‘not looking back to wave’: A Book Review (Poetry)

‘not looking back to wave’: A Book Review (Poetry)

‘not looking back to wave’ by Karen Price


We’ve all been waiting a long time for the release of Australian blogger beeblu’s debut poetry collection and now that time has arrived.

Don’t tell anyone but we now know that beeblu has another name – Karen Price! I told her not to disclose her real name but did she listen? There’s even a lovely photo of her in the book – the cloak of invisibility has forever been thrown into the laundry basket.

Anyway, they’ll soon forget 😉

Those who follow beeblu’s blog (those discerning readers) will be familiar with many of the poems in her collection. I love it when poetry bloggers collate their poems into a book – blog’s can disappear but a printed book can sit snugly in one of my bookshelves without fear of banishment.

Beeblu’s collection is very beeblu! The cover is black with white lower case letters floating towards the roof – the light sits hesitantly as if it shouldn’t exist in all that darkness (a visualisation of mindfulness therapy comes to my mind).

Beeblu is a traveller, linguist, and philosophical/scientific thinker and this is reflected in her poetry which deals with life and death, the universe, existential angst, beauty and horror, love and hatred. Some poems will have you reaching for the whiskey to drown out the despair but others will have you laughing out loud. They may have an autobiographical bent but if you are human you will relate to these vignettes.

Here is one of my favourite poems from the collection:


Sultry African nights

we’d drink Dutch
play Chinese
smoke American
talk Japanese
(the odd bit of French thrown in)

Brightly hungover days
we’d work
with throwback English stoicism


Congratulations beeblu on a wonderful first collection. You can pop over here to purchase the printed or ebook version.

ps. It should also be noted that the splendiferous Linda Cosgriff of The Laughing Housewife infamy provided the editorial expertise.


‘The Panicosaurus’ – A Book Review

‘The Panicosaurus’ – A Book Review

‘The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome’

by K.I. Al-Ghani (and illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani)


Anxiety is a common issue among young children, but almost guaranteed to be an issue for children who have Asperger Syndrome or who lie further along the spectrum of autism conditions.

It is very important to get a handle on anxiety and to develop strategies to lessen feelings of anxiety at an early stage, or the anxiety can build into a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat.

Enter stage right The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani. This is a terrific children’s picture book (published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers) that will help children who experience high levels of anxiety. The book can be read by the child or by a teacher or parent to one or more children (it would benefit the whole classroom).

There is an introduction that explains anxiety in children and which lists techniques that have been found to be helpful for reducing anxiety. There are also further strategies outlined at the end of the book. The picture story about a girl called Mabel and her struggle with anxiety is the main section of the book.

The story starts when we are told about a little dinosaur called the Panicosaurus who lives in a part of our brain called the amygdala. This little dinosaur was very useful in the very olden days when cavemen were out and about fighting sabre tooth tigers and the like. The Panicosaurus would help the cavemen to prepare their bodies for fighting or escaping from predators. This would involve the heart beating faster and pumping extra oxygen to our muscles.

These days, the story continues, the Panicosaurus is quite bored and there are not many dangerous creatures around. But in some people, particularly children, the Panicosaurus is quite naughty and makes them believe there are dangerous things all around them.

Mabel’s Panicosaurus is one of the naughty ones and is constantly trying to trick Mabel into panicking about things like a dog off a lead or a change in school schedule. Luckily Mabel gets some help from Smartosaurus (another little dinosaur who lives in the neocortex) and she manages to defeat the dreaded Panicosaurus with the help of her mother and friends.

This story is easy-to-read and full of great advice for children who are struggling with anxiety. The story is particularly relevant for those with Asperger Syndrome as Mabel is exhibiting some classic Asperger traits such as an aversion to changes in routine and a very strong special interest (jigsaw puzzles).

I found this book enjoyable to read and very useful. I was quite moved by Mabel’s situation and really loved the way the classroom was set up to help her in every way. The book is describing an ideal setting and strategies to implement in a classroom which has one or more children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. The depiction of anxiety in a child with Asperger’s in this book is very convincing.

I would recommend this book to any parent or carer with a child experiencing anxiety. In fact it would useful for all children (and quite a few adults). Everyone experiences anxiety throughout their life at some time and a thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms such as the flight and fight phenomenon is essential.

