Books about Books Part 2 - The Storytime Edition

Sunday, 28 January 2018

In part 1 of this feature I looked at some non-fiction books about reading, from the magic of bookstores to what authors find in their favourite page-turners. Today, it's all about the mini bookworms; going right back to those early years where a passion for reading begins. I still have my favourite picture books from when I was a kid, and though a little worn in places, they are all well-loved. I hope to bring those out again one day to share with the next generation of budding bookworms, but there are also others I've come across recently which would make lovely gifts and seem equally charming.

Franklin's Flying Bookshop

Franklin the dragon loves stories and loves reading stories to people too, but everyone is too scared to even talk to him. One day, he meets a girl named Luna who, rather than being afraid, is fascinated to meet Franklin, having recently read all about dragons in one of her books. They instantly become friends and talk nonstop about what they’ve read: books about roller-skating, King Arthur, spiders, and how to do kung fu. Together they hatch a plan to share their love of books with others by opening a bookshop―a flying bookshop, that is―right on Franklin’s back! 

Franklin, a well-read and peace-loving dragon, and Luna, a young girl with an independent spirit and an insatiable love of reading, make fantastic role models for young children. Franklin’s Flying Bookshop brings the magic of classic fairy tales into the twenty-first century through exquisite illustrations, and will enchant children as well as anyone who loves books.

Jen Campbell is known for writing The Bookshop BookWeird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, and her short story collection The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night. I've seen this book in person and the stunning illustrations by Katie Harnett are reason enough to buy it. Aside from that, I love the idea of giving fairytales a new twist.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Like many children, Henry loves books. But Henry doesn’t like to read books, he likes to eat them. Big books, picture books, reference books... if it has pages, Henry chews them up and swallows (but red ones are his favorite).

And the more he eats, the smarter he gets—he’s on his way to being the smartest boy in the world!

But one day he feels sick to his stomach. And the information is so jumbled up inside, he can’t digest it! Can Henry find a way to enjoy books without using his teeth?

With a stunning new artistic style and a die-cut surprise, Oliver Jeffers celebrates the joys of reading in this charming and quirky picture book. It’s almost good enough to eat.

What better way to teach that books are a fountain of knowledge than with a story by Oliver Jeffers? This book sounds like it has a good message, wrapped up in a funny plot that is just the right amount of extraordinary to keep the little ones engaged.

A Child of Books

I am a child of books. 

I come from a world of stories. 

A little girl sails her raft across a sea of words, arriving at the house of a small boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories...where, with only a little imaginaton, anything at all can happen.

Irresistibly engaging characters by Oliver Jeffers set sail and chart their way through Sam Winston's fascinating typographical landscapes in this extraordinary ode to the power and promises of storytelling. Forty treasured children's classics and lullabies are featured in the pictures, providing endless opportunities for discovery, memories and sharing.

Woven together by a simple story line, the one-of-a-kind illustrations in a A Child of Books provide an unforgettable reading experience that will inspire and encourage readers of all ages to explore, question, and imagine timeless stories of their own.

I can already see this making the perfect gift for some of my younger cousins, and the idea of incorporating popular classics into the mix makes it appealing to adults as well. Exploring the magic created by words in an inspiring way is just what a good book like this should do.

The Not So Quiet Library

    It’s Saturday, which means Oskar and Theodore get to go to the library with their dad! It means donuts for breakfast! And it means endless quiet hours lost in stories.

    But on this not so quiet Saturday, Oskar and Teddy get a rude surprise when they're interrupted by a five-headed, hangry monster!

    Will Oskar ever get to finish his book in peace? Will Teddy ever get to gorge on his donuts? Or might both of them hold the secret weapons to taming the beast?

    OHora brings his signature humor and quirkiness to a story with evergreen appeal. This laugh-out-loud picture book is perfect for story time.

    The Not So Quiet Library takes an almost old-school approach to illustrations, but still promises to deliver an adorable read set among all the stories anyone could ask for. Released only last year, I've seen it compared to It's a Book by Lane Smith which is another one to add to the list!

    Lucy's Book

    Lucy's Book captures that special connection between a child and their favourite book, as well as celebrating the way sharing stories can bring people together.

