Congratulations to #readit2011

November 22, 2011

Last night at the NSW Public Library Marketing Awards the NSW Readers Advisory Working Group was named the winner of the Social Media Category for their work on #readit2011.  Congratulations.  The NSW Readers Advisory Working Group makes #readit2011 happen.

Thank you for participating in #readit2011 as without your tweets and discussions it would not be a success.


Mo Disgusting – Mr Twit for Moreads

November 16, 2011

OK, so what about something for you gents to read to your children during Movember?  What better way to spend some time with them than over a story.

The Twits by Roald Dahl is a perennial favourite in our house. There’s plenty of books I’ve read to my kids over & over again, most of which I would gladly never pick up again. But the Twits is one of the few books I’m happy to keep re-reading to them.

Added to that, it has arguably the finest description of facial hair ever…

We can also, if we are careful, eat our meals without spreading food all over our faces. But not so the hairy man. Watch carefully next time you see a hairy man eating his lunch and you will notice that even if he opens his mouth very wide, it is impossible for him to get a spoonful of beef-stew or ice-cream and chocolate sauce into it without leaving some of it on the hairs.

Mr Twit didn’t even bother to open his mouth wide when he ate. As a result (and because he never washed) there were always hundreds of bits of old breakfasts and lunches and suppers sticking to the hairs around his face. They weren’t big bits, mind you, because he used to wipe those off with the back of his hand or on his sleeve while he was eating. But if you looked closely (not that you’d ever want to) you would see tiny little specks of dried-up scrambled eggs stuck to the hairs, and spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr Twit liked to eat.

If you looked closer still (hold your noses, ladies and gentlemen), if you peered deep into the moustachy bristles sticking out over his upper lip, you would probably see much larger objects that had escaped the wipe of his hand, things that had been there for months and months, like a piece of maggoty green cheese or a mouldy old cornflake or even the slimy tail of a tinned sardine. Because of all this, Mr Twit never went really hungry. By sticking out his tongue and curling it sideways to explore the hairy jungle around his mouth, he was always able to find a tasty morsel here and there to nibble on.
Roald Dahl, The Twits.

The Twits is one of Dahl’s shorter stories, recounting the disgusting Mr Twit, his old hag of a wife, Mrs Twit and the awful (but cleverly funny) things they do to each other, the local birds and children and poor Mugglewump the Monkey and his family.  Fear not though, for in the end Mr & Mrs Twit reap what they sow in a gloriously ironic demise.

Martin Boyce

(Originally posted at Martin Boyce’s blog Ramblibrarian)

moreads and modern military history

November 14, 2011

This post is loosely related to the Movember theme, dealing with soldiers who do sport mo’s on occasion. But I also wanted to share the fascinating and confronting integration of reading modern military history and YouTube.

Recently I read House to House by David Bellavia, based on the savage close quarters fighting in the city of Fallujah in November 2004. Bellavia was a US Army platoon sergeant, and he writes about his experiences leading up to the assault on Fallujah and his actions which resulted in being awarded a Silver Star and nominated for the US Medal of Honour. More on this can be read in Wikipedia. The book is a good read, free of the incessant use of army lingo that is prevalent in a lot of military history books, and paints a tough, tiring, dirty, stinky, adrenalin pumping, deadly, scary and hot picture of a soldiers life in Iraq.

But what added another dimension to reading this book was YouTube.

Just after penetrating the city of Fallujah, Bellavia’s unit occupied a roof top where they faced a determined attack by insurgents. What impressed Bellavia were the actions of an Australian journalist (Michael Ware) who continued to film the action during the fight. Bellavia mentions that Ware later used this material for a news report. Then I thought – “I wonder if he uploaded the video to YouTube?”

So I searched YouTube and found this actual footage of that scene in the book, matching what Bellavia wrote. I was amazed.

Since then I’ve done the same with a book called Sniper One by Sgt Dan Mills, and I’m about to read a book on Australian SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

It’s not a new phenomenon. Soldiers have been uploading their mobile phone and handy-cam footage over the last 10 years. I would imagine that the US and UK military and government are watching this activity carefully and are quick to erase any sensitive footage before being public accessible. But it struck me as an amazing way to read these genre of books which hadn’t occurred to me before (duh!). Amazing, but also a confronting and scary integration of multimedia, providing in 3 minutes and 16 seconds a glimpse of modern warfare.

Sean Finlay

Mo than somewhat

November 11, 2011

H.G. Nelson doesn’t have a mo but he is mo friendly if not mo mad. And when his childhood memoir My life in shorts lobbed up on the covering desk, I knew I’d found my Movember moment.

