Archive for March, 2011

Boring with the board books

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cover of My Home36. My Home

Admittedly, this is by far the least interesting of the board books we’ve got so far, but I think it might have its uses at the point where we’re showing DD letters in words, and discussing generalisable concepts. It’s large format, with four labelled pictures on each page of objects in a toddler’s life, arranged roughly in double page spreads of related objects. (The first is meals/eating, the second clothes and living room furniture, the third bathroom things, then toys and bedroom items, and finally in the garden.)

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Life story

Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Memoirs of a Geisha

Image via Wikipedia

28. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Right from the beginning this reminded me of Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki, which I last read in 2008. Then in the acknowledgements at the end I discovered that Mineko Iwasaki was actually Golden’s primary informant about the lives and customs of the the Geisha, or Geiko of Gion, in Kyoto, Japan. She was a primary member of that circle in the 1960s and 70s, while the heroine of Golden’s novel was there in the 1930s, but one stressed point in both books is the importance of the continuing tradition.

So, the novel. Well the first thing to remember is that this is a novel, historical and researched as it may be. As a story, it works, as the first person tale of a woman’s life among men and women of power, wealth and prestige. (Outside Gion, all those with power are men.) In a way, although the story is very different, it reminds me in that of Moll Flanders (which I haven’t read in many years) and Pamela (which I’ve admittedly only read about). This certainly isn’t a love story.

It’s a good book, but having read Iwasaki’s book I actually found the parts of this about Japan just after WWII the most interesting, as that’s a topic I really feel I’d like to know more about. The rest was more (in the words of a reviewer on Amazon.com) fairytale-ish. Yes the lifestyles of the very very wealthy in Japan, as well as those who served them, is interesting, but it’s simply outside the realm of anyone I’m likely to come across, and yet wasn’t new enough to me in novel form.

Friends and Family

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I’ll admit that I knew next to nothing about this book when I asked for it on BookMooch, but I thought it might be of interest, and it was. The sender has offered me another in the series, which I’m currently looking forward to.

Cover of Donkey's Ears Apart51. Donkey’s Ears Apart by George Torode

I somehow suspect the author mightn’t have expected a copy of this to turn up in Jerusalem, since it’s a series of reminiscences about some Guernsey characters (with greater and lesser degrees of eccentricity). Most of the datable incidents appear to be from the 50s, 60s and 70s, although since the book was published in the mid 1990s some may be later, and one or two are from the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, so the 40s. Seeing as my ancestors left Guernsey about five generations ago I certainly haven’t come across any of these individuals before.

The book appears to have been self-published, and that does come out in the proofreading, but it’s well worth the read in any case. My impression is that the author is a great oral storyteller, and has simply written his stories as he’d tell them, and 99% of the time that works great. (The other 1% is largely me being persnickity as someone who’s been paid to proofread a time or two.)

Obvious and not so much

Monday, 28 March 2011
Cover of "97 Ways to Make A Baby Laugh"

Cover of 97 Ways to Make A Baby Laugh

40. 97 Ways to Make a Baby Laugh by Jack Moore

I happened across this in the BookMooch inventory of someone I was getting another book from, and was intrigued. Some of the tips really will work (which ones rather depends on your baby and just how you put them into practice, of course), but largely this is worth a bit of amusement to the adult reader in imagining how the rest would go across.

Not a ‘must have’ or even ‘must keep’ in my opinion, but a bit of fun to read through.

A running beat

Sunday, 27 March 2011
Cover of Heartbeat

Cover of Heartbeat

26. Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

A bit more than a month ago I discussed Cloud Busting by Malorie Blackman, and said it reminded me of this, so thought I should read this one again.

In both books the narrator uses a school project to understand more about both themselves and the others in their lives. In Cloud Busting that is the poetic tale itself, whereas here it’s the drawing project whereby Annie draws the same apple every day for 100 days. (I’ve thought that might be an interesting project even for someone not as artistic as Annie – ie me – but haven’t followed up on it. I’ve got enough ongoing projects for the time being.)

Another difference is that whereas Cloud Busting is basically about one relationship, Heartbeat is about several, and Annie negotiating her place between them. It’s more of a feel-good piece than the other, but is no less valuable because of that.

Aah! Nearly Forgot!

Saturday, 26 March 2011
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Image via Wikipedia

24. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr Seuss

I’d say this is probably one of the best known of Dr Seuss’ books, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s a loose tying together from the very first and last sentences:

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere.

Every day,
from here to there
funny things are everywhere.

but otherwise the double page spreads rarely have much to do with each other. (There are a recurring girl and boy.) I’d say that this might help this book be a good one for a new reader who hasn’t yet got the stamina for a whole book, as they could get a lot from each couple of pages, without losing out on the flow of a story. This being Dr Seuss, you know the pictures and words are rhythmic and funny for children and adults.

For a purpose

Friday, 25 March 2011
Cover of "A Book About The Four Seasons (...

Cover of A Book About The Four Seasons (blr)

I mightn’t have got to discussing this yet, but I think it might be of interest to one of my blog buddies, Hakea, so here goes.

41. Caps, Hats, Socks & Mittens: A Book About the Four Seasons by Louise Borden

Basically this is a book of drawings and statements of things that happen during the four seasons, from a mid to northern US perspective. (Winter is snowy, summer is hot, spring and autumnfall are distinguishable and the flags and cultural events are American.) For each season we get expected weather, activities, food and clothes, along with drawings of kids enjoying themselves appropriately.

Honestly, I think this book could be great for inspiring discussions about the different seasons and favoured activities etc. The downside is that I don’t find it to read all that comfortably as a single entity. I think I want it to be poetic, and it really isn’t (and doesn’t claim to be).

Time, love and distance

Thursday, 24 March 2011
Cover of "Sky Burial"

Cover of Sky Burial

Hm, so is this the second or third book of Xinran‘s I’ve read, considering I started China Witness before it, but am still about halfway through that?

30. Sky Burial by Xinran

This book could so easily be a novel, and as a foreigner I wouldn’t know how plausible it then was. I have enough confidence in what I’ve read of Xinran’s work to believe it isn’t, however. What it is, is a fascinating insight into Tibet and China over the past few decades, as well as a lyrical evocation of loving relationships of different kinds. A number of marriages are key, although none of them meet the usual expectations of most of us, whether Shu Wen’s where she and her husband were separated after just 100 days and she slipped into an entirely different life searching for him, Zhuoma’s family and fortunes being turned upside-down and the long mutual search for the man she loved, or the Tibetan family that takes Wen and Zhuoma in of Gela, his brother Ge’er and their wife Saierbo. I think I want to read this again already.

What this book doesn’t try to do is really explain the politics and background of the dispute over Tibet and its status vis-a-vis China, and I feel I do need to learn more about that. It does show a taste of how these issues are perceived by a few of the people on the ground, however.

Some more craftiness

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

DD has become rather distracted while eating lately, so when we passed a bead shop today I went in and got the components for a nursing necklace, and then made it when we got home. I actually haven’t tried it yet, as she was tired enough not to need it so far tonight, but I’m hoping she’ll like it. (It’s for me to wear while feeding her, not for her to wear, and won’t be left with her unsupervised.)

These are the beads and cord (only 1m – I should have got 1.2m or even 1.5m, and I might get another length and redo this if it’s a pain being so short in use).
large beads and cord in shades of blue

The centre beads are each knotted in place with a single knot in between.

Purple bead half knotted into place

The outer beads are loose on the cord, partly because their holes are bigger and I hadn’t got a long enough piece of cord really, but I did want to have some beads she could move about on their string.

Completed necklace

So this is it. Of course the moment I showed it to baby she lost all interest in eating for about ten minutes (possibly more) as she examined it closely while I held it out to her. Now that she’s had a good look at it, though, I think it may well fit the purpose if I redo it on a longer cord.

An oldie

Monday, 21 March 2011

I came across an extended version of a classic joke in one of the books I’m reading, and had to share it with you:

In one such school the teacher asked the question, “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”, after a pause Billy Falla put his hand up and said;

“Please Miss it wasn’t me.”

The teacher, outraged by the ignorance shown in the answer given, and the low standard in general, went to the head master to complain.

She said, I just asked the class who knocked down the walls of Jericho, and Billy Falla said, please Miss it wasn’t me. The headmaster thought about this a moment and then said, “Well! I have know the Falla family for many many years, and if little Billy said it wasn’t him, then it wasn’t him.” This left her flabbergasted, so that night from her home she wrote a letter of complaint to the States Education Council, which went as follows:-

This morning I asked my class the question who knocked down the walls of Jericho and Billy Falla said; ‘Please Miss it wasn’t me!’ I complained to the headmaster who informed me that he had known the Falla family for many many years and if Billy said it wasn’t him then it wasn’t him.

Some weeks later she received a reply from the States Education Council, saying “We have given careful consideration to your letter and have decided that to avoid any further bad feeling, if you would go ahead and get the wall repaired we will pay the bill”!!

It’s Purim, so I doubt I’ll have time for another post today, but have a good one, all! This is from Donkey’s Ears Apart by George Torode, pp 64-66.