Friday, 19 September 2014

Lindy Jones has been reading... September 2014

Lindy Jones ~ Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald at Abbey's Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney

Helen Macdonald

MacDonald has been obsessed with the archaic traditions of falconry since early childhood, training small falcons and generally immersed in the fellowship of falconers for many years. When her beloved father dies unexpectedly, she is overwhelmed by loss and decides to take on the greatest challenge of all - to train a goshawk. In the process of building a rapport with her hawk, MacDonald learns what it truly is to be human through her association with the wildest and largest British raptor of all.

A lyrical and beautifully crafted meditation on grief, connection, wildness and control, it is also intertwined with her re-reading of T H White's little known book The Goshawk , which details the celebrated author's attempts to train such a bird himself. White and his mistakes, his writings and outsider status, all become essential to her own attempts to make sense of what has happened in losing her father.

I can't recommend this highly enough, and any fan of the ilk of Robert MacFarlane or Roger Deacon, will appreciate this fine book.

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My Father the Great Pirate by Davide Cali & Maurizio Quarello (Illustrator) at Abbey's Bookshop, 131 York Street, Sydney

Davide Cali and Maurizio Quarello (Illustrator)

Sometimes there are books in the children's section because they are illustrated and in a picture book format, so therefore they are for kids. But often enough, these books can't be categorised, and shouldn't be limited to young readers, because they truly transcend age barriers and can speak to anyone who reads. This book is one of those undefinable and special experiences.

As a young boy, the narrator's father goes away, and only returns once a year. The child knows this is because his father is a pirate, a great pirate, who tells him stories about the places he's been, the ships he's attacked, the treasures buried and his shipmates. But one summer his father doesn't return and the boy's mother gets a telegram…

I won't tell more of the story, but I will say that every adult I have inveigled to read this book, has stood quietly and thoughtfully when they reach the end. I don't know how a child would react to it, but I know it moved me unutterably. There are themes of love and what we do to protect our loved ones, of bravery and resilience and that moment when childhood is put behind even when understanding has yet to catch up with experience.

The illustrations are coloured in a muted palette, soft greys and creamy yellows with occasional splashes of warm umber, and convey as much meaning as the simply related text.

Have a look for yourself - I think this is one of the best books I have seen in my picture book section this year. Or for that matter, anywhere in the shop.

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Sophie Collins

Just for something different, a book that shows how to create a menagerie of different animals with just the aid of a torchlight and the shape of your hands. With a little practice, make silhouettes of things like elephants and camels and dogs and birds…

Hours of fun for child and adult alike, simple and effective and a great boost to imaginative play!

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Viviane Schwarz

Now, just occasionally, I have gotten customers boxed in, and read them my favourite cat books: There are Cats in This Book and There are No Cats in This Book by Schwarz. They just beg to be read aloud! This new title is (I apologise in advance!) going to be another I take great delight in reading to unsuspecting enquirers about books for youngsters…

The cats, Tiny, Moonpie and Andre discover that there is a dog in their book - and all cats know all dogs are scary, smelly, yappy and snappy, so they try to hide. But the new puppy soon finds them, and the cats realise they have found a new friend.

Bold bright illustrations with interactive features and a lovely direct style of narrative. Even if you don't ask nicely, I am all too ready to share this one with you!

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Rupert Wallis

James is trapped in a nightmare life - his mother dead, his stepfather violent, neglectful and begrudging, school dreadful. He often seeks refuge in the deserted house on the hill, where he keeps a record of how many days until he's 18 and able to escape. One day though, he discovers a man there - beaten very badly and obviously in trouble. Webster however is not an ordinary man and when the travellers turn up asking about information and promising gold for the knowledge of his whereabouts, James is tempted to reveal what he knows. But the travellers aren't telling the truth, and James and Webster end up running from their respective enemies...

This was an amazingly atmospheric novel, which leaves a lot to the reader's imagination (is Webster cursed? is James doomed to suffer the same fate? what is the puppet the old traveller woman keeps?). It reminded me of Patrick Ness and David Almond, and was as skilful and as thought-provoking as works by either of those fine writers. 12+

Michael Grant

Mara wakes up in an unknown place, remembering nothing but her name. A mysterious young man, dressed in a black coat with silver skull buttons, appears, and he knows who she is and what is happening. With no choice that she can see, Mara follows Messenger, and finds herself reliving the final hours of dead teenager Samantha Early's life.

