Why Do You Read?

Shaun Tan is a featured ambassador for Australia's National Year of Reading and participated in an interview for their site.  Here's a taste:
Shaun Tan as a boy

  • Do you remember learning to read?Yes, it was some book about a grasshopper and the word ‘jump’ was the first clearly recognisable thing. My Mum also had a ‘new word of the day’ as we were growing up, often a bit funny or obscure, which was a really fun idea. I still remember that a Xebec is a three-masted vessel from Algiers. Never managed to use that one in a conversation yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
  • What's the first book you can remember reading or having read to you?The first I remember was something about a rhinoceros, an animal I’d never seen before. I remember the book having a very particular smell (something you don’t get with ebooks unfortunately). But the most memorable was George Orwell’s ‘Animal farm’, which our Mum more or less read to my brother and I by accident (it’s not really a children’s book). She actually found it a bit shocking, but my brother and I just thought it was really cool.
The real treat, though, is the comics postulating answers to the question "why do you read?" that are included with the interview.  Pop over and have a look here.



Picture a Book

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) has announced the shortlists for its seven children's book awards.  

Here are the five beautiful books up for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Prize:

Cinnamon Baby, by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by Janice Nadeau 
Picture a Tree, written and illustrated by Barbara Reid 
Small Saul, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires 
Without You, written and illustrated by Geneviève Coté 
Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been? written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by Rae Maté 



We've been singing the Shakespeare song from Horrible Histories all weekend and the twelve year old can now quote more Shakespeare than most undergraduates.  And he correctly answered the skill-testing question about the meaning of "wherefore art thou Romeo?"  He says he learned it from an old Peanuts strip.  Linus tells Lucy that wherefore means why and Lucy says: "Now that I know that, what do I do?"

Now I am off to look for this book to add to our already extensive collection of  Horrible Histories.    You can find a complete list of titles here.


Mister Got to Go

I have just added Mister Got to Go and Arnie
by Lois Simmie with illos by Cynthia Nugent
to Vancouver books on the 100-Mile Book Diet Map.

This map is the latest brainwave of 49th Shelf.

The book is a sequel to the wonderful Mister Got to Go: The Cat Who Wouldn't Leave and is being brought back into print this summer by Red Deer Press.

Both stories are set at Vancouver's beautiful Sylvia Hotel.

The books are great gifts for anyone who loves cats or dogs or the Sylvia Hotel or Vancouver or rain or beautiful pictures and charming stories.

Fingers crossed for a third book in the series.



Moonbird won an Academy Award for short film in 1959.   The film is by John Hubley (who based Mr. Magoo upon an uncle apparently) and his wife Faith Hubley and features the voices of their two young sons,  taken from a recorded play session.

I love the way the story arises out of their very genuine and spontaneous interaction.

Via The Internet Archive.



Charlotte Cory has struck upon the wonderful art of combining Victorian portrait calling cards with photos of taxidermied animals.  These pictures are the subject of her just released  You Animal, You! published (quite appropriately) by Black Dog.

I think this foxy fellow is my favourite of what she calls her Visitorians.

You can buy her work in a variety of formats from tea towels to jigsaw puzzles to t-shirts.


Giving the people what they didn't know they wanted...

Love this bit in a recent Zadie Smith New York Review of Books piece about libraries and independent bookstores as essential services.
Meanwhile my daughter is running madly through the centre’s esplanade, with another toddler who has the same idea. And then she reverses direction and heads straight for Willesden Green Book Shop, an independent shop that rents space from the council and provides—no matter what Brent Council, the local government for the London borough of Brent, may claim—an essential local service. It is run by Helen. Helen is an essential local person. I would characterize her essentialness in the following way: “Giving the people what they didn’t know they wanted.” Important category. Different from the concept popularized by Mr Murdoch: giving the people what they want. Everyone is by now familiar with the Dirty Digger’s version of the social good—we’ve had thirty years of it. Helen’s version is different and necessarily perpetrated on a far smaller scale.
Helen gives the people of Willesden what they didn’t know they wanted. Smart books, strange books, books about the country they came from, or the one that they’re in. Children’s books with children in them that look at least a bit like the children who are reading them.


She also provides an excellent definition of a well-run library:
All libraries have a different character and setting. Some are primarily for children or primarily for students, or the general public, primarily full of books or microfilms or digitized material or with a café in the basement or a market out front. Libraries are not failing “because they are libraries.” Neglected libraries get neglected, and this cycle, in time, provides the excuse to close them. Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.
I consider myself very lucky to live in a community with a well-run library, staffed by our excellent volunteer librarian, Betty Thibodeau.


Frenzy, elation, enthusiasm...

In "Take Me Home" by the late Ray Bradbury in this month's New Yorker magazine, he describes the intensity of reading as he experienced it as a child. I think some of us spend the rest of our lives trying to replicate that experience.

When I was seven or eight years old, I began to read the science-fiction magazines that were brought by guests into my grandparents’ boarding house, in Waukegan, Illinois. Those were the years when Hugo Gernsback was publishing Amazing Stories, with vivid, appallingly imaginative cover paintings that fed my hungry imagination. Soon after, the creative beast in me grew when Buck Rogers appeared, in 1928, and I think I went a trifle mad that autumn. It’s the only way to describe the intensity with which I devoured the stories. You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.
When I look back now, I realize what a trial I must have been to my friends and relatives. It was one frenzy after one elation after one enthusiasm after one hysteria after another. I was always yelling and running somewhere, because I was afraid life was going to be over that very afternoon.



Cozy Classics Board Books

Look what the oh-so-clever folk at Simply Read Books have come up with now!
Cozy Classics is a new board book series that presents well-loved stories to children aged 0+. Every classic in the series will be condensed to 12 baby-friendly words, and each word will appear alongside a photograph of needle felted objects.
The first two titles in the series are Moby Dick and Pride & Prejudice and they are the creation of twin brothers Jack Wang & Holman Wang.   This is so brilliant.  I can't wait to see what they will do next!