Three Things #9

Bookshelf for ABC Radio 04

Reading Looking Thinking

“Reading” is the first horse out of the stalls with “Doing Time” by pod-travelling author Jodie Taylor.

If you haven’t read the first 22 book series, “The Chronicles of St Mary’s” you are missing a treat.  Dr Lucy “Max” Maxwell and her research team travel through time to historical locations with both hilarious and devastating consequences.

But I digress, because unto Max “When a Child is Born” he is named Matthew and he grows up to become part of the opposition, the dreaded Time Police.  In this new spin-off series, we have long-haired introvert Matthew undergoing his training in Team 236 (or self-dubbed Team Weird) which he shares with two other trainees, handsome Luke Parrish and timid Jane Lockland.  Their dialogue is mostly dry repartee and I wince, thinking it follows the unfortunate trend of TV-ready script writing.

Suitable for YA readers, there is no swearing but there is violence, bullying and a murder followed by some pretty tense moments and a gruelling interrogation.  The interrogation puzzled me.  Surely the Time Police are able to go back in time and see what happened?

Overall, I think the scene-setting is slow and steady and it took me a while to warm up to events.  I didn’t really have a favourite character but the time jump to Ancient Egypt nicely played on my claustrophobia and the Australian rabbit chapter, although not accurate, is hilarious!

I clocked subliminal references to other works from Jasper Fforde, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and some I forgot to write down—maybe they were “erased”.  A strange coincidence with real Sarah Smith, fictional Sarah Smith, and the one from Dr Who.  Or is it all in my imagination?

A return visit to Ancient Rome, chalked togas and all, gets the original St Mary’s team involved and it really hits the fan.  The routine plotline does a messy U-turn, the action gets a good twist, and the reader is shoved towards a dramatic and satisfactory ending.

Time Police work from fictional headquarters in the real Battersea Power Station in London (see bookcover) and Jodi Taylor’s website is full of interesting stuff like liquid string https://joditaylor.online/

On the whole “Doing Time” is not unconventional enough for me, but worth delving into if you are a fan of sci-fi past-future worlds. GBW.

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Yes, that is my cushion!

“Looking” is second across the line with Prince Harry Duke of Sussex, and Meghan Duchess of Sussex.

Their photographs are everywhere, as if people didn’t expect this to happen, but it makes a nice change from graphic bushfire images.

Certain events in my family “overlapped” with the Royals.  No, not a medal or taking tea with Queen Elizabeth II.  More ordinary things, like births and weddings.  For example, I was married at the same time as Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and my marriage broke up at the same time.  Spooky huh?!

Having read many Royal scandals over the years, I won’t go down that “Should they have done it?” track, suffice to say the Duke and Duchess had choices but one decision to make.  They made that decision based on what is right for them at this time.  In life, nobody knows what is around the corner, just keep moving forward. GBW.


“Thinking” gallops into third place with Margaret Atwood and her forthcoming Australian tour.

I am thinking of going—will have to make up my mind fast because tickets are selling like hot books, er, hot cakes.  Yum, books and cakes—I’d certainly kick myself if I missed the opportunity!

This momentous touring event commences in Sydney on 16 FEB 2020 and travels to Canberra, Brisbane [22 FEB 2020], Melbourne, Hobart and Perth.  Margaret Atwood said: “I am so happy to be returning to Australia, where I have spent much time in the past, and where readers have always been so warm and welcoming.” [26/11/19]

I think Margaret’s itinerary shows a lot of stamina; two weeks of touring here plus New Zealand.  ‘Scuse me, I’m just dashing off to count my dollar coins. GBW.

https://www.qpac.com.au/event/margaret_atwood_20/
http://margaretatwoodlive.com.au/index.html

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


“The Testaments” Winner of the Booker Prize 2019

SPECIAL NOTE—Margaret Atwood’s husband, Graeme Gibson knew his time was running out.  He had been diagnosed with dementia and wanted to go to Australia with Atwood to retrace childhood journeys, including visiting relatives in Brisbane, Queensland.  His mother was Australian, his father Canadian, and Gibson had returned throughout his life to see friends and family.  About seven months after their trip, in September, Gibson died in hospital in London where Atwood was promoting “The Testaments”, her highly-anticipated sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  Read more https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/margaret-atwood-s-final-australian-trip-with-partner-graeme-gibson-20191205-p53h6h.html


Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08HISTORICAL NOTE—One post in three parts “Reading Looking Thinking” a neat idea started by perennial blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.

