Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Morris Gleitzman

I'm excited to research Morris Gleitzman.

I read one of his children's books while we were in Australia. Toad Away.  A story about cane toads. Before reading the book, I saw cane toads in a very negative way. They're disgusting invaders of Australia. They cause the death of native animals. They're not good. But Gleitzman's book made me see the toads differently. After reading it, I had some sympathy for the poisonous amphibians. As a whole they're a nuisance. As individuals though..... I don't know. Studies have shown that animals have more intelligence than most of us want to imagine. I'm not saying a Cane Toad could beat me at a game of Trivial Pursuit, but I'm also doubting his existence is just a walking blob of nothingness.

No matter how smart Mr. Cane Toad is....we can't deny that his presence in Australia has wreaked havoc on the fauna. But sometimes it's not enough to just gently exterminate the creatures. Some people like to be kill them via various sporting games.

Does the cane toad deserve such hatred and destruction?


But I know another animal that has probably created much more havoc to Australia's ecology. They officially arrived in 1788. And even their dark-skinned predecessors probably caused minor amounts of stress to the land.

I'm not saying I'm against controlling animal populations. I think it might sometimes be necessary. I think though that it should be done with respect, and done as painlessly as possible. Next time we're faced with an animal that we feel deserves death, I think we should imagine how we'd feel if someone decided the planet would be better off without our kind. I imagined that recently thanks to the help of a certain Keanu Reeves movie.

I do like books and movies that make me think about things in a different way. I liked Gleitzman's book. Will I like Gleitzman himself? Maybe? Maybe not?

It's time to talk to Lord Wiki.

Wow, Lord Wiki. You sure don't have a lot to say about Mr. Gleitzman. What's the deal with that?

Thanks. At least you provide me with his birthday. January 9, 1953. Why do I feel like I'm getting a lot of January birthdays lately?

Birthday Website Time!

We have a 1 again. Just like Pro Hart and Tim.

Gleitzman is a Capricorn. This astrology website has this to say about the Capricorn: They strive always for honesty in their criticism of self, they respect discipline from above and demand it from those beneath them. In their methodical, tough, stubborn, unyielding way, they persist against personal hardship, putting their families and/or their work before their own needs and welfare to reach their objectives long after others have given up and fallen by the wayside.

That doesn't sound exactly like a man who writes funny books for children. But I don't know the guy very well yet. If it doesn't fit him, we might say that astrology is a load of rubbish. Or we could say that Gleitzman is a failed Capricorn. I have a feeling it has to be one or the other because the astrology site also says that Capricorns dislike fantasy. Yeah, from just reading Toad Away, I can assume that this trait does not fit Gleitzman.

Gleitzman was born in England. His books are popular and read worldwide. That's about all Lord Wiki wants to tell me. I shall have to look elsewhere.

This writer website has some information.

Gleitzman emigrated to Australia when he was sixteen. He started out as a television writer. In 1987, he turned one of his screenplays into a novel. The Other Facts of Life. Oh! This book sounds really good. It seems like a Lisa Simpson type thing. I definitely need to read it one day.

After the first book, more appeared. Some of them have been adapted to the stage.

The website says, He is known for his tough subjects, presented in a humorous and offbeat style. I have a feeling Gleitzman will end up being one of my favorite Aussie authors.

He has a pretty impressive bibliography. 34 books. That is...if I counted right. Some of them were co-written by Paul Jennings.

Okay. Now I'm going to read the website's critical perspective. They say, His use of humour avoids gritty realism, lessens the possibility of anxiety for child-readers and enables him to present certain issues subtly and (almost) lightly. I wonder if Jack will like these books. Both Jack and I are the type of people who have a lot of fears and anxieties. I do feel that humor is sometimes the best medicine for folks like us.

One of Gleitzman's books (Two Weeks with a Queen), deals with the subject of sibling death. I feel that it's an issue too often ignored. When I used to be involved with Cystic Fibrosis, I met some of the siblings. I think it's so hard on these kids. They have to face such a huge loss. But even outside of that, there's so much they have to deal with. It's hard to be the sibling of someone who is severely ill or injured. I know that from experience.

It seems so many resources are focused on the ill children themselves. And I think those resources are necessary. But I also think resources are needed for the healthy children. There are a few programs appearing though. That's good. Oh! Maybe there's more than I expected. That's good.

The website says this about parents in Gleitzman's books. Colin’s parents are shown to be flawed but forgivable - they make mistakes, but they are well-intentioned and coping with a terrible situation. This is typical of many of Gleitzman’s novels - he writes honestly about adult shortcomings, and is firmly on the child’s side, but nonetheless shows sympathy towards struggling parents trying to do their best.

