October 14 2021

Sandman volume 6, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Comics. Audiobook. Fantasy/ horror.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.”
Volume 6 of #Sandman by @neilhimself is one of my favourites. Fables and Reflections aptly conveys what you’ll find in these pages – myths, histories, and religious tales from the Garden of Eden to Ramadan, all woven with the unique magic of the Dreaming and Morpheus. It’s truly a celebration of the power of stories throughout time, culture, and personal experience.
Finishing this volume also brought me to the end of the Sandman audiobook volume 2, which has been breathtaking, and worth every second of the 17 minute long credits that were required to acknowledge all the incredible voice actors who brought it to life.
I mentioned in my last post about this how impressed I was with the changes to the audio script with regards to trans representation, and I was similarly impressed with some of the minor changes made in this section, particularly in Ramadan. There were a few small but significant omissions which made this chapter much more sensitive in terms of racial representation. Did I mention I think that both the audiobook and the comics are incredible? I did? Good.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 170-171/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 13 2021

The Curiousities, by Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie

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The Curiousities, by Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie

Title: The Curiousities
Author: Zana Fraillon
Illustrator: Phil Lesnie
Genre/ issues: Picture book. Neurodivergence. Fantasy.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

I usually do picture books posts in a set of 3 or 4, but the couple I wanted to share today are worthy of their own posts. The Curiosities by @zanafraillon and @phillesnie is breathtaking. Miro wakes one morning to find that the world is a little different. The Curiosities have chosen to nest on him, and they help him to discover all the marvels that hide in the shadows where no-one looks. Sometimes it’s wonderful, as he explores the world in new and different ways – but sometimes, the shadowy Curiosities that float around him make Miro feel alone and invisible.
There are so many layers to this wonderful book. On the surface, it could be seen as a lovely story about looking at the world differently, but there are myriad beautiful celebrations of disability and diversity, and a strong message about taking pride in who you are and what makes you you. Zana talks in the endnotes about drawing on her family experiences with Tourette syndrome, and about the importance of recognising how differently abled we all are. Phil reflects on the impact of his Filipino heritage on his illustrations, and his musing on how neurodivergence might be different in a world which valued and elevated brain difference, rather than viewed it as an impairment.
A powerful book, told with gentleness, sweetness and sensitivity. This is my favourite picture book of the year.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 169/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 13 2021

There’s a Ghost in This House, by Oliver Jeffers

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There’s a Ghost in This House, by Oliver Jeffers

Title: There’s a Ghost in This House
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Genre/ issues: Picture book

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

What a delightful book! There’s a Ghost in This House by @oliverjeffers takes us on a journey through a house which on the face of it, appears to be largely empty. The young girl who lives there is convinced it’s haunted, but she’s not actually ever seen a ghost. As we turn the pages, though, we get a glimpse of some of her ghostly housemates. Translucent pages add additional layers to the existing beautiful artwork. Did you know that the collective noun for a group of ghosts is “a Fraid of ghosts”? Neither did I, but that’s just one of the joys I discovered in this beautiful picture book. Stunning.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 168/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 11 2021

Locke & Key, by Joe Hill

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Locke & Key, by Joe Hill

Title: Locke & Key
Author: Joe Hill
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comic books.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Books are no more than dreams manifested on the page, after all.”
It’s no secret that I love Neil Gaiman’s work, and I’m a big fan of Sandman. When I heard that there was a Locke & Key/ Sandman universe crossover coming, I was a little unsure. I’d not read Locke & Key, and had enjoyed the Netflix series of it, but didn’t quite see it as on the same level of intensity as what I’ve enjoyed so much about the world of Morpheus and the Dreaming. So ordered it anyway, because – well, Sandman.
Yesterday, I finally started reading Locke & Key, and you know what they say – the book is always better. Holy crapballs, are the books better. A breathtaking mix of horror, family history and compelling personal narratives, one page you’re rushing through weeks, months of mind blowing action, and the next you’re sitting with a soul as they reflect on their relationships, their traumas and their life. A fantastic story, brilliantly written and illustrated, and I’m so glad I decided to visit the source material after watching the show.
Today, my crossover volumes arrived, just in time for me to jump straight into them. Yeah, I can see why Sandman and Locke & Key are the perfect crossover now. I’m sorry I doubted you, @neilhimself and @joehill.

