Ruby Reads (4)

At this rate I’ll be doing a weekly post about books Ruby and I enjoy – or at least experience – together for quite some time to come. Here goes this a selection of this week’s discoveries and rediscoveries.

Jan Pienkowski & David Walser, Meg and the Dragon (Puffin 2015)

A library book, this is part of the series that began with Meg and Mog all that time ago. Mog the cat is still on the scene; she’s just been nudged from the title. Meg the witch, whom I first met close to 40 years ago, still hasn’t got her spells completely under control, but everything turns out all right in the end. It’s a Halloween story. For anyone who thinks of the writer of a picture book as the main creator and the artist as an illustrator, the Meg and Mog series is a challenge, as artist Jan Pienkowski has been the constant. The first so many books were written, beautifully, by Helen Nicholl. David Walser seems to have been supplying words since about 2014. I doubt if the target audience notice the difference. I certainly have no complaints.

Oliver Jeffers, Up and Down (HarperCollins 2011)

This is a sweet book (borrowed from the library), but seen vicariously through the eyes of a 14-month-old reader it’s car too complex: it’s about a boy and a penguin, inseparable friends who have a falling out and are reunited in the end, raising questions on the way about why penguins can’t fly and should they want to, and how does one support a friend who has ambitions one knows will be destructive in the end.

Pamela Allen, Who Sank the Boat (1982)

Isn’t it brilliant how books survive the decades. We loved this in the early 80s. I still love it. One by one, five animals get into a boat which eventually sinks. The repeated question is ‘Who Sank the Boat?’ I guess you could see it as teaching a lesson about buoyancy, but I think of it more as gently mocking the idea of such a lesson. Ruby asked for it four tomes in a row yesterday.

Craig Smith & Katz Cowley, The Wonky Donkey (2009)

This was read to us by the splendidly showy Lisa at Leichhardt Library Rhyme Time. Evidently it started life as a song, and the wordplay is certainly brilliant. I don’t care for the somewhat grotesque illustrations when seen through my grandparenting lenses, and was relieved to discover that they are not the work of Australian artist Craig Smith. This is a different Craig Smith, possibly a New Zealander, and he did the words.

To be continued.

Who Sank the Boat? is the ninth book I’ve read for the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

6 responses to “Ruby Reads (4)

  1. Back in the late 1980s I taught units of work with various Year 9 and 10 English classes on Picture Books. By that time I had a personal collection of around 200 books and I would crate them up and use them as the background to our unit of work – giving over two weeks to simply reading with a minimal record of each book dealt with – title, author/illustrator and a brief description. Following this my students formed small groups of two or three. Their focus was on producing their own picture book. A couple of weeks was set aside for this part of the unit. Once completed – we visited a local pre-school/the local public school Kindergarten classes. The students then read their books to small groups of little ones. The local newspaper came along to take photographs and write up a brief human interest story. It was each time a very successful exercise – emphasising the importance of reading to little children (a thought for my students to tuck away for their future possible parenting lives – or to be indulged in with nieces or nephews as doting aunts or uncles). Just now I have been returning copies of one of those picture books to the three lads who produced it (all now in their mid-40s): ABC Book of SPORT and HOBBIES. One of the three is a former dance graduate from the Australian Ballet School – then a decade plus with Graeme Murphy’s Sydney Dance Company – now in more recent years as Costume Director with major musical productions; another with his wife runs a major caravan park just a few kms from where I live (his wife another of my students from the same school) and whose mother is currently herself writing a children’s picture book with a conservation theme – and the third member the first Indigenous surgeon in Australia. All of them high fliers – from Nelson Bay HS.


  2. When can I meet Ruby?


  3. Who Sank the Boat will live on for a few more centuries (along with a few other Pamela A books) – especially if there are a few more Jim-like souls on the job. And I think there are. I gather lots more schools and other institutions (even retirement villages/nursing homes) are realising the positives of arranging the sharing of books between young and less young.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh..Good!


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