What would it be like to walk into your living room and see a complete stranger who says she’s your mother? Dizzy hasn’t seen Storm since she walked out on her and her dad eight years ago, but here she is, a hippie-crunchy earth mother, come to celebrate Dizzy’s twelfth birthday and to convince Dizzy’s dad to let her come away for the summer. A dream is coming true right before Dizzy’s eyes and as the memories start flooding back, Dizzy knows she wants to spend as much time with her mum as she can. So the two steal off before dawn into the wild world of communes, hippies, out-door festivals, dirty fingernails and fun! As the weeks pass, Dizzy starts to feel things she’s never felt before. She meets Finn, who gives her her first kiss–and Mouse, who’s like the little brother she never had. This life is so different from the one back at home. Which life is the right one for Dizzy? Not since Sharon Creech has such a warm, fresh, wonderful voice emerged for this age group. Viking is proud to welcome the talented voice of Cathy Cassidy.
Twisty scares with heart – Paranormal humour that will make you smile while you nervously look over your shoulder.
Ghosts, sea monsters and a rest home for troublesome witches all feature in this short story collection/creepy love letter to Wellington New Zealand.
THE YELLOW SCHOOL BUS
THE SCHOOL BUS INTERIOR
One teenager in a skirt. One teenager with a lighter. One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
Vladimir Propp counted the number of constituents all fairy tales are built from and came to 150.
31 FUNCTIONS OF FAIRYTALE
Vladimir Propp counted 31 functions of a fairytale. Propp defines’ function’ as an act of a character, understood fromt he point of view of its significance for the course of the action.
Propp’s method is the most famous way of conceptualising the constituent elements of fairytales.
See: Propp, Vladimir . (1928) 1968. Morphology of the Folktale, translated by Laurence Scott . Austin: U Texas P.
Morphology will in all probability be regarded by future generations as one of the major theoretical breakthroughs in the field of folklore in the twentieth century. — Alan Dundes. Propp’s work is seminal…[and], now that it is available in a new edition, should be even more valuable to folklorists who are directing their attention to the form of the folktale, especially to those structural characteristics which are common to many entries coming from even different cultures.
Advantages of the Propp classification system:
It is relatively concrete
Avoids weird combinations of different levels and forms of motif
If you’re looking for children’s book which deal with domestic abuse, there are many examples at all reading levels across various genres. While young adult authors are well-known for their willingness to confront difficult subject matter head on, readers can also find domestic abuse addressed in picture books.
Read through the marketing copy of the books below and you’ll notice a few tropes heavily utilised in stories about domestic abuse.
Secret-keeping is a major part of stories about domestic abuse. When to keep a secret and when to share? This is a huge (impossible) moral dilemma for the children of abusive homes.
There is often a harrowing chase sequence in which the children leave home, perhaps with the abused parent, mostly the mother. Sometimes the characters leave home on a mythic journey near the beginning of the story. In other stories there is a long build up in which the young person feels trapped and longs to escape but can’t.
Most domestic abuse victims in children’s stories are girls, though there are some standout examples of boy victims, and ocassionally a few abusive mothers, who line up with the wicked (step-)mother fairytale archetype.
Some domestic abuse stories are told via fantasy, in which the child character escapes into some other world in order to find the strength they need to survive. Boy characters sometimes take on the fantasy persona of superheroes in order to cope, under pressure to protect other members of their family from a coercively controlling male.
The anagnorisis phase of these stories often involves the young person finding their voice which was previously silenced. This type of self-revelation is commonly preceded by a wish on the main character’s part to remain invisible.
Sometimes child victims in stories of domestic abuse — especially girls — find something in common with animals (commonly foxes, owls and other fairytale creatures) because, like animals, they have developed a sixth sense to predict impending danger.
Monsters are also common, and the monsters can be coded as a representation of fear.
Stories about domestic abuse typically end with one or more of the following messages for young readers:
Home-away-home. That’s the classic pattern of a children’s story. When we’re talking about stories in general, we might say the Odyssean Mythic pattern. A hero goes on a journey, meets a variety of opponents and allies along the way, then either returns home or finds a new one.
Unfortunately, not all young people have a solid home base. Fortunately, there are representations of homelessness across children’s literature which can function as a mirror for young readers. Sometimes the homelessness is central; at other times less so.