6 trade paperbacks, 3 comics, 2 days. Not a bad way to finish lockdown and ignore MY anxiety from everything opening up again here in NSW. I’m sure there’s a clever key metaphor in their somewhere!

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Locke & Key / Sandman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 159-167/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 9 2021

Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comics.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“I don’t think home’s a place anymore. I think it’s a state of mind.” Barbie, in I Woke Up and One of Us Was Dying.
I’ve just finished reading the Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You, which collects no. 32-37 of the original comic run. As always, I’m listening along to the audiobook whilst reading the print, and this one brought me to tears. Mostly, the audio has been really faithful to the printed text, with some additional narration to provide context. In the final chapter, however, there are some key changes, and it made my heart happy. (Spoilers ahead). I love Wanda, and I love her relationship with Barbie. I also love that, in the audiobook, Barbie stands up for Wanda, refusing to deadname her to placate her conservative family as they gather to farewell their child. Some small but significant changes give Wanda the dignity she deserves, from her chosen family if not from her biological one. I’m glad she found her way home.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Sandman is a masterpiece. Thank you for honouring Wanda in the cast recording, @neilhimself.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 6 2021

Nick and Charlie, by Alice Oseman

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Nick and Charlie, by Alice Oseman

Title: Nick and Charlie
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: YA, Queer fiction. Relationships.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Another instalment in @aliceoseman’s Heartstopper/ Solitaire world, Nick and Charlie takes place at the end of Nick’s final year of school. He’s getting excited about going to university. Charlie’s getting anxious about how they’re going to handle a long distance relationship, and the well-meaning comments on his Tumblr don’t help. I love Nick and Charlie. They’re such a great couple, and I desperately wanted to give Charlie a hug and tell him that long distance relationships aren’t easy, but when it’s the right person, they’re the easiest thing in the world. It was wonderful to visit these two again in this lovely novella.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 6 2021

Sandman Volume 4: Season of Mists, by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman Season of Mists: Volume 4, by Neil Gaiman

Title: Sandman Season of Mists: Volume 4
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre/ issues: Fantasy. Horror. Comics.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale.
Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.”” Season of Mists, Chapter 4.
I’m working my way slowly through the @thesandmanofficial volume 2, reading the printed comics as I listen to the audiobook. Today I finished the chapters that comprise the Season of Mists trade paperback. Morpheus meets up with his siblings, and is prompted to return to Hell in an attempt to rescue Nada, an African Queen he trapped there after she refused to stay with him in the Dreaming. Lucifer quits, and hands the key to Hell to Morpheus, who then is visited by gods, angels, demons and fairies, all petitioning for the right to possess Hell, and variously threatening or cajoling him in an attempt to plead their case. It’s a fascinating examination of the role of death and the afterlife in many different traditions, and the audiobook is stunning, with a who’s who of celebrity voices. David Tennant as Loki was particularly fantastic, as is Bebe Neuwith as Bast – and I couldn’t love @katdenningsss as Death more if I tried.
If you get the chance to experience this comic in both print and audio form together, I highly recommend it. A multi sensory feast of story, image and sound.
I did also have a momentary pang of jealousy as Lucifer hangs out on the beach in Perth, just quietly. Lucky devil.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

October 5 2021

Interworld series, by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves

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Interworld series, by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves

Title: Interworld series
Author: Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
Genre/ issues: YA. Sci-fi/ fantasy.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

