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Six degrees of separation, FROM Beezus and Ramona TO …

May 1, 2021

Happy May Day, everyone, not that we celebrate it here in Australia. Still, it’s a day with some fascinating traditions so I’m at least going to mark it! And now, having done so, I will get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme. If you don’t know how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book – and I’m sorry to say that again it’s a book I haven’t read, but it’s a good choice because it commemorates an author who died earlier this year, Beverly Cleary. The novel Kate chose is Beezus and Ramona, Cleary’s story about two sisters that went on the spawn a whole series of Ramona books.

Martin Boyd's A difficult young man

Now, as frequently happens I considered many links for this book, and very nearly went the sisters route, but I tried to be too clever and got stuck. So, I retreated to my original plan which was to link to Martin Boyd’s A difficult young man (my review). Why, do I hear you ask? It’s simple. It was published in the same year, 1955, as Beezus and Ramona.

Hans Bergner, Between sea and sky

A difficult young man won the ALS Gold Medal in 1957. I’d like to have linked to the previous winner, Patrick White’s Tree of man but, as I read it before blogging, I’m going to go back a few more years to link to 1948’s winner, Hans Bergner’s Between sky and sea (my review). This is a rare example of a book written in Australia in the author’s original language, and translated into English for publication. I could have linked to a recent example of this rarity, Shokoofeh Azar’s The enlightenment of the greengage tree, but I used that book last month. I could have linked to a book by the translator, Judah Waten, who is also a novelist, but I haven’t reviewed him here. So …

For my next link, I’m looking at content. Hans Bergner’s novel tells the story of a group of Jewish refugees from the Nazi invasion of Poland who are passengers on an old Greek freighter looking for a new life in Australia. It’s a confronting story. Confronting in a different way, and in a different form, is Anna Rosner Blay’s hybrid biography-memoir, Sister, sister (my review). It’s the story of her Polish mother and aunt’s survival through the Holocaust and their eventual emigration to Australia.

Susan Varga, Heddy and me Book cover

I’m sticking with content for my next link, but am adding form as a secondary link, because Susan Varga’s Heddy and me (my review) is also a hybrid biography-memoir about surviving the Holocaust – this time a Hungarian mother and her very young daughter – and their family’s migration to Australia.

Nadia Wheatley, Her mother's daughter

And now, I’m being completely boring, and will continue the mother-daughter hybrid biography-memoir theme to link to Nadia Wheatley’s Her mother’s daughter (my review). Nadia’s mother’s story also involves World War 2, but she enlisted as a nurse in the Australian army, so her story is very different to the previous two (and for more reasons than just this!)

There was a reason for sticking with that theme, because – and this is possibly a bit of a stretch, but I going with it – Nadia Wheatley has been involved in a project called “Going Bush” which aims to make country a focus of the school curriculum. It resulted in a book called Going Bush, which captures children’s exploration of some urban bushland along Sydney’s Wolli Creek. I haven’t read or reviewed that book, but I did recently review an Indigenous Australian written and illustrated book about country in the Sydney region, Jasmine Seymour and Leanne Mulgo Watson’s Cooee mittigar: A story on Darug songlines (my review). (Wolli Creek is in the Eora Nation, but that neighbours the Darug Nation, and their languages are related.)

So, it looks like I’ve stuck with Australian authors this month, even though we’ve travelled from our starting place in the USA, to Europe and Australia (back and forth a few times), before settling in Australia. We’ve mostly stuck to the twentieth century, although the last book is timeless. Four of my links were written by women.

Now, the usual: Have you read Beezus and Ramona? And, regardless, what would you link to?

47 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Viggers permalink
    May 1, 2021 09:24

    I love the way you link books, Sue. The only one of these I’ve read is A Difficult Young Man, which we had to do as a school text when I was in Yr 12 as part of the theme “Growing Up”. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I was probably too young to appreciate it back then.

    • May 1, 2021 10:43

      Thanks Karen. How great though that you did that at school. So few Aussie books are taught it seems. I liked it but I was MUCH older when I read it. Have meant to read the first one which I have, but haven’t got to it – yet.

  2. May 1, 2021 11:59

    Interesting links! I’m afraid I haven’t read any of these (albeit have heard of the Ramona series). WWII historic memoir and fiction are mostly about the Holocaust, that’s why Her Mother’s Daughter stands out because it’s about a nurse in the Australian army during WWII. Was it the war in the Pacific front she was involved in?
    On another note, I’m hosting a Read Along of The Brothers Karamazov beginning May ending in July… yes, lots of time to read it. I know you’re a busy reader and promoter of Australian lit., and you’ve probably read this classic before. Just thought I’d share with you just in case … 🙂

    • May 1, 2021 13:38

      Thanks Arti. No, she was in Europe actually and, if I remember correctly, stayed in after to work with the UN on Displaced Persons.

