Sally and Jane read The Very Hungry Caterpillar

kids

Sally and Jane read a book to me last night when I was the visitor. It was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Sally reads beautifully. Jane helps beautifully. Sally is 5 and Jane is 7.

They are both strong, creative and resourceful ladies!

Sally holds the book and Jane sits opposite and helps upside down. Sally traces each word with her finger, translating the shapes and lines as she goes; she has read this book before and has a rich store of information and experience to keep the ride through the text fluent and meaningful.

They, both of them bend over the page pulling sound from symbols, making sense of sound, interpreting story from sense, a triple rendering.

They both of them bend over the page importing colour, texture, animation, sound, story, humour, pathos and life from the words and the illustrations and now they have made the story into a physical structure of caterpillar, food and cocoon, of hunger, greed and regret, of life and renewal.

Sally jumps from letter to word and across sentences and back again, she refers briefly to illustration and back again to symbols. She follows instinct and memory in a complex play of eyes, speech and satisfaction.

Sometimes Jane prompts too quickly. She is asked gently to hush.

Shhhh, Jane shhhh….

Sometimes Jane prompts too slowly. Then Sally allows her a generous and obvious space in which to insert a sound or a word or a clue.

Quick, Jane…..

They look over the page and over the book as they look over all of life, solicitous, curious and appreciative.

 

 

I bet I am the first redhead in the shop this morning

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In the shop this morning there are two children with their grandparents. They came in in a hesitating sort of way and this was because I had not turned my sign: it still said closed. The boy said to me: I bet you do that every day!
Soon he brought a Zac Powers to the counter. He said: I bet this is the last one. He told me about Zac Powers. About how he had read all of them. He named every title from each series. Then he went away to read again.
His sister swung around and around the pony books and chose one that she had already read. Her grandmother asked her if she should get one that she hadn’t read and she said: no.
Her brother returned to tell me about Zac Powers again. He said: I bet I will read all of them soon. Then the grandparents came out of the back room where they had been hunting through Australiana. They gathered, the four of them, all looking at their books, unseeing of anything except their books, they bumped and knocked into each other, telling each other: look at this book
When they left, the boy looked back and lit up the interior with his next joyful thought: I bet I am the first redhead you had in the shop this morning!

 

 

See you later some other time probably…

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A boy, aged about 11 came into the shop and greeted me by name although I did not know who he was.

He said: well I’m just a book reader, I just like all books. So, I’m just a book fan and I love Doctor Who. My mum says I can get any book I will read over and over again, I always read my books again until I get sick of them. Then I don’t anymore.

He went away and crouched down to examine science fiction on the bottom shelves and then came back to the counter.

I just read them over, you know, over and over like that. Like Dr who and other stuff, like about stallions and also Harry Potter. I have read them all seven times. I get into bed and then make a place and just read for ages, I like Skulduggery, I would read those again. I like old books.

He hopped from foot to foot as he spoke and then went away into the back room for a while. When he came back he said: I like this old stuff, you would have to look after these, they have like different materials in them. They aren’t decorated like our books, back in the old day they couldn’t decorate. I really want this. I’m going to save for this, like anything. My mum will let me. Anyway I have to go now so see you later some other time probably.

 

Photography by Andrew Branch

The Pulley

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I showed David a copy of Cultural Amnesia by Clive James and he said I was naughty because he had to have that book. After all it was Clive James. He said: Oh God, I don’t know what to do. I am chasing up Rimbaud and now you have me with the Cultural Amnesia. He said that all of his indecision comes from his sad childhood.

A lady bought a copy of Penguin Bloom and then took me out to see her own rescued magpie, perching on the edge of a basket on the back seat of the car. She said that he is blind in one eye and the family just adore him. She said there was nothing they would not do for him.

Sharon rang to urge me to find a volume of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories, all of them in the one volume. She said she is having a bad day.

Robert said that despite his weariness he will never give up the quest for history and the truth of life. He ordered a copy of Aboriginal Men of High Degree by A. P. Elkin.

A mother and her two young children were looking for dinosaur books. They said that they loved David Attenborough. The son said that he also loved dinosaurs, owls and geckos. His small sister said that she loved owls and ballet. Their mother said that there was not much time for her to read much anymore. She looked happy.

