Children need books

If you have children at home do not deprive them of the wonderful adventures and journeys they can only partake in through reading books. Not all children will pick up a book on their own and start reading it, they need encouragement. It is a sad fact that some prisons in this world have more libraries than some schools do, so it is up to you, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to get children to read. Emilie Buchwald, the author of children’s books such as Floramel and Esteban or Buddy Unchained, put it well, when she said: “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

It is crucial to start them off young, so start reading them fairy tales and fables before bed. Fables in particular help the very young among us learn morals and can teach kids to understand right from wrong in a fun, playful way. Reading to your children when they are young also creates a special emotional bond between parents and kids. So get them books and get them lots of them.

Books help children develop their language skills and expand their vocabulary later in life. Reading also assist them in developing critical thinking skills and will encourage children to think and use their imagination. Nothing expands your world as much as reading, picture books have the power to introduce children to exotic animals and places they didn’t even know existed. Books don’t just help us understand the world around us, but also teach us more about ourselves. We can find similarities between characters of stories we read or find idols we strive to be like.

Most of all books all us, all of us, young and old, to take part in adventures we never even thought possible. We can go on fantastic journeys across the seven seas, travel the entire world in 80 days, experience life in the Wild West or become best friends with Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timothy and join them on their search for hidden gold in old dungeons. Books have so much to give, so go out there in pursuit of some of the great children’s stories, such as:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

To just name a few.

Zero History by William Gibson

Zero-History-coverZero History follows on from Spook Country, but does not contain the character of Tito, whose storyline was concluded fairly satisfactorily. The location of the book has been changed to London, but the characters of Henry and Milgrim have kept on – and developed fairly well. It’s fascinating to see these characters again, and follow their interactions and adventures in a totally different setting.

This work mainly concerns itself with fashion and the stock market – not the most initially fascinating of subjects, but some ones that Gibson describes very well and expounds on at length. As with Spook Country, Gibson shows himself to have a masterful knowledge of his subject matter and approaches the subject of fashion from an angle few would expect of a science fiction writer. It’s a fairly stereotypical but somewhat accurate assumption that most any science fiction writers would look at fashion, clothing and garment industries with some disdain and a lack of understanding: they are sectors of the world that are fairly often derided, despite their importance. However, Gibson shows himself to know a thing or two about clothes: and he puts this knowledge to good use in integrating fashion and the nature of garments into the plot excellently.

Essentially, Henry and Milgrim are now working for the same company, investigating a very specific and secretive brand of clothing to determine what makes it so cool. This plotline works its way throughout the entire novel, and is handled very well – and provides an interesting counterpoint to the rest of the plot, which is mainly concerned with corporate espionage and continues the locative and geographic-based themes of Gibson’s previous work, Spook Country.

In this novel, Gibson fleshes his characters out more and provides more depth – his previous works were a little distant and contained characters that were a little more aloof, but Zero History is approachable and easy to read. It feels a lot less of a struggle to keep up with the plot, as well – generally, there is more of a sense that you want to continue reading, rather than backtrack and make sense of what has been happening. From a purely selfish point of view, the inclusion of some Melbourne-based plot points made it very easy to continue to read, even just to see what Gibson had to say about the Melbourne locations he was talking about.

 

Generation Z: The Bookless Generation

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Generation Z (those born post-2005) are going to read fewer books than any generation before them. Generation Y were probably bad enough – but at least we read some.

In the modern era, reading books is no longer a common pastime. Older folk still love a good book to pass the time, but the new generation have other forms of entertainment

So what will be the consequences of a virtually bookless generation? We can only guess, but some side effects might be:on tap: computers, iPads, the internet, their phones, televisions…the list goes on. With this being the case, they are unlikely to read all that many books (and ones that they do read are likely to be on their eReader). Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule – but there probably won’t be all that many exceptions. While kids will be ‘forced’ to read some books at school, they are quite likely to grab the movie version to catch up on the plot, or simply Google synopsis of the story. Many won’t actually read the book.

Poor spelling and grammar: We learn to spell and write property by reading – at least partially. If kids are no longer reading regularly, they are not gaining that exposure to proper grammar and ‘good’ writing. Instead, they are submerging themselves in text talk, internet articles (where mistakes are a-plenty) and other forms of writing. What this means is that they will pick up habits from these places, rather than from well-written books. This is always going to end badly.

This doesn’t just mean they can’t write a book themselves. It means they will struggle with basic things in life, such as writing a resume and cover letter, or sending client emails at work. Writing well is an important life skill.