      I should have read The brothers Karamazov but haven’t. Would love to join you but am just so behind in my reading.

  3. May 1, 2021 12:01

    oops that link doesn’t work. Here it is again.

  4. Meg permalink
    May 1, 2021 17:26

    Hi Sue, like you I had not read Beezus and Ramona, but borrowed it from the library. It took me back to my childhood reads and my daughter’s reads. I like how your list is so diversified. Mine: Naughty Amelia Jane by Enid Blyton; Matilda by Roald Dahl; Milly Molly Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley; Eloise by Kay Thompson; My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards; Olivia by Ian Falconer;

    • May 1, 2021 18:25

      I love that you did that Meg. I read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was growing up, but I don’t remember Naughty Amelia Jane, I loved Milly Molly Mandy! Your links are great fun.

  5. May 1, 2021 18:18

    Nice links Sue, I like all the family connections.

    • May 1, 2021 18:26

      Thanks Cathy. I nearly went ALL family, but I didn’t really like the look of it, but I used some of them here as you clearly saw!

  6. May 1, 2021 23:41

    Wow, this is such an interesting chain. I haven’t heard of any of your choices!

  7. George permalink
    May 2, 2021 11:03

    I was tempted to make the first transition from Beezus as in Beatrice to Bezos as in Jeff, and go on from The Everything Store through various works involving store-keeping or storekeepers. But “sisters” seems a better theme. So

    Degree 1 is The Ice Age by Margaret Drabble, which has two pairs of sisters in conflict: Allison and her sister, Allison’s daughters.

    Degree 2 is Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence, for the Brangwen sisters.

    Degree 3 is the novella Old Mortality by Katherine Anne Porter. Miranda’s sister Maria is only so important, but they are charming as allies at the New Orleans convent school in which they have found they are “immured”.

    Degree 4 is Democracy by Henry Adams, for the sisters Madeleine Lee and Sybil Ross.

    Degree 5 is Middlemarch by George Eliot, for the sisters Dorothea and Celia. (I suspect that Adams drew on them for his own characters.)

    Degree 6 is The Blithedale Romance for the half-sisters Zenobia and Priscilla.There is an element of the fairy-tale about the them.

    • May 2, 2021 18:08

      Haha, love the Bezos idea, George, but I’m glad you went Sisters – and particularly that your started with Margaret Drabble who, I believe, has a tricky relationship with her sister. I started with Sisters, but didn’t like where I was going. I like that I’ve read a couple of your links, and know about most of the others. I have, however, never heard of The Blithedale Romance.

      • George permalink
        May 2, 2021 21:35

        I had entirely forgotten about Drabble and Byatt. Yesterday I bought a used copy of The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford, and was interested to see a preface by A.S. Byatt. But that didn’t bring her sister to mind.

        • May 2, 2021 21:48

          Well, their names are different and they are rarely mentioned in the same breath so it’s easy to forget the connection. It’s just sad I think.

          Re Ford Maddox Ford, I’ve only ever really heard of The good soldier, which was the first book I read on my Kindle.

  8. George permalink
    May 2, 2021 11:17

    Oh, and years ago, I read at least a couple of Beverly Cleary’s books. In the one I remember, a boy named Henry had as big a part as either Ramona or Beezus.

  9. May 2, 2021 13:36

    I found the first link tricky this time too, but got there in the end!

    • May 2, 2021 18:12

      I don’t know why Marg? It’s not that the first link was SO hard but I just didn’t like the places I could go from there in many cases, which is rare for me.

  10. May 2, 2021 18:16

    I love this chain!
    Did I tell you I’m (trying to) learn Yiddish, the language that Between Sea and Sky was written? At the moment I’m just struggling with the alphabet…

    • May 2, 2021 18:17

      You’re learning Yiddish? No, I didn’t know Lisa. You are a wonder. Is this through DuoLingo too?

      • May 2, 2021 21:42

        Yes, it is. I just do one lesson a day because I am struggling with the alphabet, it’s so different.
        But I’ve learned interesting things already. Apart from reading right-to-left which is not uncommon but it’s the first time I’ve tried it, I’ve discovered that there’s a letter (or is a symbol?) that makes two different sounds whether it’s got a squiggle underneath it or not, and if it’s at the beginning of a word doesn’t make any sound at all, it’s an alert to tell you that the word begins with a vowel.

        • May 2, 2021 21:57

          Good question, letter or symbol?