“A Sheltered Woman” is a short story by Chinese-American writer Yuyun Li, and a subversion on the trope of the domestic suspense story. In a subcategory of these stories, an unstable woman enters the family home and threatens the family unit.
These domestic suspense stories — in which the woman a mother trusts most turns out to be a homicidal killer — have been around for a long time, but found a new lease of life with The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992) about an evil nanny.
After her humiliated husband kills himself, an embittered pregnant widow loses her child, and embarks on a mission of vengeance against a woman and her family.
Domestic suspense was already back in fashion with the 1987 success of Fatal Attraction. Some commentators have no ideological issues with the Hand That Rocks The Cradle, and consider the opening scene of molestation followed by miscarriage an accurate insight into the lack of agency afforded women during the period of time around childbirth. Writer Amanda Silver inserted some feminist talking points and the story was taken as feminist (a trick utilised later by Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl, cf. The Cool Girl paragraph).
“Queen of the Falls” is a picture book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Some years ago, Van Allsburg gave a TED talk on this book and the history behind it. This post will focus on the storytelling techniques.
On Amazon, Chris Van Allsburg shared some of his roughs, when he thought the trim was going to be horizontal format. It’s interesting to see how different illustrators create drafts. Van Allsburg’s drafts look something closer to other illustrators’ finals. If Van Allsburg stuck with this rougher style of art, with the hand of the artist clearly evident, the mood of the book would be different. The realism of Van Allsburg’s final illustrators achieve a photographic realism which makes the story all the more harrowing.
DURATION — The drama plays out around the preparation for the event and pace slows down for the dangerous event itself. We don’t find out what Annie was like as a child or as a young woman via backstory, or even if she had children of her own. I find myself craving this information, trying to work her out, but this is a pleasant kind of unsatisfied craving, similar to a shadow which promises something sinister happening just off the page.
LOCATION — Niagara Falls, United States of America
MANMADE SPACES — We see a view of Annie’s charm school. I had to look up what a ‘charm school’ even is: As I’d deduced, it’s basically an American word for ‘finishing school’. It exists to teach children social graces. This juxtaposition is fascinating, because what Annie ends up doing is the opposite of what we might expect from the trope of the charm school ma’am: A stiff, unyielding, conservative woman who has no time for nonsense, frivolities and dare-devilry. Annie defies categorisation.
NATURAL SETTINGS — The Niagara Falls; magnificent waterfalls which attract many tourists. In English words don’t carry gender, but many things do carry symbolic gender. Waterfalls are generally gendered feminine. The illustrations below may partly explain why; the fall of water is reminiscent of a young woman’s cascading hair.
The Maid of the Mist is a sightseeing boat tour of Niagara Falls, and is also a feminisation of waterfalls.
TECHNOLOGY CRUCIAL TO THIS PARTICULAR STORY — Annie’s techinical knowledge was “modest at best” and the best vehicle she could think of was a barrel lined with pillows.
LEVEL OF CONFLICT — As explained clearly in the book itself, older women were in a vulnerable economic position. No one was going to care for Annie in her old age. The life she could expect without income was no life worth living. Van Allsburg suggests on the page and in his talk that Annie could have done something else. I’m not quite so confident about that. Could she really have chosen to be a domestic laborer? The labour of a housewife or domestic servant in 1901 was hard, hard physical work, akin to the physical labouring job typically done by men today (with twice the upper body strength). A 62 year old woman was an elderly woman, who possibly needed her teeth fixing, who possibly needed better glasses, hearing aids, and didn’t have those advantages.
THE EMOTIONAL LANDSCAPE — The most amazing thing to me (and clearly also to the author) is that Annie was the first to ever pull this stunt. Three men went down before (half a century before) and plunged to their deaths. Many who came after were younger, fitter and had the huge psychological advantage of knowing that it had been done before.
…it is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done.
Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites
Annie had no such reassurance, and although it’s impossible to know what was going on in the mind of someone who decided to do something I can’t imagine doing myself, I do suspect there was a suicidality to Annie’s decision.
Annie may also have been influenced by a strong belief in an interventionist God, and in an afterlife. She may have thought that she’d put God to the test; if she was meant to live, she would. If not, that was God’s plan. Perhaps.
