Friday, August 29, 2008

Fiction Friday: Tales from Outer Suburbia

A teacher librarian friend said to me earlier this year, "You have to read this book."
I said, "Yes, sure.  It's by the guy who did The Arrival (last year's Picture Book of the Year).  I should read it."
I meant to.  For yonks, I meant to.  Recently, I did.
This teacher librarian says to you, dear blog reader, "If you haven't read this book, you have to read it."
Shaun Tan has an amazing imagination.   It works in all sorts of different, thoughtful, unexpected directions.  Sometimes the stories in this book will make you think.  Some will make you wonder.  The final double page spread of "Eric" had me smiling in delight, and sharing this story with anyone who came into the library that day whom I could collar for long enough to read it.  (I was halted by someone then borrowing it...)
Shaun Tan, creator of The Arrival, The Lost Thing and The Red Tree, reveals the quiet mysteries of everyday life: homemade pets, dangerous weddings, stranded sea mammals, tiny exchange students and secret rooms filled with darkness and delight.
I'd happily bought it for the school library.  Among its many possibilities, it could be used for related material for the HSC Area of Study: Belonging.  All of the stories are illustrated, but in a variety of different ways - the balance of text/illustration in telling each story depends on the story.
Enough of it being useful.  How much do I like it?  I went back and bought a copy for myself.
Read an extract here (.pdf)  It includes "Eric".  Consider yourself collared.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Health articles: NYT

The New York Times' Health section has a huge resource of articles with new ones added all the time.  There's also a weekly email newsletter you can sign up for, to track changes and read new articles you may be interested in.  One for your school's PDHPE and Home Ec. faculties to know about.

From memory (since I did it a long time ago) there's a once-only free registration to use the site.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Penguin UK has a site by and for teenage readers - Spinebreakers.  While some of the content is UK-specific (eg. local events), there are author interviews, tips for teenage writers, and so forth, which are of use to those overseas.  Content includes written, audio and video. 

From their About Us page: is Penguin's pioneering online book community for teenagers, run by teenagers themselves. Editorial control of the site is in the hands of a core editorial team of nine teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years, supported by a large network of contributing teen editors from across the UK.

Working with journalists, authors, editors and web designers, the teen team will produce a wide variety of multi-media content including video and audio reviews, alternative book jackets and endings, soundtracks, author interviews, podcasts, blogs, short stories and much more. launched in September 2007 and is the UK’s first online book community for teenagers, giving them the opportunity to discuss, debate and interact with Penguin’s rich source of publishing from contemporary titles such as Meg Rosoff’s Just in Case, Nick Hornby’s first book for teenagers Slam, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation to classics such as J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.
Penguin Australia has The Squawk, a e-newsletter for up to 13 years, and Between the Lines for teenagers (but not, from the looks, by teenagers as per Spinebreakers).


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mirror writing

Sometime, for any one of a number of reasons, you may want to have a piece of text, or a library sign, or part of a display, in mirror writing (ie. when you look at it in the mirror it's readable).

Easy peasy! she says, having had to discover how this past week.

I particularly wanted to use quirky fonts, from my selection garnered from Scrapvillage (I've mentioned this site before - lots of great TrueType fonts there to download) and this way, I can.

  • O-kay.  Write your text in a Word document. 
  • Copy it. 
  • Paste it into Paint (Windows/Accessories). 
  • Choose the dropdown menu for Image, then Flip/Rotate.
  • Choose Flip Horizontal.
  • Save your image (suggest you choose .jpg for a smaller file than the default .bmp)

Lots of possibilities: signs, puzzles, whatever you can imagine.  By using more involved/elaborate fonts you can get harder-to-puzzle out mirror writing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Accreditation: Accomplishment/Leadership (NSW Institute of Teachers)

From the NSW Institute of Teachers:

Accreditation processes at the higher levels of Professional Accomplishment and Professional Leadership are now available. Accreditation at these levels is voluntary and will recognise the talents and expertise of outstanding teachers in all NSW schools.

A quote from the Evidence Guide for Professional Accomplishment:

Teachers working at Professional Accomplishment are:
  • recognised by their peers and colleagues as outstanding practitioners across all aspects of classroom practice and associated professional activities
  • able to maximise the learning of their students, and assist peers and colleagues to do likewise, using their outstanding depth of knowledge and highly effective teaching skills as described in the Standards
  • able to use, and support peers and colleagues to use, consistently effective and varied teaching activities to elicit high levels of student engagement
  • able to provide support and advice for colleagues as a result of the oustanding quality of their teaching practice and through their contribution to the school and educational community
  • active in helping to establish the porfessional environment which maximises the professional practice opportunities of colleagues and learning of students

Read a Canberra Times article about this here.

