Midweek book club: Martin Waddell and Alice Munro

It’s back! Midweek book club returns. I can only apologise for having a couple of weeks off. I have used the weeks productively in actually reading some books to review so it’s not been time completely wasted.

First up the parent choice. You may have heard that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. I was very pleased to hear it, as I think Alice Munro is an amazing talent and often overlooked because she’s a short story specialist.

Alice Munro – Runaway

I didn’t always appreciate short stories. I wasn’t sure where to put them, in the days when I could curl up and enjoy a book over a few hours. Like poetry, they didn’t seem to fit. Those days have passed. It’s not just because I’m busier now, with less time to read, it’s more that I’m more appreciative of the craft of writing them. It’s terribly hard to write something with a limited word count but somehow, a few thousand words, seemingly full of possibility, is very hard to get right. Alice Munro writes short stories that make me spit with envy. Runaway contains eight stories, all with single word titles (even her style is matchless) about men and women and life choices and coincidence and love and loss and time. They are not romantic, nor are they kitchen sink dramas; they are sharply painted snapshots full of human drama. I remember reading one story in this, Tricks, and being fully engrossed, so engrossed that, despite reading all the clues she posted (it has a Shakespeare theme), I still go to the end and went “Oh my goodness! Of course! Why didn’t I see that before?” It was so clever.

Owl Babies – Martin Waddell

This is a lovely book but I was surprised at how much E loves it (we’ve had it twice out of the library now and I think Santa may have to bring it to us this year). It’s because it’s not bright and cheerful looking, there are in fact very few colours. It’s all brown and cream. I make babies sound so shallow with my low expectations. That my daughter can confound me in this is something I am proud of even though it highlights my failings. Luckily Martin Waddell didn’t think babies are just interested in colourful stuff (though she also likes Elmer…)

Anyway, Owl Babies concerns three owl babies (hence the name) that wake up in the night and find their mother has gone. They worry and wait for her and imagine what might have happened and then, hooray! She turns up and they are pleased.

That’s the plot.

What is great about it (apart from the illustrations) is E’s reaction when the mother comes home too. She gives a big smile, similar to the one she gives when I come home from work too. I have no idea how much she understands but watching her seeming to understand this book is fascinating to watch.

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