Monday, March 31, 2008

Poem of the Week: Nos 7-9

Ah, it's been busy around here, so it's time for a poem of the week catchup.

No. 7: The first and last stanzas of Easter 1916 by WB Yeats. (All changed, changed utterly/A terrible beauty is born). Partly to give Easter a different meaning, or another slant. Or maybe I just didn't want to go with a bunnies and eggs poem.

No. 8: The Identification by Roger McGough. I have always admired the accessible strength of his poems, how they are clear and also sharp as a blade. Was delighted to find there is a collected-poems available (Penguin, but in Oz it had to be a special order). This one also had particular resonance as an ex-student recently died in a car accident. His particular punctuation, though, does put me at odds with the school's literacy initiatives...oh well.

No. 9: Homework by Allen Ginsburg. A change of style and structure, it was a suggestion from a friend who's also playing with this poem of the week idea.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Safety on the internet

With the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, students (and not just students) can be tremendously innocent/trusting/unaware of security issues, providing personal information without realising how open it is, and the possible consequences. The SMH had a blog entry about this recently.

While sites such as Facebook and MySpace are not accessible through the public school system computers in NSW, we still have a responsibility to point out to students the importance of their online privacy. I make it a habit to have my postcode, if I have to give one, as 2000, the postcode for central Sydney (an easily remembered lie) - but of course, this isn't a useful strategy for a social networking site in which location is important as part of your identity.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Scary stories and little children

The Spectrum section in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald (Spectrum 15-16 March, 2008, p. 33) has an excellent article by Meg Sorensen: Stories show teeth and claws: scary issues should not be glossed over just because readers are young.

Among the books it discusses are:
  • Where the wild things are (Maurice Sendak)

  • Hide and seek (Irini Savvides)

  • John Brown, Rose and the midnight cat (Jenny Wagner, ill. Ron Brooks)

  • Old Pig (Margaret Wild, ill. Ron Brooks)

  • Clinton Gregory's secret (Bruce Whatley)

  • One dragon's dream (Peter Pavey)

  • Puffling (Margaret Wild, ill. Julie Vivas)

I would of course point you in the direction of this article online, but I can't find it on the SMH website (by all means leave the link as a comment if you can find it). Figured that by mentioning it here, if you still have a paper copy of the Saturday paper you can track it down, if you wish.

A quote:

Sendak's book is universally loved for its expression and subsequent taming of the beast in us all that can be unleashed by primal fears. Taming the beast of big business - which neutralises anything that cannot be controlled such as imagination or death, because the product is more palatably consumed - may be more challenging.

To anyone of imagination (children, for instance), being alive and the inevitability of death has its terrifying side. However, it is nowhere near as frightening as the Orwellian drive to brainwash us into believing consuming pap will somehow make us invincible.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Australian author Sonya Hartnett wins the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Award

Worth over three quarters of a million dollars (one of the richest literary awards), nominations from 442 organisations worldwide and with previous laureates including Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman and Katherine Paterson, the Astrid Lindgren Award recognises that:

Good children’s literature gives the child a place in the world, and the world a place in the child.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2008 goes to the Australian author Sonya Hartnett.

The jury’s motivation is as follows:

“Sonya Hartnett (Australia) is one of the major forces for renewal in modern young adult fiction. With psychological depth and a concealed yet palpable anger, she depicts the circumstances of young people without avoiding the darker sides of life. She does so with linguistic virtuosity and a brilliant narrative technique; her works are a source of strength.”

There is a .pdf presentation on the site about Sonya Hartnett, which includes this quote from a lecture she gave in 2004:

A young person who reads a book today takes that book into tomorrow, is shaped and influenced by the work, learns from it, remembers it, holds it inside. And because this happens to books written for the young, children's and Young Adult literature is important - more important, one could argue, than writing for adults.