I still have cassette tapes buried at the bottom of cardboard boxes with recordings of This sporting life from Saturday afternoons c.1988. I think I even have a VHS video of Roy & H.G. calling a surf comp out of Newcastle for JJJ with vision supplied by the unsuspecting moguls at Channel 9 or Ten. Their State of Origin broadcasts are now folklore (and sorely missed) while The Dream – “hello boys” – was only pipped by Cathy Freeman in a photo for best thing about the Sydney Olympics.

Bookies at the Sports: Christmas Sports Palestine 1916

Bookies at the Sports: Christmas Sports Palestine 1916 | Flickr user DavidLKel

The Jesuits said ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’ but you can cut out the middleman with H.G.’s pants-around-the-ankle tell-all tales of ‘thumps, bumps and dumps.’

As a second summer pick I recommend you reach for the Damon Runyon stories, collected in various editions (even this ebook omnibus), all told with a similarly invigorating verve for the vernacular.


Funny Men writing Funny Books for Funny Kids

November 7, 2011

As a kid, it was the male authors that had me laughing out loud. And when I look through my current favourites, it still seems to be that it is predominately the male authors that make me laugh the most.

I used to devour Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense. It was silly. It was improbable. And it rhymed. I can still chant my favourite poem:

I eat my peas with honey

I’ve done it all my life

It makes the peas taste funny

But it keeps them on my knife

From Lear, we can go to modern day picture book legend Mo Willems, whose Pigeon, Piggie and Elephant, and Knuffle Bunny books are delightfully funny to Tedd Arnold with his Fly Guy funnies and his Parts books with literal angst for kids and the idiosyncrasies of their bodies. And when it comes to funny poetry,  I have to list my son’s favourite Australian poet Steven Herrick.

From these picture book funnies, my mind leaps to laughing with Roald Dahl who still amuses children with his quirky, twisted characters, to Andrew Daddo who ranges from gentle humour in his picture books to school boy antics in his chapter books (just using the jargon the kids throw at me). Andy “pulling a bandaid off story makes for the biggest laughs” Griffiths can get the most reluctant readers searching for his books as does Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I enjoy reading out aloud Eoin Colfer, John Larkin, Philip Ardagh and Dave Hackett (of cartoon Dave fame – his books snuck up on me with their unexpected guffaws) for often, they will have my whole family laughing together.

My favourite male author/illustrators to this day  are the wonderful bunch of idiots over at Mad Magazine. For Dave Berg, Duck Edwing, Spy vs Spy, Don Martin and Sergio Aragones amused me constantly. I also have to give a hats off to fabulous Terry Deary who, by using toilet humour, has given us history we can laugh at and want to search out for more and more books to read.

I love discovering funny men writing funny books for funny kids. And their comedic twists seem to cross all genre interest as humour proves to be the biggest draw card for all children from voracious readers to the reluctant readers.

Do you have any favourites?


#moreads for Movember

November 1, 2011

This months theme is #moreads in honour of Movember. The brainchild of 3 blokes drinking in a Melbourne bar in 2003, the campaign has raised over 175 million dollars for research, treatment and education programs for men’s health. During this month over 500,000 men will put their shavers aside in a sometimes vain and embarrassing attempt to grow a moustache.

Apart from a fortunately brief and minor resurgence in the late 1970’s the Victorian and Edwardian years of the 19th and early 20th Century was the golden age of the moustache for English language authors. Perhaps it’s appropriate that this month we remember some of the authors from that time who are now seldom read.

Sir Arthur Morgan

Mark Twain was a giant of American literature and he had a moustache to match. His travel books were popular throughout his life including A Tramp Abroad and Life on the Mississippi but he made his name with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, much loved by generations of readers. An early science fiction novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court and an historical fiction, Recollections of Joan of Arc stand out as departures from his normal style. Twain was a master at writing in a relaxed and humorous style with memorable characters. He also had a keen ear for natural and realistic language.

Across the Atlantic, HG Wells moustache wasn’t a patch on Twain’s but he was an enormously popular and prolific author in England before the Second World War. He’s remembered mostly for his early science-fiction novels including The Time Machine, War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. Much is made of the number of modern technologies that he anticipated in his writings including the atomic bomb, space travel, genetic engineering and the mobile phone … but we’re still waiting for time travel, invisibility and alien invasion. Wells also wrote some fine social and comic novels of Edwardian middle-class England such as Kipps, Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr Polly. His later works pale in comparison but he is worth visiting again for his richly drawn characters and vibrant imagination.

Closer to home, Henry Lawsons tash is in the same league as Mark Twain.  Like Twain Lawson was a great chronicler of rural life, egalitarian in his outlook and a master of natural language. He never wrote a novel and even derided the short story in favour of “sketch stories”, short descriptive pieces with little plot. While the Billy Boils was his most popular prose collection.

Other significant writers with moustaches from the era include Jerome K Jerome, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Furphy. The moustache is still popular in many non-English language cultures where we can find examples of modern authors with moustaches such as Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Derek Walcott and Carlos Fuentes. I believe David Malouf is the only significant current Australian novelist to regularly sport a moustache.

