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Decoding picture books. February 23, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Charlie and Lola, Children's Literature, Dave McKean, EA300, I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Neil Gaiman, OU, reading, The Savage, The Wolves In The Walls, TMA05, Wolves.
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Phew! Who knew reading picture books could be such hard work and so taxing on the poor gray matter? I didn’t, that’s for sure.

I am now gearing up to write TMA05. This essay is an analysis of a couple of pages from a picture book. Now, while this may seem simple enough, it has so far been nothing short of a befuddlement.

Problem number one: What picture book to use? The two set books for this block are Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park. OK, so I’ve become slightly addicted to Browne’s books since starting this course, his use of intertextuality is fabulous, but as the book was a set book I felt too much will have been covered by the course materials. Ditto Peter Rabbit – besides, I’m not a fan of Potter. I don’t quite know why, but I don’t like her style. There’s no questioning that she was a clever writer, illustrator and designer of children’s books, they just don’t appeal to me. So a new choice had to be made so I am able explore my understanding of the subject. I have narrowed my choices down to:

  1. The Wolves in the Walls

    The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean. I have been desperate to fit some Gaiman into the course somehow, and this seems the logical point. I also love McKean’s illustrations, so this appears to be a double whammy. But I am now struggling with the decisions regarding which pages to use!

  2. The SavageThe Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean. Yep, more McKean. What can I say? I love his illustrations! But this is a good story, dealing with the subject of death and loss. It made me cry! The illustrations show the wildness of the savage, which in turn explain the feelings of the main character, Blue. There  are plenty of areas of analysis – graphically, textually, and semantically. A strong contender. Oh, and if you haven’t read it, then I recommend it.
  3. WolvesWolves by Emily Gravett. I discovered this book after reading a critical essay. I had a look around, found some of the illustrations, loved it! The idea of a rabbit borrowing a book about wolves from the library and the wolves then stalking the rabbit was too good to pass up. It’s on order and I can’t wait to read it, it looks so interesting and funny, and there appears to be a lot there that would be worth analysing.
  4. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. There had to be some Charlie and Lola in the list. They’re Princi’s favourite and best! And c’mon, there is so much in there to get your teeth into! There is one image in this that always sticks in my head. When Charlie is giving the alternative description of mashed potato, the shape of the text fits the image, if you know what I mean? He describes it as ‘cloud fluff from the top of Mount Fuji,’ and the words are shaped into the roof of a Japanese building. Just fab!

Problem number two: Understanding a whole new set of terminology. Again. This time the codes of picture books. I didn’t even know there was a code! More fool, me. I am working my way through an excerpt of an article by William Moebius called ‘Introduction to Picturebook Codes.‘ (Not all of it is included here, but you get the gist.) For me, it’s interesting reading even if I’m having a hard time retaining all the info. But another read through should sort me out. Then it’s applying this new knowledge to the pages I choose to analyse. Looking forward to it! All that’s left to do then is attack the post-modernist angle, which means another crash course. I think I may end up with concussion from all of the crashing I am doing!

So that is my current predicament. I think I am probably more or less settled upon Gaiman/McKean unless it twists my brain too much and becomes too wolfish for me. One thing is for certain, though. I am looking forward to writing this essay. And that’s not something you hear me say very often!

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To read or not to read? November 20, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Charlie and Lola, Coraline, Films, Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman, Twilight.
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This post is generally a reaction to a post on Noble Savage‘s blog about Twilight and young adult literature. Now, while I was not offended per se, I did feel a little begrudgingly towards it.

So I will put my hand up and admit that I read children’s books. Well, of course I do at the moment, it’d be a bit daft if I didn’t considering I am immersed in a children’s lit course. But I enjoyed reading kidlit before the course began. There are many reasons that I do.

  1. I have a child.
  2. It’s a little bit of light entertainment. (Books like Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl.)
  3. Sometimes it’s the best way to get large themes across succinctly. (Books like Northern Lights and Little Brother.)
  4. ‘Cross-over’ fiction is some of the best fiction around. (IMO)
  5. I would like to write a cross-over novel, so keeping an eye on the market is a must.

And that’s just to name a few of the reasons. But reading children’s literature when you’re an adult seems to have a social stigma attached to it. People tell you to get a life, to grow up and stop living vicariously through books aimed at teenagers. But do you know what I say? It’s my life. I enjoy these books and I will stand by them. And guess what? I also enjoy reading books for younger children, such as Neil Gaiman’s kids books (usually aimed at the 5-8 years – Wolves in the Walls – and 9-12 years market – Coraline and The Graveyard Book), and even Charlie and Lola books have their appeal for the interaction of word and image. What I have to ask is why do the people who think it’s childish for adults to read kidlit have such an averse reaction? It’s not like we’re smoking in public. It’s not harmful to their health. So why the problem? The simple statement of having been mortified about your mother enjoying teenage fiction doesn’t seem enough. I mean, I would have loved for my Mum to have read the books I was reading so that I could have talked with her about them, and I would hope that when it comes to Princi being that age that we would be able to share whatever type of literature, be it Shakespeare or Harry Potter or whatever is popular then. I think it is silly to ignore certain books because they are not demographically aimed at your ‘age market’.

