Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

best foot forward.jpgTitle: Best Foot Forward

Author: Adam Hills

Genre: Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 355

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s biggest comic personalities, much-loved host of Spicks and Specks and the hit UK TV show The Last Leg, Adam Hills’ charming and witty memoir is a lesson in following your heart, being positive and discovering that what makes you different also makes you unique.

Adam Hills was a quiet primary school kid with a prosthetic foot who did all his homework and only spoke when spoken to. His dad sparked in him a love of comedy, and together they’d spend hours watching and listening to the likes of Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks. So when it was Adam’s turn to speak, he made sure he was funny.

Once he hit high school, comedy was Adam’s obsession (along with a deep love for the South Sydney Rabbitohs). While his mates were listening to Iron Maiden and AC/DC, he was listening to Kenny Everett and Billy Connolly. And when a report card came home with a comment praising his sense of humour, he was far prouder of that than his grades (his mum not so much).

Adam’s shyness and his missing foot never held him back, though wearing thongs was tricky. While other teens snuck off to meet girls and drink cheap booze, Adam snuck off to see a young Jim Carrey perform. After that, a steady diet of Rodney Rude, Vince Sorrenti and Robin Williams led this sheltered, virginal university student from The Shire to his first stand-up open mic night on his 19th birthday.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam describes his early years on the Australian comedy scene sharing gigs with Steady Eddy and Jimeoin, how he coped the first time he died on stage, his early-morning apprenticeship in radio, touring the world’s comedy festivals, the magic of Spicks and Specks and his hosting gig for the 2008 Paralympics that led to his hit UK TV show The Last Leg. Kermit the Frog, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Humphries, Billy Connolly – Adam’s learned from the best. In this charming and witty memoir Adam Hills shows how hard work, talent and being proudly different can see you find your feet.

~*~

Growing up in the Sutherland Shire, Adam Hills ‘ love of comedy was sparked by his dad – watching and listening to Mel Brooks, and Peter Sellers on family trips to the South Coast for holidays in the car, which led to him listening to Billy Connolly in place of the popular music his high school friends were listening to at the time. And having a prosthetic foot was normal for him – it just was, in the way that many disabled people who have grown up with their disability know it’s part of them and their identity – an everyday, normal part of life that they live with and adapt to.

Adam Hills is one of my favourite comedians in Australia – and I adored and still adore watching Spicks and Specks on TV. Best Foot Forward is Adam’s journey from growing up in the Sutherland Shire to entering the comedy scene in various clubs and festivals across Australia and Europe, to the making of Spicks and Specks. In it, Adam talks candidly about family life, his missing foot, and the people he meets and interacts with, all with the uniqueness that makes him wonderful to watch and listen to. From early morning radio to comedy tours, Adam is completely himself in this book, and he seamlessly integrates all his experiences with his sense of humour throughout the book.

What I liked about this book was Adam’s honesty and openness – it was like having an extended chat with a very good friend, and the kind of conversation that engages everyone wholly and takes you along for the ride, laughs and all. Much of the book is focussed on Adam’s journey to comedy, and through radio, though when he was asked to help co-host a show for the Paralympics in 2008, this was where Adam found a community of disabled people. People like him, his age, and younger, who had missing limbs, or no limbs. Adam had previously mentioned that he had never really thought of his prosthetic as a barrier because there were many things he could do that people who had what he saw as more restrictive disabilities couldn’t do – but the Paralympics changed his mind – and this is a very important part of the book. Many disabled people will and might be able to identify with the way Adam felt. The feeling that because you can do many things, you’re not as worse off as some, despite there being some limitations. Adam articulates this really well, and in a really relatable and understandable way for readers. Adam’s eloquence when discussing his disability and the way he dealt with it, the use of humour to cope, and as an ice breaker, and how the Paralympians made him feel was the most powerful aspect of the book for me. Adam is truly one of my favourite people in the entertainment industry.

Fans of Adam Hills will enjoy this candid and entertaining book, and yes, I had a go at his Substitute test in the chapter on Spicks and Specks. Throughout, I heard Adam’s voice clearly – which made it a genuine and exciting experience. I hope others who enjoy Adam’s comedy and Spicks and Specks will enjoy this as much as I did.

