Thursday, 13 August 2009

Ripping Things To Do by Jane Brocket. A review by Adele Geras

I first came across Jane Brocket on her blog, which used to be called Yarnstorm and which is now called simply by the author's name. Here is a link to it:

I loved the Yarnstorm blog because it had on it, in elegant words and accompanied by beautiful photographs, many things I love: flowers, quilts, knitting, fabrics, cakes, landscapes, and gardens. Jane Brocket wrote a book called The Gentle Art of Domesticity and this seemed to provoke a flurry of unkind reviews and reactions on the blogosphere to the effect that what she was writing was anti-women's liberation and retrograde and all sorts of other nonsense. In fact, it's a book that celebrates the domestic arts and if you like celebrating those, then surely you ought to have the freedom to do so. People who enjoy baking, sewing, and knitting are no stupider or less liberated than those who have no time for such things.

That's the background. This book, which is most beautifully illustrated and produced by Hodder and Stoughton, is a little like the Dangerous Book for Boys. I say that without having read Iggulden's work, but I'm sure that the market Brocket's book is aimed at is the one that made DBB such a hit. I hope that this book might also become part of every parent's equipment because it seems to be such a good idea, and very beautifully executed. Brocket has taken games, recipes, pastimes, etc from famous children's books of the past and adapted them for the present day, together with lots of extracts from the originals. So we have chapters called things like Secrets and Spies, Ripping Games, Amazing Adventures, Winter Days, Treats and Remedies, Lazy Weekends and so forth. There's something here to appeal to everyone, whatever their taste and each chapter has not only practical suggestions and full instructions, but also a reading list, so that the child or parent who might be daunted by having actually to MAKE and DO things can at the very least lie back on a comfy sofa and read about other people being creative and active. It's a really smashing book and very good value indeed at £17.99. It's got enough in it to keep a family amused for years and years and will definitely be a book to pass down through the generations. I'd also recommend it to any teacher wishing to be ahead of the curve when it comes to imaginative ways of passing the time. It will probably be in paperback next year but in the case of a book you're likely to use as much as this one, the hardback is worth the extra money. I'm sure lots and lots of you will love it and will keep coming back to it for all kinds of inspiration.


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

THANK YOU Adele! Jane Brockett is a star find! I haven't dipped into the books yet but her photography makes me want more... all those hot mango colours and the roses positively exuding perfume(the agapanthus was a sure win as well)... and her blogs are short, snappy and full of zest! A recipe to make anyone smile. Great recommendation!

maureenhume said...

I got very excited as I read this review. As a devoted Aunt to an army of nieces and nephews I'm always on the look out for interesting stuff we can all do together and Jane Brockett's book sounds perfect.
Maureen Hume

karen ball said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments about domesticity. I love sewing, knitting, baking... Does this make me anti-feminist? Not in the least! There are an array of energetic, inspiring and creative blogs out there on these subjects with some beautiful writing. I am going to go straight to Jane's blog and can think of at least one frazzled parent who might cheer for her book during the summer break.

Katherine Langrish said...

Actually let's hear it for women's arts, which - because by and large men don't do them - have been sidelined as 'crafts' or 'domestic work'.

Let me recommend to everyone a magnificent book called 'Women's Work: the First 20,000 Years', by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. the subtitle is 'Women, Cloth and Society in Early Times', and it's absolutely fascinating account of the development of textiles, which was mainly accomplished by women - until commercial mechanization.

Women were probably the first potters, too. And ceramics and textiles are still the least valued of the arts.

I particularly like Barber's account of what she calls 'the String revolution.' You can't do much without string, or thread. Women may well have invented string: they certainly probably made most of it - and thereby opened the way for almost all of technology.

Just a thought!

karen ball said...

Thank you so much for these wonderful book recommendations. If anyone here is into sewing, I really must recommend a wonderful blog by a New York editor of children's fiction: Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Reading her blog has almost convinced me that I must - I must! - plan a trip to New York, just to buy fabric. I firmly believe that my desire to knit, sew and bake all come from the same creative part of me that wants to write children's fiction. All of these should be celebrated.