Library Larks: Farting Ponies, Squirrels on the Run and Orthodox Jewish Troll-Fighters…

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It seems I’ve hit the jackpot with this month’s library loans.  I put on hold a bunch of picture books that I had been keeping my eye on, as well as a couple of intriguing looking graphic novels – one for me and one to introduce to the eldest mini-fleshling.  It’s quite an attractive looking pile I must say!  Click on the images to visit each book’s Goodreads page.

First up, I grabbed Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, a middle grade/YA graphic novel by Barry Deutsch.  I have seen this one on a number of recommended graphic novel lists, so decided I’d take the plunge and request it.  It helps, of course, that there’s a whacking great ball of yarn on the cover and the tagline, “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl”.  I’m pretty excited also because I just looked at the Goodreads page and discovered that books two and three in the series have already been released, so if I enjoy this one I’ve got more to look forward to.

hereville

I also grabbed Bird & Squirrel On the Run, which is the first in a series of middle grade graphic novels by James Burks.  I’ve been keeping an eye out lately for books heavy on the imagery and with interesting protagonists, for when the eldest mini-fleshling has had his fill of Fly Guy and Elephant and Piggie – which hopefully won’t be for at least a little while yet.  This one looks fun though and as there are also more books in this series already out, this will hopefully become a go-to set of characters.

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Mad Martha picked up Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, which has been out for a good long while but hadn’t crossed our path.  We loved the combination of Barnett and Klassen in Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and we expect that this collaboration will bear the same sort of re-readable fruit.

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We had seen The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton around a few blogs, but I hadn’t really paid much attention until I saw it for cheap at the Book Depository.  Rather than buy it outright, I thought we’d borrow it from the library and take it for a test run first – and my word, if it isn’t the funniest, most kick-ass princess book I’ve ever read.  The mini-fleshlings loved Princess Pinecone and her flatulent pony, so I will definitely be making a purchase of this one just as soon as I am able.  Mad Martha is already planning how to recreate the chubby little horse in amigurumi.  This one’s a keeper.

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Have you checked anything out from the library lately?  Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

Until next time,

Bruce

Picture Book Perusal: Cat Knit

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If you love delightful tales of friendship, cattiness and yarn then today is your lucky day!  Allow us to happily present to you new release picture book Cat Knit by Jacob Grant, and provided to us by PanMacmillan Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Cat and Yarn are the best of friends. They have so much fun playing together, the two are inseparable.

Until the day Girl takes Yarn away.

When Yarn Returns, he is completely changed, no longer Cat’s bright and rolly friend. Cat is mad!

Soon, Cat begins to miss his best friend, and he just might realize that a little change isn’t so bad after all.

cat-knit

It’s no secret that we are big fans of yarn and its related fibre-crafted products around the shelf, and when yarn is combined with a cute, grumpy-faced cat that looks a little like one of the cats in the dwelling, you can be sure that we will be big fans of the result.  Here’s a little side by side pic for comparison about our prior claim:

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Twinnies, or what?!

Cat, unsurprisingly, is friends with Yarn.  They play together in all sorts of hilarious ways (read: sledding), they snuggle up together and are generally as happy as a cat and an inanimate object could be.  When Girl takes yarn away and returns him completely changed however, Cat isn’t in love with the arrangement.  What follows is a struggle between wanting things back the way they were and finding good use for yarn’s new form and function.  But it isn’t all bad.  After all, where there’s one ball of yarn, there might be more!

This book was a lot of fun and the mini-fleshlings particularly enjoyed the various moods of Cat, played out via his facial expressions.  I particularly liked the machinations of Girl, which are known in the wider world as “knitting”, and was quite comforted by the fact that clearly Mad Martha isn’t the only one who pores over yarn catalogues with such undivided attention.  The ending is a great laugh, featuring more in the way of catty expressions of displeasure, and a very nifty bobble hat indeed.  The overall message of the book is that a change in the personality of one’s friend need not mean the end of a friendship, and that such changes can be just what is needed at that point in time.

The edition of the book that we received came with a dust jacket featuring the image above, and as we are incurable dust-jacket removers, we were able to uncover the delightful design on the hardback cover.

cat-knit-undies

I will admit to having a yearning to own an ugly Christmas jumper, probably due to the fact that I will never have the opportunity to wear one unless I move to a shelf in the Northern Hemisphere for at least one Christmas, so this design tickled me pink.

