and writing ) status, a literary sexism; maybe we should just call these books Contemporary Fiction – for that is indeed what they are.

 

Anyway – back to the point – these works of contemporary fiction, in particular Australian contemporary fiction (I can’t comment on other countries contemporary fiction as I have not read any that I can recall) are so vastly different to the romance books of my childhood. Romance rules of old have been turned on their head; the protagonists in these reads are women, strong women, they are generally well educated; doctors, teachers, nurses, pilots, cops, soldiers…they may be divorced, or raising a child by themselves. They are resourceful, they are strong, they may have a great support/community network of mostly women behind them, they don’t put up with violent or controlling behaviour, life has its challenges but these women prefer to write their own destinies; this doesn’t however make them unlovable. Often there are elements of humour, spotlights on contemporary social, health and environmental issues and no bodices are ripped! These are the types of books I enjoy reading. The other style is probably still around but I will continue to avoid it. Contemporary fiction has an important place is my reading life – it provides a change in pace and storyline to my first love in reading – crime fiction. Reading crime fiction, novel after crime fiction novel, can be wearing; often books of this genre are intense and can leave me emotionally drained (not much humour in crime fiction – unless it is black humour), a change of pace  and style keeps my reading fresh and alive; revives me.

 

Back to the review at hand.

 

 

My View: The Homestead Girls

 

I really enjoyed this book – its outstanding quality – it made me smile. This is a great example of contemporary Australian fiction – wonderful rich warm characters, so many strong and feisty women, a great showcase for the service provided to the community by Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), an opportunity to remind people of how the drought effects farmers, rural life in general and regional towns. The protagonists work for the RFDS and as such a few health issues are exposed and explored and there is the most wonderfully satisfying relationship that develops between The Homestead Girls. What more can you ask for in a contemporary Australian rural setting? Nothing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: What Was Lost – Catherine O’Flynn

What was lost

What Was Lost

Catherine O’Flynn

Holt Paperbacks

Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 9780805088335

 

 

Description:

In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

 

Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.

 

My View:

Inspired by a blog post by Margot Kinberg – Confessions of a Mystery Novelist: http://margotkinberg.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/in-the-spotlight-catherine-oflynns-what-was-lost/ I sought out “What Was Lost” and what a remarkable read this little book turned out to be.

 

O’Flynn does a magnificent job of capturing the essence and voice of ten year old Kate Meaney – her small life; her home, her school, the people around her and her big ambition to become a junior detective and then that voice stops suddenly and we are transported twenty years on, Kate has disappeared or has she? There is a mystery here to be resolved.

 

What struck me most about this book was the author’s ability to convey a profound sense of loss: loss of identity, loss of life, loss of innocence, and the loss of Kate…Kate has such a profound effect on the people around her – at the start of the narrative and even twenty years on. There was closure here but that all pervading scent of loss lingers long after you finish reading this book…such sorrow, such a small life had such a huge impact…it is hard to imagine how many lives Kate would influence. You must read this book yourself to appreciate the authors special skills – her social commentary, her depiction of life in the ‘80s in small town America; the birth of the “mall and takeaway culture” we now normalise, O’Flynn’s views are insightful and I think ahead of her time. O’Flynn captures the essence of the small community – the good and the bad, her characters come alive in her settings. A great read.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Art Of Belonging – Hugh Mackay

“It’s not where you live but how you live.”

The Art of Belonging

The Art of Belonging

Hugh Mackay

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781742614250

 

 

Description:

The Art of Belonging advances the argument put forward in Mackay’s bestselling The Good Life: a ‘good life’ is not lived in isolation or in the pursuit of independent goals; a good life is lived at the heart of a thriving community, among people we trust, and within an environment of mutual respect. Drawing on 50 years’ experience as a social researcher, Mackay creates a fictional suburb, Southwood, and populates it with characters who – like most of us – struggle to reconcile their need to belong with their desire to live life on their own terms. He chronicles the numerous human interactions and inevitable conflicts that arise in a community when characters assert their own needs at the expense of others. Through a series of riveting, interconnected stories, Mackay reveals the beautiful symmetry of the human condition: we need communities, but communities also need us. His book is a quiet but persuasive entreaty to readers to take responsibility for the places where they live by engaging, volunteering, joining up and joining in.