Best Foot Forward will be filling next week’s Book Bingo Square for Comedy – thank you Adam!

Booktopia

Yet Another Reading Challenge: #Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge.jpg

Just to add to my challenges, I’m also taking part in the #Dymocks52 Challenge this year – which will also give some overlap with the other challenges I am doing. It will merely add to my goals to complete, and I will certainly bypass it within the first half of the year, but it will at least allow me to get through all my quiz books, review books and TBR piles around my room.

With the basic goal of reading one book a week for this challenge, I hope to do at least this and more with everything else I have to do. And all you need to do to participate is use the hashtag #Dymocks52Challenge on Twitter and Facebook, and update as you go with the titles you read – only once a week if you adhere to the one book a week minimum.

Best of luck, and I will aim to update you on my challenges and their progress as I go throughout the year, with various types of check points to help with my end of year posts, as I found this helped last year with my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge wrap up posts.

Booktopia

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019.jpg

This year, I am adding another challenge to my list. This one will be more of a casual one, that I will disperse throughout the year. Inspired by a blog called Bunny’s Girl, and her challenge to read six Jane Austen novels and six Jane Austen inspired novels between January and December of 2019, I am hoping to at least read the six novels by Jane Austen and if possible, some inspired by her novels, but with this one, I have decided not to specify a number.

I plan to start with one of Jane Austen’s novels – I haven’t decided yet but I plan to read each of the following six written by Jane Austen herself:

Pride and Prejudice

Emma

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Persuasion

Following this, or perhaps in between each one, I plan to read books that have been inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, or non-fiction books about Jane Austen, such as biographies as part of the challenge. I have not decided what all of these will be yet, but here are a few that I hope to look at:

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight

Austenland by Shannon Hale

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

This will be more of a casual challenge that I am aiming for, and won’t stress if I don’t get to some of the books, or can’t find Jane Austen books I am interested in  – of course there will be many choices, but I will be looking for ones I enjoy first and foremost – this may take some of the pressure of, as I won’t be forcing myself into a specific book to check something off, and hopefully these books will also check off some other categories in my other challenges.

I’ll try and post updates here as I go along throughout the year, hopefully once a month.

Booktopia

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

One of the challenges I did during 2019 was the PopSugar Challenge. It had forty categories, plus an additional ten advanced ones – a couple of which I managed to check off, and I filled most of the main categories, some with multiple books. It was a good challenge, but one thing I think lets it down is that it is overly prescriptive – and I think this made it too hard to fill in – almost impossible for some, in fact.

One was an author with the same first or last name as you – and this could let many people down, as there will be many names, not just mine, that do not appear as any part of an author’s name. Some I didn’t fill due to lack of time, but there were some that relied on accessibility as well – being able to get the book, or something being available in a library, bookstore or your collection. The point of a challenge is to challenge you and your reading – but perhaps not in a way that lets you down when you find you can’t fill a category.

Still, it was a fun challenge and I’ll be doing it again this year – but I feel that the categories get too prescriptive and specific each year, and rely too much on the accessibility of books – just because you can find a title in a Google search does not mean that book will be readily available for you – and my plan is to fill as many as I can with what I have.

Challenge #1

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu Victoria and Abdul (2017)

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

The next book in a series you started: Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen, The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book involving a heist: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait, Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #2)

Nordic Noir:

A novel based on a real person: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

Country: England
Book: The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book with the time of day in the title: early – Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

A book about a villain or anti-hero: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay

A book about death or grief: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

A book with your favourite colour in the title: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles

A book with alliteration in the title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

A book about time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass

A book with a weather element in the title: Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie, Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West

A book set at sea: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Bluebottle by Belinda Castles, Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with an animal in the title: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book set on a different planet: Graevale by Lynette Noni

A book with song lyrics in the title: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence (Last Train Out of Sydney)

A book about or set on Halloween: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

A book with characters who are twins: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan

A book about feminism: Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

A book about mental health: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson (mental disabilities, dealing with grief and loneliness)

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite

A book by two authors: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book about or involving sport: Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk

A book by a local author: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier (AU author), Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen, Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A book mentioned in another book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, mentioned in Little Gods.

