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Little Hands

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Karen Brooks’ formative reading experiences

Emily and the Battle of the VeilOnce upon a time in Otjomuise, place of steam, a sprawl in the Namibian desert, in an age before she moved to Cape Town and found her sense of humour, became a psychologist, won the 2008 Woman&Home short story competition, started her own imprint and self-published Emily and the Battle of the Veil, Karen Michelle Brooks had little hands and this is what she read …

Karen’s earliest memory of books and reading:

Every birthday and Christmas we were given big A4 hardcover picture books (annuals) which my brother, sister and I would pore over and then swop, like Bunty for Girls and Mandy for Girls, getting lost in the characters of the 1970’s.

In a girls’ comic you could not solve plot difficulties by blowing someone’s head off.
Mel Gibson, University of Sunderland in Lost Culture of Bunty for Girls

Bunty for Girls

Karen’s picture books:
I loved taking the Score Annual off my brother and sneaking away to have a look at what boys read!

Karen, as an adult, reading with and writing for children and young adults:

My megan loves being read to, rather than reading herself (though she is only 4)…the pictures hold a fascination for her, but once we’ve read it to her once, she wants us to do it again and again and likes repeating the words with us on the next reading. My ‘day’ job, as an Entrepreneur, Coach and Facilitator (with a BA.Psychology attained at 34 yrs old) is very fulfilling. It allows me insight into people’s inner workings – our likes, dislikes, wants, needs, ticks, habits, fantasies and foibles. My passion is people, the inner working of our mind and putting words on paper.
I love working with teenagers and young adults and have written the first book in the Scroll of Seven Series, Emily and the Battle of the Veil, to encourage exploration into both our inner and outer worlds. The novel introduces Emily May Harrison, her strange birth and mother’s death, her father’s disappearance, the experiences she has in Paradise Beach, where she has grown up with her Gran and friend Sam, and her move towards boarding school in Kingstown, where her access to the world of Aurana really begins. I enjoy fantasy fiction just as much as the next generation.

Just Call Me Bob: Mandy for Girls: a feminist perspective…

The 1975 Mandy Annual was about as subtle as a sledge hammer in its attempt to stop young girls becoming feminists. The resulting portrayal of a ‘women’s libber’ has got to be seen to be believed.Think feminists have a bad rep today? Well it was just as bad, if not worse, in the Seventies. But back then they were called women’s libbers, and somebody must have been feeling threatened, because in 1975 the Mandy annual for Girls ran a story about one of them. I think it’s a fascinating example of how feminists were viewed, and how the writers tried to influence the young readers’ opinions against feminists.[Read on at the F-word]

3 Facts from Why girls’ comics were wonderful, by Jac Rayner.

Characters in Bunty were frequently seen to be reading Bunty the comic, but never commented on the fact that their lives were being laid out in pictures inside.

*
Statistics show that you’re most likely to get your own story in a girls’ comic if you’re a sporty, disabled, artistic Victorian orphan who lives with a violent aunt or uncle, having a hurt sister/brother/pet who you need to earn money for, but don’t realise that your best friend secretly resents you, the snobs are plotting against you, and an evil mastermind is attempting to take over your school and you’re the only one who can resist her powers. However, this will count for nothing if your name doesn’t lend itself to a clever titular pun.
*
Over forty-three years (Jan 1958 to Feb 2001), Bunty’s The Four Marys went through several looks, lots of school hols and a change of headmistress, but the girls stayed in the Third Form throughout. [Read more in BBC Cult]

