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Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Peter FitzSimons's account of growing up on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the s is first and foremost a tribute to family. But it is also a salute to times and generations past. In this rollicking and often hilarious memoir, Peter describes a childhood of mischief, camaraderie, eccentric characters, drama.

The childhood of a simpler time. Get A Copy.

Classic children's library: 8-11

More Details Other Editions 3. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about A Simpler Time , please sign up. I notice the last words in this book are "To be continued". Was there a follow-up? See 1 question about A Simpler Time….

Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 22, Patrick rated it it was amazing. This is a remarkable book. I have now read it twice. I read it this time round to learn more about writing my memoirs. A Simpler Time made me laugh and it made me cry loudly.

I could really relate to Peter FitzSimons and his simple existence as one of seven.

A Simpler Time

I am one of eight. He had not much to use his phraseology and we like wise. Now, as an adult perhaps you may not always agree with this public commentator. Not to worry. Put this to the side and go back in time and see life at Peats Ridg This is a remarkable book. Put this to the side and go back in time and see life at Peats Ridge through the eyes of a child.

View 1 comment. Jan 09, Andrew rated it it was ok. I bought this book, thinking it would be about growing up in the 's and 70's the era of my childhood , but instead it was mainly about FitzSimons and his family. I dislike his newspaper articles and especially is huge ego - and this book is a good example of how big his ego really is.

I acknowledge, however, that he has written some good books and books that need writing, eg telling the story of Nancy Wake as well as the iconic Australian battles of Kokoda and Tobruk - although they positiv I bought this book, thinking it would be about growing up in the 's and 70's the era of my childhood , but instead it was mainly about FitzSimons and his family.

I acknowledge, however, that he has written some good books and books that need writing, eg telling the story of Nancy Wake as well as the iconic Australian battles of Kokoda and Tobruk - although they positively reeked of Aussie jingoism. To be fair, his childhood wasn't a classic example of growing up in Australia in the 60's and 70's. He grow up on a farm to a loving Mother and Father - which is a hell of a good start that a lot of kids don't see, but what particularly annoyed me yes, I am easily annoyed!

It did happen in some rural areas, but then I was brought up in rural New South Wales and didn't have bare feet at school. It's as if he is trying to make his upbringing sound a bit on the poor side, like Angela's Ashes, but when there are 6 children and they all go to an expensive city boarding school, you know it was an extremely affluent childhood. Siblings that were school captains and prefects, the author himself playing rugby for Australia, it sounds more like an English upper class family upbringing - and of course the exact opposite of FitSimon's personal philosphy.

Is it the boy from the bush or the upper crust toffee nosed twat? I, for one wasn't fooled. View 2 comments. Jan 22, Brittany rated it did not like it. I tried really hard to like this book, but I just couldn't. Yeah, okay so I get it, the writer had a nice childhood. However it felt less like he was discussing his childhood and more saying his childhood was better than mine.

Its just a romanticism of days gone by. You didn't have a TV? I think the idea of a simpler time is pretty much bull. It wasn't that the time he grew up in was necessarily simpler, it was that he was a child and being a child seems more simple. It also didn' I tried really hard to like this book, but I just couldn't. It also didn't feel like a nice retelling of the s but it was Peter listing every unimportant detail. There is like 2 pages or something dedicated to climbing a tree I was hoping more for a recount of life in the s in general, but I guess with FitzSimons being a biographer I guess this is to be expected.

Oct 26, Ned Charles rated it liked it Shelves: biography. FitzSimons has written some excellent books, that is why I read this one. But it was a struggle. To be fair it does avoid the bias manner of so many memoirs and autobiography's, so much so his considerably better than average adult life is mostly avoided. The reader quickly discovers there are no regrets or skeletons, just a loving family that sees the best in everything and loves life in a simple existence. Many readers will be envious or doubtful of the life of FitzSimons, but it is the story o FitzSimons has written some excellent books, that is why I read this one.

Many readers will be envious or doubtful of the life of FitzSimons, but it is the story of any ordinary country kid of that era. Jan 06, Kelly rated it really liked it. It was good, lots of wonderful stories and certainly the attitudes towards parenting are of great value. Peter FitzSimons, no matter how much you insist this isn't really a memoir, it is. Only one criticism, and that would be, how can one family be so A bit too sugar coated at times but still delightful enough to enjoy.

Nov 20, Steve lovell rated it liked it. Since that day it had slipped further and further down the order as other I considered more worthy tomes superseded it. It was about time I found out what all the fuss was about. So I decided to read both in succession. I also figured his latest, a retelling of the mutiny on the not so good ship Bounty might be an ideal Chrissy pressie for this amazing lady. Who knows, I might even get around to reading it myself. I knew he wrote columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and often commentated on the tele.

