Of ceiling wax and cabbages

YA, graphic novels and the spaces in between

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You are the light of the world

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Shine by Lauren MyracleThings happened. Things changed. A girl full of light could get that light snuffed out, and when everything around her was dark, she could roll up in a ball and ignore the whole world, starting with her best friend.

I decided to read Shine by Lauren Myracle (Amulet Books, May 2011) because a few years ago I read ttyl and liked it. I hadn’t even read the blurb of Shine and expected something light and fun, um no. Since I’d only read one of LM’s books I wondered if her books were diverse, but someone on twitter said Shine was very different from LM’s other books. And I agree, Shine is amazing. It’s more like the books I usually read, full of angst and heartache, so I was quite at home, despite initially expecting something different. And Lauren Myracle has quite a way with her words, my favourite kind of author.

It was delicious telling secrets in the hushed privacy of the forest, where not even the sunlight could cut a path to the leaf-covered ground.

Shine is the harrowing tale of the brutal beating of Patrick because he’s gay. He’s left for dead at the Come ‘n’ Go gas station where he works, with a gasoline nozzle shoved in his throat and the words “Suck this, faggot” written on his chest in blood. Patrick’s friend Cat narrates the story of her search for who did this horrific crime. During her search for the truth she has to face the demons which have plagued her for the last three years. The story encompasses a myriad of issues: growing up gay in a small town with its ingrained homophobia; poverty; domestic violence; rape; drug abuse; as well as the mystery of who attacked Patrick. There’s even a slice of romance on the side.

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Written by ClareSnow

6 May 2011 at 5:27 pm

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

Convicts, Crusades and everything Pink

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Lili Wilkinson has had quite a year so far, winning three tributes for her work. And this is for three different books, not just three accolades for the one book. The three books are very different beings. LW is a busy, busy writer.

Pink I may have blogged somewhere about Pink (Allen & Unwin, 2009) being highly commended in the 2010 Barbara Jefferis Award. I don’t often read books more than once, but Pink was so wickedly luscious I had to. I think the Barbara Jefferis Award is the most important offered in Australia because it’s for

the best novel written by an Australian author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society.

Why can’t every book do this!? The judges said of Pink,

As a novel written for young adults, Pink deals in some refreshing and witty ways with the stock themes of confusion over sexuality, peer group pressure, and what not to wear. While Ava’s parents have no problems with her lesbianism or goth attire, she is not so sure. She dons a pink cashmere jumper and switches schools. But rather than just inverting a conventional coming-out plot to produce something more conservative, Pink complicates the simple trajectory of this kind of narrative. It depicts young women, gay and/or straight, positively, and offers a far from neat conclusion. Ava, having learnt several Emma-esque lessons about tolerance and judgment, still remains undecided.

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Written by ClareSnow

25 August 2010 at 10:23 am

Posted in awards, books, YA novels

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If you don’t like the night, leave

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‘He’s a dickhead, that’s what he is.’
‘What sort? There are many different varieties.’

This is Shyness This is Shyness by Leanne Hall won the 2009 Text Prize for YA and Children’s Writing. How could it not with lines like that!?

I would have blogged about Shyness in time for its release on 2 August, many weeks ago, but some very malevolent monsters got in the way, and they were in no way pretty, whatsoever. These words could still be sitting somewhere in the nether regions of the network if not for one angry mother and a grasshopper. It’s good to get your emotions out, but I really don’t think the grasshopper had any business handing out advice after the txts he sent me a week ago (altho I’ve since got him back). As much as I’d like to I can’t repeat those txts here because I’ve never encountered an angry grasshopper and now’s not the time to start. While receiving the grasshopper’s wisdom I even got some healthy eating tips which may have been caused by him watching me devour a whole pizza. That night was an interesting occurrence as the grasshopper lives in the vicinity of Shyness and I live on the other side of the universe continent. The pizza banquet may have been due to a glitch in the space time continuum or perhaps modern air travel. As well as pizza there were many skulls at the banquet, but I’m kind of going off topic.

Back to This is Shyness. I’m in LOVE ie. capital letter love :P I have to go to Shyness. I meticulously took note of all the landmarks so I could work out the exact location and feel the “thin layer of static over everything” that makes it hard to “see what’s really going on.” I haven’t quite pinned it down yet. In texting some of the landmarks to my guardian angel (who lived longer in the vicinity of Shyness than the grasshopper) he replied,

u sound lost

That’s why I’m asking, you d#@*!

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Written by ClareSnow

23 August 2010 at 8:33 am

What exactly is ceiling wax?

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The Walrus and the Carpenter illustrated by John Tenniel And what is it doing here!? I think it might be wax that drips from the ceiling. I’ve never actually seen any, but I heard a lot about it as a 12 year old listening over and over to a recording of Alice through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. More to the point, why has this blog suddenly become about such a strange substance? And cabbages, where did they come from? The same place as the ceiling wax.

’I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
‘I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size.

As that 12 year old I could reel off “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (sad, I know) and parts of it are still stuck somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain (those seven maids with mops), as is the first stanza of “The Jabberwocky“. I did think ceiling wax sounded odd, but the world was full of strange things back then, especially when you went through a looking-glass.

Back to why is this tangent even here? Once you pass your thesis, many changes come about. Excuse me!? Have we stepped into a parallel universe? Don’t get too excited, I have some slight revisions and then it’ll be googleable for all the world to be bored by. I really don’t recommend you sit down (or even stand up) and read a thesis. Parts of my thesis are in the publishing machinations of various journals and I’ll blog about some tasty thesis morsels, from which you can then go to the original if you really want the torture, or unending references.

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Written by ClareSnow

20 June 2010 at 12:36 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

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