There were 155 nominees for the 2008 award - the list is here. Among the nominees (and I'll freely admit that my knowledge, limited by being an English speaker, means that these names are more familiar to me than writers in, say, Spanish or Estonian or Japanese):
  • David Almond

  • Aidan Chambers

  • Quentin Blake

  • John Burningham

  • Anthony Browne

  • Jean Craighead George

  • Tomie de Paola

  • Wolf Erlbruch (go the mole!!)

  • Russell Hoban

  • Eva Ibbotson

  • John Marsden

  • Walter Dean Myers

  • Diana Wynne Jones

  • Lisbeth Zwerger
Some other links:
Image source.

Things I Will Do If I Am Ever The Vampire

Sci-fi/fantasy and other fan groups sometimes compile the most wonderful lists, based on their shared enthusiasms, shared sense of humour and awareness of the (often beloved) clichés of their genres.

Things I Will Do If I Am Ever The Vampire has some absolute classics (given that we seem to be going thorough a phase of vampire fiction at present - not just Twilight, as blogged earlier, but also a bunch of other titles too are finding friends).

Here are a couple of examples from the vampire list linked above:
  • The Hero will come armed with holy water, a cross and a stake. I will come armed with a 5.56 mm assault rifle and grenades. If the Hero has to cross open ground, there is no better way to reach out and touch someone than with a sniper rifle.
  • I will not engage in a battle of wits with the Hero. I plan on killing him anyway so what's the point?
  • I will not use bug-eating morons as servants. Pretty females dressed in little French maid outfits are more visually appealing and can also distract the Hero.

Apart from just being amusing (I have this one on my office door at present, it's always handy to have some engaging something or other there to occupy those waiting when the line of can-you-help-me-Miss? people gets long) lists like this can also be useful for English, studying clichés etc. and giving a format for students to decide on their own category to analyse/eviscerate/enjoy deconstructing.

Note: the list on the page linked above features US spelling, but also some misspellings (whether you're using US or Australian/UK English).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Don't Panic! The Hitchhiker's alternative to Wikipedia - h2g2

h2g2 was inspired by Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Launched in 1999, it was taken over by the BBC in 2001.

As with Wikipedia, its entries are written by its readers, and thus share the same reliability and unreliability.

From a school point of view, it provides another alternative in similar form for comparing/contrasting/evaluating.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

˙˙˙ɹǝpun uʍop puɐן ɐ ɯoɹɟ ǝɯoɔ ı

˙"ɹǝpun uʍop" ƃuıǝq ɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ ʇnoqɐ sǝʞoɾ pɐq ǝʞɐɯ oʇ ɹo ˙ƃuıʇıɹʍ uʍop ǝpısdn pǝǝu noʎ uǝɥʍ sǝɯıʇ ǝɥʇ ɹoɟ pǝǝu noʎ ʇɐɥʍ ʇsnɾ ˙uʍop ǝpısdn ƃuıʇıɹʍ ¿sıɥʇ sı ןooɔ ʍoɥ

˙ǝɹǝɥ ɟןǝsɹnoʎ ɹoɟ ʇı ʎɹʇ

Monday, March 10, 2008

Poem of the Week No. 6: The Subway Piranhas

Edwin Morgan (who is still alive, so the poem's well in copyright) wrote this week's poem for the Scottish train system's 'poems on the train' scheme. Unfortunately, it so alarmed the transport executives that they refused to use it. I found it in the notes section of 100 Poems on the Underground and it amused me immensely. We've had a few serious-like poems. Time for one that's fun.

I'm printing this on turquoise-water-blue paper...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Fiction: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

There's a coterie of readers - smaller than the Harry Potter aficionados, but JUST as enthusiastic - who are utterly besotted with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of teenage vampire romances. Twilight is the first, followed by New Moon and Eclipse, with Breaking Dawn due in early August this year (initially in hard cover, not paperback, because they are now so popular). They're page turners, doorstop-sized, and those who love 'em, love 'em. On the Enid Blyton principle (I'd rather have them reading something), I stock these and have three copies of Breaking Dawn on order.
Images from, where they are bestsellers with hundreds of reviews.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fancy fonts

Fonts are a wonderful tool. When money is tight (as it so often is in education) and you want to produce interesting signs/learning materials/posters/badges, interesting or unusual fonts are indispensible. The standard Microsoft ones get used so often they become a tad yawnsville, overfamiliar, not cutting through to communicate.

