Five Favourites 17: Ursula Dubosarsky

Today, Ursula Dubosarsky is sharing her five favourites.

What Do You Do, Dear? (1963, USA), written by Seslye Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

Very absurd, very funny series of situations about good manners. What do you do when a lady polar bear walks into your igloo in a white fur coat? that kind of dilemma.  I loved the satirical gaiety of it, I loved the illustrations (these were really my only knowledge of Maurice Sendak until I was an adult, I didn’t read his picture books for some reason) and I loved the form – the set-up of the crazy situation, the repeated question, “What do you do dear?” and then the equally absurd solution.

Gone is Gone  (1935) USA  written and illustrated by Wanda Gag

I was given this before I could read by a friend of my mother’s. I loved the shape of it (small hardback), I loved that it was mine. I loved the storytelling style (a retelling of a traditional tale), the strange words, the madcap humour and I loved the black and white pictures with all the crazy details – the baby, the little dog, the cow on the roof eating the grass. I remember being fascinated by the details of rural life – churning the butter, cutting the crops, gathering the vegetables and so on. Beautiful deep illustrations.

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia (1940) Australia. Written and illustrated by May Gibbs

I bought this at a book stall at a fete at Gladesville Hospital – at least my dad bought it for me – when I was about eight. I distinctly remember loving the language of it, especially the individual sentences. I also loved the picaresque nature of the storytelling, with simply one strange thing following another and then suddenly ending. And I devoured the illustrations where the modern world is recreated in the world of the bush creatures – the cinema, the (sea) horse races, the restaurants, the art school and so on – I was fascinated by the ingenuity and satirical absurdity of it.

Biquette the White Goat (1953) USA written and illustrated by Francoise

I was given this for my 6th birthday and I still know it off by heart, so clearly I read it again and again and again and again and again. It’s the story of a sick little girl who must have goat’s milk to get better.  I think it’s a masterpiece! – of beautiful clear gripping storytelling and equally beautiful clear gripping painted illustrations. As an adult I have sought out as many of Francoise’s books as I’ve been able to.

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965) USA.  Written and illustrated by Dr Seuss.

This was also a birthday present, when I turned eight. Again, I still know this book off by heart and often recite it to myself when I’m trying to fall asleep or feeling at a loose end.  It did and does bring me the most enormous pleasure – the sounds of the words, the ingenious and silly rhymes, the invented words, the crazy sudden characters who disappear just as suddenly, the ridiculousness of the whole premise, the haplessness and openness of the main character, the vanity of human wishes (well not quite human) – it’s got it all! Wonderful, rich literature.

Five Favourites 16: Ingrid Kallick

 

Today Ingrid Kallick recalls her five favourites.

 

 

Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak. Who doesn’t love this story? Great children’s books often have a seditious element. Sendak almost always delivered that. The art, the adventure, the folkloric quality and the eventual safe return of the child all stand out. Most of all, the art influenced my work at a pre-verbal level.

I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. Dr Seuss. This is one of my favorite kids’ books. The artwork is fun and inventive, but not as surprising as the plot. In this story, the main character goes on an arduous journey to get to a place  “where they never have troubles / at least very few”. The one trouble he discovers upon arrival is that he can’t get in, so he gets a baseball bat and returns home to defend himself from the troubles he originally had. Ha! No deus ex machina in this story.

Bambi, a Life in the Woods. Felix Salten. I still have the copy I read as a child. I always had a fascination with deer and woodland wildlife, so I decided to read it. The realism and loss are hard to forget. After reading it, it took many years for me to understand why people hunt. I did like the simple black & white illustrations. When I saw the animated version, it was my first experience of the disconnect between how I envisioned a story and how it was portrayed on film.

A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. I don’t think we owned this book, as it was already a much older edition when I was young. The soft colors and dreamy images by Jessie Willcox Smith are the ones I remember. These, too had a deep influence on my work.

Last, but definitely not least…
The Dragons of Blueland and My Father’s Dragon. Ruth Stiles Gannett. Illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. Even though these illustrations are more geometric and colorful that I usually do, I remember poring over them and marveling at the diamonds and stripes. I don’t remember the stories as much as the art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But wait…there’s more! Bonus:
Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. This is a very dark, old style tale that feels like Grimm. Wanda Gag’s Illustrations were so full of movement, as emotive as German Expressionist woodcuts, and narratively direct. I liked it as a child, but I really adore it as an adult.

Five Favourites 15: Elizabeth Hale

Today Elizabeth Hale is introducing us to her five favourites.

 

The Swish of the Curtain, by Pamela Brown.

About a group of kids who find an abandoned hall, turn it into a theatre and put on plays.  As a child, I loved reading about their cameraderie and creativity.  Written in post-War Britain, and gives a wonderful snapshot of the period.