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

A childhood classic you’ve never read: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

A book that’s published in 2018: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Talking as Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A book set in the decade you were born: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French

A book with an ugly cover: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges:

2015: A book with a one-word title: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Lovesome by Sally Seltmann.

2016: A book based on a fairy tale: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

2017: A novel set during wartime: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

A bestseller from the year you graduated high school (2004):

A cyberpunk book:

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place:

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you:

A microhistory: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A book about a problem facing society today: When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth – poaching. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Racism.

A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge:

TOTAL READ: 5

As you can see, some categories were easier to fill than others, some I didn’t manage to find anything for aforementioned reasons, and some had multiple entries. Some were filled in with a stretch – perhaps this is why I like looser themes, rather than ones that dictate what must be in a title or part of the authors name – you still get the challenge of finding a book that fills it, without causing panic because nothing fits in – this takes the fun out of it. So in 2019, my goal is to fill whatever categories I can. And if there are some where I don’t find a book, or a book does not appeal to me, I will give it a miss – and just let it happen as it happens.

In my mind, a challenge like this whilst fun, can also be inhibiting, which is why in the group that does this challenge, I’ve suggested a list of other challenges in case others want to take those on as well as this one or instead of – something I might do, or tweak them for my individual needs.

So ends another year of reading challenges.

Booktopia

A Very Murderous Christmas by Cecily Gayford (editor), Various

murderous christmas.jpgTitle: A Very Murderous Christmas

Author: Cecily Gayford (editor), Various

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Profile Books/Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th November 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: We wish you a very murderous Christmas…

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

~*~

Christmas is usually a time for merriment and cheer, family and friends. The last thing one might associate with Christmas, and Christmas stories, is murder. Yet here we have ten short stories by some of Britain’s most well-known crime writers throughout the years. Instead of the ghosts visiting Scrooge, or magical stories about Santa Claus and his reindeer, here are ten stories about murder and crime that take place during the festive season, delving into the darker side of the holiday, whilst trying to keep it a little light, and with references to the well-known stories we read and watch every year.

From Margery Allingham, to Anthony Horowitz, and Arthur Conan Doyle, the stories utilise well-known characters in shorter stories than the novels the characters appear in, or as in the case of Sherlock, a snippet from one of the longer stories written in the nineteenth century. The stories traverse town, city and countryside, and various decades, but all have one thing in common: they all take place at Christmas, or near Christmas, and revolve around a murder – which doesn’t always have a link to Christmas, though some feel like they might, others are more based around the human fallacies and reasons that lead to murder — they are more about thy how, and who than the why in these stories – and they lead to all kinds of conclusions and methods of finding out whodunnit – one story even delivers the clues to the reader to work out who is guilty, and then provides the explanation at the end – handy if you didn’t realise this was the aim of the writer – A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake. This was a very clever way of telling the story, and I wish I had realised when I started the story – it would have been fun to solve the crime as I read.

Part of a series of Christmas mystery anthologies, A Very Murderous Christmas is an exciting and intriguing series of stories exploring a darker side of the festive season in cosy mysteries that also celebrate the festive season in a different way to we have come to expect from the many Christmas stories and movies that are available to us to read and watch during the festive season.

Booktopia

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2018 Completed Post  

AWW-2018-badge-rose

 

This year I pledged to read fifteen books – which I had completed by at least March, if not earlier. I read a total of seventy-nine books and reviewed seventy-eight – one review is due to go live in January and as a result, also counts towards my 2019 challenge. One book from this year was read in 2017, but reviewed this year, and so counts towards both years, as discussed with other AWW participants. Of these books, the majority came out this year, with a few older ones, and some that were published in new editions, such as Mary Poppins.

 

 

I read a broad range from general fiction to kids, young adult, fantasy, crime, historical fiction, non-fiction and some that mixed genres eloquently to create stories that would find a diverse audience.

