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YA, graphic novels and the spaces in between

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when finding an angel in the creek, run the other way

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Sally Rippin is a talented artist and has many picture books to her name, including The Race for the Chinese Zodiac which has just been named by the Children’s Book Council of Australia as a Notable Picture Book for 2011. Congratulations! Sally Rippin’s talents extend to writing and Angel Creek is a delightful little read, perfect for a dreamy day down by the creek. Hopefully you won’t find an angel there. While you might think it would be delightful, it really wouldn’t.

Angel Creek by Sally Rippin She gazed through the shivering leaves. Pale stars glittered in the darkening sky and a huge yellow moon hung on the horizon. It was Christmas Eve.

When cousins Jelly, Gino and Pik the annoying little brother find an injured angel in the creek behind their house, it’s only the start of a downward spiral into learning the care and feeding of a baby angel. Clingy, petulant, and not at all used to being locked in a tin shed with summer’s “heat pressing down,” who would have thought a baby would entail so much work!?

Looking after an angel was turning out to be nothing like looking after a bird.

The kids aren’t allowed to go down to Merri Creek, but its one of two places Jelly likes about her new house, as she waits out the holidays to start at a new highschool without any of her friends. Jelly, Gino and Pik escape a stupid Christmas party to investigate the creek. A tunnel swallows up the water as it winds under the road and Jelly and Gino dare each other to follow it into the darkness. Gino spots a pile of white feathers trapped behind a rock in the water. What they first think is a bird that might not be dead, turns out to be a very live angel, which clutches Jelly when she pulls it from the rubbish and refuses to let go.

That’s when their troubles begin. Where do you put an injured angel for safekeeping? (and Jelly isn’t even sure if it’s more human or animal)

It was hard to tell. It looked like a human, but it sure acted like an animal.

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Written by ClareSnow

30 April 2011 at 9:16 am

Diana Wynne Jones and me

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Diana as a child

Diana as a child

Vale Diana Wynne Jones 16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011

Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, which you can find if you look – Fire and Hemlock (1985)

Diana with Dorabella

Diana with Dorabella

It’s been a month since Diana Wynne Jones’ sad passing. I haven’t read many of her books, but as a child and teenager what I read captivated my imagination and left lasting impressions into my adulthood. There was much internet writings on her passing and JudiJ compiled a useful list.

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones I met Diana Wynne Jones somewhere on the boundaries between worlds and she showed me some astounding places. I’m not sure when this was, sometime in the late 80s when I was 10 or 11. I visited those boundaries many times. It was one of the books I read over and over as a kid. I wanted to live there, hiding behind my hair, with an arm which may or may not have been inhabited by a demon. My boring existence didn’t even come close. Despite the innumerable times I read The Homeward Bounders, I couldn’t remember the title when I thought of it in the middle of a sleepless night the week after DWJ died (btw I wasn’t sleepless because of her death. I just get really bad insomnia sometimes). I do remember Prometheus living his painful day over and over, the shadowy strangers playing war games with real peoples’ lives, the dirty, nameless cities Jamie found himself in, no matter how many boundaries he crossed, and the constant fear of running from Them. [1]

That’s the trouble with boundaries you often don’t have time to catch your breath – The Homeward Bounders (1981) [1]

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Written by ClareSnow

27 April 2011 at 12:50 pm

the sky really is everywhere

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The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson Put your head under the water, open your eyes and look up at the sun. Your whole world will be filled with sparkles of water light*

I txtd that to SpiderSam two months before he died, not knowing The Sky is Everywhere, from where I stole these words, would follow my grief so closely. While I’ll admit to wearing his clothes, the other thing is not to be discussed :P

Tomorrow the US paperback of Jandy Nelson’s heart wrenching The Sky is Everywhere is released. I read JN’s poignant story last year but my own grief meant only now can I write about this book which helped me so much when SpiderSam died.

The Sky is Everywhere made the shortlist of last year’s Inkys in Sept/Oct/whenever and I hoped it would win the Silver Inky but Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater won the 2010 Silver Inky. I have no idea why I haven’t read Shiver, what with it being about dogs and all. I read eleven of the contenders before the longlist was announced, and five on the shortlist. A few of my fav books of last year were longlisted but didn’t make the shortlist, Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey, The Wrong Grave by Kelly Link and my favouritetist The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff. Again the dog worked his magic.

Each evening she held his head in her hands and ran her aching fingers thru the thick ruff of fur around his neck. He burrowed against her, sighing devotion

I’m not sure dogs b a judging criteria in the Inkys, despite Inky himself. Cos I didn’t read all the titles perhaps there’s even better dogs in the other books. ie. Shiver.

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Written by ClareSnow

21 March 2011 at 11:31 pm

The Space after Pretty Monsters

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There’s a reason why movie theatres don’t encourage people to bring their goats.

