The year’s favourite books: Hazel Edwards

Great to welcome Hazel Edwards to my blog today, to introduce us to her year’s favourite books.

From Hazel:

I’m recommending ‘first’ books by two new writers because often it’s harder to find books by small publishers and new authors. I’m a ‘readaholic’ and prefer inspirational (but modest & humorous ) autobiographies, well written mysteries with authentic  geographic or historical settings and books which take me into different cultures.

The first recommendation:

Maribel Steel, Blindness for Beginners,  BookPOD

Best problem-solving book of strategies I’ve read in last two years.  Who else would sew bells on toddlers’ socks, so you didn’t lose them? The toddlers not the socks.

A great title. ‘Blindness for Beginners’ applies to those losing their sight and those who need insight into how to live or work effectively with a person who is blind. But this autobiography is also relevant to a broader audience of those wishing to solve problems more creatively. It offers strategies.

Maribel is a creative-problem- solver in any culture. She began to lose her sight at fourteen, a crucial age of self awareness. Being prepared to volunteer and try new challenges such as technology, is a survival skill. So is challenging misconceptions about ‘labels’. Even getting the terminology right is a challenge for those outside a culture. Do you say ‘blind’ or ‘ partially sighted’ or ‘disabled’ or….?

Maribel’s writing strength is the day-to-day anecdotes of creative problem-solving and the humour with which it is shared.  (Maribel has four adult children now). Being prepared to learn new technology like ‘Where the Hell am I?’ app or mastering JAWS, the digital device turning printed words into sound. And being willing to take on invitations such blind cooking on TV, or  speaking at an international conferences and actually travelling there, complete with humorous cartoons on a Powerpoint. And the chapter from the guide dog’s viewpoint provides another insight.

Maribel autographing books with technological aids

Maribel capitalizes on her strengths. And we all need to do that. Her acute hearing, singing voice, musical understanding and trained memory have enabled her to devise new ways of participating both in work and social life. She’s willing to ask for help, or to decline it because she has worked out the best way beforehand. Preparation meeting opportunity is an apt definition of success.

I first met Maribel about ten years ago at a Christmas drinks party for the Australian Society of Authors. Her organized approach to writing and even getting around with minimal fuss impressed me. Occasionally I gave her a lift and once I got lost, even using my GPS.  Maribel got us to the event at the right location, on time that evening.

The significance of Maribel’s book is not only that she has physically written it, despite visual challenges, but that the content is likely to inspire others to find their individual solutions to lifestyle challenges whether blind or sighted.

Maribel with Hazel at Writers Victoria launch of the book

The most uplifting self-help book I’ve read this year. And the autobiographical anecdotes are the most inspiring part, such as colour coding her clothes and having her handbag with tagged items., and a ‘feelie’ kitchen.

I’ve learnt a lot.  Courage is about being prepared to try within the limitations you are given. And ‘Blindness for Beginners’ gives insight.

This Christmas, friends will get the print book, autographed on Maribel’s amazing enlarger attachment on her computer. But it’s also an audio book, which makes sense.

 

 

 

 

The second recommendation is:

Darren Arnott,  No Regard for the Truth,  BookPOD.

Few locals today know that an Italian Prisoner of War camp existed in outer suburban Melbourne at Rowville. Even fewer knew about the fatal shooting which occurred and the legacy of the romance between a local girl and Rodolfo Bartoli ,an Italian POW awaiting repatriation to Italy after the war ended.  Author Darren Arnott located the now 90 something ‘girl’ in Queensland and her relatives attended the launch.

Has made an excellent podcast with Melbourne’s Herald Sun and was featured in their Black and White Column in early December 2019.The Italian community has been delighted featured it in Il Globo  and this book is already reprinted.

No Regard for the Truth: Friendship and kindness. Tragedy and injustice. Rowville’s Italian prisoners of war.

Who had no regard for the truth?

The bureaucratic authorities or the camp commandant of the Italian POW internment camp in Melbourne’s outer suburb of Rowville after WW2 in March 1946?

A young Italian POW was fatally shot for dubious reasons near a disputed camp boundary. His Australian girlfriend’s family were not the only ones to mourn.

Well crafted ,historical detective work based on court reports and archival photos, which enable the readers to come to their own decision, so the writer Darren Arnott does have a regard for the truth.

A poignant romance but also an historic story which raises questions about inept administration having tragic consequences.