An estimated 5,000 bodies were found at the foot of the falls between 1850 and 2011. On average, between 20 and 30 people die going over the falls each year. The majority of deaths are suicides—and most take place from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, and many are not publicized by officials.
Of those who we assume attempted the navigate the falls without dying, there have been 13 fatalities and 17 survivals. To say nothing of injuries, this isn’t great odds.
STORY STRUCTURE OF QUEEN OF THE FALLS
Researching Mrs. Taylor’s life provided details that made it clear that her story was not one that fit into a conventional narrative of the determined underdog who triumphs over the challenges and obstacles placed before him or her, and emerges with admiration and rich rewards. Annie’s story was more complicated than that—and, to me, more interesting.
Chris Van Allsburg
Chris Van Allsburg himself has spoken frequently about his interest in the life of Annie Taylor and this provides some of the paratext.
The shape of the picture book is also significant:
My initial design for the book was horizontal, partly to accommodate longer text in a thirty-two-page format. I ultimately changed to a vertical shape when it became clear a forty-page format would allow for a more effective balance of text and pictures. (I was also persuaded by my colleagues at the publisher that a vertical format was more appropriate for a book about a monumental fall.)
Annie’s stunt, and the pragmatic way in which she went about preparations for it, paint the picture of a woman with a definitive, black-and-white, dualistic world view. Once she’d decided to do this, nothing would stop her. She would either live in abject poverty, or be wealthy beyond her wildest dreams. There was no in-between with Annie.
Writers are often told to give a character both a psychological and a moral shortcoming when writing. Van Allsburg decides that Annie was ‘proud’. Like Walter White in Breaking Bad, who ends up washing his students’ cars over summer, Annie is assumed to be too proud to do domestic work. But as I said, I think there’s more to it than that. Interestingly, when it comes time to get inside the barrel, Annie is described as ‘modest’ when she requires the men to turn away. ‘Modest’ is in some ways the inverse of ‘proud’. But perhaps you can be both. Also, sometimes ‘modest’ refers only to the wish not to display yourself in an exposing manner, which might be another outworking of ‘proud’.
Annie plans to end her poverty by tumbling over the Niagara Falls in a cushioned barrel then finding fame and fortune. Unfortunately her plan has a hole in it. Aside from the obvious threat of death, it is a strange decision to try and pass yourself off as 20 years younger. Surely it would have been more impressive had she revealed her true age. We are impressed by unusual combinations. The combination of a grandmotherly figure performing a stunt would have drawn the crowds. I feel she should have tried instead to pass herself off as 82 rather than 42.
But I can understand why she did it. Annie would not have felt invisible at the age of 42. She was running her charm school and had a place in the world. By pretending to the world that she was 42, she was proabably trying to reclaim some of the contentedness she felt at age 42.
Annie’s journey down the falls is clearly the climax of this story.
It’s interesting to note what Van Allsburg left out. What he did not include: That a cat was sent down in a barrel a few days previously, and survived. Kids like cats, cats do well in picture books; why would Chris Van Allsburg leave this interesting detail out?
Because it’s grim, I guess. They were sacrificing the cat.
SOVIET SPACE DOGS
During the 1950s and 1960s the Soviet space program used dogs for sub-orbital and orbital space flights to determine whether human spaceflight was feasible. In this period, the Soviet Union launched missions with passenger slots for at least 57 dogs. The number of dogs in space is smaller, as some dogs flew more than once. Most survived; the few that died were lost mostly through technical failures, according to the parameters of the test.
A notable exception is Laika, the first dog to be sent into orbit, whose death during the 3 November, 1957 Sputnik 2 mission was expected from its outset.
Sad as these stories are, picture books do cover the topic of animals sacrificed for the sake of science.
There is probably a narrative reason why Chris Van Allsburg did not include the cat. A cat in a picture book is as important as a human character. Readers will be as anxious about the cat as they are about the woman, leading to a double climax in which the first survival inevitably saps emotion away from the second.
Sure, she survived. But she was somewhat injured, and I wonder if she lived with some pain for the rest of her life. (Get injured at that age and it’s likely.) So even her ‘survival’ wasn’t binary; she could have broken her neck, sustained significant head injury and lived out the rest of her life incapacitated rather than dead. I’d be interested to know if she considered that inbetween possibility.
