Apparently a lot of people make New Years Resolutions. I am scornful of this. Don’t they know this doesn’t work? I think. What’s so magical about 1 January? I scoff. They won’t last a week. I snicker.
However, I think August is the perfect to time to report on key projects and assess progress against KPIs all as part of reaffirming commitment to the spirit of continuous improvement.
It is in this spirit that I am reflecting on my progress this year.
Have you read all of Dickens? I imagine myself saying every time someone is doing something I don’t approve of and consider a waste of time. Like watching television shows that I don’t watch or playing golf. To be fair, I have not read all of Dickens either and I often watch Neighbours and sew cloth napkins. Actually, let’s not read all of Dickens. I won’t judge if you don’t.
Earlier in the year I decided I would not watch Neighbours unless I was doing my stretch and strength exercises at the same time. The goal was to be able to touch my toes and not feel my brain. It hasn’t worked. I still can’t touch my toes and my brain thinks all kinds of nonsense and some of it hurts. The good news is that Karl and Susan’s marriage seems solid at the moment. This proves that anything’s possible so I will keep chipping away at it.
I feel terribly guilty about milk. Those poor cows.
But cheese! And flat whites! (I don’t like soy milk, it tastes like beans. And the first time I had an almond milk coffee I couldn’t believe they were allowed to charge money for it because it tasted like sick.) I have cut back on dairy but I haven’t cut it out. It’s yet another example of my self-serving and inconsistent ethical framework.
Leaving aside whether half-measures are evil, there are definitely still some low hanging yoghurts that I could pick off my dairy consumption tree. I’m going to start having oat milk on my cereal. After all, oats and oat milk are old friends.
This still leaves a fair bit of dairy in my life, however, mothers don’t mind giving up their babies to slaughter if it’s contributing to the production of Camembert.
A few years ago a friend of mine said that she never reads trash mags. Not even at the hairdresser’s? I said. No, never. She did not know who the Kardashians are.
Inspired, I also stopped reading trash mags. I stared resolutely at the pot plants in waiting rooms and took out a novel. I waited for the knowledge to leave or at least stop flooding in. But it didn’t. I still found out that the Duchess of Cambridge never has bare legs in public.
It is the internet’s fault. Particularly, the naughty Age website. I go to the site planning to read about new crop rotation techniques and political affairs but I actually click on swimsuit articles and famous faces (particularly if they look funny). So, I am resolved to find a truly worthy news site and only visit that when I’m not reading Proust.
You’re welcome to snicker, she won’t last a week, any time you want.
Anne is my favourite member of the Famous Five because she gets to make all the sandwiches.
If I could be anyone in Little Women, I’d be Meg because she gets married really young and has twins.
Everyone in the Secret Seven has a really important role in solving the mysteries; nobody is there just to make up the numbers.
I completely understand why the Malory Towers girls are always sneaking out to cook sausages, I’d be the same.
The first two chapters of the Baby-Sitters Club books are the best bits and I learn something new about the club and characters every time.
Black Beauty: what a whinger.
I hope Roald Dahl is right about the witches and I get to meet one.
Aslan is not my real Dad.
I wish Anne of Green Gables had fewer bits with Gilbert in it.
I’ve never been in a book club but I understand that one of the problems is that no-one has ever read the book except for Melanie the English Literature teacher who has produced 17 pages of notes. We all live busy lives and reading a whole novel is not always possible when the cat gets sick. I have a solution to this problem I’ve never experienced. Get your book club to read something more achievable.
There are a myriad of other things to reflect on within the pages of a chewable children’s book. As someone who has incorporated a critique of terra nullius into my telling of the Three Little Pigs I know how to add a healthy, and perhaps appropriate, dollop of middle-class guilt to a toddler’s bedtime. A room full of adults with a plate of cheese, biscuits and mini muffins could certainly bring all their guilt and anxieties to the table to create a very stimulating discussion without needing to read more than a few hundred words.
My first suggestion for the Achievable Book Club is the Usborne That’s Not My series. This should allow for no excuses as there are only 54 words per book. Even if a book club member has had a mad week with the annual report due and the upstairs shower flooding into the kitchen they should still be able read the entire series in ten minutes before the discussion kicks off.
Here are my thoughts merely as a jumping off point. Please bring your diversity of experiences and intersectionality to your group!
In the That’s Not My series a little mouse tries to find his misplaced stuff and has limited success for five pages until finding the item on the final page. For example ‘That’s not my train its funnel is too rusty’ and ending on ‘That’s my train its engine is so glossy’. The books are touch and feel with various textures included throughout.
For the most part the series depict a careless and over privileged mouse who shouldn’t be allowed to have planes, frogs or robots if he can’t keep track of them. He is also basically terrible at looking for things and is like someone who announces ‘I can’t find the cream cheese’ 0.7 seconds after opening the fridge door. We should all just ignore him or at most instruct him to ‘bend your knees’ like my mother would.
So far the mouse is simply annoying. Then it gets problematic. He starts looking for things with a literal human face – for example That’s not my Princess or That’s not My Mermaid.
Firstly there is the worrisome idea of owning a human (or half human half fish). Is it okay because the protagonist is a mouse and is therefore subverting the usual dominance of humans over animals? (Hint: This is a talking point!)
Secondly, the mouse continues to identify the women (or mythical female creatures) purely on their physical characteristics and often on their accessories. For example, ‘That’s not my princess her tiara is too bumpy’. At which point I say LOOK AT HER FACE YOU ARSEHOLE.
Other possible talking points include:
- Should we encourage the keeping of endangered animals as pets? Can a mouse provide appropriate care for a tiger? Is extinction simply inevitable since pandas can’t be bothered to have sex?
- Should touch and feel books ever include ‘sticky’? Answer: No. (Anyone who tries to argue for the inclusion of ‘sticky’ should be shouted down and shamed from the group.)
- Why is the mouse so acquisitive? Does it reflect a spiritual void in his life?
- Why has everyone assumed the mouse is male? Ha! Have a red hot look at yourselves. Like what you see? Didn’t think so.
- Are we at the end of history? (This is probably irrelevant but try to raise it anyway.)
You can easily talk about this all night. Or perhaps just for fifteen minutes until someone mentions their upcoming trip to Bali.
I’ve read quite a few Middle Reader books lately. And I’m loving them. It is taking me back to the fun of reading when I was in primary school. I loved reading and so did all my friends. When one of us discovered a book that we loved, we would make everyone else in the group read it.
Starting to read Middle Fiction again as an adult I was initially surprised by the intensity and darkness of the themes. Recently, I read The Big Dry by Tony Davis and I was honestly scared by the idea of a post climate change world where kids can no longer rely on water coming out of the tap, or their parents coming home at the end of the day. At first, the book seemed too scary for kids. Then I remembered that when I was in primary school my friends and I loved books about wars, and death, and nuclear holocausts. In fact, I used to claim that any book where nobody died was rubbish.
Middle Fiction actually feels more familiar to me than Young Adult fiction because by the time I was a teenager, I’d decided that I was ready for adult books, and refused to read books written for my age group, dismissing them as trash. This was a mistake, and I only realised when I was in my 20s that YA books are good too.
The books I read in primary school have stayed as favourites, whatever I’ve gone on to read. The Green Wind by Thurley Fowler would still be in my top 10 books. No-one dies in that book, but I liked it anyway. That is a sign of real quality.