Now, I wonder, how many adults would own up to something like Little Women, a book directly targeted at girls – or dare I say it, young adults – being one of their favourite books? How about Treasure Island? Alice in Wonderland? Anne of Green Gables? Tom Brown’s School Days? Are these acceptable because they are considered classics? So what’s the difference with people quoting Harry Potter or Twilight as their favourite books now?

I understand that some books are directed at kids. I wouldn’t read Hannah Montana (sickly sweet Disney pap) or Sweet Valley High (not my kind of book), but I have read the Potter series and Twilight. While I enjoyed Harry Potter, I hated Twilight despite my vampire addiction. For me, the advantage of reading Twilight was the lesson in how not to write (while the story had potential, the execution was dire. Still, it hasn’t stopped the books selling in their millions).

Twilight was the main problem in Noble Savage’s post. Yeah, the papers have focused on the release of the film (as is the way of media relations and advertising these days. Bandwagon, anyone?), but as with the books if the newspaper articles don’t interest you then don’t read them. Not only that, as young adults, aren’t teenagers reading newspapers too? Don’t they want to appear more mature by reading “respectable, grown-up” media? So why shouldn’t the papers try to sensationalise these films? Not only does it garner attention for the film/book/whatever, it also increases their unit sales. As for the arguments about adults jumping on something that is targeted at teenagers, well, why should that stop someone who is not in the targeted age demographic from reading them? Isn’t that one of the reasons why authors, librarians, teachers, and the general public petitioned against age banding on children’s books? Okay, the argument there was for younger children vs. older children, but it’s still relevant to this argument (young adult vs. adult).

So, as it is, I’ll continue to read and enjoy the stories found in children’s and young adult literature. It’s only fiction, after all. And, as C.S. Lewis said:

I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.*

I think that says it all. Fiction, whatever it is and despite who it is marketed to,  should be enjoyed by those who want to enjoy it whatever their age.

*Quote can be found here.

New look. August 28, 2009

Posted by phoenixaeon in blogs, Bloody books, EA300.
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I thought it was about time for a new look for the blog. I was getting a bit bored with its old appearance, so ta-dah! I think it looks a bit better now.

Today has been a bit of a wasted day. The gasman was meant to pay a visit to do the annual check on the boiler, but lo and behold – he never turned up. When Skidaddles called the company they said that no-one would be able to make it out today and that we’d have to reschedule. Fan-bloody-tastic! So a whole day of waiting in when I could have taken Princi to the park/bookshop/where-ever. Grrr!

I have also been waiting for the delivery of the course materials for the kidlit course. Ooh, I’m excited and anxious all at the same time. I am hoping that I can do the course some justice and not just flounder through like a floundering thing. I am hoping that installing Zotero into Firefox will help with keeping any journal/newspaper articles organised, and as an added bonus it helps with the bibliography too. Woohoo! I’d have not known about it if it hadn’t have been for a course tutor starting up an EA300 blog. The course hasn’t even started yet and the blog is proving to be a wealth of information! So, I think when Princi goes back to school I will sit down for a few hours and get familiarised with Zotero. I want to be able to utilise it well when it comes to writing them there dastardly TMAs.

Well, I’m going to treat Tazzle (Princi has gone to the park with Grandand). Yep, my brother’s cat is no longer his. Taz has taken up residence here, usually between my feet or on the back of my chair. I now feel like Mildred Hubble. Except that Taz is a black cat and not a tabby. Which reminds me, maybe I should go buy the Worst Witch books. I shall think on that!

Good start. December 5, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Birthday, Bloody books.
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Had a fantastic start to the day. The painting Mike did for my birthday was delivered (thanks hon), so that made me extremely happy from the outset. It is currently hanging on the post on the bookshelf until I can put it up on the wall. Even Princi’s not so nice start to the day couldn’t upset me. Then a nice bath followed by a scrumptious cup of cappuccino have kept my mood buoyed. Next to do is to sit and read the last of Twilight while Princi is distracted with her laptop and/or Nick Jr (she is still ill, so pander to the Princi), then if I’m not all read out I shall start Cybermancy by Kelly MuCullough. Webmage was fun and interesting, and Ravirn is definitely a character you could get behind and will on (it’s been a while since I read it so I may read Webmage again first), so I am looking forward to reading Cybermancy and Codespell.

Or maybe I should get to editing. That way I can get the draft out for peeps to read and rip apart. I need to know where I’m going wrong or right, so I can get a better mark than last time. I really don’t like being an underachiever!