I read Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link weeks ago and meant to blog about it before its 31 May release, unfortunately a strange encounter befell me, which could have jumped from the pages of Pretty Monsters.

shiny red apple by Dano on Flickr I met an old crone and she offered me an apple, the likes of which I had never seen before. Its ruby luster promised delicitude I’d never tasted, how could I refuse? And she wanted nothing in return. I took a bite, smiling my thanks for her generosity, but a nagging feeling of déjà vu tangled in the back of my mind. Then I fell into a deep sleep, perhaps never to wake again. No princes round here, but lucky for me a fallen angel texted me some lines from Danté’s Inferno. My phone has the loudest, most annoying txt noise ever. Sometimes it makes me jump if it’s near my ear. Obviously I woke up and Danté jolted that chunk of apple right out of my throat and I spat it on the ground. Danté’s good like that. Sheeba the sk8 dog* sniffed it, but she refuses to eat apple. So now I was awake and could blog again. If you’ve emailed me recently and are waiting desperately for a reply, now you know why I haven’t, but might one day.

After loving The Wrong Grave earlier in the year I was very excited to get my paws on Pretty Monsters, again with illustrations, sorry decorations, by Shaun Tan. The Australian editions are from Text Publishing. They’re publishing lots of cool US titles. Although we have to wait (2 years!?), they are much nicelyer produced with real white paper, not that grey crap they fob off on cheap US paperbacks, and bindings that stay bound – who’d o thought.

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Written by ClareSnow

15 June 2010 at 7:57 am

Frankenstein’s Progeny

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Frankenstein I’m reading Frankenstein, not the original by Mary Shelley, but an adaptation by Margrete Lamond, illustrated by Drahoš Zak (HarperCollins, 2005). I’ve read Miranda Seymour’s biography Mary Shelley (John Murray, 2000), so I know the beginnings of Frankenstein on the shores of Lake Geneva. Shelley’s life was full of passion and tragedy and she really should have learnt more from her mother Mary Wollstonecraft and asserted herself against the appalling way Percy Bysshe Shelley treated his wife. In her diary of 4 August 1819 Mary Shelley wrote,

We have lived five years together and if all the events of the five years were blotted out I might be happy. (Seymour 2000, p.232)

Even though I own a copy of Mary Shelley’s original and it’s not as thick as her bio, I haven’t read it (it took me years to read the bio), but Lamond and Zak’s adaptation has less words and even better – pictures. Drahoš Zak’s illustration is disturbingly macabre. The picture on p.156 is devastating in the extreme and shows the absolute perfection of his art for this tale of tragic horror. If Zak was drawing in 1818, Mary Shelley would have asked him to illustrate her hideous progeny. Altho I’ve heard colour printing wasn’t quite so easy back then, even with Zak’s muted palette. Ada Lovelace hadn’t finished working her magic (she was only three in 1818).

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Written by ClareSnow

15 May 2010 at 10:34 am

Justine Larbalestier vs Lili Wilkinson

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In my new(ish) blogging adventure (which is somewhat lonely without MJ*) I’m not meant to go off on tangents. I try really hard, but they just appear sometimes (and no one tells me off – occasionally I’ve been about to go too far, but I stop myself before uploading). eg. I was going to write a whole post about Craig Silvey’s nomination for Cleo’s Bachelor of the Year, way better than getting on the short list for the Miles Franklin Award :) My friend Cleo told me he’s a virgo. I once read virgos go together (and we have the same initials) so I thought I should ask him out. I’d better read Jasper Jones first – don’t want him thinking I’m shallow. I did like Rhubarb, particularly the hermit crab, but you can’t talk about hermit crabs for a whole date (well I could, but the other person mightn’t be so impressed). Luckily for CBCA WA blog readers I managed to relegate this little tale of no consequence to the comments, but here it gets first para!

Liar by Justine Larbalestier But hot guys and hermit crabs are not what I’m trying to blog about. How did I manage to start a post on a tangent!? At that other blog when I wrote about February’s Book Discussion Group of Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Allen & Unwin, 2009), things were going great, until suddenly Pink by Lili Wilkinson (Allen & Unwin, 2009) popped up without any warning whatsoever. Well, I was comparing them so there was a reason in my mind.

One of my points of comparison was both books

feature very odd schools (I have a theory JL and LW were competing to see who could imagine the most bizarre school, but I then discovered JL did go to an alternative school somewhat like Micah’s).

Pink by Lili Wilkinson LW commented that she went to a school similar to Ava’s in Pink. Being a catholic high school girl I’ve not experienced such schools, but catholicism caused my high school experience to be just as bizarre, it’s just I didn’t notice at the time. I did enjoy the class of no work, just sleep with your eyes open – religion. LW also said perhaps she and JL should have a competition for their next books.

I have the perfect idea for this comp, which hinges on JL’s recent gardening adventures, so here is another (very necessary) tangent. I was excited as an volcano to find out that JL was going to fill her very empty Sydney balcony with native plants, seeing as half my garden is filled with them (including a rapidly approaching 5m gum tree which might grow 10-40m). I do have a thing for locally native plants, rather than any old Aust plant, but I enthusiastically provided (way too many) Perth egs after someone suggested WA plants (many of which are happy to grow in sand with little watering) might be good for a sunny balcony.