We hope you will join us in our #moreads, and share your own reading during Movember.

There will be a twitter discussion 8.00pm (AEST) 29 November to discuss #moreads. See you online then.

Ken Klippel

#egoreads in October

September 30, 2011

Chatsworth, home of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

When I was growing up my library was my mother’s collection of books, many of them biographies. As a result, I read a lot of books about the lives of authors, musicians and personalities. I was enthralled with the lives of Dorothy Parker, Jim Morrison, Andy Warhol and was so attached to Truman Capote after reading Gerald Clarke’s biography that I called him ‘my Truman’.

While I actually think that all reading makes us more empathetic and aware of people, biographies, because they are about people who are, or at least were, real give us a greater understanding of the world as we spend time in another person’s shoes. Reading about the life of our favourite author can give us a fresh perspective on their work and make their books more powerful, heighten the experience of entering their imagined worlds when we know something of their reality. If you enjoyed the world of a novel a great next step can be a biography of someone who has experienced something similar. For example, if you love Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Liza Dalby’s book, Geisha, is a fascinating look at the real life of a geisha.

A biography is our chance to know authors, at least a little, after they are gone or to seek understanding for a life we struggle to comprehend (Chopper Read!). Experience the kind of life you dream about (that’s me with Chatsworth) or ones that make you very grateful for your own life. Laughter, tears, triumph, loss, it’s all there in people’s lives.

So, get a dose of reality through the pages of others’ stories. Many libraries have a dedicated biography section and there are many more suggestions here! My favourites? Apart from Capote, Mary S Lovell’s The Mitford Girls and The Churchills, The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War by David Lebedoff and  CS Lewis: A biography by A.N. Wilson.

Please tweet about your biographical reads using #egoreads.


Dining with Kermit, Gilligan, Darth Vader and a cast of many

September 15, 2011

I, like many other sandwich eating folk around the world, consider cooking to be a chore. And though I do it daily, I like to use my television as my inspiration for the food that I prepare. I am not talking about celebrity chefs here. Pffft! I can enter their restaurant and pay them to cook for me. I choose to cook the fictional character’s meal.

Eat like your favourite television character

If Mary Ann’s coconut pie from her Gilligan’s Island Cookbook is good enough for the other 6 castaways, it’s good enough for my family of four. My children have enjoyed Obi Wan Kebabs and Wookie Cookies from the Star Wars Cookbook. “Use the fork, Luke” is a commonly heard statement at our table. And how can I go past Gus, my butcher standing in for Sam the Butcher supplying the red meat for the House of Cards Hamburger in Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook.  We’ve had the Mini Eyeball Pizza from the Shrek Cookbook, I’ve saved the day with Bewitched‘s Cousin Serena’s I-don’t-cook quick-fixes, Phoebe’s Fabulous Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies from the Cooking with Friend’s Cookbook, and little do my children know that at Christmas time they are partaking in a little bit of DOOL Holiday Hot Chocolate (with an “optional” cup of brandy or bourbon which was needed by Roman Brady when he found out his wife Marlene was possessed by Satan) because I found the recipe in Cooking with Days of our Lives.

My children have enjoyed She Wore a Jello Ribbon from True Grits: Recipes inspired by the movies of John Wayne and they have eaten Liz Taylor’s Spicy Chicken from In the kitchen with Miss Piggy by Moi: Fabulous Recipes from my famous celebrity friends. Miss Piggy is a delight in this humour filled book, an adjective rarely used when describing cookbooks. In solidarity with her, I too won’t cook the pork and frog recipes that were contributed – for shame!

Sometimes my need to channel Hollywood on the dining table moves from the fictional movie or TV series and into larger than life stars. For I have cooked from the The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley (though I draw the line at barbequed pizza) and our Christmas Turkey is prepared with the recipe from the Last Dinner on the Titanic cookbook (Ok – not a hollywood star but certainly, it has inspired many movies).

I have yet to cook from The Soprano’s Family Cookbook, the Number 96 Cookbook or The Winnie the Pooh Teatime Cookbook but their time will come, I am sure. For my dining table will always pay homage to Hollywood.


for the love of ice cream

September 8, 2011

‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!’ was a constant refrain during my childhood…

I remember lots of ice cream adventures – from eating delicious Gooey Gumdrop ice cream at MacAndrew Bay on Dunedin’s Otago Peninsula (how did they make it taste like bubblegum?), the excitement of trying gelato for the first time, to the complete and utter tragedy of buying an ice cream on a hot day, only to walk out the shop door and watch two scoops of ice cream slide off the cone and fall at my feet.

