Category: Reviews

Friday Rec: In Bonds of the Earth by Janine Ashbless

When the opportunity to review Janine Ashbless’s sequel to Cover Him With Darkness came up, I was delighted. I enjoyed Cover so much and have been eagerly waiting to find out what happens next to Azazel and Milja since I finished reading it – Janine left us with a gasp at the end of it, and does the same thing here again! Which really just goes to show how good she is at her craft.
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Macbeth with James McAvoy

Theatre Review: Macbeth by William Shakespeare (Trafalgar Studios, 2013)

So I was worried about the lack of blood on my website? Macbeth is one of the darkest, bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays, and this production, directed by Jamie Lloyd and performed at the Trafalgar Studios in London, had lots and lots of blood!
Plus, James McAvoy as Macbeth? Wasn’t going to say no to that opportunity when a friend mentioned it on Facebook. And when she managed to get us seats at the back of the stage, virtually on the stage, for the play was going to be in the round, I was even more intrigued. So back in March, we met in London to see the play.
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Book of Dragons - Front Cover

Dragon Day: Book Review – A Book of Dragons, edited by Roger Lancelyn Green

The Book of Dragons by Roger Lancelyn Green, illustrations by Krystyna Turska, Puffin Paperback (1973)

Book of Dragons - Front Cover
Front cover of the Book of Dragons

Roger Lancelyn Green is more famous for his collections, similar to this one, of Greek myths, stories of Ancient Egypt, Robin Hood legends, and Arthurian tales. His work was not part of my childhood, but from what I have read, many children who grew up in the 60s and 70s recall these books with fondness.

I can see why this one perhaps does not have the same level of fame. Bringing together dragon stories and trying to present them with any cohesion is a difficult task. The very act of defining what a dragon is fiendishly complicated (more so with European dragons) and further difficulties arise deciding what stories to leave out because of the plethora of myths. Where does a collector being? By geographical location? By era? By type of myth i.e. similar thematic elements?
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TV Review: Mayday (2013)

A girl on a bike in a flowing dress, decked in flowers, cycles through town, passing (apart from a troupe of Morris dancers) four men with sinister stares. When the girl, Hattie Sutton, goes missing, her absence from the May Day parade as May Queen conspicuous and troubling, we know one of these four is to blame. The question Mayday asks is which one, and why.

Rather than this being a question for the police, it is one put to four family members of these men – wives, brothers, sons. “You’d know if someone you loved killed someone,” Hattie dark-haired twin sister Caitlin says in the first episode. This is the thematic crux of the show – how much do we know about the people who are, supposedly, closest to us. And indeed, how much do we know about ourselves and what we are capable of when pushed to the edge. The four sets of suspects/suspicious family members all reveal themselves in surprising, shocking ways you did not anticipate from the outset of the show. I really did like this as a concept – a very unusual way of setting up a mystery.
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The Complete Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs

Nanolomo: The Complete Adenvtures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

I’m not sure how well-known outside of Australia these stories – and art work, especially – are. Even if you didn’t read, or had read to you, the stories of the gumnut babies Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, their friends Ragged Blossom, and Mr Lizard, and those dastardly Banksia men, if you’re Aussie, you know the image of a gumnut baby well. These you can see on the cover here, whose dress and life is based on the gumnuts produced by the eucalyptus tree.

Taking an educated guess, I’d say the illustrator and author of these stories, May Gibbs, was trying to create a kind of Australian fairy in that very Victorian/Edwardian vision of what a fairy was (certainly not the darker Celtic Fae, but rather a kind of sweet creature who hopped from flower to flower). It would be an interesting question to explore – the creation of Australian folklore and tales in the absence of one that immigrant Australia could call its own. How indeed do the gumnut babies sit along side the Aboriginal Australian dreamtime legends and storytelling – not uncomfortably, but Gibbs was certainly, and not surprisingly, employing a more English tradition in her depiction of the Australian bush and Australian nature.

And I think that is good thing. Being blessed with a gift for illustration and wonderful detail (I don’t have a copy of the book on hand but I remember the pictures of both the Australian bush and under water scenes, with clever detail that uses the minutiae of nature in creative ways) though, Gibbs saved it from being merely twee and sweet and gave us something quite beautiful. For me personally, I think it gave a connection back to Australia (as a child, I was brought up in Jakarta) that I think was vital, for it only became a lived experience when was 9.

The stories themselves… I think there was something a little deeper in them than most of the other children’s books I read. There was adventure, but there was emotional connection, and fear, and friendship too. But really, I’d give these to someone just for Gibb’s lovely illustrations. 🙂

And who else is writing for Nanolomo? Click to find out!