Inability to read complex things: When your entire library consists of internet bullshit and texts, you become used to reading very simply-worded content. This means that those big words are sure to go over your head, reducing and simplifying your vocabulary. When it comes to things like job interviews, you want to sound like you are relatively intelligent – not some simpleton.

So, if you are the parents of Generation Z, give them a book. Encourage them to read some proper literature and get off the computer. Their writing, reading and overall language will benefit – and they will thank you for it in the long run.

Little Girls & Pony Stories

While it is certainly a generalisation to say that little girls love to read pony books, it certainly is true to some extent. You only need to take a look at the number of pony stories available in libraries, bookstores and online to understand that there must be some demand!

Pony stories play on a fantasy – the dream of owning a pony. This a dream that most little girls never realise, either due to cost or waning interest as they grow up. However, these stories go some way towards satisfying these fantasies, as they allow to children to submerge themselves in Ponyland, spending hours in the stables, at gymkhanas and galloping through the bush with their favourite characters.

Typical pony stories include series such as The Saddle Club, Thoroughbred, Pony Pals, The Pony Detectives, Horse Crazy – the list goes on. These stories tend to involves young girls and their horses, typically catering to the fantasy of owning a pony.

9780545213219There are some notable pony stories that go beyond merely entertaining children – and many of these stories are certified literary classics. These include The Silver Brumby series (Elaine Mitchell), Black Beauty (Anna Sewell) and The Black Stallion series (Walter Farley). The Silver Brumby is an Australian classic, with a TV series and movie to boot. While the series is essentially a horse story, Mitchell’s uncanny ability to capture the essence of the Australian high country has cemented these books as true classics.

The Black Stallion is a pony story with a difference, as the audience for this series extended far beyond little girls – teenage boys joined in on the action here. The series was a pony story combined with an action plot, complete with sinking boats, deserts islands, bad guys and heart-stopping races. This book was also made into a brilliant movie.

Lastly, Black Beauty can be considered a true literary classic. This book, initially written to raise attention in regards to the plight of carriage horses in the 17th century, details the life of a horse on the streets of London – and is an all-time best-selling book. Stories such as National Velvet and My Friend Flicka also have these place in literary history, as both have proven to be very popular with children of all ages.

There are many pony stories out there for the horse-mad youngster. However, there are many that go beyond simply being ‘stories for little girls’ – many horses stories have earned their place on the list of all time classics.

The Stallion Figure in Wild Horse Literature

There have been many novels written about wild horses throughout history, in particular the Australian brumby and the American mustang. These books generally focus on the romance associated with wild horses – and nearly always have a central ‘hero’ character. Interestingly, this hero character is nearly always a stallion.

silverbrumbIn books such as The Silver Brumby (Elaine Mitchell), the stallion is the central character, hero and leader of the herd. The majestic silver stallion, Thowra, battles other stallions, Mother Nature and the threat of man, rising triumphant against all three in order to remain free and protect his herd. In American tales, such The Black Stallion (Walter Farley), it is also the stallion who appears as the hero.

However, just how realistic is this representation of a wild stallion? Are they always leaders and heroes?

The fact is, wild horse herds that roam the plains of Montana or the slopes of Mt Kosciusko are not led by brave, majestic stallions – they are led by alpha mares. Stallions may fight other stallions in order to gain mating rights with mares, but they do not lay down the law within a herd. The alpha mare decides in which direction the herd travel, when to seek water and how young stock should be disciplined. It is the mare that is the true leader of a herd.

This being the case, why does most literature present the stallion as the hero and leader? At the end of the day, it all comes down to the human perception of horses. There is a romantic notion attached to the image of a wild stallion – and part of this is surely to do with the fact the human society has, in many cases, been patriarchal throughout history.

Visually, stallions also very pleasing to the human eye. They tend to be well-muscled, with a crested neck and deeper, richer coloured coat. You only need to look at any horse breeds book, and you will see that a picture of a stallion is often used to exemplify each breed.

When it comes to wild horse fiction, the stallion figure is easy to fall in love with – however, it is far from the truth. Perhaps one day we will see a story where a mare leads the herd to safety, drives off heckling colts and escapes the clutches of man to remain free at all costs. For now, the stallion continues to buck reality in literature.

5 Great Fantasy Novels to Indulge In

Fantasy readers often cop a lot of flak for their taste in literature. Many people think that these books aren’t serious enough for the dedicated reader and should be left for the long distance traveling, or basement dwelling teens who dream of invented realms. However a bit of escapism can be a really beneficial and fun thing for all ages and people, which is why we have put together a list of exceptional fantasy novels for you to sink your teeth into. So sit back dear reader and let us transport you to 5 different worlds which offer a richness and fullness of adventure that simply can’t be found in the human world.