 

I read picture books, entire series and some books that were just one in a series that was continuing this year. One series had two books come out, and the final book comes out next year – as I wrote this post, my reviewer copy of this book arrived, and I am now torn between diving in or saving it for January and finishing everything else first.

 

Below is a list of the books I read and reviewed for the challenge this year,

  1. The Sister’s Song by Louise Allan – Reviewed in 2018 but read in 2017.
  2. The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett – Reviewed
  3. Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham – Reviewed
  4. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – Reviewed
  5. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier – Reviewed
  6. The Endsister by Penni Russon – Reviewed
  7. Graevale by Lynette Noni – reviewed
  8. Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  9. Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen -Reviewed
  10. The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht – Reviewed and Interviewed.
  11. Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – Reviewed
  12. Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk – Reviewed
  13. Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer – reviewed
  14. Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard – Reviewed
  15. Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  16. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan – Reviewed
  17. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester – Reviewed
  18. The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun by Emily Conolan – Reviewed
  19. The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait – Reviewed
  20. Little Gods by Jenny Ackland- Reviewed
  21. I am Sasha by Anita Selzer – Reviewed
  22. Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  23. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Reviewed
  24. Lovesome by Sally Seltmann – Reviewed
  25. Egyptian Enigma by L.J.M. Owen – Reviewed
  26. The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross – Reviewed
  27. Eleanor’s Secret – Reviewed
  28. Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – Reviewed
  29. The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela – Reviewed
  30. Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe – Reviewed
  31. The Jady Lily by Kirsty Manning – Reviewed
  32. The Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader – Reviewed
  33. Burning Bridges and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan – Reviewed
  34. Bluebottle by Belinda Castles – Reviewed
  35. The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett – Reviewed and Interviewed
  36. P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones – Reviewed
  37. Into the Night by Sarah Bailey – Reviewed
  38. The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – Reviewed
  39. Ella and Olivia: A Wild Adventure by Yvette Poshoglian – Reviewed
  40. Kensy and Max: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  41. Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr – Reviewed
  42. We See the Stars by Kate van Hooft – Reviewed.
  43. The Far Back Country by Kate Lyons- Reviewed
  44. Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron – Reviewed
  45. The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell – Reviewed
  46. The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart – Reviewed
  47. The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – Reviewed
  48. The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2) – Reviewed
  49. The Herb of Grace by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #3) – Reviewed
  50. The Cat’s Eye Shell by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #4) – Reviewed
  51. Children of the Dragon: Relic of The Blue Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  52. The Legacy of Beauregarde by Rosa Fedele – Reviewed
  53. The Lightning Bolt by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #5) – Reviewed
  54. The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn – Reviewed
  55. The Butterfly in Amber by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #6) – Reviewed
  56. When the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson – Reviewed
  57. Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History by Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer – Reviewed
  58. The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios – Reviewed
  59. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Reviewed
  60. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty – Reviewed
  61. Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – Reviewed
  62. Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – Reviewed
  63. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – Reviewed
  64. Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  65. We Three Heroes by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  66. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  67. Secrets Hidden Below by Sandra Bennett – Reviewed
  68. What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – Reviewed
  69. The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears – Reviewed
  70. Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck – Reviewed
  71. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend – Reviewed
  72. Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee – Reviewed
  73. The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars by Jaclyn Moriarty (Kingdoms and Empires #2) – Reviewed
  74. Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Visits Santa by Skye Davidson, illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – Reviewed
  75. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers – Reviewed
  76. Clementine Rose and the Bake-Off Dilemma by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  77. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed for 2019 (to be counted as part of 2019’s challenge as well)
  78. Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington – Reviewed

 

During the course of the challenge, I completed the Chain of Charms series, and did four check in posts across the year, charting my progress every fifteen books – the way I do this may change next year but here are the four check in posts, where you can access all but one of the reviews, as that one is only going live in the new year. There are a handful of books I know I will be reading towards this and other challenges next year, as they have already landed with me as early copies for review, but typically go up on release day as per publicity instructions. My initial goal of fifteen blew out to seventy-nine – being conservative in my goal means I can plan some reads and any others that come across are a bonus – it also lessens the pressure on trying to find that many books given I get so many from publishers, and they’re not always Aussie authors, even though I do my best to make sure this is the focus of my blog.