First Two Pages of Emily and the Battle of the Veil

Emily was scared but she didn’t know why.
She stretched her arms above her head, rippling her back
straight, after spending most of the afternoon with her head
buried in a book. Emily loved reading because she could
escape into worlds unknown, strange, foreign and exciting –
a definite need in the small seaside town she lived in.
Emily looked around her at the library as she stood up,
pushing her books into her huge loose floppy carry-all bag.
The library was like a small hall, slightly bigger than a room
in a house but not by much, with shelving all the way around
the outside groaning at the weight of old books. Some
shelves jutted into the middle of the floor, trying to make
crevices and hiding places for people, to cosy them into
staying. Not many did, but Emily supposed in a town of
about a hundred people (with sixty of them being children),
what did they expect. She seemed to be the libraries the most
regular visitor.
Emily flicked her long thick brown plait out of the way,
as she swung her bag onto her shoulder. Walking towards the
door she waved goodbye voicelessly, heard the librarians,
‘Come again soon Em!’ opened the screen door and winced
as it sprang shut behind her with a bang.
I must remember to hold on to that stupid thing, Emily
thought for the thousandth time, spying Sam on the swings to
her left.
She and Sam were a little old to use the swings but it had
become their meeting place of late. Sam, her best friend,
wasn’t into books like she was, preferring the live company
of other girls and boys. Almost as much as I like reading,
thought Em
They made an unlikely pair, so the older folk in the
village said, but they didn’t care what other people thought
anymore. They liked each other and that was that. Emily
often thought they brought out the best in each other,
opposites that they were.
‘Hiya Em’ said Sam ‘Been waiting and waiting and
waiting for you! What took you so long today?’
Emily hurried over, dropping her book bag at the corner
of the outside face brick library wall, ‘Sorry Sam, got stuck,
you know I lose time when I read – come fetch me if you
want. You know you can!’
Emily sat on the swing next to Sam and started pushing
her legs in and out to get up to speed. In front of them lay the
ocean, the tar road running all the way to their right down to
the local tea-room, the only ‘real’ shop in the village. The tea
room sat on the edge of the sea with the only parking lot in
town. They got day visitors coming to the village in the
summer months, so the town council had decided to make
sure there was enough parking for them.

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 3rd, 2009 @09:02 #
     
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    Helen, the F-word link about the 1975 Mandy Annual's story about a feminist called Bob is a hoot...

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    March 3rd, 2009 @09:50 #
     
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    Alex, that link is an absolute scream. It's great to feel such distance from it that it becomes hilarious rather than annoying. We really have come a long way since 1975.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 3rd, 2009 @10:27 #
     
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    The best line has to be "I've never met a real one before..."

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 3rd, 2009 @10:31 #
     
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    I'm still laughing. "Oo-er! You must be one of those Women's Lib types!" Women with access to education have come a long way indeed. But to cast a black cloud over proceedings, the status of women globally has declined in the last 15 years...so much so, that the UN didn't dare have a +10 follow-up conference to Beijing, in the sure knowledge that many international agreements to grant women equal status would be RESCINDED...oh, give it a rest, Moffett, and go click on some more links.

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  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    March 3rd, 2009 @10:41 #
     
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    Alex - have just emailed the F word link to child Savannah - she'll love it, absolutely hilarious.
    Must go - I've got a busy day ahead of me stacking potatoes and fixing trucks.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @10:56 #
     
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    Don't forget your trousers, Sarah!

    Thought for the Day: I think it would be a great step forward if young girls were also taught that most problems can be solved by blowing people's heads off.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 3rd, 2009 @11:05 #
     
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    Sarah, how old is Savannah? It would be interesting to see how girls respond to that 70s line. And bots, for that matter too.

    Helen, interesting point. As a pseudo-Marxist, I of course insist on an economic analysis. Meaning that when we look at gains in terms of identity politics, it is invariably the middle-class that benefits the most. As you say, women with access to education have come a long way. Similarly, race. Obama as eventual fruit of the Civil Rights movement (representative politics, as well as the politics of representation) is all well and good, but it doesn't really transform structures and institutions. If you are poor, black or white, man or woman, it's all going backwards. And in America it will keep on going backwards for the poor (black, white, man, woman), despite Obama being president.

    All sorts of backlashes among ordinary people against the gains of identity politics needs to be understood in such a context. Susan Faludi, in Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, reads these ordinary men's stories as reactions against cultural forces, significantly also as a kind of backlash to the gains of feminism, but doesn't make the connection with class war. Feminism becomes a scapegoat, while the villain gets away. In the absence of economic empowerment, in the absence of the possibility of a life path such as the middle-class (salary owners as opposed to wage earners, but increasingly salary earners at the upper scales) has access to (significantly, a good education, critical literacy), the gains of identity politics remain meaningless, and so old divisions and violences also remain (black vs. white; us vs. foreigners etc. and man vs. woman etc.)