Ice cream is still a major preoccupation.  Never have I been more excited than the day I saw the words ‘artisan gelato’ on the sign outside Cow and Moon’s new store in Newtown, Sydney – just across the road from my house!  And whenever I go to Coogee Beach, I make a point of stopping in at Love Coogee for some of their delicious Pear and Rhubarb ice cream, or the Salted Caramel with shards of Belgian White Chocolate.

My ice cream obsession reached new heights this last Christmas, however, when my mother and sister gave me my very own ice cream maker.  Some very messy Chocolate Sorbet making ensued.

Yes, things were getting serious.

This was the point at which I realised that I needed my own personal library of books devoted to the science of ice cream making.  There were so many questions to be answered… traditional custard vs Philidelphia style ice cream with just milk/cream or cream cheese?  the correct ratio of fruit to sugar syrup for a successful sorbet?  how many different kinds of alcohol can you put in ice cream?  (the answer… lots!), and what about mix ins?  I soon discovered that there were many delicious things that could be added to ice cream to make it taste even better.

Luckily, I found some experts to help me in my experiments.  My two favourite and most invaluable ice cream cookbooks have turned out to be:

The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz (The Traditionalist who encourages experimentation)

David Lebovitz provides basic recipes for a finely curated number of ice creams and sorbets, but what makes his cookbook so great is that it offers variations and additions that allow you to get really creative and adapt even his most basic recipes to your own tastes and ingredients.  I’ve been desperate to try his Chartreuse Ice Cream, but haven’t been able to get my hands on any Chartreuse – so instead I made it with honey liquer and a few tablespoons of runny honey.  The result was delicious.  Same goes for his dairy-free Chocolate Sorbet, which I jazzed up recently for some vegan friends with fiery tastebuds by adding four red chillies and a pinch of chilli powder.  Lebovitz champions fresh ingredients and has a friendly, chatty writing style – which he makes the most of on his blog and twitter.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for the Home Kitchen by Jeni Britton Bauer (Innovator, and Girl Whose Life I Covet)

Jeni Britton Bauer begins her ice cream book with an inspiring description of her journey from small town Ohio college student working in a French bakery, to Ice Cream Queen.  I love the sense of community that she captures in her introduction, as she describes her initial start up selling ice cream at her local Farmers Market and her progress as she sets up a successful ice cream business.  Her commitment to scientific process and food best practice appeals to the food geek in me, and the ingredients she uses inspire me (she even has a section devoted to sorbets made with beer!).  This is a great recipe book for anyone who has an interest in making ice cream, but who has an egg intolerance or allergy – as all her recipes are made with cream cheese, without the traditional egg custard base called for in most ice cream recipes.

Thanks to my lovely Mother and Sister (ice cream co conspirators) and David Lebovitz and Jeni Britton Bauer, there will be plenty of ice cream parties this summer!  And yes, I may secretly dream of opening my own ice cream store one day.

The newest ice cream flavour I’m planning: Violet.


#bookbites for September

September 2, 2011

Reading and food… is there a more delicious combination?

Even before Little Red Riding Hood (and her picnic basket) was sent into the woods, it seems we have been tempted by food. The old adage “eat to live, not live to eat” is difficult to achieve when faced with recipes from every country. “What’s for dinner?” was enough to make my mum wilt like the proverbial salad , but my home is overflowing with recipe books, travel and recipe books, stories with recipes included, children’s books. One of the first pictures my grand daughter recognised was “apple”… now she’s moved on to “cake”.

Are you a food history buff? Do you enjoy a mystery and murder with a good dessert on the side? Is food to keep you healthy a priority? Want to cook treats for your animals? Or do you just love to read and drop off in a soporific stupor dreaming of delicious delights? While Adam and Eve may have eaten the apple, we have many more choices… here is a tiny selection:

Green eggs and ham, Charlie and the chocolate factory, If you give a mouse a cookie, Stone soup, Cloudy with a chance of meatballs, Bread and Jam for Frances, Jasper McFlea will not eat his tea, The very hungry caterpillar and our old favourite, Pooh Bear and his hunny pot.

Jamie’s 30 minute cookbook, Blood sugar, Two greedy Italians, any of the Australian Women’s weekly series, the CWA cookbooks, Food for thought: essays on eating and culture, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Vogue Entertaining, ABC delicious, Feast.

Food features heavily in fiction writing too. Kerry Greenwood’s baker Corinna Chapman is always baking something delicious while solving her mysteries. Who can resist Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Lula as they eat their way through disaster. Then there’s The Cupcake Bakery mystery series, The Coffee House mystery, Bruno Chief of Police and his truffle delicacies and, of course, Chocolat. We also love Friendship bread, Agnes and the hitman, Pomegranate soup and Comfort food.

Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!

There’s a lot to savour this month, so start reading early! Please tweet about your food related reading using #bookbites.

We’d love you to join in the Readit2011 Twitter discussion on 27th September 2011, at 8pm AEST. It’s going to be full of tasty treats.