A world gone bananas

A friend reported buying reduced bananas in her local Coop. They had masses of barely ripe ones, but with that day’s date, and at such a good price that my friend bought as many as she imagined her family could eat, before the bananas really did go off.

Good for her, but it is crazy.

In Gary’s Banana Drama by Jane Massey, we meet Gary (he’s some sort of monkey, or ape, or whatever they should be called to be pc) who loves bananas. I don’t think he’d ever find that his Coop could have too many.

Jane Massey, Gary's Banana Drama

He eats and he eats, and after much eating there are no bananas left.

Gary looks for bananas everywhere, and he finds them. Or so he thinks. I suspect he’s hallucinating after too many bananas, because these are not bananas at all.

And then he finds a way to banana heaven, but then he actually decides to change.

To grapes.

Advertisements

For Mother

If you didn’t make the most of the UK Mother’s Day before Easter, or the US/Swiss/many other countries’ Mother’s Day a couple of weeks ago, I give you your third time lucky. Sweden, tomorrow.

I happened to visit a bookshop yesterday, and found a display of books suggested for Mother.

Jenny Colgan, Den lilla bokhandeln runt hörnet

One of them was by Jenny Colgan, who hails from not too far away from Bookwitch Towers, so I feel some kinship, and it was nice to see her translated work some distance away, and it’s good to know she’s suitable for Mothers. (I’m not sure, but it might be The Bookshop on the Corner, which I suppose makes sense to encounter in a bookshop, even if not on a corner.)

Well, it’s that, or a bunch of handpicked Lilies of the Valley.

Or both.

(And since you ask, yes, it’s a terribly blurry photo.)

Welcome to Nowhere

I was expecting a story about how life in Syria got so awful that Omar and his family had to leave, becoming refugees and ending up in Britain after much hardship on the way, followed by their life here, and how they were received.

Elizabeth Laird, Welcome to Nowhere

That’s not the story Elizabeth Laird wrote, however. Welcome to Nowhere is exactly that; it’s about a family of seven, who have to leave their home in Bosra when the troubles in Syria begin, and they move in with Omar’s grandmother. Soon they have to flee again, and again. In the end they really do end up in ‘Nowhere.’

Omar is about 13 when we first meet the family, with an older sister and an older brother, who has cerebral palsy, plus two younger siblings. The father works for the government, something that turns out not to be so good in a country where civil war is about to break out.

This is the Syrian crisis from the inside. I’ve read the papers and seen the news on television, but I didn’t know it like this. There isn’t all that much about the actual, physical war. It’s more how a normal family tries to survive, as the reality of the situation slowly dawns on them. How they realise that they might never go home.

Elizabeth Laird as always is very good at showing the reader how people in other countries live. It’s one of the most valuable things about her writing, as well as the thrill of her plots. So we learn how Omar is the one who does things, his clever older sister is destined to be married off, when all she wants is to go to school, and Musa is invariably described as a cripple and an imbecile, even by [some] members of his own family, when he is also extremely intelligent. Their mother has to obey her husband, and it is fascinating to see what it takes to make her stand up to the men in her life.

They all grow up in this story. I’m not sure who grows the most.

Welcome to Nowhere has completely changed how I look at Syria, leaving me wanting to do more, but feeling helpless in what has become a country against refugees.

Everyone should read this book.

Elizabeth Laird, Welcome to Nowhere (illustration by Lucy Eldridge)

(Atmospheric illustrations by Lucy Eldridge.)

Positively Teenage

Nicola Morgan is one of the best friends a teenager can have. I wish I’d had her [book] when I was young and agonised over life. Now when I read her Positively Teenage guide to teenage well-being, I can only nod sagely and agree, because over time I’ve also learned a few sensible things.

Nicola Morgan, Positively Teenage

But this – very yellow – book is a great guide to feeling well, feeling happier with yourself. Because you deserve it.

Today I might not [yet] have had my daily dose of laughter, even if it is great brain medicine. But I’ll work on it.

I did Nicola’s Quiz – she has many throughout the book – on ‘the flourish actions.’ I did abysmally. But it would be fairly quick and easy to improve such a score, and with Nicola’s help you at least know what to aim for.

Your body is just fine. Yes, you think your nose, or whatever, is horrible. But everyone has something like that, making them spend years agonising over some detail that will baffle the older you.

You can change your luck. It’s not as if you were born with genuinely bad luck. Learn to think and act positive. It will change you.

In every chapter there are links to websites and organisations to help you find out more, or to make contact with.

I reckon that for every little, or big, thing you worry about, Nicola’s book will have something sensible and reassuring to say. Read the book and see how you can improve your life. Even quite old ‘teenagers’ can benefit from this guide. Give the book to others, and keep a copy for your own needs.

What about Deborah?

The Breadwinner

When I got to the last page of the Guardian Weekend last week, I stared. It was a film poster for a new animated film called The Breadwinner.

I thought, ‘it might be based on the book by Deborah Ellis.’ I began searching for the proof that it had something to do with this marvellous, if disturbing, tale about the young girl in Afghanistan who ends up as the breadwinner for her family by pretending to be a boy.

But there was nothing. Angelina Jolie gets a prominent mention, as executive producer. Well done. The film is by Nora Twomey. Well done again. There are various quotes about the film’s excellence.

There is some small print, but I am fairly certain that I squinted enough, and Deborah’s name wasn’t there either.

So I googled the film, and lo and behold, it is based on the book. It’s not even pretending not to be. Wikipedia lists her, and an interview with Nora begins by mentioning her.

Deborah Ellis at MMU

Film posters are large. There would have been room for the name of the person who thought up this whole story in the first place. Even if they have altered a lot, there is the sense of the original plot, the original characters.

If Deborah had been a really well known, big name, I suspect it would have been plastered all over the poster.

That said, I look forward to seeing the film. It’s out on May 25th.

The danger of libraries

I can’t remember where I borrowed the quote below. Or from whom. But it has to be shared. It’s not hard to understand why they are so frightened of libraries.

Terry Pratchett on libraries

And I seem to have missed what would have been Terry’s 70th birthday a few weeks ago. Not only did I not know the date, but I had the year wrong. I must not have visited libraries often enough.

Ghost Boys

It’s heartbreaking.

Especially because this is for real, by which I mean the fact that black boys in the US have a very high likelihood of being harassed by police, and far too frequently are the victims of police shootings. Often in ‘self defense’ or because the police officer ‘feared for his life.’

What about the black boy’s life?

This short novel by Jewell Parker Rhodes is about 12-year-old Jerome in Chicago, who is shot dead when playing with a toy gun. It’s hard starting a book when you know that the main character will be dead immediately. Contemplating reading about his grief-stricken family is equally difficult.

Jewell Parker Rhodes, Ghost Boys

But this is a strong book. It shows us how easily a well-behaved child could end up dead because of his skin colour. It shows us the ghosts of many more such boys, standing quietly, looking for an explanation maybe, or for a fairer future for other boys. It shows us how easily the white police officer can get away with it, even if it might be the end of his life as he knew it.

Jerome learns a lot about life after he’s died. And we learn much about what Jerome’s life was like, in the bleak part of Chicago where he lived, having no idea what the rest of the city was like, or the lives of the [mostly white] people who live there.

I almost felt a little bit of hope at the end of the book.

That was probably a mistake. But please let there be a change for the better! Don’t see black and think dangerous!