December 2006

Little Rabbit waits for the Moon“This is my first day, ever,” said a small flower in the fields. “Maybe I will have grown into a tree by the time your moon comes.”

That sounded like an awfully long time.

Little Rabbit thought he had better ask someone else – just to be sure.

Ariel is currently a big fan of all things moony and all things rabbitty, so this book is inevitably a big hit.

In it, Little Rabbit is a small person who doesn’t want to go to sleep until the moon has risen to watch over him. He decides to wait for the moon, but as he gets sleepier and sleepier the moon still doesn’t arrive. He starts to ask how long it might be – yet neither the small flower in the fields, nor the great rolling hills have anything hopeful to offer. Will the moon ever come? Will Little Rabbit have to stay awake all night? Or will he have to try and sleep without his moon to watch over him?

We read this book nearly every night. :-)

Slinky Malinki
was blacker than black,
a stalking and lurking
adventurous cat.
He had bright yellow eyes,
a warbling wail
and a kink at the end
of his very long tail.
Slinky Malinki

This book is excellent – one of our favourites and I think we will love it for a long time to come. It tells the story of sneaky rapscallion rascally Slinky Malinki and how he plunders all the neighbours houses for booty – until, one night, he overreaches and is thoroughly disgraced…

If I could change two things about this book to make it absolutely perfect I would (1) change a couple of Americanisms – the smelly old “sneaker” should be a “trainer”, and the half-knitted “jersey” would become a “jumper” and (2) make Slinky into a girl cat!

Fresh MilkI see breasts in the sky. I recently learned a mammatocumulus is a storm cloud with breast-shaped protuberances hanging from its belly. I expect to lift my face to the gathering storm and be showered with warm milk, sweet and abundant.

This book is fantastic! It careers madcap from heartwarming, to infuriating, to hilarious, to sad, to empowering, and then all the way back again. It is something like a breastly, milk-sodden version of The Vagina Monologues – only bigger, better and a lot, lot milkier.

I have mentioned Fresh Milk a couple of times already on my main blog. In a recent post I referred to it in pondering The Sensual Art of Breastfeeding. Back in May 2006, for Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I posted an extract on Cooking With Breastmilk. (For the record, I have – in porridge.)

Other topics include: shopping for nursing bras; breastfeeding multiples; male breastfeeding; nursing in public; the emotional impact of being (or not being) breastfed; breastfeeding and sex; milk banking; adoptive nursing; wet nursing; breastfeeding older children… and more, and more, and more. it just goes on and on until you start to wonder, what on earth next?!

I suspect that in a way the ideal reader is someone who has already been-there, done-that. From my own experience, a person who has not been to a fairly extreme* breastfeeding place would need to be exceptionally broad-minded in order to be able to put aside all the stupid, squeamish hangups we have about breastfeeding and really make the most of this magnificent tour de force. Nevertheless, if you are that broad-minded person – prepare to have your eyes opened, with probably a bit of milk squirted in them for good measure!

[* By our modern standards, I mean, where breastfeeding past a few weeks is not the norm, never mind thinking about and doing the things discussed in this book!]

This book is really important, for so many reasons.

For one thing, it is unique as an unabashed celebration of our lactating breasts. It is wonderful and refreshing to find a book that is all about breastfeeding but is neither a pious exhortation nor a medicalised instruction manual.

It gives us a way to think and speak about our amazing lactating bodies that goes beyond the purely functional. Indeed, it asserts unequivocally that breastfeeding is more, much more, than just a bodily function. Breastfeeding is, at its best, a key part of who a mother is, a key emotional as well as physical element in her relationship with her children and her partner and her wider family.

This book is about the wonderful variety of experiences that we have, it is about the stories behind the milk, it is about how we deal with what we do as mothers when we breastfeed our children. It is about all that and more.

Like The Vagina Monologues, this book does also have its weaknesses.

It misses out some things that I would have liked to see: more about breastfeeding outside the industrialised, sexualised West, for example; or a closer look at the politics and economics of our (non-)breastfeeding culture; and maybe just a bit more than a passing reference to things like breastfeeding and spirituality, the feelings of a female partner of a breastfeeding mother (oh and wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear about some adoptive nursing action from said female partner too!), breastfeeding in art and in our culture historically as well as in the modern age.

I personally wouldn’t have minded just a little bit less about the sex angle, either – especially the frankly horrible chapter on lactation porn.

And it is clear that the book is informed as much by its author’s feelings and attitudes as by the thoughts and deeds of the amazing women (and men) featured in its pages.

None of the above would really be justifiable cricitisms if the world were awash with the literature and art of lactation celebration*. But because we have so little, our demands and expectations of what we do have must soar. Like The Vagina Monologues, this book is in some ways a vicitm of its own uniqueness, and of its own success.

[* Oh I like the sound of that. Lactation celebration!]

Still, when all’s said and done – this book is wonderful and fabulous. Yay boobies!

Lorna Doone Almost everybody knows, in our part of the world at least, how pleasant and soft the fall of the land is round about Plover’s Barrows farm. All above it is strong dark mountain, spread with heath, and desolate, but near our house the valleys cove, and open warmth and shelter. Here are trees, and bright green grass, and orchards full of contentment, and a man may scarce espy the brook, although he hears it everywhere. And indeed a stout good piece of it comes through our farm-yard, and swells sometimes to a rush of waves, when the clouds are on the hill-tops. But all below, where the valley bends, and the Lynn stream comes along with it, pretty meadows slope their breast, and the sun spreads on the water. And nearly all of this is ours, till you come to Nicholas Snowe’s land.

Written in the nineteenth century (and of a style that, although this is called a “children’s book” many children might find hard to follow), the story of Lorna Doone is a Romance – capital R – set in seventeenth century Exmoor.

What I love about the book, and what made me so look forward to re-reading it, is the amazing sense of place and time that it evokes.

There is the desolate beauty of the steep crags and empty spaces on Exmoor, the dangerous bogs, the snow and fog of winter, the wildness of the place. It is an ancient, untamed place where homely people, like the hero John Ridd, work as hard as they need to and as honestly as they can. Then there is the cool, lush, impregnable Doone Glen where the terrifying clan of robber-nobles live, who murdered John Ridd’s father and thought nothing special of it. It is a secret and lawless place where a savage waterfall could tear your legs off, or where you could pick wildflowers, and make them into posies with the beautiful, innocent heroine, Lorna Doone.

Such places have a deep and compelling magnetism, and it is small wonder that people flock to Exmoor to find the “real” landscape of Lorna Doone.

I need not bore you too much with a plot synopsis, for no doubt you have already guessed it. Honest farmer John Ridd loves disgraced noble maiden Lorna Doone, but their love is impossible… or is it?

Thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat non-feminist. Yay!

Here is an Amazon link, although for maximum pleasure you need to find an old worn out copy at the back of a cavernous second hand shop. Mine is inscribed “C S Thornton 1913” and if I didn’t get it from a second hand book shop it was from a car boot sale, many years ago.