It's funny reading children's books as an adult. I probably notice the parents more than I did as a child. And I think unfortunately I'm very judgmental. I come down hard on Junie B. Jones parents. They seem so negative and invalidating. I also have trouble tolerating Peter and Fudge's mom in the Judy Blume books. She seems a bit clueless at times. But I have to face the facts. If our life was a children's novel, readers would probably be critical about my parenting. I have the best intentions, but sometimes..... Well, let's just say it's often easier to do the right thing when the scenario is just in your imagination. When I'm faced with reality, I sometimes end up being more harsh than gentle. Example: A week or so ago, Jack participated in a Hula Hoop contest with his cousins at a charity event. Jack's Hula skills are equal to mine. He was out within seconds. His cousin meanwhile was doing quite well. The losers were supposed to leave the stage. Jack started crying and didn't want to leave. He said he wanted to stay with his cousin.

We took him off the stage immediately. I think THAT was the right thing to do. But then I was too harsh with him. I was horribly unsympathetic. I lectured him about how we all have talents. We talked about how he's good at his things, and this is something that Darcy is good at. Okay, I still think all that is fine. BUT I should have still been sympathetic towards his feelings. There's nothing wrong with being firm, but I think in these circumstances you also need to be gentle. Instead, I tried to make Jack feel guilty that he wasn't acting proud of his cousin. I told him he was being rude for sitting there crying instead of watching and cheering for his cousin. In an ideal world, we would all be proud of each other--never resentful and jealous. But unfortunately we sometimes have ugly feelings. During that year my sister was injured, I was called selfish on many occasions. And I HAD been very selfish at times. But I wish someone had told me that these feelings were normal. Common. I wish someone had told me I wasn't a bad person for feeling these things. That's why there needs to be support for siblings.

All right. I'm a bad mother sometimes. But I guess I'm not as bad as some of the characters in Gleitzman's books. The parents in Bumface sound quite awful. It's about a child with a TV star mom. The TV mom is idealistic while the real mom is neglectful. I'm definitely not neglectful. I ignore Jack at times and/or tell him I'm busy. But I make up for it plenty at other times. I think that's the usual story for homeschooling stay-at-home moms. I will say I've become quite good at working while being frequently interrupted. Now the kid is ignoring me though. He barely gave me a hello this morning.

This Random House website has a little bit of autobiographical stuff.

During his childhood, Gleitzman ran to his birthday presents, tripped, and sprained his elbow. Ouch. Something similar to that happened to Jack....but a bit worse. He tried to run ahead of us at the airport....I think to get to the rental car bus. He tripped and fell flat on the ground. He broke his arm. It's all healed now, but will probably be the cause of major psychological damage. The poor child can't run without me calling out something like. Jack! Be Careful! I'll kill you if you break another arm!

It seems Gleitzman's favorite childhood food was corned beef.

He liked to read.

He said when he moved to Australia, the experience was so shocking that he stopped reading for a year. I wonder if that's common. When I first became a mom, I found I was unable to read for awhile. Sometimes, you're just too stressed and nervous. Although in my case, I think it was about the book. Someone had given me a book to borrow...one she heavily praised. I couldn't get into it, but I felt obligated to read it. AND like it. Instead, I just avoided reading. I'm not sure if I would have read more if I had a book I liked; or if I would have liked the borrowed book more if I wasn't so anxious. Who knows.

And....onto another website.

One of Gleitzman's books (Boy Overboard) deals with refugees from Afghanistan; the intolerance they face from some Australians. I wonder if the protagonist feels like the cane toad in Toad Away.

I'm finding it easier to find information about his books than about Gleitzman himself. And I kind of hesitate reading too much about his books because I want to read them for myself one day. That's probably why this entry is mostly filled with me rambling on and on about my own life.

I'll keep trying though. I'm going to look at Google News.

Gleitzman will be (or already is) in Borneo doing author visits at schools. Also, while there, he'll be speaking at a charity dinner. The proceeds go to Victoria bushfire victims.

He's currently involved with that campaign regarding Australian books and authors. I've seen this thing before, and I don't fully understand it. It sounds bad though. I know it has something to do with cheap books coming into Australia from abroad, and that will threaten Australian books somehow. Even though I don't fully understand it, I totally support the cause. I'd be devastated if Australian books disappeared.

Oh! Good! An interview. I'm going to read this.

Gleitzman's favorite books as a child were the William books by Richard Compton. I'm not finding anything about these books. Oh well. I guess either I'm looking in the wrong place, or their pretty damn obscure.