I asked my son who has Asperger’s to read and rate this book and he gave it a 5/5. I agree with his assessment 😀



Book Review (Rick Daddario’s new collection of Haiga)

Book Review (Rick Daddario’s new collection of Haiga)

 this is not that haiga book cover 1 sml 6x

You may remember Rick Daddario the wonderful photographer, artist and poet from Hawaii who has been a guest on my blog previously.

Today I am writing about Rick’s new (2012) book of art and poetry in the form of Haiga called This is Not That – They are Just Connected (Becoming Haiga ~ Haiku within Image).

Haiga is a haiku placed within an image to create one work. The image and the haiku can individually stand alone, but there is an added magic when taken together. Ideally an interaction of sorts where the sum is greater than the parts.


Rick talks about the process in the introduction:

… a process of discovering relationships between image and words. Ideally the end result will engage the mind. I enjoy creating haiga. I learn by doing, as well as by seeing what others do. It’s also fun to simply play – which to me is an intensely focused way to create.

What better person to produce Haiga than Rick who is not only a talented artist but an experienced and skilled writer of haiku. Each page in the book is a sumptuous combination of art (or photography) with one haiku.


Reading the collection is akin to experiencing exquisite moments where one is suddenly awakened to the now; a meditative excursion in time and space through the eyes of an aesthete, eyes which are attuned to capturing the essence of life’s ups and downs, beauty and sadness. A  book of Aha moments where there is sudden clarity in the mist.


I love this book 😀

It is a pleasure to have this collection of Haiga on my bookshelf and to be able to leaf through the pages when in need of inspiration and hope. If you want to see more examples of Rick’s work or to find out about the availability of his new book just pop over to his 19planets blog.

A Christmas Tail (book review)

A Christmas Tail (book review)

My blogging friend Helen Ross (who lives in my old stomping ground of Brisbane) has a wonderful children’s book out for Christmas.

Let me tell you about this mousey story.


A Christmas Tail

story by Donna Smith and Helen Ross

illustrated by Aaron Pocock

Spider Ink Press


A Christmas Tail is a charming story written by Donna Smith and Helen Ross about a mouse family living in a doll’s house in an attic.

Melanie, Monty and baby mouse Peter are preparing for the Christmas festivities and a visit by Santa Paws, but when Santa loses his pants you know things aren’t going quite to plan.

This is a traditional Christmas story with a few twists involving unlikely friendships and bumps in the night. The characters are adorable, even the mischievous rat and the accomplice cat.

The illustrations by Aaron Pocock are divine and reveal a first-class talent. He lives in Brisbane too (the place is chock full of talent 😉 ).

Donna Smith is from Victoria – but that can’t be helped. It appears there are good writers in other States of Australia! 😂

This book targets pre-school age children and I am sure they will love this tale of mice and mayhem. My kids loved the story and they are 10 and 13.

Congrats Helen (and Donna and Aaron).

You can pop over to Helen Ross’s blog for more details about where to get this book (which is available as a hard copy or eBook).


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of A Christmas Tail through Helen Ross from iTunes for review; and I love children’s Christmas books (so there – hahaha) 😎

Note: I don’t as a general rule accept freebies, because my slackness and general laziness prevents me from getting the job of reviewing done – but I have made an exception for the wonderful Helen (as she took me by surprise – hehehe).

If I really like a book I have no problems with putting up the dosh for the good authors involved.

Time is of the Essence

Time is of the Essence

Gouldian Finch

Time is of the Essence

What do the following animals have in common:

Estuarine Crocodile
Loggerhead Turtle
Gulbaru Gecko
Retro Slider
Southern Cassowary
Northern Giant Petrel
Glossy Black-Cockatoo
Eclectus Parrot
Powerful Owl
Gouldian Finch
Greater Bilby
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Mahogany Glider
Grey-headed Flying Fox
Humpback Whale

They are included in the 226 species, sub-species or populations of animals in Queensland that are considered threatened in the newly released book ‘Queensland’s Threatened Animals’ (CSIRO Publishing, 2012).

The definition of ‘a species listed as threatened is one that is at risk of becoming extinct in a short time frame.’