    Lucy's mum takes her to the library every Saturday. Lucy loves to read, but there is one special book that she borrows over and over again.

    The book is shared between friends, dropped in the ocean, flown to China and even made into a banana sandwich.

    But what will happen when everyone's favourite book goes missing?

    Some things never change, and as predictably nerdy as it is, going to the library was always an adventure for me. Even as more books are available digitally, nothing compares to picking up a hard copy off the shelf, and I love how Lucy's Book communicates that.

    A few of the picture books I grew up with

    What were some of your bookish childhood favourites?

    M.T. Anderson's futuristic vision - is it a brave new world?

    Saturday, 20 January 2018

    Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me copies of these books in exchange for an honest review

    What makes reading M.T. Anderson's work so refreshing in YA is that his books take a sharp-witted, satirical slant when gazing into just what our future may look like. Landscape with Invisible Hand may come in at less than 150 pages, but its darkly funny plot about an alien invasion is thought-provoking and uniquely envisioned. 'True love' as it was 'back in the day' during the 1950's is the ideal for the vuvv, who transform it into a marketable commodity. However, as Adam and Chloe soon discover, there are some emotions which can't be faked forever. You can't help wondering, is this a subtle dig at what could be seen as the technology-driven, narcissistic dating scene of today? What I like about Anderson's writing is that it can be interpreted in so many ways, from a straightforward narrative of survival in a new age of civilisation, to a scathing analysis of how we are living right now.

    But when I glance at my fantasy paintings, they no longer look like any place I want to be. Or they are what I want, but I am already here in this word, wrapped up in the blighted towns and the peeling paint and the glow of the rendering sails at night and in the looted Stop & Shop at first light. That is where I really am. That is where my family is stuck. And that's what I have to deal with. Without flinching.

    The contrast to all these facades the characters wear is the focus on art as a means of expression and escape. It was interesting to read about how Adam was torn between painting what was real, the 'classic' still-lifes the vuvv wanted, or the utopia he wished for. It just went to show that art, like literature, transcends time. It was a clever point for the author to include, and even for a short book, Landscape with Invisible Hand tackles some considerable issues about the impact of colonisation and class divisions, what characterises a true relationship, and creativity as a human trait that can never be stifled.

    Forget trying to look for 'flowery' prose in Anderson's work - both this novel and Feed are dialogue driven, where the creation of his own lexicon takes some getting used to as a reader. In the end, it all adds to the world-building, which in Feed depicts a chilling society where consumerism rules and teens are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages through a brain implant.

    Violet lay back down in the dark, her legs starting to sting. She called out loud after her dad. She was sobbing.
       Maybe, Violet, if we check out some of the great bargains available to you through the feednet over the next six months, we might be able to create a consumer portrait of you that would interest out investment team. How 'bout it, Violet Durn? Just us, you and me - girls together! Shop till you stop and drop!

    When Violet comes along to challenge Titus and his friends' mindless hedonism with attempts to rebel against the feed, the story really begins to take shape. I can see where Landscape with Invisible Hand has taken on some similar ideas to this previous novel, but here there is some more raw emotion and terrifying insights into what happens to humanity when we no longer choose to think for ourselves. School and even the clouds are trademarked, and suddenly getting cosmetic lesions all over your body is the on-trend thing to do. It begs the question - at one point has it all gone too far? Honestly I went into this book not knowing how much I would like it, but the sheer depth of imagination Anderson has injected into the story made it one of my top reads of this year so far.


    Overall, Feed and Landscape with Invisible Hand are must-reads for fans of speculative fiction, blending the lines between satire and tragedy. Nobody can know for certain what the future holds, but one thing's for sure - you wouldn't want it to look like this.

    Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
    Released: 12th September 2017
    Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
    Genre: YA Dystopian/Speculative Fiction
    Source: Publisher
    Pages: 149
    My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
    National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

    When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth - but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents' jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv's miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem "classic" Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea.

