‘The people who drew the pictures are very good drawers’, pronounces Master Six

It’s Master Six’s birthday today (with fever-pitched excitement in this household!). Master Seven will turn into Master Eight in a few weeks time. It’s irrefutable; they’re growing up.

Notwithstanding their rapid ageing, as well as stiff competition from the likes of Captain Underpants and the Storey Treehouse series, both boys still love reading picture books. Although, it’s not guaranteed that every picture book will capture their imagination as might’ve been the case even a year ago.  With this in mind, we recently tested the waters with Mrs White and the Red Desert and On the Way to Nana’s House.

Master Six and Master Nearly-Eight give their considered opinions on these two books: their covers, storylines, illustrations, and as well as delivering an ultimate verdict on both books.

12 days, 4 books and a beach

Melbourne is in the depths of winter. It’s a little different to Glasgow winters – where I would look desperately at the day’s forecast and plead that the top temperature rise above 0 degrees – but it can be quite chilly.  Sometimes I have to wear gloves, as well as a scarf and coat. To escape this dreariness, me and my little family recently headed north to Queensland, like the humpback whales, for 12 days of excessive frolicking, lounging, eating and of course, reading.

On this holiday I read 4 totally different books:  Phone, Our Women Our Ways Our World, The Essex Serpent and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. Here’s a short review of each (and some gratuitous beach photos).

Resistance and Remembrance: Us Women, Our Ways, Our World

I had always thought, erroneously it turns out, that protests against Australia Day were a relatively new phenomenon. Yet since 1938 protesters have marched against the 25th of January being an Australian national holiday because it ‘celebrates’ Europeans landing on this continent. Known as the Day of Mourning, this 1930s protest was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.

The genesis of NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week lies in the Day of Mourning, but unlike this earlier day of commiseration, NAIDOC week now is a series of celebratory events. It’s this approach – one of recognition and remembrance, as well as resistance – that Us Women, Our Ways, Our World takes to investigating the lived experience of Aboriginal women, through fourteen different pieces of writing. It seems fitting to take a closer look at this book during NAIDOC week.

Pompous and Ponderous yet Pretty Persuasive: When Nietzsche Wept

In the dark days of my youth, I trained to be a lawyer. As far as I’m concerned my brain is naturally inclined to be, and then was further pummelled into being linear, logical and only marginally creative.  For these reasons, when I have to contemplate the universe (by, for instance, trying to understand the relative size of the earth compared to the observable universe or the gravitational force of black holes) or when I have to ponder existential and philosophical conundrums, my brain really hurts. Give me the legal complexities of a snail at the bottom of a ginger beer bottle any day*.

So it was with some anxiety that I began reading When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D.  In addition to the intellectual title and the sombre bookcover, the author photo on the back of the book suggests a man not to be meddled with. He is clearly VERY SMART. Look at this:

Positioned alongside this imposing photo, the blurb tells us that Irvin D. Yalom M.D. is no less than a Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

Consequently, as I turned to chapter one I was fearful for my lawyerly brain.  How much existential grappling would this book demand? Would I survive the plunge into the (for me) unchartered realms of philosophy? Who was Nietzsche anyway?

Happily I can report that my brain and I survived When Nietzsche Wept. Although I didn’t necessarily enjoy this book I am glad I read it.

Audiobook Nook: The Dalai Lama’s Cat

I’ve developed a tendency to choose audiobooks that have silly titles, like my most recent pick The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. It’s precisely because it has a silly title that I singled this out one. I’d never heard of David Michie, although he seems quite famous, and I’d never heard of the book either.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat serves as a gentle introduction into Buddhism, as delivered by ‘Snow Lion’, the Dalai Lama’s Cat. If you like the idea of being talked to by a cat about the philosophical underpinnings of happiness, then this book is definitely for you.  If you think this sounds either pompous or ludicrous (or both), you’re right, it is.  But don’t completely write it off.