Lord of the Rings

Known around the world and one of the most successful movie franchises of all times, this JRR Tolkien classic has been a staple on many fantasy lovers’ bookcases for year. Not only is it considered by many to be the father of the genre, the richness of the wold that Tolkien created is to this day one of the most extensive.

Game of Thrones

A popular TV series, this great fantasy series has a dedicated worldwide fan base who have thoroughly been sucked into this addictive realm. With a huge number of interwoven storylines and immersive characters you will be swept up in the expressiveness and clarity with which George R.R. Martin creates his world.

Daughter of the Empire

An instant classic of the genre Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts have created one of the most inspiring and all-round stunning fantasy novels of all time with this series. The strong female protagonist sets it apart as one of the few fantasy novels with a women’s perspective being central to the story.

Harry Potter

While many adults might dismiss this series as simply being for children, it is truly one of the most popular books of all time for a reason. J. K. Rowling with has created one of the most compelling works in the genre with her delicate and deftly handled portrayal of adolescence and growing up that not only resonates with young adults but proper grownups as well.

Gardens of the Moon

Not since Lord of the Rings has a fantasy novel been so thoroughly revolutionary and completed changed the landscape of the genre. Steven Erikson has created one of the largest epics of all time with this narrative that spans the ages and combines eloquent prose with a gritty realism. You will get sucked into this series and never want to come up for air.

Marathon Man

21796William’s Golding Marathon Man is a work that’s often overlooked in favour of the film that was made of the book – which is unfortunate, for as awesome as Dustin Hoffman is, this book is even better. As with a lot of thriller-based genre fiction, the modern reader will look at this novel and recognise plenty of tropes and mores that have now become commonplace in any kind of novel that thrills and delights people – in fact, it’s easy to mistake these trend-setting devices and methods as clichés when they weren’t at all, but rather setting up much of the further genre. This isn’t to say that Marathon Man is some kind of uber-seminal work that created every single trope and device in the thriller genre, but simply an amazing piece of work that you’re sure to love.

It essentially sets up the story of Thomas Levy, a.k.a Babe, a runner who runs into some real trouble with ex-German soldiers and scientists from World War 2 in a modern-day setting. There is a lot of interplay here between America, Germany and the modern and ancient Jewish community. Goldman clearly expresses these kind of tensions and interactions well, as well as the state of the world post-World War Two and the many things that have been developed and resulted from the end of the war. The impact of World War Two on America and even modern New York is explored at length, as well as ideas about espionage, terrorism, and torture.

The most infamous scene from the book (and movie) is the dental torture scene – something that doesn’t even really have to go behind spoiler alerts, as the term ‘is it safe’ is more than familiar to anyone with a basic, rudimentary knowledge of modern pop culture and media. The descriptions in the book are pretty brutal – I read this book myself when I was going through some dental stuff, and it really wasn’t great to experience. It says something about this book that I was able to continue reading, as the narrative was so enthralling I just couldn’t stop reading.

Take a look at the book – you’ll be pleasantly surprised about how much you love it and how re-readable it is. Especially once the plot points are revealed! This is definitely one of those texts that you can read again with knowledge of how the plot progresses and see all of the little details thrown in there to make you scratch your noggin.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

 

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The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon is a quality read, and one that I’m really glad I had a go reading. It’s an interesting approach to alternative history, or a kind of past-based speculative fiction work. It takes a lot of modern detective tropes and turns them on their head – or at least puts them through a very Judaism-oriented tone process that makes for an interesting and vital read, I’d say. Chabon works wonders with his language, and there’s not much he can’t turn on its head when it comes to hard-boiled detective fiction tropes. The setting in Alaska is also very interesting – seeing a lot of clichés and common knowledge ideas about traditional Jewish neighbourhoods put in this context of Indigenous Aleutian and Alaskan people, as well as the general tone, atmosphere and climate of Alaska. Of course, the book doesn’t entirely take place here, but there’s something to be said for the way that Chabon approaches this different location than one you would expect about a hard-boiled detection fiction novel set in a Jewish neighbourhood (or nation, as the case may be).

