RIP author E. R. Braithwaite

I was sorry to hear on the news last night that the author of the wonderful book To Sir With Love had died. I have the old Penguin book of this memsnip20161216_2oir that came out in 1959. I remember when the movie came out I was in high school or just out of it. Sidney Poitier had broken onto the film scene and everyone loved him. I have not read the book but this has reminded me of it and of how much I loved the story. I should find it on  my shelf and have a read. (So many books jumping out at me lately.)

I lifted this short bio below from Voice of America news so the credit goes to them.  I didn’t want this to pass without recognising how much I appreciated his story especially at the time it was written.
WASHINGTON —

Guyanese author, teacher and diplomat E.R. Braithwaite, whose 1959 book To Sir, With Love told the story of a black teacher struggling in a classroom in a white London slum, has died in surburban Washington at age 104.

Braithwaite moved into teaching after a career as an oil worker and serving in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II.

He chose the profession after being denied an engineering job because he was black and found himself facing a schoolroom of antisocial, violent and occasionally racist poor whites in a London slum.

But he soon discovered that by showing the unruly students simple respect, he got the same from them and wrote about his experiences in his memoir To Sir With Love.

The book was made into a highly successful 1967 film starring Sidney Portier and British pop star Lulu.snip20161112_6

A Dose of Diana Athill

snip20161215_1I read about this wonderful woman author from London in someone else’s blog. I wasn’t familiar with her though I had heard her name. I jumped on line to our state library and found several of her books. The one I chose was Alive, Alive Oh!

It is a memoir published in 2015 of her times during WWI, WWII, the loss of her child at age 43 and then her decision to move into and her thoughts about moving into aged care.

Ms Athill was born in 1916 which means she turns 100 years of age this year. I enjoy reading books about older people. Especially women in their 90’s and beyond. I find it interesting that several women, including Sarah and Bess Delaney of Harlem, New York who lived to be 109 and 104 respectively and now Diana who will be a hundred never married, never had children and worked in careers of their choosing.

Do you think that could be the reason for their longevity? It always makes me laugh as though I am happily married we have never had children and I am sure I will live longer because of it. Mind you, that is only a personal opinion I generally keep to myself as most of my friends and close relatives have children. No more said.

Diana was a writer and worked in various jobs over the years usually related to the field of publication or writing.
Although she has had tragedy in her life she doesn’t seem to dwell on it long and enjoys a great deal of pleasure with little responsibility that the rest of us might consider important.

It makes one think if you live in a culturally productive city (London), have no children, friends who never or seldom see you in a negative light and jobs that you really enjoy on top of a successful writing career your life may be charmed. I know myself I don’t have the nature for such undirected pleasure but I do wonder about people who do.

I love structure, I love responsibility though don’t get me wrong I love my get togethers with friends who never judge, family most of the time and I had a job that gave me great satisfaction for the most part for almost 40 years.

We hear that variety is the spice of life but I wonder if too much spice is something we would all cope with.

Her memory talking about dealing with her pregnancy at age 43, unmarried and not having much money was interesting. None of that appeared to bother her. What really frightened her was telling her mother about the pregnancy. Mind you this was 1960. She talked casually about aborting two pregnancies previously as though it was as simple as walking down the street.  The reason she did not abort this pregnancy was because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted a baby or not, she pushed the thought of all of it to the back of her mind and she didn’t want to go through the cumbersome position one must be in at the doctor’s surgery to have an abortion. She found that humiliating.  She stopped her religious beliefs around age 15 so she didn’t have any religious guilt. She didn’t see abortion any different from the sperm not quite meeting the egg and talks about the difference between ridding a mass of cells and that scenario.

Many people, especially those who are firm believers in God would probably be upset towards her cavalier attitude towards abortions. However as I am a pro choice person and just don’t get involved in the decisions of others whether they accept abortion or not I just kept reading.

I enjoyed hearing about her trips abroad, in particularly Greece and later the Caribbean, Tobago to be exact. She did feel uncomfortable being one of the ‘have it all’ people dealing with the poverty around her. I enjoyed her discussions around the social topics.

