Friday, August 27, 2010

Max Ruane
1922 - 2010

So long Dad, and thanks for all the books

My Dad passed away last Sunday.  Over the past week I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things that made Dad special.

He had a kind and gentle nature; a great sense of humour; and eyes that sparkled when he laughed.  And he was a great storyteller.  He could do all the voices - you just had to close your eyes and you were there.  I owe my love of books and reading to the treasured times Dad and I shared, exploring books and stories as I was growing up.

Whenever I see a copy of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories I can hear Dad's voice rumbling "...on the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River; all set about with fever trees."  Some of his other favourites were Mistress Masham's Repose, Gulliver's Travels, and The House at Pooh Corner.

He would regularly recite passages from his favourite stories and poems - with Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses;  T S Elliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children being his favourites to share with me.

He was a man for whom words held a special power.  In his flight log book was a neatly typed copy of the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee.  A book which held a special place in his heart was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  He carried a small copy of the Rubaiyat in his flying jacket, on every mission he flew for 75 (NZ) Sqn during WW2.  That book was one of his most treasured possessions.

My only regret is that my two children have never really been able to meet the man I knew as my Dad.  You see, Dad suffered from vascular dementia (which has basically the same degenerative effect on the brain and memory as Alzheimer's) and his memory was already failing him before my son was born 11 years ago.  They missed out on those amazing storytelling sessions, and getting to know him as the wonderful, kind-hearted gentleman he was.

I'm sure that by now Dad has found himself a comfy chair, an endless supply of good books, some good bread and cheese, a gin and tonic close at hand, and no doubt a couple of cats to keep him company.

So long Dad.  Ake ake kia kaha.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: How To Clean A Hippopotamus by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

How To Clean A Hippopotamus is a children's non fiction book looking at symbiotic relationships in the animal kingdom.

What a great book!  The information is presented in an entertaining and easily accessible manner, and the amazingly detailed paper collage illustrations are a delight in themselves.

This is a book which would be read again and again, not just as a valuable resource, but for the sheer delight in looking at the fantastic illustrations and reading the animals' stories.

I haven't read any other books by this husband and wife author/illustrator team - but I am certainly on the look out for more now.  Brilliant.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Trigger by Susan Vaught

What would drive a young man who seems to have everything - top sportsman, popularity, girls, great grades, a bright future - to kill himself?  Jersey Hatch's parents don't know, his best mate doesn't know, and Jersey himself doesn't know.  But he is determined to find out.  You see - Jersey's suicide attempt failed.  And now, after a year of rehabilitation, scarred, blind in one eye, with a limp, a non-responsive left hand and permanent brain damage...Jersey is deemed ready to go home.  To carry on with his life.

Jersey can't remember anything about the year before he shot himself in the head.  And everything he thinks, tends to come straight out of his mouth, so he blurts out random words like wench, frog farts, sock - this makes most social situations awkward, to say the least.

As Jersey searches for the answer to his burning question, he learns to cope with life in the real world again, and he begins to understand the fallout his actions had on his friends and family.

Susan Vaught weaves a powerful and moving story, tackling a difficult subject with skill and humour.  It will stay with you long after you finish it.

My thanks to Amanda who kept telling me "you must read Trigger, it's really really good"  Thanks Amanda, you were right!

Trigger was also published under the alternate title Blowout

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver is basically an overcome-the-odds-love story about a girl and a boy, except that the boy is sometimes a wolf. It is funny, and sad, and romantic, but far from soppy.  The narration switches between Grace and Sam, maintaining a nice balance between the two main characters. Both characters grow and develop throughout the story, and the ending leaves you wanting to know more.  The story seems to have a really earthy feel to it - there is a strong emphasis on the seasons, and many of the descriptions are drawn in sounds and smells as well as images.  You'll be yearning for the great outdoors while reading it!

I love this cover - and I love that
the blue has been carried
through to the color of the text - nice.

One of the best things about this story is that Grace is a strong female character with a backbone, not willing to be run rough-shod over by a bunch of werewolves.

The only thing I found that didn't quite gel was that Grace states she had never really been interested in boys until Sam, but she proves herself to be an accomplished flirt.  Maybe that just serves to illustrate that they really are soul mates, and totally at ease and in love, but to me it just didn't sit quite right.

Shiver is the first of a trilogy.  The second book Linger has just been released, and debuted at number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading Maggie Stiefvater's blog - check it out - she is a woman of many talents.  Need another example?  Here is her book trailer for Linger, not only did she create the stop motion herself, she composed the music too.