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Written by ClareSnow

6 May 2010 at 9:13 am

Governments do listen

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Wow, I didn’t think they did, but the Australian Society of Authors told me yesterday that Federal Minister for Competition Policy Craig Emerson announced,

The Government has decided not to change the Australian regulatory regime for books introduced by the previous Labor government…read the rest

This means parallel importation restrictions on books detailed in Australia’s Copyright Act will remain unchanged. The ASA, Australian publishers, authors, illustrators and others campaigned all year to bring about this decision and they’ve succeeded.

ASA Executive Director Dr Jeremy Fisher acknowledged the Australian publishing industry was facing significant pressures.

Minister Emerson correctly highlights the fact that e-books and digital technology are having an impact on the Australian publishing industry. The ASA welcomes change. We constantly seek new means to increase authors’ incomes. We are currently in discussions relating to fair contracts for authors with regard to e-books and products such as Kindle. We have also taken an active role in the US-based Google Book Settlement, which will see authors being able to pursue income streams for out-of-print works. The ASA will always seek improved income streams for its members in both print and digital forms.

Of course the whole world, and one little rabbit, knew this before me, but I only have a few more paragraphs and then I might be able to join the living again.

In other (way more important) news, when I give my (whole, entire) thesis (all of it) to my supervisor, no not at the end of August, not at Halloween, not last week, maybe by this weekend, definitely by next wednesday, I have something very important to blog about – graphic novels! Rachel from Margaret River Library reminded me that this blog is meant to be about graphic novels, not me, so look out for my next post Rachel.

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Written by ClareSnow

12 November 2009 at 10:57 pm

Sweet Scarlett

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I’m very close to having a thesis to submit but it’s taken quite a bit longer than I planned, due to a nasty monster which kicks at my heels, waiting for the right moment to trample mud all over my life. Monster isn’t the clinical term, most would call this monster depression, but I find euphemisms much more fun. Visits from the monster have been a bit too frequent for my liking this year, so I’m really looking forward to Halloween, when I will have a thesis to submit.*

the monster by Zoë S. At one time I thought I would submit at the same time as Zoë S. but she beat me to it and provided some useful advice on comments to be prepared for in the final stages of writing a thesis, in order to avoid a sociopathic outburst. I also found Zoë’s artistic post-it-note monster of great use. This looks just like the monster scribbled on the inside of my skull which runs circles round my mind, at the most inopportune times.

I haven’t been depressed constantly this year (in between I wrote a thesis with only editing keeping me from submission), but during the times I was, I came to the disconcerting conclusion that I couldn’t write a single coherent thesis sentence, but I could read book, after book, after book. Sadly none of these books were part of my lit review. Runaways is listed in my Literature Cited (as opposed to my Reference List) but reading all the vols I’ve got one after the other without a break in between (and this wasn’t the first time, so I already knew what happened) didn’t improve my thesis.

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Written by ClareSnow

13 October 2009 at 2:36 am

Inky Goodness

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Matata the reading Bengal cat by Justin Atkins on Flickr The longlist for the 2009 Inkys has been out for a while, but I’m experiencing some thesis induced insanity at the moment and the Inkys just remind me of all that YA reading I have to catch up on. You may notice Matata the reading cat has a predilection for classics, but she’s not averse to YA in between. I think she could out-read Inky the dog any day of the week.

When I first saw the list I thought the best book of recent times, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, outranked everything else, even the books I hadn’t read :P

Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki But then I read Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki which utterly captivated me and The Hunger Games moved down my list. I hadn’t noticed Skim was on the Inkys list at first, but how could such a masterpiece of word and image (my two fav things) not be. I didn’t think its graphic novel-ness was the deciding factor in my opinion. But perhaps it was because it’s the combination of the words and pictures which I love so much, especially the full and double page spreads of illustration, with Skim’s diary creeping across the scene. My favourite is Skim and Lisa trying to summon the dead boy’s spirit in the woods, and missing him because they’re facing the wrong way (right). Its partial repetition on the end papers makes for a beautiful book design.

My favourite words in Skim are repeated in the blurb. The Inkys page also has them, but they missed the most important line (you can’t trust a dog with ink on his paws :P)

I had a dream
I put my hands
inside my chest
and held my heart

to try to keep it still

The unusual angles, tantalizingly crossed out words of Skim’s diary and obscuring of Skim’s face so much of the time, until she finds herself and an unexpected friend, combine to make a work of art on a very different level to The Hunger Games. And I much preferred the UK/Aust cover to the Canadian.

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Written by ClareSnow

20 September 2009 at 10:24 pm

Steampunk Dreaming

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Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Scott Westerfeld’s next book Leviathan is due out in October. I knew a bit about it: that it’s set during an alternative steampunk WWI (note to Edward) and I’d read the first chapter. I like steampunk, but it’s not my fav genre and although I’m going to read Leviathan, I wasn’t all that excited about it. Until now.

I hadn’t visited Westerblog in a while but today I did and discovered two things:

Westerfeld wanted the finished book to have the period feel of the era in which the story is set, Simon & Schuster is using 70-pound paper, full-color endpapers depicting an allegorical map of Europe, and 50 interior illustrations — lavish bookmaking financed in large part by Westerfeld himself.  — Publishers Weekly [2]

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Written by ClareSnow

5 August 2009 at 7:01 pm

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