Read more at the NSW Institute of Teachers site here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Catchment Detox

Catchment Detox from the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp.):

It’s an online game where the player manages a virtual river catchment. It’s not a pristine catchment, there is agriculture, industry and tourism already in place. There are also environmental problems that need to be fixed. The game goes for 50 turns and you make as many changes to the landscape as you like (you can also do none!) before taking your next turn. The aim is to create an environmentally happy catchment with a sustainable and thriving economy.

Home page is here.

Teacher info page is here (thanks, ABC!)

There's a competition running right now that finishes in two weeks (early Sept 2008) but I haven't yet found any indication of whether they'll leave the game after that (hope they do).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Patchwork of ideas on the window

This is a library display I've done for a couple of years now, and it works well each time.  The school has an annual week when special activities take place, and this is one way in which the library contributes.  Each time there is a theme - this year's was about "respect".   In Publisher, I made up a six-form to the page sheet with "I RESPECT" and three categories, which we photocopied onto different coloured papers.  Every student received one to fill in and return during roll call.
After (ahem) some necessary editing, we then put them up on the library windows for the week, for everyone to read and enjoy.  They do get read, a lot - not just kids looking for their own ones, but kids reading the contributions of others.  It's kinda sorta like having thoughts made visible, a patchwork of ideas.  Staff complete forms too, and their contributions are added to the display.
These windows are most often used for general school announcements and so forth, so it's good to change things around.  And sometimes very funny to read students' ideas!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Connections archives

The Curriculum Corporation's very useful journal, Connections, has online archives.  You can look at the latest issue, too.

If you're outside Australia or not aware of Connections:

Connections is a quarterly newsletter produced by the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS), a business unit of Curriculum Corporation. SCIS is committed to publishing informative and useful material for the benefit of library staff in schools. Our focus is helping library professionals keep up to date with the latest in information services and information technology relevant to school libraries.

Connections is distributed by Curriculum Corporation to all schools in Australia.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This is the header of, the Australian culture and recreation portal.    What's it for?

The Culture and Recreation Portal provides access to online services and information in the fields of culture and recreation, from all levels of government and the non-government sector. It is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

Categorised links in a bunch of different categories, a search engine and more.  Worth a look.  There's also a free monthly e-newsletter to which you can subscribe.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Updates: Black Google and Twilight film

Thanks to a couple of commenters - here's some additional info.

There are apparently a number of versions of black google around, and Cleanblack is one that allows you to play a little with colours.

Twilight film release date: with the Harry Potter film pushed by the distributors from a November 2008 release to a July 2009 release (to be a 'tentpole summer film' or some such - but the fans are squealing as you may well imagine), the distributors of Twilight have jumped into this convenient 'hole' and have moved the US release date for the Twilight film from December to 21 November 2008.  At the moment the Australian release date appears to be the same as it has been thus far, 9 January 2009: but perhaps the HP change will have a knock-on effect here too.  The Internet Movie Database (imdb) page is usually a reliable source of release date info (although it hasn't yet caught up with the Twilight change, it will).  Twilight's imdb page is here, with worldwide release dates.

"The Coolest of the Cool"

Commercial websites will often offer freebies to attract visitors and thus custom., for instance, has a bunch of essays, such as bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon's essay on paranormal fiction, The Coolest of the Cool.

I understand why readers can't get enough of this genre with characters who defy death and conquer beasts and whatever else might stand in the way of their happy ending. What's not to love? They party all night, sleep all day, and aren't subject to the laws of humans. These characters are the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool.

Links to more free material here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Week 2008 - CBCA winners

Just announced today, the winners of the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards in 2008 are here if you'd like a printable version including publishers AND LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS.

And here, below.  (With fewer capital letters.)

Older Readers Book of the Year 2008

NOTE: Some of these books may be for mature readers

Winner: Sonya Hartnett, The Ghost's Child
Honour: John Heffernan, Marty's Shadow
Honour: David Metzenthen, Black Water

Younger Readers Book of the Year 2008

Winner: Carole Wilkinson, Dragon Moon
Honour: Sherryl Clarke (author) and Elissa Christian (ill.) Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!)
Honour: Odo Hirsch, Amelia Dee and the Peacock Lamp

Early Childhood Book of the Year 2008

Winner: Aaron Blabey, Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley
Honour: Mike Dumbleton (author) and Craig Smith (ill.) Cat
Honour: Margaret Wild (author) and Lucy James (ill.) Lucy Goosey

Picture Book of the Year 2008
NOTE: Some of these books may be for mature readers

Winner: Matt Ottley, Requiem for a Beast
Honour: Anne Spudvilas (ill. ) and Li Cunxin (text), The Peasant Prince
Honour: Colin Thompson and 13 other illustrators, Dust

Eve Pownall Book of the Year 2008
NOTE: Some of these books may be for mature readers

Winner: Frances Watts (author) and David Legge (ill.) Parsley Rabbit's Book About Books
Honour: Kaz Cooke, Girl Stuff: your full-on guide to the teen years
Honour: Macinnis, Peter, Kokoda Track: 101 Days

The full shortlist is here, and the 2008 Notable Books list here.