Darren Arnott workshopped his manuscript at the Public Record Office ‘Complete your book in a year’ class and utilized the Archives for photos, transcripts and fact checking. Arnott is very even -handed in the way he presents the evidence in the form of court transcripts, letters, photos and interviews. This impartiality enables the readers to make their own decisions on whether the shooting of Rodolfo by Captain Waterston the camp commandant of the internment camp was the inept action of a drunken , bullying officer or an accident. And whether the subsequent reports were cover ups or mismanagement.Many quotes included from the Inquiry. The Inquest report was marked Secret due to censorship controls being lifted and concern former POWS would read the report and cause a fuss.

But the real story is a romance of the author following clues to find the former Australian girlfriend who is now a 90 year old woman living in Queensland. And Arnott’s tactful interviewing. Supported by the careful accumulation of evidence.

Darren Arnott with Hazel at launch of book

Arnott is not of Italian heritage but he did live in Rowville as a child and was intrigued by the camp remains near his front yard. He has since revisited the historic markers mentioned in his book. A Melbourne based IT Consultant, Arnott enjoys clue seeking and has also studied archeology.

No Regard for the Truth is likely to be of interest to historical writers for the research techniques used, the Italian community ,military historians and those locals who might be surprised what happened earlier in their own suburb. Poignant stories have to happen somewhere, even in what is now suburbia, but was formerly a wartime internment camp.

 

 

Hazel Edwards(front of pic) at Vision Australia Radio and podcast

Best known for ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’ (PRH) which celebrates a 40th anniversary in 2020  , Hazel Edwards writes for all ages and takes cultural risks with subjects. Co-written with Muslim librarian Ozge Alkin, junior novel  ‘Hijabi Girl’ has been adapted for a puppet musical by Larrikin Puppeteers for Book Week 2020 and ‘The Boy Within’ is a comic graphic novel about trans youth coming of age  just funded by Creative NZ and  inspired by ‘f2m:the boy within’ will be out 2021. Co-written by transguys Ryan Kennedy and Sam Orchard.

Hazel Edwards’ latest adult mystery publication is ‘Wed, Then Dead on the Ghan’ (KINDLE) a mini sequel featuring her diverse gender sleuth Quinn who solves mysteries and the occasional murder at weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies.

‘Celebrant Sleuth: I Do or Die’ is now available on AUDIBLE, https://www.hazeledwards.com/celebrant-sleuth.html  for details.

The year’s favourite books: Edwina Shaw

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Edwina Shaw, to tell us about her favourite book of the year.

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko stayed with me long after I read it. It deservedly won the 2019 Miles Franklin Award with a mixture of dark humour, violence and family secrets. Too Much Lip made me laugh, but it also moved me deeply and even better, helped me to understand the experience of First Peoples here in Australia in a very human way. I loved these characters on the edge of destroying themselves and each other. I felt for them and wanted things to go their way. A compelling plot brings Melissa’s beautiful writing to life as the Salter family struggle against the system, small town corruption and each other in a fictional town in Northern NSW. Kerry, the protagonist on a stolen Harley, has a soft spot for her young nephew Donny. His fragility and need for guidance and love also endeared him to me and his transformation throughout the novel is both powerful and symbolic.  Too Much Lip is an important and valuable contribution to Australian literature and a ripping good read.

 

 

Edwina Shaw is the author of Thrill Seekers, In the Dark of Night and over 40 short pieces that have appeared in literary journals and anthologies including Best Australian Stories. She is the commissioning editor of Bjelke Blues. She teaches creative writing at UQ and also runs Relax and Write Retreats. http://www.edwinashaw.com https://relaxandwriteretreats.blog

 

 

The year’s favourite books: Ursula Dubosarsky

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Ursula Dubosarsky to my blog, to write about her favourite book of the year.

Effi Briest by Theodore Fontane (1895)

A friend bought me this Penguin edition of the classic German novel as a gift in a second-hand bookshop after we’d had lunch together a few months ago. I read it quickly, that same night.   It’s frequently classified as another great nineteenth century novel about adultery, along with Madame Bovary, The Age of Innocence or Anna Karenina.   But I found it much more disturbing than any of those and I’m not sure why – I don’t usually analyse my responses to books too much. But I remain very upset by it.  Perhaps because despite the apparently genial and civilised milieu, it’s far closer to the savagery of the murderous adultery of Therese Raquin –  and yet the characters seem not to notice it right to the devastating end, including Effi herself.  I see that Rainer Fassbinder made a film of the novel in 1974 (which I haven’t seen) and gave it this title: Fontane Effi Briest or Many People Who Are Aware of Their Own Capabilities and Needs Just Acquiesce to the Prevailing System in Their Thoughts and Deeds, Thereby Confirming and Reinforcing It.     Hmm.