Outside the window, there are tradesmen, leaning against their car, drinking iced coffee and smoking. They are arguing about scaffolding. One says that he is sick of all this shit. Then he says he is going back to the bakery. His mates look at him and keep on smoking.

A very young woman showed me her six month old son. She bought a copy of Goodnight Owl and told me that she has just left home to make it on her own. Her pram had masking tape wound around the handles. She said she was going to read to him every night. She gazed at him the whole time, and he, with huge dark eyes, gazed back and he was smiling the whole time.

Serenity told me that she had to leave school early. Her father, who was carrying all the shopping, looked very tired.

Most days, at some time, I run into the edge of the exhaustion shelf and usually I cannot see the reason for it. It is always when I am not in my bookshop.

An old lady went outside and indicated to me through the window which book she wanted. It would have been easier for her to have remained inside and just picked up the volume from the table. It was The Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. She took it from me and said: this is the one, his will be wonderful and thank you.

It is Valentine’s Day and a man is so happy that I had a copy of Wombat Divine. Later in the day he came back and gave me a red rose because I had a copy of Wombat Divine and he was going to surprise his wife with it.

The Pulley

When God at first made man,

Having a glass of blesings standing by;

Let us (said he) pour on him all we can:

Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,

Contract into a span.

 

So strength first made a way;

The beauty flow’d, then wisdom, honour, pleasure:

When almost all was out, God made a stay,

Perceiving that alone of all his treasure

Rest in the bottom lay.

 

For if I should (said he)

Bestow this jewel also on my creature,

He would adore my gifts instead of me,

And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature:

So both should losers be.

 

Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness:

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.

George Herbert

 

‘I fear nothing when I am doing right,’ said Jack.

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“ I fear nothing when I am doing right,’ said Jack.

‘Then,’ said the lady in the red cap, ‘you are one of those who slay giants.”

Andrew Lang, The Red Fairy Book

 

There are three teenage girls here and they are looking at Jules Verne and I am curious. One of them asks for Sherlock Holmes, another has chosen The Great Gatsby and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and the third girl purchases Les Misérables – she tells me she is up for it. They all three of them stand in the door way, the door cannot quite close. They are standing in the doorway and they are looking closely at the Les Misérables and it is 1331 pages long. A man waits patiently to enter but they are so busy. One girl tells her friends she is up for it, this huge book.  The other says well I’m up for this: and she triumphantly shows the Harry Potter volume six, and she explains – I went up for Sherlock but he’s not there. They look at her in silence, considering and then they notice the waiting man. They are mortified and squeak the thousand apologies. They tell him they are going to the bakery and he is smiling, he is happy with their explanation.

When I looked up again from the counter there is a boy suddenly there, aged about 11, staring at me and holding a bag of coins. He said Tintin?  I remembered that he has been here before and that I should know what he needs. He waits patiently.

I have one book – Tintin in Tibet and he relaxes and pours out the coins across the counter and counts them slowly. He says: thank you so much because I love Tintin so much.

Ken told me today about his kids: This morning my kids were talking together, my son he does not want to be at school, you know how they are, but there he was talking with my daughter about the Ancient Greeks and for a long time, too. You know sometimes you think that sometimes the world’s all right, you know.

Then he disappeared into the back room and came back to show me a book about cowboys. He said THIS is a good read. He looked very happy.

A lady told me a long story about her interest in the paranormal. She thought she might have some small powers of her own.

Daryl asks for books about Hannibal, a new book mark and The Family Frying Pan. He tells me that Brother Fish is too heavy to hold. But Hannibal – you know that guy that went over the Alps and conquered the Greeks, can you get me that?

He flexes his tattoos and thinks for a while. Then he asked me for a bookmark with a crucifix on it for his family bible.

Alan and Jenny only watch SBS. They tell me in great detail why this is so.

Maria asked me did I mind if she asked how many children I had and where they all are. I did not mind at all. She said that all her daughters were gone now, left her in the dust and she is pretty happy about that. She has TEN grandchildren. She bought a book of poetry, not too much as she is still reading the Hans Christian Anderson, the delight of her days.