The Stolen Lake, by Joan Aiken.

I loved everything I read by Joan Aiken, but this one stayed in the mind.  Dido Twite finds herself on a ship heading to Hy Brasil, a colony on the coast of a South American country.  Ruled over by an ageless queen who dines on a porridge made of the bones of children.  Gruesome and fascinating.  Dido helps break the spell.  The book’s spell was harder to break!

The Old Joke Book, by Janet and Allen Ahlberg.

My family loved anything by the Ahlbergs.  This was our favourite.  Like a Victorian almanac of jokes, full of fairy tales, monsters, talking animals, and above all jokes.  ‘Why wasn’t Cinderella chosen for the football team? Because she was afraid of the ball.’  ​Monsters who say ‘fangtastic’ when they’re pleased.  ‘Waiter, waiter, this egg is bad.  Don’t blame me, sir, I only laid the table.’

Under the Mountain, by Maurice Gee.

Redheaded twins with telepathic abilities save Auckland from destruction by totalitarian mud-dwelling worms called the Wilberforces.  I still see it in my mind’s eye when I visit Auckland.

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

This could be any of a number of iconic nineteenth-century books (Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, etc etc).  I loved this book.  I loved Sara, the regal storyteller, her dignity under pressure, her kindness to others.  The scene that still makes me cry: when Sara finds a coin enough to buy some buns, and she gives them away to a girl even hungrier than she is.

Five Favourites 14: Corinne Fenton

 

 

Corinne Fenton writes about her five favourites today.

 

 

Bambi by Felix Salten – There is something about the gentleness of this story and of course the tale of a baby fawn, which make this one of my favourites. Perhaps this is where my passion for animal stories began?

Bill the Budgie (we moved house last year and I can’t place my hands on this at the moment) but for some reason I imagined noisy Bill lived in a stately house in Germany. The other characters are a group of naughty boys and a man delivering coal to the door but Bill saves the day and of course is the hero.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – Always truly beautiful. The idea of a toy becoming ‘real’ was so totally believable to me. I always check every new version that’s produced.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri – Imagine living in a cottage high up in the mountains where you could run free with your pet goats? My own children spent their childhoods living on a hill in Warrandyte and they each had a pet goat. I’ve never thought about this until now. The warmth of grandpa’s home and Heidi’s bedroom in the loft always fascinated me.

Linda and Her Little Sister – I hold a battered copy of this treasured Little Golden Book with sticky tape holding the cover in place. It’s by Esther Burns Wilkin and my darling mum gave it to me in preparation for the arrival of my little sister. I remember the illustrations so well. All these books hold a special place in my memories.

Anna Daniels on her book Girl in Between

Today I’m very pleased to be hosting debut novelist and experienced comedic screenwriter and presenter Anna Daniels in a guest post as part of her blog tour for Girl in Between, her first novel, which she describes as ‘a rom-com set in Rocky’ . Read on to know more!

Girl in Between…the rom-com set in Rocky!

by Anna Daniels

It’s wonderful to be with you, Sophie, and your Feathers of the Firebird followers!

My debut novel, Girl in Between, is a rom-com largely set in my hometown, Rockhampton…the Beef Capital of Australia!

For anyone who hasn’t been to Rocky, it’s a tropical city of about 70,000 people, situated on the Tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland. There’s a wonderful larrikin element to Rocky, heightened by the bull statues astride the roundabouts, and the sense that everyone knows everyone

Jerry Seinfeld has a theory there are some cities in the world, like New York, which are just funny. For me, Rocky fits that bill…it’s just funny!

In deciding to set Girl in Between in Rocky, I wanted to capture the town, with all its quirks and landmarks, so that it was easily identifiable, but I also wanted to make the setting accessible to anyone who’s spent time in any regional Australian city.

I had great fun conjuring up characters and names for the places they work. Ruth, for example, runs a one-woman car wash on the corner of Fitzroy and Albert Streets, and hosts an annual Suds ‘n Thuds disco; Colleen, Ruth’s best friend, works at the popular Rocky café, ‘Bits n Pizzas’, and the central characters, Lucy and Rosie, often have wild nights out at their local, The Whipcrack Hotel.

I remember Gina Riley and Jane Turner, the creators of Kath n Kim, once saying their series was an affectionate look at suburbia, and I like to think that’s how my portrayal of regional Australia in Girl in Between will be viewed….as one of great affection!

Best wishes!

Anna x

Girl in Between by Anna Daniels is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.

More about Girl in Between:

Life can be tricky when you’re a girl in between relationships, careers and cities… and sometimes you have to face some uncomfortable truths. The sparkling debut from comic TV and radio presenter, Anna Daniels.