“Don’t think because I feel it differently, I feel it less.”
I grabbed book 2 of this series in hardcover at a second hand bookstore. It’ll be fine, I told myself, it won’t be too difficult to find the rest in matching hardcovers! Turns out, it wasn’t hard, but it would have been pricey, so in a brief moment of fiscal responsibility I ordered the paperbacks instead. I’m still not quite sure I’ve forgiven myself for this.
Anyway … the Interworld series is a trilogy conceived my Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, with book 1 written by them, and books 2 and 3 written by Michael and Mallory Reaves.
Joey Harker has a terrible sense of direction. One day, though, he finds himself more lost than usual – in a world that looks just like his, but in which his parents don’t recognise him, and have a daughter his age instead. He finds himself under attack, and is rescued by someone who looks just like him. Joey finds himself at InterWorld, an organisation set up to save the multi/inter/universes from two competing evil regimes – Hex, who use magic to combat and control, and Binary, who employ technology. Interworld stands between them, filled with agents who are Walkers like Joey, determined to hold the competing forces at bay. And the agents are VERY much like Joey- all different versions of him from alternate worlds. Like the forces they battle, their worlds are often either technology- or magic-filled, and they all have as many differences as they have similarities.
I really enjoyed this trilogy. It’s an action-packed and engaging mix of science fiction and fantasy, with some complex ideas about the nature of the universe, time travel, and the notion of our responsibilities to ourselves as well as to others.
For those of you who know my feelings about Mr Gaiman, the following might come as a surprise. Brace yourselves. This series won’t be making it into any of my top 10 lists this year. It was good, and if you’re after a fast, engaging read with a unique premise, I’d recommend it. But for me, the ending felt a little rushed and unresolved, and (no shade to Michael and Mallory Reaves at all) it doesn’t have the gentle beauty that I’ve come to expect from Neil’s prose.

Happy reading,

Tamara

 

 

August 23 2021

Book Week 2021: A story of stories

Book week 2021

It’s book week. The 75th year it’s been celebrated in Australia, and the 40th (give or take) that I can remember experiencing. For the second year in a row, here in NSW at least it’s a very different prospect. No book week costume parades at primary schools, no read-ins or teachers dressing up at high schools. Instead, my incredible teacher-librarian colleagues have adapted, and are running a range of lockdown book week activities, including online quizzes, virtual storytimes, and dressups at home. One amazing friend is in an inflatable T-Rex costume, crashing her school’s zoom meetings and causing havoc a-la Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (yes, it was a book before we saw it on the big screen!)

For me, it’s another year of not being in a school. I’m mostly ok with this – I love the job I’m doing, and I feel honoured to be able help shape the direction of how students engage with stories. But I do miss school. I miss being surrounded by students, talking about books and helping build a fiction collection that will engage and inspire them. I miss spending my days in a library, working with colleagues to develop teaching and learning activities, and to lead the information literacy plans of the school. But mostly, I miss getting to engage with the multiplicity of stories that surround me in the best space in any school.

Libraries have always been important to me. From the small room at Wallerawang Public School, to the community library in town, to the university libraries I hang out in at every opportunity, and the state libraries I add to the itinerary every time I’m planning a trip, there’s something intensely comforting to me about being surrounded by books. You only have to walk into my house to realise that, with 7 book cases in the lounge room, 2 in my bedroom and another 3 in the study.

Shelf

I don’t really remember book week dressups when I was in primary school, but I do remember stories always being an important part of my life. From the children’s books that my mum passed down to me, to the stories I discovered for myself, I always found comfort in immersing myself in the lives and adventures on the page. I remember the joy of reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the first time, and desperately wanting to dive down that rabbithole with her, or skip along the yellow brick road with Dorothy. I remember the wonder of owning my own Golden Book Treasury, a collection of 4 hardcover books with hundreds of stories to escape into. I remember as a teenager seeing myself reflected on the page in the work of Judy Blume, and I recall vividly being seen the first time I read T S Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

This has continued throughout my life. In good times, I can curl up and relax with a good book, going on adventures and exploring other worlds. In difficult times, and boy have their been some of them, I can find comfort, reassurance, hope. I can be reminded, through the experiences of my fictional friends, that difficult things can be overcome. And throughout all of this, I can learn, discover and grow. (I also dress up for book week, just quietly … lots. See below.)