Of pretty books and plasticine toothbrushes. November 27, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, The Principessa Files.
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Me. Call me the book magpie. Put a shiny, pretty book in front of me and you can be sure that I will have to have it. And more fool me to be part of the Folio Society book club. I luvz their bookz. So, imagine the sight; eyes like saucers as I stared in awe at the new lure to make me keep my memebership. The lure? An illustrated version of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Free. I am sure I could have done the wide eyed style of acting Richard Donner wanted in The Goonies! OK, so the free isn’t quite so free, I have to order two other books which will probably cost me around £50 over the next year, but that’s nothing! Especially seeing as I’d have to shell out £80 if I were to buy the Pullman books. So I think I shall be renewing my membership for the next year. (This could also prove problematic, as there will undoubtedly be other books that will make me cry; ‘I want that one!’)

As for plasticine toothbrushes:

Princi: (Runs downstairs after brushing teeth) But maybe I could brush my teeth in school, and make a toothbrush from blue play-doh.

Muse on Moon Juice. November 8, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in blogs, Bloody books, Stephen Fry, writing.
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Well, last night I went to bed with a dilemma. Do I

  1. Carry on reading Webmage by Kelly McCullough? It’s getting interesting as it nears the conclusion.
  2. Read more of Reading As A Writer (RAAW) by Francine Prose? It’s certainly flaying my mind and leaving it open to the elements of words. I quite like the feeling.
  3. Dip into the Manga Shakespeare? Really intrigued to see how Shakespeare transfers into graphic novelisation.

In the end, I decided on looking at the Manga Shakespeare. It’s a very interesting concept, but I think it loses a little something in it’s execution. For me, especially where it concerns iambic pentameter, I need to see it in its original form. However, that doesn’t work so well in the frame of a graphic novel. Saying that, it’s far more engaging reading it in graphic novel form as the pictures adds some movement to the static text. I also like the idea of mixing the old with the new, Shakespeare’s text agaisnt the backdrop of Manga-style characterisations. It’s definitely a way to get kids reading Shakespeare. I think I’d have been more open to the idea when I was a teenager of reading Shakespeare in that form, rather than having it thrust upon me, and me alone, by my English teacher. I was bullied enough without taking extra beats for doing extra work. Nope sir, I didn’t like that idea. More fool me, but self preservation was much more important. Anyhows, going off topic. I started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, only putting it down because I was very tired. Unfortunately, even though my eyes were too tired to read any more, my brain was not shutting down.

Earlier in the night I had read the new blog post on Stephen Fry’s website, and that helped twist my mind as much as RAAW had done during the evening. But it was this, ‘Do they ever let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to giddy euphoric bliss? Do they ever yoke impossible words together for the sound-sex of it? Do they use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those they talk to? that really snagged me, really danced on the poetic senses. So I think it was this partnered with RAAW and Shakespeare (this cocktail is now known as Moon Juice), that kick-started my brain and refused sleep to settle. I began mulling on a couple of points of Norse mythology in an attempt to find a way out of a plot hole I had written myself into.  This eventually took me into sleep, but not before making me wonder if I should get up and write it down. I didn’t, as it is.

I woke up this morning and lay in bed not thinking about anything much. Then, in a flash of creative lightning, plot-patches began flashing up in my mind’s eye  just as they do in when Chuck gets a hit off the Intersect. I hurried (as only I can in, a non-hurry, wibbly-wobbly type way) downstairs in order to scribble all of the fixes down. Thankfully, my brain didn’t burst and loose any of the information. So now I have plans to get three stories back up and running. I seriously need to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time!

I now understand I need to get my Muse drunk on Moon Juice before it will play.

I needed that. November 7, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in A215, Bloody books, Films, The Principessa Files, writing.
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I can breathe again. I was getting a bit stale in my brain, but going out this morning with Kirst has rejuvenated me somewhat.

It was the normal routine, go to the bookshop and up to the coffee shop, but without Princi. It was so nice being able to browse the books and not have to worry what trouble a four year old could cause. We spent about an hour perusing books, then about an hour up in the coffee shop. Nibbles, coffee and people watching, a perfect way to spend an hour. I took my Moleskine notebook with me so I could do some fictional character assassinations, I might even use one of them. The thing is, if there was anyone else there doing people watching for a creative writing course, I’m sure Kirst and I would have provided some good material. At one point the Ghostbusters theme tune came on, and I can’t resist at least doing a little rendition of the Ghostbusters dance, although without the walking – bit impossible in the chair –  and a little later when we went back into the bookshop we spent about five minutes corpsed in a book aisle looking at a book with the title Pets with Tourettes. It was perfect for the puerile sense of humour I am experiencing today.