 

Check in posts:

 

Check in #1

Check in #2

Check in #3

Check in #4

Check in #5

Signing off for the year, so Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year

 

The Book Muse

Booktopia

Gendered Reading: Why Do We Still Insist on Gendering Books?

Over the past few months and years, I have been following online discussions about the way people gender reading – not only the act of reading, as a pursuit that girls are said to prefer, but the books we give younger children and what we expect of them as they grow and how they develop their reading tastes. Trends in publishing for children and young adults, but especially children, at that age of discovering independent reading and what they enjoy for themselves, can be gendered – targeted stories about princesses being saved for girls, and boys playing sports for boys, for example, are the two extremes. Girls are frilly and passive, boys are dirty and active. It sometimes seems that there is no in between, and children are often presented with books chosen by adults, the ones who buy the books – which, when you only know a few brief facts about a child, can be hard, because what if you buy the wrong book? Understandably, people like to play it safe, and that is where gendered reading can come in.

 

AWW-2018-badge-roseYesterday, I followed Word of Mouth TV and Jacqueline Harvey on Twitter as they tweeted and chatted about and at the Colin Simpson Memorial Lecture, with the Australian Society of Authors and the Children’s Book Council of Australia, on the issue of gendered books and reading, and how adults in the lives of children – whether implicitly or explicitly, in schools and libraries, guide children towards books “for girls” or “for boys”. Which brings me to the question – just what are boy books versus girl books? Well, apparently, if you’ve been following the discussions, a few things boys won’t read, or are said to be discouraged from reading:

 

– a book with love in the title

– a book with a girl on the cover

– a novel (boys apparently prefer comic books)

– a girl in the title

– a female author.

 

However, as adults, parents, teachers, booksellers and librarians, we encourage girls to read widely, but still within what is seen as “acceptable” for girls: no crime, no violence, passive princesses! LOVE! As a girl reader who has read widely since the age of six, war and crime have never been a deterrent. Spies? GREAT, I love Kensy and Max, and so do many other boys and girls when I read the reviews – and adults. Yet, Jacqueline Harvey has only had the chance to present to one or two groups of just boys – rather than mixed groups or just girls, and George Ivanoff pointed out that he saw that the boys in the mixed group were just as enthralled as the girls – excellent news for Kensy and Max, Alice- Miranda and Clementine-Rose. In my view, anyone can read anything they desire, and that they feel ready for – readers should be free to explore the world around them, so whenever I see people asking for “boy books” or “girl books”, I often feel the desire to point out that books do not have a gender, they are just books. Kensy is exactly the kind of girl character I would have enjoyed as a kid – because she was so different and refused to be overly girly.

 

So why do we encourage these reading habits? Is it because we associate reading with characters in popular culture like Hermione Granger and Rory Gilmore (By the way, two of my favourite characters), or even Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds? The lack of male characters who enjoy reading, and who aren’t broody and sullen like Jess Mariano, also of Gilmore Girls? Girls as readers seem to have a few role models to look up to when it comes to reading and seeing themselves as readers but also as people who have interests beyond reading. Boys, it seems, are always shown as the hero, or the nerd (Spencer, but he’s an adorable nerd, and a positive reading role model), or Jess, who often faced unfair comparisons with certain literary men, like Holden Caulfield, whilst Rory, and indeed girls, have many to be compared to. Supporting characters can be readers if they are boys – Percy Weasley, but often, they fade into the background, and so, it feels, does reading as a pleasurable activity for our boys.