The Art of Belonging is the book that will reignite the conversation about how we want to live; it will provide the framework for those who argue for a particular vision of community, one that sustains, protects and nurtures the many, and not just the few.

 

 

My View:

 

In this very accessible narrative (Mackay uses life in a pseudo town called Southwood to make his points), we experience many “aha”moments that accompanies much nodding of the head in agreement as we read along and discover social analysis that is so relevant to how we lead our lives today. Mackay talks about how we make communities, the benefits to those engaged in communities and how society and humanity is shaped by community relationships.

 

It isn’t difficult to make “community” a positive experience, “when we take each other seriously and treat each other with kindness and courtesy, the suburban miracle – the township miracle, the village miracle – happens, over and over again. At the very least, we manage to live at peace with each other. Quite often we do much better than that.” (p.49) Simple words that make real sense and Mackay shows us how this can be achieved through very real interactions at a street level.

 

This book is full of practical advice that town planners, CEO’s, schools…individuals can take on board. Mackay makes an interesting point about herding behavior (p.65) that can could make the difference between success and failure of your next committee/workplace/community meeting: “we humans are by nature herd animals, and the long history of human civilization tells us that we are most comfortable in herds of between five and eight people. Below five, social energy is harder to generate; above eight, the dynamic changes and it becomes a more formal setting that’s less intimate and potentially more inhibiting for some members of the group.” Makes perfect sense to me…I nod my head again in agreement as I read this… I can see the implications all around me, it can apply to book groups, committees, dinner parties, study groups…the benefits in terms of positive outcomes and of inclusion is obvious and a small change like consciously deciding on numbers when setting up a group can make a big impact.

 

This is a great read, the language is clear and accessible, the examples easy to relate to. Wave to your neighbour as you leave home today, say “good morning” “how are you doing?” to the postie or the petrol station attendant, the checkout operator, the book seller, your teachers, your colleagues…and watch the world around you slowly change.

Post Script: Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist

Bread and Wine

A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

Shauna Niequist

Zondervan

ISBN: 9780310328179

Description:

As a follow up to her two bestselling books, Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines, author and blogger Shauna Niequist returns with the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table. Bread and Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread and Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. With wonderful recipes included, from Bacon-Wrapped Dates to Mango Chicken Curry to Blueberry Crisp, readers will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread and Wine.

 

My View:

A beautifully written and well executed book that melds a love of cooking and sharing recipes with honest true to the heart stories of life. I have not read this author before and I was heartened to read someone who shares so many of my beliefs about food; “marketing and advertising campaigns urging us to eat out or buy already prepared foods want us to think that plain old cooking is difficult and not worth learning……The trend began in the 1950’s…….in order to sell canned food and cake mixes, advertisers had to convince American women that cooking is too hard and troublesome for our modern world. But it wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now….If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that’s a skill for life.” (p.41)

Niequist and I share another major view on food; “when you are dependent on prepared foods, you don’t get to decide how something is seasoned… You don’t get to add flavour according to your geography, your story, your table.”(p.42)  I love the message that is so clearly proclaimed in this book; “our goal, remember, is to feed around our table the people we love. We are not chefs or restaurateurs or culinary school graduates and we shouldn’t try to be. Make it (food) the way people you love want to eat it. Make it the way you love it.”(p.51) I love cooking for the people I love; for my family.  I love to bake their favourite cakes, makes jams and pickles and meals for boisterous get togethers. Food and cooking are such an important part of how we connect to our community and I am so pleased to find another who passionately shares this view.

Niequist is a great conversational writer, when you read this book you feel that she is sitting across the table enjoying a coffee or perhaps a glass of wine and indulging you with her stories of life, of relationships, of body image, of juggling the pressures of the modern world. She talks to YOU.  The reader is her friend. Sprinkled in this conversation are many delicious sounding recipes that I will soon be trying in my kitchen.

I really enjoyed this read, the life stories and the recipes. The spirituality that seasons this book works because it honours the author’s voice. This is a book I will highly recommend.