Check out Book Jotter her informative, interesting and book-related website!
[Psst, she’s an Atwood fan]

Yes, Margaret Atwood Has Written Children’s Books

Who’d have thought it?  Margaret Eleanor Atwood (1939- ) author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and more than forty other books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and a graphic novel has written children’s books.

Margaret Atwood also wears various hats, from activist through literary critic, inventor, environmentalist and award-winner with honours and degrees, yet for me this news was surprising.  Not so surprising is the quirky nature of her children’s stories!


 

♦  With grateful thanks to online friend and blogger BookJotter Paula Bardell-Hedley for alerting me to these little gems within a comprehensive list of Margaret Atwood’s literary output—

Up in the Tree (1978)
Anna’s Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980)
For the Birds (1990)
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)
Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004)
Up in the Tree (facsimile reprint) (2006)
Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011)
A Trio of Tolerable Tales (illustrator Dušan Petričić) (2017)

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Being a kidlit fan, I immediately wanted to read several of those earlier Atwood books but found they (like this non-fiction For The Birds) were no longer in print, or libraries, but may be available through state archives or second-hand book merchants.  I will track down her first children’s book Up in the Tree (with her own illustrations and hand-lettering, quite possibly written for her young daughter) because the story intrigues me.

 

Along the way, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery was adapted into the children’s television series The Wide World of Wandering Wenda aimed at early readers with different adventures using words, sounds, and language.

Happily, in 2017, three of Atwood’s books were re-published, printed and bound in Canada into one compilation A Trio of Tolerable Tales.  I was able to buy a new copy with Serbian Dušan Petričić gorgeous drawings.  Atwood’s alliteration is absolutely awesome!

  Here are my reviews of these alliteration-filled, tongue-twisting tales…read on….

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  Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes

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The reader follows the adventures of Ramsay and Ralph the red-nosed rat as they traverse various repulsive obstacles to find a round, Roman-vaulted rat hole leading to food nirvana – round red radishes ready to be devoured.  The radishes revolt and start to attack but thankfully owner Rillah comes on the scene.  She forgives their trespass and shows them around her romantic rectory, rotunda, rococo artworks and rumpus room.  There’s a bit of a ruckus with Rillah’s relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby, so Ramsay & Co beat a hasty retreat back outside and romp rapturously under a radiant rainbow.  There is a very clever twist regarding the radishes and how they repel intruders!  A fun story which needs patience on the part of the reader, especially reading it out aloud for small children.  Laughs are guaranteed and you will marvel at how many ‘R’ words exist in the English language.  GBW.

 

 

  Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda

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Bashful Bob was abandoned in a basket outside a beauty parlour and nobody claimed him.  There is a neglected dog park across the street and the resident dogs are Bob’s best buddies.  There is a beagle, a boxer and a borzoi who believe “We must be benevolent” and they look after young Bob.  On the next block lives Doleful Dorinda.  She’d been dumped with despicable relatives who say “Dorinda is a dope” and make her sleep beside biohazard material.  Her food is awful and she is treated like a slave.  Finally Doleful Dorinda runs away and meets Bashful Bob on the vacant block.  You will have to read this story to find out how their names were turned into Brave Bob and Daring Dorinda but it makes a jolly rollicking tale especially if you like dogs!  The plot and resolution are more conventional, even with the proliferation of ‘B’ words.  A flowing, tangible fairytale and I found it easy to absorb.  GBW.

 

 

  Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery

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Wenda is a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes.  Her parents are whisked away by a weird whirlwind and thereafter Wenda wanders aimlessly.  She makes friends with Wesley woodchuck and they share food scraps and wodges of wieners until one day they are kidnapped by Widow Wallop.  She takes them to her Wunderground Washery to “wash whites whiter than white” every day.  Between the drudgery, they feel sorry for Widow Wallop’s white Welsh ponies and three other waifs, Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai.  Together they plot their daring escape, only to encounter wolves along the way.  How will they evade Widow Wallop’s clutches now?  There is an unexpected reveal at the end!  I think some of the scenes may disturb younger children, particularly those with separation anxiety.  Older readers will chortle at the profuse ‘W’ words and idiosyncratic wordplay.  GBW.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 


QUOTATION:  “Comfort with reading begins in childhood, when parents or other loving adults read to children.  It creates a ‘safe’ place where — nevertheless — dangers can be explored (and, in children’s books, hopefully, overcome)…. I think my children’s books function as protected spaces for me.  I look at darker things quite a lot, but the kind of children’s books I write are light, and have happy endings…. That’s a relief, when I can manage it.”
—Margaret Atwood, author.


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♦  The interior of this book is printed on paper that contains 100% post-consumer recycled fibres, is acid-free and is processed chlorine-free so there’s nothing to worry about, Wenda.