          I guess in French “e” sounds different whether it has a grave or acute or nothing, or a you meaning dramatically different sounds. When you write Japanese in English you can use a diacritic to lengthen the sound. The “o”s in Kyōto are pronounced differently from each other, whereas in Tōkyō they are the same. (But when you get to the Kanji and the other two character systems, in which the words are written in Japan, I have no idea about the conventions!)

        • May 2, 2021 22:02

          I don’t know the names of the squiggles, that’s an adventure still in store!

        • May 2, 2021 22:04

          You’ll have to get a keyboard with the “whatever they are” on it!

    • George permalink
      May 2, 2021 21:33

      Are you starting with a knowledge of German?

      • May 2, 2021 21:46

        No, not a word of it. I know French and Indonesian well, enough to read books (slowly), and I have a tourist capability in Spanish, Italian and Russian, enough to get around and make small talk, but not German.
        Yiddish is a language I’ve heard around me since I was a teenager growing up in East St Kilda so I know the sounds of it and a couple of expressions used by my Jewish friends but I’ve never seen it written before.

        • May 2, 2021 22:04

          I’ve only seen it occasionally, mostly on items given to my father by his Jewish customers, but I’ve never tried to understand it before like I have Greek characters for example.

          One of the first items I remember was a fancy Twelve Tribes of Israel biro. I loved it with the characters/letters/symbols down its barrel.

  11. May 3, 2021 02:13

    I have not read any of these books, including the starting book, but the links were super interesting. I liked the way you linked the books!

    • May 3, 2021 08:35

      Thanks Koo. I’m guessing you ‘ve done one? I’ll come and look.

      • May 3, 2021 09:06

        Yup, a noob at it!

        • May 3, 2021 09:42

          And you’ve hit the ground running, I’ve seen. Welcome to the club! (I had a typo/autocorrect in my comment on your blog – I meant of course “meme” not “mine”!)

        • May 3, 2021 09:51

          Lol. No worries.

  12. conmartin13 permalink
    May 3, 2021 02:56

    I think George must have read one of the Henry Huggins books. Beezus and her sister play a role in that book as his neighbors and eventually got their own series.

    I was not familiar with any of these books but they sounded interesting, especially Hedy and me, because I am 1/4 Hungarian although my grandfather left right after the first WW and headed for the Sorbonne before going to NY to teach. Luckily for me!

    Here is my chain: http://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2021/05/six-degrees-of-separation-from-beezus.html

    BTW, WordPress is so annoying I had to create an account just to comment! Not on every WordPress blog, just some.

    • May 3, 2021 08:43

      Thanks Con. I’ll visit yours.

      That’s weird about WordPress. I gather some people have this account issue and others don’t. I don’t know why as I thought my comment settings were open except for requiring moderation of the first comment. Anyhow I’ll try to research this. Funnily, I grit my teeth and gird my loins when I confront a blogger blog. I CAN comment with my Google account but that doesn’t link back to my blog which of course I want to do. My fist blog was-is- a blogger bbg but I chose WordPress for my fist personal blog.

  13. May 4, 2021 02:28

    Nice linking as always! I have not read Beezus and Ramona which makes me kind of sad that I never heard about them when I was a kid because I am certain I would have loved the Ramona books.

    • May 4, 2021 09:04

      Thanks Stefanie. Yes, they sound great don’t they. What a writer she was (though I only ever read one.)

    • buriedinprint permalink
      May 12, 2021 07:06

      You would still love Ramona, Stefanie…I just reread her a couple of summers ago and there is another quiet layer beneath it all that speaks different to grown-up readers (difficulties her parents are facing) even while she struggles with all the usual dilemmas of growing up as a girl.

      • May 12, 2021 08:38

        I shall remember this when my grandchild gets to the appropriate age. Love kids books that are so well written they are enjoyable for adults.

  14. buriedinprint permalink
    May 12, 2021 07:12

    Well, now that I’ve nattered on in the comments above, you’ll already know that I’m a huge Ramona fan. Cleary also wrote another lovely story, years later, called Dear Mr Henshaw, about a young boy struggling to make sense of his parents’ divorce and how he strikes up a written correspondence with a writer (I love books about letters). They are short and ostensibly light reads but they are very comforting and gently amusing and would make great rereading for anyone looking for that kind of thing to cope during the pandemic (as they definitely hold up for adults revisiting). And I have to go on about Ramona because I don’t recognize any of your other selections, you see!

    • May 12, 2021 08:40

      Haha… I’m glad you found something to go on about Buried! I had heard of Dear Mr Henshaw, and have always felt I’d like it.

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