 

Ursula Dubosarsky is a multi-award winning Australian writer of over 50 books for children. Her website is at https://ursuladubosarsky.squarespace.com/

The year’s favourite books: Susanne Gervay

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Susanne Gervay to my blog, to talk about her favourite book for the year.

Glass Walls, edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Sharon Rundle, 2019, published by Orient Black Swan ISBN 978 93 5287 679 2

The stories in this anthology  are hilarious at times, moving at other times, and make you reflect on who you are. It opens discussion on all sorts of prejudices, even when we think we don’t have any.  It’s those little prejudices that can develop into major prejudices impacting on us and the world.  Oscar Wilde wrote – ‘Most people are other people.’ We’re the other people. The writing is so good, from Australian and Indian authors. You just have to read the new story by Bruce Pascoe about fatherhood and identity. It was funny and real and emotionally powerful. There are stories by David Malouf, Roanna Gonsalves, Libby Sommer, Debra Adelaide. It’s a feast of stories.

Susanne Gervay lives and loves the author life of sharing story to adults and kids. Her latest books are Shadows of Olive Trees and a picture book The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses. Connect with her on social media – FB – sgervay; twitter – sgervay; Instagram – susanne gervay; website – www.sgervay.com

The year’s favourite books: introduction

Today I’m starting a new blog series, The year’s favourite books, in which authors and illustrators contribute guest posts about a favourite book (or books, if they can’t choose just one!) which they read this year. The books don’t  have to be new (though it might be, of course!) or in any particular genre, or for any particular age group–just books that my blog guests enjoyed reading and/or that are special to them in some way.

I’m kicking off the series with two of my own favourites this year (yes, I couldn’t choose just one and even two was hard to keep to!), one for adults, one for children: the adult one by an eminent Australian author whose books I’ve always enjoyed; the children’s book by a Canadian author-illustrator I’ve only just discovered, despite his having published several immensely popular and award-winning books.

So here they are:

The True Colour of the Sea, by Robert Drewe

This beautiful, gripping and evocative collection of short stories, that came out in mid-2018 but which I didn’t catch up with till early 2019, shows Robert Drewe’s light yet precise touch at its most masterly. The sea, in all its simplicity yet mystery, has been at the centre of much of his writing, and this collection is certainly no exception, with stories set on islands and on the coast, and at different periods of time, with the sea always more than a mere backdrop to human dramas, comedies, crimes and mysteries, but in fact often a trigger, a catalyst, for them. I just loved this book, which I read over several days in summer. Beautiful writing, unpredictable twists, vivid characters and a satirical eye that is never misanthropic: these are some of the great pleasures of this collection, which is one to savour over the holidays.

 

I Want My Hat Back, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

I first came across this picture book(originally published in 2011) by chance one day this year, browsing in a city bookshop for a present for a certain beloved little person. I was startled and gripped by the story and by Klassen’s unique style of illustration, which combines sophistication and simplicity. The cumulative text, around a bear who has lost his hat and is looking for it everywhere, shows those twin aspects too, and its ending has quite a twist–what exactly, well, you’ll have to see for yourself! In an interview in 2016, Klassen mentioned that the publisher had wanted him to change the ending, but that he’d stood his ground. When you read the book, you can see why there’d been that initial nervousness(though the book went on to be hugely successful). In our family, I Want My Hat Back aroused quite a bit of discussion, with different opinions expressed as to the underlying theme: and that ending! (Mind you, the little person for whom it was intended just enjoyed it unreservedly).

 

 

 

A lovely review for On My Way in Reading Time!

On My Way has just received another lovely review, which was published in Reading Time, the CBCA’s online review magazine. The review’s by Lisa Hoad, and here’s a short extract:

On My Way will delight young readers (three years and above). It is a perfect choice for a magical bedtime story whilst its basic rhyming pattern, rich visual language, and themes of outdoor explorations in nature make this a great title to share in an early-years setting.

You can read the whole review here.

 

Lovely first review of On my Way–even before it’s officially out!

There’s a lovely first review of On My Way, my soon-to-be-released picture book with Simon Howe (published by Scholastic) . The review is by Lyn Linning in Magpies Magazine, and here’s a very short extract:

A short, charming picture book for the very early childhood years, On my Way encourages children to use rhythm and rhyme and to use scale when interpreting images…

You can see more in the image below (the review is not available online).