To his credit, he is also a leader keeping the flame burning for us becoming a republic. It speaks of a time when kids and freedom was a synonym, not the opposite, for better or worse. PFS was one of six young ones in a time before television and certainly well before this era of tiny screen fascination. His mother had married down to a man she obviously loved to bits — her yearly stipend from her rich folks helping to keep the struggling orange orchard on Peats Ridge solvent.

It also assisted in giving their children a jolly good education. In the book there are tales of bullying, first love, yearning for sporting success which eventuates , country values as well as the city versus the bush. One tale that really hit the spot was how, in her later years, he came to have his photograph taken with her by a Walkley Award winning camerasnapper amongst the orange trees.

The image is on view in this biography along with many others from the family album.

The private and public lives of the author of “The Fire Next Time” and “Giovanni’s Room.”

Any more questions? Nobody else at any table could claim they were the result of a virgin birth. Then there is the story of how his mother had such a close connection to English aristocracy — until, that is, it all came tumbling down. What horror there was when his mum did a flit with him. Eventually Richard sets out to discover the reason for his parents dysfunctionalism. They were a bizarre lot. Glover comes close. Just brilliant. Peter FitzSimons writes of a time that I remember well despite being several years his senior.

Things that his parents said to him, I recall as words of my parents. It seems that there was a kind of collective wisdom common to parents after WWII and in the fifties for most of us and into the sixties for those who lived away from the "big smoke". Life was certainly a simpler thing for us as children, perhaps less so, as Trish suggests, for our parents who struggled with limited means to feed and cl Peter FitzSimons writes of a time that I remember well despite being several years his senior.

Life was certainly a simpler thing for us as children, perhaps less so, as Trish suggests, for our parents who struggled with limited means to feed and clothe their growing families. There were chickens, eggs, home-grown fruit and veg, hand-me-down clothes and simple childhood pursuits. We had so much more freedom than the children of today and became more self-sufficient because of it.

Like Peter, we retained our innocence much longer so that looking back, our childhood seems a pleasant and simple time. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Peter. Beautifully wrought story about the way secrets bring you together and tear you apart, and about the competitive relationship between a brother and sister from a fine writer best known for his brilliant books for teenagers.

Highly entertaining book about Eric, a perfectly ordinary boy, who feels his nose becoming cold and wet and his ears becoming floppy as he is transformed into a dog. In its own schoolboyish way Eric's transformation is just as interesting and surreal as that of poor Gregor Samsa into a beetle. The Roald Dahl must-read for this age-group; they'll find it impossible to resist even if they are hooked on the Danny Devito film version.

In fact, seeing the film leads naturally into wanting to read the story of the remarkable Matilda, ignored and derided by her parents and bullied by the odious teacher Miss Trunchbull, who not only has a brilliant mind but strange kinetic powers. A brilliant, empowering book that shows children that they don't have to be helpless even in the face of the most bullying of adults. Wonderful story about the disagreeable Mary Lennox who, after her parents die, is brought back from India to live in her uncle's great lonely house on the moors.

Hodgson Burnett captures the fury of being a helpless, lonely child that makes both Mary and the invalid Colin behave badly. Eight-year-olds are likely to get frustrated by the sentence construction. Either read it to them or wait a couple of years. Modern environmentally and health-conscious youngsters might eye the fox hunting and smoking with horror. But this story of Barney, a small boy who makes friends with a strange, Stone Age type boy he finds living in the local quarry, is enormously appealing.

A really rollicking straightforward read that celebrates a strange friendship and the way two are better than one when it comes to taking on the bullies.

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Stig's puzzlement at the modern way of life makes the reader look at the world from a slightly different perspective. The girls are enrolled in stage school so they will be able to earn a living. It all seems slightly quaint now, but Streatfield's characterisations are wonderfully vivid, the writing straightforward and honest and the narrative a page-turner.

Quite delightful and infinitely more real than all those titles currently being churned out for ballet-mad little girls. No spoonfuls of sugar are necessary to help this classic tale slip down. Jane and Michael's new nanny turns out to be the intimidating Mary Poppins, who brings a little magic into the lives of children in the Edwardian middle classes' equivalent of "care".

Yes, the Harry Potter books are derivative and hierarchical, but Rowling's a genuinely witty writer with a terrific gift for naming things: one of the great pleasures of these books is the way they present the wizarding world as a parallel universe to that of us poor muggles. What's more, they are real page-turners and appeal to boys and girls equally. The second in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is the weakest; the third, The Prisoner of Azkaban the best, not least because the Dementors are so truly terrifying.