There is a couple in the front room and she reads aloud to her husband to test the suitability of the book. She says to her husband: he’s not six, he’s seven, he’s seven, remember?

She said: what about this one, is it too old for him? Or is it too young for him? Her husband does not answer. They leave without any book.

I, myself read on last night through my Penguin Pocket Anthology. The Reunion by John Cheever, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, Mother Savage by Guy De Maupassant, An Upheaval by Anton Chekhov, Roman Fever by Edith Wharton, Paul’s Case by Willa Cather.

A Party Down at the Square by Ralph Ellison is horrible. Where are you Going, Where Have you Been by Joyce Carol Oates is terrifying. Vandals by Alice Munro is devastating. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Marquez is beautiful.

There is Eudora Wealty and Amy Tan and Dagoberto Gilb and Alice Walker and Louise Erdrich and on and on I go through these stories and I hope they never come to an end. They, all of them decades and decades old but they are all about right here right now.

A man bought a book called Hanging: a History of Execution in Australia. I said cheerily: enjoy your book and he said:  It is the history of hanging.  Not a book to enjoy I don’t think.

I was rebuked. His wife said: Look at this! And she had Murray Bail: The Drover’s Wife. She said: I always wanted to read this.

She glances furiously at her husband.

 

 

I’m going to put my school bag in the bin…do you reckon I should?

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School has begun again in this small town. There are mothers gathered together at the bakery, looking thoughtful and eating risky cream cakes. I am asked for Dougie Starts School, and then Girl Stuff for the Preteens by Kaz Cooke and The Definitive Guide to Icecreams Sorbets and Gelati. …but we are unsure who wrote this one, the lady who has requested it looks annoyed with herself. Another lady tells us she is soon to move to Strathalbyn as it has a good chemist. She buys The World of the Horse while the icecream customer is looking for her Google app.

Outside there are no children clattering past on bikes or scooters. It is quiet and cloudy, not even a breeze. A young man asks me for books on cockfighting but I have never even seen one. Another customer watches him leave and looks disgusted.

Yvonne puts her head through the door and shouts: how is that grandchild of yours?

I reply that he is thriving. She says: that’s the way.

A man asks me for Douglas Adams books, especially Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I show him all the copies and he says: good upselling. I think that it is hardly necessary to upsell Douglas Adams! He chooses the leather version, it is purple and silver and I think I should have kept it for myself and I take his money feeling bitter. Later I think that I might have a problem with hoarding books.

I am reading an anthology of literature, prose, poetry and plays. It is a student’s version, heavy with onion skin pages and scribbled notes down the margins. I have discovered Katherine Porter, John Cheever, Somerset Maugham, Kate Chopin and Zora Neale Hurston. I did not know that D H Lawrence wrote short stories. Or John Steinbeck. I have now read The Fall of the House of Usher. I have now read Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and which is set in Spain. When there is a gap in here, I can keep reading.

Robert wants a copy of The Physics of Transfigured Light. I show him my anthology and he admires the weight of it. He says: there is not enough time to read. I tell him that Ernest Hemingway shot himself and he answered that the world has always treated its artists cruelly.

A lady told me that her young daughter reads the same books that she once did and that this makes her very happy. The books they both love are the Sweet Valley High Series. After school two young girls spend a long time looking through the shelves. They are about fourteen years. One chose two penguin classics in the orange and cream covers – Isabelle Allende Eva Luna and John Updike’s Run Rabbit Run – she did not know who the authors were, she just loved the orange and cream covers.

Scott stopped to say that he is now reading all of the free throw out books from the library even though they are all crap.

Later, toward the end of the afternoon the school children come past again, in groups and heading for food. One boy drags his bag along the footpath and tells his friend he might put his bag in the bin. His friend says: you should.

 

I might become a pirate or a rabbit catcher.

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A lady brought to the counter a set of poetry books in soft green leather. She stood for a while, holding the books, stroking the covers and running her thumb over the gold on the spines. She said: I am having these.

I looked for the last time at the green and the silver and the soft rich gold of that precise seven volume stack and I said I will miss these and she said: yes.