And what's an awards list without a variant opinion: I'm boggled that Armin Greder's The Island wasn't recognised.  It's a brilliant book.  It was shortlisted, but deserved more recognition.  Ah well.  I'm not on the judging panel.

Recording Olympics to show at school

What are the copyright requirements/implications?  Read the answer from the Australian Copyright Council here.

Home cooked vs. takeaway: the dollars and sense of it

Another good article from the Sydney Morning Herald, this time from Good Living: a comparison of a week of takeaway food vs a week of home cooking.  Home and Away, by Kate Duthie.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What is a netbook? And will they rule the world?

If you've seen the little Asus Eee pup computer that was out just before Christmas last year in Australia, then you've seen a netbook.  Smaller than a standard laptop, with more limited functions, and thus cheaper, they are finding a ready market which will likely include schools.  David Flynn had an informative article, Mighty Mouse: will netbooks rule the world? on them in the Sydney Morning Herald recently.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Google's challenge to Wikipedia knol.  Authors are identified, but articles aren't screened.  There's a comment section, but not the same editing of articles as is possible with Wikipedia. 

Oh, and did you wonder about ads?  Yup.  Ads can appear on the page, and the author and Google share the revenue.  Which seems likely to influence the articles written - wouldn't you likely get more hits on an article about, say, breast augmentation than the battle of Thermopylae? 

Sydney Morning Herald article here.

From a teaching point of view, another resource which we need to discuss with our students for its benefits and limitations - not just let 'em use it blindly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The invention of children's literature and libraries

Courtesy of Chicken Spaghetti, a link to a fascinating article from the New Yorker about the beginnings of public libraries for children in the US, and the intertwining of the careers of Anne Carroll Moore, librarian for children, and E.B. White, author.

Imagine this world, given our thinking today:

Between 1881 and 1917, Andrew Carnegie underwrote the construction of more than sixteen hundred public libraries in the United States, buildings from which children were routinely turned away, because they needed to be protected from morally corrupting books, especially novels. In 1894, at the annual meeting of the American Library Association, the Milwaukee Public Library’s Lutie Stearns read a “Report on the Reading of the Young.” What if libraries were to set aside special books for children, Stearns wondered, shelved in separate rooms for children, staffed by librarians who actually liked children?

In 1896, Anne Carroll Moore was given the task of running just such an experiment, the Children’s Library of the Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, built at a time when the Brooklyn schools had a policy that “children below the third grade do not read well enough to profit from the use of library books.” ...

In each of the library’s branches, Moore abolished age restrictions. Down came the “Silence” signs, up went framed prints of the work of children’s-book illustrators. “Do not expect or demand perfect quiet,” she instructed her staff. “The education of children begins at the open shelves.”

Today, children’s book publishing—an industry richly described in Leonard S. Marcus’s excellent new book, “Minders of Make-Believe”—is one of the most profitable parts of the book business. But that industry exists only because, in much the same way that the nineteenth-century middle class invented childhood as we know it, early-twentieth-century writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers—and, most of all, Anne Carroll Moore—invented children’s literature.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reworking YA book covers

Print online magazine has an interesting discussion of young adult book covers in the US - eg the variations which have taken place on The Outsiders over the years (image above from this article). It's interesting to note that it's not just old favourites being re-covered, but one book mentioned has had five different covers over ten years. Read more here.
It's true to say, though, that covers can seriously influence a book's borrowability by our students - thus my cheerfulness at finding newer covers on Rosemary Sutcliff's novels (recently blogged).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Twilight companion books

I see from that Stephenie Meyer has written a companion to the Twilight series and another to the film.  One due for publication in October 2008, the other December 2008, both available for pre-order from Amazon.  The Twilight Saga: the official guide and Twilight: the complete illustrated movie companion.  I'm sure bookshops here will stock them too, or be able to obtain them.