But these kinds of arguments are academic: I've yet to meet a child who is resistant and plenty of adults find them just as spellbinding. Eight upward, but younger brothers and sisters are liable to get in on the act earlier, particularly if you read it to them. It runs to 8hours and 23minutes, which sure beats nine hours of I Spy. Written in , Cresswell's stories about life in a small Welsh village where Lizzie wanders the streets with her head in the clouds seem almost to come from another century.

But while village life has changed out of all recognition, the emotions of Lizzie, who wants something exciting to happen in her life, who loves her soft dad and rather severe mum but keeps getting into scrapes and who meets a witch in the way other people run into the milkman, remain as fresh as a daisy. A touch of romance and a shiver of fear are to be found in this Carnegie Medal-winning fantasy, set in the beautiful valley of Moonacre where the moon princess once ruled. Old-fashioned, but there is toughness beneath the whimsy.

More for the girls than the boys. A classic that doesn't reduce the world - on the contrary, it opens it up - but which does view it from a child-sized perspective. It tells the story of a family of little people who live beneath the floorboards and borrow from "human beans" who don't even know they exist - until the young Arietty makes friends with "the boy upstairs".

There is nothing in the slightest bit twee about it. Norton writes brilliantly, viewing the world as if through the eyes of her little people with a sense of wonder and terror. Even children who are addicts of the excellent but bastardised film version and the superb BBC serial version will gobble this up on the printed page.

Jessica loses her house in the blitz and is evacuated before the rest of her school to a huge Welsh castle with only the gardener and housekeeper for company. But she is not alone; the castle grounds are full of other mysterious presences including a ghostly boy, a sinister green lady, a screeching peacock and chains of desperate "stonestruck" children, engaged in a deadly game of tag with Jessica as the quarry. Cresswell writes with a spare, dense poetry about the desolation of separation, the isolating effect of unhappiness and the need to take care about what you wish. A really spellbinding piece of grown-up writing for children that makes the Goosebumps series pale into insignificance.

It can be read alone at 10 upward, but both are very satisfying for adults to read to the 8-upward age range. In a different vein, but just as good, is Cresswell's Snatchers - the story of a girl whose guardian angel appears in the local park to protect her from the Land of the Starless Night. Liable to engender plenty of hilarious discussion about whether angels have belly buttons.


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  7. Yes, yes, we know. Ridiculously middle-class and old-fashioned and full of Christian imagery, the triumph of good over evil and being a jolly good sort. But really it is magic, provided you take care not to force it down your children's throats too early. Some of the sentence structure is quite difficult and you really need to be eight upward and a confident reader not to be put off. But it's like getting into the wardrobe in the first place: a bit tricky, but once you've made it through the door, utterly transforming.

    Of course this isn't actually the first in the series - The Magician's Nephew is - but this is where you should begin. Joan Aiken's classic adventure story is set during the imaginary reign of James III in the early part of the 19th century when the recently completed channel tunnel has allowed wolves to overrun large parts of Britain. A really rollicking story, with plenty of wild flights of the imagination, it has the essential ingredients of lost parents, an evil governess and two feisty cousins, Bonnie and Sylvia, determined to evade the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp.

    The good news for those with keen readers is that there are more than a dozen books in the Willoughby Chase sequence. The bad news is that although featuring the memorably stroppy heroine Dido Twite, some of the subsequent novels are off-puttingly obscure.

    Funny and tender storytelling from the excellent Susan Cooper. This one is about a boggart that is accidentally transported from his remote Scottish island to the bright lights of Toronto, and doesn't like it one bit. Bad-tempered things, boggarts. Life seemed grim when father lost his job and the family had to move to their aunt's home. But with the arrival of Johnnie the pig, things begin to improve. Childhood is somehow golden in E Nesbit's stories about a family of children who discover a Psammead or sand fairy, a grumpy and very ancient creature that can give them wishes.

    The difficulty is of thinking of really good wishes and not getting things that they really don't want at all, and even the simplest of wishes seem to get them into great difficulties. This book is such fun that children want to gobble it down in one sitting and are absolutely amazed when you tell them it was written almost a century ago.

    It seems so fresh because it gets to the very heart of being a child - the wonderful sense that anything can happen to you and probably will. To the average nine-year-old girl, Jacqueline Wilson's books are as desirable as a trip to Claire's Accessories and a pair of the latest fringed jeans. This story of ten-year-old identical twins Ruby and Garnet, who lose their mother and have to come to terms not only with their dad's new love but also with growing up and growing apart, is a model of Wilson's exuberant and confessional storytelling style, in which Ruby and Garnet take it in turns to tell the story.