I would recommend Cat Knit to anyone who (a) has a cat or (b) is able to laugh at cats, which, let’s admit it, is every human alive.  Having received the thumbs up of approval from the mini-fleshlings in this dwelling, I can also say that it has passed the giggle road test for reading aloud to little ones.  It’s even inspired me to ask Mad Martha to crochet me an ugly Christmas jumper of my own…which I will then attempt to force onto the cat (pictured above).

Until next time,

Bruce

Picture Book Perusal: Ned the Knitting Pirate…

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Yes, I know: knitting is more Mad Martha’s field of expertise, but when we noticed that knitting was combined with piracy in this book I stepped boldly into the fray.  Today’s book, Ned the Knitting Pirate by Dianna Murray and Leslie Lammle was received gratefully from PanMacmillan Australia for review.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The crew of the pirate ship the Rusty Heap are a fearsome bunch! They’re tougher than gristle and barnacle grit. They heave and they ho and they swab and they . . . knit?

Well, one of them does, at least! Unfortunately for Ned, his knitting doesn’t go over well with the captain and crew. They urge him to hide his hobby and strive to be scurvier, like pirates should be. But when the briny ocean beast shows up to feast on the Rusty Heap and its crew, maybe Ned’s knitting is just the ticket to save the day!

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If you’re looking for a pirate tale with a difference in a picture book market that is saturated with piratey titles, then look no further than Ned and his two pointy sticks.  Ned is a delightful young pirate who is perfectly content to be who he is, despite the fact that his love of knitting seems to rub his shipmates up the wrong way.  In every pirate situation – finding treasure, drinking rum, swabbing the deck, belching – Ned finds time to pick up the needles and get crafting.  Even though his shipmates are keen to undervalue Ned’s hobby at every opportunity, even they can’t deny that Ned’s knitting might come in handy when traditional methods of frightening off sea monsters have failed.

The book is written in a bouncy, jaunty rhythm with rhyming text, so it’s perfect for reading aloud to your little landlubbers. There’s also a repeated refrain in the form of a pirate song that will allow adventurous readers to join in lustily with a harmless sea shanty.  The illustrations are appropriately fluid, featuring a palette of mostly cool, ocean colours.

I did find it a bit strange that Ned’s knitting was shunned by the pirates when sailors of that vintage would have been experts with a thread and needle.  Given that it was essential for sailors to be able to repair torn canvas sails and sew their own clothes and hammocks, it wouldn’t seem to be too far a stretch for some sailors to have a good knowledge of yarn-related crafts also.

But I suspect I’m overthinking things here.

Especially when you consider that it would be hard to knit when you’ve only got a hook for a hand.

Practicalities aside, this is a fun and quirky addition to the pirate kidlit subgenre with a subtly subversive message about being true to oneself even when those around you can’t see the value in your passions.

Until next time,

Bruce

Yarning with Mad Martha…about Book Week!

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Welcome to an all new feature here on the shelf – Yarning with me, Mad Martha! Bruce has kindly given over some extra space in our posting schedule to yours truly so that I can share with you my passion for crochet (and yarn craft generally). I can feel your excitement levels growing, and I thank you in advance for the deep love and affection for what will no doubt become your favourite feature.

Essentially, yarning with me will involve either reviewing a crochet (or craft) related book, or sharing some of my latest projects as they relate to books that we have been reading. I already have a very exciting project book lined up for late September (wherein you can crochet your own camping adventure!), as well as an amigurumi pattern for a very popular contemporary children’s book character (hint: he’s Irish, large and hairy).

Let’s start things off with everyone’s favourite dress-up day: Children’s Book Week! This wonderful week has just passed here in Queensland, along with another year’s worth of parental anxiety over having to fashion some sort of complicated, homemade costume out of rubber bands and superglue, because their offspring neglected to mention that it was, in fact, their school’s dress up day tomorrow, until about 8.15pm of the evening before.

Happily, the only mini-fleshling in this dwelling that was required to dress up has a strong aversion to cosplay of any description and so I was called in to provide a “prop”, to ensure that said mini-fleshling could participate in the dress up in a non-stressful way and to avert any teacher-held suspicions that mini-fleshling’s parents are just (a) indifferent to reading/literacy/dressing up or (b) the negligent sort.