I am surrounded by breathtaking wealth in here. It gleams and glitters all around me.

A child asked me if all the pirates in books are actually ok. Because he might become one or he might become a rabbit catcher. He stood on one foot and showed the skill of balancing silently in front of the rabbits. I said: this is excellent.

I am surrounded by breathtaking wealth in here. Although my accountant said I have completed another year without making any money at all. I told Robert and he said: what do they know!

A man said to his wife: I could spend all day in here and she said: well you’re not.

John rang to thank me for looking for his train book and I reminded him that I had not found it yet. He said: that’s ok. Keep looking. He asked if I had Triple Crown by Felix Francis but I didn’t.

Sharon messaged me to read Great Expectations over Christmas. She said she backed into a car at a shopping centre and it is Christmas that caused it.

One man looked at my Christmas tree and looked shocked. I said cheerily: only a few weeks to go and he said: oh shit. He bought an Encyclopaedia of Horses.

I was asked for Cranford, The Good Earth, Soul Mountain and The Secret Garden. Kody’s younger brother picked up Kody’s Boy Versus Beast Books and said: These are for Kody, but he probably won’t let me read them.

I am surrounded by glittering wealth in here.

A tiny girl, about three years old was wearing one pink shoe and one black shoe and she dropped her handful of coins on the floor. After half an hour her parents left the shelves to come to the counter and their child was still collecting her coins, slowly, painstaking, one by one. She had one shoe on and the other one was full of the coins. Her mother offered her Possum Magic but she was uninterested. She just wanted to continue her work.

I was urged to read Poor Fellow, My country by Xavier Herbert. A young reader that I have never met asked me to show her a really good book that she would like.

Robert dropped in again to recite for me a poem about the Garden of Eden. I said to him that I am surrounded with glittering wealth in here and he said that I should get rid of the westerns then.

A customer has lent me The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova because it is phenomenal. I begin to read it. I am interrupted with another recommendation: The Yandilli Trilogy by Rodney Hall. Peter asked me to find him two copies of The Existential Jesus by John Carroll. He said it is the most important book ever written and that I should read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You mean all the different lands and that? That’s easy!

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A young girl, about twelve, galloped past the door when I was opening up one morning and her father said: there’s your book lady, say hello, and the child trumpeted a huge hello through her custard tart and filled the air with coconut. She said: do you remember when I came in? I agreed to the memory and then she told me that The Diary of Anne Frank was really good. More of her tart dropped to the ground and her father said: careful with the cake.

I am still setting up for the day. I am preoccupied and slow and there is a wasp on top of the biography of Robert Louis Stevenson. There are two people waiting patiently and soon the husband begins to explain to me that he is a prolific reader. Then he said: look out there’s a moth in here and his wife said to him: you must have opened your wallet!

Maree talked about reading Huckleberry Finn and about the difficulties of being a grandparent. She said she felt unappreciated and that the other grandparents had an unfair advantage. She held onto the door so that other people could not get through and when she felt the door move she gave a small scream.

After she left I thought that life is not easy for anyone.

David is here and he watches her leave too and he said: goodness… and then he talked about Peter Porter and Clive James. He said that he engages emotionally, deeply, with these poets. He said that soon he is going to explore the Indian Mystics.

On Wednesday Robert told me that once he ate a roast chicken at a pub and it was a poor meal indeed. He told the publican: this is a poor meal and the publican sacked the cook. Then he said cryptically that this is just like that damn fool in America. He said it’s time someone did something about that too, and that he is about to add his voice to the battle soon as he has paid all his bills.

I am sorting and shelving books and considering my own tangled reading. It won’t stay still or become coherent. I am reading Olive Kitteridge because someone lent it to me and it is tough and fabulous. And I have finished the Edith Wharton, the stories of New York and sometimes in my head I am hearing Olive Kitteridge and sometimes I am hearing Edith Wharton. Sometimes they may be the same person. But they are not. And my daughter brought home from the university library another volume of the Westerly, Australian poems and short stories and I plough though the glossy thick pages with joy because for some reason I have missed out on the Australian things. These heavy journals are full of words and sand and heat and the back streets of Sydney and our own awful history.