    Wilson's books can be too obviously issue-driven to be really satisfying, but they are a stepping-stone into a real world where real kids face tough emotional problems. Join Hazel and his brave band of rabbits as they set out in search of a new home.

    Back to the Land: Tales of Rural Life

    Richard Adams's modern classic is not fluffy or cute at all. In fact, it's so good that you completely forget after a while that we're talking rabbits, not humans. It is two children against the rest of the world in Thomas's riveting tale about Julia and Nathan, who win popularity at school when they find a stash of money in a deserted house, but soon decide to flee when teachers and parents want to know where it came from. Thomas writes from a child's point of view about what it feels like not to have a special friend and never to be picked when teams are being sorted.

    The unlikely friendship between Julia and Nathan is drawn with a delicacy that never ignores its difficulties and the final triumphant realisation that love is worth having is exhilarating. Macabre is the only word for Pullman's wonderfully creepy tale that, needless to say, runs like clockwork. In a way it is a parable about the power of storytelling itself. But it is also part fairytale, part ghost story and part science fiction; Pullman writes with a deceptive simplicity that makes the whole thing feel both ancient and very modern at the same time.

    There are some wonderfully witty picture asides, but is the narrative that really winds you up: a creepy tale in which a lazy apprentice clockmaker gets his comeuppance and a story being told on a dark winter's night suddenly takes on a sinister life of its own. If families still did that kind of thing, this would be the perfect novel to be read out loud around the fire.

    While roasting chestnuts, of course. Cleverly structured and wittily told series of stories that combine to make one satisfying whole as they tell of Ailsa, who sees the truth behind the yarns spun by the mysterious man who helps out in her mum's antique shop. I still can't pass a grandfather clock without thinking of this book, so strong an impression did this haunting story make on me as a child.

    Pearce's writing sends a shiver of both excitement and fear up the spine in this clever double time-framed story about Tom who, when the clock strikes 13, can see his aunt's house just as it was 50 years ago. North American classic about the irrepressible Katy who courts disaster and only starts to really grow up after she is paralysed in a fall from a swing.

    Based on a true story, Serraillier's book doesn't flinch in recounting the adventures of four children as they struggle to stay alive in Nazi-occupied Europe and their desperate, epic journey from Poland to Switzerland in search of their parents. It is an extraordinarily profound book, no matter what the age of the reader," was the verdict of the Whitbread judges who gave this the Children's Book of the Year Award. You can't disagree. An instant modern classic. Engrossing Guardian Award-winner from the early s and set in the near future, which is nearer now than it was then.

    It is an atmospheric tale about Rob, on the run after the mysterious death of his dad, who crosses The Barrier and finds himself in a countryside that initially seems idyllic. So why is rebellion in the air? Friendship proves dangerous in Fine's uncomfortable and genuinely powerful novel that carries with it echoes of the Jamie Bulger case. Natalie is attracted to the difficult, disturbed Tulip, perhaps because she seems so dangerous. But soon she is out of her depth as Tulip's games get increasingly out of control. Plenty of control, though, in Fine's delicate exploration of friendship, betrayal and guilt.

    At night Cassie dreams of wolves. They are coming to get her. But how can she be kept safe? When Cassie is sent without warning from her nan's to live with her feckless, beautiful mother she becomes easy prey until she finds a way of protecting herself. How many books for children deal with dying? How many deal with Aids? Morris Gleitzmann's does, and this hard-hitting Australian writer handles the subject with a surprising off-the-wall humour which ensures the book is moving and not at all mawkish.

    Colin refuses to believe that his younger brother is dying of cancer and decides to take things into his own hands. Then he meets a young man whose partner is dying of Aids, who helps him come to terms with living and losing. Kitty Killin is not only a good storyteller but also the World's Greatest Expert when it comes to mums having new and unwanted boyfriends, particularly when there is a danger they may turn into new and unwanted stepfathers.

    Oddly touching story about Goggle-Eyes, the most unwanted boyfriend of them all, written in a knock-kneed prose that is funny and affecting. Garfield's magnificent book was written in the s, but has a Dickensian richness as it follows the adventures of Smith, a year-old pickpocket living in the slums around St Paul's, who witnesses a murder and escapes with a document belonging to the victim.

    Hounded through London, befriended and betrayed, Smith eventually discovers that he has something of real value. Not an easy read if you are under eleven, but an enormously satisfying one. The vividness of Garfield's writing puts the blandness of many modern writers' prose in the shade. Topics Children and teenagers Building a children's library.