With the explosion of popularity of scrapbooking, the availability of different fonts (some for $$, some for free) on the net has also widened. One site I've used is Scrapvillage - the fonts page in its library section has a bunch of good ones that are easy to download. Here's the link.

I'm not sure of copyright in relation to these - my use has been restricted to school-use materials. For published works, eg. for a book or some such, the printer may need to purchase rights.

We're about to make more Harmony Day badges, and it's the combination of eyecatching fonts and intriguingly patterned scrapbooking papers that makes them sell well - they're graphically interesting and varied.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

International Women's Day (March 8)

A friend's idea for a poster for International Women's Day has morphed into an idea for here (we share ideas all the time, it's great to be inspired!).

I've sent a pdf of this to the nswtl list, but for those who aren't on it, the poster consists of a whole bunch of words used to describe women.

Here's the list, in case it's useful for others. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

Adventuress Amazon Aphrodite Aunt Babe Bird Bitch Blonde Bluestocking Bra-burner Bride Broad Brunette Chick Crone Dame Daughter Debutante The Distaff Side Doll Donna Dowager Duchess Dyke Empress Eve Fairer Sex Female Feminine Feminist Femme Filly Frau Fraulein Gal Gentle Sex Girl Girlfriend Girlie Goddess Godmother Goodwife Gran Grandmother Granny Hag Harridan Hen Her Indoors Heroine Housekeeper Kitten Lady Lass Lassie Lesbian Little Woman Luv Ma Madam Mademoiselle Madonna Ma’am Maid Maiden Mama Mater Matriarch Matron Mem-Sahib Midwife Milady Miss The Missus Missy Mistress Moll Mom Mother Mrs Ms Mum Nan Nanna Niece Nun Nymph Old Maid Petticoat Pollyanna Priestess Princess Queen Redhead Senora Sheila Shrew Signora Signorina Siren Sis Sister Skirt Spinster Squaw Suffragette Sweetheart Venus Virago Wench Wife Witch
International Women’s Day March 8

I used DesertDogHmk font (from the font library at in 21 point for the synonyms and 36 point for Woman. Printed on pink paper (rather than suffragette purple/green) because we're dealing with clichés, among other things, here, and hey, it amused me.
Added later: find the nominee list for NSW Woman of the Year here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Picture books for high school # 01

When I came to this school, there were very few picture books in the library collection. Some Asterix, some Tintin, one or two others, and that was all. Picture books can be a wonderful asset in high school - there are lots suited to this age group. Some are just fun, in a way that appeals to older as well as younger children. Some have levels of sophistication, and a few are really only suited to this older age group.

I set about developing a collection. It is used every day. It gets heavy use for recreational reading (nobody gets pinged for being 'childish' or reading 'little kid books') and in the classroom, with English, Visual Arts and subjects involving the study of children all finding it useful.

A friend who's moved to a new school recently asked me for a list of recommendations for picture books for high school. I'll bing it on here over time (handy blog filler, you see, rather than tossing it on in one long list). These are ones we have here, that work. The list is in no particular order, except you're nuts if you don't have The story of the little mole in your library, because it's hilarious and gets in even the most reluctant kid (it's about poo, what's not to like about that?? - and I sometimes have seniors doing 'read aloud' sessions with it, because it makes them laugh).

  • Holzwarth & Erlbruch: The story of the little mole who knew that it was none of his business
  • Tan: The arrival
  • French: Diary of a wombat
  • Wheatley & Rawlins: My place
  • Wild: Woolvs in the sitee
  • Gerstein: The man who walked between the towers
  • Gravett: Wolves

If you want to track any of them down, they're either in print or they're not...and places like or or will give you synopses/reviews.

If you've got picture books that work well in your high school, feel free to leave a comment about any titles you'd particularly recommend - always happy to know about new possibilities.