Gily Llewellyn from the WWF states in the foreword that ‘this book is a sobering reflection of the state of our natural environment.

More than 1300 native Queensland plant and animal species face extinction, with at least 30 already gone forever. We have modified almost the entire landscape, clearing forests and starving entire natural food chains. Not even our reefs or marine life have escaped unscathed from the activities of land-based development, agriculture and over-fishing.

Yet this book is also a symbol of hope.

Queenslanders have shown overwhelmingly that they want more action to save their native wildlife, with a vast majority in favour of the state government buying up new national partks and identifying and protecting threatened and native species.’

My friend Lee K. Curtis is the main editor of the book, along with Andrew Dennis, Keith McDonald, Peter Kyne and Stephen Debus. She is a freelance journalist, author and copywriter who is an active member of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Her enthusiasm for conservation and positive outlook are infectious.

Her goal for the book was to provide a comprehensive resource guide to ‘who was doing what, when, where, how and why with threatened animals in Queensland’. The resultant thick door stopper reference book certainly goes a long way to achieving that goal and is a significant contribution to the field. Congratulations Lee et al’, I am beyond impressed with the effort that must have gone into the creation of the book and the value of the book. I now understand why you were getting a little stressed 😉 with the project.

Recently there has been a lot of hissy fit ranting from a certain side of politics about the horrors of so-called green tape. Well, without green tape we will soon be sitting not so pretty on a barren wasteland with only Cane Toads for company.

Anyone who makes blanket negative assessments of green tape would benefit from a read of this book.

And if they don’t want to educate themselves on the pros and cons of green tape, I can think of another use for such a thick book 😉


Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

‘Storm Boy’ by Colin Thiele is listed in Jane Gleeson White’s ‘Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works‘ and it is one of my favourite books.

I read ‘Storm Boy’ again this week and it had as much impact on me as when I read it as a child. I cried now as I cried then. I may have cried more as an adult.

This classic Australian children’s book has, like ‘The Magic Pudding‘, never been out of print since its publication in 1964.

It is a story about a boy known as Storm Boy and his friend Mr Percival, a pelican raised by Storm Boy when it was orphaned (like the boy was also orphaned). Storm Boy lives with his father Hideaway Tom in a rough hut of wood and iron, a humpy, in the Coorong.

The Coorong is a region in South Australia of ocean, estuary and sand. Storm Boy and his father live along a thin strip of sand hills and scrub:

‘A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other’. 

Their only neighbour for miles is Fingerbone Bill, an aboriginal man who teaches Storm Boy about the wildlife and land that surrounds them.

Storm Boy lives a carefree existence roaming the sand hills and beach every day, in every type of weather, beachcombing and watching the birds and the ocean. He doesn’t go to school. He is very happy.

The story is a story about growing up and the heartbreak that comes with life. As he gets older Storm Boy’s idyllic life becomes increasingly threatened by the outside world.

Hunters arrive in the ‘open season’ to shoot the wild ducks and one day Storm Boy finds two dead adult pelicans and their trashed nest. He also finds three baby pelicans and takes them back to the humpy to care for them.

All three pelicans survive and two are returned to the wild. Mr Percival (the weakest) is released but returns to Storm Boy and remains his faithful companion. The relationship between the boy and the pelican is at the heart of the story.

The book ends with a shipwreck and the rescue of six fishermen (with the help of Mr Percival) and the realisation that nothing in this life can stay the same forever.

Storm Boy is a wonderful and shattering book filled with the most evocative, poetic descriptions of the wild Australian Coorong region and wildlife. Colin Thiele is a masterful storyteller who grips his readers with an emotional intensity that is hard to shift. If you read this book you will never forget it.


The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding

The Magic Pudding: The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum‘ is a classic Australian children’s book that was written and illustrated by famous artist Norman Lindsay in 1918. It has never been out of print.

I refused to read this book as a child because one of the main characters is Albert, a talking puddin’ who is regularly eaten by his friends. He is a magic pudding and every time a slice of him is eaten it reappears – ‘the more you eat the more you gets’. I wouldn’t dream of eating anything that can talk. I also found him to be rude, abrasive and unattractive with his long spindly arms and legs.

