Review – One Small Island

Ok, it’s been a while.

On top of growing a tiny person, I’m trying desperately to meet my end of year deadline for the book, and have been swamped with work, speaking, sickness and a few large articles (this post stems from one).

I promise to be back soon, but a few things to tide us over in the meantime.

1. This new section ‘Books for Tiny People’ will be reviews of the books I read to or with my own Tiny Person in mind. He’s not far off now, so I’m turning more of an eye to picture books. If I like them I’ll put something up, and if you’re interested, feel free to read it.

2. This review (copied from my Goodreads account) comes from an article that I’m writing for VATE on texts to support the Australian curriculum. I read it, and couldn’t stop taking notes. It’s a quick review that I just dashed out, but it’s something. Til next time – enjoy!

Such a beautiful book I have to give it 5 stars.
One Small Island leaves me with contradictory feelings in many ways – I want to one day share it with my son because of the importance of preserving our earth, and then I hope never to have to – hope that things will somehow get better or become more sustainable.
This picture book is quick to point out our flaws as we traipse over the earth, taking our lifestyles, our cultures, our specific habitats into undisturbed areas, guaranteeing that they will never be quite the same. And yet there is something beautiful in the balance that is struck (eventually, or at times) between nature and the intruder.
It is a book that doesn’t leave me without questions, I wonder how I feel about extreme conservation methods (myxomatosis – which I watched several pet rabbits suffer horribly from before dying as a child; poison – with the attitude of the native creatures affected being only a small percentage compared to those harmed by doing nothing); I wonder about radical lifestyle changes, about becoming someone who does more than I do right now; I wonder about the future. But at the same time it’s a book that answers many questions, ones I didn’t even know I had, about the shape of our earth, the evolution of our history.

One Small Island is a book that mirrors its name – a small book, but one with great significance to readers.

You can get teachers notes for the book here.

Review, some news and a promise

First up, while I have been busy with Big Life Business (more on that later) I’m well aware at just how slack I’ve been with the blogging and the reviewing and what not. So rather than promising hundreds of reviews and then not delivering, I’ve written and scheduled a whole week of review-ey goodness! It’s all done, which means no-one needs to rely on me to actually do anything but watch the dates go by. So Monday to Friday next week stay tuned for 5 reviews of some recent YA titles. (that’s the promise part).

Now, a review and some news. I recently found out that I’m expecting my very own little person to read to and play with. It’s all very exciting and also terrifying BUT the relevance that it has to this blog is that it’s made me very aware of the books that I’ll be reading to him. This realisation coincided quite nicely with a publisher sending me a brand spanking new copy of Gus Gordon’s new book, Herman and Rosie to review, so although my focus will still be predominantly YA, you can expect to see a few picture books popping up here and there as I prepare myself for endless hours of reading to my little person. Forgive me though, because I’m not used to reviewing picture books so it may take me a while to find my groove with it!

Herman and Rosie had me at hello, because it reminded me of one of my favourite animated features, Mary and Max. The story is of two people alone amongst the hustle and bustle of a big city. Sometimes they love it, love to breathe the city air and be surrounded by the energy and business, but when things go wrong Herman and Rosie each lose their creative spark and feel more alone and low than ever.

We literally watch their paths cross on the beautiful, intricate maps that dot the pages, and I imagine that readers will delight in pointing out all of the things Herman and Rosie share, following the journey eagerly in the hope that the two, clearly destined to be the best of friends, shall meet.

You can see a teaser of the book below, an image taken from Gus Gordon’s website.

I love both the pictures and the text of this book, there’s a business and a simplicity in both. Everything is easy to understand, words easy to pick out, no big swathes of text for young readers to trip over. But at the same time nothing is so simple that one glance is enough. You have to keep  going back and looking again, getting drawn into the layers of words and pictures and finding something new each time.

I’d like to bet that everyone finds a favourite page in this one, both little people and big ones. It might be the evocative colours you love, or the detailed and personalised maps. Or it might be watching Herman and Rosie in their elements – playing groovy jazz and singing from the rooftops of their (actually quite close by) apartment buildings. Whatever it is, there’s going to be something you’ll love in Gus Gordon’s book and I can’t wait to have a brand new person to share it with.

Also, Leigh Hobbs will be launching the book in Melbourne later this month so you can actually go and meet Gus and grab yourself a signed copy. Check out the details here and get along to the Little Bookroom on the 22nd. I went to the launch of Anna Walker’s Peggy last weekend and not only was it a cracking good time, but we got a delicious biscuit in the shape of a chicken!

Faber Academy Week 3.5

Saturday saw the first full day session of Faber Academy (which still ended up being too short – I honestly think that the group – myself included – could be locked in a room for days with paper and books and would still run out of time, although we may kill each other.)

When I first looked up the details of this course, one of the things that drew me to it was that it didn’t cover picture book writing. That’s not to say that I’m not a big fan of picture books (the picture to my left is one of my all time favourites), it’s just not what I wanted to workshop at this point.

But as a group we decided to spend one session covering picture books – and bless Sally for cramming her extensive knowledge of picture books into one day! It was incredibly useful – not only because I actually do love picture books so it was secretly a lot of fun to have Sally read ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ aloud to us, but also because the struggle to use language so imaginatively, so succinctly and so well is the kind of workshopping that can and should be applied to all other writing. As Sally told us, Mem Fox would say that in a picture book every word must be the best word. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing but you get my drift.

Anyway, so the session was lovely. We read picture books aloud, we discussed the relationship between words and text, the age ranges, topics, plays with language – essentially the richness of picture books. I find it disappointing but not entirely surprising that it is getting more difficult to have one published, primarily because people don’t buy them as much. $30 does seem like a lot for minimal text – but picture books are often what readers remember well into their adulthood. Ask any booklover which book they remember and it’s likely to be a favourite picture book from childhood. They’re so worth it. I went out and bought one immediately after just to remind myself of that.

We then workshopped our own picture book (sans pictures – oh how I wish I could draw). Many people brought text in that they were already working on, but some started from scratch. Going around our group and reading out stories was wonderful. There’s one in particular who has such a way with rhymes (but not naff or forced) and her story (which she wrote on the day) was hilarious. I hope to see it on the shelves soon.

I wrote a piece called Puppy Fat. If I ever decide to make the foray into picture books I suspect that’s the piece I’ll do it with.

So all in all a surprising, extremely informative and lovely first full day. I wish there were going to be more of them.