Enter: Mad Martha, cape neatly tied and undies on the outside, to swoop in and create the perfect bookish buddy: an amigurumi Fly Guy!

fly guy posing

If you are unfamiliar with the Fly Guy series, I can guarantee that you are missing out. Essentially a picture book disguised as an early reader, Hi Fly Guy! is the series opener, in which we meet the titular fly and discover how he forms a firm friendship with a young boy, Buzz. There are currently about fourteen books in the fiction series, with a half dozen more recently released nonfiction tie-ins, Fly Guy Presents. The nonfiction books feature Fly Guy and Buzz exploring a range of kid-friendly topics, including space, sharks and insects.

hi fly guy fly guy presents

Our collective favourite at the moment is I Spy Fly Guy! in which a particularly challenging game of hide and seek is carried out in a location that tends hilariously in Fly Guy’s favour. Poor Buzz! The delightful friendship betwixt boy and fly is the champion of all the Fly Guy stories and the books are a perfect blend of humour and calamity, minus the bodily-function related content that often plagues books aimed at boys of the targeted age group.  It is easy to see why the first book in the series won the Theodore Seuss Geisel award.

This series, with its bright cartoon-style illustrations and clear, short sections of text, will appeal greatly to young male readers particularly and seem to be designed to slot neatly into that difficult space between picture books and early chapter books, in which young readers want to feel like they’re reading big-kid books, but aren’t quite ready to manage longer books independently. The stories are divided into chapters, but the whole book can easily be read in a single sitting, much like a standard picture book. An added bonus, of course, is the fact that kids can become familiar with the enjoyment of reading a series – particularly the anticipation of waiting for another book to appear – and gain a sense of familiarity with the characters, settings and in turn, language used in each story.

fly guy and back catalogue

I must admit to being incredibly proud of my finished Fly Guy plushie – almost as proud as the mini-fleshling was of writing Fly Guy’s jar label allfly guy and jar on his own! Having brashly agreed to save the day, I immediately jumped onto that giant of time-wasting, Pinterest, certain in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, would have definitely created such a plushie before, and as such, all I would have to do would be to follow a simple pattern and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour.

I was wrong. Pinterest let me down. Apparently, no one, anywhere, has ever had need to crochet a cuddly version of everyone’s favourite insect. Who’d have thought? And so I toiled and frogged and toiled until I had created a friend that one could cuddle with pride. Given the short time frame (and the rage-quitting that occurred during the creation), I neglected to note down my stitches as I was working, and therefore I cannot provide the illusive pattern for Fly Guy that Pinterest so sorely needs. For this, I am not at all sorry. Pinterest didn’t help me, so Pinterest is on its own when the time for a Fly Guy amigurumi comes.

Welcoming Fly Guy to the shelf. Bruce is stunned at my crochet prowess.

Welcoming Fly Guy to the shelf. Bruce is stunned at my crochet prowess.

Well, that about wraps up our first Yarning session – I hope you have enjoyed it! I’d love to hear what you think of my work, the Fly Guy series or Book Week, so don’t leave without commenting, will you?

Yours in craftiness,

Mad Martha

 

Utopirama!: Knit the Sky…

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Welcome to another Utopirama, wherein we stroll in a calming, light breeze through the flowery fields of tomes thatNonfiction 2015 lift our spirits.  Today I have a book that Mad Martha insisted we review, given that it relates to her chosen hobby of needlecraft.  I am also submitting today’s book for the Non-Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader, in which I am participating, hence the comfy armchair.  We were lucky enough to receive a digital copy of today’s book from the publisher via Netgalley, but we suggest if you’re wanting a copy of this one for yourself, it would be better in print, simply for the tactile nature of the subject matter.