Considering she was born in 1916 and never fit the model of growing up, giving up her educational success for home and hearth and children I enjoyed her will to live life as she wanted. She never talks about loneliness though I would think her string of married lovers might contribute to that more than she acknowledged. Though, who knows,maybe it didn’t. Perhaps that is my white middle class, midwest American upbringing talking.

She always talked of the English person as to dealing with unpleasantness or conflict as pushing it to the back of one’s mind and just moving forward. The stiff upper lip translated so to speak.

Having grown up in the United States where hearts are worn on sleeves and strangers know your life story in the time it takes to fly from Chicago to New Jersey I don’t relate much to stiff upper lip. Though I do find 30 years of life in Australia has tempered me somewhat.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing was very good and she didn’t linger too much on any one topic. It was interesting hearing about her life around the world wars and I loved seeing what direction her life took at every twist and turn. She was blessed with many good friends. I find when one doesn’t have children of one’s own to discuss it is wonderful to spend time with other like minded people. Hearing about little Gracie’s toilet training or how they are doing in school wears thin after awhile.  I could never have been a  yummy mummy but it is fun to watch them in the cafes.

As always, each to their own and I enjoyed this book.

 

Where does the time go?

snip20161209_1I can’t believe we are so close to Christmas. This year has passed incredibly quickly. However I am ready for 2017. I always enjoy a new year. It is like a clean slate

Our play reading group and writing group have now finished up until Feb/Mar next year. Our book group won’t meet again until the end of January. The Christmas lunches and boxes of chocolates and card distribution have happened. Most of my Christmas shopping is finished. I am working towards that clean slate. All of us will breathe a sigh of relief once Boxing Day is upon us.

Our discussion for the January book group meeting will be Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Book which I have already mentioned. We will also talk about the book Victoria but I am not sure I will spend time reading it. I am so uninterested in the topic of yet another book about Queen Victoria I will probably pass. We will be talking about the book The Giving Tree to by Shel Silverstein. A child’s book with adult overtones.  I have it from the library and will read it in the next couple of days as it is due back soon.

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I put together a scavenger hunt together for the book group to participate in next year.

We can count the books read for the group plus anything else we read. It will be interesting to see how we go.

The person in the  group with the most hits on it by 31 Dec 2017will win a $25.00 gift voucher to my favourite book shop, Fuller’s in Hobart.I will talk about the upcoming books in due time but I would invite any people “out there” reading the scavenger hunt details to join in. It might prove interesting for your own challenge. Feel free to share it if you like but give the Travellin’ Penguin a bit of credit if you will.

I will update my progress as we go through the year.There are three simple rules. Readers must not begin until 1 January. They must finish by 31 January (2017). They can only record a book read in one category. Easy. You can read the list below. Feel free to copy it.

screen-shot-2013-08-04-at-15-49-21Good Luck.

Scavenger Hunt For Books 2017

List of Books Name of Book Read/Author Did you like it?
Find an author’s name or title with the letter M in it.
A classic (anything before 1950)
Picture of a knife on the cover.
Something on your bookshelf that is not a book.
Protagonist is  a woman.
An animal features strongly as a main character.
A book that has been translated into English.
Children’s book
Flick through all the chapters and addendums of a reference book
Book written in the form of diary or letters.
Library book with title beginning either with your first or last name initial. Can be a e-book checked out from library.
Hardcover book that does not have a dustjacket.
Book that takes place in a capital city of a foreign country.
Australian book written before 1960.
A book written in the year you were born.
Non fiction book.
Misery Lit book (hardship of some type overcome)
Booker Prize winner
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Book that takes place in Western Australia
Book that takes place in a specific American State
A book that takes place in England
Picture of a village on cover
Picture of a bicycle on the cover
Picture of a camera on the cover.
Book you bought from a book store
Book you got from a charity shop
Book you got from a second hand shop
Book with no picture on the cover.
Book written in the 1920’s
Book with a picture of a forest on the cover.
Book that has been in your house unread for at least 5 years.
Book you bought in 2016 you have no read yet.
A 2017 published book.
A mystery or crime book.
A Fantasy book
A Science Fiction Book
A book that has won some kind of award or prize
Miles Franklin award winner
Another non fiction book.
A book where you learned something you didn’t know a thing about. What was it?
A biography.
An auto biography
A book of fairy tales or fables
A book of Poetry
A book with a map on the cover (not an atlas)
Three articles within one magazine. What magazine was it?
Travel writing
Adventure story in a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonia Sotomayer- Supreme Court Justice