If someone took a Chandler novel and totally changed almost everything about the narrative and characters while keeping the original framework and many of the mores that make detective fiction so compelling, you would definitely have this book in your hands. Even if you’re not that interested in detective fiction, it’s very interesting to see what Chabon does with the format. Take a look for yourself – he capably handles all of the aspects of a detective novel you would expect, while maintaining his narrative beautifully and creating some very compelling characters. There’s some Orwell-esque use of a new language as well – lots of contemporary Yiddish terms used to describe things in a detective world, much as older 1950s writers used jive and other kinds of old Beatnik slang to describe items, events and characters.

It’s like looking at detective fiction’s history through an entirely new lens, and something that makes for a very interesting read. There is some clichés here that aren’t really explored to the degree I would like them to be, or things that it would seem like Chabon is just going through the motion with so as to move the story ahead, but there’s nothing really wrong with that – it’s more of a minor nitpick than anything else. Take a look at this novel if you have any interest in genre fiction and see it as the intriguing thing it is.

 

The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin

 

The-Farthest

The final piece of the initial Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore is a worthy and interesting conclusion to Ged’s tale – which his picked up in a later novel, but in terms of the original trilogy, this was the final instalment. It returns to Ged being a main part of the narrative and a main character that participates in the story from almost beginning to end, and introduces the character of Arren as a young man who accompanies Ged throughout an adventure to determine why the world of Earthsea is in the dire state that it is.

Le Guin perhaps embarks on her widest-reaching story yet, with the most bombast and travelling she has described in any work to date. It’s an interesting contrast with the previous piece, which was mostly claustrophobic, insular, dark and an entirely different tone from many of her other works. This is not to say that The Farthest Shore is exactly like A Wizard of Earthsea, but it’s much more oriented towards the adventurous tone of sailing about the world of Earthsea, with all of its dragons and magic. Despite all of this, Le Guin manages to keep The Farthest Shore different from the clichéd approach to swords and sorcery that plagues the great majority of fantasy writing. It’s still refreshing and interesting to read Le Guin’s approach to the idea of a world unlike ours, which still has all of the human narrative that makes fiction interesting.

This book seems like a melding of the two tones found in A Wizard of Earthsea and Tombs of Atuan – there is enough exploration and adventure from the first and darkness and intensity from the second to provide possibly the most interesting and compelling Earthsea adventure yet. Despite the use of two male main characters, there is still an element of femininity to the narrative and characterisation that prevents The Farthest Shore from taking the usual overly intellectual fantasy literature approach to plot, narrative and characterisation.

This work is easily worth a read, and is my personal favourite of the Earthsea trilogy. Its length is perfect, the conclusion is as interesting as anything Le Guin’s written and the tremendous amount of difference in Le Guin’s writing really makes itself known in this work. Definitely worth a look – find yourself a copy and have a read as soon as you can, after you read the previous books!

 

Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

 

tombs-of-atuan-coverThe final piece of the initial Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore is a worthy and interesting conclusion to Ged’s tale – which his picked up in a later novel, but in terms of the original trilogy, this was the final instalment. It returns to Ged being a main part of the narrative and a main character that participates in the story from almost beginning to end, and introduces the character of Arren as a young man who accompanies Ged throughout an adventure to determine why the world of Earthsea is in the dire state that it is.

Le Guin perhaps embarks on her widest-reaching story yet, with the most bombast and travelling she has described in any work to date. It’s an interesting contrast with the previous piece, which was mostly claustrophobic, insular, dark and an entirely different tone from many of her other works. This is not to say that The Farthest Shore is exactly like A Wizard of Earthsea, but it’s much more oriented towards the adventurous tone of sailing about the world of Earthsea, with all of its dragons and magic. Despite all of this, Le Guin manages to keep The Farthest Shore different from the clichéd approach to swords and sorcery that plagues the great majority of fantasy writing. It’s still refreshing and interesting to read Le Guin’s approach to the idea of a world unlike ours, which still has all of the human narrative that makes fiction interesting.

This book seems like a melding of the two tones found in A Wizard of Earthsea and Tombs of Atuan – there is enough exploration and adventure from the first and darkness and intensity from the second to provide possibly the most interesting and compelling Earthsea adventure yet. Despite the use of two male main characters, there is still an element of femininity to the narrative and characterisation that prevents The Farthest Shore from taking the usual overly intellectual fantasy literature approach to plot, narrative and characterisation.

This work is easily worth a read, and is my personal favourite of the Earthsea trilogy. Its length is perfect, the conclusion is as interesting as anything Le Guin’s written and the tremendous amount of difference in Le Guin’s writing really makes itself known in this work. Definitely worth a look – find yourself a copy and have a read as soon as you can, after you read the previous books!