Then as now, you need a platform and a fanbase before you can turn stunts into cash.
By creating this book, Chris Van Allsburg has made many people aware of a character from American history which we would never have known about otherwise.
There’s a much wider issue here worth delving into. It applies here in Australia as much as in America; the historical figures we celebrate are white and they are men. As often as not, the ‘adventures’ of these men were as stupid as they were brave.
Other types of braveries from other demographics are less celebrated, if not entirely forgotten.
Annie’s fall from the top of Niagara Falls is nonetheless the sort of bravery you’d find in young men. We don’t celebrate the bravery of a woman giving breach birth in the Australian Outback in 1901, but to my mind, the forgotten woman is equally ‘brave’.
Which colours are found in the smaller Copic Sketch marker sets? This information should be easier to find in one place. Now that I’ve worked out which numbers are in which Copic basic sets, I’ll post it here in case anyone else finds it useful.
COPIC SKETCH SET 12
Note: The Lemon Yellow doubles with the Primaries set of 6.
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 PERFECT PRIMARIES
The pack contains blue, red and yellow in both darker and lighter shades.
Note: The Fusion Blue pack of three also includes a Tahitian Blue.
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 SECONDARY COLOURS
Yellowish Skin Pink
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 FLORAL COLOURS 1
Pale Cobalt Green
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 EARTH ESSENTIALS
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 PALE PASTELS
Light Reddish Yellow
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 PORTRAIT
I’ve seen two ‘skin colour’ sets for sale here in Australia. The first is called ‘Skin tones’, the other ‘Portrait’.
Note that three of the colours in the Portrait set overlap with colours in the Skin Tone set, so you won’t want to buy both sets of six.
Notice also how these labels skew white. ‘Skin white’ is the giveaway, but also the darker ‘suntan’ colours, which for many people has nothing to do with sun exposure.
Pale Fruit Pink
COPIC SKETCH SET 6 SKIN TONES
Note that three of the colours in the Portrait set overlap with colours in the Skin Tone set, so you won’t want to buy both sets of six.
Although Copic clearly sells sets of colours they believe is important when creating skin tone, other artists have their own views. Here’s an alternative palette for white skin, which “is primarily determined by the bluish white connective tissue and the reddish purple color of oxygenated hemoglobin”:
Pale Porcelain Blue
COPIC FUSION SETS OF THREE
The Fusion sets come in at least two different kinds of packaging.
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION PURPLE (1)
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION PINK (2)
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION RED (3)
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION ORANGE (4)
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION GREEN (5)
COPIC SKETCH SET 3 FUSION BLUE (6)
Note: The Primaries pack of six also includes a Tahitian Blue.
BOBSLEIGH: (British) a mechanically steered and braked sledge, typically for two or four people, used for racing down an ice-covered run
SLED: another term for sledge
SLEDGE: (British) a vehicle on runners for conveying loads or passengers over snow or ice, often pulled by draught animals. e.g. “a dog sledge”
SLEIGH: a sledge drawn by horses or reindeer, especially one used for passengers.
TOBOGGAN: a long, light, narrow vehicle, typically on runners, used for sliding downhill over snow or ice
Illustrations of snowy landscapes quite often feature yellow skies.
A young boy who is in a new town and doesn’t have much, but with the help of a loving community he discovers the joys of his first snowy day.
On the day it snows, Gabo sees kids tugging sleds up the hill, then coasting down, whooping all the while. Gabo wishes he could join them, but his hat is too small, and he doesn’t have boots or a sled.
But he does have warm and welcoming neighbors in his new town who help him solve the problem!
Two Weeks With The Queen is an Australian middle grade novel by Morris Gleitzman. My edition is copyrighted 1989, though other places on the web will tell you this book was first published in 1990 or 1991.
I was in Year Seven in 1989. Fast forward to 2021 and my own Year Seven kid is studying this book in their first year of high school. Fair to say, this is a story with longevity.
My kid proudly announced to their English teacher, “This is the first book I’ve read on my own without pictures!” Um, this is true, despite the many, many books in our house, and nothing to be proud of when you’re almost 13, still doggedly attached to graphic novels and comic books, repelled by walls of text. I was wondering which book-without-pictures would crack the seal for my stubborn reader. Well, this is the one that did it. Kudos to Morris Gleitzman.