snip20161129_3I am just about finished with this wonderful biography of a very talented and educated Sonia Sotomayer, My Beloved World.  I read about this book on the blog of Lakeside Musing and I thank her for the recommendation. It is a really interesting story.  Ms. Sotomayer was a Puerto Rican born to an immigrant family in 1954 in the Bronx, New York City.  The book discusses her family, her relatives, her Catholic Education, her thoughts, her feelings, her triumphs and her hardships.

She was able to benefit from the Affirmative Action programs happening in America during the 1970’s and from high school went on to graduate from Princeton University and then onto Yale Law School with high donors. Her academic pedigree is long and thorough.

I have been listening to the unabridged audible version of this book with the narrator Rita Moreno who has been excellent.

I love the way she writes, her descriptions of the Bronx, first in the city area, later moving into the projects and what life was like there.

Her family ties are both intense, funny and sad. Her relationship with her father who spoke no English, had a third grade education, worked as a Tool and Die maker, dying in his 40’s from too much alcohol was mixed.

Her mother was also a very complex character and later her support of Sonia in her education was remarkable.

I am not quite finished with this book but will be in the next day or two. If you are interested in anything to do with legality, the justice system (though the story stops before she has a chance to get into her work as a supreme court justice) and a person’s never-ending determination to succeed this book will make you feel really good.snip20161129_1

I really like it.  The Penguin liked it too and has been walking around the house all week dressed as a justice. (roll eyes)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Men in a Boat-Jerome K Jerome

snip20161121_2Just as I decide to begin reading more of my Penguin books from my collection,  our book club decides to discuss Jerome K. Jerome’s book Three Men in a Boat.  I began reading this book (ignoring the tiny print in the old Penguin book) when I saw our local library had the E-Audio version of it so I downloaded it.  I have been listening to it the past couple of days off and on.

 

According to what I have read online, Jerome was born Jerome Clapp in 1859. He wanted to become a man of letters or a politician but his father died when Jerome was 13 and then his mother when he was 15. He had to begin work after that.

He did a variety of jobs and eventually ended up as a writer of essays, freelance pieces, etc. He wrote his most well known book, Three Men in a Boat (and a dog) at age 30 in 1889.

It is the story (quite autobiographical after the people in his life) of friends George and Harris and himself sitting around talking about all of their illnesses one evening. Nothing like three hypochondriacs spending an evening together. It is a very funny page or two.

They decide in the end they are all just tired from overwork and decide they need a holiday. The story begins when they decide to rent a small boat and explore the Thames. The three of them and Jerome’s dog, Montmorency undertake the journey together.

The book was originally meant to become a bit of a travel guide with historic points along the Thames discussed. However the comic quality soon took over and this weighted heavier than the history.

Harris, George and Jerome (called only J. in the book) begin planning, packing and eventually the trip.

I enjoyed getting stuck into this story. It has some very funny passages. The story is quite visual and one is able to picture the pure incompetence and hilarity between the three friends. The characters are written to caricature I thought, that deal with some very common events (oversleeping, packing a full suitcase only to unpack to find a toothbrush needed later, deciding on what food to take and the interactions once underway).

I can see why it would have become quite popular in its time. Much of it has not dated much but I have to say (against some of the research online  I read about this book) that some of it has dated.  I found the description of women in this book to be quite tedious. They were all very dense, tiresome, insipid and goofy. I must admit I did become weary of  their descriptions and the roles they played. I appreciated the tongue in cheek of some descriptions but overall it did not always ring true.

I thought the humour was very good.  There are many parts where I laughed out loud, perhaps as I would laugh at British sitcoms. (Remember when Hyacinth Bucket dressed as a sailor for her boating day on the river and ended up in the drink?) Humour such as this wears thin after awhile. I like comic novels but often I find an author just plain over does it. The joke goes on and on and on. The first joke makes for a good belly laugh but once that is over I am ready to move on and not read another 3 or 4 pages as the author tries to get you to have a raucous laugh yet again and again at the same story. Sophie Kinsella’s books come to mind where every single line becomes a joke and one loses patience with the story which is quite interesting.