He says as a writer, he believes in starting with a character and their problem. When I wrote fiction, I think I began things in the Stephen King way. A lot of What ifs. I guess that's more about situation than conflict. But in almost all cases, the situation than brings about conflict.

Here's an article about a Nazi/Holocaust book that Gleitzman wrote.

Regarding his career Gleitzman says, I've always been lucky. I found out early what I was meant to do and it is never a chore. And that's exactly why I've quit writing fiction. At one time, I was like Gleitzman. I had millions of ideas. The words flowed. I felt comforted and excited at the keyboard. But later it all just became a chore. I started dreading my writing times and struggling to fill up my daily writing quotas.

Gleitzman had actually written a whole trilogy of Nazi books: Once, Then, and Now. Oh wait. Now hasn't come out yet. It's a future book. Now is not now. It's later. I am cracking myself up here.

Thanks to this article, I have found the William books! Thank you. I had been spelling the author's name wrong. Compton instead of Crompton. The Crompton books are not very obscure. In fact, they seen quite popular.

The article says he lives with his wife and stepchildren in Melbourne; but he also sometimes lives with his ex-wife and children in Sydney. Interesting. I guess he gets along well with his ex-wife. That's good. I like hearing stories like that.

I love this quote from Gleitzman, Because kids are physically smaller, there's an assumption by people who haven't read a kids' book for a long time that their ideas and themes and problems and ambitions must be commensurately smaller and less important. I would venture that sometimes the opposite is true. Beautiful.

You know we'd all probably be better parents if we read less how-to-parent books and more children and young adult novels. I think that gives you much more insight into real-life parenting.

I can't imagine how someone could see a child's or teenager's problems as being trivial. Yeah, sometimes children and teens make mountains out of molehills. But adults do too...probably just as much!

We as adults get annoyed with children when they have a tantrum for a new toy. Yet how many toys do we own ourselves? Yeah, we probably didn't have a tantrum for them. But we must have shared the child's strong desperate desire to have that thing. Otherwise, why would we have bought it? And I think it's harder for a child because they have to depend on us to say yes or no. Jack and I talk about this sometimes. I say it's sometimes better to be an adult because you get to make more of your own choices. But then it's sometimes better to be a child because, in most cases, you have less responsibilities.

It's all relative though. Sometimes we scoff at other people's problems because ours seem so much bigger and more important. But we have to remember that there's ALWAYS going to be someone who has worse problems than us. How would we feel if they treated our problems with scorn?

Okay. I'm going to feed my child, and then I'm going to look at the official Morris Gleitzman website. I'm glad I found that. Actually, Lord Wiki had a link, but I missed it at first.

We're back. We ate Tim's leftover pancakes. For the record, my gourmet chef husband fails when it comes to pancakes. Mine are SO much better.

Gleitzman says there's a rule about author websites. They must include baby photos. Cool. I didn't know that. Back when I was having the almost-constant Julian McMahon dreams, I had this very strong desire to see pictures of him as a child. I have no idea why. Of course all I could find was him looking grown-up and sexy. I searched and searched and never found what I was looking for. Maybe they're out there now. I should look one day. But not now because I have to finish this. Then I want to play Sims 2, give attention to my child, and obsessively check Twitter every five minutes. Baby McMahon shall have to wait.

Gleitzman is awesome. It's official now. I can't deny it. He gives away free copies of his book!
If you send in a self-addressed stamped envelope, he'll send you a signed copy of Wicked Part Two. He even extends the offer to international people like me. Postage is expensive though.  I'm not sure it's worth it. It's probably easier for me to buy the book here somewhere. But I do deeply appreciate being included. If you're sad that you have to start with the sequel, don't worry. Gleitzman has the book online for free. I'm thinking of reading it, but probably won't. I spent too much time on the computer as it is. I need to read physical books because that gets me away from the screen.

Oh! Wait. I must have already been on this website earlier. I see the biography page I had looked at earlier. And this is where his childhood photo is. He's cute....riding a little tricycle.

The website has a rather extensive Q and A thing.

He says he has two offices-one in his Melbourne home and one in his Sydney home. I'm very intrigued by the fact that he still lives with his ex-wife. I think it's lovely though.

I love his sense of humor. He's asked if he's recognized when out in public. He says no because he always put older photos on his books. He says, Which means people don't recognise me when I'm out and I'm free to go into bookshops and put my books in front of Harry Potter books anonymously. That cracks me up.

I am REALLY liking this guy. Am I gushing too much? I like that he's friendly towards his readers. I've seen other author websites that are much less welcoming. One time I looked at the website of a certain young adult author. There was something so cold, protected, and serious about him. It turned me off of him. I never read anymore of his books.