The book is listed in Jane Gleeson-White’s book of Australian classics, and my son Michael has a copy (thanks Carolyn 🙂 ) so I thought I better read it. I had a suspicion that reading a classic children’s book as an adult would be less captivating than reading through the eyes of a child.

There is something very special about re-reading your favourite children’s book as an adult and being transported back to that imaginary place. The illustrations can often be the most mesmerising aspect of the book. As a child I would study every detail of the drawings in books such as ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. They were imprinted in my mind.

I had no idea that ‘The Magic Pudding’ was written so long ago (doh!). It is very much a tale and language of that period of time. I am sure many children of this modern era would find it a very difficult book to read with its fancy and dated speech. Here is an example (which I think is very wise and wonderful):

‘You’re a bun-headed old optimist,’ said the Puddin’ rudely. ‘Puddin’-thieves never suffer from remorse. They only suffer from blighted hopes and suppressed activity.’

Priceless stuff!

The story is very entertaining and filled with lively characters and the most fantastic songs and poetry. As an adult who treasures wordplay and poetry, I love ‘The Magic Pudding’. I am pretty sure I would have loved it as a child if I could have got over my Puddin’ prejudice.

The story is about the adventures of a young koala Bunyip Bluegum, sailor Bill Barnacle and penguin Sam Sawnoff. These three characters own the magic puddin’ Albert. Everyone wants a piece of Albert and puddin’-thieves are never far away. Albert is regularly stolen by Possum and Wombat and then reunited with his owners after much kerfuffling. He is always grumpy and tasty.

Norman Lindsay of course is one of Australia’s most famous and influential artists. His illustrations in ‘The Magic Pudding’ are vividly drawn and expressive.

He described his book as a ‘little bundle of piffle’ and was originally embarrassed by its success in the early years and thought it was overpriced for a children’s book (sold for 1 guinea as a limited edition art book – an exceptionally high retail price at that time).

We have the 2008 edition of ‘The Magic Pudding’ which used the original artwork (scanned to reveal the fine detail of the original drawings). This edition also includes a biography of Norman Lindsay; copies of correspondence between Norman Lindsay and publisher (I found these letters fascinating); and reviews of the first edition.

I am glad I read ‘The Magic Pudding’.

I wish I had read it as a child and then the magic would have been even greater on re-reading 😉

I will have to make sure my children read the book!

Bronze scultpture - Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne
Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works

Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works

Wow, I’ve just finished a ripper of a book – a rundown on some of the best of Australian books and writers, the 2010 edition of ‘Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works‘ by Jane Gleeson-White.

If you want a crash course in Australian literature, you could do a lot worse than start with this book. Gleeson-White has selected her vision of what are some the greatest Aussie books (novels, poems, short stories, children’s books and non-fiction). Each section gives an outline of the classic book and also the author. She is an eminently readable writer and the volume flows effortlessly (far from being a dry and academic reference book).

I won’t list all books but some classics covered include:

‘Robbery Under Arms’ by Rolph Boldrewood
‘The Sick Stockrider’ by Adam Lindsay Gordon
‘Seven Little Australians’ by Ethel Turner
‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ by Joan Lindsay
‘Five Bells’ by Kenneth Slessor
‘Power without Glory’ by Frank Hardy
‘The Glass Canoe’ by David Ireland
‘The Magic Pudding’ by Norman Lindsay
‘Voss’ by Patrick White
‘An Imaginary Life’ by David Malouf
‘The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith’ by Thomas Keneally
‘Monkey Grip’ by Helen Garner
‘The History of the Kelly Gang’ by Peter Carey
‘Cloudstreet’ by Tim Winton

She has also asked over 40 of Australia’s distinguished writers, readers and editors (including Les Murray, Tim Winton, Sophie Cunningham, David Malouf) to provide their own list of favourite 10 Australian books. I enjoyed reading these lists a great deal (they are interspersed throughout) and it provides a nice counter-balance to Gleeson-White’s list.

The books on my own list seem to be missing in action 😉 (Ruth Park’s ‘Muddle Headed Wombat‘ is no-where to be seen; and what about John O Grady’s ‘They’re a Weird Mob‘). I might save my list for another blog post or wait until I have read more of these classics (some I had never heard of – I’ll blame my school teachers for that).

The problem now for me is that I want to get most of these books. I’m making a list (I know I don’t usually do lists, but I am making an exception for this important reminder to self) and I’m checking it twice (sigh) – I will have to prioritise.