There may be people who disagree with that description but this is my post and my read so I am sticking to what I have said.

Overall I enjoyed this book very much. It made me feel like I was in England in the 1880s to 1890s.  I can see a great many people sitting in their parlours laughing out loud, hanky in hand, wiping eyes behind their glasses. I did so  myself which is good considering this book was written 127 yrs ago. This book is incredibly, still in print so there are many things that are truly just right.

I think it will be interesting when our book club discusses this (I think in January?)

I am getting caught up on my book reads for club so I can read what I want over the silly season. Jerome K. Jerome wrote a sequel to this book about the same friends undertaking a bicycle trip but evidently this was not as popular with society as the first one. I think it must go back to the jokes. After all how many times can one watch Hyacinth Bucket and keep up the same laughs. The humour does begin to wear off.

In summary though the Penguin and I did enjoy this  little trip down the Thames but we did find the small boat with three men, a dog and all of their baggage (you won’t believe all that they packed) a bit tight.

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The Little Engine That Could

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1930

This evening I was looking through the 1001 Children’s Books….and the first book recommended at the beginning is The Little Engine Who Could.

I have come across this story several times over the years and I knew it was short so I decided to look it up on You Tube and find a copy. I found a short video of a woman reading the book online. I spent a few minutes and watched it as she read the story. It is the story of an old train, not very big, trying to get over a mountain. It doesn’t work very well and needs to find a way to get the train up the steep hill. The train is full of toys and lollies for the children on the other side of the mountain. I spent some time trying to find an original cover of the story rather than the boring train pictures on the more modern covers.

You know how it is when you look up one thing on Google and then that leads somewhere else and then there are about 10 different tangents to follow after that? I think it is the love of researching things more than really wanting to know the complete history behind this story. But I must say, reading various pages online I found all sorts of information regarding the development of this simple tale.

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1960

What I notice most in children’s stories of old is the more complex vocabulary. Books for children in the “olden days” had more words, sentences were in smaller font and there weren’t as many illustrations. Nowadays when you open a children’s books the illustrations are huge, the text isn’t much smaller and there are fewer sentences on a page.

I don’t say this lightly as I watched the changing curriculums of primary schools and early education during my 35 years working in schools. I remain more traditional in my phonics approach to reading, teaching root words which aren’t taught anymore, transcribing verbs, talking about syllables and accents. These things aren’t around much anymore. No memorising long passage of literature such as plays and poetry in late primary school.

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The LP version

Mind you the knuckles of children also are not hit anymore with wooden rulers and teachers don’t threaten children with hickory sticks or writing 100 sentences, “I will not talk in class” anymore. (I got so I could write that sentence three times at a time by carefully arranging three pencils in my hand and yes, it did work.) I digress.

Anyway, I spent an hour searching out everything I could find about this wonderful tale with the simple morale: If you work hard, persist and tell yourself you can do it, then you can do it, no matter how hard it is. That was a persistent theme of growing up in 1960’s America where any boy or girl, if they worked hard enough could become president of the United States. Teachers and parents told us this all of the time. I never believed that until this week. I guess it is true.

According to Wikipedia…
The story’s signature phrases such as “I think I can” first occurred in print in a 1902 article in a Swedish journal. (“In Search of Watty Piper: The History of the ‘Little Engine’ Story”. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship.)

An early published version of the story, Story of the Engine That Thought It Could appeared in the New York Tribune on April 8, 1906, as part of a sermon by the Rev. Charles S. Wing.

It was first sold by door to door salesmen in a compilation of stories in the book My Big Bookhouse in 1920
The best known incarnation of the story The Little Engine That Could was written by “Watty Piper”, a pen name of Arnold Munk, who was the owner of the publishing firm Platt & Munk. Arnold Munk was born in Hungary, and as a child, moved with his family to the United States, settling in Chicago.snip20161115_10

Later he moved to New York. Platt & Munk’s offices were at 200 Fifth Avenue until 1957 when Arnold Munk died. Arnold Munk used the name Watty Piper as both an author of children’s books and as the editor of many of the books that Platt & Munk published. He personally hired Lois Lensky to illustrate the book. This retelling of the tale The Pony Engine appeared in 1930, with a title page that stated: “Retold by Watty Piper from The Pony Engine by Mabel C. Bragg’s copyrighted by George H. Doran and Co.