    Thank god I don't have sacks of potatoes to lift, but I do have many domestic chores...

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @11:46 #
     
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    Now we need to translate those ideas into bite-sized chunks and feed them to the hungry masses. And then we need a think tank with a long barrel and plenty of armour-piercing shells to convince the bourgeoisie that they need to share.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 3rd, 2009 @11:49 #
     
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    @ Rustum, yup, my problem with Faludi exactly; reminds me of how the top US academic institutions I visited would do exceptionally clever and nuanced social analyses, all utterly class-blind, and therefore useless... I remember years ago, at Mount Holyoke, a very respectable feminist scholar read from her book on the construction of race in female-female servant-employer relations. Halfway through, I realised what was wrong: all her employers were white, and all the servants were black. Up went my hand: "What about middle-class black women employing black women?" She looked at me with pure hatred as her thesis went down the drain. All she had to do was incorporate class, but that was a bridge too far...meanwhile I got a rep: "At every seminar, Helen ALWAYS asks a question about [eye-roll, following words pronounced with much shoulder shrugging] class analysis."

    I don't have engines to fix, and the house can go to hell, but I do have deadlines, adios --

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:07 #
     
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    Helen, I'm not inviting you to my next seminar on evangelical swingers, new romantic vegetarian vampires, deconstructive architects' parties, or whatever it may be.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:14 #
     
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    Hee hee, Louis. And I must apologise to Mr Annooy, for being far too serious before lunch. Okay, now REALLY I have to work.

    PS: Oh and Louis: I had no idea that academics were doing such FUN stuff. You and vampires, Ms Lotz and zombies...whereas my research leaves me feeling like a vampire zombie.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:24 #
     
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    Before lunch is the best time for seriousness, I find. That's why I'm only joining the fray now.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:40 #
     
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    I'm all for seriousness, Helen, regardless of the time of day. I'm just not very good at it. And so I have learned to accept that I shall either die laughing or laugh myself to death.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:47 #
     
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    @ Richard, what a glorious way to go! The geraniums of the world salute you.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @12:54 #
     
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    "Smile," whispered the geranium.

    http://is.gd/lyZt

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  • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
    Sarah Lotz
    March 3rd, 2009 @13:03 #
     
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    Rustum - Savannah is seventeen going on forty. She had a slightly unusual upbringing for a supposedly middle-class kid. When she was little I was on the bones of my arse, at one stage living in an informal settlement before my folks stepped in and helped me out (I’m fortunate to have that back-up). The difference is, of course, that even when we were comparatively broke she always had access to books and was encouraged to question and argue. She will find the 70s ‘women’s libber’ paranoia both funny and terrifying.

    And Richard – my husband and I share the trouser wearing in my house (although he washes them).

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @13:14 #
     
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    Kilts are the new trousers...according to my wife.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    March 3rd, 2009 @15:41 #
     
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    Dear Mr de Nooy,

    It has come to our attention that you have perpetrated an abomination upon an innocent geranium (and posted the results on the Net). The Flower Police will be with you shortly.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    March 3rd, 2009 @16:04 #
     
  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @18:19 #
     
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    "Girls with safety gadgets" is as good a reason as any to start a war.

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    March 3rd, 2009 @18:28 #
     
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    Geraniums die, Helen, it is the way of the world.

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    March 3rd, 2009 @19:52 #
     
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    Geranium hating singer of 70s classic Je t'aime, moi non plus, Jane Birkin told the Telegraph: 'I used to despise red geraniums. I only liked pale flowers so I wanted the red geraniums to die. But at the same time,stung by guilt I would give them a spurt of water so they wouldn't die completely...now I really respect them for their resilience'

    Je t'aime, moi non plus:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHiMDB19Dyc

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