I keep loving this Gleitzman man more and more. He says, when asked about getting awards,
Quite a few, but I try not to let my head swell too much. Most awards are given by small groups of people who are just expressing their very personal preferences. I like humble people.

Another certain author (I won't name names) fills almost every blog post with glowing reviews of her books. I first came across her blog because she came across mine first. Why? I had written a negative review of her book. Now I don't think I was nasty. I think I was very polite about it. I even said the fault probably lay with me. I'm not that smart sometimes. The book went way over my head. Well, on her constant search of book reviews, she came across mine. She took a break from posting glowing reviews and did a post about recent bad reviews. My review was there with a link to my blog. I guess I could be grateful for the free publicity. I felt bad though so I left her what I thought was a sweet genuine comment. It was an apology with some philosophical stuff about the world being full of various opinions. Blah, blah, blah. She never responded to my comment. I felt snubbed by her. Maybe she's just one of those bloggers who never reads comments. But I couldn't help feeling that she was being petty or something. And now I'm being petty. Yet I'm so glad to get that all off my chest.

Interesting. He says he can't read fiction while writing his own because it messes up his own rhythm and voices. Because of this, he now reads mostly nonfiction.

Ah, there seems to be a whole collection of Gleitzman photos on the site. He also has some of his old report cards. I think it's great for kids to see you can get negative remarks from a teacher and then grow up to be successful. Gleitzman had mixed grades though. It seems he was good at English, French, and religious studies. It seems he did less well with science stuff.

His quote about heroes is, Life is full of big problems that don't have easy solutions. The heroes in my books are kids who wrestle with these problems and don't give up, not even when they've run out of dishwashing liquid. I like that.

He says he's very tidy; maybe almost to an anal degree. He says, The trouble with being that tidy is that you get nervous about things that aren't tidy. Like feelings.

I'm going to leave his website now and see if there's anything in the blogging world about Gleitzman.

No, well maybe not. I'm feeling lazy now. And this post is probably long enough. I'm loving Gleitzman, but I think I've had enough of him for today. Besides, I want to go watch Jack do some Wii bowling.


  1. You know, I've never read any Gleitzman. I suspect that may be something of an oversight. Surely we have something of his in the house, David is bound to have been given one of his books at some point...

  2. I am a fan of Morris Gleitzman. "Two Weeks With The Queen" is beautiful, I saw the play based on the book years ago, and that's why I started to read him - despite already having sold truckloads of his books prior to that. As well as "2 Weeks" I really liked "Misery Guts" and "Worry Warts".

  3. Hi Dina,
    I used to read Gleitzman as a kid, and he was one of my favourite authors along with Paul Jennings. Have to agree with Gina, i love those books.

  4. Hi Gina, I have just how come across your blog maybe because of the title. I think you have just written a book called "Why I like Morris Gleitzman" lol
    I haven't as yet read through your blog but I hope if it is your desire to come and live here in Australia that you do one day. Oh! Our family is also a big fan of Mcleods Daughters and it was a shame when the series ended. I live in sheep country and there are plenty of tough hard working woman around me. I love the country and the excitment it brings


  5. Mim: It sounds like his books are really good. I want to read more of his...and Paul Jennings too.

    Gina: I asked Tim to give me a Powell's Gift certificate for mother's day so I'm going to look for Gleitzman books. I'd love to read all of them...except maybe the rest of the Toad Series. I think I read the last in the series so see no point in reading the beginning.

    Matt: I'm excited to read more of his books.

    Sue: Hi!! I do hope to live in Australia...one day. I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon though. I miss McLeod's Daughters. We stopped watching it after the second season : ( A part of me wants to go back and see it. But I know everything that happens and it's all sort of sad. The last I saw they were all at the fair/show. None of the really sad stuff had happened yet.

  6. I'm going to get one of his books this week-- any recommendations?

    The whole I want a new toy thing never really goes away does it-- I had to have a paella pan-- that was a year ago-- think I've even used it? Yeah-- no.

  7. Laura,

    I've read only one of his books so far, so I probably wouldn't know what to recommend. Maybe you can look at Gina's comment. She names her favorites.

    I'd love to know which book you end up getting and what you think of it!

    Is Paella hard to make????

  8. I'll have to look at amazon.com.

    Paella is a little tricky to make, it's a certain type of rice and the grains should not stick together. I took a hands on class on making it at Sydney Seafood Market-- but still haven't done it at home. Eventually I will!

  9. Laura,

    I think when you DO make it, it will be a huge success. You're a great cook.

    What would be funny is if I tried to make it. Although I made cook pancakes and cookies recently!

    It sounds like you're having a wonderful visit with your mom : )