In 1954 it the book was upgraded with revised vocabulary and colourful pictures.

Now you know more than you ever wanted about this charming little story. I think I might be using this phrase more and more over the coming year. ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…’

A week to make you crawl into your childhood.

This has been a week to really lay a person flat. I have hit a new low in enthusiasm for the things that govern our world. As I don’t really want politics to enter my blogging world (of books, tea and coffee, puppies and flowers, stationary and friends) I will not say how disturbed I am about the recent events in the USA. Most of you know how it feels anyway.

Although I now live in Australia, I grew up in a small town (pop. 5000 maybe) in the state of Michigan in the USA. Farm country midwest.

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The Grand Ledge Public Library, Michigan, USA 1950’s

I was remembering what I used to do as a child when the life I had got to be too much. I used to escape the yelling, the boredom, the alcohol fuelled nonsense by going to the little library that was in my town. It was only one block away. This was in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The librarians were the stereotypical ones who wore their glasses like a bat might, flying out of a cave looking for food. They only knew one word and that was “Shush!”. They used it often. They never showed us anything about where the books were.  When one had read everything in the children’s section it would not occur to them that some in the adult section would be great for the older, intelligent child. 

Censorship was rife in those days. It was okay to read Grimm’s with children being eaten by witches or wolves blowing down houses of pigs into oblivion but heaven help you if there was something good by Steinbeck or Hemingway about poverty,  love, war or angst. Violence was fine, romance wasn’t. We might stumble across the word ‘breast’ or ‘illegitimate’ or ‘queer’ and ask them what it meant. I still laugh to think of it.

Anyway, I digress. I just acquired the book, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. It begins with a section of recommended books from ‘0-3’ age range and it ends with a section for ‘Over 12’. 

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Most of what I remember of life in the library as a child was it was cool in summer. It was quiet and no one bothered you. I spent a lot of time looking through those 3D cards in the little gizmo you hold with your hand and look through at the double postcard to see history in 3D. (I know they have a name but I admit I don’t know what they were called). I guess it was early technology. I know you could sit in a corner on the carpet and read for a long time and no one knew where you were or ever thought to look for you there. But if you got into trouble for being gone so long you had a witness to your afternoon of silence. The bats.

I have wanted a complete week of silence this week. Just to mull over what a Trump presidency will be like with Newt Gingrich in the Secretary of State position and a possible Sarah Palin as head of Interior Development. I can more likely believe in the Yeti or the Abominable Snowman than believe that scenario. Anyway, I digress again. I told you my mind is shot.

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Peanuts Cartoon by Charles Schultz

Since the TV news gives me the shivering willies lately, I have more time to get creative, write in my blog, decorate post cards. I decided as part of 2017, as well as reading more of my TBR books and book club books I will read some of the books listed in the ‘1001 Children’s Books…’

I have read many books for the under five year olds. As I worked with language delayed and disabled children we always had a lot of lessons around books. The Who, Why Where, When and How of language development never left me. I spent 35 years in this field. However, there are many books for older children I was not exposed to. There was no reason, because many of them were written in the late 1800’s and earlier 1900’s except there was no one in my life to tell me about them. My parents weren’t readers of serious things. We chose to not have children so those books were not in the house.

Thumbing through this book brought back happy memories of spending summer days in the library as a child.

It also made me realise that there were a lot of books, especially from other countries I never read. I thought I would start at the beginning of this reference book. The first books are for children 0-3. I will also find the last recommended book listed in the final section ‘Over 12′ year olds’ I am planning to work from the outer edges towards the middle of the book. I will look in our library or the internet and read them. Two books at a time should not take long.  I’ll talk about what I thought of them both and see if they take me out of 2017 .

I think it might be time to travel back to 1959. Anything for a distraction. We’ll see if it helps me cope with 2017 more than I am expecting. After all most of us would probably rather spend time with The Hungry Caterpillar than Trump. 

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