‘skin painting’ – review plus 3 book giveaway

‘skin painting’ – review plus 3 book giveaway

Skin Painting by Elizabeth Hodgson

A few weeks back, as part of National Poetry Week we were encouraged to buy Australian poetry, so I got online (as I live nowhere near a bookshop that sells decent poetry) and bought a few collections.

One collection, ‘skin painting‘ by Elizabeth Hodgson, totally blew me away with its deeply evocative and moving poetry. This says a lot, because I have read a number of modern collections by so called famous Australian poets that leave me cold and wondering what all the fuss is about (I won’t name names but it’s no-one from the blogosphere 😉 ).

Skin painting‘ was winner of the David Unaipon Award and was highly commended for the Anne Elder Award 2008.

Elizabeth Hodgson is a fair-skinned aboriginal woman (Wiradjuri woman) who lives in NSW. She was taken from her parents at a very young age (as were so many Aboriginal childen – the Stolen Generations) and placed in a home for fair-skinned Aboriginal children in Sydney.

The poetry in this collection tells her story:

my story cannot be painted onto a canvas – it is a skin painting.

The book begins with poems that portray her life as a little girl, alone and abused, in an institution that identifies her by number; to her development years later into a strong and self-reliant adult.

The poems are personal in such a way that allows outsiders to the Aboriginal experience to gain an accessible viewpoint. Basically the brutal honesty and ‘sting in tail’ nature of the poetry had me in tears for much of the reading and I have been going over and over many of the poems in my head (always a sign that a poem is good).

One poem outlines how she again lives with her dark skinned father when she turns fifteen. Here is an extract:

‘he is a stranger to me
he is sober, respectable, employed
he has a new wife; she is white.

I do not know him; I search his face
trying to find myself in his eyes, his skin, his hair.
My arm is pale against his black skin.
I ask him why; he dies before he finds an answer.’ ( p. 40 skin painting)

This poem is heartbreaking on so many levels – that her father chooses to become like the ‘respectable’ white man to get access to his daughter, how it changes him so he is unrecognisable; how it is all too late.

Wouldn’t it be great if ‘skin painting‘ could be widely available in Australian schools, so that young people could gain a greater understanding of some of the issues surrounding the Stolen Generations?

I have bought 3 extra copies of ‘skin painting’ as I would love the book to gain a wider audience. If you want a free copy you can email me (gbryden at bigpond dot com) – first in, best dressed!

Skin painting‘ was first published in 2008 by University of Queensland Press.

Autism Heroes

Autism Heroes

Autism Heroes

Many people on the Autism spectrum (which includes Asperger’s Syndrome) have reached dizzy heights in their chosen career or creative endeavour.

There is a wonderful book for children (aged 8-12) on the autism spectrum called Different like me: my book of autism heroes by Jennifer Elder. It is very inspiring.

The book describes the lives of famous/inspirational people who had/have autism or who probably would have been diagnosed with autism if they had lived in this day and age. These people excelled in the world of science, art, literature, maths, comedy and philosophy. They all had great difficulty fitting in, but still managed to achieve great things.

It is beautifully illustrated by Marc Thomas and Jennifer Elder.

The book outlines the lives of:

Albert Einstein
Dian Fossey
Andy Warhol
Benjamin Banneker
Andy Kaufman
Wassily Kandinsky
Julia Bowman Robinson
Piat Mondrian
Alan Turing
Sophie Germain
Lewis Carroll
Isaac Newton
Nikola Tesla
Paul Erdos
Glenn Gould
Immanual Kant
Barbara McClintock
Joseph Cornell
Hans Christian Andersen
Temple Grandin

The biographies include some of their autistic characteristics.  For instance, Albert Einstein didn’t speak until 3 and didn’t speak well until at least 9. He was not considered very smart by his teachers and got thrown out of one school. But he had an intense interest in all things physics and went on to develop his famous theories of space and time.

Temple Grandin says ‘this book will help inspire kids who are different and show them that they too can succeed’ .

I would recommend this book for all children, but particularly those with autism, as well as a terrific resource for teachers, parents/carers, siblings.


Written for this Friday’s International Asperger’s Day 2011