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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The 2017 Challenges are Beginning

snip20161106_2One of the book blogs I follow is My Reader’s Block.  I enjoy her posts as I find them motivating. She has good challenges each year including the TBR (To Be Read) books from her own library. As most of us know we all seem to have stacks of books in our home we bought with great enthusiasm and then left to set on shelves knowing we ‘WILL’ get to them. Then out we go again, pass a book shop and lo and behold see another book we just ‘gotta’ have.

This past year I belonged to two book groups. One has two books per month and one has one book per month. Looking back I realise there were very few books that struck me as interesting. Yes, it is fun to talk to other about books whether we enjoy them or not and the social value of a book group cannot be underestimated.  But enough is enough and one of the groups had to go. So I let it go. I still belong to the other group. I call it the Grand Chancellor group because we meet in the lobby of the big Grand Chancellor hotel in the city centre overlooking the fishing boats in the harbour.   I love the group because the age of the participants is varied from young to retired. Their interests are diverse. Sonia is fun  as she truly is an Australian born into an English woman’s body. So we treat her as if she is English. One day she hopes to make her visits there permanent. But in the meantime we listen to her Englishness and enjoy the laughs. Danielle is our facilitator and after we discuss the books we play a game relating to books. There are a couple that are commercial and others she thinks us. It is always a huge laugh. We have a veterinarian in the group who has great animal tales from time to time. We have a couple of teachers who are well read and interesting. We have an Army major who is up for most things. We have a youngperson who reads everything and is very well versed with what she reads. We have a woman who flies to Hobart from Melbourne several times a year and plans her visits around the group. We also have a woman who jumped out of a plane to celebrate an occasion and then started dating the instructor. I did mention how diverse we all are.

We usually discuss two books per month. One is our “regular book,” the main one. The other might be a children’s book or something light weight or very different to the mainstream one. We are invited to read one or the other or both.  Sometimes we might pass on the book and just come to hear the discussion.

As I am not the fastest reader in the world I have decided that in 2017 I am going to focus on one of the books decided and read that and let the other go. I want to read maybe 8 to 10  of the book club books per year (we meet monthly) and that allows time to be away travelling or to leave the 800 page blockbuster I can not bear to look at. I will also use my audible subscription towards book club books so I can listen to them in the car or while doing other tasks. My plan is to create more time to read the TBR books.

I have shelves and boxes of books I want to remove from the house. However I won’t get rid of them if I haven’t read them and I think they will be very good. Once read (Penguin books excluded) they must leave the house. I will either sell on eBay, give away to bloggers or to charity shops.  Be prepared for giveaways anyplace in the world.

This gets me back to My Reader’s Block blog. She has a mountainous challenge. I mean this literally. I am going to focus on it for the year. There are various levels.

Challenge Levels: (click for sign up page)

Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

I will commit to Pike’s Peak but am hoping to get as close to Mt. Olympus as I can. I can’t imagine reading that many books but many of the Penguins are short.

snip20161106_4That is the plan for next year as of today. I also have a couple of audible books I have not heard and quite a few kindle books. The only rule is you must own the books before 1 January 2017. It is hard to believe 2016 is almost gone. The year seemed to go so quickly. But I like this time of year as it is a time of buying a new diary which I love (all those blank pages) and setting up goals for next year. I doubt I’ll sign up to many if any other challenges unless I can incorporate them into the TBR one. We’ll see how it goes. I won’t make a prepared list as lists ahead of time become boring. I would rather pick and choose off the shelves as my mood strikes me.  So stay tuned and see what the Penguin and I find hiding around the house. We expect to travel to many places and meet lots of characters we either like or don’t like. We are both looking forward to the ride.

 

Art Cards in the Mail

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I received this card from Canada.

Today is a very rainy Sunday, about 12C degrees (54F) and the sun is also beating down. I think I should see a large rainbow soon but nothing in sight yet.

 

I was reading a post for JamesReadsBooks in October and I came across the one he wrote on 16 October about Art Cards.  He mentioned  International Union of Mail Artists and I looked it up. It is a rather chaotic web page but as I looked through all of the names, links and pages I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.  I have a lot of postcards. I pick them up in boxes in book stores, on trips or in the city when something catches my eye. Then there are the free ones I often find around town with art and advertising on them. I always wanted to do more with them than I do.

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I received this one from Delray Beach, Florida.

I also subscribe to Flow Magazine from the Netherlands. It isn’t cheap but I do devour them and I love the whimsical art work, motivating articles and it makes me feel happy when I read it. It is only published once every two months. I often cut up the old ones and glue the pictures on various journals and cards.  I registered on the site of IUofMA and ‘friended’ a couple of people who looked rather sane and friendly in other countries.

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This one is going to Kassell, Germany.

While looking around I also found Postcrossing.com.  That is a much easier site to use and with less chaos. I registered and received a letter confirming my membership and the simple instructions. I might add that no money needs to change hands or registration of credit cards  for either site. Post crossing.com lets one request up to 5 addresses at a time. I requested two. I got one in Russia (Alexandra) and one in Germany (Tanya). Along with the name and address a registration number is assigned for each. Once I receive a card from someone I enter their rego number into the website’s data base and I can keep track of what I receive. I can also post photos of the cards I receive.

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I am sending this one to Delray  Beach, Florida

Since I am such a stationary freak I began my tasks.

I immediately received two postcards in the mail addressed to Travellin’ Penguin. This was through IUMA. One was from Ontario, Canada and one was from Florida, USA. Their return addresses and notes were on them so I made up a card for Suzanne and Patricia. The cards were fun. One was in an envelope and had their addresses on them.

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The top card with stamps is going to Russia. Evidently she enjoys stamps. A Puffin postcard fixed up a bit. The second card is going to Ontario, Canada.

I thought I would share the pictures of the cards today as it seemed a pleasant Sunday activity. File it under Miscellaneous and Travel.

As far as bookish activities this weekend I began Jerome K. Jerome’s book Three Men and a Boat. It is one of my Penguin books our book club is reading for the end of November. I will write more on that closer to the book club date. Don’t want to post up my feelings before the club meets.

Enjoy the photos. I am not overly artistic, at least I don’t think I am, so instead of creating my own cards, I preferred to get ready made cards and decorate them a bit. It is at least a little bit artistic. I might get braver as I go.

If anyone else out there is interested in exchanging postcards for fun contact me privately through contact email on this blog with your address and I will send you something either book, travel, art or Penguin related.