(No, I am not on lucrative kickbacks for mentioning anything Twilight - I've got a bunch of fans here at school who are reading this series avidly, and then going on to other books too, and I know from TL feedback about this blog that I'm not the only one with a bunch of Twilight fans.  If Twilightery gets 'em reading, or  reading more, there ain't no arguing coming from this little black duck.  It's the old, old, still valid Enid Blyton argument.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Tale of Desperaux trailer

As promised, details of another book being made into a movie and coming soon.
Your library may have a copy of The Tale of Desperaux by Kate Decamillo and Timothy Basil Ering.  There's an animated film of it opening in Australia on Boxing Day.

Here's the trailer link:

and the imdb entry is here.  Lots of big names in the voice cast, and as you'll see from the trailer, a different look to the charming animation.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Parallel importing/the Australian book market (and a teeny rant at the end)

Books in Australia aren't cheap, and the internet gives us access to know this more than ever before.  As teacher librarians, our budgets aren't large, and every cent counts.

There are discussions going on about the book market in Australia, in relation to parallel importing.

Read Garth Nix's letter about it here, and Justine Larbalestier's blog entries Preventing the destruction of Australian publishing and The problem of being a small English-speaking country to be aware of the pros and cons from the perspective of these Australian authors.

Found out about this one from reading Justine Larbalestier's entertaining blog.  She and her author husband, Scott Westerfeld (see yesterday's blog entry) live a bi-summeral life between New York and Sydney.  See?  Lots of things you can learn from blogs.

Also, while I'm talking books, as this teacher librarian blog seems to a lot: why is it that the techno-TLs (if they want to use an old fashioned term like 'teacher librarian' at all) rarely if ever talk about books, specifically fiction?  I'd much rather have the narratives of skilful writers than the burblings of Second Lifers, and never once do I mistake the magazine-readingness of most blogs for the engagement of a fiction narrative.  I'm no Luddite - as I think I've said in this blog before - but I wonder why the techno-TLs ignore fiction as they seem to do?  Does it scare them?  Don't they see how hungry human beings are, bone-deep, for stories?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scott Westerfeld (esp. Peeps)

In the recent holidays I skidded through Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy - Uglies, Pretties, Specials. (I've saved Extras for later).  Excellent sf, I don't think they'd skew to one gender more than another, and as previously mentioned, they catch the Twilightery crowd too.

I also read Peeps.  Oh my goodness, that was FUN!  I ignored several important things to keep reading, and don't give two hoots.  It's funny, and clever, and has really really disgusting detail about real parasites, as well as a fraffly clever idea about the origins and purposes of vampires.  Horror, adventure, a mention here and there that would probably suggest prereading if you're catering to a primary school audience and just a wonderful voice and energy.  Terrific stuff.

Scott Westerfeld has a website here; a blog here; a finish-your-author-assignment factsheet here; is interviewed here; and there's a TV spot on YouTube that I'll put below (but which may not, of course, work on your net connection if it's blocked by your server.  So the link's provided, too).

Summer reading spot on You Tube link:

Peeps cover image from

Friday, August 1, 2008

Breaking Dawn: Twilightery book 4

Here in Australia, we're patient people.  Just as well.  Breaking Dawn is being released on 2 August in the US, but 4 August here.  Go figure.  I shall be warning the fanlets here at school to stay away from the internet if they want to keep any plot surprises as surprises....

Carry-on children's books

Iconic US librarian Nancy Pearl (she has an action figure - blue cardi and shushing finger included) put together a list of 'carry-on reading' for travel for NPR (National Public Radio), including several children's books.  Read the article, or listen to the broadcast on the link - there are links on the page to excerpts from each recommendation (which I've put on the ones mentioned below). 

Her selections include the following (courier font sections are quotes from Nancy's reviews):

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan: Tan brilliantly universalizes the immigrant experience by making the country of arrival a surreal place that is as wondrously strange to the reader/viewer as it is to the immigrant himself.

  • Chester by Melanie Watt: In literary criticism circles, you often hear the term "metafiction," which the Encarta Dictionary defines as "fiction writing that deals, often playfully and parodically, with the nature of fiction, the techniques and conventions used in it, and the role of the author." Well, when I read Melanie Watt's Chester, I figured that I had come across perhaps the world's very first meta-picture book.

  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley: I have never been a fan of novels with vampires in them. In fact, until recently I'd never read horror fiction at all — I've always felt that real life is scary enough before you add the supernatural to the mix. But I've always loved the novels of award-winning fantasy writer Robin McKinley, and a friend whose book smarts I respected recommended McKinley's novel Sunshine, so I (somewhat hesitantly) picked it up, started reading and found — to my surprise — that I couldn't put it down.

Disclaimer: I didn't just include this blog entry because someone other than me is recommending one of my favourite books, Sunshine.  Nope.  I just want to be helpful, as of course you know ;-) .  Move along now, no bias here....

Image from the NPR article.