I asked Kody: how do you keep all the books and things organised and not mixed up in your head. He said: that’s easy.

That was all he said, as if there was no more needed. That it is not a problem anyway so why was I asking it. I am always impressed with Kody who has read all of the Deltora Quest books three times. I said to him: but what about all the different countries? And he said: you mean the different lands? Like Araluen and that? That’s easy.

One morning the shop was full of grandmothers. This had never happened before.

One grandma told me about her tiny brilliant granddaughter; that she was so very brilliant and could read anything. The child sat still, magnificent in her stroller and then suddenly flung all of the chosen picture books to the floor. The other grandmothers looked away politely.

 

Map of Literature by Martin Vargic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is that baby staring at the cat?

 

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A lady said to me: I love reading to my grandchild, we share such a thing and I’m building a library just for her. At the moment of course it is all about Hairy Maclary. I have been reading to her since she was born.

A father says: pop it back please, just pop the book back. The child says: but it is a rabbit. The father says: no, no, no…

A couple came in and he said to me that the Angus is up. And that he likes big weather and big women equally. His wife told him that he is not in the least funny and he went off apologetically to find some James Bond novels. She bought The Feminist Companion to Literature in English and I thought she glanced at his James Bond choices with contempt.

There is a pram parked next to the window and its tiny occupant is staring without blinking at the wooden cat in the window. After five minutes, when I look out, the pram is still there and the child is still staring at the cat. Another child inside says to me: why is that baby staring at the cat? Do they think it is real?

A small boy corrected me in detail. – This is how the Treehouse books are: There is no 59 Storey Treehouse, you got that wrong. It is The 52 Storey Treehouse and then The 65 Storey Treehouse. There is also The 39 Storey Treehouse and The 26 Storey Treehouse and The 13 Storey Treehouse.  His sister said: how do you know all this stuff? And he replied: I don’t know. She said to me that he reads a lot and he asked her if he could drink the rest of her Fanta.

Their dad says: can you guys please make a decision, I don’t have much time and the boy says – but dad, there are the Dune books right there! And his father says: shit! Where?

Through the window I see people bent heroically against the wind. It is still raining.

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A young boy told me that his school was hit by lightning and so there is no school until Thursday. He had a Captain Underpants book and he looked pretty happy.

A lady said: I only read when I travel, but I would like to talk about Pearl S. Buck and also can I have a look at the books that you are reading right now…I show her a tangled pile of books that have been lent to me and on top is Gould’s Book of Fish. She looks at it and says ahhhh…

Dean asked for Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World and a little girl hoped for Monster Street.

An old friend drops in unexpectedly and tells me that she has a brain tumour. She says that the MRI scans are worse than the tumour. Then she says, don’t worry, I just get on with it, it’s what you have to do and who knows what could happen.

A lady, who has been before stopped to tell me about her adult son with autism. She has never known family life without a son with autism and there is no growing up and leaving home and the worries and concerns of childhood do not end and there is no sit back. No  resting. But she was cheerful. She bought a book about fairies and a copy of Billy by Noel Morrison which is about a child with autism and then went to buy potatoes around the corner.

She also told me that he is a good person, he draws and is courteous. She said his drawings are especially good. The amount of information he holds in his head is distressingly huge.

A lady spoke aloud about Han Suyin; she is reading aloud from the back of a book, possibly reading it to me. But I am reading the back of Gould’s Book of Fish and could not attend to her:

This book is an enchantment of presentation, but that is just a prelude….

The lady is humming to herself, impressed with a stately copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Soon she goes into another room, looking for the historicals. She says she has been here before but I cannot remember her.

I have been ambushed by Gould’s Book of Fish.

I was asked to find The Grimm Grotto, book 8 of A Series of Unfortunate Events and volume 3 of the Wool trilogy and then Beautiful Chaos, book 3 of the Beautiful series. I am asked for Paddington.

I am told that my Charlaine Harris books were in the Wrong Section and firmly advised to move them.

I was asked for directions to Milang.

The day is folding up, beginning to rain and soon I will go home, taking  Gould’s Book of Fish which I will read along with The Arabian Nights. They have nothing to do with each other.