 

Of these characters I know of, Spencer, Rory and Hermione are the three whose reading is prominently and positively portrayed – to the point where other characters don’t blink. And when the other male characters in these books and shows – Derek Morgan, Harry and Ron, Dean or Logan – are shown as sporty and brave, or disinterested in reading (Ron), or a someone who would rather disrupt learning than learn (Logan), we don’t blink either. My point is these, whilst exceptionally well written characters, and ones I can either love or hate in varying degrees, are characteristic of how we portray what it means to be a boy or a girl, and therefore, what activities and indeed, books we desire them to read. And perhaps this is why we are seeing a trend in books aimed at both boys and girls by authors like Kate Forsyth and Jacqueline Harvey, and George Ivanoff, and a trend in reimagined fairy tales for girls who dare to not be a passive princess – gone are the days of the prince saving the day, Rapunzel can save herself now!

 

And books aimed at both boys and girls that tell stories of men and women, across a diverse group of people, who have dared to be different to what their respective societies, cultures, nations and times in history expected of them, and why Disney movies are starting to pull back on ending it with the marriage of the main male and female characters. There are quite a few to name that have done this over the years, but the three recent ones that stand out to me are Frozen, Brave and Moana, where it was love of family that saved the day. Sure, Anna might have ended up with Kristoff (I had Hans picked as the villain from the start – if they look too good to be true, they probably are), but it was the love she had for Elsa, and Elsa’s love for her – their acts of true love, that drove the movie and the idea that love does not have to be romantic to be powerful. It is the same love we see in Kensy and Max, and in the Other Worlds series, especially in book two, Beast World, narrated by a girl, Xandra, who is also disabled. George Ivanoff wrote her really well and made sure she was represented as a disabled girl in a way that wasn’t demeaning. In our Twitter conversation, he said he had written books one and three with a male protagonist, and two and four with a female protagonist, and hoped boys reading them would continue with the female characters.

 

Unpacking gendered reading and representation of this in film and other media is not going to be resolved in this one post. It requires self-reflection, and asking ourselves why do we hope boys will begin a series with a boy and continue reading the books narrated by a girl? Why do we assume boys are naturally more interested in comics, sports and certain male-coded things rather than fairy tales or girl spies, or anything that girls are supposed to inherently be drawn to? We assume, we don’t ask, unless we think the child is old enough to decide for themselves – and at what age do we start this? Before they start school? When they’re learning to read? Somewhere in between, or only once they hit age ten? My own reading experiences are varied. I read Narnia at age nine, and books like The Wind in the Willows, The Neverending Story and a few others that might have been deemed “boy books”. I also read what are likely deemed “girl books”: The Babysitters Club, Seven Little Australians, Little Women (many, many times), and The Secret Garden, amongst many others. These days, I read whatever I can, and whenever I can. I read books by women, by men, by both, by people with various identities, and books aimed at boy, girls and everyone in between. I laugh with Bridget, I spy with Kensy and Max, I paint with Rowly, and explore all avenues of history with Kate Forsyth. I traverse London with Charles Dickens, and solve crimes with Phryne, and so many others that I cannot list, otherwise this will become an exegesis rather than a blog post.

 

 

During this blog post, I have worked in the binary because many discussions I read do. This is a whole other level that needs unpacking, the inclusion of all genders, and perhaps a really good reason why we should refrain from using the terms “boy books” and “girl books” – and just go with books so we can all feel included, and all find our way to characters we identify with. This layer is something I do not have enough of an understanding about yet, and will leave to those who do to comment on and write about – and leave it at we need to stop gendering our books and reading habits. Just Read.

 

A list of books that we can all enjoy, whatever our gender:

Kate Forsyth

Chain of Charms series

The Gypsy Crown

The Silver Horse

The Herb of Grace

The Cat’s Eye Shell

The Lightning Bolt

The Butterfly in Amber

Jacqueline Harvey:

Kensy and Max series

Kensy and Max: Breaking News

Kensy and Max: Disappearing Act

George Ivanoff

Other Worlds series

Other Worlds: Perfect World

Other Worlds: Beast World

Other Worlds: Game World

Other Worlds: Dark World

frogkisser

 

Garth Nix

Frogkisser!

Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Have Sword, Will Travel series

Have Sword, Will Travel

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Comment with your books that you’d recommend to anyone regardless of gender – I have based this on what I have read!