While in the bookshop, looking at the Manga titles, I found some Manga Shakespeare. I had to indulge, so I bought A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth. It just had to be done. I am looking forward to thumbing through them. Then we st-rolled over to HMV, Iron Man was calling me. If only I could have walked out with just that, but there was a special edition of The Nightmare Before Christmas on the shelf that looked at me with sad eyes, pleading with me to buy it. I, of course, succumbed.

So, after yesterday’s apathy, I am now in a happier frame of mind. As is Princi – she is happily playing with her new Maisy pop out book.

Relief is a wonderful thing.

And now I am sitting amazed after seeing a BMXer do a front flip tailwhip. Impressive!

Cloverfield August 11, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Cloverfield, Eragon, Films, OU, The Princess Bride, TMAs.
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I have finally had the chance to see Cloverfield. Well, I was dubious, as it had been dubbed the Blair Witch meets Godzilla (I hated Blair Witch, it bored me stupid). I can see why, but there was much more to hold the attention in Cloverfield . Unlike BW, I did find that ball of anxiety in my chest during the tunnels and exploding friend scenes. However, I didn’t think it was amazing. That may have been due to watching it on TV. I can see how the tension could have been built watching it on the big screen. But, I did enjoy it. Not got more to say on it than that.

On the subject of films though, one of my favourite films happened to be on yesterday. What was the film? The Princess Bride. I love it! I have never read the book – a flaw on my part – but I am worried that if I read the book the shiny of the film might be marred. Now, this isn’t like me. I would rather read a book than take a film based on the book at face value. The Princess Bride is a different matter though. I love that film so much, I can watch it over and over again, that I don’t want to read the book in case it does affect my enjoyment of the film. See, I might have enjoyed Eragon if I hadn’t read the book, but the glaring omissions in that film just made me angry. So, I don’t know if I will ever get to reading William Goldman‘s book.

As for returns of essays… I’m still waiting. *Sigh* I’m finding it hard to concentrate on the 60s when I don’t know how I fared on the last essay. However, I am slowly trudging through the science section. I think I am quite certain that I will tackle science in the next essay, and possibly music and history, though having done okay with the art sections… We’ll see. I think doing the history part is a given, just because to tackle periodisation you can hardly ignore it.

And to finish; the best swordfight (or fencing duel, I’m not sure!) in film!

Decimated! June 9, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, OU, tennis, Wallace.
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(Pic from Eurosport)

I was quite looking forward to the French Open final yesterday, expecting a good old tennis barney between Nadal and Federer, though I knew Nadal would win. What I wasn’t expecting was the comprehensive ass-whooping that Nadal dished out! 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. Hardly made the final worth watching. Hopefully, Queens will be worth watching.

I think I am about 850 words into the new draft of the Wallace essay. Still 350 words to go, and I need to squeeze socialism and the conclusion into that, with maybe a bit of cleaning up on spiritualism and the introduction. I’m kind of happy with the history of science and early life sections. I’m just hoping the whole thing gels together.

Heee! I received my first Moleskine notebook today. It was a free gift from the Folio Society, the place I buy posh books from. I loves them there posh books. But I think I need to stop buying from them for a while. It is too expensive an addiction to feed now!

Well, while Principessa and Nanny are out in the garden, I think I will try and knuckle down and finish the essay.

ARGH! May 30, 2008

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, stupid internet, The Principessa Files, Wallace.
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Internet! I have the internet back! Thank buggery!

Yep, as you may have guessed, I lost the internet for a week. I was able to check emails on Mumbles’ computer, but other than that it’s been an internet free zone. Just got to try and get another provider sorted out before June 29 now.

I had not realised how much I depended on the internet. It was quite strange looking at the computer and feeling really apathetic towards it, even though I have been trying to get the first draft for the HoS essay done. (I am 3/4 of the way through it, just ordering my thoughts before finishing it. Then it’ll be fine tooth comb time.) I have had to keep myself busy – when not busy with Principessa – with Guitar Hero and reading.

I finally got around to buying ‘The Myths vols I-VI’. I sat down, really looking forward to reading ‘The Helmet Of Horror’ by Victor Pelevin, finished it, and didn’t get it at all. Bum! It was very interesting. It was done as if it you were reading the messages from a group of peeps in a chatroom. Interesting concept, but very strange story. I think it might need reading again. But, it has been put away, and I am now reading ‘The Diamond Age’ by Neal Stephenson. I’ve only just started it, so have no opinion just yet.

Principessa is made up at the moment. I bought a Dr Who duvet set for her, and she jumped around excitedly while Grandand put it on her bed. As soon as it was on, she jumped onto the bed, tamourine in hand, and sang:

Doctor Who had a bed
And he had a sleep
And he was good
And he was happy
Yay! We did it!

Don’t ask me! I’m just glad she loves her bed now. Maybe she’ll sleep in it more often now.