AliceWonder womanDoctor who

I know that not everyone loves to read like I do. My youngest daughter hasn’t really enjoyed reading since she was in primary school, and I’ve been ok with that. Her relationship with books and stories is her own to figure out. She was finding her passion through other outlets. This year, she’s started reading online fan fictions and has been devouring them, so when she recently mentioned she was caught up on her stories, I offered her a book I thought she’d like. She took it, and over the past week has read it plus another book by the same author, and just sent me a “yay! They arrived!” text after the package of books she requested I send arrived at her share house today. And I don’t expect that everyone SHOULD read like I do. It’s my passion. It’s my joy. It’s my thing. But I do think that everyone can have a connection with stories, and should be able to access their benefits when they need to.

Often, when we talk about the benefits of reading, the tendency is to link it to academic achievement. And there’s good reason for that. People who read generally see improvement in measurable academic outcomes and cognitive skills, such as comprehension, vocabulary, and the ability to make sense of what they see, hear, feel and understand. There are also studies which show that reading helps reduce the impact of age-related cognitive impairments, and has a whole host of other positive impacts physically and neurologically for the reader.

All of this is true. All of this is important. And all of this has shaped my personal, academic and professional pursuits. And yes – the data is important. It should matter that reading is good for you. We should dedicate the time to reading, both in schools and in our personal lives, because it helps students learn and grow. But I think in book week, it’s ok to take some time to focus on the more intangible and immeasurable, but equally important, outcomes. Reading matters because it helps us make sense of who we are. Reading matters because it can carry us through those incredibly difficult times. And I think we can all agree, we’re stuck in the mire of one of those times right now.

So, here’s my wish for you, on Book Week 2021. I wish you a story that will comfort you. I wish you a story that will speak to your soul. I wish you a story that will put a smile on your face, and linger in your mind in the days and weeks after you’ve finished it. If you’re lucky, that’ll all happen in just one story. If you’re luckier still, your wish will be granted many times over, in many stories to come.

Need some ideas? You can check out the 2021 CBCA Book of the Year winners. I particularly love the Younger Readers shortlist this year, and think that any one of them could have been worthy winners – especially Worse Things (so much love for this book!) and Bindi (ditto!). Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal and The Lost Soul Atlas from the older readers shortlist are 2 of my favourite books from this year. You could also check out one of the many books I’ve read this year. My #2021readingchallenge target was 100 books. Last night, I finished my 130th, and I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of them for different reasons. (I know, the last one I posted was 117 – I have some to catch up on posting about!) Or, if you’d like to read something but don’t know where to start, hit me up. I’ve been told I give good book recs. It is, just between you and me, one of the greatest compliments I can be paid!

 

Happy Book Week, and happy reading,

Tamara

 

August 19 2021

This Winter, by Alice Oseman

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This Winter, by Alice Oseman

Title: This Winter
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre/ issues: YA. Relationships. Mental health.

Shop local where you can: For Australian readers, you can find this book on Booktopia, or support your local independent bookstore. US readers, check out Bookshop.org.

Another Alice Oseman gem in the world of the Spring family. We get to see the world through Tori’s eyes in Solitaire, and Heartstopper shows us Charlie’s experiences. This Winter is a novella that invites us to join the whole family for Christmas Day, with a section dedicated to how the festive season plays out for them both, as well as their younger brother Oliver. It’s as nuanced and complex as you’d expect from this master of both storytelling and characterisation, and was a lovely quick read. You don’t need to have read either Heartstopper or Solitaire to enjoy this, but if you start here it’ll be a little spoilery so be warned.

#TamaraReads #2021readingchallenge 128/2021

Happy reading,

Tamara