The book is Knit the Sky: A Playful Way of Knitting by Lea Redmond.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Look up from your knitting needles and explore the world around you! That’s the mantra of Lea Redmond, the creative instigator behind Knit the Sky. Challenging herself to capture the changing colors of the sky in her knitting, Redmond loaded up her yarn basket with shades of blue, gray, and white and set out to knit a strip reflecting each day’s shades. In 365 days, she imagines having a one-year weather report in the shape of a scarf. This is just one of 30 adventurous knitting challenges she shares with readers in this whimsical, inspiring collection. These are knitting projects like no other, as the goal is not just to have a finished project but to have a one-of-a-kind piece that tells a story about the knitter’s life experience. Accompanied by basic instructions for all the needed stitches, techniques, and patterns, Knit the Sky is a complete creativity starter kit for any knitter looking for a fresh approach to the craft.

knit the sky

Quick Overview:

The greatest thing about this book is that you can replace the word “Knit” in the title with any crafty word you please and you can still get an enormous amount from the book.  For in Knit the Sky, it’s the process, not the finished product, which is the important thing. Mad Martha doesn’t know how to knit, but I had to listen to her enthuse over the exciting projects in this book and how she could convert them to crochet. There seemed to be only one or two projects in the book that really are specific to knitting – one in which friends cooperate to knit two scarves on one pair of needles springs to mind – but with a bit of creativity, crafty crafters could easily modify these projects to get around that.  Even if you don’t do any crafty endeavour yourself, the book promotes a way of looking at and interacting with the world around you that inspires mindfulness and memory-making.

Another handy thing about the projects here is that the author has suggested numerous variations on each project to inspire you to have a go. For example, with the titular project – knitting a scarf comprised of individual stripes capturing the colour of the sky each day for a year – there’s the ingenious and touching suggestion of instead creating a baby blanket comprised of squares representing the colour of the sky on each day (or near enough to!) of the baby’s time in utero. We experienced a mild thrill of terror at the idea of the “Neighbourhood Cowl” in which the crafter is challenged to go visit all the neighbours on their block and then knit a stripe in the colour of each house, in street order. Then there’s the family projects, like the heirloom idea of beginning a pattern or simple project, and then leaving it safely encased somewhere for future generations to find and complete, and the almost unbearably cutesy idea of the grandparent creating a basket-coloured (or basket-stitched!) woolly hat for themselves, and a berry-coloured woolly hat for each of their grand-offspring!

In all honesty, this book made Mad Martha’s heart sing for the potential it has to promote connection amongst people – family, neighbours, complete strangers – and the flow-on effect of crafting as a means to achieve Utopia.

Utopian Themes:

Knit one, connect one

Crafting positivity

Intergenerational connection

Yarning with strangers

Protective Bubble-o-meter:

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5 out of 5 bubbles for the cosy embrace of a handmade creation

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Utopirama: Yarn Bombing (The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti)…

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Utopirama time again! This feature is where I share with you books that are almost certain to inspire a sense of warm fuzziness in the cockles of your heart.  Today I have a bit of a subversive choice, but it made us all smile and has engendered within us a new sense of happiness related to the possibility of secretly beautifying dowdy places.  I give you….

Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti

by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain

yarn bombing

Quick Overview:

Yarn Bombing, for those who don’t know, is the art of attaching crocheted or knitted pieces to random objects in the real world.  A car antenna, a neglected sign post, even the cold top of a lonely bollard – all of these are perfect locations for yarn bombing.  This book takes the uninitiated through the process of yarn-bombing from its inception in the mid-2000s in Texas.  It includes the history of yarn bombing, the philosophy of a wide range of yarn bombers and lays out a step-by-step guide for those intrepid crafters who know just the place for an injection of whimsical craft (and/or political statement).

I stumbled upon this book while browsing in the craft section (for Mad Martha, obviously) of my local library.  I only discovered yarn-bombing earlier this year and all of the shelf-dwellers immediately fell in love with the whole idea of non-permanent, aesthetically pleasing graffiti that is designed (in most cases) simply to uplift the spirits of all those whose eye falls upon it.  If you are unfamiliar with yarn-bombing and what it might look like, here are some instances…click on the image for the link.

The book contains a bunch of patterns for pieces and also for clothing to wear while yarn bombing, as well as interviews with prominent yarn bombers from around the world.  And it’s just beautiful to look at too.

Utopian Themes:

 Crafting positivity

Urban beautification

Whimsical imagery

International co-operation

Protective Bubble-o-meter

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Four protective bubbles for the unexpected joy of spotting granny squares in the urban wild

Mad Martha even got in on the trend after being inspired by this book.  Here’s a little piece she made for the tree outside our dwelling.  It’s not much, but it’s a start towards Utopia in craft.

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Until next time,

Bruce