Lucy Crighton has just moved in with some gregarious housemates called Brian and Denise… who are her parents. She’s also the proud mother of Glenda, her beloved 10-year-old… kelpie. And she has absolutely no interest in the dashing son of her parents’ new next-door neighbour… well, maybe just a little.

When you’re the girl in between relationships, careers and cities, you sometimes have to face some uncomfortable truths… like your Mum’s obsession with Cher, your father’s unsolicited advice, and the fact there’s probably more cash on the floor of your parents’ car than in your own bank account.

Thank goodness Lucy’s crazy but wonderful best friend, Rosie, is around to cushion reality, with wild nights at the local Whipcrack hotel, escapades in Japanese mud baths, and double dating under the Christmas lights in London.

But will Lucy work out what she really wants to do in life and who she wants to share it with?

Anna Daniels is a natural-born comedian. She originally set out to write a screenplay that was part Muriel’s Wedding, part The Castle. Instead, she wrote Girl In Between, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Vogel’s Award. She says ‘I’ve always loved comedy which not only makes you laugh but also pulls at your heartstrings. I think a lot of people may be able to relate to Lucy’s story!’

Girl in Between is a warm, upbeat and often hilarious story about life at the crossroads. Featuring an endearing and irrepressible cast of characters, it will have you chuckling from start to finish.

More about Anna Daniels:

Anna Daniels has enjoyed great success as a comedic storyteller since kicking off her career by winning the ABC’s ‘Comedy Segment of the Year Award’ for an interview with Russell Crowe. She then went on to co-create the ABC’s first online sketch comedy series ‘Tough at the Top’ with Melbourne comedian, Anne Edmonds. For several years Anna wrote and presented funny upbeat stories for The Project, winning over viewers with her warm, silly, endearing style.

Having grown up in Rockhampton, she particularly championed the stories and characters of rural and regional Australia with affection and humour. As well as The Project, Anna has written, presented and/or produced radio, TV and online content for Queensland Weekender, Red Symons’ Breakfast Show, and the BBC One series, ‘John Bishop’s Australia’. Anna continues to report for The Project and often presents on ABC Radio Brisbane.

  • Twitter: @annadtweets
  • Insta: @annamdaniels
  • Website:annamdaniels.com

 

 

 

 

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Five Favourites 13: Lizzie Horne

Today Lizzie Horne selects her five favourites.

 

 

The story about Ping

I can still see the yellow waters of the Yangtze River and hear that duck master calling, la la la lay and feel the thwack of the cane coming down on the last duck home each day – no wonder Ping hid to avoid it!
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
 
Transforming the Australian bush into a world of darling gumnut babies and wicked banksia men in rollicking adventures.
All the Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton
 
Definitely a girls-can-do-anything-boys-can-do series that had me reading at every opportunity.
Seven little Australians
Of course I loved the feisty Judy and cried and cried when the tree fell.
Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie 
The beautiful illustrations had me hooked!

Five Favourites 12: Liz Anelli

 

 

Today Liz Anelli writes about her five favourites.

 

 

Sweethallow Valley by Elleston Trevor (1951) is a bit like Wind in the Willows but with less happening. A group of animal friends live in cosy houses nestled within an English wood. A book I loved because it smelt of my grandparents’ house. I read it so many times they eventually gave me the copy to keep and I still have it, complete with its hot chocolate drink stains and biscuit crumbs.

Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome (written back in1933) is my favourite of all the Swallows and Amazons series for its magic balance of everyday-life believability and audacious mis-adventure. Three families make friends during a Christmas holiday in the English Lake District. The weather prevents their usual camping and sailing activities but they throw themselves into astronomy and skating instead, culminating in a mistimed re-enactment of a famous North polar expedition. Determined that being stuck in bed with mumps throughout the book will not ruin the fun for the rest of the group, natural leader, Nancy Blackett shows her strengths and weaknesses to such an extent that it actually makes me cry every time.

Silly Verse for Kids by Spike Milligan (1968). I know most of these funny poems by heart. They make me laugh but also have a strong dash of his black comedy and sense of the bizarre, plus his fantastic illustrations. I remember buying this through my UK Primary School’s Scholastic Book Club back in the early 1970’s and can remember how exciting it was to order books myself from a catalogue.

Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (1957). Tove Jansson’s world was so real to me as a child that I could not limit myself to just one from the Moomin series. This book is full of the passions and loneliness of being the only one awake in your family … for the whole winter… and trying to make friends with that you do not know – both living creatures and nature.

The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson (1950) I was recently fascinated by reading the revised version of this (Moominpappa’s Memoirs – published 1968). I love this book because it’s all about fathers, their blunder, pomposity and their fragility. You get to know the dads of all the main characters’ from the other books too, and at the end they all meet each other … for the very first time.