A Pale View of Hills 

Dulwich Hill branch manager, radio personality, and book selling superstar, Morgan Smith tells us how it is.

July 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, July 05, 2017

On D'Hill

Publishing trends come and go and are often easily sneezed at—think colouring books for grown-ups—but I feel one recent trend could happily become a permanent fixture on our shelves, and that is children’s nonfiction books about women’s lives. Leading the pack, though not the first to be published, is the fantastic Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo ($33). This beautiful book, illustrated by 60 women artists, features 100 stories about 100 brilliant women—artists, scientists, historians, poets, architects et al. Some are very well-known like Margaret Thatcher (?), Cleopatra and the Brontë sisters, and others are obscured by history such as Cora Coralina, the South American baker who started writing poetry at the age of 60, and who’s heard of the great trombonist Melba Liston? This is not just a book for young girls but women and men of all ages.
In hardcover picture book are individual biographies in the series Little People, Big Dreams ($20 each) featuring Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Maya Angelou and Frida Kahlo (about whom there are quite a few childrens’ books) again, all fantastically illustrated by Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Ella: Queen of Jazz ($22) by Helen Hancocks tells the story of how Ella Fitzgerald as a black artist was unable to play a certain theatre until Marilyn Monroe embarrassed the owner into giving her a gig. Ella and Marilyn became great friends.
Science is well represented in these books—Ada’s Ideas ($25) by Fiona Robinson is about Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter who is credited with inventing the very first computer—who knew? Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code ($25) written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu is another must for would be scientists. As are Women in Science—50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World ($28) by Rachel Ignotofsky and Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science ($25) by Jeannine Atkins.
My only quibble with these books is that at some point one illustrator has set the tone and everyone else has followed—so in style they all look very similar.  Luckily for me it’s a style of illustration I love—bold, colourful and naïve.
Slightly different, but along the same lines, is a photographic book by Kate. T. Parker—Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves ($40). This is a collection of candid and arresting photographs of gorgeous girls just being themselves! Fabulous.
Without wishing to encourage local publishers to jump on a trend, all of the above books are American or English, and Australian girls need to learn about, admire and emulate brilliant, innovative  Australian women and there are, certainly enough of them—both past and present—to fill many volumes. Let me think ... Morgan Smith: The Bookseller Who Changed Dulwich Hill

. See you on D’hill, Morgan   



I have just finished reading Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor and although it took me a while to get used to his style of writing—I did like it. Set in a small English town in the early years of this century, Reservoir 13 describes the lives of the inhabitants of this small town after a teenage girl goes missing. Seasons unfold and are beautifully described, as are the characters as they encounter big things in their lives. McGregor has an interesting writing style which sets a pace that has a hypnotic pull.

I have also just read and thoroughly enjoyed Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Again, a story about the inhabitants of a small town—but this time in Illinois, USA—and the hometown of writer Lucy Barton. You don’t have to have read Strout’s previous novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, but I did find myself going back to it whilst reading this new Lucy Barton outing. I love Strout’s writing and she describes the lives of the families of Amgash so beautifully that they stayed with me for a long time after. This is a gentle but true and realistic book.
We are looking forward to our July Book Event—They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention. One of the editors of this very important book, Angelica Neville, grew up in Blackheath and will be in conversation with one of the refugees who has contributed to the collection—writing about what is was like to be inside one of Australia’s immigration detention centres. This event will be supporting The Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and Behind the Wire —the non for profit organisation that has put this book together. Details here

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