It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts
We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.
Sign up here to join us! Here is the October-December linky. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Cherub Dark Sun by Robert Muchamore to two lucky CORL participants from October-December.
The Australian-based author, Graeme Base, is one of the reasons why I have fallen in love with children’s literature more than ten years back. When I searched our database here in GatheringBooks, I was aghast to discover that with the exception of The Eleventh Hour and The Worst Band In The Universe, we have done very little sharing of his picturebooks. And so, I vow to change all that by featuring two of his gloriously-illustrated picturebooks as the perfect opening for our new reading theme which I have just launched yesterday.
Written and Illustrated by: Graeme Base
Published by: Abrams Book for Young Readers, 2012
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
The book begins with a young boy, Jim, having to endure the loss of a beloved pet, a white mouse aptly named Pipsqueak. Jim’s mother explains that since they live on a wheat farm, keeping a mouse will attract other mice, and the risk of plague would threaten their very livelihood, and so with a heavy heart, Pipsqueak would have to be let go.
I like the character of Jim. Evidently, the mother is a single parent, and Jim is trying his best to be the responsible man of the house. Things took a turn for the worse when his mother told him that their harvester is broken, and so it will be difficult for the two of them to harvest the wheat. Jim promised his mother, however, that they will find a way to manage somehow. He is a boy with hope in his heart and bright stars in his eyes.
When Jim discovered a strange man harvesting wheat the next morning, he was neither upset nor anxious. He didn’t ask the man to leave, rather, he told the man that he was welcome to their wheat and invited him to stay awhile longer. Perhaps the man with the strange hat could help in harvesting the wheat when the time comes. For some reason, this stranger reminded me a little bit of Robert Ingpen’s Dream Keeper with his assorted odds and ends.
When afternoon came, Jim found a horn that was seemingly-left behind on their gate post. And when he blew into it, there was a faraway trumpeting sound in the air along with clouds of gray dust that shimmered gently in the clouds.
Indeed, a foreshadowing of magical things to come, and came they did: in the form of winged elephants battling a gigantic locust swarm.
This is a simple story filled with big dreams, a great deal of heart, and a whiff of the impossible. Such a beautiful story.
The Discovery of Dragons
Written and Illustrated by: Graeme Base, aka Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc. (Serp.), F.R.Aud. (Melb.) Editor
Published by: Doublebase Pty, Ltd, 1996
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
I found this book lying unloved and on sale at Bras Basah just a few weeks ago, and I immediately snapped it up, primarily because I was looking for exactly this book so that I can feature it for our current reading theme.
In this picturebook, Graeme Base takes the identity of a certain Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc. (Serp.), F.R.Aud. (Melb.) – a little-known academic who has developed an obsession and morbid fascination with the scholarly study of supposedly-mythical-but-actually-real dragons. He is basing the veracity of his empirically accurate work (or so he claims) to three intrepid, if not accidental explorers:
Bjorn of Bromme, a ninth-century Viking; Soong Mei Ying, the youngest daughter of a thirteenth-century Chinese silk trader; and Dr. E. F. Liebermann, an obscure mid-nineteenth-century Prussian cartogapher and amphibiologist.
Greasebeam claimed that he managed to secure private letters from these three explorers – also known as the Founding Fathers and Mother of modern Serpentology “from a variety of sources that propriety demands must remain confidential” proving the existence of dragons. And it is these letters that are published in this gorgeous book alongside the wonderful illustrations of Greasebeam himself. I encourage you to also investigate quite closely the marginalia, as it provides a supplementary narrative that complements what is found in the text.
There are three general classifications of dragons that roamed this planet. The first group is called the European dragons discovered by retired Viking turned Beach Bum Bjorn of Bromme.
The one illustrated above happens to be my favourite: the Great Snow Dragon – which reminded me a little bit of George RR Martin’s Fire and Ice Dragons. The misty clouds you see in the drawing are actually a product of the “superheated steam issuing from their nostrils.” Cool huh?
Another personal favourite in this category is the Welsh Red Dragon – the creature commonly found hoarding treasures and precious jewels such as “gold, jewellery or out-of-print Australian children’s books.” The latter, I would battle this Welsh red dragon for, obviously, me being a book hunter and all that.
The second category is the Asiatic Dragons discovered through the letters of Soong Mei Ying to her Venerable Father, Soong Chen Yi, whose illness (constipation is such an evil thing, really) has driven her to find a cure – leading her to the healing properties of diminutive dragons known as the Japanese Butterfly Lizard. My favourite in this classification, however, is the Mongolian Screamer that sounds like a cross between a banshee and a cat in heat (see below):
And then there is the famous Great Golden Worm also known as Soong Chen Yi’s Dragon, a formidable beast that displays a tremendous aptitude for security work (see below):
The third category is called Tropical Dragons based on the increasingly-insensible missives written by a Dr. E. F. Liebermann to his fiancee, Prunella Hapsburgernfries (there is something about her name that makes me hungry, I just can’t figure out what). Here, we are taken to the outskirts of Africa as Dr. E. F. Liebermann attempted to find an amphibian, proving that “Africa, Madagascar, and Tasmania were all once part of a huge, primeval southern continent” and all through the presence of a yet undiscovered frog that should be somewhere in the jungle of south-western Tasmania. Sounds difficult? Well, as most interesting discoveries go, Liebermann found something else instead:
Common Green Draak
Spotted Marsh Draak
… just to cite a few. Clearly, this is a book that all fantasy-lovers MUST have. Graese Bame err… Greasebeam… nope, Graeme Base’s sharp wit, visual puns, and wordplay are unparalleled. The man is a genius.
I did mention two weeks back that I traveled to Kazakhstan. While I was there, I managed to finish not just one, but two novels!
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland And Cut The Moon In Two by Catherynne M. Valente – which I will be featuring in the next few weeks. And…
The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin which my book club (Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks) discussed last Saturday.
Luckily, this is also our book for another book club that I have organized within my own institution (National Institute of Education) for January 2015 – this time, we are a group of academics coming from different specializations (Early Childhood and Special Needs Education, English Language and Literature, Psychological Studies, Visual and Performing Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Education). So technically, I have three book clubs in all – plus another virtual book club with the GatheringBooks ladies (Fats, Iphigene) and my bestfriend. Yes, I am the mistress of book clubs.
I am now deep into Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and hoping to finish it before I leave again this week for the U.S.