    But it's hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he's willing to go - and what he's willing to sacrifice - to give the vuvv what they want.
    Feed by M.T. Anderson
    Released: 7th July 2012 (First released in 2002)
    Published by: Walker Books (Candlewick Press)
    Genre: YA Dystopian
    Source: Publisher
    Pages: 300
    My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
    We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck. So says Titus, whose ability to read, write, and even think for himself has been almost completely obliterated by his feed, a transmitter implanted directly into his brain. Feeds are a crucial part of life for Titus and his friends. After all, how else would they know where to party on the moon, how to get bargains at Weatherbee & Crotch, or how to accessorize the mysterious lesions everyone s been getting? But then Titus meets Violet, a girl who cares about what's happening to the world and challenges everything Titus and his friends hold dear. A girl who decides to fight the feed.

    Following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut, M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world and a smart, savage satire about the nature of consumerism and what it means to be a teenager in America."

    Reading for Reality: 10 Non-fiction books on my TBR

    Sunday, 14 January 2018

    It's fair to say that my reading habits have changed over time. Even so, it's true that there are some children's books I'd return to in a heartbeat and experience all over again, and YA novels that I'll recommend to anyone because they're not just for teens. However, over the past couple of years I've been wanting something more - to read wider into genres where to be honest, I've barely scratched the surface. Today I'm sharing ten non-fic reads I hope to get through this year, from memoirs to world history, and quirky advice on the business of '#adulting' in between.

    I have to admit, it was the cover of Upstream which first drew me in when it cropped up on my instagram feed. As it turns out, the content sounds even better as Mary Oliver's essays reveal how her creative journey as a poet has been influenced by the natural world. Someone as successful as J.K. Rowling must have some good advice to share, so I'm really interested to see what she has to say about 'the fringe benefits of failure and importance of imagination' in Very Good Lives. The short stories and essays of a young Yale graduate whose life was taken far too soon in The Opposite of Loneliness are said to resonate with young people at this turning point in their lives, as they figure out the type of person they want to be and what their future may look like. For a general overview of the big issues facing the country and world at large, a read into The Best Australian Essays from 2017 is likely to be thought-provoking, and looking back at the previous editions might also be useful to see how the topics of discussion have changed over the years. The Romanovs has been on my list to read for a while, and although a heavy read covering over three centuries of Russian history - it's probably something to work through between other books. 

    One of the powers of reading is the ability to travel the world between pages, so I have to check out The Colossus of New York which although published a while back hopefully still captures the bustle and exuberance of the city. That being said, I think for something more recent it's Humans of New York which could be a good visual alternative. Like UpstreamAdult Fantasy is another pure cover-buy, but I actually want to get my hands on a copy to read about how today's millennials really rate life's big milestones (and of course answer the big whether buying a house is worth giving up avocado on toast). On that note, The Barefoot Investor has been flying off the shelves in bookstores, and since it's been recommended to me by customers and co-workers alike, I figure there must be some truth in its message which I'll have to discover for myself. Jenny Lawson's recount of her experience with mental illness in Furiously Happy promises to be both honest and hilarious, making light of life's totally random moments. Finally, with a title like I Was Told There'd Be Cake, I don't think I can go past Sloane Crosley's collection of quirky personal essays which should make for a good laugh.

    So there you have it, my personal picks for taking a break from reading for escapism, and maybe even picking up a few pointers on life along the way. What's a non-fiction book you've read recently which has inspired you?

    Celebrating Australian Women's Writing - My #StellaSpark

    Thursday, 11 January 2018

    Whether it's from a publisher, bookstore or library, finding a truly great read which really resonates with me is always a highlight. These days I've found that the unexpected gems I happen to pick from the shelf can end up being the most memorable and moving. Over the past year, many of these have been by local talents, and in particular Australian women writers. These authors are forging the way in our literary scene, with stories that capture so acutely a sense of place and how we navigate relationships. So to show my support for the work of the Stella Prize, today I'm sharing some of my 'Stella Sparks' from books I've read in 2017.

    One of the books which had the biggest impact on me last year is Anna Spargo-Ryan's poignant second novel.

    As I said in my review,
    The Gulf is impeccably written, but its real triumph is revealing the courage needed to make a better life, and the sacrifices we make to find it. 

    This is a coming-of-age novel that is visceral and at times confronting, ultimately offering a tender portrayal of the inexplicable bond between siblings and the depth of loyalty to those we care about. I haven't come across a book which has made me both laugh and cry in equal measure as much as this one in a long time, and I'm looking forward to going back and reading her first release The Paper House.

    Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies by Jackie French: This is a book that offers a glimpse into the women behind the politics of WWI on the home front, and the hidden power they possessed during this tumultuous period in history. I really love how French has written a war narrative which incorporates the impact of events both on the battlefield and behind closed doors, plus there was also a twist here which I did not see coming! I can't wait for the sequel The Lily and the Rose, releasing in March 2018.

    An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire: A small town and the brutal murder of a young woman sets the frame for this no-nonsense crime thriller that strikes at the heart of the media's reaction to these tragedies, obsessing over 'pretty dead girls'. It was so interesting to read about the journalist's perspective as she seeks answers, along the way sinking deeper into the experiences of a grieving sister and other shady characters who may know more than they let on...
    Mysterious? Yes. 'Can't put it down'? You bet.

    Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm: Gretchen Shirm's prose is effortlessly beautiful, controlled, and tightly woven in this story of an artist assessing his own life through a new lens. She captures emotions in ways that struck a chord with me, and I cannot wait to see where she grows from here.

    These are just a few of the books by Australian women writers I hope to read this year!

    Over to you - what's a book by an Australian woman which you have recently read and would recommend? I'd love to hear about your #StellaSpark, and there's also the opportunity to share your favourites with the hashtag on twitter and instagram. You can find more information on this year's Stella Sparks campaign here.

    Genie's Weekly News (60) - Blogging milestones, this year's AusYABloggers reading challenge, and what really makes working in a bookstore worthwhile

    Sunday, 7 January 2018

    So it's one week into 2018 and my reading list is already growing by the day. Even as I fail to stick to my 'book buying ban' (does it ever last?), going through my bookshelves has made me realise just how many I own but am yet to read...

    Yes, I really should get onto that.

    In other news, coming across the old favourites from my childhood has also brought back some good memories, which brings me to something adorable that happened while I was at work the other day. 

    There I was reorganising the kids' section, when a child who must have been around three or four sat down right next to me and passed me a couple of books that had been sitting on the floor, before picking one up and beginning to flip through the pages. I asked my unexpected little helper whether he liked reading, and he replied "Yes, I love books!" before going straight back to the one he was so enchanted with. He was quite happy to do that for a few minutes before his mum came back from another part of the store, and had to drag him away because he didn't want to leave!

    It really can be the smallest things in life which make the biggest impact on you, and for me seeing the look of pure wonder and curiosity on that child's face is something which will stay with me for a long time. Yes, working in a bookstore is great when you get to be surrounded by books all day, share your recommendations with others and unbox the latest release you've been waiting for. But what I've found more important than all of those things are the unexpected, heartwarming moments that remind me just why reading is so important. As the saying goes, 'a child who reads will be an adult who thinks'. 

    Currently Reading

    This won the Stella Prize last year, and the story so far has offered some really interesting insights into what gives art the power to really connect with us. It's not the type of book to finish in a single afternoon, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it all ends.

    Previous Posts

    Recommendation of the Week

    There have been reviews at both extremes for this book, but I have to say that overall even if it is something that I didn't completely understand at first, the style was something completely different from anything I'd read before. 

    AusYABloggers 2018 Reading Challenge

    The annual Australian YA Bloggers and Readers challenge is back with a new format and prompts to get you started! To join in and find all the details, head to the goodreads group here. As an incentive, there will be three prize packs up for grabs - here's a sneak peek at the first one thanks to Walker Books:

    What I've Been Watching

    I didn't go into The Greatest Showman with high expectations, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not usually the biggest fan of musical movies (with the exception of La La Land). I'm so glad to say that this movie was BRILLIANT - if it doesn't win at the Golden Globes, I'll be very surprised. Hugh Jackman suited the main role perfectly, and the storyline with the songs that are still stuck in my head was uplifting and magically executed. I don't usually say this, but this is a movie that I'd go and see again - it's that good.

    In another momentous occasion, thank you to everyone who's visited Genie in a Book over the years to hit 100 000 pageviews! In the scheme of the blogosphere, it's not really about the numbers - but I'm grateful to know that hopefully other readers out there can come away from my blog with a new perspective on reading or a recommendation for something they hadn't considered before.