As different characters appear, and the taciturn and seemingly harsh Messenger unveils more of Samantha's life, and as Mara witnesses the moral choices made by others, she realises that she is caught within a balance she does not understand, that forces greater than her own existence are in play - and she is just one piece in a vast battle of justice and retribution.

A gripping and occasionally creepy beginning to a new series - I couldn't put it down! 13+

Shane Koyczan

This began as a video that went viral. Koyczan, a spoken-word poet, grew up being picked upon, and his powerful poem is a response to the harmful effects of bullying behaviour - whether you are victim, instigator, or witness. It is also a poem about inner strength and finding the way to move past such negativity. The words are enough on their own to start conversations and reflections, but it is raised to another level by the illustrations.

Thirty different artists from around the globe have contributed work, including Australians Armin Greder, Kathleen Jennings and Phil Lesnie. A thoughtful book with an essential message - no age limit to this!

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ September 2014

There has been much discussion about a book from a French economist named Thomas Piketty (which doesn’t sound very French) called Capital in the Twenty First Century.

It is being compared in importance to Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and The Last Man after the fall of communism. Perhaps free markets will not solve all our problems, especially as we witness the growing inequality in our society. I’m not quite up to reading all 692 pages so I am quoting from a review in August's Australian Book Review by Mark Triffitt, previously Director of Strategic Communications for the Business Council of Australia. In essence, capital is saleable financial assets such as stocks and bonds and property which return rent, dividends and interest. Returns on capital grow at faster rates than normal economic outputs such as workers wages. The logic of capital, and the free markets it lubricates, is such that it can only ever drive major disparities in wealth.

I was a reluctant reader of Donna Tartt’s latest big novel The Goldfinch, winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize. I think you are either a Donna Tartt fan or not and I’m always reluctant to start a book with more than 600 pages. This has 864 pages. Theo Decker is a thirteen year old New Yorker, son of a devoted mother and absent father. His mother is killed in a terrorist blast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Goldfinch is a miraculous little medieval painting which Theo takes with him when he, also miraculously, escapes unnoticed from the chaos after the blast. The book is devoted to his life and the life of that painting. It is a very New York book, with a sojourn in the abandoned suburbs of Las Vegas. The story wanders between High Society, dodgy Antique Dealers and Russian gangsters, and is filled with sumptuous detail. The narrative is terrific but for me the detail was too much – I wanted to find out what was happening.

Last year when the Tour de France was filling the screens of SBS we sold many many copies of Peter Smith’s lovely children’s story, Monsieur Albert Rides to Glory and this year the paperback is out and we’ve sold lots more. There’s a hush in the crowd as the Mayor lifts his gun, then an earsplitting bang and the race has begun... What's more, Peter is a bookseller at Abbey's! Famous Australian illustrator Bob Graham has done the witty drawings. It’s just one of the many, many children’s books waiting for you at the far corner of the shop.

I’ve recently been in hospital to have an operation I swore I would never have – a full knee replacement. I took along a new book from a wonderful Australian writer, Joan London, with me. It is called The Golden Age.

I’m home recovering well now and must tell you that The Golden Age is a beautiful book. As it is set in a hostel for children recovering from polio it was probably not the best choice to take into hospital with me but it turned out to be perfectly lovely. Beautiful prose presented on good cream paper with a nice type face and well set out.  The tender, observant story concerns two very different families. One a Hungarian refugee Jewish family, whose thin young son Ferenc (or Frank) is grasping life and struggling to be a poet, while Elsa, a graceful, beautiful young woman is the daughter of a bank clerk. Elsa and Frank are the two oldest patients and find solace in their friendship. Frank is the first person Elsa has met who talks about his emotions. The story is set in Perth in the 1950’s so there are some superb vignettes of episodes such as the Royal Visit of the Queen and “her sailor husband” during the polio epidemic, or a school concert featuring Ida, the refugee from Budapest. There are some interesting character portraits and there is a quietly satisfying conclusion. Read this perfect little book with pleasure. Joan London’s other books are Gilgamesh and The Good Parents. Both of these books have won awards.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers